“Why did your real parents give you up?”
The question assaulted Emmy award winning, TLC’s cohost of Long Lost Family and adoptee, Lisa Joyner, all too often as a child and teen.
From the time she was a teenager, Lisa knew she needed to spend her life giving voices to adoptees and helping to bring normalcy to families who choose to be created through adoption.
“I want people to start thinking about adoption in a new light, a new way other than how it has always been thought or talked about,” she said.
There is no shame in being adopted, placing your child for adoption, or for choosing adoption as the means to grow your family and Lisa’s passion regarding this is notable.
“Adoption is a choice not a last resort,” Lisa said in confidence. “I have many friends who choose to sell vehicles, refinance their house over and over again, do whatever it takes financially to conceive biologically through IVF. Some of them are on their eighth round of IVF. That is fine, that is their choice. But adoption was my choice. How could I not adopt after it had been such an amazing experience growing up adopted? I want people to start thinking about adoption in a different way, to think about biological families looking to place for adoption in a different way. When I finally met my biological mother for the first time, I thanked her for the choice she made for me.”
As an adoptive mother, Lisa’s voice is important. As an adoptee, her voice is necessary. As both, an adoptive mother and adoptee, her voice is uniquely essential for everyone, especially those in the adoption community.
I asked Lisa if there is anything she would like to share with adoptive parents and adoptees.
Lisa responded with, “If at one point in your child’s life they want to search for their biological family, it is not as though they are replacing you. It is an innate need to know your origin story and everyone deserves that. If you are a mother or father by adoption, do not feel threatened, but instead support this desire in your child because it is going to be one of their greatest journeys. You can share this journey with them. And to adoptees: if you are thinking about searching for your biological family, identify the reason why you are searching: are you trying to replace your family? Many adoptees crave to know their health and medical background; whatever the reason is, identify the relationship you expect, hope, and want with your biological family.”
“We also must normalize adoption by talking about it and giving adoptees as much information and the support they need.”
There has been a vast societal shift in family building with the options of surrogacy, intense medical treatments and assistance, and adoption. “But we are still not where we should be in normalizing the various ways to choose to build our family,” said Lisa.
“Any child who was adopted has undergone a tragic loss, and has a primal wound. This does not mean adoptees cannot be a functioning part of society as great members–in fact, a large number of adoptees are high achievers. But we cannot ignore the loss. We also must normalize adoption by talking about it and giving adoptees as much information and the support they need.
“As an adoptive mother, I never know if I am doing it right, there is no manual. My daughter is 7 and she knows that she has a tummy mummy that loved her and chose life for her; she knows that I chose her. My daughter will always be given the answers she deserves and needs, and I feel like as a person who was adopted, I can speak into the importance of that. My child was born out of multiple decisions of love and I hope she always feels celebrated, cherished, and loved,” said Lisa.
Lisa shared with me that seeking out her biological family, and arguably any adoptee seeking theirs, demanded maturity. She knew exactly who she was when she began her search, she was on a confident career path, and she had an amazing support system. She said, “Adoptees need to be ready for the truth which can be painful; not all reunion stories are simple and clear. Some reveal addictions and the inability to quit a substance abuse, some reveal sexual abuse.”
In their show, Long Lost Family, Chris Jacobs and Lisa Joyner have this undeniable privilege of assisting adoptees and biological family members to meet in person, after (most usually) years of searching for one or the other. These moments are incredibly sacred and infused with nothing but vast emotions. Each family Lisa and Chris have the honor of reconnecting becomes personal and intimate, forever imprinted on Lisa’s heart.
“I am able to reveal to someone they have found the person they have been searching for, sometimes for their entire life. There is a visceral change, you can see it in their eyes and they are lighter, you experience it when you watch the meeting unfold. These are moments I will never forget. These moments are like my crack,” jokes Lisa.
If you haven’t seen Long Lost Family, I greatly recommend it. You can view the trailer here.
Sunday, April 23rd, TLC launched an exciting new show: This is Life Live.
This is Life Live is extremely unique because it is literally live for the audience to see and experience these vast and raw emotions of the moment adoptees meet their biological families for the first time.
This is Life Live, is both light-hearted and heart-wrenching; Lisa will travel to cities across the U.S to follow the personal journeys of families about to experience an extraordinary circumstance on LIVE television. Viewers can expect to see the miracle of a blind parent seeing their child the first time and a deaf parent hearing their child say, “I love you.” Each night will also be accompanied by a LIVE digital after show. This is a very exciting multi-platform event.
This is Life Live is a four night event so be sure to catch it April 23rd through April 26th.