I've been going back and forth about blogging about this, mostly because it seemed too personal, too precious, too "mine" to share with others for awhile. But while I've treasured and savored the details for nearly 2 months, I'm also ready to share them.
As most people in my life know, I am adopted. I have always believed that the early, troubling start to my life deeply impacted my self esteem, self worth, and ultimately, my weight. I was a chubby child (very much like my own beautiful daughter), but certainly not unhealthy. However, my adoptive family are all very petite and it worried my adoptive mom. With the best of intentions, she put me on diets starting around age 5. I remember kindergarten sack lunches being 1/2 a sandwich and an apple while the other children had lots of little snacks and goodies. Somewhere in my childish mind, I interpreted the diet as a lack of love.
I grew up looking like the red-headed step child (literally), and never felt like I belonged. Don't get me wrong... I love my parents. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they love me. But they chose to love me. They chose to parent me. The rest of the extended family just sort of got stuck with me. At least that's how it felt. In a world of thin, blond haired, blue-eyed Dutch beauties was me. Reddish-brown hair, brown eyes, chubby, always described as "cute" vs pretty. I longed for a family that I felt I belonged to. I desperately wanted to look at another person and see that my body wasn't WRONG, but simply genetics, and different from what I was surrounded with.
I remember hearing others innocently comment "I have my mom's eyes", or "I'm built just like my dad". I didn't know whose eyes I got. I was abandoned in the hospital at birth. I didn't get much handed down, other than a heart full of insecurities.
When I was 28, I decided to hire an intermediary to find my birth mother. I had a lifetime of hopes, fears, and fantasies hanging on it. Judith, the wonderful intermediary that I've worked with for over 10 years now, found my birth mother in the hospital. She was recovering from her 3rd stroke. Judith told her that I was looking for her, and for my history and answers. She told her that she had a letter I'd written her and would like to send it to her. She asked if there was any message, anything at all, that she'd like to send to me. Her answer crushed me.
"Tell her I didn't want her 28 years ago, and I don't want her now". That was the only inheritance my birth mother gave me. She broke my heart. But as God tends to do, He brought 2 good things from this horrible experience: 1) while searching for my birth mother, I learned that she had another child, a boy, 2 years after me who was also placed for adoption. I had a brother. 2) I was 28 years old, 420#, and had a family medical history of strokes! This terrified me. 6 months later, I walked into a hospital with a high risk of mortality, and had my gastric bypass surgery.
Life went on. My heart was so bruised from her rejection that the thought of searching for my "little" brother left me in a panic attack. Instead, I focused on life. I lost nearly 200#. I got married. I worked. I spent time with my parents. I had a child and reveled in motherhood. Then, about 3 years ago, while basking in the love for my child and the amazing thought that she and I shared blood and DNA, I decided I was ready to search again. This time for a brother who likely never was told I even existed.
I called dear Judith up again, and hired her (once again) to search for a piece of the puzzle of my history. A piece of me.
And she succeeded. My brother, Darin, had no idea that he had a sister. He knew he was adopted but had never wanted to talk about it. However, he was open to talking to me. We took it slow. Emails, texts, phone calls (we live 3 states away from each other). We got to know each other. We exchanged pictures of ourselves and our kids. It was amazing! To see yourself in another person! Over the years we became close, talked frequently, and discovered many similarities (like our dry, sarcastic sense of humor others often don't "get"). Finally, the time came to meet. 39 years of longing for my "real" family was going to come true.
In August, my husband, daughter, and I boarded a plan and flew to his home town. We got in late, so only he was there to meet us. We walked around an airport corner and entered the baggage claim area. Our eyes met, and I felt like I was coming home. That for the first time in my life, I wasn't an orphan. In his words, "Like life settled". I had family. I had origins. I wasn't a worthless child someone threw away. There wasn't anything inherently "wrong" about me. I wasn't an alien who showed up in another family with no history or beginning. Proof of my origins, of my blood line, of my family tree, was standing in front of me.
We spent 3 days getting to know each other and our families. Time passed way too quickly and it was time to go home. While together, we found some evidence that we may have the same birth father as well as birth mother. We contacted our dear Judith again, and a few days later it was confirmed. We are full siblings.
I did more healing in those 3 days with my brother than a lifetime of therapy could offer (and that's coming from a counselor!). I looked into eyes that look like a reflection of mine. I laughed dryly at humor no one else in the room got. I was able to see how much of my body image/issues are genetic and how much by choices. I think that in meeting him, I was able to see myself clearly for the first time.
Life goes on, but now it includes a special connection I never thought I'd have. I am very close to my brother. I'm flying out again in a couple weeks to spend another weekend with him (unfortunately without my husband and daughter this time due to finances). He is supremely supportive of my weight loss, past,present and future. He gets it... he has lived these same struggles. He gets me.
My daughter and sweet nephews
A friend, who is also an adoptive mother, and I were talking. While she was excited and happy for me, she said that it made her worry that her kids won't see her as their "real" family. Here's my thought on that.... we all know that a parent can love more than one child. They love them differently, based on the uniqueness of that child, but the same. Why can't a child love more than one family?
Personally, I'm so happy to have had this time, these moments, and the reflection and healing that it has prompted.
As Troy Dunn says, "You can't find peace until you find the missing pieces". I am finally finding my peace.