From the outside, as a parent through adoption, I look at my kids and think, “Wow. You are such a marvel. How our lives collided and I ended up being your mother is beyond wonderful.” I wish I could say that my children feel the same way about adoption and who they are, but I am not sure of this and I know they must carry questions around that they are either too afraid to ask or too young to understand.

Several years ago, my oldest son came home and told me that a friend told him I am not his “real mom.” Although I assured him that while I am not his biological mother, did not carry him in my body, and give birth to him, I am very much his (real) mom and I love him more than words can ever express. He seemed to accept this but was also a bit quiet and distant for the remainder of that day. It saddened me to think that at a young age, he faced this potentially ugly side of adoption–to feel shame or hear the real vs. unreal language that adoptive families deal with.

What I want my children and any other child who has been adopted to know is they should never feel ashamed for who they are.

If you are an adoptee, here are a few things this adoptive Momma wants you to know.

1) The adults around you made some difficult decisions that never reflected on who you are. These decisions were ones covered in grief and love; grief over letting you go, loving you with deep resonance.

2) As a child, the control over what happened was not in your hands. You did not have a say in the matter–unfortunately. Whether you were adopted from an orphanage, domestically or through foster care, you were at the mercy of a whole lot of individuals and systems.

3) We (adoptive parents) recognize the loss in your life: loss of a connection with biological family, loss of growing up with your biological parents, and the loss of knowing things about your biological family that are shared amongst generations. We know this, but we will never be able to fully understand it; nor do we want to replace what you have lost. The humbling truth is that we cannot.

4) We want to hear from you. Help us (adoptive parents) understand what it is like to grow up knowing you were adopted. Some of the most honest and revealing things I have read came from adults who were adopted. Some were filled with anger, others filled with love but all were relevant and necessary to listen to. Your voice matters.

5) Adoption is a huge aspect of your life, but it is not the only thing about you. All my children were adopted, but I do not define them by this. They are defined by their quirks, talents, personalities, and hearts. The same goes for you. Stay true to that.

No one should feel ashamed for who they are. This is especially true for adoptees. You have various life stories, unique skills, talents, and interests that help to shape the incredibly diverse world we live in, and we are better for it.