Reversal P.2

POW·ER /pou(ə)r/: the ability to do something or
act in a particular way

When one is in complete and full control of their mind and their body, they become invincible. Personal power is one of the greatest tools we as human beings have been gifted with. However, it is also one of the easiest things we own to give away and happens much too often.

I have been asked so many times why I am choosing to dissolve my adoption and remove my adoptive families name from my birth certificate. I have been scorned for not being thankful enough to them for taking me in when I was about to age out and asked what they did for me to hate them so much. I have been told that though some thought I was healing this is a clear sign that I’m not, that RAD is still a prevelant and life controling diagnosis in my life. And so to sum it all up and set it all straight, me doing this is about my personal power.

My entire life I’ve lived under people who have taken my power and replaced it with fear. I’ve allowed others to tell me who I should/shouldn’t like. I’ve let others tell me that I’m worthless and that I need to be a specific person who does specific things and acts a specific way. Up until the last few years, I didn’t even know I could have my own power. I thought that life was meant to be controlled by someone else. I was sure that if I didn’t find someone to make those decisions for me, I wouldn’t be ok.

Present day, I am working on claiming my power. I am learning to become who I want to be and who more perfectly aligns with my soul. As I work towards full personal power, I realize that my bio family wasn’t ok. Every person in that family thrived on other peoples failure and pain. I realize that with the personal power that I’m obtaining, I can release the desire to feed on others pain and despiration. And as I move forward, I realize that when I chose to be adopted I was seeking someone to continue taking my power. I found that. I found a family that wanted me to be a part of their family and to be a someone. They thrived on that too. They continue to thrive on that as they try to make decisions for me and belittle me. Until I asked them for a reversal, they were still discouraging me from persuing a life outside of the church…something I’d done 7 years ago. I sought someone to control me and they did just that. I gave them my power, and they kept it.

So, I’m choosing reversal because I have the power to finally decide for myself what is or isn’t good for me. I get to choose whether or not those who fail to empower me, in a positive way, stay in my life. It is unfortunate for them as they were doing the best they knew how. But they weren’t able to empower me. They chose to continue to thrive on my failures. It doesn’t take away from the good things they did for me and the love that they did show me. It doesn’t mean that I’m ungrateful for them and for the step forward they gave me in life. It simply means that I am no longer giving my power away to those who thrive off of it. It means that I choose to let go of the anger that they couldn’t empower me, and that we aren’t each otehrs people. I get to learn to empower myself. I’m starting fresh. I’m learning to create myself.

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Adoptee Rights: Personal Power

I never imagined I’d start a series on adoptee rights, but alas, here I am writing part one.

As an older adoptee, what I knew of adoptee rights, mine never seemed relevant. I know who my birth parents are, though my birth certificate was altered and I was angry about it I still have a copy of my original, I know my mental and medical history, and I’ve always had the choice to have contact with my birth family. In the way of rights, I was lucky. Well, really, in the way of adoption I was lucky because most kids are deemed unadoptable once they hit their teen years. In any case, the most commonly debated of my rights, I already had.

As I enter into the end stage of this adoption my eyes are being opened to how few rights we as adoptees actually have. Though in a perfect world it would make sense that adoptees not have the right to reverse an adoption, in the world we live in, it doesn’t. In a perfect world, adoptees would blend into their new family and the family, as a whole, would accept the child and treat them as their own and vice versa. There would be no separation in support offered. In a perfect world, parents and adoptees would continue to receive support after adoption to ensure that the adoption is continuously running within the “normal family” range. Well, in a perfect world, adoption wouldn’t actually be necessary. But we live in a not so perfect world and unfortunately there are adoptions that fail every single day. Often times, it’s pinned on the child for not being able to adapt into family life. Sometimes for not enough support or services. Sometimes because the parents aren’t actually suited to be a parent and the children are taken. However, sometimes they fail and no one knows. Sometimes they fail and it’s kept a secret from the rest of the extended family and world. The relationship remains a toxic mess where neither the child nor the parent is happy or healthy.

