Making Sense of the Pieces

Written by Christina Black

I used to believe my story was tucked between the folds of a purple hanging file folder in my parent’s kitchen. Believing the contents inside were like missing puzzle pieces and if I looked hard enough, would answer all my questions and tell me who I was. I would stare tirelessly at each piece of paper, looking for clues on how all this information fit with the stories my parents
told me. Looking for who I was in a senior picture of a girl who looked so familiar, but felt so distant. I looked at letters, adoption forms, pictures, and all for some sort of piece to “fit”.

I didn’t search those contents because I felt alone. My parents gifted me with the knowledge of my adoption long before I could understand it’s meaning. I believed that all families had their own story and beginning. In one way I was right, but I was also wrong in assuming that understanding where I came from would tell me who I was. There was no celebration or special talk about my adoption. My parents made sure that our family’s origin was weaved into conversations in a way so normal that it never seemed different. I refer to this as a gift because had it been kept hidden, tucked away like some shameful secret, I would have never been able to sort through the pieces and find myself, the self I thought I would find as I pieced my story together like a jigsaw puzzle with no edges and no piece count to guide me.

Even having my parents there to guide me and make sense of the jagged pieces of my story, I still felt like something was missing. Always wondering, always asking. Not because I didn’t love my parents or the life they gave me with my sister. But because selecting unknown on the family medical history box on a doctor’s intake form makes one come face to face with the fact that even knowing you are a special part of something, there will be things that leave you looking in from the outside.

My parents are my biggest supporters. When I sat looking at the scattered pieces of my story and cried that I had to know more, they gathered me up and together, went searching. Firmly believing that with adoption, you build a bigger table so everyone can have a seat and an opportunity to add to the puzzle. When we met my birth parents at 17, I was convinced that all the missing pieces would appear. That I’d be able to connect the ones that I carried with me forever with the new ones and all would be right. But the strangest thing seemed to happen. Again, I found myself supported, loved and included by my birth family AND my adoptive family; but instead of a box checked with unknown on a medical form screaming outsider, the shared experience box had to be left unchecked making me question where all the pieces really fit and where I fit into everyone else’s. When I began to interlock the pieces, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The picture I thought I’d be able to complete looked scarce. There was hurt, there was rejection. Things felt different, pieces were still missing. The incomplete picture left me feeling like a mistake had been made and like a rowdy toddler, I tore apart the pieces and scattered them on the floor.
I was convinced that the missing pieces told more about who I was than the ones that fit together, but when I looked closer, and started turning the pieces, there was grace, acceptance and deep love. I became surrounded by two different families that were now interlocked together because of a single, common piece, me. To see the two sides of my family come together to create one large family has been one of the greatest gifts. There are times I sill feel like pieces of my puzzle are missing, whether it’s shared experiences or lack of genetics. It’s hard to push away that feeling of something is missing and being just a little on the outside, even when I’m completely surrounded by both my biological and adoptive family.

I never anticipated that feeling lingering like it has. It also has me feeling even more grateful that my parents were honest with me from the beginning, safely offering every piece of the puzzle they knew about, centering our home around faith and grace. They were willing and available to sit through the hard conversations as I tried to sort them out. I am now a mom, both by adoption and biologically, and what I have learned from my years of sorting through pieces, is that there will always be pieces we wish weren’t missing, and there will be pieces that look like they fit, but simply don’t. But this kind of puzzle has no limits, it can keep growing, it can be reshaped and more importantly it has a unique beauty that is created when all the hard is walked through together and more chairs are pulled up to the table to help out. May that be what my heart rests on and what my kiddos understand, that their puzzle is beautifully theirs and there will always be room and space at the table to help them sort it out.

I now know my story goes like this, I am loved. I am not an outsider and I am grateful to all of my family for pulling up chairs and sitting around helping me piece my puzzle together, even when they don’t understand and even when it’s hard. They just keep pulling up chairs and finding pieces that “fit” just the way they are supposed to.

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