Wreckage and Wonder

Guest Blogger: Torie Dimartile
Beautiful Woman | Transracial Adoptee | Writer | Public Speaker

“To love someone is to listen to their story.”

I crawl under my bed and pull out a photo album. The cover reminds me of Monet’s flowers, coral and lavender brushstrokes, pristine enough for wallpaper in a dining room. The binding is cracked and smells of old poetry books you’d find in a corner book store. I flip to the beginning:

Victoria, the story of our brief time together and some of my memories of it are on the following pages.

I trace the curved letters, believing the sentiment couldn’t have been as easy to feel as it was to write. The cardstock is adorned in a soft girlish pink trim with rose gold trinkets, giving it an air of nostalgia beyond it’s time crinkled edges.

In the first few photos, Karen is holding me. She’s fresh-faced and slightly bewildered, adoringly gentle with my wrinkled skinny legs. She has only been a mother for 48 hours and yet she already has a face that is simultaneously doting and protective. 

She’s only been a mother for 48 hours and yet I can sense the pain in her eyes. The kind of ache that knows there is more to come.

Karen’s pregnancy was not easy. She has told me about the early bed-rest, the pre-eclampsia, the high blood pressure – all in the midst of diligently and frantically flipping through hopeful adoptive parent profiles to find a family.

I sit back in my chair. I can’t fathom the extraordinary weight she was carrying. She was only 26 – the same age I am now as I write this.

I am a doctoral student. Living on my own. Paying rent, staying up until 2 am to write a research paper and resisting the urge to eat ice cream for dinner. 

And to think, I could be 26 and pregnant. 26 and leaving a job. 26 and bed-ridden, sick with keeping another human alive and sick with the kind of sorrow that haunts you like a bad dream. 26 and already grieving a life I have created but cannot raise.

I could never do this, I think. I could never place a child for adoption. I could never be the kind of woman that musters that kind of strength. 

Karen’s fierce loyalty broke her heart to keep mine whole and that is but an infinitesimal fraction of the devotion of the Father. Just as Karen’s greatest heartbreak was my parent’s greatest joy, God’s greatest sorrow was humanity’s greatest gift. 

Adoption has been a continuous education in the Father’s heart for unity, for relationship, for grace, for transformation. There is such brutal beauty in adoption, such ruin and redemption, such wreckage and wonder.

The older I get, the more important this album becomes to me, the more integral the delicate balance of brokenness and beauty becomes to my understanding of the world and myself.

More than pictures, more than words, it is a reminder of the woman who loved me first. Who loves me still.

Getting to learn about that short, shared time together with my birthmother has helped
fill the inevitable voids and cracks associated with adoption. These cherished conversations have helped me grow in acceptance of my own adoption story.

Though my life oftentimes feels fractured and rootless because of what adoption cost me, I can turn to the details of that first chapter together. I can ask new questions about her decision, her fears, her life. And in the increasing moments I have to hear her story, which is inevitably my story, I feel those small pieces of knowledge rebuilding something inside of me – each insight a brick laid in the bridge of our repaired bond. 

It might take a lifetime to see that bridge fully resurrected, but open adoption has given me the chance at that restoration.

I flip to the very back of the book where a small piece of paper describes the stuffed animal my birth father gave me. I wonder where that stuffed animal is – maybe in the basement or in my closet at my parents’ house. 

In all the photos of that album there are only two of my birth father. Tall, dark and lean. I look like a doll in his arms. The note about his gift, stuck to the last page, feels like an afterthought. Feels just as elusive and untethered as his presence in my life.

Even though my adoption is open, I don’t get to see my birth father often. The consistency and positivity that has marked my open adoption relationship with my birth mom serves as the stabilizing and reassuring anchor I need when my open adoption relationship with my birth father is less predictable. And her unwavering support for me helps to drown out the lies and fear adoption tends to sow about my worth. 

Though adoption will always be a painful edge in my life mosaic, her love, openness to questions, and steady relationship are the light that dulls the sharpness of other adoption-related emotions and losses.

As I close the album, I think to myself, How do you ever get over this? How did she ever collect her broken pieces and step forward through her mourning? 

It is then that I remember a saying I wrote on my Instagram recently: “You don’t get over adoption. You live with it, around it, through it.” 

One of the last sentences Karen wrote in her letter to me at the end of that photo album read: “This was a heart-wrenching decision to have to make and I’ll always live with the effect of it in my life.”

Adoption fundamentally altered the life trajectory of Karen, myself and my parents. And though I don’t believe I will ever fully heal from adoption, I do believe it is simultaneously the hardest and most beautiful part of my story. 

It has brought me both to the end and the beginning of myself, through spiritual drought and spiritual abundance and it has brought me the two most supernaturally loving women that I get to call my mothers.

You can find more from Torie on Facebook and Instagram @wreckageandwonder