The Tea Girl Of Hummingbird Lane – Book Review

I recently read The Tea Girl Of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See, and I just have to share it with you.

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I was drawn to the idea of this book because it is about adoption, which as an adoptee  and birth mother, adoption is a huge part of my life. I was scared of this book when I first got it, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how adoption was going to be shown in this book. I scared that this book would completely break my heart. I was scared that this book would show adoption as something horrible – which it is not, not always. This book surprised me. This book made me laugh and it made me cry, for many different reasons. This book is beautifully written.

The Tea Girl Of Hummingbird Lane is an amazing story about family, traditions, love, family separated by culture, and great distances, adoption and the love a mother has for her child. Li-yan’s mother for her, and Li-yan for her daughter, and her daughters adoptive mother’s love for her adopted daughter. A mothers love is strong and never ending.

Lets start the with the premise of the book. The book is about a girl named Li-yan and her family. They live in the tea mountains of China. They live a quiet life in their village away from the rest of the world. They are very much about traditions, traditions set long ago. The way Lisa See describes it all, the village, the forest, the tea, you can see it all. You can taste the tea, you can smell the tea. Lisa See paints such vivid pictures of Li-yan’s life you are left feeling as if you actually knew her and visited her. The way she goes into Li-yan’s family traditions, so much detail. I was left feeling like I had actually met all these people from the book, and was sad when I finished the book. Thats how you know a book is good- when despite the ending, you are sad its done.

But it was not the talented writing that drew me to this book and kept me reading, it was the story of adoption. If that makes sense. I was so invested in finding out what happened to Li-yan and her daughter.  It was being able to connect so strongly with two very different characters. I felt so many emotions reading this book. I could relate to two special characters on so many levels throughout this book.

From a birth moms, and mothers, point of view my heart broke for Li-yan during her pregnancy and as she gave her baby away, and all the days after that. From an adoptees point of view I could relate to her daughters story. I felt the struggle of both of them. I felt the heartache of both of them. I felt the longing of both of them. I couldn’t help buy think of my own story while reading this. When Lisa See describes Li-yan watching her daughter get taken away, I couldn’t help but remember the day I walked out of the hospital and watched someone else hand off my son to his new family. When she writes about Li-yan’s daughter returning to China for the first time I remember my first time going to the city where I was born. My own adoption is considered local, so I could not relate fully to the cultural differences that Li-yan’s daughter experienced. But I still felt her struggle and feelings.

Adoption is tricky to write and talk about. Not everyone is happy about it. Not everyone likes it. Not every one agrees with it. Yes this book was one of the best books I have read about adoption. Could parts have been improved on? That depends on who is reading it and their point of view on adoption. To me, the book was beautiful. The whole book, not just the adoption aspect of it. The background story, the detail, the other characters. The writing was fluid, the writing was beautiful.

This book left me wanting more. I actually spent some time researching China, tea making, adoption in China, the tea mountains in China, the history that Lisa See talked about in her book. I started this book strictly interested in the adoption story line in it and left loving every part of this book.

I will say the ending upset me! I won’t tell you what happened, as I don’t want to spoil it. But I could have kept on reading. I wanted to keep on reading. I needed more. I’m sure the author, Lisa See, left it that way so you could paint on your picture, write your own story. But I didn’t want to, I wanted to keep reading her story.

If you read this book, which I recommend you do, please share your thoughts and feelings of it with me. I would love to hear your thoughts on this book.

~ Michelle

*I received a copy of this book from Simon and Schuster, all thoughts are strictly my own. 

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Talking To My Kids About Adoption

Something was brought to my attention and I felt the need to write this down. I am adopted, and I am a birth mom. There is no denying or hiding it. Its a major part of me. And really it is something I would never try to hide or deny. There is no shame in adoption, in being in any part of adoption. And there is also the  minor detail about having an adoption tattoo on my arm in plain sight that I show off proudly.

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Growing up I don’t remember any single moment that I was told I was adopted. It was a simple fact that I grew up with. When I placed my son for adoption I knew without a doubt that any future children I had would grow up knowing all about him. Fast forward 3 children later and they all know about him. My daughter is only 2, but she has spent every summer of her life with him, and sees him on FaceTime, and sees his pictures around the house. She may not understand, but she knows he’s her brother.

No, telling my children that they have an older sibling that was placed for adoption did not hurt them, or scar them in any way. No I did not tell them “too soon”. Well unless you mean I talked about their older brother even before they could talk, then sure, maybe it was “too soon” as they couldn’t talk about it and join in the conversation.

