Thursday, September 15, 2016

In Her Own Words: An Adoptee Shares Her Story

So often we hear stories of adoptive families; the amazing way God brought their family together, their journey of adoption, and what a blessing their child is in their home. Sometimes we're blessed to hear from brave birth families; how and why they chose adoption for their child and the powerful story of incredible love.

But we don't hear enough from adoptees themselves. In addition to the important stories from the viewpoint of adoptive families and birth families, I believe the adoptees' voice is especially important. To hear their personal experience of adoption, how their families helped them navigate their childhood and identity, and how their relationship (or lack of) with their birth family impacts them - these are the stories we are in desperate need for in the adoption community.

Today I'm thrilled to introduce Taylor, an adoptee AND a hopeful adoptive mom. Taylor was kind enough to share her story here including the details of her adoption, the open relationship she shares with her birth family, and how her experience is impacting her plans for adoption. You can read our interview below and hear her passion for adoption...

Let's start with sharing a bit about yourself!  

I was adopted at birth, and now we are adopting a child of our own! There isn’t a single aspect of the story of my adoption that doesn’t ring Jesus, and I am forever blessed by the process itself. My biological mother was very young and had already had a daughter two years before with a different man. My biological father was enlisted in the military and was being deployed before I was due to be born and they were both very much on the same page about wanting to make an adoption plan. My mom and dad had been struggling with fertility for seven years and after several miscarriages and being told that they would have to selectively abort if IVF resulted in multiples (due to a health concern) she had told her doctor that she was going to start looking into adoption. Less than a week later a nurse from her doctors office called saying that they had a young woman in the clinic who was interested in making an adoption plan for her child and that is how my biological and adoptive parents met! My biological and adoptive mother grew very close, and they even housed her towards the end of her pregnancy. My mother was able to be there for my birth. Two days later and I was theirs to take home and within six months the adoption was finalized. The adoption was very open and my biological mother visited a handful of times before my parents had to move away, which we know took a toll on my biological mothers heart. However, through the years I have remained very close with both of my biological parents as they attended all of my life’s big milestones together and now I have the joy of having them as a part of my own children lives!

How did your family share your adoption story with you growing up?  Did you always know you had been adopted?

I don’t ever remember “finding out” that I was adopted as it was simply just something that I have known for as long as I can remember. My parents had age appropriate books explaining adoption and being in an open adoption helped me to understand the nature of adoption from a very young age. Being adopted, I never felt different than anyone else, although my peers asked plenty of questions out of curiosity and a bit of confusion. I truly believe that by tackling the concept of adoption from the very beginning alongside having the openness we had within our adoption I was able to grasp my past much easier. It simply was just a part of my story like anyone else’s. 

What did your family do growing up that helped you create a solid sense of identity; both within your family and as a young woman?

Something that I can’t ever really thank my biological and adoptive parents enough for was the appropriateness of our relationships within the course of my life. My biological parents knew that they were not raising me and did an amazing job respecting boundaries. If I were to ever share a story with my biological parents about a frustrating situation with my parents themselves, my biological parents never crossed my parents and would remind me that “they loved me so much and they were doing the right thing as my parents.” Likewise, my adoptive parents never “kept me” from my biological family. This was appreciated because growing up adopted, you inevitably feel a little “lost” (for lack of better word). I know that I share traits that remind everyone of my biological mother. I also know that many of my personality traits I get from my adoptive mother as well. Being that I am not biologically my parents child, some things that I did or said they didn’t quite understand. It was so important to me to have that open level of communication to better understand my actions or emotions when my adoptive family couldn’t. I know that I had an attitude and a sass that rang true to my biological mother. In certain situations, she was the best to help me understand how to better myself through that moment which was something that I know my biological parents greatly appreciated. Being adopted, you are blended: you are a beautiful mix of where you came from and where you now call home. Helping your little one to better identify his or herself though communication with their birth family is invaluable. 

Did you ever struggle with things like identity, feeling rejected, or wishing your birth family had decided to parent rather than make an adoption plan for you?

I can’t lie here, yes, I absolutely had my moments. There were tough moments growing up (especially as a teenage girl) where I questioned gods plan for myself and wondered what life would be like if I wasn’t adopted. Now any teenage girl will go through her own struggles with her family, but being adopted added a new thought process to my struggle. Thankfully any time I envisioned having not been adopted, those thoughts ended very quickly. I knew without a doubt that I was where I belonged and that had I not been adopted I would not have been in the amazing situation I was currently in, no matter how difficult the situation I knew that I would rather be here than anywhere else. 

