Below is Dawn’s story posted originally  on March 1, 2010.


I am a birth mother who placed my daughter up for adoption 15 years ago.  I was in high school (the summer of 12th grade year 1993) when I started dating the birth father.  I actually grew up with him and to be honest he was my very first real relationship.  I was a cheerleader and track star and her dad was a wonderful basketball and football player. I was 17 when I became pregnant and the birth father was 16 years old.  I was raised by my grandmother (paternal side) in Maryland, she has a very strong personality, so when I found out I was pregnant I was extremely afraid! I hid the pregnancy for 6 months. Only the father knew…I had graduated from high school and entered into a community college in our area. I knew I had to tell her so I finally went to my grandmother with the help/support of my twin sister and told her I was pregnant. She was angry and very quiet. I knew what she was thinking: we were raised in the church so embarrassment was written all over her face. The next day she told me I was going to have an abortion. She didn’t talk to me except to tell me the steps of this process.  She made the appointment, and the doctor examined me and told me that I was too far along. My grandmother called me a liar, then told me that I would have to go and live with my father in California and have my baby there and completely shut down after that. We got home I called my daddy and it took my grandmother less than a week for me to be on a plane headed to California. I had to drop out of college, say goodbye to my sister (not just my sister, but my TWIN), my boyfriend, and lie to my friends and family as to why I was leaving so quickly…I told them that I was going to bring my aunt back home to Maryland.  My Aunt had recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  No one took me to the airport I had to take a taxi alone. I left October 6, 1994.  My father welcomed me with loving arms and when I saw him I broke down.  Looking back on it I know my grandmother was only doing what she thought was right.  She was trying to protect me from the judgement of others.

When I finally got settled, my dad called my grandmother and I was told to place my child up for adoption. My dad spoke to a close friend at work and she recommended a wonderful adoption agency out of Los Angeles. With my initial meeting with my social worker Mrs. Bowman she was sweet, gentle, she listened to me intently and was very honest with me. A few days later my dad surprised me with the news that my sister was coming to California to share in our birthday (November). That was the happiest day I felt in my life.  My goodness I missed her so much! In the first week of December I had a meeting with the potential adoptive parent’s attorney.  He was also very honest, and I believed he cared. We had two potential families.  They were high profile families so I immediately understood that this would be a closed adoption. I was given non-identifying information on the parents and had to make a decision. Even though I wasn’t given identifying information I knew exactly who the couple was that I choose to place my child with.  After the meeting I came home and got in the shower and cried like baby…I went into labor December 20th, but didn’t give birth to my baby girl until the next morning.  I had a c-section so I was able to stay in the hospital for three days.  After giving birth she was placed in an incubator, she was stressed because they broke my water and the doctor  waited too long to decide to give me a c-section. I was bombarded with so much pain while I sat there in that hospital bed. My social worker came to see me and go over my next steps.  My daughter was able to leave on day 2 and I asked her to ask the family if she could stay one more day with me.  They complied and my daddy even called my grandmother and asked “mom are you sure we’re doing the right thing?”, she told him that I could stay there and raise her 😦 . On the last day my dad and I went down to the nursery and held her for as long as I could before I was discharged.  I had some request before I left that hospital.  I needed a picture of her (my social worker had taken a Polaroid picture of her since the photographer was out sick-of course!), her hospital band, her vital stats after birth, her little foot prints on a birth certification card from the hospital, and the tag that was on her bassinet.

I did not want her to go into foster care, even though it would have only been for the weekend, I just really wanted the family to share Christmas Day.  I left the hospital December 23rd and went directly to the agency to sign the papers.  After we got home I held the items that I got from the hospital and laid down and cried for hours.  I tried to make myself believe that I was doing the right thing, or saying this is what is best for her, but I was just angry.  I had my final appointment to remove the stitches ( I know it is weird but I kept those as well) and got the okay to go back home.

The lie that I told about why I was coming to California ended up not being a lie at all.  In addition to dealing with my adoption, I was preparing for my aunt to actually come back home with me and she did.  3 1/2 months later my aunt and I were on a plane headed back to Maryland, but life had changed drastically! The relationship with my grandmother was quiet and no one talked about anything.  I was so excited to be home, I put on a front during the day and cried myself to sleep at night. In June I received a professional picture of my daughter (4 months old) and with that a letter from the my social worker saying that she couldn’t handle the business any longer after my case and decided to leave the company, she too was pregnant during the same time.

I tried going back to college but I couldn’t focus on school or anything else for that matter.  I got a job and tried to move on with my life.  My relationship with her father was up and down for the next few years.  We celebrated her birthdays together and he wasn’t the stay in a relationship type of guy, but I tried to make it work.  We had another child a son four years later and 4 months after giving birth to him I moved back with my grandmother and never looked back (in that relationship).

I am thankful for my relationship with Christ.  He keeps me at peace and those days that I am feeling low he picks me up and tells me how much he loves me.  I know for a fact that if it had not been for him I would not be where I am today.  He created a wonderful man of God I married who supports me and is a great father to my son.  My grandmother and I reconciled and she is still a big part of my life.


7 Years ago Dawn and I met through Facebook.  I was just starting my blog and I wanted to hear from  a birth/first mother about what her experience was like with adoption.  7 years ago,  I was trying to find my birth mother and Dawn was still grieving the loss of her daughter.  She wrote this blog and we stayed in touch and we shared with each other from our experiences as an adoptee and birth/first mother.   She helped me to understand what my mother went through and I tried to help her see what life as an adoptee is like and what her daughter may be feeling.

3 years after Dawn and I met the daughter that she  gave up turned 18 and reentered Dawn’s life.  When I first met Dawn she was hyper-vigilant about protecting the privacy of the adoptive parents and it wasn’t my place to ask.  What wasn’t shared in the story above was that Dawn choose to place her daughter Elisa with Magic and Cookie Johnson.  What wasn’t shared was that Dawn watched her daughter grow up through the internet and ached to be a part of her life.  When Elisa turned 18 the call that Dawn waited for for 18 years finally came and she got to hug her baby girl again.

Last year,  Elisa and Magic & Cookie’s son,EJ stared in the reality show, EJNYC.  A pseudo-reunion was created for the show and in the 3 minute video it is easy to see the love that never went away(see the link below).  As an adoptee who never met their birth/first mother that reunion caught on tape has given me some peace knowing that giving up a child to adopti0n isn’t as easy as I thought…and it shouldn’t be.


GOT QUESTIONS:  Here’s an interview I did with Dawn which answers some questions:  DAWN”S INTERVIEW

Don’t forget, follow me on twitter @k8967. 

Note:  blog is temporarily @ http://www.mymindonpaper.wordpress.com while I update my regular site.


Elisa Johnson & Dawn Smith

Dawn & Elisa’s Reunion


Elisa, Dawn, & David(Dawn’s son and Elisa’s bro.)


Jeremy(Dawn’s Husband), Autumn, Michelle, David, & Dawn


Elisa singing while Grandma Viv plays the piano–full circle moment

Guest Blogger

Part of my passion in the adoption community is to celebrate the voices of all impacted by adoption.  So I decided to reach out to others in the community to do guest blogs on my site.  Here is the first of many.


Bio: My name is Aerial and I am an adoptee, blogger, aspiring photographer, musician, and writer. I have been in post reunion with my birth family for seven years. I have seven siblings: two older biological half sisters, one older biological whole sister, my little sister I was raised with, one older biological half brother, my twin brother I was raised with and my youngest brother I was raised with…Big sister of four and the baby sister of six ( birth mother and birth father’s side). I have been blogging for the last five years and I am in the process of writing a book. Here is a post from my blog The Eyes of An Adoptee.

