In June of 2007 is when we decided that we were ready to have a baby. I was 27 and Missy and I got married a few weeks later. Our first obvious step was: sperm. We needed some. So we considered all our options. We started with the anonymous donor catalogs, we went as far as to sign up with one, choose our samples (first, second, and third choices), fill out all the paperwork (with a witness signature), etc. But something didn't feel right about it. As an adopted child, I grew up with a feeling of mystery and isolation. Never enough to impact my life, but still, it felt strange to have no biological ties to anyone in the world. And I couldn't even imagine what it felt like to "look like" somebody. When I had to fill out medical paperwork with family history, I always had to write "unknown" or "n/a". Not a big deal really, but when it came time for me to actually PAY for our donor sperm, I realized I didn't want that for my child. Because not only would his/her father's biological side of the family tree be blank, but my side would be too, save for me. And i know a lot of people have empty bio-family trees and no medical histories, but I didn't want that for my child if I could help it. So, in the end we chose to have a known donor, and we asked a dear friend of ours... and that worked out "happily ever after", but that's not what this is about.
But all those thoughts of genetics (going through catalogs choosing based on height, eye and hair color, ethnicity, and genetic health disorders) had me thinking about my own. I know what I look like, but I was wondering what recessive genes I carried. And I was curious to know about medical problems that could arise in the future. If my bio-family carried a tendency to have early heart attacks, I wouldn't want to choose a donor with heart problems in his family and double that risk, etc. And this is when I decided that although I never wanted to or planned to search out my origins, that I was going to anyway.
My first step was to talk to my mom about it. I gave her the double shocker of telling her I wanted to search AND that I wanted to get pregnant. She was always very supportive and open (about the adoption thing) and she encouraged the search. She told me she didn't have much info but she'd mail me everything she had the next day. I got a few papers, one with info about the bio mom, dad, aunts/uncles, and grandparents (one sentence about each) which was already 100x more info than I ever had. One was my foster care records (apparently in foster care for a month and the foster parent had to keep a diary of info to pass on) with cute anecdotes about 3 week old me. And one was my health document stating I was healthy and good to go (like a pedigree dog... LOL). It had the name of the adoption agency, and they still exist, so i called them a few times over the course of two weeks, but could never get an actual human from the right department on the phone. I left lots of messages, but never heard back. I kinda gave up trying.
So on June 20, 2007 in the middle of the night, I scoured adoption forums on the internet. The largest reunion database seems to be: http://www.isrr.net/ but their policy is that you have to submit your info via PAPER and mail it in. I printed out the registration forms and filled out only the first line... and decided to think about it more. I never mailed it in. The same night I posted an ad on another adoption forum. My ad said where/when I was born, the ages/nationalities of the birth parents, and the adoption agency. The ad also says "I am looking for bio-family info. I'm happy & healthy... just looking for info, photos, or siblings!" And for a week or so, I walked around on pins and needles terrified I might actually get a response, but when I didn't, I forgot all about it.
When I actually got pregnant and I had my first midwife appointment (about 6.5 weeks pregnant, so probably January 2008), she asked for family history and I told her I had none. She made me feel bad and told me I wasn't doing right by my child to not know, and if I wanted to be a good mother, I needed to continue my search. Though I felt she was full of shit (and later, she turned out to be full of shit on a lot of things, but that's another issue), I reconsidered it again at that point, but I was too wrapped up in my pregnancy, and well, I just didn't want to. I still never mailed in those papers to ISRR.
Lilian was born in August 2008, perfectly healthy and looking exactly like her dad. In the end, it seems my genetics didn't matter all that much. Well, a year went by and the first year of her life was obviously spent with my head in newborn-world. I never thought much about it again until...
About two weeks (late August 2009) before my 30th birthday (more than 2 years later), I got an email. It said "I think I'm your birth mother"... *screetch* Woah. That was major. It was totally unexpected, came at a totally random time, and was pretty monumental. A million thoughts went through my mind and it was all i could think about for weeks. We wrote back and forth for a few days trying to determine if we were even a match. And I didn't know her, and since I was the one with the ad up, it could have been anyone writing to me. I wasn't "sold" on the idea, I was still quite cynical. We exchanged some photos of each other, and I thought "well maybe", but at some point in that first week, she sent me photos of her grandmother when she was young... and I looked at them and saw my face in someone else's for the first time. I was convinced. (I am attaching photos at the very bottom of this post). So I called the adoption agency and finally got a human on the phone and explained the situation. We had found each other, but would like THEM to confirm the match with us each providing our personal info. I sent her my name/DOB and the name of my bio-mom (as she introduced herself to me) and 2 long days later... I got an email saying it was NOT a match! The name was incorrect. I couldn't believe it. After all my cynicism, I was finally believing it, and then it was wrong! All of the conversations we had in the prior two weeks (email, not phone) didn't matter. She had even told me what my name "was" to her, what she had named me unofficially. And then I wasn't her! It was just another valley in my emotional mountain range that month. I emailed her and told her we weren't a match... and then she realized that she had changed her name. Not just gotten married, but her first name too! So both first and last names were different (why she didn't think to tell me that in the first place, I'll never know)... and so after the weekend passed, we recontacted them, etc etc and yes, we were a match.
