Fellow blogger Tao, on TheAdoptedOnes, penned a interesting post on why she can’t celebrate adoption recently. I love Tao–don’t know if she knows I hold her in such high esteem, but yeah, Tao, ABM loves you! I have learned so much about adoptees and the adoptee voice from reading her posts; it’s made me think critically about what kind of adoptive mom I want/need to be and what kind of support I must provide my daughter.
Tao starts off this thoughtful post by measuring her words; she knows what she’s about to say might rock some folks’ boat a bit. The recent post challenged me on celebrating my and Hope’s adoption. I was intrigued about the distinction between thankfulness and celebration–being thankful for adoption when necessary but not celebrating its necessity.
I get it. I totally get it. And Tao spells it out easy peasy and compellingly.
I have written a lot about all of the people in Hope’s memories who live with us; it really is a case of the good, the bad and the ugly. Certainly, I wish her birth family had been able to care for her. I wonder how her mother feels about losing her. I wonder whether there will be any reconciliation between Hope and her mother or even her extended family. There’s a lot of messy there, which, of course, is how Hope found herself in need of a home.
I wish she didn’t need me. Hope herself has said as much; in a perfect world she would have grown up happy and healthy with her parents.
All of that is true.
The path of loss that brought me to adoption is also very real and true. In that parallel perfect universe, I would’ve married the love of my life, birthed some babies, completed my family through adoption and lived a long and happy life.
But none of that had happened when I slid into 40 with a prediction that I’d need a school of engineering to help me conceive and that it was still unlikely I could carry a child to term; oh and a couple of loves in sheep’s clothing had run past and nothing had turned out as I had hoped.
It was only recently that I realized just how much I mourn the loss of the life that never was. I mourn it deeply.
Yeah, I wish that creating my family through adoption was unnecessary. It wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.
What I’ve learned on this journey is that lots and lots and LOTS of emotions can be felt all at the same time. For much of my life I think I experienced or maybe just acknowledged a dominant emotion at any given time. But now, two- plus years into this adoption journey, I know that emotions are messy as hell and you can feel dozens of them simultaneously.
I feel devastated about Hope’s life before me.
I feel angry about Hope’s life before me.
I seethe about Hope’s life before me.
I worry about the effects of Hope’s life before me.
I worry about Hope’s future.
I grieve for Hope’s loss.
I grieve for my own loss.
I am furious about my own loss.
I am confused by how things turned out.
I feel betrayed by my body.
I feel feel fury for wasting precious biological time with several jerks I dated for too long.
I feel scared that I won’t ever have the life I desired the way I desire it.
I feel terror that I won’t ever be enough to Hope.
I feel joy that adoption gave me a chance.
I am thankful that Hope and I got each other in the deal.
I feel the struggle of being a single parent.
I feel the struggle of raising a Black child.
I feel the challenge of sorting the the messiness that was Hope’s life before me.
I could go on and on and on and on about my feelings.
I also celebrate adoption.
I celebrate my and Hope’s adoption.
I hate saying I adopted Hope. The phrase makes it seem like I acquired her when it was so much more than that. It’s one of the reasons why we like “Gotcha;” Hope and I have concluded that WE got each other in this deal. We know that the phrase isn’t used that way typically, but we have interpreted in a way that fits us.
I don’t know if we will have a full on celebration on our finalization anniversary in a couple of months. I know we will acknowledge it, likely privately since it’s our thing.
But I know I will celebrate it in my heart. I’m ok with that being an incredibly selfish thing to do and say. I will also be sad that it was necessary for me and Hope and for Hope’s family. In that perfect world, our adoption would never have happened.
But here we are. And we feel all of it, both of us.
And even though Hope is on the other side of our hotel room right now, no doubt watching inappropriate vine videos (based on her cackles of laughter) and my not so secretly wishing she might go to bed early tonight, you know like at
4pm 9pm, I am so enormously thankful to be given the chance to raise her and to be a mom. I am just ok enough with my selfishness to celebrate while still feeling all the burden of the other emotions.
This isn’t at all a swipe at what my fellow blogger was saying; not at all. I don’t expect Tao, or Hope to feel the way I do. I also acknowledge the privilege always afforded the adoptive parents’ voice in constructing the adoption narrative. I get that too.
This triad and its attendant emotions is hard. There isn’t really a clean reconciliation of all of the feelings. We all just muddle through, sifting through lots of emotions and lots of truth.
So, I totally get where Tao is coming from, and I feel that too. But I can still warmly celebrate that something wonderful emerged from resounding losses. For me, that’s been a good, if not challenging, thing.
March 31st, 2015 at 12:02 am
Amongst the many, many words of brilliance in this post, I really, really appreciated your comment that “I hate saying I adopted Hope. The phrase makes it seem like I acquired her when it was so much more than that. It’s one of the reasons why we like “Gotcha;” Hope and I have concluded that WE got each other in this deal.”. In fact, I liked it so much I read the entire paragraph aloud to Mr. MPB. I think you are so right and I love your beautiful thinking.
March 31st, 2015 at 3:46 pm
Awww thanks. Adoption is a bittersweet path. It’s really emotional. I appreciate Tao’s voice, which has given me a lot of insight into what Hope might feel. In some ways we are two broken folks whose tragic paths collided. We got each other.
April 1st, 2015 at 4:49 pm
Adoption starts from a place of loss, but it also can result in a whole lot of happiness and love. So I think there is room to celebrate the happiness and love that comes through building a family through adoption, just like you and Hope, and us and our future child.
March 31st, 2015 at 8:55 am
This is a gorgeous post. I watched my cousin (who was adopted at birth) struggle through some of these ideas as a teenager, right around Hope’s age, and she’s come out all the stronger for it. She’s had a messy life — adoption, divorce, the death of her father as a teen, the death of her mother as a young adult, reuniting with her birth family — and yet somehow she’s managed to keep her head on straight. She’s 28 and a nurse and married to another adoptee and one of the most amazing people I know. Maybe I’ll send her your post — you’ve put into beautiful words a lot of ideas that it took her a long time to understand. Hope is lucky that you have such insight into this messy process that is a central feature of both of your lives.
March 31st, 2015 at 3:52 pm
I can only imagine from what I’ve read what folks who were adopted at birth must feel. Hope was newly 12 when we were matched; in many ways she had already lived a lifetime. With each month I learn more about her life and perspective. She is now asking more questions about my life. We are figuring it out together. Some days are better than others-super messy-but we are figuring it out.
April 2nd, 2015 at 8:33 am
Seems like we are gearing up to up adopt Mary, and this really put things into perspective. Sometime, with adoption (and in my case fostering) you gain SO much that you forget everything that your kids are losing. It’s great how you said that “we got each other”, because truly, you did! Mary made a year with us in foster care on 3/28, and we briefly mentioned it. No celebration. No cake. Nothing special, except a movie night with extra cuddles and buttered popcorn, and Mary’s recollection of what happened the night she came to live with us. When this adoption goes through (which there is no doubt in my mind it will), we’ll follow her lead and see how she wants to celebrate it, but always, I will celebrate the little life that came into mine. I even do this with our other foster children who have come and gone.