Today is Earth Day, and Mother’s Day is right around the corner. What does each of these days mean to me, being an adult adoptee?
Let me back things up a bit and explain what my experience was like with my earthly mothers.
My first chance at a mother did not want to mother me.
My biological mother didn’t want me, so she passed me over to strangers. After a lifetime of searching for her, dreaming, and wishing we would cross paths one day, my one true dream of finding her and having a relationship with her was shattered all over the ground. We met one time briefly in 1995, and that was the last time I ever saw her. What felt like a cold-hearted rejection was her not being able to navigate the pain of her decision and hearing how my life turned out. The better life promised wasn’t better at all. Only different. She felt a deep sadness over learning this reality.
That didn’t change how this rejection has made me feel and the truth that it’s impacted every area of my life. She abandoned me not once but twice. The ultimate betrayal from my biological mother has been the most significant wound I have ever carried, even compared to what other people would consider major traumatic events.
This deep mother wound and disappointment has been impossible to shake, and it will be with me for life. I’ve accepted the pain was here to stay, and that was one of the most healing things I have done for myself. Nothing on earth and no amount of pain I have ever felt compares to this wound. She died in 2010, and I hadn’t had contact with her in over 25 years.
It’s deep. It’s raw. It hurts.
My second chance at a mother could not mother me.
My adoptive mother wanted to be a mother so bad, but the reality was she was so mentally ill, she couldn’t parent me. Instead, I suffered greatly because of her mental health issues. She should have never been allowed to adopt a child, let alone two. My adoptive dad divorced her when I was one years old, and knowing she couldn’t care for us be left and moved over an hour away to remarry, and raise three stepsons as his own. My childhood in my adoptive parent’s homes was filled with traumatic experiences that have impacted every area of my life. I’ve spent years recovering from these experiences and a lifetime of seeing how things shouldn’t be. I never bonded with my adoptive mom, and I despise the facts that I was forced to pretend she was my mother.
The lengths of trauma I experienced in these homes have riddled me with anxiety, fear, and the loss of what so many of us deserve and need, and that’s an opportunity at decent mother and a safe place to live. I didn’t need perfect. I didn’t need a big house, fancy cars, and all the material things money could buy.
I just needed one halfway normal, decent mother.
She was suicidal, manic-depressive, and had severe issues that stemmed back to her childhood. She tried to commit suicide by lying in the street, and she would consistently lock herself in her room and take all her pills and the phone with her letting us know as children she’s about to end her life. We would bang outside her bedroom door, for hours begging her not to die.
She was hurting, and instead of work on her hurt, she adopted two daughters to take care of her. Her main goal was to have two daughters to care for her so she wouldn’t have to go to a nursing home. How do I know? Because back to my early childhood, she talked about not wanting to go to a nursing home, more than she talked about just about anything. Because of the toxicity she brought to my life and because she would not abide by common courtesy boundaries I tried to put into play, we were estranged for several years before she died. I don’t regret choosing to separate, as my recovery and being alive depended on it. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make.
I am sad I had to make such a decision but I did it for myself and my kids.
My third chance at a mother figure, I call my Step Monster.
My adoptive stepmother is no one I consider a mother. She has protected her pedophile son over believing me for 46 years. She has turned a blind eye and has chosen to defend him repeatedly. I won’t go into all the details, but she has never been and never will be anyone I consider a mother figure. We have never been close or had a relationship. For my peace of mind, after being ignored for 46 years about the pain her son has caused me and countless others, I have had to sever ties with her too.
Three chances in the mother area, and I struck out.
While my heartache as a child and teenager is hard to put into words, my experiences in my adoptive home and the abandonment from my birth mother lead me to some dark places. I spent most of my juvenile life as a runaway and locked up in detention, drug and alcohol rehab, and group homes for most of my teen years. I was hurting and hurt people hurt people.
Mother’s Day has always been painful for me as it is for so many people, adopted or not. Some people are sad at the loss of a mother they spent a lifetime getting to know, where they have thousands of memories to hang onto forever. Pictures to reminisce and remember. I get sad because I didn’t get that, and there are no memories to hang on to, to keep forever. I have emptiness, sadness, and abandonment issues that continue to revisit me. Processing grief & loss are going to be with me for life.
I’ve accepted it.
I’ve also accepted these were the cards I was dealt. For the last 11 years, I have been on a healing journey. If you read back over my website, you can see the changes and growth that have transpired over the years. In that time, you will see that nature is something I gravitate towards, and if you follow any of my social media, you will see waterfalls and Mother Nature have a considerable space in my life.
You see, nature, aka Mother Nature, has been a sacred space for me since my early childhood, growing up in the country in Iowa. Inside any of the homes, I was in was chaos and trauma. So outside, running wild in the forest was the only freedom I had as a child. It was healing for me, and it was an escape. It was one of my first loves, along with the sky. Read “The Sky & I” to learn more about my tie to the sky.
As I circle back around and will soon be celebrating nine years of living a life free from alcohol, I’ve been reacquainted with my first love, Mother Nature. Of all the areas I’ve been incorporating into my life for self-care reasons, nature has always been the only one always to be dependable and always there. It wasn’t my birth mother, or my adopted mother, or my step monster.
It was and is MOTHER NATURE.
As Earth Day is here and Mother’s Day is to follow, I am making a conscious choice to redirect myself to focus on the mother who’s always been there – Mother Earth.