Queue my and many other adoptees issue: reversing the adoption. As adoptees, we don’t have the right to do that. I have contacted lawyers and adoption agencies and the only answers I have been given are that either another family has to adopt me or my adoptive parents have to reverse it. It doesn’t matter that I am an adult, or that I was only a part of their family for a little over a year before I was sent out to live on my own, with no support. It doesn’t matter that things weren’t good for the majority of the time I was there, due to issues on both my end and theirs. All that matters is that when I was 17.5 the state changed my records to reflect that I was born to people who didn’t know I existed until I was 16. And as I wait for their response to my request for reversal, I know that if they say no then I have one other option, and it’s not an option. And when I fight it, from those who’ve never been adopted I get, “well a biological child doesn’t have the right to just divorce their parents. “ And they are right…but a biological child never had the issue of being adopted thrust upon them. They didn’t live not knowing.

As I move forward, I hope to connect with more adoptees searching to do the same thing as I. Not out of hate or anger, but out of necessity. I hope to connect with other adoptees who not only want access to their befores, but access to their afters without this huge barrier hanging over their heads. I want adoptees to feel like they aren’t less than or like they have no power. I want to empower other adoptees that are afraid to take their personal power and their life back.

Reversal P.1

Life’s busy. I am currently seeking an attorney or an adoption agency to help me complete an adoption reversal. There are so many factors that have gone into this decision and many long nights working through the “but what if’s” and “is it worth it’s?” I’ve written many pro-con lists and benefit-risk lists and it’s all come down to this decision, 100%.

Let me explain. My adoptive family is not a bad family. They are not bad people. They are good people with a good, strong family unit. Nearly 7 years ago, they brought me into that family by standing in front of a judge, despite the many warnings not to, and swore to be my family forever. 6 years ago, they sent me to school and 4 ½ years ago they asked me to never return home with the threat that I’d be institutionalized if I did.

While in their home, I did not connect with them but instead did what I knew how to and shut down. I shut them out because living in a family that I didn’t understand was just too big. To them my shut down looked like a lack of trying, disrespectful, and me not wanting to be a part of the family. That was hard for them and they shut down too. Things got bad and we all said some really hurtful things to which I was no longer allowed to talk to anyone in the family, for weeks. I shut down more, until I left for school and they were contemplating dissolving the adoption.

Fast forward a year and I’d moved to the other side of the country to work a job I was not fit for. Multiple times I reached out to them to ask them for help and to explain that I couldn’t do this job for fear of the people involved. I reached out because I knew that if I didn’t leave, I would become violent and I was unwilling to do that. Eventually I stopped reaching out for their help and quit the job and an hour later received the call to never return home or I’d be institutionalized. That they would not have someone in their family who has thoughts of hurting anyone and that I needed serious help; they were done.

Fast forward 4 ½ years later and here I am, sitting in my own apartment, 3 years into school with 2 jobs and doing really well. I’ve advocated for myself and for my healing for the past 7 years without their help. As a minor I looked for months for a residential that would take me and help me learn to manage what trauma still remained only to be turned away and told it was too late. I’ve moved to a new state where I’ve managed to find 5 people to help me walk through the trauma and hard times. I’ve worked everyday for 4 years to get rid of the demons that are inside of me and have learned in that time how to work within a family. I’ve done all of this without the help of my adoptive family. The little help I have asked for has been denied with the answer, “we did it, so can you.” All the while they continue to support their other adult child through his medical/mental health and schooling. When I succeed, their response is surprise. In the past 4 years, I have visited them twice on my own accord while they’ve yet to even offer a trip. All the while, they travel the same 14 hours to watch their other son play his sports. They don’t call, text or email and neither do I.

The one thing that has stuck out most from all of my adoptive mom and my conversations is her telling me that it’s not her job to help me through my darkness, that is what I have a therapist for. That she adopted a daughter to have a friend, a daughter, not this. As I left my hometown last month, I realized that statement has never rung truer, that now that I’ve worked through some of my biggest darkness’s she wants to jump back into a relationship. Now that the hard work is done, she’s ready to be in my life. But I can’t. I didn’t get adopted to have a friend. I got adopted because I needed a family that would stick with me through everything. Who would support me through my life and be there when I needed people to celebrate my accomplishments or grieve my failures. I got adopted because I needed a mom to teach me how to become a woman and a father to teach me the value of work and caring. Together, teaching me compassion, love, sorrow, and responsibility. I’ve learned those things in the last 4 years, but it wasn’t from them. They are good people, but they are not my people, and because of that, I’m reversing my adoption.

what about a rescue family?

A common term in adoption quoted by adoptive parents, at least in those with turmoil, is a rescue mom. Sometimes there’s also a rescue dad or siblings or even an entire family. I’m not sure, as an adoptee, where this term originated or at what point an adoptee is said to have acquired a rescue mom {family} outside of the normal teen-hood behavior, but it often crosses my mind.

