It’s actually National Adoption Month, but today is the day. I was adopted when I was 5 months old. This is a fact I was always aware of and never allowed to forget. Being adopted in my family meant that I was extra special as I was planned for and waited for and my parents had to jump through hoops to get me and I came with directions. It also meant that I could legally marry my cousins. Ha ha.
As a kid, being adopted wasn’t a big deal. I mean, some kids in elementary school made fun of me, but then again, they also made fun of kids who weren’t adopted so, no harm no foul. But being adopted lends to some great fantasies. Like when an adopted kid is punished, we can truly believe that someday our “real” parents will come save us. And when we are really mad we can say “you’re not my REAL mom” which generally gets us some sort of reaction that distracts from the bad deed done. A non-adopted kid can’t say those things with any amount of seriousness. Nor can they check out people at the grocery store and wonder if they might be related.We have a whole other side to ourselves that we don’t know but are free to create. That is the main difference between us and non adopted kids. There is no mystery to being a non adoptee.
The pros and cons of being adopted balance each other out. My mother always acknowledged my personal “adoption day” with a present. That was fun because my birthday is on a major holiday so to get a present on a day that was half way to my birthday was fun. I was unique within my family. I knew I was wanted. On the flip side, I knew that I was unwanted by my birth family, I was unique within my family and sometimes being reminded once a year that I was not blood related to my mother was a double edge sword.
When I was younger, finding my birth family seemed like a very important issue. As I got older, it became less of an issue. Until I gave birth to my first child. Then I knew that for her sake I needed to get some information on where I came from. I registered with the NYS Adoption registry. This is a registry put in place for those of us in closed adoptions. At the time of my adoption in 1973, my birth mother put down some very simple facts for me to someday know. The height, weight, hair color of both her and my birth father, the circumstances of their life at the time of their decision to give me up and any health issues they knew of.
The day I received this information in the mail, I ripped open the envelope and said to my brother-in-law “well, I’m not black!” And we laughed for about a half an hour. The info was very short and to the point. Not enough for me to be able to fill in the health history that everyone has to fill out at the doctor’s office. Again, not having a health history is both a blessing and a curse. I don’t know what I need to be scared of, and I don’t know what I need to be scared of….see? I can choose to focus on that as a positive or a negative. I chose positive.
We adopted kids are generally very protective of our parents feelings surrounding us searching for our birth parents. I know one of the major reasons why I don’t actively search is because I would never want to hurt my mother’s feelings. My dad was a little miffed when I told him about getting my non identifying information. My dad simply forgot I was adopted. To him, I was just his kid. After all, whenever we went anywhere together everyone always said how much we looked alike and that goes double when we went out with my kids. Dad would always just accept the compliment without pointing out that it was actually impossible for me to look like him.
I had some friends who were also adopted. One friend didn’t find out until she was 16 and she was searching through her mother’s drawers for a lighter and came across the finalizing paper work for her adoption. She came to terms with the lies she had been raised with but she never fully trusted her parents again. Another friend was adopted and so was his sister. I was always jealous of them because I wanted a sister or brother…I had another friend who was adopted into an extended branch of my family. My mother’s friend adopted a baby and mom and I made a big deal out of welcoming her into a very special club.
Adoption is one of the most incredibly selfless, unconditional ways of becoming a parent. Those of us who have biological children will never understand. To desire a child so much, a child that does not share your own DNA and to know beyond all doubt that you will love that child because of these differences is, well, it’s love. Especially in the world today, a world where people can undergo treatments to get pregnant despite their own bodies being unwilling. A world where infertility is looked at as a disorder to be fixed or treated, a person in this world who decides to adopt is pretty incredible.
I didn’t have to pass any tests or undergo any interviews before I was allowed to have kids, like adoptive parents do. I can’t tell you if that is a good or bad thing…. They go through rounds of social workers, therapy sessions, background checks so through the agency will KNOW if they were the kid picking on me in elementary school for being adopted. On top of that, there is generally a large fee involved. I have to say, I got pregnant for free, been paying for it ever since though :).
I was adopted through Catholic Charities so I was free (but my parents have been paying for it ever since 🙂 ). Today, many people adopt from over seas which involves tens of thousands of dollars and time commitments that go above and beyond my measly 13 hours of hard labor. And the pain when a birth family backs out at the last-minute would be far greater than any labor pains I experienced.
Today, on National Adoption Day, please give an adoptive parent a hug or send a letter to your legislature for gay adoption or maybe consider taking a child into your home. If you have the love to give, then give it. So many children need good homes, they need to be part of a family. Who wouldn’t want to make a difference? I know that kid sitting in a foster home or in an overseas orphanage is ready and willing to make a difference in some lucky family’s life.