Dear Adoption, Now, There is No More Wondering
When I was nine years old, my adoptive mother would give me her old Sears catalog, which was so thick, it would take me hours to go through. Laying stretched out on the warm, carpeted family room floor, I’d flip through the pages looking at models in pajamas and conventional clothes, only to cut out their necks and heads with my handy scissors. I had no interest in their bodies, I only wanted their necks and faces so I could match them to others I found, making families by their common groupings based on looks alone.
Looking back, I realize this might’ve been my simple attempt as an adopted child to try to figure things out I didn’t quite understand. I gave my paper dolls what I couldn’t have, a family that looked alike. Not that my adopted family and I didn’t look alike, for we were all northern europeans, yet I knew we were not really related and we didn’t resemble one another that much, something I guess that bothered me, even at my young age.
As I grew into my teens and came to know what adoption meant, I began searching, if only in the silence of my mind. Without telling anyone, especially my adopted parents, I would wonder if a particular TV or film star that seemed to resemble myself could be my birth mother. It wasn’t all the time, I wasn’t obsessed about it, but if I saw someone I thought looked like me, I wondered. It could be at the mall, at a sporting event, at a concert, or at the grocery store; anywhere I saw someone who I thought resembled me in some way. The haunting thoughts seemed to be always lurking in the back of my mind.
Around nineteen, I was at an outdoor event with my parents. Walking around the booths, I came upon an elderly woman who was working in one of them. She was friendly as I looked at whatever she was selling, and then, out of the blue, as if she just realized something very important, she pointed her bony finger at me and said, “I know your mother!” My parents weren’t with me at the time, they were getting lunch or looking at something else, so I was alone. I’m sure my eyes grew wide and my mouth fell open when she told me that, and before I could ask her what she meant, my adoptive mother was standing by my side. I had to tell the concerned woman that, “No, my mother was here with me.” That day haunted me for years. I often wondered if that elderly woman really knew my birth mother.
I was thirty-one years old when my daughter was born. She was the first person in this world I saw whom I was related to. Two years later, my son arrived. With my children, I cultivated a deep connection that was healing in many ways for me. As I watched them grow up, it was amazing to find myself reflected in them. Still from time to time, I wondered if the actress on a TV car commercial could be my mother.
Growing up as an adoptee when there was no world wide web, you eventually came to the conclusion in life there was no possible way to ever find your birth mother or family. There wasn’t the community or help there is online today. You had kind, activist lawyers who tried to help, but then there were judges who refused to open up original birth files just because you were curious. It was and still is in most states, against the law to see your original birth certificate.
Once the internet came into existence, search angels opened up the world for adoptees wanting to reconnect with their birth families. I decided to dip my toes in the pool, to search, and see how far I could get on the horizon of hope. I wanted to know the truth, whatever it was. The wondering still whispered in my soul. I had no idea what my ethnicity was and had no medical information for myself or for my children. I felt unrooted. I could’ve been born under a rock or more importantly, from another planet. I had no idea where I came from or who my people were. I wondered where my love of drawing and writing came from? Who did I get my blue eyes from?
After over a year of searching, I found and eventually met my birth mother. Like the turn of a page, the wondering ended, just like that, it stopped. I wasn’t aware of this new reality at first, but I soon began to notice I didn’t wonder anymore. Reconnecting with my birth mother and seeing family photos had quenched my curiosity. Seeing her, and seeing myself in her, answered a lifetime of questions. I saw my children in her. Her body movements, her soft-spoken voice, the texture of her fine hair, although a different color, was just like mine. Later, I would find out my blue eyes and hair color and love of the arts came from my father, who actually was an artist. I knew my history. Healing had occurred.
Dear Adoption, I wish every adoptee, who’s interested, were able to meet their birth mother or a biological family member. It doesn’t always turn out the way we want or hope, but knowing our connection to someone here on this earth helps many of us feel more secure with ourselves, feeling finally rooted in the world. Reconnection can be good, even if just for knowing answers and for seeing with our own eyes someone from our tribe. It can anchor us. Adoption has given me many things in my life. Wondering was one of them. Now, there is no more wondering…