Sixteen years ago, I received the greatest Christmas gift any child could ask for—a family. I was an orphan for the first five years of my life. However, each year, December 21 provides joy and gratitude for another year of life. Nevertheless, it can bring some tough emotions as well. While my adoption is a wonderful gift in my life, my history can be a tough pill to swallow sometimes.
Many times, people ask me questions about my adoption. To be honest, unlike my disability, it can be quite difficult for me to talk about it some days. All these years later, I am still trying to understand the impact it had on me. However, today I will answer some of the most common questions. Maybe, in the process, I can begin to make sense of it myself.
First and foremost, I am the middle of five children, all of whom were adopted from foreign nations. As I have briefly mentioned before, I am from Sterlitamak, Russia, which is located in the southwestern portion of the nation. I can never point out the city on a map, though. I quite literally had to Google the location just now. This is relevant because I tend to block out any portion of my life that relates to my adoption.
I tend to block out any portion related to my adoption, due to lies I have led myself to believe are the truth. To fully understand this, I need to explain the cultural upbringing orphans have in Russia. That began the moment I was born. My biological mother left me in the hospital the day I was born. Two days later, she signed away her maternal rights. A nurse took me to the local orphanage in Sterlitamak.
Although I do not know if the cultural standards have changed, this is how the nation viewed orphans sixteen years ago. When I was born, orphans were considered a disgrace to the nation. No mother dare tell anyone her child is an orphan. The nation wanted nothing to do with orphans. In my orphanage and most others, if a child was not adopted by the age of five, he or she was considered mentally insane. That child then went to a mental institute and was tied to a bed, where he or she stayed until the age of 18 before being thrown out on the streets.
Hearing that alone made it extremely difficult to accept my adoption, but it also made me beyond grateful for my chance at life. By the grace of God, I had one of the most wonderful orphanage caretakers named Galena. She was determined to find me a family. My parents heard about me because of her. Long story short, through Galena’s persistence and the Lord’s guidance, my parents chose me to be their daughter.
I don’t remember much about my time in Russia. My time in the orphanage is a distant fog. What I do know about my orphanage, my parents told me. Thankfully, I was in one of the best orphanages in the nation. I will be forever grateful for that. I had a best friend named Videam. My parents almost adopted him. Unfortunately, a Russian family adopted him before my parents could. Before I left, I gave him a pair of boots as a gift, even though they were much too large for both of us. I also gave all the children in my orphanage bananas because they are a delicacy in Russia. I sang and danced nearly every day. Truth be told, I know with certainty, I begged and begged for a family. Every day, I asked Galena if I was going to have a family.
Sadly, I no longer have my Russian accent. Of all the parts of my heritage, I wish that one stuck. I learned English in three weeks. I talked non-stop, as a child. I was in kindergarten by January 2000. One part of my Russian heritage goes with me anywhere I go, though. I take Russian nesting dolls with me, wherever I live.
Many times, people ask me have I or will I visit Russia again one day. The answer to both questions is no. Aside from the political strife between America and Russia, I personally do not want to go back. Knowing how emotionally unstable I am at times, it would be far too difficult for me to face the nation.
However, nothing would be as difficult as seeing my biological mother. I have not tried to find her, nor do I have future aspirations to do so. I do know a little about her, but it is mainly biological legal information, like her age and appearance. I do not know who my father is. He is listed as unknown on my birth certificate, though I have other legal information that could possibly verify who he is. Personally, though, I do not think it is accurate.
Like I said, I really don’t know much. Honestly, I do not even know if my biological mother is alive. I do not know if I have other siblings, though I would lean towards no. I have not ever spoken with Galena, or tried to contact her. She is the only person I would willingly go see, if I ever went back to Russia. But, like I said, the chances of this occurring are slim and next to none.
Logistics and technicalities aside, my adoption has been difficult to process through the years. To this day, I still find myself angry at my biological mother for leaving me. I can go weeks, sometimes even months, without breaking down because of it. Other times, all it takes is one rough day for me to completely fall apart and go through it all over again. I still find myself confused as to why she abandoned me. I know, ultimately, she probably could not take care of me on her own, but it still hurts.
It is the root cause for my frequent mistrust in people. It is why I have abandonment and attachment issues. It is why I build up thousands of brick walls around new faces. It is why I cling for acceptance and fear rejection with every fiber of my being. I do not think the feelings will ever entirely go away, but they have gotten easier. I am working through them with Jesus Christ and counseling.
Quite frankly, it is only through the power of Jesus that it has gotten easier. In fact, it is only through Jesus Christ that I am not the person I used to be—the cynical and cold person who never let anyone in. And if I did, I always made a reason for them to leave, just because my mother left me. The process towards healing will be lifelong, and that’s okay with me.
Although there are a lot of unknowns and painful emotions with my adoption, there are several God-glorifying absolutes. My life story may be a messy one filled with much emotional strife, but it is God-breathed and it is His. I am thankful for my adoption, though some days I really have to remind myself the gift that it is.
I leave you with this: If you know anyone who is adopted, please love on them like Jesus would. My emotional pain is mainly due to not knowing the love of Jesus for far too long. His unconditional love only comes through a relationship with Him. Love on adopted children like you have never loved someone before. Be prepared for a roller coaster of emotions. Be patient. Oh, so patient. Be honest. Be faithful. Above all else, lead them to the Cross. Lead them to the Father who adopted them and CHOSE them to be His before they ever took a breath.