I never want my son growing up feeling ashamed of his love or desire to know his biological family.
In my wildest dreams, he would grow up as whole as possible, knowing it is absolutely okay...even encouraged...to talk about, celebrate, think about, have a relationship with and wonder about his biological family.
I am confident there is more than enough room in his heart to both wonder what life would have been like if he grew up with his first mom and simultaneously love us as his family.
Today I have the privilege of sharing with you a sacred piece by Rebecca. This is a piece of an adoption story, Rebecca's adoptee story.
I never want to be in a space where I shut out and shut down the voices of adoptees (or people of color), because maybe it's a little uncomfortable. My friend Angela Tucker always says we must get comfortable with the discomfort. It's part of adoption and if you aren't willing to get uncomfortable for the sake of your child and his/her birth family...maybe wait to consider adoption.
Thank you for sharing a piece of your story, Rebecca. May we respect you, revere you, and lift up the voices of adoptees. May we listen and hear and be transformed.
In 1986, a 24 year old mother of two with a heroin addiction and a history of mental illness got pregnant with her third child.
I was born Destiny Anne Ronquillo on November 20, 1986.
Despite having drugs in my system at birth, I slipped through the cracks of social services and went home with my birth mother. By four months old, I experienced drug withdrawal, two prolonged hospitalizations—due to meningitis and E.coli—and my mother’s failure to stay in my life for more than a few weeks.
After yet another encounter with law enforcement that ended with her facing a year long prison term, she signed custody of me over to my grandparents with the understanding that they would keep me until she got out of prison.
My grandparents were exhausted from raising my two older siblings and were unwilling to take on the responsibility of a newborn.
My parents had been in a relationship for sometime, and though they both parented other children, I was the only child they had together.
My dad went to prison in the first few months of my life, and his family, including my paternal grandparents, was completely excluded from the conversation about where I would go and who would take care of me once my mom was incarcerated.
Meanwhile, my adoptive parents had recently adopted a set of twins from an international adoption agency in Guatamala. They were contemplating adoption again when at a Tupperware party, my adoptive mom met someone who knew my biological grandma.
Somehow it came up that I was available for adoption, and my biological grandparents contacted my adoptive parents. Because it was a private adoption, normal adoption protocol wasn’t followed. In fact, my adoptive parents had physical custody of me before they even secured a lawyer.
There was also fear of interference from my paternal birth family, so much so, that finding a lawyer was difficult because they knew that it was likely that my adoption would be contested.
I was adopted in an era where the majority of adoptive parents were told that infant adoption was a baby with a clean slate, and there was no need to educate yourself on the realities of trauma, the effects of being separated from your genetic family, or the importance of celebrating your child’s birth culture.
As a result, my parents’ approach to any questions about ethnicity or family or origin that I may have asked were always met with shrugs, declarations of “Well we don’t know what you are,” or defensiveness and dismissals.
All I wanted was to be told that it was normal to wonder about my family of origin, and that the deep longing I had to fit in was completely acceptable for someone who had been ripped away from their birth family and thrust into one who didn’t look or act anything like them.
The biggest thing that my parents couldn’t seem to understand was that my feelings towards my birth family didn’t change my feelings for them at all. In the same way that they could love me without being my genetic family, I could love them and my genetic family at the same time.
I met my mom in a McDonald’s parking lot in the desert.
I was 27 years old and had been searching for her since I was 11.
The search for my parents began in the early years of the internet in the computer lab at my Elementary School. I had written my parents names on a piece of paper and hidden it in the bloomers of one of my dolls for safe keeping.
During a study period, I googled the name I was given at birth and to my shock my original birth certificate appeared.
I was terrified of someone finding out because I knew that my adoptive parents were not comfortable with my questions and literally recoiled at the idea that I wanted to know about my birth family.
I told a classmate what I had found, and she promptly told the teacher.
I was grounded almost immediately.
Honesty and transparency are necessary when parenting adopted children, and at that time no one was educating prospective adoptive parents of this need.
Unfortunately, they were simply driven by their own insecurities and misinformation.
I know they did the the best they could, but despite that, I struggled with depression, self harm, and suicidal thoughts for most of my adolescence because I constantly felt out of place both with my family and the world as a whole.
Only when I discovered my roots did I begin to make peace with the world and my place in it.
As a product of closed adoption, it was hard to build a relationship with my 6 biological siblings. We were raised in totally different cultures, in different states, and in the case of my older brother, mostly by the California Youth Authority after my grandparents surrendered him as a ward of the state at age 11.
I often wonder how our relationships would be if we had been given the opportunity to know each other growing up, and if some of the trauma we carry would be alleviated by the knowledge that we knew where and who each other were.
My journey in finding my birth family has also allowed me to make peace with the family who raised me.
It has helped me to understand that they were victims of an adoption culture that taught them I wouldn’t ever need to know my own story, I could assimilate into their culture, or that I wouldn’t be missed by my birth family.
Raising healthy adoptees is possible, but it has to be done in a way that honors both the messy and the magnificent parts of their story.
We have to be brave enough to face our own insecurities and embrace that where they started and who they started life with are just as important as the people that raise them.
Rebecca Dolan is a self described “glitter enthusiast and friend of the unicorns.” She is a 31 year old Portland, Oregon native who married a southern man and now lives in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a transracial, adult adoptee in reunion with her birth family. Passionate about ethical adoption, adoptee rights and family preservation, she is building a family through foster parenting with her bearded wonder of a husband. When not working in pediatric healthcare, she spends time cooking for friends, reading all the books and drinking all the coffees.
During the month of February, I am going to be sharing more pieces from other voices than my own. Don't miss any more posts, these are valuable.