Loss, Pain & Grief…. Understanding the Adopted Person


Some adoptees do not struggle with these feelings. I am not assuming every adoptee does; just putting that out there.

I was talking with another adoptee last night. I follow her blog and I think her story is so interesting. We were talking last night about grief.   She asked me “why do we grieve?”   I thought about this question.  Here is what I understand:

I think we as adoptees grieve because we understand that the relationships we are searching for are not the ones we initially had. For example… the relationship I have with my birth mother now is not the relationship I would of have with her if I wasn’t adopted. It would have been totally different and that initial relationship is what I yearned for. When I realized I couldn’t have that relationship I had to grieve that lost.  However in the midst of grieving for what I couldn’t have… I had to build some type of relationship with her to keep her in some way, shape or form in my life. That’s where pain sets in. The pain of having her in my life in a way that I didn’t expect and wasn’t necessarily ready for and the pain of her not being able to be my mother. So the loss sets in. I lost a mother.

This is traumatizing and a lot of people inside and outside the realm of adoption don’t believe, recognize or understand.   I lost a mother in the worst way possible.   Losing a parent to death is tragic.   I almost lost both of my parents but I thank God every day that they are still here. That grief is sometimes unbearable but people get through it and they cope.

I lost my birth mother but I see her from time to time.   I can’t have her.   The woman that held me ( and my twin brother) for nine months and gave birth to me, named me, took me home, and had me in her care up until I was four months old is out there walking around Walmart or watching TV and I can’t be her daughter.   I can’t call her everyday. I can’t give her a hug everyday. I   can’t do the things daughters do with mothers because that title was taken away from her.   That title was stripped from me.   I am someone else’s daughter.  The essence is gone.

Pain, loss and grief…. most adopted people know too well. These feelings are the most hidden feelings.  I don’t share these feelings because it’s easier than going through the emotions and trying to explain it to people over and over to no prevail.  It’s like reliving you reality when you are already drowning in it.

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to train a group of transracial parents in New York City. I had flew in early and had time to kill before the event so I decided to enjoy the city. I left my hotel to go for a walk around Time Square, which was only 3 blocks away. As I floated through the busy streets dodging tourists who were in awe of what New York has to offer and determined New Yorkers two thing really struck me.

Now I have been to New York several times and been to this area several times so the amount of people and the flow of New York didn’t surprise me. I grew up in Detroit so I am well versed on how to navigate my way through large cities. I knew to drag out of storage my big city armor. I knew I would have to don my “act like you’ve been there’ attitude to blend in. I have learned those that stick out are easy targets.
The first thing that struck me was that it was very safe there. Amidst the busyness and the crowds, I walked aware of my surroundings but also comfortable and felt very safe. The second thing I noticed was that I didn’t stick out. Growing up as a transracial adoptee and Black man I have gotten an accelerated level of training on being a conspicuous person. The weight of moving through life with a family that doesn’t match is often taken for granted. Everywhere you go you are “odd” and not the norm. People stare sometimes innocently and some times not trying to figure out how your family is a family. I’m sure when I was with my white mother and my Dad wasn’t present many assumed my white mother spent at least a few moments with a man of color. When our entire family was together I’m sure many assumed I was the foster kid or as one person put it, “the welfare baby.” You get used to those stares and you can actually see people trying to connect the dots as the wheels in their heads are turning trying to figure out how this family works.
As a Black man I again have been trained in the subtleties of racism and microaggressions. I am very aware when people notice me and then make sure to keep an eye on me. I notice the slights by the cashier who is less friendly to me than she was to the kind old white woman before me. I notice the extra stares while shopping or the Walmart employee who sees me standing at the counter in the electronics department and then goes back to their report without acknowledging my presence. I know my skin has the ability to make me very noticeable or invisible.
These daily experiences of a TRA(transracial adoptee) become my accepted way of life and although frustrating beyond measure at times, they are the roles I walk through life with and I can’t change them nor do I want to; simply put this is my normal.
Then I walked through Time Square and I just blended in with all the beautiful diversity that walks, strolls, or runs by me. I just “am” and it feels good. The weight of being the one that stands out is instantly lifted off my shoulders and my lungs are able to take in extra air. I walk through the 25 degree air and I’m warmed by this experience to just exist without the weight of my skin.
As transracial parents don’t assume your child doesn’t feel that same weight especially if they are typically in environments where they are the only one or one of a few. What are you doing to put them in environment where they can “just be?”
Lastly, don’t assume that a child will be able to verbalize the weight they carry. Don’t fall prey to the assumption that if you ask them if they notice this or are uncomfortable and they say no that you don’t have to address it. They may be use to the roles they walk in to the point that they don’t even notice it.
BE PURPOSEFUL! Design strategies where you create ways for them to be part of a majority. For those of you who have done this please share what has worked or not worked and what you have noticed when your child is in this environment. .
Let’s support each other to create children of color POWERFUL BEYOND MEASURE
If you haven’t already, follow me on twitter @k8967. I post daily thoughts, ideas, articles, etc. about adoption and the TRA life.