Surprisingly, these struggles within my family about adoption were few and far between. The thing that I would have to say that I struggled with most was my peers. I was in a situation where unless someone had told you that I was adopted, you would have never known. I looked eerily similar to my parents and so did my brother who was also adopted but not from my biological parents. Once my peers found out, they were curious, and a good majority of the time I was happy to answer their questions because I recognized that the idea was foreign to them. However, other times the questions were intrusive or worded in ways that made me uncomfortable or upset, and this was he hardest. I vividly remember my third grade teacher hearing a friend of mine ask me a few questions about adoption and stopping the class and having me stand in front of everyone explaining my adoption and airing it to the world. While she may have meant well, as she had put it she was “only trying to avoid any further questions”, I have never felt so different in my life. Questions like “Do you know your real parents?” “Is he your real brother?” “Did your family pay for you?” “Did your adoptive parents not want you?” hit me like a ton of bricks. When I would say that my adoptive parents were very much my real parents and my brother was in fact my real brother, I would again be asked “No, you don’t understand what I am saying, they aren't rreeeaalllyyy your parents.” And in turn, I struggled for a long time feeling like a real daughter. My family was always there to help me understand that these kids just didn’t know how to ask those questions, that they meant well and I was kind for helping them to understand; I quickly realized that the more uncomfortable questions I answered, the less likely it was for them to make another adopted child feel uncomfortable again, because they would better understand. 

What kind of relationship did you share with your birth family growing up?  How has that changed or grown now as an adult?

As I shared before, I was in an open adoption from the very beginning! My biological mother started by visiting every once in a while, she always called on birthdays and christmas and my parents sent her many photos. This continued until I was a few years old and then communication started to slowly dissipate and became much more sparse. Thankfully we were able to go and visit her when I was about 7 years old and she had started creating her own family and we were able to meet my biological half sisters and her new husband and I truly felt like communication would get better from then on, and it get even more sparse. I was a little hurt by the lack of response on her end and was too young to understand that she was busy creating a life for herself that she had always dreamed of, in my mind of course I felt that she loved this life of hers more than me. However time went on, and those thought faded and communication started back up when I was about 13 years old. At this point in time I had never met my biological father he had been deployed before I was born and he had not told his family about my existence and I had never so much as seen a photo of him. I approached my parents letting them know my desires to meet him, and as always they graciously understood. There was never any angst or frustration, never any jealously and they always respected my curiosity knowing that I would never dream of “replacing them”. Sure enough we were set to travel to visit grandparents in Arizona in a few weeks and my biological mother told us that the last she knew, my biological father was a police officer in Arizona and we called him up. He was so incredibly excited to hear from us and we met him the night we flew in and it was as if I had known him my entire life, we were all shocked at how much him and I resembled each others personalities. 

My biological parents attended my big days, my 16th birthday, my graduation, my wedding, and now I send them photos of my children and they get the opportunity to love on them as well. It comes full circle at this stage in life, as I look into the eyes of my own children and recognize that they wouldn’t be here had it not been for both my biological and adoptive parents. Now as we are starting our journey to adopting a child of our own, the process is so different looking at it from another perspective, but without this beautiful gift I wouldn’t have the pleasure of pursuing this process at all.

Is there anything you wish had been different in terms of your adoption?

Truly, I had it very easy. I have amazing parents who helped to foster the relationship that I had with my biological family, they never once held me back or pursued feelings of jealousy. They knew how much I loved them and that they could never be replaced. And on the flip side, I have amazing biological parents who always respected the boundaries of the adoption and stood behind any decisions that my parents made for me. They were my parents biggest advocates and all around the relationship was so healthy. Watching my brothers' adoption story unfold has been interesting and rewarding in itself, as it is much different than my own. It's interesting to note he feels his situation is equally as beautiful for him - even with much less biological family involvement.

What has been the hardest part of your experience as an adoptee?

The most difficult part of my life as an adoptee is helping those around me see past the concept. Sometimes people just can’t quite wrap their minds around the idea and inevitably your adopted child will meet people who won’t understand, and often times won’t let it go. The questions keep coming, the insults may arise, and the hurt sets in. Thankfully these people were few and far between, whereas most people are shocked to find out and then quickly move on to other more important things about your life that deserve more attention. 

What has been the best part of your experience as an adoptee?