We live in a day and age where people are easily accessible, really only a few clicks away. It is in our nature, as humans, to desire connection and understanding and so often times we search for that connection on social media outlets, support groups, via text messages, or snail mail. We search for people who will understand us for who we are, or who we want to be, and who will tolerate us long enough to support us in whatever struggle it is we are having. We search for people who will fulfill the needs that are not being met in our day-to-day life with our day-to-day people. We seek to empty the seed of rejection and misunderstanding. I see this often, not only with myself, but also with hundreds of people every day. I’m part of a mixed group of people including adoptees, adoptive parents, siblings, and family members all struggling with the relationship piece of adoption—attachment, connection, bonding. Kids of these parents have left home and never returned; instead finding a new home surrounded by new people who will meet their needs differently than the “original” adoptive family. Just as a child goes off to college and finds solace via “other moms” these children leave home seeking that comfort…only perhaps a bit more dysfunctionally. It confuses me at this point when a parent or family member begins to belittle or encourage negative happenings towards the relationship between the adoptee and the “rescue family”—a term commonly used between adoptive parents in these groups. When a parent talks ill of the rescue parent and shames the adoptee. Weren’t you once a rescue parent, too? Bringing your child bigger and better things than their previous home? Hoping for the best and giving it all you’ve got? Providing your child with the understanding you thought they needed. Bringing a child into your home and working to understand them, cluelessly? And people were so grateful to you for “rescuing” your poor child.

At what point does a person become the rescue parent? Or when do they stop being the rescue parent and start being the actual parent? I know, as my adoptive mom and I have talked about it, that my adoptive parents believe that I moved here to live with Bailey and replace their family with hers. They believe that I came here to be rescued, to play the “poor orphan” card…and perhaps in a way I did. I had nowhere in that moment to go and here is the only place I knew people. I was asked to never return home, to my adoptives, where I was living was being torn down and I was flunking out of school. So, I weighed my options between here and two other states. I chose based on where I knew I’d get the most support and stability. It turns out that it was the best and hardest move I’ve ever made…but at what point did my adoptive parents deem Bailey my so-called rescue mom? When she encouraged me to move somewhere I’d have support? When she offered me a place to sleep when I had nowhere but my car? And when did Zhanna become my rescue sister? When she asked me to go out and catch grasshoppers with her or when she wanted to have a sleep over because we were having too much fun to actually go to sleep? And with Becca, did her asking me to family functions and offerings of support during dr’s appointments, hospital stays, etc make her my rescue mom? When did these people stop being my rescue family and start being my family? The moment they offered me a place to stay when I had nowhere to go. Was it the multiple times they endured the hateful comments or rages, both in anger and in calmness on their parts? Or the moment they looked into my fear filled eyes after I lost it, and they did too, and said, “no matter what, we will be here for you…” and have yet to abandon that promise though they’ve been given ample opportunity.

As an adoptee, moving on is so different from that. When I came here hoping for stability I also hoped for understanding. I hoped that someone, after 20 years, would hear me and help me through my pain. And I can only hope and believe that my adoptive mom has worked through the deep seed of rejection she feels I am thrusting on her and can understand the magnitude of how much she has helped me and the people here have helped me. I do not reject her, however, I also do not entrust her with my deepest secrets or darkest fears because I know that she cannot handle them. She knows she cannot handle them. I did not find a replacement for her as I know that once I am healthy she and I have the possibilities of having a good, solid relationship…. unfortunately she is not the right one to help me get healthy. She is not the one who is able to walk through my deep secrets with me. Perhaps, to her these people here will always be my rescue family…or perhaps one day she’ll realize that it is merely an extension of my already family…

 

 

Finding Home

I don’t know how to write this post and to make it cohesive at the same time. My thoughts are jumbled and confused, still left unprocessed, but they sit on the tip of my tongue waiting to be told.

