Please Understand

Sometimes I worry that talking about how being has adopted impacted me might send the wrong message.

It’s true that the person I grew up to be was shaped, in no small way, by the fact that I was removed from my family of origin and adopted by another family. I struggled as a child, as a teenager, a young adult, and as an adult wondering who I was supposed to be and where I fit in. I have had a sense of shame at the core of me, not for anything I did but for who I am. I have been terrified of being abandoned, and this fear contributed to me making poor choices sometimes. I have felt rejected by many, if not most, people who have passed throughout my life, legitimately or not. I have been plagued with deep and unresolved grief, a grief I didn’t realize was there for much of my life. I tread softly and leave a small footprint because of a sense of not being entitled to that which most other people are. I have felt alienated and alone. I have wondered who I would be if not for this adoption experience.

But I have also been abundantly blessed.
I had parents who loved me and gave me a good life; they supported me, they believed in me, and they loved me. I had an extended family who embraced me; I knew what it felt like to be in a place surrounded people who love me. I have rarely wanted for anything I needed; I have had good health; I have a husband who loves me and happy and healthy children and grandchildren.
But just like you, I deserve to know where my ancestors came from. I deserve to be mirrored by knowing others who resemble me physically, in mannerism, and in interests and talents. I should be entitled to know if there is a history of illness in my lineage, or if there is a rich history of greatness passed down from generation to generation. I deserve to know the name I was given when I was born. 
The wound left in my soul from being adopted will never completely heal, but in learning the truth I can find comfort and peace and learn to release much of the grief that has plagued me silently just below the surface for much of my life. In allowing me to know the truth you give me wings with which I can soar to reach my full potential; you contribute to making this world a better place by helping one person become strong and emotionally healthy. I know these things are true because I have been fortunate enough to gain access to my family of origin; I know the name I was given at birth; I have looked into the faces of people who share my DNA. More importantly, I have learned the truth about the circumstances around my birth and subsequent adoption; I have found a measure of peace and healing as a result of learning the truth.
Please understand that I believe in the blessing of adoption. Children are given a mom and dad; parents are blessed by the preciuos children entrusted to their care; families are created. I am thankful that, for the most part, we are no longer in a culture of secrecy and shame around adoption.  I am thrilled at the openness I see beginning to surround the adoption community and happy for those adopted children of today who will be able to know the love of adoptive parents and, when the time is right, have access to information about their family of origin and, in some cases may grow up with biological family members in their life in some capacity. All of this honesty can only contribute to making the lives of everyone in the adoption constellation healthier; secrets are never the best option.
I am also grieved that some still believe that it’s okay to keep those secrets and deny access to information about who we are and where we came from. I fear they may not understand we cannot reach our full human potential if we are kept suffocated by a cloak of secrets. As an adoptee who was adopted under the closed adoption system, I understand the damage that secrecy and lies can have on the psyche of an individual and I believe it’s up to those of us who have been fortunate enough to obtain the basic information still denied to so many adoptees to speak out about the healing the truth can bring.
I also believe that it is our responsibility to be respectful and thoughtful in this work. I’m convinced that change will come with education, and that those who have been impacted have the most responsibility to educate those who do not understand.
My mom used to tell me that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar and I believe that adage holds true in the area of adoption education too.
At least that’s my goal.

I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things.
  1. My niece has conceived her beautiful daughter through a sperm donor. She paid extra to allow that daughter to contact him when she turns 18, if she wants to. But I suspect that after having been raised by her mother for that entire time, loved and cherished beyond reason, she may not care. At all. I hope I am around when that day comes seventeen years from now…

    I wish all children had the right to know their biological parents as well as their adoptive ones.

  2. My three children are adopted, all with varying degrees of openess in the contact we’ve had with their birth families. Each one has responded differently to being adopted. For one child, I see a lot of the grief and longing that you describe, wondering where they really came from and how they fit in. Your post is helpful to me, as I so often try to put myself in my child’s shoes (which I know I’ll never really be able to do). It has been quite an education for me, learning about the adoption triangle from my childrens’ point of view. And each one is completely different! I know that it’s something that they must resolve in their own hearts., each in his own way. I remember when they were little and I would explain adoption to them and read them their stories, I knew that no matter how gently I tried to tell them, there would come a time when they would realize that someone chose not to keep them. I can’t imagine how that must feel.

  3. Although I was only adopted by my stepfather, I too share many of the feelings you describe in this post. My stepfather never ‘got’ me, and that lead to a lot of misunderstandings, which I was always on the receiving end of since I was the child. I always knew that I did not have the love from my father that my siblings, his biological children, had. I will never know my real father, and have never even seen a photo. My mother destroyed everything years ago. Things have changed quite a lot in the last few years- but it’s been a difficult road. Every day I am aware of the impact this has had on my life. Every day I aim to heal a little bit more. Thanks for sharing, Linda.

  4. Oh Linda, You speak so eloquently of your adoption experience,bringing to light the wide range of feelings involved in the process. My ex-husband was adopted and finally learned his birth name after years of denying that he wanted to know. He felt it would be offensive to his adoptive parents. I witnessed the pain he suffered in not knowing where he came from. It also affects my two children whose lineage on their father’s side is “cloaked in secrecy”. Thank you for sharing your truth so openly. Both your pain and your joy are palpable. You will touch many who need to hear your message.
    Blessings and Write On!

