“Where is she?” He asked. “I want to be with her.”
Those exact same words, the ones my son uttered through tears, spilled out of my own mouth 25 years ago. A woman whom I have never had the privilege of meeting carried me for nine months. My son, born to another, has experienced the same loss.
In those moments, when his questions are bigger than any answers I can offer him, I remind him that his story is precious. His life is precious. His birth mother is precious. His story, like mine, didn’t start when someone else swooped in, it started in his mother’s womb. When he took his first breath, it wasn’t a mistake. Every loss he’s faced, every ounce of grief he carries is to be mourned. It serves no one to bottle up or deny its presence. His grief is real. It affects how he sees himself and everyone in his world.
When other’s approach me and ask for adoption advice, I give them as many practical steps I can think of from the perspective of an adoptive mama and an adoptee, but more than anything, I encourage every prospective adoptive mother and father to understand that the son or daughter they invite into their home has real hurts that must be validated. That must be addressed. A path of wholeness and health is possible but it doesn’t happen overnight. The journey of adoption is not finished once a child takes your last name. It’s not finished once he or she dons those matching Christmas jammies you wear every year for your Christmas card.
As much as we would like to glamorize adoption and assume that once a child is in your arms it’s all gravy… we can’t. We absolutely cannot. Life is far messier than that. It takes therapy, connection, tears, hard conversations, grieving, and so much more to rebuild what’s been broken and lost.
As an adoptee, I found that a healthy sense of identity emerged once I chose to accept the hard parts of my story. I learned to grieve the heavy arcs and savor the moments of restoration. I came to appreciate my first culture rather than be ashamed of it because my story and skin didn’t match that of my peers.
The girl who once spent recess envying the strawberry blonde, blue-eyed girls on the swings who had actual baby pictures glued to their family tree project learned that she was worthy of health, wholeness and that her culture and skin were something to be proud of.
I’ve come to accept how my birth story has shaped my identity and my sweet little guy is learning to accept his. He’s learning to love and celebrate his Ugandan roots. He’s learning that just because his skin is dark doesn’t mean he’s second best. He’s learning that his story might have been fractured from the beginning, but goodness and freedom from shame is available to him just as much as it is available to everyone else. He’s learning that love makes a family. That sometimes, it gets worse before it gets better. He’s learning that he is precious, not forgotten, strong, and built for goodness all the days of his life.
To learn more about Tiffany Bluhm, check out her forthcoming book, "She Dreams: Live the Life You Were Created For."