The best part? My 6th grade graduation, the first time I rode a horse, my first official boyfriend and then my first official heart break, dancing my way through high school and being a part of a team, planning prom and even being stood up, leaving everything I knew and attending college in a foreign state, losing friends and gaining new ones, meeting my husband, marrying him, gaining another family and then giving birth to my two beautiful children. The very best part is all of that; it’s that I had the chance to live any of that at all. Being adopted gives you a whole new sense of beauty to life, because any of us who are adopted know that there was a likelihood that we wouldn’t have gotten to experience life as you know it at all. Your adopted child will see a beauty to the world that is not immediately visible to the unaided eye; there is a sense of gratitude to even the harshest of life’s many moments. Your adopted child will never truly be able to express to you just how much they love you because their love for you is deeper than any words will ever be able to describe. The best part about being adopted is life, and the opportunity to live it.

What would you want a woman contemplating making an adoption plan for her child to know?

Before anything else, I want to thank her. I want to tell her that she is strong, she is courageous, and she is loved. Because of a gracious woman, I am able to sit here as I type this, stare into my daughters' eyes, and experience a love much deeper than anything I could’ve ever imagined. Because of love I have life. What she is doing is far more than a gift; it is directly the work of the Lord and he is watching over her. Adoption is not a “scapegoat,” it is not a way out, and it is also not easy. It is okay to be scared, it is okay to be sad, and it is okay to hurt. Why does a birthmother hurt? Because the love she has for this unborn child exceeds anything she has ever known, and the ability to set aside all else and come to the realization that she is not what is best for this baby takes an unprecedented about of bravery. Birthmother, you are a gift. This child, this child’s parents, and anyone who is blessed by this child’s life will never find words angelic enough to express their love and admiration for you. Thank you birthmother, for giving the gift of the first day of kindergarten, the first t-ball game, the first (intimidating) day of high school, the first time being able to drive with a license, the throwing of the caps on graduation day, the first kiss, the look she gets from her husband on her wedding day, and for the first time she hears her own child cry. You are cherished.

What would you want a couple contemplating adoption to know?

The process is long and comes with stress and complication. But let me promise you this: God’s timing is always right. What you are doing is wroth all of what you are going through. Something that I always struggle with is to take a firm grasp of the costs of adoption, then I realize that I know we will be taken care of, we have a Lord who works miracles, and this baby is nothing short of a miracle. This child will teach you things that you never knew about yourself; whether this child is your very first after years of struggling with fertility or your fourth or fifth whom you yearn to come and complete your family. This process is worth it; worth waiting for, praying for, crying for, saving for, working for, and rejoicing over. And in case no one else says it, coming from an adopted child herself, thank you. 

Now you're on the journey to adopt yourself. Why are you choosing to build your family through adoption?

Adoption wasn’t ever something that I had debated about in my head. I guess having grown up in a family entirely created by adoption I saw what a beautiful family adoption could create and I longed for a family much the same. When I met my husband, I shared my story of adoption on our third date and he shared that his father was also adopted; we both possessed the same desire in the adoption process! The idea of adoption was always somewhere on the forefront of our minds, whether or not fertility/money/timing was an issue. We have been blessed with two biological children and more recently we both felt the pull of the Lord on our hearts in this direction, despite many other things we have going on in our lives. One evening while sipping on coffee, we both shared that we had felt God telling us that it was time, but we were nervous as our youngest is still so young. Since taking a leap of faith and following the Lord's leading, everything has found a way to work itself out perfectly. We know that we are being led on the right path for our family. I have spent my entire life praying and dreaming about this process; that I would someday be blessed with a child of my own from a woman beautiful enough to bless this child with the gift of life. The full circle process of adoption is something that is simply much more than just a dream for our family, and we are so excited to watch this dream become a reality!

How will your adoption impact how you parent the child you plan to adopt?

We wanted to be sure to be open to whatever adoption plans that our prospective biological mother has in store for her child; be it closed or open. However, I truly believe in the beauty and success of an open adoption and would love to experience the same combined effort in our own adoption. I hope that having been adopted, facing the uncomfortable questions, feeling the sometimes loneliness and confusion that coincides with adoption, I will be able to address these issues in our child. But I also know that every child is entirely different. Adoption affected me in a different way that it affected my brother, as I'm sure it will our child as well. Some will wish to know much more about their biological family whereas some won’t desire to know a whole lot. I think the most important thing on both the biological and adoptive family's ends is to allow the child the freedom to facilitate what they are comfortable with. I hope that I am able to set aside my own personal preferences that I had in my adoption to help cater to the individual needs of my child during the course of their life. I imagine my parenting journey won’t truly look much different than any other adoptive parents, while some may consider this a leg up every child is different and we all take things one day at a time.

I pray that we can parent our children in the way that God see’s fit, as we are blessed to be living out the gospel in our very own living room.

1 comment:

  1. As an adoptee and adoptive parent myself I would like to say thank you for sharing your story! Beautiful!


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