  5. Thank you, Linda, for sharing with us all the feelings that have haunted you all your life. This kind of honesty touches me deeply and opens my eyes and my heart to what adoption means for the child who wonders always “Who am I really?” I see from Karen’s comment that not all adoptees respond the same way when they are told about being adopted. That, too, opened my eyes.

    This is sacred ground we are treading on today in your blog. And like Moses before the burning bush, we need to take off our sandals as we approach the deep-down longing you have shared with us.

  6. I was not adopted, but my brother was. I did not know this until I was a teenager & my knowledge occured under traumatic circumstances so the subject was taboo. I remember my mother saying that she thought adopted children should be told when they are 6 years old, so I presume that was when my brother was told. I’m guessing that he was told not to tell me. I learned who his birth mother was when I was in my early twenties. When I asked my mother about it, she said, “Didn’t you know that?” I’m not sure how I was to know. His birth mother was one of my first cousins. Our home was very dysfunctional. My brother and I were both sexually abused by our father. We both suffered, but my brother became a violent, abusive person himself. He is dead now and no one is sad (which is sad in itself).

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  7. Linda,
    Your beautiful writing took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes to think you would share such sacred and intimate feelings with us. I am sharing this with someone in my life who has been traumatically affected by her adoption. She is older than I am and I don’t know that she will ever find resolution. I do believe she will find some comfort in your words. Blessings & hugs!

  8. Linda; I so agree with you that secrets can cause more harm than they protect. Will you never be allowed to find your birth parents? Can they change the laws retroactively? I hope the Lord will allow you to use your exsperience to bless and help others; I believe He already has. You have a beautiful writing voice; never apologize for being transparent.

  9. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments – I appreciate them so very much. It’s always gratifying to know when one writes something that touches a chord in someone else. I’ve been so blessed in being able to have contact with some members of my birth family and learn the circumstances of my birth. (@Jeanette just to clarify, I was able to contact my birth family but both of my birth parents had already deceased).

    Thank you too, for sharing pieces of your stories with me. So many of us are touched by adoption and I hope as more of us are willing to share, gently and respectfully, about the healing that truth and knowledge can bring we will bring change.

    Hugs to all,

  10. I stumbled on to your blog today. I do not blog. I’m afraid that I am not much of a writer despite teaching my whole life. In 1963, I gave up my infant daughter in Denver, Colorado. She was born at Booth Memorial Hospital(Salvation Army). I went there so my family would not be shamed- a priest called a friend and she made the arrangements. Only 4 other people knew, my parents(deceased), my sister and the father. I have always believed in providence. I knew I could not marry the father; in fact, he impregnated another girl before my baby was born. I told my husband and he has loved me for 43 years. I have never tried to find my daughter: the records were sealed. I have thought of her everyday. I am happy that the shame and stigma of unwed pregnancy has abated. I have seen many children of forced or quick marriages who have been greatly harmed. I hope adoptees you talk to will know that they were given up by women who loved them dearly. I never held my daughter: I knew I could not leave her if I had.

  11. Hi, Linda, I found your blog again because you left a comment on mine some time ago, and I thought it was perceptive. I am spending this year in NYC offering daycare along with my husband for our 4-month-old grandson, Owen. As I watch the game of “who does he look like?” play out over and over again, I can imagine the hurt that comes from a lifetime of not knowing the answer to that question. This post helps me understand all the more. Thanks for a poignant picture of the importance about having access to information about our biological parents.

  12. Hi Linda,

    First, I stumbled upon your blog through BlogHer and absolutely LOVE it! I am a writer as well and always looking for input from those ahead of me in the field. I have linked your blog so I can continue to peruse your posts on writing – especially the prompts!
    On another note, I can identify with this post and find it very touching that you shared this testimony. My mother was put up for adoption as an infant and only met her birth mother when she was 36 years old – my grandma instantly had six grandchildren. For us, the story has a happy ‘ending’; but there are many out there who don’t have that conclusion. Thanks for being an encouragement to all.

  13. I’m one of those who have never been touched personally by adoption. I’m so glad there are people like you who are speaking out to share the challenges of adoption in hopes of encouraging change. Keep it up!

  14. Linda, thank you for your honest and transparent post about your feelings related to your adoption. As a fellow member with you in Sherrie Eldridge’s All-Adoptee support group, I highly recommend all the books by Sherrie Eldridge, as well as connecting to her wisdom through her website One of the ways in which Sherrie has helped me to give voice to my feelings regarding my adoption is with her description, “THE BEAUTIFUL BRAID OF ADOPTION…Long ago in eternity past, God determined that He would make a beautiful braid, and He called it Adoption. The braid has four ribbons: red for the adoptee, green for the birth parents, purple for the adoptive parents, and the golden strand for His Sovereignty that weaves our lives together…God planned who my birth parents would be and who my Mom and Dad would be. Both influences, plus His, are needed to help us become all that He created us to be.” Such truth, so beautifully expressed…many blessings to you, beth

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