Why I Share My Voice on Adoption

Yesterday, I posted a very raw piece on Adoption, Reunion and Forgiveness. The overwhelming response I received was supportive, affirming, and loving. And most of that response was public, so you can read it on Facebook. I also received some other responses (less encouraging), and while I’ve addressed those privately, I also feel some need to publicly address the general sentiment behind the less encouraging responses. So, here goes.

First, I want everyone to know that I didn’t search for my natural family because I have anger, resentment, etc. for my adoptive family. Part of the reason my natural parents chose to allow me to be adopted is because they hoped I would be raised in a loving home with two parents and, hopefully, even a sibling or two. I experienced just that – 2 parents, 1 big brother, lots of extended family, love, encouragement, and some pretty amazing opportunities to experience different parts of the United States thanks to my dad’s job as a preacher. I wasn’t rebelling against them when I started thinking about searching at a young age, and I certainly wasn’t rebelling when I finally went through the search process at age 36. Nor was I looking for something they never gave me. I had everything I could have asked for and then some. No, my search for my natural family was not about my adoptive one.

Also, I don’t think my adoptive family should feel responsible for my internal struggle growing up. While they loved and supported me the best they knew how, there was nothing they could do to take away my pain. My adoptive brother, upon reading my blog post yesterday, said, “I wish I could have understood your pain to be there for you in a better way. Sending my love to you.” This is the same brother who held me in his arms when I was 12 years old and crying about where I belonged and wanting to meet my natural family. He may not even remember that moment, which took place the summer I lived with him and my sister-in-law, but I’ll never forget it. Because he was doing all he could and I loved him for it, but it still didn’t make the pain go away, and I think he knew it. It’s a slightly askew analogy, but I think expecting my adoptive family to be the answer to my pain is like expecting a best friend to be the answer to the pain that comes from a spouse cheating on you. The love, support, and comfort of friends is incredible, but it can’t take away a hurt that has a different source.

And, I recognize that my natural parents did what they thought was best and it’s not my intent to hurt them when I write. I know they believe I was “raised well” because they’ve both said it. In fact, my natural dad recently said something akin to, “I can’t regret what happened because…look at you.” While we’ll never know what my life would have been like with one or both of them, I am confident I’ve had a great life with my adoptive family. So, I’m not trying to make my natural family feel bad or second guess their decision when I write.

Which brings me to…I’m not sure why I feel “compelled” to talk about my situation. For those who know me, you know how surprising it is that I’m sharing anything personal. I’ve actually had people tell others about me, “you can know her, but never really know her.” So, this whole process is difficult for me. I do believe writing helps me. I hope it helps others. Because I’ve read the results of some studies, and the data suggests adopted teens are approximately 4 times more likely to attempt suicide. 4 times! I can’t help but think that’s true not only because of the pain they’ve experienced, but because they don’t know how to talk about it, and don’t know others have experienced it, and don’t see how they’ll ever learn to live with it. I remember being 12 and being lucky that I had a big brother who listened and held me while I cried. I guess I hope the adopted kids who aren’t so lucky will stumble on my blog and it might help a little.

And, finally, why am I writing this public response to private comments? Because the sentiments behind the comments that sparked the paragraphs above:

  • That adoptees only search when they have bad adoptive families or are rebelling against their adoptive family or should have enough gratitude to their adoptive family that they never search
  • That having a great adoptive family should take away all pain an adoptee might experience (in other words, you had a great family, get over it)
  • That speaking your pain once you are an adoptee in reunion is disrespectful to your natural parents
  • That adoptees always make everything about adoption or are selfish or are just trying to get attention

are some of the reasons that adoptees often feel like they have to bear their pain alone. And you can help them understand that’s not true!

Thanks to all who assumed pure intent from the beginning!
Becky

Adoption, Reunion, and Forgiveness

Forty years into my life as an adoptee and three years into my life as an adoptee reunited with natural family, I have come to an interesting revelation. I’m not sure I’ve ever really understood the concept of forgiveness. Yes, I’ve experienced wrongs against me, and I’ve addressed those matters with people, and I’ve said “I fogive you” and I think I have forgiven them, but I’ve never had to forgive something really big in my life. Until now. 

Here’s the thing about being adopted. Your story always begins with someone (in my case, two someones) giving you up. We use a ton of fancy words for it and provide lots of affirming explanations for why it happened, but the fact is your beginning is an end. And endings are painful, even if they are for the best. And for me, the pain was real. Often unspoken. Frequently ignored. Rarely understood. Always stuffed down. But real. Because no matter how much I believed that my natural parents loved me and did the best they could for me in allowing me to be raised by other people, I still felt abandoned. Not worth choosing. Not worth fighting for. Hurt. And those feelings don’t go away easily. Depsite the fact that my natural mom gave up her whole life in FL and moved to WV to build a relationship with me. And despite the fact that my natural dad has opened his heart/mind to a relationship with me. And despite the fact they both tell me and show me that they love me. The hurt fades, but it doesn’t disappear. 

So, now I think I understand a little more about forgiveness. Because some days, I look at my mom (and my dad) and still feel the pain of a child relinquished. I still feel the hurt (though not as strongly) that has marked an internal struggle for my entire life. And I think how easy it could be to write her (and my dad) off as the source of all that hurt. But then I look in her eyes (and his too) and see the person who lives with the pain of having hurt me and I think about the relationship we have already forged, and the hope of that relationship growing. And I think forgiveness is the only way that I can get out of my own way to enjoy relationships with people that God gave me as family and has blessed me with an opportunity to make that mean more than just sharing genetics. 

Becky