stick + stones.

labels.

let’s talk about them.

one of the most frequent questions I get is regarding my thoughts and feelings about being labeled adopted or an adoptee. So let’s think about this together. Aren’t social media hashtags labeling? Isn’t your bio on Instagram that states adoptive parent or adoption advocate a label? Aren’t books titles “We Adopted You” labeling? Birth mom, birth father, labels? Even ‘friend’ or ‘author’ or ‘athlete’ all labels?

Do you think all labels are a detriment, withholding or just certain ones?

I am not here to tell you labels are bad or they are good. Personally, they are just that, a label. A category. ‘Adoptee’ isn’t my only title but it’s a chapter to my story. It doesn’t determine how I should or how I have lived my life. It never dictated certain decisions or created certain paths.

How did it affect me as a child, how does it affect me know?

In elementary school I was known as the girl who was adopted.

In high school, I was known as the girl whose mom died.

In no way did I let those terms degrade who I was. Is that a personality trait? How I was raised?

Adoptive mama doesn’t define me as what type of mother I am. It doesn’t make me real or fake, first or last, less or more. My son being labeled a preemie doesn’t limit him for his future but knowing this part of his story maybe helpful in a school setting or future endeavors. These labels, they can help us use our voices. They can help us in areas in our lives we may struggle or were we may thrive. I have made the choice and my mission to not let labels negatively affect me.

I am so incredibly proud to be an adoptee.

I am so incredibly proud to be an adoptive mother.

I am so incredibly proud to be a mama of a thriving 29-weeker.

I am so incredibly lucky to have been reunited with my birth mom and birth father.

I am so incredible honored to now know my birth mother and birth father.

I am so incredibly lucky to have been raised by the most altruistic adoptive parents.

I am aware that the way I feel about labeling isn’t the case for all adoptees/people but we are all different, unique and that is what makes this all okay! All of our stories start and develop in  their own ways. We aren’t always all happy or all sad. Labels are not the end all. They shouldn’t be blanket statements that define our struggles or our accomplishments. They are a small part of our identity. A chapter to our story.

I feel like you have the choice and the voice to embrace and hold proud your label(s). On the flip side I believe you can let it take over and become a negative tagline. I believe you have the ability and the right to change your level of comfort with your label. I believe your perspective can and will change as you navigate through childhood- adolescence-adulthood.

go ahead, label me, I dare you.

be brave.

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love not label.

I have talked about my continuously unfolding story to strangers on the street, people on the internet, friends over the phone, and new relatives face to face. I talk about this story the way I have been used my whole and more specifically since I entered the adoption world as a waiting parent. seeing birth mama situations, using “the baby”, “her baby”…

and after 34 years, I get to change the verbiage. I get to change the titles, the labels, the pronouns.

GET, not have to.

“the baby” is me!

I am a big sister.

I have living grandparents.

I get motherly phone calls.

their mom… my grandma

his brother… my uncle

his daughters… my sisters

her sisters …. my aunts

but lets stop right there. I get asked a lot by many if and/or when I will change my language.

I am in no rush to use or claim these adjectives.

I have no pressure to label these new relatives let alone label all these feelings and relationships.

There is [hopefully] no pressure for them to title me.

when I do use them, it’s because I want to.

it may be tomorrow, yesterday, today. it may be the first time or maybe the last time.

when I use them, I consider and acknowledge all parties who also use them and have been using them for their whole lives.

when I do use them, I feel honored.

I am not replacing anyone or forgetting about anyone.

I am a stranger walking in and I do not want to walk over them. labels can take people to places of hurt but also healing.

I am blood.

I am dna.

I am home.

“God opens millions of flowers without forcing the buds, it reminds us not to force anything for things happen in the right time.”

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her handwriting.

a lot has unfolded in the last couple months. new family members. new connections. news stories to hear. new stories to be told. friends and family have continually checked regarding my birth family reunions, mothers day, my moms anniversary. to be honest, it’s been A LOT. not bad a lot. but A LOT. over the past few days, as busy as I have made myself, I have had time to reflect on the reality of my life; where it stands now.

new family. missed family. people who get to fit in. people who are missing out.

this anniversary has been different from the rest.

