Before reading what sweet Momsanity Sister Alissa Murph shares about the reality of what it’s like to be adopted, I ask you to pause. Stop and think of those that are adopted or adoptive in your life. Are you picturing those faces and their lives? What you’re about to read is emotional and perhaps uncomfortable. So easily we view adoption as nothing-but-redemptive, but there is an underside that can prevail, as sweet Alissa so transparently reveals.
I introduce you to Alissa.
ARE YOU MY MOTHER?
I was sneaky… like really sneaky… and super curious. As a little girl, I remember pilfering through files and papers that my parents had brought home from the safety deposit box to organize. I was frantically searching for something important… something missing… something I felt like I couldn’t live without. I was searching for my identity.
- Where did I come from?
- Who did I come from?
- Who do I look like?
- What is my medical history?
- Where do my mannerisms come from?
- Do I have siblings?
- If so, do they know about me?
Those questions, and countless others, ran like a playlist on repeat in the back of my mind throughout my childhood, into my teen years, and even into adulthood. My parents were wise in telling me that I was adopted early on, so I always knew. I knew that they loved me and that they chose me, but I also knew that I did not come from my mother’s womb. In addition, I was quite aware that I didn’t resemble my family members the way my friends did theirs. It sounds like an insignificant thing, but to me, it wasn’t.
Remember the children’s book by P.D. Eastman, Are You My Mother? I recall being able to relate to the little bird, and I’m pretty sure I had my mom read it to me over and over again. Of course, I never said why. In case you haven’t read it, a baby bird is about to hatch out of his egg, so his mother dutifully flies off to find him something to eat. Upon entering the world, the little bird stands up, looks around, and says, “Where is my mother?” He looks up and down for her but does not see her, so he decides to leave his nest in search of her.
“‘Now, I will go and find my mother,’ he said. He did not know what his mother looked like. He went right by her. He did not see her. He came to a kitten. ‘Are you my mother?,’ he said to the kitten. The kitten just looked and looked. It did not say a thing. The kitten was not his mother, so he went on.”
The poor little bird then bravely approaches a hen, a dog, a cow, a boat, and an airplane, questioning each one, “Are you my mother?” At one point, he becomes exasperated and exclaims,
“I did have a mother. I know I did. I have to find her. I will. I will!”
Of course, the story ends happily and he is reunited with his loving mother.
Oftentimes, adoptees fantasize about who their birthparents might be. I was no exception.
“He did not know what his mother looked like. He went right by her. He did not see her.”
Is she famous? Is she someone I know? Is she my friend’s mother who happens to also have red hair? I had no idea and that drove me crazy!
“I have to find her. I will. I will!”
I also fantasized about what she thought of me and what a reunion with her might look like. Does she also look around out in public for me? Does she think about me every day? Does she miss me? Why did she not keep me? Does she even love me? I would eventually discover some of those answers, but not all, for she had passed away by the time I finished my search for her.
One thing I did not discover until I was in my thirties was that, because of being adopted, I had major rejection and abandonment issues. You see, I was always the “good little adoptee.” I was “chosen” and I knew not to talk to anyone about how, in a way, that made me sad. In the back of my mind, I knew that in order to be chosen by one mother and father, I HAD to have been rejected by another mother and father. My hunch was that society would say, “Why would you even think about your birthparents when you have these parents who love you dearly, took you in, and are doing everything for you? You ungrateful, selfish, immature little adoptee!” No one ever said those words to me (that I can remember,) but they were implied at some point, enough to get me to keep my mouth shut and feelings locked up.
My rejection and abandonment issues reared their ugly heads in a variety of ways at different times. I remember looking back at my late teen years and noticing a pattern. For about four years in a row, with no apparent reason, I broke up with my boyfriend right before my birthday. It may sound crazy, but in essence, I believe my subconscious was exclaiming, “I’m going to reject you before you even have a chance to reject me on the day I was rejected!” I now know that I wasn’t “rejected” by my birthmother, but as a child, that is how my immature brain made sense of it all.
Speaking of birthdays, many of mine, up until fairly recently, have been extremely difficult. Thankfully, they aren’t anymore because I have had some wonderful counseling and have worked through many things. But think about it… an adoptee is expected to be joyous and excited about celebrating the day that she was separated from the woman who carried her for nine months. Yes, her adoptive parents were overjoyed at the news of her birth, but what about the gut wrenching experience of the birthmother having to hand her baby over to strangers, never to see her again? In fact, my birthmother was not allowed to see or hold me, according to a note I found on my birth records. Of course, every adoptee is different and not all have difficulties on their birthdays, but I know I did and I have heard of many others who have also struggled on that day.