Throwback Tuesdays

Throw back Tuesday. Old blog post i wrote 2 yrs ago but sadly still very relevant.

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Their hair is their crown.  Don’t neglect their crown.  By age three children are very aware of physical differences.  Don’t give others the opportunity to “other” them in any more ways.  If you don’t know how to style their crown find someone who does.  Humble yourself to go in to a Salon or barber shop where you are the minority.  Teach them they are descendants of royalty and those of the royal family should have a wonderful crown.

What are they seeing with their eyes?  Do they see others that look like them on a regular basis?  Who do they see seated around your dinner table?  What message are you sending them if no one else who ever enters your home looks like them?

How do they speak of themselves, their history and their DNA?  If they say nothing is it because they don’t feel comfortable speaking about their different skin and hair and origin?  Empower them to speak lovingly and powerfully about all that they are and can become.  Put others in their lives who do the same so they can model themselves after them.

Are their shoulders bearing weight they should not be carrying?  Give them the freedom to share their experience of life all the good and bad.  Give them space to mourn the losses that come with adoption.  Sit with them and comfort without speaking.  Create a safe area to unload and just be.

Protect their hearts by preparing them for how the world will see them and respond to them.  Impress upon them that it is the world that is broken and not them.  If you pause hoping to preserve their innocence you risk wounding their heart.

Strengthen their legs and feet by showing them others who walk through this world as they do.  Find mentors who know the challenges of life they will face; mentors who rise above those challenges and stand tall in who they are.

Transracial parenting is a purposeful life.  Welcome to your purpose.  It can be difficult and exhausting but the fruit of your labor is raising wonder, amazing, children of color.





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My understanding of racism and its impact is delayed by about 20 years when I compare it to your average person of color.  Those that grew up in households whose families have matching skin color typically talk about the effects of race on a consistent basis. In 2007 a study on race concluded that families of color where three times more likely to talk about race than white families.  My white family was similar and therefore my understanding was delayed until I ventured out in to the world on my own.

This last year the impact of race on my life has peaked and it feels like I have finally caught up to my peers.  It has be especially difficult because it feels like I lived 20 years in the last year.  Daily I feel the weight of what it means to be a Black man in this country.  So much so it has forced me in to self-imposed solitary confinement.  I stopped writing.  I stopped looking to engage in extra dialogue because I was trying to figure out just what it all means.  I guess I was trying to limit the effects of race on my life.  But what I found was that is impossible.

Race and racism are like gravity.  If I chose to deny gravity’s impact on my life it won’t stop gravity from impacting me.  So I can’t ignore it thinking it will go away because it won’t.  So what do I do?