As I discover who I am, I have found joy in adventures in the Kentucky forest by chasing and finding waterfalls. Kentucky is filled with over 700 waterfalls, and exploring nature and taking as many people as I can is one of the most powerful healing tools I have yet to find. Trust me when I tell you, I have tried it all. Between 27 years of alcohol dependency, church hopping, religion, other people, places, and things, nothing has provided me with what mother nature has.
Many aren’t aware, but there are healing dynamics to being close to, in, or near bodies of water. I always felt it, but I never knew it was an actual thing. I have a friend and fellow adoptee in recovery named David B. Bohl, and David is an advocate of BLUE MIND.
Q. What is Blue Mind?
A. Blue Mind: A mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peace, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.
It’s also described in the book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do
David shares, “As many of you know, I am a student of Blue Mind science, an advocate for Blue Mind methods, and a practitioner of Blue Mind daily living techniques. There is no doubt in my mind and experience that proximity to, and engagement in, water provides physical health, mental health, and spiritual/relational benefits that have been scientifically identified – and are essential in today’s stressful world.”
Please check out David’s full article here – Blue Mind and Addiction Recovery
Coming to know David as a friend and fellow adoptee in recovery, we have discovered that we have many things in common, but our love for being near water is one of them. David shares online his outdoor trips in and near water, and I do as well. Mine are usually running off into the forest to chase waterfalls all over the state of Kentucky. We aren’t too far from our next adventure close to a body of water, whatever we are doing. Thank you, David for your continued inspiration over the years!
Surprisingly, after reading the beginning of the Blue Mind book from David’s recommendation, I learned that the author of Blue Mind, Wallace J. Nichols is also an adoptee. I will not lie; something about that shook me up! I had no idea he was an adoptee, but I was so excited to now know of 3 adoptees who have found the healing and therapeutic benefits of being close to water. I can’t wait to read the rest of his amazing book! I’m sure there are many more adoptees who find healing around bodies of water.
While 2021 is moving swiftly and Earth Day is here, I’ve been thinking of ways to connect to Mother Earth and give back to her and to give to others in the process. I can reflect on my childhood up to my current days. I no longer drink alcohol to cope with adoptee pain, and I celebrate nine years of sobriety in August 2021. This is a massive milestone for me, especially finding both birth parents and learning they are both alcoholics.
One of the things I’ve learned about recovery is that you need to replace it with something else when you remove something. My connection to mother nature has become exceptionally strong in the last nine years. I consider my nature adventures as one of the most effective self-care practices I have yet to discover.
While I think of all Mother Nature is to me, and how she’s been there over my earthly mothers, and she’s never let me down, I get emotional. My truth that no one can come between that connection or take it away is something I think about a lot. Even back to my childhood, she’s been there for me and continues to be there. I call it wilderness wellness, and it’s FREE.
I like to combine my mother nature adventures with not only seeking waterfalls, but getting wet and dirty and not thinking twice about it. I think many times we’re groomed from childhood to not get wet or dirty. I see countless people never want to get their feet wet, or get dirty and it pains me to see. Water and dirt have never hurt anyone. Take your shoes and socks off, get in the water and get dirty. I promise you, you won’t regret allowing yourself to be free in this way.
It could mean putting your bare feet in the grass (grounding) or taking a walk outside at your closest park. One of my main goals in life is to encourage people to seek wilderness wellness in their backyards because we all have endless adventures in our state, and most of the time, they are free. You might need a tank of gas and a few snacks. My discovery of how Mother Nature fills me up has been rejuvenating to my mind, body, and spirit in many ways. My adventures are a combination of forest bathing, hiking, nature play, blue mind, grounding, walking, and doing everything in my power to be a kid again. I feel like I’ve been searching for home my entire life, and finding Mother Nature has brought me back home.
As Mother’s Day can be perplexing for adopted people at best, I have decided I’m going to honor Mother Nature for Mother’s Day moving forward. I’m a firm believer that we can all write our stories to suit what fits us the best. Focusing on the mothers that failed me is agonizing. I believe each Mother’s Day will still feel a sense of sadness when it comes to them, and I’ve accepted I always will. I will save space for processing that pain; however I need to process it.
I want to try to shift my focus on how much Mother Nature has done for me and Earth Day – today is HER DAY. I wanted to write this article dedicated to her, to share how much she means to me. It’s not all about what she does for me, but what can I do for her? I salute HER and will do all I can to take care of her moving forward.
I’m not sure where you are with your healing routine and your self-care regimen, but I encourage you to add some wilderness wellness to your self-care toolbox and share it with your friends & family. I love taking elderly people to nature because they are a population that is lacking that resource due to mobility limitations and many other roadblocks.
For me, when so much is lost, never to be seen again because of adoption, I get comfort in knowing that Mother Nature something no one can take away from me. Today I celebrate Earth Day for so many reasons! Mother’s Day I will celebrate being a mother to three incredible humans and Mother Nature because she’s always been there for me. If you feel like following along on my Into the Wild: Kentucky Wilderness & Waterfall Adventures please like my Facebook page today by clicking here. You can also find me on Instagram under @intothewildky.
Here are a few of my outdoor adventures shared with some of my friends & family. I encourage you to escape for some nature play and wilderness wellness. You might find what you have been searching for all along.
Do you like to get outside in mother nature?
Do you find it to be healing and theraputic around bodies of water?
If so, what are your favorite nature things to do?
How are you celebrating Earth Day and Mother’s Day this year?
What do you do to cope with Mother’s Day if it’s a hard day for you?
Thanks for reading,
The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova