By Tara Vanderwoude

As we kick-off #adoptionawarenessmonth we are taking time to elevate adoptee voices. One voice that has been making an impact nationally on this topic is our 2021 Summit Keynote Tara Vanderwoude. She gives us an honest look below, into the experiences and emotions many adoptees face.

I’ve lived my entire life knowing that I have birth parents, Korean parents, first parents, an Omma and an Appa…. or whatever I choose to call them… yet often I’m truly unable to conceptualize what this actually means. It’s almost as if I have to pinch myself to really get through to my heart and my brain that there really are two people whom I resemble and with whom I share DNA… For I can easily say the words “birth parents”, “likely abandoned”, “orphanage” and “no known date of birth” aloud and really feel no pain… as these are factual pieces of my story, my narrative, and my reality as a Korean adoptee. I’ve owned them, I’ve processed (and reprocessed) them, and I’ve worked to integrate them into who I am.

But when I truly allow myself to go to the place of believing in and imagining these two individuals, the thoughts and feelings are deep. For there are no boundaries for the emotions of loss and grief. There is no recipe for confusion and unanswered questions. There is no five step program for trying to make sense of the ambiguous.

And while I don’t think of my Korean parents on a daily or even weekly basis, I recognize that without meeting them or without even just knowing something about them, there is almost no confirmation of my existence or of my entering the world. I firmly believe that I don’t need this meeting or to have this knowledge of them in order to be whole, yet these are universal rights that most possess… but ones that many adoptees and myself do not have.

How do adoptees make sense of knowing that the two people who gave them life and were supposed to be their nurturers, protectors, and unconditional loves are strangers and are completely unknown to them? How does one ever have closure knowing these birth parents are walking the same earth and breathing the same air? How do adoptees not wonder if they too are being looked for or imagined of and dreamed about? How does one not therefore search? Yet how does one search and put one’s heart out there when knowing the chances are slim?

Being adopted is ongoing, multi-layered, complex, and nuanced. There are no easy answers, though there are pressures to please people, to “get over the past”, or to realize “how good we’ve got it”.

What a relief for an adoptee to hear that living in this gray and in this tension is okay. That feeling both pain and no pain is possible. That she is not alone in this walk of being adopted. That being an adoptee can be simultaneously most wonderful and most tragic.

Adoptees have no choice in living their realities of tragedy and gain and of ambiguity and unknown. But every one of us has the choice to recognize that we really don’t know what it feels like to be adopted, to release all expectations and assumptions of adoptees, and to allow them the same time, support, and space any one of us would want were we also walking, racing, dancing, and sometimes even tripping down the adoptee road.

Original link here.