As a little girl–two days before Christmas–I received my forever family via adoption.
I’ve spent the last 30+ years of my life joking with my parents that I was the best Christmas gift they ever got, though in reality, I consider it entirely the other way around.
Let me say this. I know adoption isn’t always a positive experience for children or families. Many adoptees carry heavy burdens of grief and loss for decades after their adoption is final. I have no desire to minimize that reality. For a few years during my adolescence, I experienced some of the anxiety and insecurity associated with adoption. (Though I’m not entirely sure the anxiety and insecurity wasn’t at least in part the result of being an adolescent.)
But I have largely escaped the darker side of adoption due to these 3 side effects of my story…
1. I value the fact that I am alive.
I consider it a privilege to have been born 7 years after the Supreme Court decriminalized abortion in the case of Roe v. Wade. For someone unwanted in the womb, the fact that I lived to see my birthday is not something I take for granted. (Yes, I know I was wanted by adopting families, but the point remains.)
I’ve heard adoption critics say adoptees should not be forced to be grateful. And I get it.
And yet, gratitude to God for preserving my life and keeping me safe has gone a long way in healing the painful would-be-side-effects of being adopted. In this day and age, life is a gift. Gotcha Day, for me, looks a lot like George Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. “Oh look at this wonderful, old, drafty house!” I kiss the broken banister and hug my kids. I’m alive!
2. I cherish the reality that I was chosen.
Yes, I was surrendered at birth. Yes, I lived with a foster family. Yes, I was placed in an adoptive family. Yes, I have unanswered questions. (Knowing anything about my medical history would be handy right now.) But to the degree that I have experienced loss I have equally experienced being chosen.
My adoptive family isn’t perfect–they’ll be the first to admit it. We experienced the teen stuff–disagreeing over what I should wear and who my friends should be–and we made a lot of mistakes. But my family loves and accepts me. To be chosen into someone’s family and subsequently loved by choice, in my opinion, is even better than landing there genetically. Though my story includes some tough chapters, I am confident God has been writing it from the beginning.
3. I respect the certainty that I am unique.
For years I believed I was entirely different than my adoptive family. To my mind, I must have been just like my birth family. I am wildly right-brained, for instance; my dad is a chemistry teacher. Every detail about me which varied from my adoptive family I chalked up to being adopted. As a teen, I believed my birth family would accept those things about me that were different than my adoptive family.
And then I met my birth mom. As a twenty-one year old, I met a woman who was supposed to make it all make sense. And you know what I discovered? I had more questions. I wasn’t like my birth mom, either. God made me unique. My story is unique. My life is unique. And that is just fine with me.
Adoption is complicated. It is. But viewed a certain way, I also consider my adoption a gift.
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Trisha White Priebe is a communications coordinator at Lifesong for Orphans, an adoptee, and an adoptive mom. You can connect with her here on the blog, on the Facebook page, or on Twitter.