I get to RETELL my story.

I get to RELIVE the love I have for my mom.

I get to REMEMBER the amazing memories but I also get to remember the trauma and hard times that have led me right here. all crucial steps in the grieving process.

the dust has settled. apprehension has lessened. I decided to torture myself by looking at photo albums my dad brought on his last visit here.

i’ve been so worried about forgetting her. forgetting our connection. forgetting her personality. forgetting the sound of her voice. her mannerisms…

…her hand writing. right there in front of me. a trait I haven’t seen in a long long time. I think my heart skipped few too many beats. handwriting seems like an oddly personal attribute these days and here, through and through the pages of these albums she’s narrating our life memories; illustrating her love for traveling + adventure.

then, to see my name in her handwriting filled my body with so much love. which was the most perfect way to close out this month of moms + memories.

this weekend as given me a different perspective about my past. it may just be for this anniversary but this is the one I need to worry about now. guys, ask me questions because i want to answer them. it’s okay to see me cry. it’s okay if you want to cry. it’s okay to feel the pain but to remember I am still healing. it’s okay to give myself grace. 18 years later.

be brave.

today.

today is my first year celebrating MY birth mom. the fact that I got to text her today is overwhelming + unimaginable. today is bringing up very surprising emotions for me- joy, happiness, excitement, peace yet sadness, guilt.

is it hers?

is it mama L’s?

is it my own?

is it my moms?

i’ve thought about my birth mom for my whole life. I’ve thought about this celebration as a potential. here I am left with many tears and zero words.

still processing all of this.

still sifting through my thoughts + emotions.

the most common word flooding my mind:

thankful.

thankful for her decision.

thankful for my life.

thankful for this reunion.

thankful for her bravery.

thankful for her honesty.

thankful for her openness.

thankful for her story.

thankful for her.

today, I know her favorite colors are turquoise and cobalt blue.

today, I know her favorite flower are sunflowers.

today, I know her favorite food is mexican.

today, I know she has a sweet tooth verses salty taste buds.

today she knows I am thinking of her and I know she is thinking of me.

today is much more than I thought it would be.

be brave.

may first two thousand and eighteen.

I know WHAT was just said but it hasn’t sunk in WHO it was with…

I spent a lifetime dreaming, three weeks in suspense and here we are.

investigating. connecting dots. searching. asking questions. playing detective. a lot of this I had set out for yet it also fell into my lap.

i have written many blog posts “to her”… and as I write this one I can’t believe I know she will read it. on purpose. most importantly, I can tell her. I can call her. I can text her. I can update her.

she revealed our story to my ears. mother to daughter, daughter to mother… she opened her heart. she gave me answers. she asked her questions. I heard sadness and relief. I felt grateful and thanked her.

she loves me. she thinks about me. she misses me. she is proud of me. all of this I officially know and is no longer a segway to find peace or distraction to make sense of what I never knew.

we laughed the same laugh. we shared our strengths and weaknesses. she updated me on current life and explained her past. we both loved dolly’s and playing teacher. we both struggled with our academics. we both have wavy hair. all in 2 hours. I didn’t want to stop talking and I didn’t want to stop listening.

to know her biggest struggle was my biggest blessing. I told her, yet I can’t reiterate enough, that she changed my life. she may not believe me yet but I will help her to find the confidence to truly believe that. her decision to place set me up for success, love, strength, hope. sometimes it can be hard to see that but I am proof that that is the case.

so much i want to divulge about our conversation but i’m guarding it with my whole heart. so many hearts involved. so many eyes reading. so many emotions unfolding. reality starting to sink in.

we are both open. open to see what’s next. open to navigate this new beginning with each other.

I found her. I found my birth mother.

be brave.