So that lead to the inevitable question of "now what". In those first few weeks, she had emailed me over 100 photos of her and her family (past and present), my bio-dad, my sister! (woah, I had a sister - that was a crazy thing in and of itself), etc. She told me about what people looked like, their talents, illnesses, etc. Not to sound callous, but I got what I wanted. She told me her version of my birth story (she contacted me after my bio-father had died, so I only get one side of things), and why I was given up, and what her life was like afterwards, and my sister's story, etc. Some stories were totally enlightening, some were a little horrifying. Some were really interesting, some were mundane, and some were downright dramatic. I got my history, my photos, my story... I shared mine with her as well. I told her about my life, my family, photos, etc. But at that point we kind of disagreed on where to go from there. I never wanted a relationship (and I was upfront about that in both my ad, and in my letters initially), but she did. She said that she felt a piece of her missing all those years, and now that we were reunited, she was hoping we could be "something". Maybe not mother-daughter, maybe not quite friends, but something. Personally, I felt she was glad to have her daughter back... which was not really what I had in mind. But I realized that the situation for me and for me was not the same. And so I tried to meet her somewhere in the middle. She was dying to have me come visit her, but I certainly wasn't ready for that. But I agreed that we could keep emailing, and she was on Facebook, so in those ways we were still keeping in touch. We had a few phone calls in the next six months, but talking on the phone isn't really my thing, and for me, it felt awkward. And so for a while, we were in touch. There were some times when she crossed boundaries that I wasn't comfortable with, but I told her so.
We actually don't talk anymore. It's been 8 months or so since we have. I imagine she still reads here once in a while, but even if she doesn't, I'm not the type to air dirty laundry. But I think the short version is that I think our personalities are too different and we didn't have the same expectations. I also became wary of some of the "truths" I was told and the reasons behind them. And after a confrontation, some ugly words were said, and we never wrote again. I can't say that I regret any of it, but it certainly wasn't a happily-ever-after reunion for either of us. To be honest, she's probably more disappointed with the whole thing than I am. It changed my life forever. I no longer have unanswered questions, and now there are lots of people in this world that I look like. I'm sorry it didn't work out, but not everything in life does, I suppose.
(In November 2010, about a year after first emailing/contacting my "new" sister, at age 31, we finally did meet and spend a significant amount of time together. But, that's a subject for a different day. We never searched for our two older half-siblings.)
ON BEING AN ADOPTED CHILD
So far, everything I've ever written on the subject has been about being a formerly-adopted-child... as an adult. But I've never really talked about being an adopted child. Then or now. Probably because before the age of 25 or so, it was a weird subject for me. I don't remember the conversation being told about adoption... I just always knew. I guess I was too young to remember, but old enough to understand. But then when I was 2, my mom got pregnant with my brother which added a new dynamic to the situation: one adopted child and one biological child. I was never made to feel any different, and it was never ever mentioned. But that doesn't mean that I didn't remember... and have moments where I felt different. My mom told me which of the kids I went to school with were also adopted, I guess to make me realize it wasn't all that unusual. But I never talked about it with any of friends, those or any others. It kind of became a family secret, not because it had to be or anyone wanted it to be, but after not talking about it, it just seemed natural to keep not talking about it. It just wasn't talked about, and I was OK with that. I'm sure some people around town and in school knew, but I also looked enough like my family to "pass." It's not like I was a different race or drastically different looking. My mom has light blonde hair, my dad dark brown and mine was medium blonde as a kid and dark blonde as a teen/adult - not different than you'd imagine biologically. They both have green and green/blue eyes, mine are gray, not that different either. I remember telling a few people later in life, and they were actually surprised to learn it. So while it was always part of my life, it was always on the peripheral. I'm sure it helped mold who I was and who I became as a person, but it was never something that defined me. At times, it did make me feel isolated, different, and maybe even embarrassed. But at other times it felt very liberating. I could be my own person with no biological expectations. I could imagine my own history and create my own future. I wasn't tied down to any one reality or set of rules that would govern my outcome. But once in a while there would be awkward moments. I can remember like it was yesterday being at a birthday party for one of my brother's friends (with my mom, waiting for him to drive him home). We were sitting in the waiting area of a gymnastics type place and one of my brother's friend's mom had never met me, and she came over to say hi to my mom. And when I was introduced, the woman made some comment along the lines of "oh wow, you look nothing like [your mom] or [your brother]. You could be adopted!" *awkward pause* I think my mom and I just awkwardly giggled... heh heh, and left it at that. (By the way, what grown woman would say something like that! You never know people's stories or what might offend a pre-teen girl, whether it was true or not!)