As I mentioned, I have benefitted tremendously from counseling. Initially, my intention was to find a Christian counselor who could help me break free from years of clinical depression. I had no clue that the depression was related to my adoption. After suffering from years of darkness, a good friend asked me if I had ever asked God to reveal the root of my depression. At first, I thought she was crazy because all of the counselors and psychiatrists I had seen had told me that it was chemical. However, out of desperation, I humored her and asked God to reveal the root, if it existed. I did that by praying the following verses every day for a month or so:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)
God showed me that I did, in fact, have abandonment and rejection issues through a listening prayer exercise with my counselor. That is when the real healing began and the depression lifted for good, praise God! I also found my TRUE identity, which is rooted in Christ. I remember being so excited when I realized that I had had the privilege of being adopted twice!
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Eph. 1:4-5 NLT)
What I love about my heavenly adoption is that it did not originate with some sort of loss or rejection. God chose ME, just because He loves me, and it gave Him “great pleasure” to create me. What I love about my earthly adoption is that it has been redeemed and has helped shape me into who I am today. I am eternally grateful for my mother and father who raised me in a Christian home, loved me, advocated for me, and sacrificed a ton for me. I am also eternally grateful for my birthmother who selflessly and lovingly chose to place me with someone who could meet my needs… and there were many when I was a child.
Would I have loved to wrap my arms around my birthmother, thanking her for choosing life for me? Absolutely! Unfortunately, my story did not unfold that way. She died of cancer three years before I finished my five and a half year search. She died, carrying her secret with her that she had only told her sister and her parents.
“I have to find her. I will. I will!”
I may have lost her as soon as I found her, but I DID gain five older siblings on her side who welcomed me into the family with open arms and open hearts, even though they had NOT known about me. My aunt, who cried tears of joy when I called and told her who I was, had the privilege of telling my siblings about me. That was certainly a night to remember, talking to my newfound brothers and sisters for four hours straight on the phone, asking and answering a barrage of questions, learning more about my identity and roots. I am beyond blessed to still be a part of their lives, over twenty years later. Oh, and those questions that I had?…
– Where did I come from?
My birthmother lived in Kingsville, Ohio when she was pregnant with me and my birthfather was from Conneaut, Ohio.
– Who did I come from?
My birthparents were Carol Anne Rutter and Bob Fox.
– Who do I look like?
I look a little like my birthfather when he was younger, my aunt, and my sisters.
– What is my medical history?
I have Grave’s disease, like my birthmother.
– Where do my mannerisms come from?
My birthmother and my aunt… It’s where my love of April Fool’s Day comes from!
– Do I have siblings?
– If so, do they know about me?
Now they do! 🙂
This is a poem that God gave me in 2014 that pretty much sums up my adoption story, as well as a lot of the emotions that go along with it.
I don’t remember the day or the hour,
but I do recall the elusive power,
Of knowing that out there, somewhere unknown
Was the woman, the mother in whose womb I’d grown.
I thought about her day and night,
And prayed and prayed that I just might,
Get to meet her face to face,
And give her a long-awaited sweet embrace.
Out in public, I’d look all around,
Wondering if she could be found,
I searched for a familiar face here and there,
Paying close attention to those with red hair.
While I waited, there were lots of questions…
“Do we look alike or have the same expressions?”
“Does she have the same curiosity?”
Or most of all, “Does she even love me?”
I knew I must keep those questions to myself,
And my feelings of rejection belonged on the shelf.
Because society said, “You were special and chosen,
So keep your mouth shut and your feelings frozen.”
I was grateful to the parents who loved and raised me,
But it wasn’t about them… it was about my desperate plea.
My longing to find the many unknowns
So I could stop guessing and feeling alone.
For years, I begged God, searching to no avail,
knowing deep down that my prayers would prevail,
So after much research and letters and calls,
I finally found the searcher who would end it all.
I sent off to get my birth information,
And when it arrived, I studied the narration.
“Baby Girl Crittenton” stung at my core,
A nameless baby with her mother no more.
On the last page was just what I needed,
The signature of the one who bravely conceded.
I can only imagine what she went through,
As she lived out her secret that just a few knew.
My searcher then found the man she had married,
I called him, trying to hide the secret she’d carried.
When I asked where she was, I was shocked at his answer,
For sadly three years prior, she had died of cancer.
So I told him the truth about how she was my mother,
But he denied it and said it must be some other,
Because the Carol he knew loved her children too deeply,
That to give one away would not have been easy.
I said what I had been taught, that I was just blessed,
That she loved me so much and wanted the best,
But deep down, I heard, “Your mother loved her children…BUT
I’m so sorry to say that YOU did not make the cut.”
I buried that grief for years and years,
Not even knowing that there were tears,
But with some wise counsel, I have learned to grieve,
The one who gave me life, the one I had to leave.
I know that the Enemy has whispered lies in my ear,
About how I’m not wanted, about how I should fear,
Rejection from those who are closest to me,
But I’m here to tell you that God’s setting me free.
He whispers truth to my spirit, telling me I’m wanted,
That I should reject those lies that have keep me haunted,
He tells me that I am chosen, loved, and completely known,
And that HE was the first to call me His own.
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