Dear Adoption Community: Your Story Matters
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”
Maya Angelou was a rare and gifted writer. In many ways, her words have raised me over the years. They continue to do so. Through some of my most difficult and challenging hours, her wisdom has soothed me. Yet, perhaps, no Maya quote has moved me more deeply than the one above. Indeed, there is no greater pain than holding an untold truth within. In other words, your story matters.
The adoption community has, historically, been a silent one. Decade after decade, those in our community were often told that secrecy was the best option. Birth history was better off forgotten. Original story became another severed piece of the adoptee experience, adoptive parents became the carriers of secrets and birth parents were erased as if they never existed.
In 2017, this community finds itself moving toward a more open way of being. As an international adoptee and adoptive mother, I believe this movement toward truth in adoption story is a transformative one: transformative for all involved.
If you are reading these words and feeling isolated and alone, misunderstood or insignificant, please believe me when I say that you have a community of people who are here for you; a community that wants to hear from you.
I have spoken with hundreds of adult adoptees, over the years, who wear the emotional scars of silence. I have been one among them. I speak very openly about the personal fallout of keeping silent my experiences as an adoptee. Burying these emotions only brings pain and confusion. Silence hinders healing. Though, as open as we are becoming as a community of adoptees, adoptive families, foster families and birth families, we still seem to struggle with how to share our adoption stories and how to embrace the differing perceptions that exist within those stories.
Building a kinder and all-embracing community is our goal. No one impacted by adoption and/or foster care should ever feel shunned or embarrassed to speak their truth out loud. How we show up and respond to each voice will go a great distance in teaching others, both inside and outside the adoption experience, about who we are. In so many ways, we remain a mystery to those whose lives have not been affected by adoption. And, yes, in many ways we, as an adoption community, remain a mystery to each other. We can find ourselves hiding from the emotions that we may not be cognitively aware of — fear of rejection and abandonment, fear of judgement, fear of trusting, fear of being vulnerable and transparent, feelings of being unwanted and unworthy, and fearing that somehow our feelings mean that we’re not good enough to parent, or to even be loved. And, so we make our lives invisible when what we want most in life is to be seen. We desire connection and communication: to express feelings, emotions, struggles and fears. We yearn to have a community that we can reach out to; one that can, in turn, reach back out to us.
This type of community must stand on the foundation of intentional listening: the essential tool in relationship and trust building. When we intend to open our arms in understanding and set our intent on the purpose of inclusion, we begin connecting in meaningful ways that further the cause of exchanging information, experiences, and ideas. We make a conscious effort to hear one another and to closely attend to what is being heard. If we believe that every child matters, every family matters, and every individual matters within this adoption experience, then we must be willing to say that every story matters, too — no matter what that story looks like or sounds like. We must be willing to listen to every story with genuine care.
To grow a stronger and kinder adoption community, it is imperative that we release the untold stories inside of us and do so with vulnerability and transparency. You see, no one ever said that we have to feel — 100% of the time — happy and content within this adoption experience. Adoption is real life, it’s not a fairy tale. We’ll have good days and we’ll have more challenging ones.
Adoptive parents should not feel ashamed to say, “I’m struggling today.” You are a parent who has delivered a child via adoption and your feelings, emotions and experiences matter to us all. Parenting isn’t easy, but we all can agree that it’s worth it. Adoptees should not feel censored to express their feelings that, “sometimes adoption hurts.” It’s okay to say that! It doesn’t mean that we’re not grateful, or equipped to embrace our adoptions. It means that we’re processing and, in my book, that’s progress!
Let’s give ourselves the permission to express these feelings. Real emotions mean that we’re real people. The only way we can learn from each other and grow with each other is through being real: to step out from behind the shadows and share, in full light, our truths; to be respected for our brave authenticity.
There is no shame in being adopted, or in delivering through adoption. There is no shame in giving life to a child and then creating an adoption plan for that child. There is no shame! Shame cannot lead us toward greater understanding and compassion. Secrecy can only hold us down. Judgement can only tear us apart. There is enough of these things in this world, let’s not allow them to taint this adoption community: one that, although not perfect, at its best exemplifies what it means to love beyond borders of bloodline and to give beyond the focus of self.
The world needs to hear from us. We need to hear from each other.
We should no longer tolerate the bearing of an untold story. No longer can we allow our community to suffer or struggle in this way. Reach out. Open up. Through the challenges and the triumphs, we’re listening intently.
Your story matters.