Did I ever have regrets about being adopted growing up? (Not like I had a choice of course). No. I never once wished that my biological parents kept me. I never once wished I wasn't adopted, never wished THESE parents didn't end up with me, etc. It was my reality, and it was always my life, and a good one at that. My parents were awesome in a billion ways, my life was privleged and awesome in a billion ways. If I lived a different life (either with bio-parents, or some other parents wherever), maybe my life would have been great in a billion DIFFERENT ways, but then it wouldn't have been MY life, ME as i know me now. I'm a member of the "it is what it is" club, and I have had no complaints about this in my life. Nobody chooses who they are born to, the same as I didn't choose who I was born to OR who I was raised by, but I have no complaints. My biological parents had another daughter whom they kept, and after finding that out, I also never wondered why her, why me? I don't feel rejected and I have no anger or jealousy. I don't wish to change anything about my "origins," I had a fantastic childhood, education, and upbringing.
I've read many websites and forums about adoption in the past and people have lots of opinions on it. I've heard people call it a crime against nature, a lie, theft, etc. I've heard cries for changes in the laws to open up adoption and medical records. I've read a lot of good, bad, awful, and worse. And I can see both sides of the arguments. I can. I can see how it might be perceived as unfair to the child... who will later become an adult with no "rights" regarding the situation, but also had no right to choose. But I can also see how privacy may be very important to the birth mothers who have made that decision. I know some adoptions are evil... children are bought and sold, unfit parents adopt for the wrong reasons, and babies are taken/persuaded away from possibly young, but otherwise fit mothers without proper counseling, etc. Bad things happen in adoption as well as really anything in the world. But sometimes there are happy endings too. In my situation, my birth mother has said that she was "coerced" into giving me up and regretted it ever since. But she did get to keep a daughter and stayed with our father for 20 years, and it was her decision to live with in the end. I know my parents and grandparents were ecstatic to have their first child and grandchild and that they loved me very much. And I know that I lived a great life. Sure, I had questions in my lifetime. Still do. But I never felt robbed or violated in any way by the decisions made FOR me by other adults.
In the past two years, since our "reunion", getting answers for many of my questions, and actually meeting a biological relative (besides my daughter of course) for the first time I don't think any of my opinions have changed. I actually am not sure I have that many opinions on adoption at all actually. But since really making it part of my life, I definitely have developed a new interest in the subject. I'd like to talk to some of the anti-adoption advocates just to hear their points of views. I'd like to hear more stories of people content with their reality like me. Search & reunion stories actually interest me, where they really didn't 4+ years ago. I guess I have a story to tell... and a pretty major one. But still not a lot of opinions on the subject. I'm not really sure what rights adoptees and birth parents should have, I'm not really sure what laws are appropriate. Maybe I'll do more research (anyone have good book recommendations?)
ON THE OTHER A-WORD: ABORTION
I'm a left-winged, liberal, feminist... anti-abortionist. Probably a very unusual combination. And maybe it's because of who I am as a person, maybe it's because I'm adopted, maybe it's because of how I was raised, I'm not sure. But I just know that abortion does not sit right with me. I would certainly say I'm pro-life. But isn't everyone? I mean, who is pro-death? The term is silly to me. And I wouldn't say I'm anti-choice either, though. Do I want to take away YOUR right to choose? Probably not. But I am anti-abortion, as a concept, not a political standpoint. To me, it's the wrong thing to do. Are there exceptions, of course... rape, incest, underage pregnant "children", pregnancies incompatible with life (both the fetus and/or the mother), etc. But abortion simply because you do not feel like having a child doesn't seem OK to me. My friends already know this about me, most don't agree. i also don't eat meat (vegetarian of varying degrees since 1992), don't fish/hunt, wear fur, etc. I just value life, I guess. But my politics aren't really relevant here... I want to talk about abortion in relation to adoption, because sometimes they are portrayed as "opposites" of sorts in political discussions about one or the other. Oh, you are pregnant and don't want a baby? You can abort it OR give it up for adoption. (Though, personally, I hardly seem them as opposites).
