Adoptee Elena Hall on Both/And in Adoption

When I was very new at being an adoptive mom, and upon hearing from several adoptees how painful an Either/Or mindset was to them in their own adoptive families, I began to embrace what I came to call a BothAnd heartset. It has become a key principle in how I conceptualize not only adoption, but life — becoming expansive enough to span opposing sides of something.

So imagine my delight when Elena Hall reached out about her children’s book, Adoption is Both.

Elena is not only an adoptee, but she has also been licensed as a master social worker (LMSW). She shares her thoughts on adoption and Both/And here.

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Elena S Hall: Life comes with disappointments & joys. There is a natural duality every day between good and bad or happy and sad. 

Adoptee Elena Hall, LMSW
  • You’re sick so you miss a trip – disappointed. 
  • You get an unexpected gift – joy.  

The thing with these two examples, though, is that it’s easy to find happiness and sadness separately, but hard to find happiness and sadness wrapped into one single life circumstance. Adoption is unique in that way.

A Destination for Adoptive Parents, A Journey for Adoptees

Adoptees need to look at the duality with their experience of being adopted. While adopting is an event for parents, being adopted is a lifelong reality for adoptees after the initial adoption is finalized. Adoption continues to affect the lives of the people connected to adoption over and over and over again.  It’s those moments in class hearing about something that connects me to my birth culture and losing track of what the teacher is saying because I am deep in my thoughts about adoption and missing the lesson. 

Duality is interwoven into any sort of adoption story, but I think that different parts of the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, adoptee) are drawn to Both/And in different ways. Take two polarizing emotions, and that is probably a good measure of what adoption feels like to an adoptee. You can feel both happy and sad in a moment when adoption is mentioned. There are no cookie cutter adoptions, and everyone has a unique story to share. 

Once we adoptees sit in the difficult and the easier emotions around our own adoptions, we are good at seeing Both because no matter what age we became adopted, duality is part of our present reality. Both/And is just something we must accept and cope with. A lot of adoptees call the moment when you stop looking only at the happy side of adoption as “coming out of the fog.”

I’m an adoptee – both opposites are part of my worldview. Is this sad? Yes. Is this happy? Yes. I’m thankful to have been adopted but I’m sad I had to be. 

Growing Into Both/And

It may be less automatic for adoptive parents and birth parents who instead grow into the reality of coping with Both/And, so they’re more likely to focus on one versus the other, more like Either/Or. Parents choose to adopt, and then over time they experience the fullness and duality of adoption that adoptees experience every day. 

Adoptive parents-in-training usually start with joy or excitement and learn to incorporate the less-than-joyful parts of adoptive parenting. Birth parents may start with pain and grow to find that positive emotions can coexist with pain. Kids adopted at an older age also experience these emotions in different ways. In Through Adopted Eyes, I write about how positivity does not mean ignoring the pain.  

How can we best prepare our littlest adoptees for this big vast world of Both/And unless we don’t make room for these emotions ourselves?  

Show Your Adoptee the Way

Kids need permission to feel the Both/And. This is why I published Adoption Is Both. It’s not about one emotion “winning” or only being good or bad. Parents can start to unpack the duality of emotions adoptees can have! This can have an immense cathartic power for everyone living in adoption.

About Elena Hall

Elena S Hall, LMSW and adoptee, has a passion for adoptee advocacy that stems from her faith and family. Her goal is to aid those in the adoption triad to promote healing and growth within the adoption community and empower readers to share their own stories.

guide to living in open adoption

Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a young adult daughter, writes from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

One thought on “Adoptee Elena Hall on Both/And in Adoption”

  1. Just ordered your book. Looks like a great resource for my adoptive parent groups. It’s so important to have tools to acknowledge ALL the feelings.
    I would say that for me, as an adoptive parent, adoption has not just been a single event but it has shaped the rest of my life in good and bad ways also.
    On the positive side I am a more humble person for having encountered the limits of what my love and parenting can do.
    On the negative side I too live with the ongoing loss of the family I did not get to have.
    Adoption is tough on everybody! Definitely not the fairy tale that the world likes to think it is.

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