Poetry is good for the human soul. It allows us to express our feelings and emotions through writing. It provides a way for us to connect with and understand the experiences of those around us. Poems can be written on all kinds of different subjects and there are many different forms of poems. For those who have been a part of the adoption process, adoption poetry can be a source of comfort. Read on to learn how adoption poetry has impacted the lives of adoptees and adoptive parents. 

My adoption was not planned. My adoptive parents were not planning to adopt. They had two biological children making their family complete. They decided to foster. On a cold Sunday in December of 1994, they got a call from Greene County Children’s Division needing to place a 10-day old baby girl. Later when asked if they wanted to adopt her, they said no, however, they realized that this little girl was supposed to be their daughter. It was a part of God’s plan for her life and their lives. That little girl was me, Emili. To Jim and Marty Schurke, I was a gift from God. The poem The Gift of Life really spoke to me. The poem reads: 

I didn’t give you the gift of life,

But in my heart I know.

The love I feel is deep and real,

As if it had been so.

For us to have each other

Is like a dream come true!

No, I didn’t give you

The gift of life,

Life gave me the gift of you.

— Unknown

While they didn’t give me life, life gave them the gift of a daughter to raise. I am very thankful to have been adopted by the Schurkes and raised in a wonderful home. If it weren’t for them realizing God’s call for them to adopt, I may not be where I am today. I hope they know that I love them and I am very thankful for them. 

Emili Schurke is the youngest of three children. She was adopted when she was three years old. She has a huge heart for adoption and foster care. She currently resides with her parents and assists with the children in their care. Emili holds a special place in her heart for children with special needs. She works as a special education paraprofessional while she is pursuing her Masters in Teaching Special Education from Drury University. In 2018, she graduated with her Bachelors in Elementary Studies from College of the Ozarks, located in Point Lookout, Missouri. She is excited to share her adoption story with those around her. 

Adoption Poetry

By: Katie Kaessinger

I grew up with all kinds of adoption-related reminders around me. I still have my shadow-box in my room, containing the clothes I was wearing when I was adopted. My parents bought me numerous adoption-related children’s books like Rose Lewis’s “I Love You Like Crazy Cakes” and Grace Lin’s “The Red Thread.” On the wall in our kitchen, there is a framed poem by an anonymous author called “Legacy of An Adopted Child.” On the top of the page bearing the poem, there is a picture of my sister and me in China in 2002, when my parents and I traveled to adopt her. The poem reads:

Once there were two women who never knew each other,

One – you do not remember, the other you call mother.

Two different lives shaped to make yours,

One became your guiding star, the other became your sun.

The first gave you life, and the second taught you to live in it.

The first gave you a need for love and the second was there to give it.

One gave you a nationality; the other gave you a name.

One gave you the seed of talent; the other gave you an aim.

One gave you emotions; the other calmed your fears.

One saw your first sweet smile; the other dried your tears.

One gave you up – that’s all she could do.

The other prayed for a child and God led her straight to you.

Now you ask through all your tears the age-old question through the years;

Heredity or environment – which are you a product of?

Neither, my darling – neither – just two different kinds of love.

The more I have read this poem throughout the years, the more I have really understood its meaning. This poem features two prominent figures as important in shaping the life of an adopted child. 

The first parent, the birth mother, “gave you life,” “gave you the seed of talent, “saw your first sweet smile,” etc. One of the reasons I love this poem is because it shapes birth parents in such a beautiful light. I struggled for years to understand how my birth parents could abandon me. I could not fathom a parent abandoning their child out of love. The birth mother in the poem is constantly “giving,” framing her as a generous, loving parent. The poem includes the line “One gave you up- that’s all she could do.” This is a nice reminder that a vast majority of the birth mothers who place their child for adoption are doing so, not out of hatred or rejection, but truly out of love for that child and a desire for him or her to grow up with more opportunities. 

The second parent, the adoptive mother, “gave you a name,” “gave you aim,” “dried your tears,” “calmed your fears,” etc. The writer makes the adoptive mother just as beautiful and important as the birth mother. While the birth mother physically gives an adoptive child life, and sometimes a name, an adoptive mother truly helps form their child into the person they are. It is the adoptive parent who goes to every school conference, soccer game, and dance recital. It is the adoptive parent who the child goes to for comfort. The birth parent gave life but the adoptive parent teaches a child how to live. 

The poem conveys that the two mothers, who are complete strangers, work together to give the child a better life. They are both important in their own ways. Adopted children would not be who they are without the genetics and selfless sacrifice of their biological parents or the compassion and guidance of their adoptive parents. 

Another beautiful feature is that the poem focuses on the pronoun “you,” making the adopted child the central figure. The writer could have chosen “I” or “he/she,” but they chose “you” instead. “You” includes the reader and makes the poem more personal. The sacrifices both birth parents and adoptive parents make are for the child- so it makes sense that the reader, usually an adopted child, is the central figure in the poem. 

This poem is effective at conveying that adoptive parents do not replace birth parents. They are two separate beings. But, each of them brings something special to the life of the child, and that is one of the beautiful things about adoption. 