One thing that hasn’t changed over the last year is that I feel this is what I was created to do.  I was created to help transracial families walk along a smoother path than I did.   So I have to get up and understand that I must grant myself parole for solitary confinement. The answers surely aren’t written on the walls of my small cell.  Maybe the simple fact that I too struggle under the weight of race and racism will help a white mom who is raising a young black child.  Maybe that struggle will bring understanding to that family that this unusual life is hard but necessary.

This self-imposed colorful life may make you feel like staying in bed and not interacting with anyone and you are not alone.  But we have got to get up.  Kick open the cell door and participate.  If we have to lean on each other until we are strong enough to walk than let’s take shifts.  As the hours pass we will get stronger.

What has helped me as a person of color is to understand that those people of color that have come before me and your children got back up.  It is important for us to teach our children of color that they come from a powerful line of people who refused to stay down for too long.  When they couldn’t stand they leaned on others, Black and White, who truly understood their worth and together they got stronger.  We have powerful DNA that is telling me, IT’S TIME TO GET UP!  So let’s go this last years also has shown me we got a lot of work to do so let’s get to it.

…About Last Night

Last night didn’t go the way I would have hoped.  It was like watching one of my beloved sports teams lose in double overtime.  The one thing I hate about late night competitions is that when they are done, win or lose, after a close battle my body is flowing with adrenaline and it’s next to impossible for me to sleep.  Last night was that and more.  I couldn’t sleep.  I was anxious.  I was scared.  I was sad.  I was shocked.  I was angry.  I was consumed by what I was thinking and feeling.

At 3:30 am I heard the TV on in the living room.  I assumed someone left it on so I got up and went down the stairs to the living room expecting to find an empty room.  Instead, on the couch, wide awake was my 16 year old son.  He was watching CNN and the election results.  I was still encased in my own fog to say much and retreated back to my bed to continue to sort out what this means.

I sat in my bed paging through Facebook hoping that sleep would descend upon me.  As I did I saw several posts from both my sons who were heartbroken about the results of the election.  My eldest was unfriending a friend on Facebook who turned a Trump win in to an indictment against Black Lives Matter.  I wasn’t sure how one related to the other, but it didn’t matter.  Before the election was officially called one of my son’s fears was realized.  Someone from the other camp fresh off of a win felt the need to proclaim, “this win is proof that you don’t matter.”  I didn’t know what to say or do to comfort my son.

My youngest was posting on Facebook how fearful he is now of how this new change would affect him, his young friends of color, his Muslim friends, woman and girls.  I didn’t know what to say or do to comfort my son.

After two hours of sleep I woke up earlier than usual and again paged through Facebook and post after post I saw parents who are raising children of color all say the same thing.  “How do I tell my children about the outcome of this election?”

Last week I sat on a panel of 11 diverse inviduals as we spoke about diversity and inclusion.  I sat between a young Jewish student and a young African student.  They both spoke about how learning about their ancestry and heritage is what created a sense of pride in who they are as Jewish and African woman.  Hearing two young people share quit eloquently that if we don’t know who we come from it’s hard for us to feel pride about who we are was reassuring.

I am a child of color who was raised by white parents and I have taken on some of my parent’s White Privilege.  My wife, a black woman raised by black parents, shakes off injustices much better than I do.  My white privilege has convinced me that I have every right to what everyone else is afforded.  My wife was raised with the understanding that we are part of an unfair system so when disappointment comes you may pause but only momentarily.  The next morning we must forge forward; justice is not a given.

It is with this mentality that generations of blacks have gotten up after what appeared to be a devastating death blow.   Today I tell my children that this is the bloodline that you have inherited.  We have endured worse yet we still stand.  We have been spat on, sprayed with fire hoses, bitten by police dogs and yet we rise.  So pause but don’t break.  That is not what you came from and there are generations who are calling you to get up.  You are descended from royalty and royalty doesn’t bow.  Stand tall my sons.   You are strong, you are valuable, you are priceless, and you are worthy.  This is a lesson in who you come from and through this set back you can find pride in who you are as a person.