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.
My Evolving Relationship with Adoption
By Tessie Yarbrough
I am an adult adoptee. Born in the mid-1970s. Adopted at birth through a closed adoption facilitated by a faith-based adoption agency. I have always known I am adopted.
My childhood was a good one. I grew up in a small, rural community. My mom taught school and my dad was self-employed. My grandparents lived next door and went to church with us. My sister and I had weekly playdates, a pony and the Weekly Reader Book Club. My family had a garden and a family reunion every year.
Adoption was not a unique or rare thing in my world. One of my first cousins is adopted and I had schoolmates who were adoptees. I had a storybook about adoption in our regular reading rotation. It was all around me. I have always felt that I belong in my family. My sister was born prematurely. I am adopted. Those are just facts about us.
As a child, most of the time, I did not think about adoption at all. However, there were days when I was curious about the unknown people in my life. Sometimes I was sad about it and wondered why.
Sometimes other people brought it to my attention through their curiosity. I believe my parents handled these different times well. I was comfortable talking to them about my feelings. We had good balance about adoption. We celebrated my birthday and recognized my adoption day.
Dad and Mom always spoke of my birth parents with respect. They genuinely believed my birth parents loved me and made a big sacrifice for me. They esteemed my birth mother for her love and bravery. Mom and Dad always let me know that if I wanted to look for my birth parents they would help. My parents taught me that every day of my life, from the very beginning; I have been loved and valued.
College was a time of transition for me in my relationship with adoption. I had always considered adoption a universal good, and I thought everybody felt that way. I did not know some people thought adoption was a problem. I discovered that other people had negative views of adoption through a casual aside a professor made in class.
One day, while talking on other subjects my professor commented that, “You should feel sorry for adopted people. They carry the sins of their parents in their lives.” Now, I attended a faith-based college, and this was a bible-oriented class, so comments about sin were fair, but this remark immediately enraged me.
I waited to speak to the professor after class. I wish I could tell you I gave an informed and passionate defense of adoption, but I just let loose on him. “I am adopted, I have a great family, you know absolutely nothing about my life, I’m not sure you know anything about grace either, how dare you tell your students to feel sorry for adopted people.” That sort of thing. I do not think I was yelling but I was very, very angry.
To tell you the truth, I was still angry about it when I told my counselor that story twenty years later. The professor did not have an adequate response. I never spoke to him again. I did not drop the class, but I did not get much out of it either.
That encounter was the beginning of my grown-up relationship with adoption. It motivated me to start wondering how other people feel about adoption, to question my own feelings and perceptions, and to be more open-minded and aware. Adoption became a topic of interest to me not just a part of my personal identity.
So how am I doing as an adult adoptee these days?
I think I am doing well. I am capable of loving and accepting love. I still have a close relationship with my family. I am still sure I belong with them. I have been married to the same delightful fellow for many years. I am sure I belong with him as well; no one loves me better or drives me crazier than he does.
I have good friendships and a loving church family. I enjoy my job and have the opportunity to do work I find fulfilling. I have a good life. Nothing fancy but I would not trade it.
I have confidently researched, read, thought, and prayed about adoption a great deal over the years. I got a suggested reading list from my adoption agency and started there. I am fortunate in knowing many people involved in adoption and learning from their stories.
I do my own internet research as well. That is how I became a fan of Portrait of an Adoption! I participated in and completed post adoption counseling. Those seven core issues of adoption were scary to think about, but I am so thankful I confronted them. They do not frighten me anymore.
These experiences and others have led me to a place where I am comfortable with my own experience with and opinions about adoption while being respectful of the many different kinds of individual and collective adoption experiences and viewpoints that are out there.
My adoption is still closed. The adoption agency can tell me very little about my birth family. They did not keep very detailed records in the 1970’s, so a medical history is not available in my file.
That is unfortunate, because at this time in my life, I would like to know more about biological me. I had the agency reach out to my birth mother because I would like to have a full medical history from both my biological parents. The adoption agency will not contact my birth father without express permission from my birth mother.
I requested a medical history from her and permission to have the agency contact my birth father for a medical history as well. I did not receive that information or permission.
I also reached out to my birth mother with a personal letter. I wrote to let her know I have a good life, good family, as well as good physical, mental and emotion health. I also told her that I am genuinely thankful for her and her role in my life.
I hope that hearing from me about my life and feelings toward her contribute positively to her feelings about a decision she made for both of us a long time ago. The adoption agency gave it to her for me.
She has not been able or willing to reach back.
I am disappointed but not devastated over these results. My physician says my personal habits and the habits of my family are just as important as that missing biological information. I was never ready ask for any information before, so I understand her not being ready to share information right now.
I am glad I could give my birth mother that letter. No matter what happens in the future, I took advantage of this opportunity to let her know that I value her. I am proud of doing that.
I still am not sure if I actually want to have a personal relationship with either of my biological parents. I have opened the door to that as much as I can right now. I will see what comes through. For now, my closed adoption goes forward as it always has. I feel comfortable with that.
I understand my relationship with adoption is going to be different depending on where I am in my life. It is different now from when I was in my teens and twenties. It grows and changes right along with me.
It has good days and hard days. My husband and I are currently becoming licensed foster parents. I have already learned a lot about adoption through this process. I expect that in a few years my relationship to adoption will be very different because of the opportunities and experiences we will have.
I also understand that I am a whole person just as I am today. We all need to work at being whole people. Adopted or not we all have to grow into who we are. We are all always in the process of becoming. I love that.
I am proud and glad to be adopted. I believe adoption is a good thing. I understand my adoption experience is unique to me. It is my own. For all of that adoption is just one part of who I am and I love being ALL of me. Each day I am given is a good day to be me, an adult adoptee!
T. A. Y.
T.A.Y lives in Texas. Her favorite thing is being at home with her people and a good book.
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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
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