Of Search, Heartache, and Connection

“There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you?”
― Rumi

With my four children, two sons adopted as babies in the US and twin daughters adopted at 6 from Ethiopia, I felt the decision to search for first/birth family was theirs, and that it would be best to do so when they were at least 18. They are all in their 20’s now. Searching (and re-uniting) is a big, complicated, emotional, intricate process. My view as a parent was that this was their decision, their story, their information. Their dad and I also always let them know we would help and support them in their decision.

While they were growing up, the kids and I had lots of conversations about their first families. I offered to give them all the information, when I felt they were ready, that we had from the adoption process. I shared different information at different ages. They looked at it, or not. Over the years, they kept copies in their rooms, occasionally asked questions, talked to each other a little about their information, asked questions, went to basketball practice, came to me with heartbreaking insights, and asked more questions.

I believe rituals are important, especially in adoption. At Thanksgiving, we would sometimes all light candles before dinner to honor the people who were not with us that day.  I would say something about my children’s birth/first families. Over the years, their reactions might be eye-rolling, indifference, a slight tearing up, a slight smile.

Each of my kids had different levels of comfort and curiosity about searching, at different times in their lives, and that’s still very true today.

My daughter Aselefech, once she had been here long enough to speak sufficient English to understand what Mother’s Day meant, would weep deeply that day. She would talk through tears about how very much she missed her Ethiopian mother, and how deep the pain was of forgetting what her mother looked like.

I knew she and her mother had to have been very close, because of how much Aselefech loved me. Oh, my heart ached so for my daughter and for her mother. My daughter and I cried together.

And, not surprisingly, Aselefech has been the most proactive about searching and connecting with her Ethiopian family. She and her twin sister now know their Ethiopian family in Ethiopia, and here in Seattle,  as it turns out, where I live.


They re-connected about 4 years ago. We all got together most recently last week here in Seattle for dinner. This photo shows Aselefech with her brother, and with her daughter/his niece (my brilliant, amazing granddaughter) who is the same age Aselefech was when she arrived in the United States some 18 years ago. There is to me an incredible light in everyone’s eyes here–a connection always, a void filled, a candle lit.

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