Tuesday, November 6, 2018

National Adoption Month, With Adoptee Michelle Madrid-Branch

She's BACK!  Adoptee, mom by birth and adoption, author, speaker, podcast hostess,and truth-teller Michelle Madrid-Branch is here!  

Ya'll remember Michelle, rightShe's my go-to for adoption authenticity.  She's honest, she's encouraging, and she's empathetic.   So in honor of National Adoption Month, I invited Michelle to write to you.  She chose the topic:  "Adoption means many things:  normal is not one of them."  Riveting, right?  

Here's what Michelle wants you to know about adoption:

“Mama, my friends laughed at me today during recess. We were playing house. Someone said that I had to be the adopted one in the family, and that I wouldnt be loved as much as the other kids who werent adopted.”

True words.

Elementary school.

Playground fun turned unpleasant.

I still cringe when I let myself go back in time to that afternoon. I clearly remember standing under the monkey bars with my head hung low. I felt just about as isolated and alone as a kid could feel.

Arriving home after school, I walked down the hallway and made a beeline for my mothers room. I climbed onto her bed and crawled into the fetal position.

I began to wail.

My body trembled.

My temples throbbed.

“Mama, is adoption bad? It feels really bad. Why did my first mommy stop loving me? What did I do?”

My mother went on to explain that I had grown inside of my birth mothers tummy and that she was not able to keep me with her once I was born. That she loved me so much that shed made a plan so that another family could raise me. 

My mother ended the conversation with these words: 

Adoption means love. Thats all you really need to know.

But, it wasnt.

It wasnt all that I needed to know.

My sweet mama, wholeheartedly, meant the words that she shared with me in her bedroom that day. As an adult adoptee, and mom-by-adoption, I understand and can conceptualize that adoption does, indeed, mean love. There is so much love found within this process of delivery called adoption.

Yet, what I didnt know as a girl in elementary school is this: there was so much more that I needed to discover, decode, and define for myself about being adopted. There was a language that needed to be learned and spoken. And, this language could not be adequately expressed with just one word: love.

No, the language of adoption needs to be fluently felt and vastly expanded upon. This language needs to be safely explored, sometimes angrily articulated, and openly shared without judgment. The language of adoption cannot be made antiseptic, or kept in a clean and tidy box. It needs to be messy.



You see, as a child, as much as I knew my mother meant these words—adoption means love—I also knew, for all of my growing up years, that it was far too risky to share with her my true feelings: I didnt want to be adopted.

I didnt!

I didnt want the title of adoptee.

I wanted to be normal.

I wanted to be like the other kids whose first mommies kept them.

As much as my mother painted a picture of adoption as normal—I felt deep within myself that it wasnt. Adoption wasnt normal.

Adoption isnt normal.

Its not normal for the ties that bind a mother and child to be severed. Its not normal to wonder who you are, where your brown eyes came from, and why you savor the sounds of gypsy music. 

Its not normal to wonder if the woman who gave you life ever thinks of you. Its not normal to question whether your birth father loves you. Its not normal to wonder if you have siblings out there, somewhere.

Its not normal to feel judged and discriminated against because you dont look like your adoptive family members. Its not normal to be rejected by the parents who gave you life—no matter their reasons. Its not normal when trust is an excruciatingly difficult concept to embrace, because trusting has proven to be a fragile exercise. Its not normal to miss a crucial part of yourself and still not know who that person is.

Adoption is many things.

It is committing to love a child beyond the borders of bloodline. Adoption is how we are called to love one another: unconditionally. Adoption is filled with sacrifice—on all sides.  Adoption is family.

Adoption is beautiful. Adoption is hard. Adoption is a life-long journey. Adoption is complicated. Adoption is interconnected.

Adoption is unpredictable: its filled with unexpected twists and turns, entries and exits.  Adoption is life and the decisions we make. Adoption is emotional. Adoption is mysterious and—all too often—consumed by unanswered questions. Adoption is traumatic. Adoption is triumphant. Adoption is loss. Adoption is gain.

What adoption is not, is normal. Adoption is not normal. As a community, we should come to grips with this truth. What we can no longer do is avoid this fact and thus continue to force adoptees into silence, afraid to share the complexities of how they really feel. 

Let adoptees find their own language. Let them express that language fully, fluently, and freely. We dont need to force-feed adoptees some synthetic version of reality in order to sugarcoat the adoption experience—even if our version is well intended.

We don’t need to numb down the emotions surrounding adoption—that has never been a fair approach. Adoptees have been through a profound loss. Theyve survived an abnormal occurrence. Let them express what that means to them.



This is how adoptees can move beyond trauma and on to triumph: by speaking their pain, by expressing their questions, and letting out what has been bottled up inside.

We, as their families, should understand that an adoptees longing for knowledge and for unvarnished truth is a natural and healthy yearning. We can no longer pretend that adoption is normal and ask of our children to play this game along with us. We should stop pretending.

We should acknowledge that adoption is not normal. And, as we do so, we free our children to express what they really feel. We give them space to share how being adopted is being experienced in their day-to-day lives. We need to encourage adoptees to share what is real. We need to hear them. We need to listen to them without judgment. We need to stand by them in this way. Let this be the new norm for adoption.




Love what you read?  Learn more from Michelle from her site, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and book.  

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