Adoptees adopting themselves

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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5 thoughts on “Adoptees adopting themselves”

  1. A lot to consider that many have not even thought about or did not know!
    Being an “adopted child” has a lot of stigma’s & questions built in.
    Being bi-racial must be even more deeply complicated.
    Kudos to you for doing so well & especially bringing this perspective to others.
    Very much needed information, thank you.

  2. This is a sad sad viewpoint of a beautiful story. In our home we choose gratitude rather than being a victim of our circumstances. Maybe it’s our worldview, our deep faith in God and trusting His plan for our lives that allows us to do that. We know that we have been adopted into God’s family, so adoption is costly, beautiful, and redemptive. There is no perfect scenario but your parents gave up things in order to adopt you as well, even though you seem to disregard their experience. Also not every child has living birth parents, our oldest son is adopted, but his family is dead and without us adopting him he would be living on the street. We are tremendously grateful for him as our son, but we are not his savior, Jesus is. His story was created when he was knit together in his mother’s womb and we are so grateful God saw fit to make us a part of it. Our other biological children are biracial, and yes, realize that growing up black in a white state has its challenges and has almost handicapped them in terms of their “blackness”, but they are appreciative for their lives and their stories. They can look at Maine and say, “yeah it sucked not having a lot of black people around, but I could’ve grown up in much worse conditions”. We never play the victim card because we are more than conquerors in Christ. We hold onto our power and it fuels us. I hope you’ll find happiness in your story and appreciation for your life, I hope you’ll extend the same grace to your adoptive parents for your imperfect, less than ideal upbringing, as you have to your birth mother who lovingly gave you to be raised and loved by them. Life doesn’t owe us anything.

  3. I see this as well in biracial situations…. where the white mother is downplaying the difficulty of parenting her black/white child in New England. In this case, Connecticut and her girl child born into a racist family. The innocent but confused child had no say in this and still even as a young adult is conflicted. We need to do much better !

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