3 Unexpected Side Effects of Being Adopted: My Story

Being adopted, a picture of me as a little girl

As a little girl—two days before Christmas—I received a family.

Being adopted, I’ve spent the last 30+ years teasing my parents that I was the best Christmas gift they ever got, though in reality, I consider it entirely the other way around.

But in case your experience with adoption hasn’t been as positive, let me say this:

Many adoptees (and adoptive families) carry heavy burdens of grief and loss for decades after an adoption process is final. And I have no desire to minimize that reality.

However, I believe I have largely escaped the darker side of adoption due to an unwavering acceptance—and even celebration—of these 3 unexpected side effects in my story—

1. I value the fact that I am alive.

I was born 7 years after the Supreme Court decriminalized abortion in the case of Roe v. Wade.

As someone who was unwanted in the womb, the fact I lived to see my birthday is not something I take for granted. It’s not lost on me that more than 63 million unborn—for any number of reasons—can’t say the same.

On the other hand, I’ve heard people say adoptees should not have to be grateful. And I understand the sentiment. I do.

And yet, gratitude to God for preserving my life has been an antidote to healing the painful effects of being adopted.

Gotcha Day, for me, looks a lot like George Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. “Oh look at this wonderful, old, drafty house!” I kiss the broken banister and hug my kids. 

I’m alive! That’s not something I’m willing to take for granted.

Being adopted, a picture of me as a little girl on an old swing

2. I cherish the reality that I was chosen.

Yes, I was surrendered at birth.
Yes, I lived with a foster family.
And yes, I was eventually placed into an adoptive family.

So naturally, I have unanswered questions. Some of these questions will be my companions as long as I live. And honestly, what are the answers that would make being unwanted feel okay?

Here’s what helps: To the degree that I have experienced loss I have equally experienced being chosen. 

My adoptive family isn’t perfect—they’ll be the first to admit it. We’ve made a lot of mistakes. But I know my family loves and accepts me. And to be chosen into someone’s family and loved by choice, in my opinion, is even more profound than anything genetic.  

3. I respect the certainty that I am unique.

For years I believed I was entirely different than my adoptive family.

For example, I am wildly right-brained … and my dad was a math/chemistry teacher.
My proclivity is disorganization … and my mom was the original Marie Kondo.

So as a kid, I chalked up every detail about me which varied from my adoptive family to being adopted. Surely there were people out there just like me in every way.

And then I met my birth family. As a twenty-one year old, I met the people who were supposed to make it all make sense. And you know what I discovered? I had more questions. I wasn’t like them, either. God made me unique. My story is unique. My life is unique. And that is just fine with me.

I’m still on an adoption journey. Now I’m raising my own child given to me by adoption. I didn’t have all the answers growing up, and I don’t have them now. But here’s what I know for sure:

Adoption is complicated. It is. But viewed a certain way, it’s also pretty extraordinary.

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Trisha Priebe is Sr. Communications Coordinator at Lifesong for Orphans, an adoptee, and an adoptive mom. Send her a message any time through our Facebook or Instagram.