Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences.

By Alissa

Several years ago, Reba McEntire had a song on the radio called “I’m A Survivor.” The opening lines of the song always struck me….

I was born three months too early, doctor gave me thirty days, but I must have had my momma’s will, and God’s amazing grace….

My biological mother is one tough cookie. She’s proven it. She had me, eleven weeks early, when she was just barely sixteen. And she did the best she could and gave me a wonderful family. She put me up for adoption.

My parents … my parents are even tougher. My Mom and Dad chose to take on a child that wasn’t biologically theirs. My parents thought they couldn’t have children. Surprise, surprise! Two years after I was adopted, my younger brother was born, then two years later, my younger sister. So my parents had me, and two biological children.

And I know, without a doubt, that I was the rebel, the wild child, the black sheep of the family. I am the oldest. I am the reason for my parents’ gray hair and wrinkles. I’m okay with that. My Mom and Dad made sure I knew that I was loved, that they had wanted me, prayed for me, still pray for me, and most importantly, again, I’m loved. And I know this all.

Throughout my childhood, I knew I was adopted. Sometimes I struggled with it. I had all the usual questions and self-doubt. I felt like the odd man out. I still do at times. When I was a teenager, about fifteen I think, the agency I was adopted through called my parents to tell them that my biological father had committed suicide the year prior. I can’t imagine how hard it was for my Mom and Dad to tell me that, but they did.

I didn’t think I would care that much, about someone I had never met. I did. That event completely altered my life. I cried. I raged. I became withdrawn and antisocial. I cursed everything and everyone. The only place I seemed to find relief from it was riding horseback in the pasture, herding the cattle back and forth. The sights, the smells, the steady rhythm was soothing. And I prayed. I did a lot of thinking. I was at times philosophical about it all, and other times I pushed myself and my horse to exhaustion. I never really came out of my shell though.

By the time I turned nineteen in 2003, I was ready to search for her. I contacted the agency. There was a fee, and I had to write a letter to my biological mother. No identifying information, just a first name…and a letter. I wrote thousands of letters. How do you write to someone you’ve never met? How do you tell them about your life? How do you explain your simultaneous confusion, anger, love, gratitude? In the end, I chickened out. I had my head all messed up and my emotions were even worse. So I waited.

Fast forward to 2011….I had gotten myself into a really bad situation. Crappy boyfriend, young child (who is a blessing), living states away from my family. There was something missing. A big hole in me. So I finally found my courage to search for my biological family. I wrote another hundred letters and tried to pick the best one. I don’t even remember what I wrote at the time and I’m sure now that it wouldn’t have been good enough in my opinion.

It took the agency a whole two weeks to get back to me. They had found her…quickly…she was still in the same town…and she wanted to have contact with me. I remember feeling relieved for all of three minutes, and then a sense of dread and fear came over me.

What if I’m not good enough? What if she’s not what I expected? What if she’s a rotten person? What if she thinks I’m a rotten person? …the list went on and on. We set up a time and date to talk on the phone. You’d think I’d remember that date, but I don’t. But when we finally talked, it was an indescribable feeling. I found a small piece of myself.

We began exchanging pictures via text. And then, here’s the plot twist, my biological mother called me with an interesting exchange:

Her: “So get on Facebook and look up this person on my profile and tell me what you think…we dated a long time ago….should I have stayed with him?”

Me: *Looks up person on Facebook. “I don’t know. He looks really familiar. I feel like I should know him. Not bad looking for his age I guess.”

Her: *Laughs “It’s funny you said that. He said the same about you – ‘she’s cute, do I know her, she looks familiar’ –“

Me: “Okay…?”

Her: “That’s your father. I may have forgotten a few details about that year.”

My heart dropped and I was speechless. And then, I was furious. We didn’t talk for several days after that. How do you forget that?

So, I’ll get to the point — the boy on my paperwork, that committed suicide, the one that asked for an update on me just before I turned two, the one I had spent ten years being angry at, the one that had changed my whole life — was not even the right guy! This other guy was.

And we look so familiar to each other because he’s my biological father. We have the same facial structure, straight nose, eyes. It’s unnerving at best. I still to this day struggle with anger over this bit of news. I try to be philosophical about it. She didn’t know. She was young. I make every excuse in the book. But there’s no excuse for this, and I still feel slightly betrayed, although that feeling is slowly easing.

So here we are, 2016. Over the last ten years, I have learned so much about myself. I had the courage to find a piece of my history. I found extended family. Between my biological parents, I have two half-brothers and two half-sisters. Of both of my families, I am the oldest. I had the courage to leave a bad relationship. I found the man of my dreams and am planning on marrying him. I have two beautiful sons, two amazing soon-to-be step-daughters, and the most wonderful, awesome, amazing family in the world!

I found out that no matter what family you come from, they are all dysfunctional in their own way. I have grown, and cried, and prayed, and lost and found God, and made myself whole. There was never any piece of me missing. It was in me the entire time. I just had to look.

As for my biological family….we have our moments. I keep up with my half-siblings on Facebook and they keep up with me that way. My biological father…he’s in and out of trouble so he’s hard to keep up with. But I love him in my own way. My biological mother…we talk occasionally.

I go through a lot of feelings that I can never really identify. It’s a strange mixture of love, anger, gratitude, resentment, and back to love. Without her, I would not have had the life I have had, the experiences, the family. She gave me the best gift in the world…she gave me a good life. And for that I will be forever grateful. “A birth mother always puts the needs of her child above the wants of her heart…”

Two months ago, my dad passed away after a three-year battle with cancer. My brother, his wife and daughter, my sister and her husband, my mom, me and one of my sons — we were all there. We prayed together and cried together and held on to each other.

I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I wasn’t the odd man out. This is my family. I was right where I belonged. My family loves me. I love them. The hardest part is knowing that my dad won’t physically be at my wedding. I’ve made my peace with that.

My Dad and my Mom shaped my entire life. They gave me everything they possibly could. They are my parents and without their love and guidance and support, I never would have made it. I cannot say enough how thankful blessed I am to have the parents I have. I’m the lucky one.

I spent a lot of years, frustration, and tears trying to fit into a mold that I thought my family wanted or my biological family wanted of me, only to find out that I’m loved just the way I am. I don’t need to fit into any mold because I was molded to perfection for God. There’s so much that I am unable to say, so many words that I don’t want misconstrued or feelings misinterpreted. So I will end with this…

“I was chosen. I was wanted. I was cherished. I grew in their hearts. I was the missing piece. I was loved. I was adopted.”

Alissa is thirty-two years old. She is a stay-at-home mom. She and her fiancé operate a small wood-working business out of their home. She enjoys playing with her kids, reading, and being in love.

Are you looking for some awesome children’s chapter books? The BRAND NEW second book in the Jazzy’s Quest chapter book series for adoptees is HERE!!! Be sure to get your copy of Jazzy’s Quest: What Matters Most, the sequel to Jazzy’s Quest: Adopted and Amazing!

Carrie Goldman is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter.