November was National Adoption Awareness Month. It doesn’t get as much notoriety as national donut day or breast cancer awareness month but I believe it should. Many lives are impacted by the adoption journey and so I set out to find entrepreneurs who had an adoption story to share.
It wasn’t easy. Let’s be honest, adoption stories can get pretty heavy at times.
Then I received a message from Annie. She was not only willing to share her story via my blog but also across social media. Once I read her story I agreed that it was one that everyone needed to read. Being vulnerable is not what people think of what they hear the word entrepreneur but it is through vulnerability that we connect with clients, within our network and with virtual communities across the world.
As a kinship mom for my sister, I truly understand the power and impact that an adoption story can have on people. It is the difference between peace of mind and doubt. I’m excited to share Annie’s, Adoption Story.
Here is Annie’s story:
I was sweating from every pore in my body. Tears were welling up in my eyes, I was shaking and completely terrified but knew in my heart it was time. Why was I wearing a sweater anyway? Looking back, that wardrobe choice totally made no sense and neither did the mascara.
I was about to press the Go Live button on Facebook like I had done hundreds of times before …but this time was different.
The night before I was lying in bed nursing my toddler. My husband, my active duty marine was in Italy for six months (why do things like this always happen when they’re away for a long time!?) The night was so still and peaceful. My daughter’s little body felt so warm and soft next to mine. She had no idea that I was completely wrapped up in thought around my lifetime of self-doubt and shame.
It was the night before my 42nd birthday. My birthday always brought these feelings and reflections because it was the day my mother gave me up for adoption.
Up until this exact moment I had been living with paralyzing shame and debilitating feelings of inadequacy that were affecting my marriage, my mothering, my business, my whole life- and it was at that moment I decided to do something about it.
It was like the Universe smacked me on the side of my head and said- enough Annie. Enough. It’s time to own this and move on. We have bigger and better things planned for you but you must deal with this first.
I was adopted at three months old into a beautiful loving Italian family. My mom and dad are the kindest and gentle souls and I love them with my whole heart.
I had so many unanswered questions about my own DNA, about my birth parents about my birth family, about the circumstances that lead to my adoption, about the very blood running through my body. I needed to know. I needed to know my own daughters more.
I never acted on this need to know because I didn’t want to hurt my parents even though they told me they would support me no matter what I did.
I created a barrier to my own truth.
I rarely talked about being adopted. I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be from my parents and I had so much confusion and self-doubt and shame that I carried with me for 42 years.
And in that decision-making moment lying next to my daughter, I realized I had the key to unlock the answers.
I had been using Facebook live video for over a year in my business and had become quite comfortable on video.
It was at that moment I decided to use Facebook live video to ask for help in finding my birth mother so I could thank her for this beautiful life.
On that cold winter morning in Virginia – January 22, 2017, I pushed through the sweating, shaking, tears and self doubt and held up a sign that I made in Crayola markers. The sign was backwards because I was Live in selfie mode but I didn’t care. I pressed Go Live with confidence and felt like I was finally moving forward.
I looked into the camera and said, “On January 22, 1975, 42 years ago today a young woman gave birth to me in Greenville, Pennsylvania. Please help me find her so I can thank her for this beautiful life.”
I turned off my phone, packed up my girls and went to church.
You see, I wasn’t really a churchgoer but I was called at the moment to give thanks and pray because I didn’t know what I was going to find. I just had to trust that my vulnerability would find answers and peace no matter how challenging, scary, beautiful or tragic the answers were.
After the service ended I went out to my car feeling fresh and content with my decision.
Luckily I had my phone off because it would have been completely blowing up! it would have been dinging for an hour straight- so many messages and comments.
In my messages, I saw a strange name… David Giardina.
David’s message said… Please call me I think you’re my sister Marie’s daughter.
I was so excited! I clicked my girls into their car seats, put on my headphones and started driving on the busiest highway in the nation- I 95 South in Northern Virginia. It was freezing cold but I was sweating and shaking again. I called David and I said- Hey it’s Annie Oh my gosh let’s talk I’m so excited!
David was quiet. In a low and serious voice, he asked- Are you driving? I think you should call me back later so we can talk about Marie.
I knew she was dead.
I took some deep breaths, refocused and drove home. I got my girls situated with a snack and a show, called my husband in Italy and we decided it would be best to chat with David on a video call.
We talked for over an hour in disbelief happiness joy and peace. I finally had answers.
He told me that Marie gave birth to me just a week after her 16th birthday.
She was one of 10 children a giant Catholic Italian family and they lived just an hour south of the town where I was raised.
David went on…When I was 16 years old Marie was rushing around town getting ready for a trip to California where she was going to see my birth father who also struggled for many years.
She was killed in a tragic car accident the day before she was going to get on that plane.
At every Giardina family gathering – every Christmas every birthday they would talk about Marie‘s baby and wonder what happened to her.
My vulnerability brought peace and closure to so many lives.
A week after my live video I met my entire birth family at a beautiful gathering following a Catholic mass which was on my adoptive mother’s birthday in the church where Marie and her family grew up. The entire church sang happy birthday to my mom.
You can imagine the feelings I had when never before looking into the eyes of another blood relative and all of a sudden I had 26 first cousins that all look exactly like me!
This celebration that day was beautiful, like a dream come true. I kept having to pinch myself and ask- is this really happening?
Italian foods on the table smell of sauce and garlic and red wine.
The loud chatter of everyone talking at once.
So many hugs and kisses and everyone —-touching —-my —-face.
Seeing my father and biological grandfather the old-timer Italians sitting at a table together sharing stories and thanking each other.
And all because of a decision I made to be vulnerable.
To take action and release attachment to the outcome.
A decision that I made to let go of the outcome and trust I had everything inside of me all of the tools that I needed to be OK with whatever was revealed.
This victory is a tribute to trusting and moving forward when you don’t have all the answers, when you don’t know what could happen but knowing the possibilities that lie on the other side of fear can be life-changing and that you hold the key to unlock the next level of joy and love for not only yourself but others.
This story is important for you because YOU have the ability to identify where you’ve been playing small in your own life and business. You can take action to access what’s on the other side of self-doubt and negative self-talk. You have to feel the feelings first and face the fear head-on. It’s possible and if I can do it- a woman who lived 42 years with self-doubt and shame then so can you.
Before doing that video and asking for help I struggled with visibility and using my voice. I wanted my business to be successful and impact lives but in the same breath, I was so fearful and felt so inadequate.
Using my voice that day shined a light in a place that I kept dark most of my life. I used to keep myself in a safe little box. That box was a safe place where I could be in the arena but also play small. Playing small kept me safe. I didn’t have to be raw, be seen, risk being judged or risk failing. The box was serving me.
Laying next to my daughter the night before my birthday when that thought came to me to take action was the missing piece in my life and journey as an entrepreneur, wife, mother, and human. I’m forever grateful for being adopted and for the impact it’s had on my life and those who have been touched by this powerful story of love.