I’ve searched for many years hoping to find home—to understand home. I thought that home is where you grew up, where your first memories were made and with those who surrounded you in those moments. For some it is, unfortunately for others, it is not. A part of my heart resides in a little town far from where I am now, searching for something, someone, there. It wanders around determined to find the people who created my very existence, my first memories, the ones who were meant to love and cherish me but did not. As I returned to that place surrounded by people who once tried filling that void and replacing it with home, my heart sunk. It didn’t break or shatter, it sunk into a depth it had only sunken to once before and I was sure it’d never be again. As I went through the day the amount of disconnect required for me to be able to function within this family without a breakdown was uncomfortable but comfortable in the most familiar ways. It was forced. It was required. In a moment’s time, I was trapped in a place I had not returned to in the years I’ve been here. I’m not a crier, but as I lay in bed that night knowing that I wouldn’t return again, I sobbed at the loss of what I believed to be home. I sobbed at the loss of a precious soul that connected me to that home and the reality that unless she comes to me, I will not see her in living form again. The next morning I got up and I left behind what I thought I always understood, for a second time. I travelled to an aunt’s house who, for lack of better words, was my last stop, my reassurance that this was right. As we conversed for a few hours about not only my visit but the issues it’d bring up, my school, my cousin (who too was adopted), and life in general she asked: do you feel calm enough that you will be able to return again? Do you want to come back? And I didn’t. I don’t. I can’t. She led a false hope that what I’d left only hours before, even three years ago, was still home. I sat in the airport searching, again, hoping to find and understand what home is. As I watched airplanes take off and land I wondered how many passengers were seeking just as I, a place to belong, a place to feel loved, a place to settle their hearts. As I landed back in my state and walked off the plane and into the arms of Becca (who’d accompanied me on the trip) there was an instantaneous feeling of relief, an understanding that it was okay to let my original home go. Today, as I sat on Bailey’s porch recalling her concern for me last night, asking me to wake her so she could make sure I was okay, I felt a brief sense of surety. I remembered a time, three years ago, when I sat on this very same porch terrified of the woman inside of the house behind me. I recalled a time that I yearned to go back to where I came from, where things felt comfortable and safe…and how in the very moment the universe flipped and this place became comfortable and safe while the place I come from was unnerving and daunting. As Grace sighed in relief when I told her I was back and the eagerness she had to schedule a meeting as soon as possible confirmed that here, I have a slew of people who do love me, who I can be me around. I have a place where I can turn to when I struggle and the people around me understand. In that moment I realized that over the past three years, the women and their families here have cracked my deep, thick walls just enough to free me from my self enough to know that it doesn’t feel good to not have anyone. They’ve helped me heal enough to understand that I don’t have to lock every decibel of my heart from the world, that some people can handle me. Like many, I’ve searched my whole life to no avail…and still it is uncertain where my home is. I still don’t feel I can or do belong somewhere with someone. But slowly, my heart is creating a home here… with these people who refuse to give up on me and continue to put their hearts into helping mine be free. I may not know exactly where my home is, or if I have one at all, but I’ve found a home here, in small increments. A home that may not always be mine but for now can be mine.

The lucky one

To the adoptee who doesn’t understand,

You are lucky. Lucky isn’t typically a word that many of us adoptee’s actually like. It gets redundant hearing it over and over how grateful we should be and how lucky we are that we were chosen. It’s a word that sometimes plagues us with guilt as we know that there are thousands of others who want to be exactly where we are all the while we are searching and yearning for something else. It’s a word that before adoption we thought meant family, that when we saw a friend get chosen we knew they were lucky. But you, you’re a different kind of lucky.

You are the adoptee who, despite the idea that you’ve lost everything, is content. You are the one who tells your mom “no” when she asks if you have any interest in searching for your first mom. You wake up every morning with a certainty that you are right where you belong. You are the adoptee who couldn’t imagine questioning the idea that your parents are your parents despite there being no blood ties. You don’t need to worry or wonder whose eyes you have or if your giggle matches your first moms. You are so settled in who you are and in your family that none of the “before” matters.

I envy you for that because I am not that adoptee. I am the adoptee who needs to know, who wants to. I am not settled with who I am or where I belong. I was adopted older, therefore I too am lucky, but I don’t feel lucky knowing I had to lose every last bit of what was mine to gain something new. I know whose eyes I have and I know where I get my unsettled southern twang when I’m dysregulated…but I’m still not settled. I need something more. I need to truly know my first mom. I know she is. But I need to truly know her.

I don’t know if you envy me. Being completely content in your family and your adoption gives you a different experience than my own. Are you the kid that was the “good” adoptee? The one without the issues? Did you ever envy the attention I received for wondering? Or do you agree with me? Are you the lucky one for having no questions? Just like I do, do you make assumptions? Do you assume that I’m just not grateful or that I don’t love my parents?

Not only does being curious and needing that knowing separate us, but being an older adoptee does. It only puts one more brick between my understanding yet complete envy of you. I have a past and I know my first mom. I know what she did and does and I know that she didn’t want me. I know that in my first 14 years she hurt me and allowed others to hurt me, yet I still yearn. I still desire that connection with my firsts so badly. But I shouldn’t. I should be like you: content. I should be happy and okay with being adopted and having other people “want” me. But I’m not.

You and I, we don’t understand each other. We question each other’s motives and thought processes marking one to be healthier than the other. We wonder how if we’ve been given so much we can seem either overly grateful or not grateful enough. Maybe we even try to place ourselves into each other’s shoes to see what life would be like. We have so much that connects us but there is a world between us.  We don’t understand each other but the truth is, we are the same.  Either way, we have people who chose us and if that makes me the bad kid for not being as appreciative or attached, and you the good kid cuz you’d never dare think that your adoptives aren’t your parents,  I’ll take it. It’s worth it. It’s not really a matter of I am or you are lucky, I think we are very much the same and a very much lucky…in our own ways

Why I’d Say No {part 2}

As I settle back into my daily routine, I thought I’d take a moment and share a bit more about why I’d politely decline an offer of adoption.

Connection doesn’t come easily for me. It is not natural and is something that I have to work very hard for. I was reminded of that this past week when I went home to Bailey’s for Thanksgiving. Here at school, I have one focus–to do well in school. I go to school, to work, and to my house all the while staying far away in my own little world. I don’t’ have to worry about being in a relationship or truly connecting with anyone. Throughout the years, I’ve managed to learn to still function appropriately without being present. It has taken me the two and half years living here, in an unconditionally loving place, for me to be able to enter back into my body, if not just enough to connect at some level. The problem is, I didn’t realize how exhausting that has been for me until this recent trip home. Everything came flooding back–the failed adoptions, my mistakes, how imperfect I am, how unlike kids my age I really am–and some major regression ensued. All of the feelings of jealousy towards Zhanna returned, the 2-3 year old behavior, the need to self-soothe. And then when it was time to come back, the small meltdown. I went from being the 100% functioning 22-year-old to the 2/5/8/12-year-old in a matter of days. And that’s when I realized that I am not family material.

I cannot yet function at a healthily connected level within a family unit and have outside activities as well. I cannot focus on school and focus on relationship. My brain, heart, and body are not yet at a level where they can all work together to meet the needs of more than one thing. Because I have to work so hard and exert so much energy into just connecting, it is hard for me to be in the same house as someone who desires connection for long periods of time. It’s too exhausting and then the regression starts.  This was a problem in each of my homes as my inability to connect was taken as mere rejection towards them. They, much like myself, were unable to come outside of themselves and their hurt to teach me and show me that it was safe to come back and connect. Ultimately, if I was in a family setting I don’t think I would be doing as well in school. One or the other would suffer, and I’m not sure I’d be okay with that.

Not only am I unable to connect easily, I don’t do transitions well. Any transition whether it be from having class to having a short holiday break, or from my house to Bailey’s for the weekend knocks my entire routine off cycle and throws me overboard. Each transition takes a few days to recoup…which usually means that for a few days I’m having meltdowns, panic attacks, sometimes self harm, and complete disconnect. Due to the excessive amount of abuse I’ve gone through it would seem that this is all normal, and it is, but I am not a child and therefore cannot behave as a child. I cannot have these days of meltdowns over the simplest of transition and I couldn’t put it on the shoulders of someone else to make sure that I’m able to cope. Bailey, Grace and Becca have graciously taken that task on, as their schedules allow, but I couldn’t put that full time on someone else. It is ultimately my job to learn and to adapt to the changes around me.

The truth is, I may never function at an age/emotionally appropriate level. I may never catch up to my peers. I do worry that connection will always be a struggle for me. But even so, I know that one day I will have the most healthy relationship available on this planet…because I will have worked passed the trauma’s holding me back. That relationship may never be a mom or dad relationship and quite frankly, that’s okay because I may never be family material. Please don’t take that the wrong way either…I say family material meaning that I am not daughter material. I may never have the capabilities of loving someone as I once loved my mom or my dad. I may never regain the amount of trust it would take to allow someone to be my mom and dad. I may always have to be content with a created family of sisters and brothers, and that’s okay.

