An Adoptee Gives Thanks for the Beautiful – not the Unbearable

In this season of thanks, it seems appropriate to share this here. Adoption is perfectly conflicted – beautiful, yet much of it, unbearable to watch. So many very beautiful things I’m thankful for and yet so much I never will be.

There’s much in my adoption life that I’m thankful for – truly thankful! I’m thankful for a family that was willing to give me love and a home – even though divorce struck when I was 2 yrs. old and my brother and I were raised by a single mom. I had a roof over my head and although food wasn’t plentiful, there was always something to eat. I’m truly thankful for a mom who did her best. She struggled but I respect her enormously for never giving up – for not bailing when that would’ve been so much easier. She’s the only parental person in my life who never bailed. I’m pretty sure she never even considered it. She endured the most – sacrificed the most – and I’m forever grateful.

Thank you, mom.

I’m thankful for my adoptive family’s roots. My immediate family and beyond were a people of faith. This was not only taught to me, but lived out in front of me. My great aunt moved away from her home to live close to us in order to help my mom raise us following the divorce – a 4 yr. old and a 2 yr. old. She was a woman of prayer and her Bible never collected dust. She modeled sacrificial love and how important it is to live a life serving others. Even though she was in retirement at this time in her life, it didn’t matter. Her family needed help so she came willingly.

I’m forever thankful!

My Aunt Nora loved and nurtured me in ways that my mother never could and taught me how to do the same. This has been a huge blessing for me to recount along my journey of raising my 7 kids. Even though I only had her in my life for about 12 yrs., she had no idea just how much of an impact she had not only on me, but my children who will never know her.  I had no idea either. I still wear the ring she gave me – a constant reminder of my precious Aunt. She was my first favorite human. I miss her every. single. day.

I love you so much, Aunt Nora.

I’m thankful for my brother by adoption, but could love no less if we shared DNA. We fought like normal siblings growing up but he’s always been my biggest fan! His love for me is evident and he brags about me in ways that are very hard to live up to! As adults, we’ve lived thousands of miles apart but our hearts are close. He’s the hero in my story. He’s the strongest person I know and he sets the bar high for a little sister.

I love him more than he will ever know.

While I’m very thankful for many things, there are things that I’ll never be “thankful” for. Although I can already hear the collective gasp, I’m not thankful that I was taken away from my first mother. She was a scared, young girl who found herself in teenage pregnancy predicament. She was never given the option or support to keep me by her parents or trusted professionals.

Would you be thankful?

As an adult, I understand the complex extenuating circumstances and our 1960’s culture at the time I was adopted. I “understand” and have to “accept” this as my reality but I don’t know that I can ever say that I’m thankful I was never cradled in the arms of my first mother nor calmed by her touch or sound of her voice. As a matter of fact, she never laid eyes on me before I was whisked out of the delivery room and out of her life.

Would you be thankful?

One of the most common assumptions communicated to me sometimes even without words in a plethora of ways over my life is that I should be thankful – grateful – for ev.er.y.thing. Really, no other emotion was ever hinted at even remotely being valid. Sadness, anger, grief, confusion, anxious, fear, feelings of loss, rejection….and the list goes on. None of these were on the table … but I felt every single one. I had no clue what to do with them and because my M.O. was to not rock the boat in any way, I kept silent – for decades. I stuffed every emotion – those known and unknown – into a can and slammed the lid. It was a simmering mess. Inside, I was a simmering mess given no permission to address any of it.

Would you be thankful?

Little, if any, regard was ever given to the other part of me that existed pre-adoption. Acknowledging my biology as a significant player – a huge factor in making me who I am. We don’t deny biology when explaining why little cousin Billy can’t sit still – it’s obvious! It’s because his daddy couldn’t either! Or why Aunt Louisa loves animals or why Uncle Mike is a great musician or why Susie has a double crown. We recognize DNA as an obvious contributor for many things among family members but when it comes to the adopted, we dance around it and even entirely dismiss its significance. We speak out of both sides of our mouths. Our identity is diminished. I was expected to live the rest of my days knowing only half of myself – the post-adoption part – while the other was never validated or given any value.

Would you be thankful?

I’m not thankful that I was deceived about the identity of my biological dad. Paternity tests weren’t standard at the time of my birth. The story given by my birth mother was enough – no research or fact-checking. Only one parent’s signature was required for relinquishment. This has been one of the hardest realities for me to absorb. I missed out on decades with a dad who had no clue about me but wanted to. My mind cannot even process this kind of loss.

Could you be thankful?

And not only my dad but my first mother and the rest of my family as well…I’ll never be thankful that I missed baseball games, graduations, weddings, births of nieces and nephews and time – precious time with family that I could’ve known. I have 6 half-brothers and 1 half-sister. So much life lived without them. When I do the math, it’s hundreds of years of combined among all of them. Lost. Gone. Non-recoverable loss.

Meeting family later in life who had no clue about you is like landing in the middle of a party that you weren’t invited to. Like, right in the middle – straight down from a hole in the roof, suspended from the ceiling like an angel in a Christmas play and being left to hang for a bit – just to be sure everyone notices – before lowered into the middle of a sea of awkward moments. Everyone looks, whispers, wonders who you are, what rock you just crawled out from under and why you’re really there.

While I’ve known for decades that I had family out there somewhere, they haven’t.

Sometimes, it’s just too late.

I showed up too late.

I’ll never be able to say “thank you” for that…..

For the love of Pete, whoever he is, please don’t ever, ever, ever, ever expect anyone to be thankful for something that you couldn’t be grateful. Adoptees are some of the most thankful, gracious, grateful people that I know.

We KNOW how different a life can look – our lives – with one different decision, one understanding counselor, one mistake, one paternity test, one wrong turn, one drink too many at a party, one misinterpreted text, one empathetic friend.

We KNOW!

And we’re eternally thankful for all of the beautiful….

but please don’t ever require us to be grateful for the unbearable.

 

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