My children have grown up with the fact that they have an older brother. Being that my oldest son was placed into an open adoption. My oldest son was able to meet my 3 younger children all before they were 6 months old and been able to visit them every few years.

Adoption isn’t something to be hidden away, kept in secret, only talked about in dark corners in the middle of the night in whispers.

I am adopted. I am a birth mom. Why should my children grow up not knowing these things?

Yes, my children miss their older brother. Yes, I miss him. Yes, it hurts me to know they miss him. Yes, I have answered many, many, many questions over the years and will probably continue to do so. Yes it is hard, some days harder than others. Yes, we have all cried countless tears. Is it worth it? Yes. My children all know each other and get to grow up together and create their own special bond together. Seeing all four of my children together, I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Adoption should be talked about. All the time. Adoption is not a bad thing. It is nothing to be ashamed about. Adoption is a beautiful thing. Adoption is all about love and family. Because of adoption my family has grown in numbers and love, a love that crosses the oceans.

Just as my kids grow up knowing that the sun rises and sets, they know that they have a brother who has another family and has his own life path to follow, but that he is still their brother no matter where he lives.

~ Michelle

Three Years After I Found My Birth Mother

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Roses my Birth Mother gave me the one and only time we met in person

3 years ago, yesterday actually, I found my birth mother. Or she found me? We found each other?

I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a cold winter day, I was about 10 years into my search, I had made a break through and actually finally found people that knew her, one problem, no one seemed to know where she was at that time. I was trying to clear all the stress and drama while I walked to school to pick up my boys. On the walk back home my phone rang, as soon as I saw the area code my heart stopped, it was the area code from where I believed my birth mother was. I tried to calm myself, telling myself it was probably just some numbers calling me back after I left messages. I took a deep breathe and answered the phone.

On the other end of the phone was a woman asking for me by my birth name. It was her. She was real. She was alive. She was actually on the other end talking to me.

I screamed.

Then I verified her information, made sure it was really her. It was real. It was really her.

I screamed again.

When I got home I didn’t want to attempt to get the boys in the house, since they would be so loud, so I sat outside in the cold. (If you know me, that is a BIG deal) I was outside for over an hour. We talked about everything, mostly just shooting off question to question at each other.

The first few days and weeks we talked all the time. There were good morning and good night text messages, phone calls, a constant string of texts, I had to re-charge my phone countless times during the day. I have never used my phone so much or talked on the phone so much.

The “honeymoon” stage was such a blur. So much information was exchanged, so many questions were asked, so, so, SO many feelings were running around. Then something happened. The phone calls stopped, the text messages slowed and stopped.

3 years later I sit here, trying to figure it all out. Trying to piece together what happened. Trying to figure out why. Why it went this way. Why this all happened. Did I do something wrong? Was I not good enough for her? Was I not what she imagined?

3 years later and she has become a stranger again.

In all the questions asked, I’m left with a million more.

I don’t know what will happen, I don’t even know what happened!

This whole journey has been such a strange, crazy, unpredictable, emotional, rollercoaster. Sometimes I can’t even tell which direction I should be facing.

Should I have found her? Yes. Did I ever imagine that something like this could happen? No. Would I change it? I don’t know. Because I don’t know what I should change. I don’t know where things went ‘wrong’ to lead me to this path. I don’t even know if this is the ‘wrong’ path!

What I can tell you is that I never dreamed it would be like this.

Growing up I had a million different scenarios in my head, none of them even close to this.

In an adoption everyone wants a happy ending. Most birth mothers hope that if and when their child comes back it will be happy. Most adoptive parents want it to go well because they don’t want to see their child hurt. Most adoptees just don’t want to be hurt, they want answers.

When I think of my adoption journey I almost feel like a failure. I was lucky to finally find my birth mother, I was lucky she wanted to find me. But some where, some how, something, maybe, went wrong. Or maybe this is just how it was meant to be. I don’t know.

I imagined that we would have some sort of relationship, friendship. I didn’t imagine I would meet her and lose her again. I never thought she would become a stranger. I never knew someone and a situation could cause such confusion, and bring on so many questions, and so many different feelings all at once.

I found my birth mom 3 years ago, and I have even more questions than when I started.

This journey has been so much harder and emotionally draining and confusing than I would have dreamed possible.

Maybe the next 3 years will bring some more answers. Maybe. If there are even any answers to be had.

~ Michelle

I Met My Birth Mom. What It Is Like Two Years Later.

