Dear Adoption, You are a Journey
This is the first time I’ve sat down and typed out my adoption story, though I’ve shared it many, many times. My story has always been part of my narrative; shared with me before I could comprehend what it meant, and shared by me once I was able to tell my own story. My adoption would probably be considered a “Fairy Tale” adoption by most, leading me places I would have never dreamed, and leading me to two of my daughters, who have stories of their own.
My adoptive parents had my older brother 11 years before I was born. After some hard years of working through life together they decided they were ready to bring another child into the world. They struggled to get pregnant, miscarried, and weren’t sure what God had in store. One day their neighbor came to them and told them she knew they wanted a child; her niece was pregnant and looking to place the child for adoption. She asked if they would consider adopting the child; they said, “yes”. The woman was young, unmarried, no longer with the birth father, still finishing high school, and wanted to give her child stability. She loved the idea that her baby would have a sibling and agreed to let my parents adopt. They worked through a family lawyer who helped them with all of the paperwork. My birth mom flew in from California and stayed with her aunt until the birth. During her pregnancy she would take walks with her aunt; my adoptive parents loved watching her walk up and down their street, though they never met. My dad said he just knew the baby would be a girl; he was right.
Just eight hours after my birth, the lawyer walked me down the hall and handed me over to my adoptive parents and brother. My birth mom then flew back to California to graduate high school. I assume my birth dad was notified of my birth, but I’ve never thought to ask him so I’m not sure.
My adoptive parents shared my story with me from the time I was very young. I have no recollection of being told I was adopted; it was something I always knew. When I was old enough to start asking questions, my mom brought me a notebook full of notes that my birth mom had written for me before I was born as well as a photo album of my birth mom and her family. They always talked openly with me and answered my questions as much as they were able. They told me they would help me find my birth mom when I was 18 and would even go with me to meet her, if that’s what I wanted.
Though I was blessed with an amazing, involved, and loving family, I thought about my birth parents often. I looked a lot like my adoptive family; so much so that my friends often didn’t believe me when I told them I was adopted, but I still wondered where my features came from. Whenever I had to fill out medical paperwork I would write “adopted- unknown” whenever asked for family history. Each time, though, it made me pause and wonder. The idea of nature versus nurture intrigued me. Who was I more like? Those who I had a biological connection with, or those who spent their lives loving me, pouring into me, and sharing their lives with me? I wondered why my adoptive parents chose not to raise me. I wondered if they ever thought about me. I wondered what my life would be like if they had decided to raise me. I wondered if I would even recognize them if I passed by them. Not only did I have my own thoughts and theories about my birth parents, but my friends had them too. It was a topic frequently discussed.
I think the thing that can be hard for people to comprehend when it comes to adoption is that even in a fairy-tale adoption like mine, where I was given an amazing life, always supported, and at peace with my story, adoption is still rooted in loss. Don’t get me wrong, my adoption story is one of tremendous blessings and gain, but still, for years I wondered about all those pieces of my story that were unknown.
Eighteen came and went, and though I still thought about my birth parents often, I did not have a desire to try and find them quite yet. I had recently graduated high school, was dating my husband, and just getting ready to start college. Next came 19, 20, and the years continued to pass. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree I married my high school sweetheart and started my Master’s degree program. Life went on and soon I graduated with my Master’s degree. Shortly after I gave birth to my first born, Conner. Having a child of my own started giving me a new perspective on finding my birth mom. I always felt strongly that she loved me and knew the choice to let another family raise me had to be one of the hardest choices of her life. I always wanted to find her for my own sake; to answer my questions so I didn’t have to wonder any more. Once I had Conner, though, I realized I needed to find her, at some point, for her sake as well. I wanted to give her peace in her story and let her know I was thankful for her gift. Even though I never had a relationship with her, I wanted to give her closure.
My daughter was born just a few months shy of Conner’s second birthday. She was born with spina bifida and life was busy her first few months of life with surgeries and appointments. After life settled a bit, I felt it was finally time to attempt finding my birth mom. On a whim, I put my information into a website where people use ancestry.com to help find their birth family. I didn’t tell my adoptive parents, because I didn’t expect anything to come from it. I thought it would take months of looking, if not more; I even planned to hire someone to help me search if I couldn’t find anything on my own. Because my adoption was a closed adoption and because the lawyer my parents used didn’t usually do adoptions, I didn’t expect to find much. Shortly after registering, though, I got an e-mail from a gentleman who thought he had found her. He told me about a Myspace account of hers that hadn’t been active in some time. He encouraged me to message her and I did that night. My message basically said that I was adopted and looking for my birth mom; that I thought it may be her. I gave a few vague details, not expecting to hear back. I was pretty sure whoever read that message was going to think I was pretty nuts. Later that night I received a message back from her. She said she had placed a child for adoption who would be right around my age. She said I looked a lot like her and she wouldn’t be surprised if I was her daughter. Because this all happened through the internet I was skeptical and asked her to provide more details for me. She confirmed all of the details of my story, even those unique to my adoption that very few people knew. She told me she would be coming to Phoenix from California in a few weeks and would love to get together if I was open to it.
At that point I think I was in shock. Things moved so quickly I hadn’t really processed everything that was happening, and I still hadn’t even told my adoptive parents I began the search. The next day I told them the story and I think they were in a bit of shock too. They were excited for me to meet her none-the-less and offered to come with me if I needed them. I decided to meet my birth mom for coffee first, just the two of us, then meet up with the rest of my family and my parents for dinner. My birth mom was also traveling with her daughter, my half-sister, and was meeting her mom in Phoenix as well. They also joined us at dinner. My parents brought some photos of me growing up and my wedding photos; my biological mom really enjoyed looking at them. We had a good time talking, though it all feels like a bit of a dream still.
Not too long after meeting my birth mom, she ran in to someone out of the blue that knew my birth dad. She got his information for me and asked me if I would like to contact him as well. I decided to go ahead and e-mail him and began dialoging with him. He still lived in California so we met with him and his wife on our next vacation. My parents came with us, as well. My birth dad and his wife were not able to have children after they were married and were really excited to meet us all.
For quite a while it was hard for me to navigate the new relationships I was forming with my birth parents. Though I had dreamed and thought about them often, I didn’t feel much of a connection to them for a while. I wasn’t sure where they fit into my life going forward, and they felt like strangers to me even though I could see so much of myself in them. I appreciated all they had given me, I respected their choices and was thankful they had blessed me with an amazing family, I was thankful to have answers, and I thought they were good people, that part I knew. On the other side, though, I had parents who had raised me well and was confident in that part of who I was, had peace in my story, and wasn’t sure what to do with everything else. For a while I took things slow, occasionally e-mailing or chatting with them, but it still felt odd to me. There were these people I had wondered so much about, who were telling me they loved me, and my side of the connection just wasn’t there. Over time our stories slowly knit together and I now have a closer relationship with my birth parents. My parents will always be my parents, that will never change, but my birth family is a special part of our lives and I am thankful for my relationship with them.
So this is why I call my adoption a fairy tale, but the impact of my adoption far exceeds the story I wrote out today. Since I was a little girl I knew adoption would be woven into my future as I dreamt about the family I would have. Before we were even dating, my husband knew my desire to adopt one day. I am now blessed to have two beautiful adoptive daughters and I am so thankful for the journey that lead me to them, even before I saw where my path was headed. Their stories are so very different from mine, deeply rooted in trauma and loss, but they are also incredible and deserve to be told. I will save those stories for another day; I am thankful for the privilege of helping them tell their own stories one day.