Adapting and Adoption

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. The fall is usually a time of self reflection for me. The year is coming to an end, and with all the holidays and focus on family, it’s hard to not get introspective about my own adoption story. ALL thoughts, feelings, stories and scenarios are purely my own and are not a reflection of my brother, parents, or birth family’s thoughts. I can not speak for them. Please know that I am speaking only for myself. 

When I refer to my parents or mom and dad, I am speaking of the parents who adopted and raised me. If I speak of my birth mother, I will refer to her as such. My brother is my twin brother, we were born together, fostered together, and adopted together per my birth family’s request. I also have a birth sister who I am close to in a very special way. We do not see each other often, but we are certainly cut from the same cloth and she taught me a lot about who I am. I met her and my birth grandmother and grandfather when I was 17. I met my birth mother when I was 19.

I remember when I met my parents. I wasn’t even two but I tend to remember things based on emotion and significance in my life. It sounds crazy, but as someone who has OCD and anxiety (in addition to bipolar and depression) I go over and over events in my mind until they are chiseled into my memory as if my brain were some deep cave with prehistoric markings etched into my skull.

What I remember is soft voices, my mother’s perfume, and the fact that she wore a necklace of some sort that intrigued me. My dad also spoke gently and had brought some sort of toy for my brother to play with. I remember not wanting them to leave.

Eventually we did get adopted. It was a long process and something my mom can talk about because she has more knowledge than I do on the subject. I remember (possibly) our first night at my parent’s house. I remember there was a huge thunderstorm and flashes of lightning flickered through the windows. Everything was dark and a lot of people (presumably my parents) were running around with flashlights trying to assemble our cribs. I also remember that despite the loud storm and darkness, I never felt more safe than I did in that single moment.

Growing up, my parents taught us to talk to them about anything. I would go to school and whenever we had a substitute teacher, I would pretend that she could be my birth mom and what if it were true. As I grew into my pre-teen and teenage years, puberty boasted the question of Who am I? My mom is very tall with blond hair and blue eyes. I always wanted to emulate that because I was very short with brown hair and brown eyes. Growing up, my friends would know how they would look when they got older because they already looked like their parents. My daughter is me in miniature, and she has that air of quiet confidence about her because she has known nothing but love and her parents.

I learned what love was when my parents adopted me. I learned what patience was when my brother and I would terrorize the restaurants and cause scenes in McDonalds because we were overstimulated. We hated loud environments and were always hyper aware of our surroundings. My birthdays would roll around each year and there was always that intangible longing. Being adopted can feel so lonely at times, yes, even with a twin to share it with.

We met our birth family on Martin Luther King day when I was seventeen. I remember that I had talked with mom the day before and cried about how it wasn’t fair, I needed to know. I had talked with my brother and we had planned to go to the adoption agency here in Houston and demand to see our file and begin the search for our birth mother. Legally we had to wait until we were 18, so we had this huge plan set up. Unbeknownst to us, mom got on the phone that day and called everyone who had the last name of my birth family. Mom got their name because the caseworker told her that the agency was switching files to computer files and that information would be lost. Mom took the files home with her quietly and kept it a secret from my brother and I until we were “ready.” (I think she was going to give them to us when we were 18, but she just decided to give us our files early because I was in crisis, as I so often was as a teenager)

I remember being over joyed when I met them. My birth grandmother, my birth grandfather, and my birth sister. Words can not describe the feeling of complete and utter release after all these years wondering. They looked like me! I had my birth grandfather’s cheekbones, and my birth grandmother’s  hands, and my birth sister’s body type and dark hair. We had the same smile and even our voices sounded the same. This gave me some sort of unspoken confirmation that I  did fit into the world. I did come from somewhere. It is okay to be short, curvy, and have brown hair and brown eyes. These acute details go beyond vanity.

I can’t put my finger on it, but all these little moments and so many more are monumental to my soul and spirit. There always lies the great debate of nurture versus nature and any sociologist would be fascinated by that very subject. Being adopted for me has taught me a lot about adjusting easily to any situation, patience, adaptability, perseverance– particularly with the unknown, and most importantly love.

All the layers of love in the world. Mom and dad have been so open to us; so kind and nurturing. When I was in the midst of my teenage years screaming at the top of my lungs in one of my manic fits, my parents were incredible. Tears would roll down mom’s face as I screamed that I wanted to go back to foster care, or say that I never really belonged. Dad would boost my spirit when my self-esteem was lacking. He was always the one to tell me not to worry about what everyone else thought and to believe in myself. My teenage angst was cruel to my family (and me) on a GOOD day. The bad days were absolute hell.  They would hold me as I raged and cried. No topic was taboo. Though the break downs, hormones, and the good days too, they were there doing the one thing they knew how to do: love me.

Now I have my own daughter to raise and while I see so much of myself in her, I know she is her own person, too. Adoption is complicated. It’s complicated for the person or people who choose to be selfless and give their child(ren) a better life, for whatever reason that may be.

It’s complicated for the birth siblings who grew up knowing their long lost siblings were out there somewhere. It’s complicated for the birth family wondering if the child(ren) that were/was given up are safe and sound. Did they make the right choice? How will we know? What if we never meet?

It’s complicated for the adoptive parents to navigate through the many MANY ups and downs and added complications that adoption inadvertently makes them contend with. I swear there must be some unwritten rule that states “ADOPTED KIDS ARE COMPLICATED AND WILL BE MORE DRAMATIC AND NEEDY THAN MOST, GOOD LUCK” because of all my adopted friends and me, we have ALL given our parents a run for their literal money. It’s also complicated for adoptive parents because of all the questions they can’t answer, despite their best efforts. It’s complicated for adoptive parents because they hurt for the birth family’s selfless sacrifice and they are questioning if what they are doing is enough. Will it be enough to the birth family, too?

It’s hard for the adopted children because we are so curious and also a little weary. We wonder why we weren’t good enough but then we feel guilty for thinking that because we did get adopted. For those of us who were in foster care, there’s that added layer of our foster siblings and the constant nagging feeling that demands to know if they got adopted, too. We wonder who our birth mother is, and it grows from there. So many unanswered questions.

I just feel so lucky to have the opportunities in my life that I have had. I am so grateful that this is my story and while it may not be perfect, I can embrace it for all that it is. I can teach my daughter about compassion, patience, kindness, security, and love. Which is exactly what my parents, brother, sisters, and birth family have ALL done for me. So while we don’t have all the answers, we absolutely have love.

No matter who has what role in the adoption process from the birth families, to the foster parents, to the adoptive siblings, to the adoptive parents, and to adopted kids themselves….we all string this web of connection and within it is an abundance of love. Every single one of us will adapt to whatever life throws at us because that’s all we know how to do: Keep Going. After all, love and persistence is all we have ever really known.

All my love,

S.

 

Remember to be kind to yourself and if you or someone close to you is in serious distress or simply needs to talk to someone, please call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741. 

 

 

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