Adoption is a big deal. It gives people the opportunity to create something outside of the ordinary. It allows connection without blood. Adoption is meant to be happy, in the saddest of ways, and I have walked into too many believing that it was a happily ever after and forever. Adoption is meant to be forever. Walking in, the child wants a family and the parents want a child. There is an expectation that at some point there be a bond created in which a true mother/child relationship built on trust and love is maintained. I know that I couldn’t walk into a family and fulfill that expectation. I know that right now, I couldn’t meet a family with that familial expectation…and it wouldn’t be fair of me to hurt and mislead them into believing I’m ready for that.

Why I’d Say No

In lieu of National Adoption Month, I thought I’d share my thoughts on adoption.

A few days ago, one of my professors who knows I was adopted and that the adoption didn’t work asked me, “If the opportunity arose, what would you say about being adopted again?” At first I was confused and a little irritated, I didn’t know how to respond as half the class was staring at me. Instead of giving a yes or no, I answered, “It’s something that I’d have to think longer on. It’s not a yes or no answer.” She was pleased and moved on, but the question kept ringing in my ears. How would I answer?

I haven’t gone into great detail about all the failed adoptions as I feel they are still a little to personal, but from each adoption a little piece of my heart was changed. The first family that was going to adopt me got tired of fighting my grandparents and when they decided to move, they decided to give up. The second adoption failed because I was having doubts and was still too attached to my roots, something my adoptive mom couldn’t stand. My third failed because it was the mother of my second and things were just uncomfortable. I became the “trouble” child. The last, my legally adoptive parents, failed because of the rejection, fear and the lack of trust.

In each of these adoptions I held the biggest reason for the disruption: the inability to let go of the past and become someone new. I was in so much pain and turmoil that I didn’t know how to move past it all. I needed that extra help. I needed to regress back to major growing points in my life that were missed. Unfortunately, my adoptive families didn’t know or understand this. The families who did understand this refused to do this because chronologically it wasn’t right. I was 17.5 not 2 or 4 or 8. They didn’t have the ability to accept me enough to let me feel safe. I didn’t have the ability to trust them enough to let them in. It was hard. With each family I walked away feeling a little more beaten, a little more bruised. But I didn’t give up.

After each family kicked me out or left, I decided that I still wanted a family. I kept telling myself that there are millions of families out there in this world, one of them had to be mine; I had to belong to someone. As much as I knew S@nta wasn’t real, I wished every year to have a family “come for me” for Christmas. I hoped that some how I’d magically have a family on Christmas morning. I remember being so happy after my 2nd adoptive family asked if they could adopt me, we went on a walk and I told them that I had wished for this for years. Every time an adoption failed, I prayed even harder to a God that never answered..to a God that I didn’t even believe in but that so many people kept saying made life so much more bare able.

So, how would I respond to someone if they asked if I wanted to be adopted into their family? or adopted in general? I think, right now, I would apologize to them for giving them the idea that I wanted to be adopted and then I would respectfully decline. It’s not that I don’t want to be adopted; believe me, I do. I want a mom and a dad and siblings more than anything. But the truth is, adoption isn’t for me. It isn’t part of my plan.

After 4 failed adoptions I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t the only problem, but I was a problem. Because I grew up with my mom it is really hard for me to let her go. For 3/4 of my life, she was the one who I woke up to…despite the horrible abuse and environment. She is the one I called mom every single day. She is the one I took care of when she was sick or coming down. She was the one whose wounds I mended after her boyfriend beat her black and blue. For 8 years I have been so terrified to let go of my mom, to let go of my past and my hurt, that I failed to let anyone else in.

I felt like I was being brave by moving on from each loss so quickly. I felt like I was conquering the world with each step I took forward when I was thrown back. But what I didn’t realize was that for so many years the hoping and wishing and praying for a family where I belonged didn’t mean having  a mom, a dad, and siblings. It didn’t mean forgetting about my mom and shutting everyone else out. Instead, it meant going into a multitude of families and learning from each one something new. It meant putting myself through so much pain and turmoil that I could understand that there is more for me than belonging to someone legally. It meant learning that no matter what is thrown my way knowing my heart and mind and body could be strong enough to beat it.

I want a mom. I want a dad. I want a legal family. But a legal family is not my thing. A legal family, in my case because it is not an option to have my real mom a part of my life) gives the stipulation that there is one mom and one dad (after  adoption) and that you can mourn your first family but that you cannot have your first family. Legal family means being held to an expectation that you are like them somehow. Legal family means calling someone mom and dad and brother/sister. It means learning to conform to new rules and a whole new life style.  These are things I’ve done 3 too many times. These are things I cannot do without compromising the love I have for my mom, because in this moment, my heart doesn’t know how to love like that. I don’t quite understand how to love my mom and love another mom and dad too, yet.

