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Let me count the ways… 

Ever since the publication of The Goodbye Baby: A Diary about Adoption— I am honoring the importance of November as National Adoption Month. This recognition feels positive, and the publication of my memoir is a way of bringing the month alive.

Elaine and her favorite baby.

My November focus on adoption has brought a seismic shift in attitude. Rather than something to hide, adoption is now a status to acknowledge, embrace, explore and celebrate. After years of playing down my growing up as an adoptee, I am now highlighting it. In the process, I have become aware of how many variations exist around the word “adoption.”

First of all, the adoption of a child is usually considered a positive action, bringing a young child from instability to security. From foster care (or no care at all) to a home with Mom and Dad, two Mommies or two Daddies or a single parent. It might be an aunt and uncle, grandparents or even neighbors who take in the orphaned or unwanted. But the point is that the child has a better chance in life with a parent or parents who choose to take on parenting.

I’m not saying that all adoptions are totally successful. Sometimes the child’s invisible injuries, feelings of abandonment, unanswered questions or feelings of inadequacy never heal. Still, there is hope.  I recently attended an adoption discussion group that included members from every part of the triad: birthparents, adoptees, and adoptive parents.  It seemed that participants were disappointed about failed communication, painful misunderstandings or less than wonderful reunions.

The Author with her favorite youngster

On the other hand, the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters in the meeting were supportive and understandingtoward one another. Stories were shared and support was abundant. The group members “adopted” each other and provided comfort.

Perhaps adoption is only as positive as the adoptee makes it. Personally, I’ve expanded my idea of adoption. When I awaken in the morning, I choose to adopt an “attitude of gratitude.” Most days, I walk for an hour or hike in the mountains, taking in the lovely northern New Mexico scenery. I find myself energized and inspired, having “adopted” nature around me.

When deer wander into the back yard to enjoy apples that have fallen from my beneficent tree, I symbolically “adopt” them. The two magnificent bucks I’ve named “Jake” and “Fred” were recently jousting, heads down, right outside my living room window. I never get over my surprise at these visitors from the forest. Could it be that they have “adopted” me rather than the other way around?

Jake, the deer who came to dinner.

What I have learned this November is that life is far richer than I thought possible. The adoption that happened to me at the beginning set my life in motion. For the first two thirds of that life, I suffered feelings of abandonment. As I’ve mentioned in previous essays, I finally decided to “adopt” myself. I shook off chains of the past and started to live in the present. It may sound overly dramatically, but it’s true.

A question for adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents interested in a whole month dedicated to adoption: What are YOU learning from this focus? What are YOUR possibilities?