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dear mom + dad.

when I give Brooklyn my blessing to find her bio family when she is ready, like you gave us, I want to reassure her to never forget me. never forget our inside jokes, nicknames, favorite time of day to cuddle. I want her to know she can always lean on me if the road to her biological past gets bumpy, blurry or seems untouchable.

through my journey, I never want you two to feel like i’m forgetting you. that i am needing something more. nothing will ever be replaced. nothing will be lost. never forgotten.

I have never been more grateful for the life you have given me. the opportunities because of your endless love and huge hearts. the lessons I learned through trial and error and through your stories and experiences, will trickle down to my kids, biological or adopted.

mom, I want to be exactly like you. you were my best friend. I was scared as hell of you because you were so strong + independent + vocal. you were strict but loving. you were protective. you have been gone for almost 18 years, more than half my life, and I still can remember the softness of your hands and they way you wiped your mouth during meals.

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dad, I look up to you. your passion to live for other people above yourself is a quality that’s inspiring. you bend over backwards for people and never expect anything in return. you know how rare that is especially these days, right? you have taught me to never give up even when all the health and emotional obstacles hit me like a ton of bricks. you have been a huge advocate when I was struggling in school and my rock when i got my heart broken for the first time. being left to raise two teens girls on your own was no easy task but you always stood tall and loved so big. the love that you have shown Brooklyn is nothing short of natural and welcoming.

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no matter where this road leads me, to immediate blood or farther down the lineage, it’s because of you guys and the way you raised me that I can handle what’s ahead of me. you have taught me and prepared me for this part of my life. I will still need you; I will still want you, whether long distance over the phone or through my prayers to heaven.

you both are literally impossible to replace now and forever.

be brave.

do I even really exist?

it sounds dramatic, I know. but do I? after getting court order approved to unseal my file from archives I discovered my file is missing.

yup.

gone.

missing.

untraceable.

no where to be found.

the first question that comes to mind is how in the world can this happen? my second question was “is this common?” I have always labeled my life events as uncommon. not typical. not normal. from adoption to house burning down to witnessing and experiencing my mothers death to premature labor of my son to diagnosis of rare autoimmune to our failed match etc. (all while leaving out other large and small details). not sure why I was so surprised that this was yet another part of my journey that had an “uncommon hiccup”.

I have to be honest, this STUNG. it brought me to fear. it brought me to regret. it brought me to my knees. it brought me to tears. I have never felt like I didn’t belong until now. I have never felt empty until now. I had no idea this was a thing. Going into this I thought my “worse case scenario” was that I would get a basic file and no reunion. the reality is I could walk away from all of this with nothing. no information and no way of getting information.

all of this has left me so confused. mainly because from the beginning I haven’t been able to answer the common asked question, “why now? why are you searching now?” so currently I feel like “ya, why did I!?; why now?”

what I find most bizarre is most my childhood/adult life, I have always told people (including myself) that my adoption was so closed it was basically like my file did not exist… ironic huh? I wasn’t sure how to explain “closed adoption” especially with zero information regarding my adoption. since my adoption didn’t take place through an agency I thought my options were very more limited. I found this to be the best way (or potential excuse) to admit that I couldn’t (didn’t want) acquire information. I put those terms in parentheses because these are unexpected emotions that are coming up during this process that I am currently trying to work through even on paper.

A missing file doesn’t mean the journey is over. thankfully we have a plan b. I am so happy and relieved (still terrified and a tiny bit pessimistic) this isn’t the end. as much as I want to stop at times, I am not one to give up.

plus, its hard to give up when I have such an amazing support system rallying behind me. encouraging me to be encouraged. pushing me to keep moving forward aside from this bump in the road. reminding me that this is just one more piece of my puzzle. my tribe is validating that it is okay to be SAD; to be discouraged. we are recognizing that this is a unique journey. the unknown is scary. But turning around is not an option.

I do exist.

I do have history.

I am loved.

be brave.

“courage is the commitment to begin without the guarantee of success.”