I did not hide it from my adoptive mom out of fear that she would be angry or upset with me for searching, or any of the sort.
I hid it from my adoptive mother because I did not want to hurt her feelings. I did not want her to feel that I was going to meet my birth mother, pack my belongings, and run away to my “real” mom.
My adoptive mom to me is my real mom, and I would never leave her. But what I have realized is that one of the biggest fears adoptive parents have is that their adopted child would reunite with their birth family and never return. I understand the fear, but the fear is simply a myth surrounding search and reunion.
When an adoptee sets out to find his or her birth family, it doesn’t mean that their adoptive family isn’t enough or inadequate in any way. It means that many adoptees live with this hole in their heart, a loss, an emptiness that needs to be filled. And no matter how much love our adoptive family tries to pour into us it will never fulfill the gap or missing puzzle piece that we crave. Adoptees need to know who they are. They need answers to have closure, and it begins with having an original birth certificate and having contact information for their birth family if they choose to.
I feared my adoptive mother’s sadness. I felt her heart would break by knowing that my birth family found me.
Adoptees should not have to feel this way. We should not have to feel that we could possibly hurt our adoptive parents over us desiring to discover our truth. The pressure that adoptees are under during that time is indescribable. The design of adoption today is to blame for that. Between the secrecy and shame of birth mothers and the entitlement some adoptive parents posses, it puts adoptees in a extremely difficult and fragile place when it comes to search and reunion. As an adoptee, it makes you feel like something is hugely wrong about searching and reuniting with your birth mom, the woman whom you bonded with in the womb, the woman who gave birth to you and shares the same DNA as you. How can people not see how important that connection is? A connection that never goes away. It’s not right to have to feel like this.
Adoption reunions should be a beautiful event in an adoptees life. From the very beginning, adoptees should have the support of their adoptive parents. That support should be encouraging reunion if the adopted child or adult is seeking it. The support should also encourage an open line of communication and not dismissive listening or selective listening when the adopted person opens up about his or her birth family. Trust me; it isn’t always easy as an adoptee to open up about our deepest feelings surrounding our birth and adoption. This is the best time for an adoptive parent to build a strong and trusting bond with their child.
I had to keep this secret until I could sort out what it meant that my birth family found me. Believe me; it is one thing when you find your family, but when they find you, oh, that is an entirely different story. I wasn’t prepared.
English is my adoptive mother’s second language. I should add that she was an orphan with only a second-grade education. I never knew my mom knew how to work an iPad or even held one before to know what to do with it. She doesn’t even know how to work a cell phone!
I was back in the U.S on summer break from living in Japan. I picked my adoptive mother up to spend the day with her and visit the cemetery where my adoptive father lays. I was anticipating visiting him because I wanted to tell him that my birth family found me. I wanted him to know first so he could watch over my mom and comfort her from Heaven when I told her. My adoptive father loved me so much. Before he passed away from cancer, his dying wish was that I would never feel alone as an adoptee. He was afraid I would be treated differently or made fun of by my siblings, classmates, and kids in the hood because my birth mom abandoned me. God, I miss him.
We drove out to Belleglade, FL where my adoptive father is buried. My adoptive mom was on the passenger side, and my best friend at the time, Paloma was in the back seat. We all told stories and jokes to pass the time until we arrived at the cemetery. I had a photo on my iPad I wanted to show the two of them as part of the story I was sharing. Paloma looked at it first, and then she handed it to my mom. My adoptive mom, not knowing how to work an iPhone or iPad must not have known the rule of when someone shows you a photo you are only to look at the picture. Do not swipe right, and do not swipe left. You are to only focus on the photo you were asked to view. I cannot even get mad at her, though. She did not know there were rules to using someone else’s phone.
As we traveled down US-98, speed limit between 60-65mph, I was likely nearing 70mph. I glanced over and saw my adoptive mom’s turn ghost. Every color on her face left her body. All I could see was her bright red lipstick on her lips. I just knew she saw something she should not have seen. I could not slow down to look at the iPad to see what she saw because cars were flying next to me and behind me. I looked up in the mirror and saw Paloma’s face that confirmed she saw something she should not have.
It was my secret.
I was not ready to tell her yet.
We rode in silence. All I could hear was sniffling. I could not look over at her.
I was guilty, and she was crying.
When we arrived at the cemetery, I grabbed the iPad from her. I did not say anything.
My adoptive mom saw the photo I took of the flower arrangement and card my birth mother sent to me. I took a picture of it so I would always remember it and in case I lost the card because I moved often. Everything gets lost. I needed a backup in case I lost the card. I keep the card in my Bible.
She knew it was my birth mom. I could not hide it if I wanted to.
My mom struggles walking from her arthritis and of course, refuses to use a cane. The walk to the cemetery plot is a far distance from the car. We were forced to hold hands and walk together. This was the only time in my life I did not want to hold her hand because I knew I would feel her pain running through her hand to my hand to my heart.
In tradition, we change the flowers at my father’s grave and clean up around it. We have some small talk here and there and then we each have a moment alone where we speak to my dad. We close by holding hands in a circle and saying a prayer.
I always lead.
Oh man, I would have never thought this prayer would have come spewing out of my mouth.
Lord knows it was not my plan in my prayer to mention anything about my family finding me. But then again, the woman I call my grandma, my former track coach’s mom always said when you put things in prayer no one can hurt you or get mad at you.
Oh, Holy Spirit, the things you do.
I went on to pray about everything – my life, my future, my family.
We hugged and cried and hugged and cried.
I will never forget it.
I was always afraid of hurting her feelings by wanting to search for my birth family. It was never my intent to replace my adoptive mom because she is quite amazing and inspiring, not to mention irreplaceable. Finding my birth family was about finding myself, my identity, and needing answers or closure to move forward with my life and to have a successful life and relationships with people.
What I did not know was that my adoptive mom prayed for this moment. She had my back. She wanted what was best for me as it should be when adopting. It should be about the adopted child and their needs.
I completely understand the fear that adoptive parents have when they discover that their adopted child wants to search for their birth family especially when the adopted child comes from a background of drugs or sex abuse or violence. However, at some point adoptive parents have to let go for just a moment and allow their child to fly and find themselves.
My adoptive mom wanted to protect me from my birth parents because she knew of their history, but she also knew how important it was for me to know my identity even if it were going to hurt me. I have the utmost respect for her for acknowledging that.
After all of this, I learned that I did not have keep any secrets from my adoptive mom. Since she found out my birth family found me, our relationship has grown into something so beautiful words cannot even describe. Seriously. We can now talk about anything. The elephant in the room is gone, and my fear of talking about my feelings or updates on my birth family are nonexistent.
I am beyond thankful to have been blessed with an adoptive mom that gets it. An adoptive mom that understands the importance of identity. An adoptive mom that understands that I have two moms. An adoptive mom that cares about knowing and having a relationship with my biological family. She is the mom of all moms and children.
She is a gift.
She is my mom.
I love you mommy.
Have you ever felt afraid to tell your adoptive parents you are searching or found your birth family? If so, comment below? What has your experience been like?
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