I have a family where I am and even though it’s not perfect, I don’t fight so hard to keep them out. I’ve learned to slowly open my heart and to let them in to see the deep, deep hurt. This family believes in me like no other family has believed in me and each day, I’m learning to allow that. I’m learning to accept their help in whatever form they give it to me and it’s hard. Family is hard. Learning to communicate and react appropriately, to love and to love unconditionally is hard. Learning to respect each members physical, mental, and emotional needs is hard. I’m learning slowly to give my past to my family…to let them help me carry my baggage so that it’s not so heavy…and it’s hard.  We struggle. Sometimes I get so angry at them I wish them away forever–and then I fear they will leave. Sometimes they become so confused and frustrated with me that they yell at me or take a break from me. We fight, more than I’d like to admit, but most of the time we are okay…because I don’t have to call them mom or dad, brother or sister. I don’t have to like sports or go to church. I am free to be who I need to be with the only expectation being that I am: respectful of others, honest, and doing my best. They have taught me what unconditional love is and that love never fails.

In this moment, I would say no to an offer of adoption…even if it was from any of the people in my “family”…because I know that once the idea that I have a MOM hits, the trouble will hit. I would say no because I have a family. I have people around me who love me and who believe in me. I am adopted–both legally and undocumented…

 

What Love Means

A few years ago, when I lived with my adoptive parents still, Zheila asked me what I thought love meant and what it meant to have a mom/what a moms role is. Wanting so desperately to have these things, I thought I knew exactly what it meant, yet I came short of an answer. I didn’t know what to say. I told her I didn’t know but that it wasn’t what I was getting/ what was happening. Two years later I can confidently answer her question and this is how:

Love is unconditional. It doesn’t judge for the little mistakes I make. Love doesn’t look at me as a diseased child. It doesn’t try to mold me into something that I wasn’t meant to be. It doesn’t care that I was abused for 3/4 of my life. Love see’s that I am trying my very best and accepts that. It is accepting and kind and walks with me on my journey. Love doesn’t expect anything in return. It picks me up when I’m in my darkest moment and helps me build stairs from the bottom of my well. It offers to sit with me on the bathroom floor as I injure myself just to feel something, even though it’s hard and then follows through. Love wraps me in its arm when I feel the most unloveable. It doesn’t expect me to be my age. And though I don’t have experience with an actual mom,  I finally know what it would feel like to have one. They are not my mom, but Bailey, Becca, and Grace (my therapist) encompass me in love every day and show me what I never had. They make sure that I am okay. They make sure that I am safe. Every day Bailey tells me good morning and goodnight. She reminds me that though I’m a broken, I am not shattered. She makes sure that I have a roof over my head, food in the fridge and offers kind words of encouragement towards my success. She makes sure to tell me often that I am loved and that I am a good person. She will pull me into her arms and rock me like an infant if I am unable to cope with the world and just need help. Becca sets me on a path of logical consciousness, helping me to survive every day at school. She too allows me to be broken and still feel loved. She doesn’t talk to me daily, but when she does she never forgets to let me know that I’m loved. Like Bailey, she offers me one of the greatest gifts–the gift of a friend (their daughters) who is much like myself. She will wrap me in a hug as I stomp my feet and cry. When I’m struggling in school, she sits down with me and walks me through and helps me to process what is going on.  Grace also checks in on me every day. She makes sure I have taken my pill for bed, that I’ve survived a day, and that I’ve completed everything needed. She offers me a deeper therapeutic relationship than the average therapist which allows me to have someone to connect with when my main support is  unable. She laughs with me and holds me when I cry. She holds many of my darkest secrets and keeps them safe while letting me know that she still believes I’m an ok kid. Like the other two, she offers me someone who thinks much like I do. She understands me at such a deep and emotional level that is both terrifying and satisfying, as do the other two. Each of these ladies offers me a love that is pure and kind. They give me a love that’s intentional and unconditional.  Each of these women have shown me in a multitude of ways that no matter how broken I am, no matter how many mistakes I make, they will always love me. They all three make sure that I have a roof over my head and that I’m eating. They sit with me in my darkest time and let me regress as far as I need to in order to heal. They wrap me in their arms when I’ve had a bad day.

