Adoption Stories Require COURAGE

It take a lot of courage to walk through life as an unknown entity.

For decades, I had no idea where my story began. This is true for many adoptees of the Babyscoop era of adoption. Somehow, we just showed up in a family and became theirs.

This was true for me, too. The way my mom tells the story is this; she was playing ball with my older brother, and thought, “He needs a sibling to play with.” She called up Catholic Charities, and told them that she was ready for another child, and then, in a few weeks, I was available. They gave the priest some cash ($500) and I went home with them.

I was almost ONE YEAR old when I was brought home. Where was I before I came to my family? To this day, I only know I had been in a foster home prior to my family getting me and prior to foster care, I was in an adoptive home that could not keep me.

Now, there is more to the story than this, obviously, but I was told this version my whole life. Minus the priest and cash part, that was told to me just last year. It is what my parents knew.

But, those of you who are reading and NOT adopted, imagine that this was your birth story? Can you imagine if it were the beginning story of YOUR own adopted child? For me, I feel cheated out of the first chapter of a book.

There were lots of adoptions that took place in our local Family Court on Halloween, and there will be many more coming in the month of #NAAM As I looked at the pictures of these ‘new families’ I wondered where the children began who have just been adopted into a whole new family story. Will they remember where the came from? Will these new parents tell them? One family picture showed the child in a shirt that said, “This is my Gotcha Day!” And the parent had shirts on with the following words crossed out – “Foster,” “Adopted,” “Biological” and the word that was left was “Parent.” Will these children have their Biological story crossed out, too? Children deserve to know their beginning story.

In my era of adoption, the only information my adopting parents had was “my father was tall and my mother was short.” This was actually accurate. They did not know that my first mother had 5 children in foster care when I was born. The did not know that my first father had 3 children when I was born. They had no idea that my first mother had been told by a social worker that she could choose to give me up for adoption or the state would take me. Either way, she was stuck in a difficult position.

It takes COURAGE to live an adopted life. When the unknown starts to weigh me down, I feel very small. I was small when I lived in another home, with another name, with another family, and then another family. I was small and someone in one of those families hurt me. I came to my parents with bruises and I was not clean. When I think of small, hurt baby me, I send her as much love and comfort as I can because she really needed some support and safety. Thankfully, my parents provided that for me in the way of a bath and warmth. They made sure I learned how to eat off a spoon, because I didn’t know how. They made sure I was safe.

Adopted children need to know, feel and experience SAFETY. When children who have experienced trauma, and yes, adoption is trauma, “act out” or “have aggressive behaviors,” this is not because they are bad, or doing this on purpose, it is because their nervous system is dis-regulated and they are SAFETY SEEKING. They have no way of verbalizing “I need to know you are here, you are not leaving, I am safe, I will be cared for, I will have food, I will have shelter, I won’t be beaten or hurt, I won’t be left alone, I will not be exposed to drugs or sexual abuse….” Their way of communicating this deep PRIMAL need for safety is by screaming, breaking things, fidgeting, getting up and down out of their chair at school, picking at their skin, cutting, ….and the list goes on.

It takes COURAGE to feel safe. It takes COURAGE to offer safety. It really takes COURAGE to be the one to recognize a need within yourself, and ask another person to meet that need. An unspoken need, is an unmet need.

I look for COURAGE in my life to show up in small ways. COURAGE is my mantra. My word. My person. My positive self talk. My way of being in the world when I feel small. I pull up some COURAGE and move forward. I want to Experience Courage in a way that shows that small baby inside of me that she is safe. Courage is everything.

Last weekend, I found Courage in a packed house seeing a singer that I liked, but fell in love with while she was on stage. Sara Bareilles put on an amazing show. She sings a song called Brave. And says, “I wanna see you be Brave!”

Well, Ms. Bareilles, being adopted is what Brave looks like. Not knowing where you come from AND still showing up in life to be something to other people is BRAVE. The adoptee community are some of the most brave people I have ever met. Being vulnerable and open to each other as a way of finding community is BRAVE.

Being in foster care and still hoping for your own parent to get themselves together so you can come home is BRAVE. Being in foster care and knowing your parents will not ever get themselves together enough to bring you home and STILL trusting enough to want another family to love you is BRAVE.

Let’s show up for each other and allow others to see our COURAGE and be BRAVE.

Here is a clip of Sara singing Brave … Live in Las Vegas 11/1/19


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Robyn Gobbel, LCSW

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