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  • Writer's pictureMary Ellen Gambutti

A Season for Thanks and Acceptance

How do adoptees view gratitude, acceptance, and appreciation?

November has been a challenging month for us adopted persons. National Adoptee Awareness Month , alternately called National Adoption Awareness Month comes to a close leaving me with a jumble of emotions and thoughts to sort. I believe we have met the challenge on social media by interrogating primal loss; what it means to have been relinquished as an infant, and adoptive parents' alarming expectation of gratitude imposed on us. (That adoptees' birth records are still sealed in many states, infers that we should be accepting and grateful our mothers didn't leave us on a church doorstep. Sadly, over assistance to the mother, we have the equivalent; baby boxes.) Interventions took place, and the states stepped in to collaborate with an adoption agency to find us suitable homes. We were rescued. Our lives were saved. I was given the opportunity of a do-over. No matter, equal treatment under the law is denied us. We should be grateful we weren't exposed to the shame of illegitimacy. But as adults, we must have the choice whether to see our birth records, and foster records from our early weeks and months before adoption.

I remember hearing "Show appreciation! Show gratitude!" yet, as a teen, I didn't have the tools to express my deep loss: the phantom who was my biological mother. My parents didn't discuss my family of origin after telling me a fairy tale at age six. I feel that were they to have simply acknowledged my loss, instead of we couldn't have a baby of our own, I might have accepted their love and good intentions. I could have coped with my disappointment. And my parents might have been less disappointed in me!

I'm grateful for the comforts of home my parents provided, and for the privilege of a middle-class life. But none of their material blessings could replace the closeness of lost kin, the chance of siblings and biological aunts and cousins vanished when I was scooped by strangers from my mother's birthing bed. Now, my adoptive and biological parents are gone, and I finally forgive all of them. At seventy-one, I can live in the peace of gratitude and acceptance. I am fortunate over the years, to have found the wealth of heritage with DNA testing. Whether I could possibly do better if I possessed my original birth certificate isn't the point. That paper should be in my file box with its falsified versions: the amended birth certificate, and the certificate of baptism and birth, which is with the blue paper-covered court file of my adoption, with my original name, Ruth Ann, and the new name my adopters

testified to.

Having, this month, dedicated myself to joining blended adoptee voices on social media, speaking to the injustice and pain, I intend to go forward into this giving season in acceptance and forgiveness...perhaps, gratitude.

Today, I extend a hearty welcome to my guest blogger. Dave contributes meaningful, touching, relatable words within the adoptee space of his personal Facebook blog, My Refocused Life David Sanchez Brown became a freelance writer after retiring from the University of California. In 2019, he took a DNA test, and the results turned his world upside down. He finally found the missing chunk of him. He created a blog to document his journey to recover his lost identity, and he found himself. He's currently writing a dark comedy fiction memoir loosely based on his life as an adopted person. Dave, who lives in San Jose, CA, puts it, "A DNA test in 2019 gave me answers. It changed everything about me and the start of a new life."

I confess; the word gratitude sometimes rubs me the wrong way. It makes me think of those Hallmark movies where a recently orphaned child crosses paths with a couple who has just lost a child to Cancer. The shellacked happy ending is the coupled adopts the child. There's no mention of the traumas they all endured; the implication is that love conquers all. But we all know that's not the reality.
On more than one occasion, my grandmother told me I needed to thank my parents for rescuing me from an orphanage and giving me a roof over my head and food to eat. I thought that's what parents were supposed to do for their kids. After all, my parents told me they chose me.
But the rules are often different for the adopted child. And nobody explained the game to me, and it was like that throughout my life.  
Despite their best intentions, many adoptive parents expect their child adoptee to show gratitude by playing the blue ribbon winner role or having the same aptitudes. For me, genetics plays an essential part in who I become. We, the adopted, don't become our parents as if by osmosis. I couldn't keep my head above water, so I stopped trying.
The message was all love was conditional. And I sought out friends and partners to repeat that dynamic throughout life with disastrous results.
Now, I realize that I used to associate gratitude with shame.
I had to detach the shame and rewire my brain to reclaim the word gratitude. It has been a Sisyphean task some days.
What am I grateful for today?
The DNA test reconnected me with my lost family.
I have agency over my life.
My good health.
My home.
My family and friends.
The adoptee community.
Today, I am enough.

Thank you, Dave!

In closing, here is the link to my November update newsletter, where you'll find digital links to buy I Must Have Wandered in softcover and e-book, as well as my other books. Alternatively, you may purchase my memoir from to help sustain independent bookstores nationwide.

Or, if you prefer, to buy directly from me, send me a message for a personalized soft-cover, or pick up I Must Have Wandered from here

Oh! and you can locate the links in my Wix website, of which this blog is part.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are upon us. If you wish you can buy my book beginning Monday 11/28 (and an array of other books!)

here: N.N. Lights Book Heaven And, you can connect with the Holiday sale


Mary Ellen

(c) Mary Ellen Gambutti 2022 All Rights Reserved

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