Adoption Is My Nationality
May is National Foster Care Month. As a former foster child, as well as an international adoptee, I’m often asked about my nationality. In other words, people are curious as to where I originated, what my heritage is and to whom I once belonged.
Believe me, I have been — in my lifetime — ultra curious about these things, as well. In fact, the journey of discovery has taken me along paths to unknown destinations, and to unknown parts of myself.
The experience of seeking out adoption truth is like putting together a puzzle with vital pieces missing. Empty holes. Empty spaces. Those hollow places in the heart; caverns created by loss.
How much are we willing to sacrifice in an effort to put back the pieces of a shattered-self? What are we willing to risk? How can we revive the dormant parts of who we once were, as adoptees, prior to being removed from our first lives?
As for me, I’ve risked everything. I have put it all on the line in the quest to know who I am. I’ve faced my deepest fear: rejection. And, along the way, I’ve met with the sweetest redemption, all in the name of adoption.
I’ve learned the names of relatives, both past and present, and I speak their names out loud. Although I was a secret to many of them, they are no longer a secret to me. Cecilia, Julian, Maria, Eva, Rosa, Andre … and the list goes on and on. I have longed to speak their names and, in the longing, I have grieved what was lost; and what never was.
I’ve discovered that, as an adoptee, it is my birthright to be given the chance to know my history and my heritage. It is my right to have access to this information and to uncover as much of the mystery of me that I can. It is my right to know that I am a product of what is Spanish and English. It is my right to know of my Saudi Arabian and Pakistani roots. It is pure gift to know these parts of who I am. For, in the knowing is birthed the beginnings of healing.
Yet, beyond the bounds of birth heritage and birth history, I have come to learn a deeper sense of identity. One that has been, on many levels, unexpected: my nationality — over and above all else — is adoption.
What does this mean?
For me, it means that there are no people on this planet of whom I feel more akin to than those who live within the skin of adoption. No people of whom I could be more proud to say I’m related to. Adoption is a proud heritage, even though the history often comes with pain and sorrow.
Adoption says that I have survived the unthinkable experience of being severed from the life I was born into. Adoption speaks of the gratitude I feel for being able to forgive and even bless those who walked away. Adoption expresses my ability to love beyond the borders of bloodline. It exemplifies my ability to see the events of my life as happening for me and not to me. In other words, I am not a victim. I am a victor, and I choose to thrive.
And, when I stand with others who share this nationality called adoption, I am able to share my story and know that I am safe because I’m understood. They understand because they live a similar journey. Within our differences, we are one. We are tapestry. There is room for all voices within this nation, there is room for diversity of thought, opinion, and perspective.
As an adoption community, may we see ourselves as the founders of a unique nation that speaks the language of inclusion and a love that knows no borders.
As you, dear sisters and brothers of adoption and foster care, go out into your lives and seek truth, fact, and possibly reunion … know that — even though you may not understand this now — your adoption nationality could be the purest part of what makes you resilient, strong, and unbreakable.
Adoption is my nationality: I don’t fight this truth. Not anymore. In fact, I embrace this identity and I’m pliable to the lessons it has taught me; the lessons it continues to teach me. These lessons have taken root and blossomed into my individual offering; my calling.
I once believed that adoption was my weakness. I no longer think this true. Adoption has become my strength. I stand proud and able to continue the work of ensuring that this adoption nation is heard, seen, valued, respected, and understood.
May we be risk takers for truth; may we find the courage to revive the lost parts of ourselves. May we discover the inner-power to fuel us forward in sharing our stories; may we do so with grace and with dignity.
Within the loss that accompanies adoption, may we find life — beautiful life — and may this life be our anthem to the world.
Michelle Madrid-Branch is an author, speaker, life coach, and global advocate for women and children. She is the author of Adoption Means Love: Triumph of the Heart, The Tummy Mummy, and Mascara Moments: Embracing the Woman in the Mirror.