As I write, I am on holiday with my two children. They are playing outside in the sunshine, laughing and talking about the fun they will have in the outdoor pool later, jumping in off the side and diving for hoops.
This is the dream of parenthood. Summer holidays soaked in sunshine, family time, and long lazy days enjoying being together. Like many adoptive parents, though, I am also aware that this dream has been—and still is—somebody else’s nightmare.
I remember the day when I stood in the home of my birth mother and held her. We were in England and she had pulled me into her bedroom to “speak privately.”
Mum looked me in the eyes and said, “I never wanted to let you go. And, I need you to know that.” She then folded herself into my arms and we both began to cry.
It was just a few years ago, yet I recall the moment like it was yesterday. Mum handed me the original papers of my relinquishment. I had always possessed a copy. But, now I was staring at the actual document. Stained with her tears. The piece of paper that had been signed by my birth mother on the day she gave up her rights to parent me. How I hated that piece of paper.
There was a time when I could not speak the word “adoption” aloud. It was so charged with pain, the very thought of it overwhelmed me. Thorns of bitterness accompanied the word forming a thick barrier.
Adoption represented trauma and deep, unresolved grief.
As a young teen at the very end of the 1970’s, I became pregnant. My parents turned to their church for advice which led to me being sent to live in a foster home far from everyone I knew and loved.
On this episode of The Greater Than Podcast, I speak with author, Chavis Fisher. We discuss how we can uplift the children and youth in foster care and raise their voices. In addition, we share the importance of foster children understanding that they are not alone in their journey—that there are people who love and care for them.
With over eighteen years of legal practice, Chavis Fisher has worked with hundreds of foster children, adoptive parents, Court Appointed Special Advocates (better known as CASA) and Department of Child Services agency employees. She received the prestigious Congressional Angels in Adoption Award for her commitment to improve the lives of children in need of permanent homes.
Chavis Fisher is the author of the book, Adopting Tiger, which explores foster care through the eyes of a child. It’s a number one best selling book on Amazon. I couldn’t put it down!
I’ve been a fan of actress Sandra Bullock since forever. And, after hearing her recent interview with Hoda Kotb on the Today Show, I admire and respect her even more. The truths that Ms. Bullock shares on adoption, within this interview, are poignant and important.
I’d like to focus on three of Bullock’s truths and share my thoughts, as a mother-by-adoption myself, in order to help others who might currently be considering adoption or who have begun the journey to adopt.
I’m not an adoption professional. What I am is an expert on how it feels to be adopted. I’m an international adoptee. I hold a wealth of knowledge and understanding about living in the skin of adoption.
I was born in England. Not in London, but in a smaller place known as Bury St Edmunds. Bury St Edmunds is a town in West Suffolk on the River Lark.
It is of an ancient ruin and is said to have been the site of a Roman villa and later a royal Saxon town. Bury St Edmunds is named for Saint Edmund—king of the East Angles—killed by the Danes around 870, and is buried there.
I tell you this not because I’m a historian, but because I hold a deep sense of pride in where I am from and from where I was adopted.
All three of our children came into our family through adoption. One Sunday, when Rachel, my youngest of three kids was just a couple weeks old, we sang Oceans during worship. I’d never really attached to the song like so many other Christians that I know did. But that morning, the song fell on me fresh.
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders / Let me walk upon the waters / Wherever You would call me / Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander / And my faith will be made stronger / In the presence of my Savior.”
Perhaps many people can say what I am about to say: when I first began fostering children I had no plans on adopting. I was experiencing a bit of the ’empty nest syndrome’ and wanted little ones in my home once more. I also wanted to foster children on my own terms with the choice to stop when I felt the time had come.
I received a phone call from a social worker asking if I wanted to foster a baby who was still in the hospital. I immediately said, “Yes.” The social worker began informing me of the baby’s health condition. “This baby was born three months premature, weighs only four pounds at six weeks of age, and has tested positive for crack and alcohol.” She added, “The baby needs to be picked up today.” I raced out of the house and headed to the hospital to meet a tiny little girl.
I used to hide. As an adoptee, I hid from the world. I was so afraid of being rejected that I left before anyone else could leave me first. I was in hiding.
Innocent, yet accused. Named, yet nameless. I had been an orphaned child, marked by abandonment: a mark that seemed to be my permanent identity. And, so I hid.
Many adoptees do the same. A moment in our lives—a decision made by others—hurts us so deeply that we retreat into the shadows. We often live on the outside looking in. Our new families wonder what is wrong, “Why can’t my child trust?” If they only knew that we’re in hiding, afraid of reaching out our arms and opening ourselves to love.
The little black ringlets of hair curling round her rosy cheeks and dark brown eyes captured my heart at first sight. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. As the tears came out of nowhere and my heart exploded, it was instantaneous. Somewhere in that place a Mama feels the deepest of emotions, I knew she was ours. God had shown me the little girl He’d hand-picked for us halfway across the world.
It was love. A love that seemed surreal — but one I knew was a gift. I just wouldn’t understand the magnitude of that gift for many years to come.
Our adoption story wasn’t one of the easy ones. I don’t know that anyone has an “easy” story, but ours was riddled with unheard of obstacles, detours, and heartache.