That teeny, tiny little baby - born from the womb of a woman, by the seed of a man.
That teeny, tiny little baby - born from two people, connected to two people, displaced by two people.
That teeny, tiny little baby - born in her homeland country, so far away from the place she calls home.
That teeny, tiny little baby - born with just a number for her name, longing to know the goodness and gifting that could rise out of her new, “given” name.
That teeny, tiny little baby - born with all the light and life and value that every other teeny, tiny little baby is born with, yet searching…longing…aching…dreaming…for someone to see her, to know her, to find her - to tell her that she matters, to tell her that what happened was really that awful and devastating, to tell her that it wasn’t her fault, to tell her that she was meant to be here from the beginning of time.
Being an adopted person means that my - OUR - story began with loss…of people, of places, of all that was known - in the womb, in the days or weeks or months or years after the womb, before we were adopted. These series of events - the events that happened in order for us to be welcomed by our adoptive families - impacted our brains and bodies and souls.
It’s difficult to connect with, people.
It’s difficult to trust, people.
It’s difficult to be vulnerable with, people.
It’s difficult to forgive, people.
It’s difficult to need, people.
And at the very same time, we desperately WANT to connect and trust and be vulnerable with and forgive, people. We want to feel known, by people. But sometimes, protecting ourselves from feeling hurt feels way less risky than needing people.
And so we have a choice.
The brokenness in our stories can either define us, or make so much possible - not “in spite of” the brokenness, but “because of” the brokenness - if we allow it.
But before we leap ahead to healing and wholeness and hope, we have to find who we are, now, because of all that happened, then. We must go find and name what was lost, so we know what needs to be bought back, redeemed. We must revisit where the ashes lie, so we know where to look for the beauty to rise.
In order to move forwards from a grounded, authentic and true place, we must go backwards.
We can choose to go alone or we can invite others to travel with us. Part of our inward work we have to do alone, with our Creator. That’s the soul healing part. And part of our work we get to do together, with others. That’s the relational repairing part. Our healing and wholeness and hope is profoundly impacted by who we experience “presence” from, of who has the ability and courage and compassion to “enter in” - not just “step in” - to the pain and ache and longings and questions, and send the message:
I see you and I’m going to sit WITH you IN your pain. I’m going to acknowledge that what happened was that bad and that hard and impacts you that deeply. I’m going to feel badly WITH you, not FOR you, on your behalf. I’m not going to rescue or fix or dismiss your pain. I’m going to stay with you, IN it. We will move together, at your pace. We will go backwards when you need to go backwards, and we will go forwards when you’re ready to move forwards. I won’t demand you to be somewhere or someone you’re not. So, take your time because you’re just learning. And so am I. We will move through what’s inside us both - our glad, mad, sad, scared and shame, together.”
And then the beauty of that sacred and soulful space is that the broken and fragmented parts WITHIN and BETWEEN us and our creator, will begin to come together and become something new, something whole, something transformative, something hopeful. And those wounds that were so raw and exposed and bleeding - in each of us - will slowly and gradually become scars - the very scars that we get to show and tell about, together. The very scars that make so much possible, that can birth so much good - in each of us, in our relationships with others and the world.
To the person who happens to be adopted: may you go on the sacred and mysterious journey to find more of you, because you’re worth being found.
And to the adopted person’s parent and friend and advocate: may you have the courage to go on the journey WITH your child or friend, because you are worth being found, too.
I’m confident that the journey towards connection, trust, vulnerability, and forgiveness will change you, will change ALL of us.
And, I’m betting that in this process, you - WE - will find more of who we are, more of who we were created to be, together.
Carissa Woodwyk is a Korean-born adoptee, writer, speaker, counselor/marriage and family therapist, advocate for the human heart. In each of these roles, she offers her story and voice in ways that invite people to connect with themselves, with others, with God. She is a co-author of Before You Were Mine: Discovering Your Adopted Child’s Lifestory. She and her husband have two children and live near Grand Rapids, MI.