Adoption and ‘The Blood’: Embracing the True Meaning Of Love, Family and the Ties That Bind

I am adopted. It is not something that I choose to focus on or talk about much. Because for most of my life, it has meant nothing to me. Bettye and James Millner are my parents—they raised me, taught me, disciplined me, protected me. Love(d) me. This is all that has ever mattered.

Still, one day recently while we were making our way to a Saturday soccer game, we were listening to the “Strawberry Letter” segment on the Steve Harvey Morning Show when a listener intimated that her husband was against adoption because he didn’t want someone else’s “throwaway.”


That word stung. And it sat with me for the rest of the day, and through the weekend, clean into Monday. In the thirty-plus years since I found my adoption papers, I’ve always thought of myself as the lucky one—the one that God saw fit to bless with a mother and father who chose me. Who wanted me. Who thought me worthy of their time and attention and love. Never once did it occur to me that there are people in this world who think of us adoptees as lesser-thans. Tainted.


I mean, I’ve heard people insist that they want to make their “own” baby—a child who bears their “own” DNA. Who carries their blood. I get that, I guess. As an adoptee, it meant something to me to carry babies in my belly and push them through my loins and suckle them at my breast and search them from the tops of their curly little heads down to their tiny toes for evidence—signs of my blood, my DNA, my legacy in the only two people on the planet I know for sure are related by blood to me.

Still, it hurt me to the core to know, for sure, that there are people in this world who insist the love that I share with my parents is somehow less “legitimate” than that which I have for my own kids because my mom, dad and I are not related by blood. And when I tell you it unhinged me, I mean, really, it unhinged me.

Until I got wind of my Mari’s poem. It is a lovely piece she penned for a grade-wide competition in her junior high. I had no idea she’d written it, this piece she titled, “The Blood.” It was at Parent’s Night that I first learned about it—that Mari’s “The Blood” not only existed but had won the competition over every other 8th grade submission at the school and that it was to be presented in front of all the parents who’d ventured out to hear about our kids’ school curriculum.

And when Mari’s teacher read her poem, I cried. Like, an ugly, snotty cry. Because while I was letting some stupid letter from a radio show make me feel bad that I do not share my parent’s blood, my 13-year-old daughter was thinking about blood and it’s beauty in a deeper, more spiritual, powerful and transcending way. Her words blew me away—made me remember that even in its distinction, blood is so much more grand than its direct lines. That it is the glue that binds us all together—as one. The human race.

For your insight, Mari, I simply give thanks.

Here, I proudly present, “The Blood.”


The Blood.

The Blood that runs through my veins, my brain, my heart.

The blood, the biggest puzzle piece making me. And only me.

I cannot fathom how much blood.

The same blood that was running through my veins when I took my first breath. When I made my first appearance, my first impression on my people. On this world.

I cannot fathom how much blood.

The same blood that is just one ripple, one little wave, one teaspoon, in the sea of blood.

The gallons and gallons of heritage.

The big body of being, with everyone’s little ripples and little waves and little teaspoons coursing through it.

Until millions of different families become one.

I cannot fathom how little blood.

But my little teaspoon carries the world.

My blood flows back to Somalia and Ethiopia hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

My blood flows back to my slave ancestors.

My blood flows through everything, everyone.

People interconnect and reconnect.

Blood flows and mixes together.

And we know that we are the same.

That is how the beautiful blood works.

The Blood.

The blood of generations that found its way into your veins.

It is golden.

All of that blood.

It trickles down to you.

That little teaspoon

In the body of being.


1. A Mother’s Love: A Love Letter To The Woman Who Gave Me Away
2. African American Babies Need Moms Who Know Their History
3. Wordful Wednesday: The Most Beautiful Girl In the World
4. Happy 10th Birthday, Mari! Double Digits Rock!

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Hi,
    This is my first visit to your blog. What a great post. And what a talented, thoughtful daughter you have. Glad I stopped by!

  2. As an 8th grade teacher, I can definitely say that Mari’s depth is wise for her years, and she has a gift for being able to communicate those thoughts so eloquently in words.

    It’s in her blood.

    She was the best person to comfort you with the reminder of how because as people we are interconnected, none of us are less than.

  3. This hit home for me. We have 1 son adopted from foster care and one we are fighting to adopt. From the day they walked into my home, they were mine. They were both 3 when they came to us, so they remember living other places, but know this is home and we are mommy and daddy. They don’t really understand yet, but they will know that they are special because God wanted us to be a family.

  4. I am so glad that this poem came to you just when you needed it. I personally believe that love is what binds us. And I think all children adopted or not are gifts and blessings and all things good. You were chosen, chosen to have your wonderful parents and chosen to be loved by them. You were chosen. What a gift that was for you and for them.

  5. It trickles down through me. That’s comforting to think about. Your baby is a lovely wordsmith. I’m glad she helped you see what is important. As for the woman who called into the radio show, I hope they advised her that his outlook on not adopting children b/c they are “throwaways” is a red flag that he may not be a mature man ready to take on the responsibility of being a father.

  6. My goodness, that is a talented child. What a beautiful work of art – you must be so proud!

  7. Your daughter is wise beyond her years and so talented! I am an adoptive parent and my son is African American. I plan on sharing this poem with him when he is old enough. As an adoptive parent thank you so much for sharing this and your story!
    Jennifer Diehl

  8. Mari ROCKS!!!! That poem gave me chills. Kids understand so much then we can imagine. Thanks for sharing this! And I always like to think that biological parents are vessel for God to give life. But being a mother or a father takes unconditional attention and choice. Whether biological or adopted parents their unconditional attention and love is what helps assist God with developing a child.

  9. As a mother, I hope raise my 10-month old daughter to know that she was CHOSEN and BLESSED. A gift given in love by both myself and her birth parents.