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Roses my Birth Mother gave me 2 years ago

Two years ago I met my Birth Mother and Birth Grandmother for the first time.
Two years later and honestly I still feel just as confused as I did on that day.
On that day I could not find any of the right words that even resemble what I was feeling or thinking. I just could not seem to put this into the right words, and I still can’t. This is not an easy situation, it is a lot more complex and confusing than I would have ever thought possible.
So please bear with me through this.

I met my Birth Mom and Birth Grandmother.
This should be a happy moment. Right? Cloud 9. Jumping up and down. Happy dance. All of that right?

Let me back up a little bit. I spent my entire life, for as long as I can remember with certain beliefs about my birth mom. I knew it was silly, and I shouldn’t assume things about someone I knew nothing about, but I also felt I was right. Something I knew in my heart to be true. Like we had a connection or something. As I grew older and heard horror stories about Adoption Reunions I knew to always “expect to the unexpected” so to speak. So I tried my hardest to expand what I believed. There were just certain parts that I could not let go of. My heart just told me they were true. I hoped for the best and prepared for the worse.
My first mistake was thinking my search would be easy. Of course she would be looking for me. All of them would be. Of course there would be an easy trail for me to find. Turns out it was not easy, or quick. My search took nearly 10 years.
Then reality came knocking on my door, more like destroyed it actually. Out of the 100,000,000,001 scenarios I thought of none of them were true.
I realize this was fully on me, I only have myself to blame. But after believing for so long in something, trusting your heart for so long, and realizing it was all wrong, to have your beliefs’, hopes, dreams, thoughts, all crushed… It was hard. I had to re-evaluate everything I thought and believed about myself, about her, about everything connected to my Adoption. That connection I believed I had, that I was somehow special because I felt this, was gone.

Throughout this I did, and still do, feel so blessed and lucky that I have been able to actually find my birth mom. That’s the important thing here. I actually found her. I am one of the lucky ones. My search was finally over. A whole new journey is before me now.

When it came time to actually meet her, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to feel. I was confused before she even stepped foot in my house. Which took me by a giant surprise. I thought I was ready to take this step. I thought I knew what I wanted, how I felt, everything. I thought meeting her would be the next natural step and everything about it would be natural and free-flowing.

As I looked into the eyes of the person that gave birth to me, as I looked into the eyes of my birth grandmother for the first time, my blood…. I don’t know. In that moment in time, I didn’t know what to feel, think or expect. I was shaken to the core from this meeting.

I looked into their eyes and it really hit me, there is a whole family history there that I’m connected to it. But I don’t feel connected. I should feel connected, right? Should it be an instant connection? We are blood after all. There should be a bond? Something small there at least? Where did that connection go that I thought I had with her growing up? Was that really gone? Or was it just my beliefs that were gone? I thought it was just my beliefs. For sure some connection should remain?

I never thought I would be this confused, I never thought I would feel like this. I never dreamed the emotional roller coaster this would be. I never dreamed it would go on for years.

I want to be able to tell people that this meeting was what dreams are made of. That it went perfectly. That it was wonderful. That it left me with no questions at all. I want to say that we had a connection and are now involved in each others lives. I want to be able to say that, because a part of me wanted it to be like that.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I met them. It was a good experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

But the truth is here I am 2 years later after meeting them and I am just as confused and lost as I felt on that day.

Our relationship has not progressed the way I thought it would, and honestly I am not sure where that leaves us, or what it means.

I spent 28 years without her, I spent 10 years looking for her, I realize a relationship will not be built overnight, related by blood or not, this is going to take a lot of work. A lot more than I thought would take for people related by blood, for a daughter and her birth mother.

Thanks to all those who have supported me throughout all of this! Your love and support means so much to me!
~Michelle

Adoption Mug

This is my Adoption Mug.

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Let me explain.
This summer I got to spend some time with my son that I gave up for adoption and his family. I even got a special lunch with the wonderful woman who adopted him. We even got to do a little bit of shopping before lunch. While out we found this mug, actually two of these mugs. We decided it would be fun to have matching mugs, thus making this to be forever known as my Adoption Mug.
One mug has traveled all the way back to Europe, while mine stays here, but when I drink out of it, I feel just a little bit closer to them, a little bit more connected.

I love my Adoption Mug.

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Sometimes it is the small things that mean the most to us.

Do you have a Wordless Wednesday post? Or a Not So Wordless Wednesday post? Link up below!

