Brene Brown said, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we will ever do.” The first time I ever read that quote, I was floored. The overwhelming truth that resonated in those words took over me. As a birth mother and adoptee, I am part of the adoption community. I had been sharing my story for years, but once I had read those words it was as if my story turned to ink on a page and had a new plot. My purpose was validated in those words. I had never realized that storytelling was so powerful—so impactful. Stories have the strength if wielded well to build up the adoption community.
Stories connect us in the adoption community
When you go on a first date or meet someone for the first time, what is usually a good foundation for that relationship to move forward? Common ground. You find out that both of you love to go hiking in the state parks every weekend, or that you both love trying all of the crazy craft beers that release from taprooms, or even that you both have a dog. We find ways to strengthen connections every day in every interaction. Stories are in those interactions, though we often don’t think of them in that light. We usually consider stories to be in books or papers, midnight ghost tales, or even in speeches, but they are embedded in who we are. Every single person has a story, a background, and a passion. Adoption, its complexities, and its ability to shape me are huge parts of my story. Part of why I share to connect is that community is important to me in my healing journey. The more I share on any platform I find available to me, the more I expand my reach and the more people with whom I can connect. Did you know that many people are sharing their stories on social media? While I know online friends aren’t as tangible as most friends, they can still be a support network for you as an adoptee, adoptive parent, hopeful adoptive parent, or birth mom in the adoption community.
Stories can heal us
Can you think of a memory that always brings you peace? My mind always goes to my grandmother and the tea parties we held at her house. Gran was an Avon lady, so her front room was full of merchandise displayed perfectly on long tables. She had these ivory wingback chairs in the front den that were the perfect thrones for a tea party. I would dress up in my mom or aunt’s childhood dresses and we’d have Dr. Pepper and cookies. It was always a special moment I shared with her, so naturally, now that she has passed I can hold on to those stories to bring me peace. They also offer me healing from the grief I feel from not having her here to live life with me anymore. Stories help us heal by either giving us something to reflect upon, something to hold onto for closure, something to vent and release, or even as something to help us process our feelings. When I had first placed my daughter for adoption, I did not think that I was ever going to face negative feelings or even feel sad. I realize now that I was in denial and I was in for a rude awakening ahead. It got hard and I cried many tears. I could not understand how something I felt so positively strong about was hurting me so badly. A loss, regardless of the situation, is a loss. They hurt and leave us feeling their wake. The more that I was able to share my story the more I was able to begin to unpack what I had gone through. It slowly began to help me be vulnerable enough to accept the feelings I had been denying.
Stories raise awareness of the adoption community
My favorite trash television shows are The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. This season is about Matt James, a tall drink of water if you ask me. One of the contestants vying for Matt’s heart is Abigail Heringer, who was born deaf. She stated on the show that she got a cochlear implant when she was two years old. I was reading an article from E-News the other day and Abigail expressed, “There were just so many things that I just felt ready to finally talk about that I’d never been able to talk about before in past relationships.” Because she lived her truth and told Matt a piece of her story when she met him on the red carpet, cochlear implants were one of the trending searches on Google that night and following. This then leads people to learn more about the deaf and hard of hearing community. This is probably my favorite reason stories strengthen the adoption community. Awareness is so powerful. The simple title of “birth mother” is still so unknown in the adoption community. The more that I have realized how little people know about the loss and sacrificial side of adoption, the more it lights my fire to do more. Can you believe that almost 75% of the time I share that I am a birth mother that people have no idea what that means? Yet they are far more familiar with the adoption community in general and adoptive parents. That tells me that we are still not doing enough. We are still not sharing our stories as birth mothers enough. Not only are birth parent voices needed, but the world needs to hear more from adoptees as well. Adoptees have such unique and different stories as well that can offer much education and awareness.
Tell Your Story
Over the years I have connected with many birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents in the adoption community. I have been honored to hear many stories and to discuss popular adoption topics. But I have also heard many adoptees and birth moms say that they are not ready yet to share their story, and that is completely valid and okay. One of the most wonderful things about your story is that you are in complete power of it. If you don’t feel like sharing is going to be therapeutic for you, you think it will hurt too much to talk about, or even you just don’t even know where to begin, that’s okay. Take your time and do not feel pressured to share until you are ready. But if you are ready, I have a few tips that might help you out along the way.
Not everyone deserves to hear your truth
There have been several times when I shared my truth and I was not received well. When I was younger, I thought that I was in love. He was not the one, but infatuation is blind. He spat at me one day, “Stop calling them your children, they are not your children.” They are always going to be my kids. Parenting doesn’t have anything to do with that. Also, anyone who is supposed to love you would not say such a hateful thing, so do not let your other half say things like that to you. He did not deserve to know my story. Another time that I was sharing, a girl argued with me for an hour about how selfish I was for placing my child for adoption. If she had been listening to a single word I had to say, she’d have learned that adoption is not selfish, but rather a selfless act of sacrificial love. She did not deserve to hear my story that night and she didn’t gain my friendship. I know that these two negative examples are rough. You’re probably wondering why you would want to share your story when that kind of backlash is a possibility. Well, the truth is that it is always possible to find haters. Believe me, they are out there. However, the first step to deciding if you are ready to share your story is to accept reality, be mindful of who deserves to hear your story, and know that hateful words are no more than just that. We don’t have to hold on to them. They sting, but you are living your truth and they cannot dull your sparkle.
Process Your Story
Therapy, therapy, and therapy! I am a huge fan of therapy and mental health practices. I think that it is so important to unpack your story intentionally several times before sharing it with the world. Is it necessary? Not always, but I think it’s rewarding. When I was working through my grief, I was sharing my story as if I was the poster child of the adoption community. The Stepford wife of birth moms, if you will. I was sharing a story that was painted in perfect light not because someone was telling me to, but because I wanted people to know how amazing adoption was. Don’t get me wrong, now that I have unpacked and worked through my story more, I still will scream from the rooftops that adoption is a wonderful thing. However, I will also tell you that adoption is founded upon loss and that there is grief and hurt involved that doesn’t go away just because a family was completed and wrapped in a perfect bow. I’ll also tell you that as an adoptee, I know that the lack of connection to my biological family growing up caused me to have identity issues that led to a lack of self-worth, which led to behavioral issues. And I transparently share all of it because every bit matters. People need to know that adoption is beautiful, but they need to know it’s messy and takes work. Get to a place where you feel confident in the narrative you want to share.
Take Advantage of All Platforms, Resources, and Networks for Storytelling
There are so many ways to share your story. I started out with the easiest one, which was sharing with friends or church members when I shared my testimony. I then started to share on panels with other birth moms by my side sharing similar stories. This was a great place to start because I didn’t feel alone. I knew that the other girls were being as vulnerable as I was and that they supported every single word I had to say simply because they understood. Once I had been doing that for a while, I realized I was ready to start writing about my experiences. So I found places asking for birth mom stories online. Eventually, I got invited to write for Adoption.com. I also share plenty of insight on my social media platforms because the Internet is vast and I have connected with many amazing individuals who are part of the adoption community through there. No matter where you start, you will find all kinds of opportunities if you just look for them. Ask your local adoption agency if you can speak on a panel or share your story, find websites that need writers, or simply start a blog or journal with your thoughts. No matter the audience, big or small, your story is impactful and worth being heard.
To own our stories means to realize that we have so much to tell if we choose. Loving ourselves through that complex, beautiful story and acknowledging how brave it is to not only self-reflect on our lives but to share our lives with others seem to be the most challenging in my eyes, but I do not doubt that we can get there together.