  10. I have to comment. The poem is beautiful by the way and I can see why you are proud.

    But more importantly, as a new adoptive parent, I can tell you, that while some ignorant people might think otherwise, every adopted child is chosen. My daughter was not a throwaway, or a reject, or given up, or any other phrase that someone else wants to use. I spoke with her birthmom numerous times. She didn’t give her up, she wasn’t unwanted. Her birthmom wanted her to have a chance for a different life, one that she couldn’t provide for her. As a mom, I’m sure you can’t imagine placing your child with someone else to raise. It takes an incredible amount of love for your child and maturity to make a plan to give your child a different life. It’s not ever entered into lightly. Those moms that are in such difficult situations that they make this choice should be respected. I know you know that. Don’t let the stupid in this world make you doubt that. Just like my little girl is loved by her birth parents and her adoptive parents, you are too.

    Thank you for sharing your story and your daughter’s poem.

  11. So much of the world is still so uneducated about the beauty of adoption. I’m sorry that you were so hurt by that man’s comments. As an adoptive mother of a beautiful brown baby of my own, it kills me to think someone might say something like that to him. He is chosen and desperately wanted, just as you are. I place my milky white hands on his beautiful brown face and forget, yes actually forget, that he did not come from my own body.

    Your daughter is nothing short of amazing! You should be incredibly proud of the beauty you have raised and nurtured. I am going to print her poem to give to my son one day. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  12. Beautiful.

  13. THANK YOU for writing this. The adoptism (discrimination against those who have adopted, are adopted, or placed a child for adoption) is incredibly damaging to families like ours. My girls are both adopted (open, domestic, transracial)—it’s obvious we are an adoptive family. The comments and questions we face are frustrating, to see the very least. The worst is when people ask if my girls are “real” sisters or if someone makes a rude assumption about my girl’s biological families. Adoption isn’t second best to having biological children. Birth parent stereotypes are rarely true (such as that birth moms are usually teenagers) and that birth parents should be feared because they will try to take their children back. Adoptees are not “screwed” for life simply because they were adopted. THANK YOU for writing this and sharing your daughter’s poem. You know I’m cheering for you and your fabulous website. xo, Rachel (

  14. Beth, I can completely relate to what you are saying. I am a white mother of two brown girls and when people tell me how beautiful they are, I take it as a personal compliment, because I too feel as if they and I are of the same blood, connected like strangers looking from the outside can never understand. We are a trans racial family (4 biological boys, 2 brown beauties) and I seriously forget how other people might see us because those are my daughters through and through. Our adoption is completely open and the birth grandmother has visited us three times in the last 9 years. This year we are making a trip to see them so that more of the extended family can meet “our” girls and see their growth. I am grateful everyday for our birth mother and my girls know that I love her also.

  15. What a fantastic post! Such an inspiring read, and what a beautiful, beautiful poem.

  16. You daughter is wise and talented, thank you so much for sharing her poem, I’m going to share it with my boys. I have two boys, one bio and one adopted. Both boys are brown and I am white. My adopted son came home to us at 3 1/2. His father and step mother loved him very much. No child is a throw away. Every single baby and child is a gift from God and nothing less. Your parents were blessed to be able to raise such a thoughtful talented baby/girl/woman. My children are equal in my heart and my love for them over flows and is beyond all measure. I’m honored to be their mother. Thank-you for sharing your story.

  17. I’m crying a snotty cry at work now! This was simply amazing. What makes this child yours, blood ties not withstanding, is her brilliance with words. Grand salute to you and yours!

  18. I too am an adoptee. My biological mom’s sister adopted me and it’s been a hard time trying to connect to my biological mom in some way aside from the fact that she gave birtht to me. Mari’s poem summed it all up for me. Thank you Denene for this post and thank you, Mari, for those beautiful wise words.

  19. Goosepimples!

  20. Beautiful.

    My father, mother-in-law, and aunt-in-law were all adopted, and my husband and I have a daughter who is also adopted. My mother-in-law got into an argument in kindergarten which ended with her saying “Well, *I* was picked out special by *my* parents. You were just an accident.” I really hope that our daughter will always know that she was picked out special, too, and anyone who doesn’t understand that about her, or about you, just doesn’t get it. Our daughter is very much loved and wanted and is an integral part of our family; she is no one’s throwaway, and her biological family wouldn’t ever call her that, either.

  21. What a beautiful post. You know, I know that there are people out there who must think that about adoption, but I hope I don’t know them and I really like to think that no child is a “throwaway.” You were loved and you were hoped for, prayed for and taken in because somebody WANTED YOU. YOU. You seem like an amazing woman, from what I see in your words. Blood ties us, but there are some in this world that I love more than those who have the same blood as me. Whether that makes me bad or good, I don’t know. I just know that every child deserves to be loved and as long as there is a God creating each one of us, nobody is a throwaway.

  22. This post is just beautiful. I can easily see why Mari won the contest – she writes beautifully (takes after her mother, I suppose).

    I never thought of someone put up for adoption as a throwaway – why should I have? Many people want to raise their kids, but simply can’t – so they give their child a chance at a better life. That is who an adopted child is – someone whose parents wanted to give them the best, but couldn’t – and so they parted with their child (no easy thing) so that he or she could have the best life possible.

    Plus, biological parents aren’t always thrilled at what they get, either. Many sometimes wish that they hadn’t had their child – or hadn’t had an “accident”, etc. At least adopted kids know that their parents chose them over all the others; that their parents had a choice, and that they were special. Biological kids are special, too, but sometimes we wonder if our parents had hoped for someone else, who was more like them in personality or looks.

  23. I loved Mari poem,and I also love you.Moms

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