I stood before the panel of judges eagerly answering each question and hoped to show them why I should be the next Miss Mississippi by the end of the 10-minute interview. After a fair share of political inquiries, one judge interrupted the conversation and commanded, “Describe to me your life in one word.” I stood there stumped. It is rather difficult to transition from discussing climate change to choosing a singular expression to describe the one topic I know better than anyone. “Miracle.” Luckily, my mouth was working faster than my brain could process at the time and provided an answer that I believe my soul had been searching for my entire existence.
No, I do not have an unbelievable, novel-worthy story of adoption. It is just that my biological mother’s bravery and selflessness moved her soul to choose a family to raise me that could love me comfortably and wholeheartedly. That family gave me a second chance at life to dream boundlessly and pursue confidently. That, to me, is grounds for the title of a miracle.
As the title of this little collection of words suggests, however, the miracle of adoption can come with its fair share of internal battles. And maybe all miracles do, but I am here to say I have fallen victim to this cyclical conundrum of irrational “adopted-kid overthinking-syndrome.” I wish what little cleverness I possess developed a better name than that, but here we are. Adoptive parents, foster parents, or those seeking to adopt, listen up. You could go your entire life/experience with adoption and not know that your precious child whom you provided this miracle to feels the way I often did growing up with the humbling knowledge of how my life came to be. Why won’t you ever know? Because we are ashamed to feel and think such a way, not wanting to worry or break the hearts of those who parented us.
What are these thoughts and feelings of adopted-kid-overthinking syndrome (gag) you may ask? Here is what they don’t tell you about miracles, more specifically, the miracle of adoption…
The Feeling of Unworthiness
Who knew that adoption came with an extra, free voice in your head that has a lifetime warranty? This voice also comes with a lifetime supply of making you feel unworthy or undeserving of something as beautiful as adoption. I spent much of my young adulthood feeling this. With opportunity after opportunity—performance gigs, college tours, endless encouragement to turn dreams into attainable goals—provided by my loving parents, I became even more overwhelmed with the thought that I deserved none of it. Why me? Why did I deserve such love, such grace? Why did they become my parents? I did nothing to be worthy of such a gift as this. Yes, it sounds crazy, especially now that I put it into words. That is truly how I felt for much of my life, because the power and beauty of adoption is that extraordinary. No matter if you do or do not recognize this in your child or in yourself, I encourage you take a step back and realize that a tree has roots for a reason. Root yourself in the knowledge that this life… this miracle is yours, and no one can take that away from you.
Nature v. Nurture (and the disconnection that follows)
Another argument. Another identity crisis. Another struggle of trying to explain how I
was feeling. It is like my breath released a thought I have had strangling me for so long.
“Mama, I cannot feel complete as a person if I do not know where I come from or who I
am.” I am a big psychology nerd, so it is no surprise that I am fascinated by the role of nature and nurture in the building of a human being. I feel like those who are adopted get a firsthand look at how the two shape a person. It isn’t easy, though. This may be experienced more by individuals with more closed adoptions, but there has always been a part of me that has felt incomplete, pieces of my puzzle missing. I am not alone in this, I know.
Why am I the way that I am? Why do I do this differently than my adopted parents? Why am I good at this and terrible at that? If I only knew more about where I am from, I could explain my behaviors or even my ambitions. For many of us, the curiosity lingers always. Sometimes that curiosity—the questioning of the role of nature and nurture in your own life—causes a disconnect between the people that made that miracle happen. There becomes a slight tinge of a very dangerous thought: I wonder if that disconnect would disappear if there was a biological connection. Does that make a difference?
After years of battling this incomplete self-image that bred various levels of disconnection in my life, the answer is no. It does not make a difference. It should not make a difference. In fact, nature and nurture are entirely dependent on each other to create personhood, and every person is essentially a composition of all the people that dance in and out of his or her life with the help strand of his or her DNA that connect a person to their biological family. So, maybe the inevitable emphasis of nature and nurture that the miracle of adoption creates does not hinder the journey to find one’s whole self. Maybe it just extends the time it takes for the “tree”—whose roots are grounded in being worthy of this miracle—to grow into what it's intended to become.
“You don’t have to do a thing for us to be proud of you.” If I had a nickel for every time I heard this quote from my parents, I would be at least a millionaire by now. As comforting and empowering as the reassurance is and has been, there is a pressure that comes with making the most with this second chance at life. I spent (let’s face it, I still do) much of my life trying to do and be everything under the sun to prove that my biological parents’ and adoptive parents’ selfless decision worthwhile. This particular miracle comes with a self-induced burden to make those who planted this miracle proud. As a parent, you may witness this by a child’s own high expectations of school performance, a stab at being the best at every activity he or she participates in, or a total crushing of the heart when your child disappoints you. I exhibited all three and still do at times.
What do you do as a parent when your child feels this way? It may take an infinite number of attempts, but the kind of reassurance that my parents continually give me will slowly relieve the pressure that masks the unavoidable beauty of adoption. Because here is what they truly do not tell you about the miracle of adoption. Yes, there are feelings of unworthiness. Yes, a fear of disconnection can occur while deciphering role of nature and nurture in finding oneself. And yes, there is a pressure that comes with embracing this second chance. But all of that is quickly overcome by the fruit that adoption bears from a tree rooted in worthiness, with branches intertwined by the relationship of nature and nurture filled with life-giving leaves of reassurance. Adoption is a miracle for all involved, and those who experience it are granted a unique ability to plant to small miracles in the world around us. I truly believe that is the calling of those who are lucky enough to have such a beautiful miracle as adoption in their life.
Guest Blogger- Tanner Fant, an adoptee and Miss Mississippi