Katie Kaessinger is an international adoptee from China now residing in Southern California. After graduating from the University of California, Irvine in June 2020 with her BA in English, Katie started law school at the California Western School of Law. Katie hopes to be a family lawyer and specialize in child advocacy and dependency to work with children in the foster care system and adoptees as well as foster and adoptive parents. In her spare time, Katie enjoys listening to and writing music, singing, drawing, playing with her pets, and spending time with her friends (with a mask on and from six feet away!).

Adoption Poetry

By: Cindy Hill

When I was 16 years old, I was dating a boy who had two adopted siblings. On the wall in his parent’s home was a framed poem called Adopted by Joy Saunders Lundberg.

“Oh, Mother,” she cried, Tears flooding precious cheeks.

“They said,” she choked, “If you’re adopted

Your mother is not your real mother.”

Then pleading, “Please tell me the story again.”

Nestled in loving arms,

Secure from the hurt of unknowing friends,

The words fell from trembling lips

To hungry little ears.

“Oh, child, How I wanted to be

Your birth mother. I could not

But I knew you were there, Somewhere.

We prayed, your daddy and I,

And God guided us to you.

“There you were, a beautiful baby,

My baby.

I held you close and promised

To love you, to teach you,

To keep you from harm, from distress-

And here I am,

Your birth mother? No.

But your real mother? Yes.”

I didn’t know that I would marry that boy and that poem would have a different meaning for me than it did before. After the birth of our two daughters, I was diagnosed with secondary infertility. Adoption had never been something we had discussed for our family but after two failed attempts at artificial insemination and fertility drugs, we decided to pursue it. My heart ached for a baby. I knew that it was going to have to come through someone else and I would have to explain to that child how he grew inside someone else who loved him. But how much we loved him too. We did eventually adopt a beautiful baby boy. And several years later, we adopted a  2 ½-year-old little girl. Though they have very different stories I hope that both of them know how much they are loved and that I am their “real mother.”

As demonstrated by the poetry shared, a poem can deeply impact the lives of its readers. When thoughts can’t be expressed vocally, a poem can convey what is felt in the heart. Often when I am alone, ideas come into my head that I quickly record. Sometimes they will come to me while I am falling asleep. When we began doing foster care, my husband had a hard time loving the children as easily as I did. I wrote a poem for him titled, “ Daddy, Will You Love Me?” Part of it reads, 

“though not flesh of your flesh, or bone of your bone,

 I came to this earth through another,

 but I call you father and mother, 

so guide me and teach me all that is right

 and at the end of day, 

I’ll kiss you goodnight.”

I wrote this song to music and sang it to our first sibling group of five foster children. It became the song I would sing to the rest of the children who lived in our home over the next four years and continued to sing to our adopted daughter for several years after that

Poetry can express many kinds of emotions. There are several kinds of poems including rhyming, free verse, haiku, sonnets, elegies, lyrical, and odes. Each type of poem exudes a different feeling from the writer and the reader. 

My Choice by Becki C. shares how she has feelings of sadness, hope, and joy in placing her baby for adoption.

“The first time I looked into your eyes, I cried. You looked at me, knowing who I was, Falling asleep because you knew you were safe. I held you close as much as I could, knowing who you were And realizing it wouldn’t last forever. I kissed your little button nose and smiled. A second in time, but forever etched in my mind. With an aching heart, I placed you in the arms Of the woman I had chosen to be your mommy……and she whispered, “Thank you.” As I walked away, my heart breaking, I knew sadness, joy, peace, and anger. But mostly I knew that you were loved And that someday, somewhere You would understand my choice.”

Adoption has many sides. The members of the adoption triad include the expectant mother, the adoptive parents, and the adoptee.  Each member has different feelings about the process and each person experiences different emotions. Poetry can help others outside the adoption triad better understand what goes on in the minds of those involved.

 This is an excerpt from a poem by Liana O’Rourke, a 16-year-old, Chinese adoptee, titled, Enough.

Every year for Thanksgiving, I go to a big family dinner with more than 100 Irish relatives. We joke about how everyone’s last name starts with O’. It never fails to remind me that it’s my name that’s Irish, and not me. My straight, silky black hair gets lost in a sea of red, bouncy curls. But no matter how much green I wear on St. Patrick’s Day, or how many potatoes I eat, I’ll never be as Irish as them, never Irish enough.

This poem expresses how she feels inside. No matter how loved she feels, she recognizes that she will never truly be Irish as her name implies

Poetry serves as an outlet for many to let out their innermost thoughts. Sometimes the words are written only for the writer to see, and other times they are meant to be shared. But no matter what the intention of the writer may be, it is always something meaningful that needs to be expressed.

Cindy Hill has seen all sides of the adoption triad throughout her life. At the age of 9, she watched as her sister placed her baby for adoption. She married her high school sweetheart who had two adopted siblings and later adopted two of their six children. Adoption is a blessing in her life. Cindy and her husband recently sold their home of 26 years and became empty-nesters. They currently live in a destination trailer on their oldest daughter’s property along with their two dogs and a small herd of cattle. Cindy’s hobbies include going to garage sales, decorating, teaching piano lessons, spending time with grandchildren, and writing. She is a Teacher’s Aide in the Science department of a charter school.  She and her husband also enjoy traveling together. Writing gives Cindy a chance to reflect on life and look at it from other points of view as well.