It may seem crass to say, but it has on occasion crossed my mind, that as an unwanted child (to my bio parents) I could have been an abortion. I mean, maybe to THEM specifically not... I have no idea what their politics on the subject are/were, but like I said about the near-opposites, I suppose that the concept must have occurred to them. I was born in 1979, and abortion was federally legalized in 1973, so it wasn't even brand new. And never once in my life have I wished I was aborted instead. Man, if keeping me wasn't an option for whatever reason, I am certainly grateful for my life every day that I wasn't aborted. It's gross and extreme, but it must be something that crosses every adopted child/adult's mind at some time.
In many ways, I see the adoption solution as the most noble/selfless decision. I'm sure as hard as it is to abort a baby, it must be even harder to carry one to term... feel it kicking and growing inside you, then turn it over anonymously to never be seen again. I was given the ultimate gift of life, I'm sure at a cost to my biological mother both emotionally, physically, financially, etc. And in return, she got nothing except knowing that I was out there... somewhere. Hopefully happy, healthy, and living. She too got a life of wondering and unanswered questions, which for some, may be arguably harder than the mourning/grief of terminating a pregnancy. And, like I've said above, although I've never felt bad about being given up for adoption (after all, the parents I ended up with wanted me SO badly, they went to extremes and waited a long time to get me), I feel even GREATER about the fact that I wasn't killed before even being given the chance to live. I am grateful for the sacrifices a virtual stranger made for what I see to be the harder decision. It may seem kind of disgusting to say "thanks for not aborting me", so I suppose "thank you for giving me my life" is a nicer way of putting it, because it was, after all, a choice.
Becoming a mother has always been a goal of mine. I think even more than a career, house, car, husband/wife, etc., a child has been the focus of my future-fantasy as long as I can remember. Being a mom has been the constant in my life, the one goal I always had, forever. Again, I'm sure this is part of who I naturally am as a person. Some people just are meant to be parents. And some not or don't want to, and that's OK too. But I think my adoption has also played a part in this fantasy (which later became a reality). Because as much as I was "OK" with being adopted, that's not to say that I didn't also want to experience the bond of biological relationships. It may be something taken for granted by most people (or even disliked), but I spent my whole life looking at people who looked alike; studying siblings and parent/child to see their matching features. It was something that fascinated me, and something I'd never had. Personality similarities too... like a friend who was good at music because her mom was. Behaviors and personalities grow and morph by nurture as well, but I never just felt "connected" to someone in that way. Even "we are both allergic to cats! I got that from my ____." And because of this, I think having a child became very important to me, perhaps more important than it would be to an unadopted person. Because not only was I having my first child, I was getting my very first blood relative. I'll be the first to say that "blood" relations is not what determines a family, but for someone who has never had it, it was very important to experience. It doesn't discount my adoptive family. I love my parents, grandparents, and brother very much... they ARE my family in every sense of the word. But that doesn't mean I didn't want to feel the connection that most everyone else does. I would definitely consider adopting/fostering a child in the future, but I knew that in my life, i NEEDED to have at least one biological child in order to feel complete. And when she was conceived/born, she was my only bio relative (my bio-mother didn't search me out until Lilian was a year old). I'm not sure that our biological tie made Lilian any more important to me or made me love her any more, but I know that the biological connection is something that strongly compelled me to become a mother in part. Now that she's here, her/my DNA doesn't seem that important. My attachment to her came from both wanting a child so badly, and growing her INSIDE my body. I imagine if I carried a child in my uterus that came from somebody else's egg, and grew and birthed and raised that child, I'd feel exactly the same about him or her. But on the day she was born, and I examined her and saw that she has my exact same hands... teeny versions of the hands I look down at every single day of my life.... on someone else, I felt something I had never felt before in my life.
(The topic of "looking like" people is another I can go on and on about... so I'll save that for another time).
I probably have a billion more things to say on the topic of adoption... but I've been writing for almost 5 hours, and I think I need to end this here. I know I've never put most of these thoughts in writing, and I've probably only spoken about them with my wife... so this is all new territory for me. If YOU are an adoptee, birth mother, or adoptive parent, I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts. (Please keep it polite and civil, even if you disagree with me or other commenters). If you come across my blog and you'd like me to read your blog/book/article on a similar subject, I'd love to. If you have questions, I'd love to answer them. And if you have proposals for future blog post subjects, I'd like them as well.
I just poured my heart out in 5 hours of words... so please comment and let me know what you think.
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|Biological great grandmother|
|Biological great grandmother|