~ Michelle

Sometimes Things Make Me Feel Uneasy

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Lets be brutally honest for a minute.
I never try to judge another person, especially a mother, especially a birth mother. I don’t know their story, their feelings. And some times people say things that I don’t agree with, and that is their choice to believe what they want. But sometimes people say things that make me feel uneasy.
When I hear a birth mother say “I finally got my son/daughter back after 20-? years my family is complete” I cringe. I can’t help it. I feel uneasy. It took me a while to figure out why. It affects me on a few different levels. I will attempt to break it down for you.

When I hear a birth parent say “I finally got my son/daughter back”, from an adoptees stand point this bothers me. I’m sorry, but you can never “have me back”. I found my birth mother, I never got her back. She didn’t come into my life and suddenly become my mother, she is still my birth mom. I have a mother, a very good mother, and she will not be replaced simply because I found the woman who gave birth to me. It doesn’t take away all the years that I was raised by someone else. Yes I am in a unique position to have two families, one made by blood, one made by love. My family made by love is my family. Another family may have found me, but they can not have me back and take over role as family for me. I’m sorry, for me, it doesn’t work that way.

When I hear a birth parent say “I finally got my son/daughter back” from a birth mothers stand point I still feel uneasy about this. I will never “get my son back”. I gave him up for adoption, my role ends there, I am a birth mother, not his mother. Just because I know him does not change my standing in his life. I will never be a mother to him in the sense that his mother is to him, or in the sense that I am a mother to my 3 younger children. I love my son as much as my 3 younger kids. All four of my children are my life, they are my world, they are my heart, my reason. But when it comes to my older son, I am on the sidelines watching and cheering him on in his life with his mother, his real mother. I don’t get to sit here on the sidelines, wait till he is 16 or 18, and say “your old enough to make a choice, come live with me, I want you back”. It doesn’t work that way. I will never “get him back”. I will never have a legal claim to him. I couldn’t even take him to the doctors if I wanted to, I can’t make medical decisions. I am a birth mother, not a mother, and I can never get my roll as mother “back”. I love him like only a mother can, but I am not his mother.

Even when I found my birth mother after nearly 10 years of searching, I never once said “I have my mom back”. I have a mom already. I found my birth mom yes, but she is still just my birth mom. I love the woman, she gave me life, I have a great respect for her for what she did for me. But just because I found her, found my half-sister, does not mean I “got them back” and have some how replaced existing family members, or completed my family. My family was already complete. Finding my birth family was just an added bonus.

Let me just end this in saying there is a big difference between saying someone is back in your life, and laying a claim to someone saying you got them back.

~ Michelle

Lets Talk About Birthdays and Adoption

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There are not many times in my life that I have ‘felt’ like I was adopted.
There are times that it gets pointed out to me, like at doctors offices when they ask for family medical history. Or on my birthday. Yes my birthday. People feel the need to ask me if I’m sad on my birthday, or rather they assume I am. It usually goes a little something like this “I’m sure this day is sad for you, you know, because your adopted, but Happy Birthday anyway!” Um…what?!

My birthday has never been sad. My parents, the lovely and wonderful people who adopted me, did a good job at loving me, raising me, and making sure to always celebrate my awesomeness on my birthday.

I don’t know what it is like for other adoptees out there, but I can reassure you that my birthday was never sad.
There is however a difference with feeling sad and feeling like something is missing. Yet still I never felt like that either, at least not when I was growing up. I had a family, a real life family complete with a Mom and Dad and Brother and Sister. Real live people who loved me, cared for me, watched out over me, and sometimes drove me crazy! What more could a girl ask for?

But since finding my Birth Mom a couple of years ago, I have noticed a difference in how I feel on my birthday. My Birth Mother and I didn’t have the reunion that I am sure many adoptees dream of. Or maybe we just haven’t gotten there yet, who knows. All I know is that at this point in time we don’t talk. So now on my birthdays, now that I know her, now that I know she’s a real live person, now that she has been in my house, now that she is making the choice not to be involved (as she had no choice before being that it was a closed adoption), that is hard to swallow and deal with.

For the first time in my life I do feel sad and feel like something, someone, is missing. I feel sad that it turned out this way. I feel sad for the woman I have yet to get to know. I feel sad that this woman is missing out on the potential to know some really awesome people; my family.

Yet in saying that it just goes to prove how powerful adoption is, how it doesn’t take blood to make a family. My parents love me so fiercely, I am their child, I am loved and we are a real family, and that is enough for me.

So next time you know someone who is adopted and they are celebrating a birthday just say Happy Birthday. That is it. Happy Birthday. And maybe give them cake. Cake is always a good option.

~ Michelle