Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of self-harm that may be triggering to some.
“Love takes strength. Adoption takes courage. Self-love takes compassion. Adopting oneself takes commitment.
Ever since I could understand a word of English, I knew I was adopted. Yet it took me nearly 33 years to learn how to love and adopt myself. My story of growing into who I am today is quite a fairy tale, filled with several challenging moments I learned to live through, then accept, heal, and ultimately, learn to love the lessons that each of them brought me.
The process of adopting myself was one of learning to accept and love me for me. It all started with how I came to be. I had an open adoption arranged before I was born, and every time I think of how synchronistic it all was, I feel filled with gratitude and chills. There are many times in life where we think we know how something will work out, and then suddenly, it manifests in a completely different way. When we surrender and let go of trying to control what we are powerless over, beautiful things magically happen. One of my favorite examples of that is my adoption story.
My parents fell in love in the halls of USC Law School and after experiencing challenges with getting pregnant the ‘old-fashioned way,’ they began to look into adoption. They found a lawyer who advised them to, ‘Send your resume to doctors in Colorado and New Mexico to see if they’d know of a birthmother considering adoption for her child.’ Their one page resume printed on thick card-stock consisted of a side-by-side photo of them in their colorful 1980’s oversized cable knit sweaters with my dad rocking a baby afro and my mom a perm, a brief description about them, and a beautiful baby-themed hand drawing around it which was designed by my Aunt Tita, my mom’s sister. Each resume was hand painted by my mom before she sent them out, sending over 200 resumes while saying a prayer of hope for a baby each time she sealed the letter and sent it off into the world.
Time passed, the leaves changed, the snow fell atop the mountains, a new year was rung in, and my parents still hadn’t received any call backs from the resumes they sent out and were beginning to feel a bit tireless and hopeless, not entirely sure what to do next. Then out of the blue, my mom received a phone call from my Aunt Tita that changed all of our lives forever. My aunt said, ‘A young woman I know from friends at the flower shop is pregnant and looking for a family to adopt. I asked if she would give your resume for her consideration.’ A few days later, my dad received a phone call from a flustered doctor asking, who he was and where we found my birth mother. It turned out the doctor had already chosen a different family for me to be adopted into, but my birth mother loved my Aunt Tita so much she was adamant I be adopted into this family.
My parents had 2 short month to prepare for my arrival. They excitedly flew up to Redding from Los Angeles to greet me into this world, but I wasn’t ready to let go of my birth mother, so I made them and the whole family anxiously wait an extra week. And then, on Buddha’s birthday, I chose to enter this world. From stories I’ve heard, my birth mother held me for several hours after I was born, walked me to the window and told me about Redding, my birthplace. That day I also had the honor of meeting my parents and at just 2 days old, a flight attendant placed my first set of wings on my baby blanket as my parents and I flew home to Los Angeles. 7 months later, 14 family members stood in a judge’s chamber with me where I was officially adopted.
I am relieved there isn’t one moment in my memory where I suddenly realized I was adopted. I was told since the day I was born, and besides ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad,’ the next word I said or understood was probably ‘adoption.’ I am extremely grateful my parents chose to raise me by transparently telling me about my adoption from birth, as their choice in being honest has aided and supported my journey of understanding what adoption is, and being open with exploring how I really feel about being an adoptee. I feel if I had learned I was adopted later in life, it would have been very mentally and emotionally challenging for me to handle and comprehend.
Adoption gifted me the most beautiful life I could have ever imagined living and at the same time the relinquishment, although as smooth, loving, and gentle as humanly possible, was a traumatic experience which planted a seed in my subconscious mind I was taken or I was a victim. Finding safety in chaos later played out as me sometimes unintentionally being the one to create the chaos or drama because it felt safe.
Fear of abandonment used to pour through my veins. I recall moments as a child being so abundantly supported and loved by my family, yet still questioning if one day someone would knock on the front door and say that they were taking me back. Growing up, my parents would say, ‘Ali, you’re adopted, and we love you,’ which as a child, made me feel special, unique, different, loved, and supported. However, I also felt like that was the end of the conversation.
Although I knew my parents and family were doing the best they could to remain open about how I felt, they simply couldn’t understand because they weren’t adopted. Relating to my adoption, I experienced joy, sadness, confusion, happiness, anger, shame, grief, abandonment, and frustration. I kept to myself, though, because there weren’t other adoptees in my life for me to talk to to let me know they felt the same and my feelings were valid.
I view adoption as a beautiful, sacred exchange that is filled with love, trauma, pain, grief, joy, confusion, and unanswered questions. As one family is formed, the first family is grieved, sometimes never to be spoken to again. Trauma can only be defined by the person experiencing it. A newborn baby can experience trauma and while not every adoptee associates the primal wound of being separated from their birth mother as a trauma for them, I do. Studies have shown adoptees are four times more likely to be challenged with substance abuse and four times more likely to commit suicide than non-adoptees. I’ve been there, I’ve lived through it, and I’ve supported fellow adoptees in moving through those difficult times. I believe anything can be healed as I have learned how to heal parts of myself while being on a committed lifelong healing journey.
Growing up as a left-handed adoptee with a gap between my front teeth, a head shaped like a heart from a large widow’s peak, and having reached 6 feet tall by 11 years old, I knew I was born to stand out, but I didn’t enjoy being made fun of or not ‘fitting in’ because of it. Every time I was bullied, I felt shame for who I was and I chose to cover it up with a smile. Around age 16, I felt highly irritable and unstable when I began to email with my birth mother, which transformed into an identity crises. I had so many questions for her yet was hesitant to ask because I fear my questions would scare her away. I felt like I needed to choose who I was yet didn’t know what that meant or how to navigate what I was experiencing.
I engaged in self-harm just to get attention, resulting in me being diagnosed with depression when I was really just suppressing how I truly felt and not able to communicate what I was actually experiencing. My lack of emotional intelligence, clear communication, and fears of abandonment and rejection got the best of me in my teens and early 20’s, as I became a total chameleon and abandoned myself and my desires just to be accepted by others because I was scared. I thought if I was my full authentic self, I wouldn’t be accepted, liked, or loved. It was exhausting and I constantly felt like I was walking on eggshells.
6 and a half years ago, through a series of unfortunate events, my entire life changed when I experienced an awareness of consciousness, which I refer to as a spiritual awakening. Just 9 short months after my best friend Eden suddenly passed away from cancer, I ended up having a massive liver surgery that shook me to my core and changed my life for the better. As an adoptee with nearly perfect health my entire life, I was always curious about my biological medical history so when I moved through this health scare, I suddenly realized how little I actually knew about my own DNA. To make a long story short, there was a cyst in my liver blocking my bile ducts and after an 8 and a half hour surgery, I woke up with a peace sign shaped scar across my entire abdomen and learned half my liver and my gall bladder were removed. I was told, ‘You are one in 200 cases reported in the world for this type of cyst and surgery. We have no idea how the cyst formed.’
I choose to view human life through the lens of spirit and energy. When we don’t deal with something in the spiritual realm, it manifests into the mental and emotional realms, and if we still don’t give it the attention it needs, it will then manifest in the physical. That is exactly what happened with the anger and shame I held onto from my relinquishment and from the abusive relationship I was in. I had been suppressing a huge amount of anger, resentment, irritability, frustration, and bitterness for years, all of which are emotions that we humans tend to store in our liver and gallbladder. That surgery gifted me a greater perspective on life and I no longer fear death. As I went through the motions of my own near-death experience, I had no other choice but to surrender and to trust. It took me several years to trust myself and body again, which was another phase of adopting myself.
2 years ago, I chose to start dating myself with the intention to release behavioral patterns I felt were preventing me from being in healthier relationships. Time to myself has been the greatest gift I’ve ever chosen to give myself, as it has allowed me to fully choose, prioritize, and love myself more. Although being relinquished gifted me a beautiful life and loving family it also caused me to question my worth. I continue to experience what feels like a never ending longing to be held by my birth mother or to hear her voice again. After 10 years of therapy and various healing modalities along my journey of introspection, I’ve finally been able to land my feet on solid ground and give that motherly love I’ve needed to myself.
As an adoptee, I’ve been forced to accept countless unanswered questions along with biological family members not desiring to grow in relation with me. It’s taken me a long time to no longer take those decisions personally and learn to accept them for being just as they are. I constantly ask myself, ‘How can I find love for someone when they aren’t showing me love?’ And then I magically find more love to share. Even with the challenges I’ve faced with life post-adoption, I still view my adoption as a beautiful gift. I wouldn’t be me without adoption, and I look forward to adopting one day, if that’s how my spirit guides me.
I traveled the world searching for home in other people and other places until I found a home within myself. The challenging circumstances I faced shifted me into being on a journey of introspection into deep inner healing to learn how to find acceptance and unconditional love for who I was, who I am, and prioritize who I am becoming. This path led me to fulfill my greater purpose of serving and supporting others on their healing journeys by guiding them to find home within themselves through love.
I am honored to share a brief synopsis of my story and how I moved from victim consciousness into self-empowerment. Shifting from victim consciousness doesn’t happen overnight It’s a process and the more awareness we bring to the narrative in our minds, the more we’re able to grow from it. More of my story and the tools that helped me will be shared in my upcoming book “How To ADOPT YOURSELF: A Self-Healing Guide to Rediscover, Accept, and Love the Real You” which is in the process of being channeled and birthed as you read this.
My suggestions in how to support anyone in your life who is adopted is to simply listen and co-create spaces for them to share without assuming you can relate to their experience in any form. Just listen. Only adoptees know what it feels like to be adopted and that’s why it’s so important for us to be in community with one another, to mentor one another, and to support each other throughout our entire lives. I am honored to facilitate spirit guided human care for adoptees and non-adoptees through counseling, coaching, Reiki, and soon to be Hypnotherapy as well.
I offer a weekly Adoptee Support Group and I am co-creating more spaces for adoptees and fellow members of our adoption triad to come together in community by healing in relation with one another. It’s imperative we have opportunities to feel seen, heard, loved, understood, appreciated, and respected by fellow adoptees and adoption triad members. For many adoptees, we do not have the chance of being in relationship with our biological families, so the more we’re able to speak to other biological parents, especially birth mothers, the more we’re able to heal from old stories or limiting beliefs that are no longer serving us, our growth, or our desired embodiment of unconditional love for ourselves or others. To any adoptee on the path to reunion: take your time, honor your journey as yours, there is no rush, listen to your intuition, do not force anything, and let go of any expectations, assumptions, and outcomes.
To whomever is reading this, I see you. Thank you for being you. You matter. You are enough. You are supported. You are loved. This is your reminder that none of us are perfect, we’re all perfectly imperfect and the more we are able to accept our imperfections the happier and freer we will be. Remember that you are whole, healed, and healing. Take a deep breath, pause and smell the flowers, give a bear hug to a tree, walk barefoot on a hike, and give yourself permission to fully feel whatever you’re feeling, Look in the mirror and tell yourself you love yourself, even if you don’t fully feel it yet. One day you will, trust me.
Love before us, love behind us, love above us, love below us, love beside us, love is here.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ali Jameson from Los Angeles. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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