As the month of November began, a friend of mine, Alexandrea Irby, noted that this was National Adoption Month and welcomed any questions as she is adopted. I jumped at this opportunity because as a previous foster care and child welfare worker and now working with the National Children’s Advocacy Center, I’m always interested in hearing about the positive outcomes of stories involving the child welfare system (foster care, adoptions, child advocacy, etc.). I told Alex I was interested in hearing her story and that I had several questions to ask her, needless to say she was eager and willing to share her story for the blog. Since here at The SRE Lounge we’re about embracing and empowering women and the experiences of women, I thought this story would be perfect to share. Here’s Alex’s story below:
Sherelle: How old were you when you were adopted?
Alex: I was adopted when I was three months old, so really, my whole life. I never knew anyone else to be my parents.
Sherelle: What led to your adoption? (Why were you adopted?)
Alex: I never really knew what led to my adoption until I met my birthmother. My parents (once I learned I was adopted) just told me that God gave me to them and that they loved me. Once I met my birth mother, she informed me that she gave me up for adoption because she could not take care of me and she didn’t want to “lose me”. My mother also told me she prayed the Hannah prayer and God answered. They told me I was special and that they chose me. My mother also told me that my brother even took me to school for show and tell! When the teacher asked what made me so special, the students responded, “Her parents chose her!”
Sherelle: Tell me about the process from what you can remember or what you were told.
Alex: I do not remember anything about the process, but from what I was told by my birth mother, it was difficult for her to let me go. She said she gave me to the social worker and then returned to hold me again. Then she let me go and came back to hold me again. Finally, she held me for the last time and had to leave before she changed her mind. My mother said she remembers taking me home for the first time. She said I held your hand and wouldn’t let go and when they left me for the first time I screamed until they returned. I guess I wasn’t sure if they would come back since I had been left before.
Sherelle: Tell me about your biological parents.
Alex: I only know about my birth mother, who I met in 2008. My mother was very instrumental in helping me locate my birth mother and we even drove ten hours to meet her. My birth mother has four other children, all of whom I’ve met. I hope to meet my biological father one day.
Sherelle: Tell me about your adoptive parents.
Alex: My adoptive parents are amazing! My mother is a social work professor and my father is a fitness trainer and all around handy man. Both my parents were in the military, my mother retired after more than twenty years. My father is a singer and my mother is an amazing cook! I also have one brother who works at a children’s home.
Sherelle: Tell me about your earliest memory (regarding your adoption).
Alex: My earliest memory regarding my adoption was finding a passport with my photo and someone else’s (my birth) name! As you can imagine, I was confused. For a while, I thought maybe I had a twin or something-the thought of being adopted never even crossed my mind. Once it did, however, I became consumed with trying to find my birth mother. I didn’t tell my parents I had found the passport, I would just search the computers while I was at school or summer camp.
Sherelle: Tell me about any struggles you may have had.
Alex: I’ve struggled with the question, “Who Am I?” I have also struggled with feelings of self-worth, love, and acceptance. For a long time, I had the mentality that I would leave people before the left me so that I could be in control since I didn’t have the opportunity when I was young. I struggled with the question of “Why?” Why did my biological mother do this to me? Why did these strangers love me enough to keep me? Would I ever meet my biological mother? I continue to struggle with questions about my future. I wonder will I want to give my child up for adoption, Will I adopt? And if so, will I love her like my parents loved me?
Sherelle: What were some of your difficulties with your biological and/or adoptive parents?
Alex: The difficulties I had with my biological mother stem from, I believe, her unresolved feelings. I can only imagine the emotions she is still wrestling with and this has caused some challenges in our relationship moving forward. My adoptive parents have been supportive throughout the whole process. I think many of the difficulties I had with them were always one-sided. As a teenager, if my parents made me upset, I would think things like, “If I was with my biological mother, I wouldn’t have a curfew!” As absurd as that thinking was, there were very serious times as well. I believe there was some difficulty involved when I began openly searching for my biological mother. Anyone who has raised a child since their “birth” would feel a myriad of emotions as did my mother. We had to make it a point to keep communication open and I constantly and continue to reassure my mother that she has been and will always be my mother no matter what happened.
Sherelle: Growing up did people know you were adopted?
Alex: People to this day do not know I am adopted! I can only say that God literally changed my DNA when He gave me to my parents. I look and act just like my mother, I have the temperament of my father, and I have the whit of my brother. If I didn’t know it myself, I would probably bet money that I was not adopted! However, upon meeting my siblings, specifically my little brother; I was amazed at how much we look alike. There is no denying the relationship there!
Sherelle: How has this experience has shaped you as a woman?
Alex: This experience has shaped every facet of my life. I have always had a desire to adopt and I love children. My adoption even impacted my educational pursuits. My thesis is entitled, “College Students’ Perceptions of Adoption” and I look forward to doing more research on adoption in the future. I am also a member of the National Council for Adoption and look forward to more opportunities with them. I plan to write a book and begin a campaign to raise awareness about adoption and dispelling myths surrounding it.
Sherelle: Would you would ever consider adopting a child yourself?
Alex: I would absolutely adopt! My mission in life is to also encourage others to adopt. I have a personal motto: Adoption is an option. While adoption may not be for everyone, don’t rule it out. There are wonderful children in the world, in our country alone, who just need someone to let them know they matter. That’s my goal.
Sherelle: Anything else you would like to share?
Alex: My adoption has been and continues to be a journey. Being adopted has opened my eyes to so many things. I have been able to connect with people on a very personal level, learned to look past struggles and to start again. Most importantly, I have learned the power of forgiveness and love.
I would like to thank Alex for being so transparent and willing to share her personal story. I think it takes courage for any woman to be vulnerable and open up about anything different, out of the norm, hurtful, painful, etc. that she has experienced. Each of the experiences we have been through in our lives shapes us into the woman we are today and it’s important to understand, accept and embrace whatever experience that may be. Also, by opening up and sharing those experiences with other women, you in turn may be of encouragement or empowering to another woman.
Thanks for reading and as always, until next time…