Though these women, combined, offer what a mom is supposed to offer (unconditional love and support) it isn’t always easy. There are hard things about love and about having/being a mom. We struggle sometimes. I reject their love and after a while rejection is just plain hard and exhausting. I fight them tooth and nail when they try to help me understand that I am lovable and that I am worthy of love. Most times they fight right back. They fight my brain with me…but sometimes they lose it. Sometimes they yell. Sometimes one of them even screams. They take a step back and recoup and it’s hard! I don’t like it. But this is love and this is relationship.

These ladies aren’t my mom and never will be…but they have given me a sense of family and worthiness that I have lacked my entire life. They have given me relationship without stipulation. They have given me relationship without hurt (though I’m not going to lie, quite often relationship is pretty painful anyway, in a struggle kind of way.)

This is what I want my adoptive mom to know now. These are the things I would tell her if she asked me what love was and what it meant to be/have a mom. These are the things moms are supposed to do and this is what love looks like. I know she wouldn’t agree and that’s okay because for now, my “mom” fill is complete. I don’t need a mom and I don’t want a mom. I have love and I have three wonderful women and 3 of the most amazing friends who support me in all that I do. I’m surrounded in pure and unconditional love and trust and it feels right for me. It feels like what I need and for now, it feels like enough. Love is patient, but more importantly love is forgiving.

“Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who DO LOVE you…”

 

Because We’re Human

Years ago, or so it seems, I remember being woken in a frenzy by my mom who was scared and unsure of what to do, as my dad lay unresponsive on the bathroom floor. Minutes later my brothers and I watched groggily as our dad was rushed out of the house on a stretcher, followed by our overwhelmed mom. Upon their return home, she and my dad sat my siblings and I down and let us know that he had cancer. Unsure of what that truly meant, we kids went unscathed–but curious. Not my mom, though. In the days to come, she became even more distant and unaware of her surroundings. Her eyes glazed over and she wore a constant face of fear. In the middle of my dads’ treatment, her face softened a little and she remembered we were still there but the fear never left…not until he died. I have only seen that look on my moms face one other time. It was a little over 9 years later, sitting in a courtroom first waiting for a juried trial to start and then 5 months later waiting for her husband to be sentenced to 50 years in prison for hurting her child. Shell shocked and terrified of losing another thing in her life, that was the last time I saw my mom. Neither time was she fighting for me, but the look is still engrained in my mind…reminding me that just like me she doesn’t process emotions very well. She doesn’t understand what it means to feel, safely. She doesn’t understand the meaning of true, unconditional love. That look that is so engrained in my brain has caused me much turmoil. I feel so indebted to her but at the same time feel she deserves nothing. I tend to do a dance around her…needing and wanting her close to needing and wanting her far-gone and dead. At some points I’ve argued that she doesn’t deserve any of this– that she deserves to have her family all together and happy. And so many other times I’m reminded of why her family, our family, is not all together and happy. Like my moms desolate look, I often wonder if the pain of being so different and the in debt feeling I have towards my mom will ever disappear or if that “look” will forever be engrained in my mind. I wonder if I will ever see her alive again. I struggle knowing that when she dies, I will likely not be able to attend her funeral. I get so very frustrated at the idea that I’ve achieved more than she and more than much of my family ever will. I often wonder what will come of my sisters and brothers who are still heavily exposed to the Crazytown stuff. Does our anger “run in the family” or do we just not process emotions and go straight to anger? What does she really think of my adoptive parents? Did she know it was a “better” life? I wonder if she just couldn’t do it any more and how Zheila, my adoptive mom, would approach her now, 5 years after adoption.  I have so many questions for my real family, questions I shouldn’t have as I lived with them until I was 14. Will they ever be answered? Probably not. But it’s in these times of many questions and deep struggles, I am reminded just how similar my mom and I are. I am reminded when I look in the mirror of that desolate, disconnected look from years ago and am reminded that she is still a part of me—we share the same beautiful face that we never can see. I walk down the street in the same manner and am remind that, whether by nature or nurture, we share the same mannerisms. As I sit in class and do my work with perfection, I’m reminded of the times she sat down by herself and colored for hours and never went a decimal over the line and had her colors perfectly matched. No matter how hard I try to not let there be a reminder, every day I’m reminded of my mom and the hurt and the good she brought to me. Every day I see that desolate, shell-shocked face inside my head and it reminds me that she’s still human and that so much of her still needs a little lovin’ too…that just like me, she is more than loveable…no matter her faults.

 

*Adoption day post coming….soonish