Family is a word on everyone’s tongue. It is no doubt that family can be a difficult thing across the board. For some of us though, it tends to be more complicated. I am teaching myself how to cry. How to really let out the grief that has lived in my body since time before remembering. Last week, I found myself on a sidewalk crouched in the fetal position, weeping. It was in that moment which I realized with a profound certainty that there are people on this planet who belong to me.
I have found my birth mother and I am filled with fear and confusion with no clear end in sight. And I couldn’t be happier. Despite the questions. Despite the emotions which are clogged in my body. I had given my mother up for dead. Maybe it was the fatalist in me. Maybe it was the realist. Or maybe it was me trying to reconcile my place in the world, and understand that I may never know my origins. Not truly.
I’m clicking my heart back into place. I’ve found my birth mother. I’ve heard her voice. I know there is someone in this world who belongs to me. Who I belong to. I love her, and I barely know her; nevertheless, I’ve loved her all my life. She is a constant steady flame burning in the center of me, guiding my way and lighting my path in even the darkest of times. Before now, loving her was complex. Truth be told, it still is. The difference now is that I know she exists.
I’m on a quest to reclaim my narrative. Twice robbed of my history—first when my ancestors were enslaved and shipped here, and again when I was shipped up here and then cut off from my birth mother. As a child, I had no say. Despite wanting desperately to meet my mother. See her in more than just a photograph.
This is the hardest piece I’ve ever written, and I don’t even know what it’s about. I feel compelled to write it down. Perhaps it’s because I know that many of the people who will read these words will hold a small dark child in their arms. Maybe it’s because I want them to know what it is to be a transracial adoptee in a white state. To have to adapt perceptions and stop looking for oneself in the face of those who love them. To understand the deep need which sits at the base of their being. A deep throbbing wound waiting to be filled by someone who looks like them. Sounds like them. Feels like them. Last week, I heard my birth mother’s voice and I finally, finally, finally, felt kinship.
My story is unfinished one, scattered and uncertain. Until now it has been filled with the struggle of a child brought into a family who did not truly understand the magnitude of what it means to adopt a Black child. A family who felt an occasional Black babysitter, Black baby doll, kwanza ball would make up for the deficit of being without one’s history.
I know that there are children in this state who feel alone right now. Who are wondering where they come from. Who are sitting around their kitchen tables staring at faces which are paler and stranger than their own. There are children who have a deep and unquenchable longing to connect with someone who shares their blood, shares their face. Beautiful dark children who long to understand where they come from and to hear their own voice reflected to them.
I am writing this because I need adoptive parents to do better. I need adoptive parents to understand the importance of origin. Don’t buy into a color-blind love. It doesn’t exist. Not really. If you are a white parent who has taken a Black child into your home, I need you to talk to them. Often. I need you to press them when they tell you that nothing is wrong. I need you to listen to their silences. To try to understand their grief. I need you to understand that to be given up is to inflict a wound so deep that it penetrates everything. I need you to understand that an adoptive child constantly questions their intrinsic self-worth. I need adoptive parents to understand that terror of rejection lives at the heart of that wound. As a child, I remember being constantly fearful that I would be given away. Given back after being found wanting. Being found ungrateful.
What I mean to say is, you cannot take a small dark child into your home, remove them from their blood, then expect them to naturally thrive. Expect them to forget. This shit is deep. It may be instinct to boil this down to my own sad experience. To reduce my story to an isolated incident. An unfortunate case of an adoption turned foul.
The thing is, my journey began with the best, if not hazy of intentions. I have deep love for my family. And begrudging though it may be, after a childhood demanding my gratitude, I have come to make some concessions. I’m not grateful for my adoption; I’m not there yet and may never be, but I am grateful for my life path, because I am proud of where I landed. I am proud of where I have carried myself on spirit, at times kicking and screaming. In this, my 28th year, I have given birth to myself. I am grateful that I had the strength and the faith to reach across my fear and find the woman who created me.
My birth mother was my first heartbeat. My first breath. My first love and my first question. After years of coming up short, I am now on a path to discovering answers to my own whispered questions. Finally, I will have more than a box of birth records and cards and photographs get me through; to connect me to where I come from. I have adopted myself. Adoption is deep. Adoption is painful. And some adoptees never can give birth to themselves.
If I can have only one wish for adopted babies, specifically, transracial adoptees, then I will break it into two parts, and in no particular order:
I wish that transracial adoptees are placed with adoptive parents who strive every day to understand the complexities of adoption. I wish that they recognize and address the significance of loving a child who lives in a home which does not reflect them. In a country which does not value them, and in a world which does not love them. This is my wish, and I pray to whoever is listening, that it come true.
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