Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
By Doriana Markovitz
I have been raised by many mothers; many women have poured themselves into me. I am the product of the multi-dimensionality of womanhood. I have only ever known that experience, the struggle, and hardship, while also the joy and the power that women can offer to one another and their children.
Three women have raised me — the mothers who adopted me, but also the woman who took me in when those two women fell out of love.
Motherhood lives inside my skin, but I am also motherless because there is a woman out there who I do not know, but whose body was my first home. I knew this from the time I could understand that the women who chose me did not look like me.
Their skin did not look like mine, their hair did not feel like mine, and their bodies were not shaped like mine. Even though I knew this, I felt safe inside that truth. I felt loved inside that truth until I couldn’t any longer.
When I was a child, my parents tried to explain my adoption to me. When they tried the first time, I didn’t get it. I was maybe four or five. When they explained it again, I didn’t want to understand. I might have been nine or ten.
The more that they tried to tell me, the less I wanted to know. “Your birthmother, the woman who gave birth to you, gave you to us, she loved you so much, she still loves you, but she wanted to give you a better life.”
As soon as they said that, I felt in such a way that I could not imagine ever feeling again. The feeling was far beyond anything I can explain. The worst thing about somebody who leaves you, somebody who turns out to be a completely different person from what you expect them to be, is the love that you still feel in your heart for them; embedded so deeply into the narrow spaces of yourself that you cannot access it to even try to remove it.
My birthmother was my first love and my first heartbreak. I wanted to blame her. My parents. God. Somebody. For a while, I thought of her at arm’s length. I thought there was too much of her inside of me already. I told myself the idea of her was too hard to confront. It hurt too much.
I know now that just because you do hurt, it does not mean you always will. I remember waking up with an ache between my ribs thinking about all of the things she might understand, and all of the things she does not, like how I will love her, but probably from afar. Like how her absence in my life will persistently reside in my gut. And how I dream about her fierce and beautiful, and every time she is dressed in indigo and laughing.
My mama tells me, “That big feeling you’re talking about? I think it’s grief….loss.” Adoption is painful, the loss is almost impossible for some people to reconcile with or make peace with.
As an adopted child, I was born into abandonment. The woman who carried me in her womb, and gave birth to me, the woman who was supposed to cleanse my wounds, comb the kinks out of my hair, rub coconut oil on my scars, the woman who should have held my hand when I began to walk. That woman, she left me.
As an adoptee I live in a state of complete and utter fear of being abandoned. It is a way of life for me. It consumes me so much that sometimes it is hard to breathe. I am so afraid of being left that I push people away so they don’t have the opportunity to leave me.
I faced this abandonment when my parents fell out of love and my mother moved out of our house at the age of eight. I faced this abandonment when the first boy I ever loved, who claimed he loved me back, was committed to another woman at the age of sixteen. And I faced this abandonment when my grandmother died and my mama moved to another state when I was eighteen.
Due to tremendous heartbreaks, I have to trace everything back to the origin of that pain. Sometimes this takes days and weeks. So, I spend days and weeks being a different person, someone more eager, more hostile, and more shut off.
I spend the time trying to process everything all over again and again and again. I spend however long it takes for me to trace my pain to an endpoint and to name that pain. Almost every time that name is Shirley Diaz.
I spent years grieving the loss of my birthmother. I still do. Grieving the way you grieve a loved one when they die. Grieving what could have been, what we could have shared, the ways in which we could have loved each other. I will never know those things, and it took me a long time to overcome the anger of that truth.
In those days, grief taught me that it will eat at you until you don’t know who you are anymore. So as I got older, I became my own mother, my own healer, my own wisdom keeper. I became everything I imagined her to be, teaching myself the things that I hoped she would have taught me.
When I found my birthmother, I thought my story would change. I thought the girl who was born into abandonment would disappear, but she didn’t. The thing people don’t tell you is that when you find your birth parents, you face the risk of being left or unwanted all over again, yet this time you are older and more in-tune with your stories.
That fear keeps so many of us from ever looking. I don’t know if I will ever be completely at peace with being adopted, but in processing that trauma, I have gained knowledge about my place in the world.
The more I understand about myself, the braver I become to uncovering more truth. Today, there is a greater sense of comfort, and words of Warsan Shire carry me.
When she held me for the first time, she found something on my back. She smiled while hiding it from others. She caressed, shaped and loved it. She also infused independence, dignity, and pride in it. Finally, when I was ready, tears rolled down her cheeks as she opened the door, “let the world know about your wings.”
Perhaps my birthmother gave me wings because she knew I could not stay. Perhaps she remained faithful for all the time that I was away because she knew that, one day, I would fly back to her.
Bio: I am a biracial woman, but I identify as Black. My birthmother is what Puerto Ricans call Spanish. I was adopted by two white women when I was a week old. They later divorced. My Jewish mama, who gave me my last name Markovitz, remarried and adopted 2 more baby girls, later on, giving me siblings and ending my own unique child experience at 14. During that time, I swallowed a white liberal education for 9 years, until I was forced to puke it back up in the later years of my high school experience. This is my testimony, my hymnal, my stories, my life as a transracial adoptee.
Links to Doriana’s work:
* * * *
Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter
To continue receiving posts from Portrait of an Adoption, simply type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button.