May 20 is a special day. 30 years ago today my adoption was finalized and I went home with my new family. I was 16 days old, so I can't recall much of those first 16 days. I'm sure my activities were quite typical of most babies: eat, poop, repeat. I was healthy, but things took time to go through, so I stayed in the hospital. Mom says that the nurses there felt bad for me (waiting to be adopted and all) so they fed me every time I cried. She says I was eating a ridiculous amount of food by the time I went home with her and that I was a diaper-filling machine (cloth diapers- because I'm the asshole who had to be allergic to disposable ones that might make it easier on my parents).
But that's really all I've got about my first 16 days. We got a little file of information about my birth family (nothing to identify them, just basics like height/hair colour/eye colour and some interests). About seven years ago, I started making contact with my biological mother and we email back and forth and send cards and gifts at birthdays and Christmas. It's a wonderful thing and I'm so happy I chose to contact her!
Adoption can be a difficult thing to deal with and I certainly had a bit of an issue with it as a child. I saw a counsellor for a while as a small child because Mom thought it was important to discuss our feelings. I had to mature a little before I realized that adoption has nothing to do with abandonment and everything to do with making a difficult emotional choice. Mom always made sure to tell me this, but I had to discover in my own time the gift of adoption. And there are some wonderful things about being adopted- well, they are things I love about being adopted.
1. I chose my own cultural background
"What's your family background?" is a fairly common question asked in school. Sure, in the beginning I said, "Well, my adoptive family is French Canadian so I'm French Canadian." As I got older, I realized that I could give any answer I wanted. No one challenged me when I said, "My biological mother is Cambodian," or "My family is from the Ivory Coast of Africa," because no one wants to call the adopted girl a liar. But when my biological mother and I began talking she told me her family is Scotch-Irish. My reddish-brown hair and freckles seem to fit with that. Sadly, it seems unlikely now that I am of Asian or African descent.
2. Finding out things you have in common
My life is kind of my own adoption study- you know, where you study a child brought up in a different environment and see any common points. And there are common points. Sure, there are the small ones, like my biological mother and I both love Stephen King and we're both short on patience. But there are big ones too. I was the only girl in all 3 of my high school auto shop classes and my maternal biological grandfather had his own garage. Nifty, eh? And then there's my two half brothers: one has a round face and one wears glasses. If you put them both together, they look a lot like me!
3. I never have to fill out "medical history" questionnaires at the doctor's office
Well, I have some of that information now and I fill that in, but mostly I put a big cross through the section and write, "I'm adopted." My body is kinda like an unlabelled can from the supermarket: you never know what's going to be in here! Hey, where did that thyroid cancer come from?
4. I can make many people feel super uncomfortable just by saying "I'm adopted"
People just don't know where to go with this. Most people apologize as though they've brought up a sore point. It's not a sore point to discuss! If I were a religious person, I could paraphrase John 3:16: "For Bio-Mom so loved the world that she gave her only daughter." I think people are a little oversensitive when it comes to adoption- sure, some people would prefer not to discuss their adoption, but those people aren't likely to tell you they're adopted... or write a blog post about it. Ask away!
5. I have an instant connection with clients not raised by their biological parents
I spent nine years working with clients in residential care who could not be cared for by their parents for one reason or another. I never hesitate to discuss my adoption with clients because I get the chance to talk about love and responsible choices.
One of the best parts of adoption is building a new family- and Brother, adopted 2.5 years after me, was a wonderful gift to our family. He and I do not share any biological ties, but he is my brother- not "adopted brother." Brother. It was sheer chance that brought him and I to the same family and I can't imagine having any other sibling in the world!
7. I've got two moms!
Sure, we're talking two completely different mother-daughter relationships, but I still have two moms and they're both wonderful! That makes me pretty freakin' lucky in my books!
8. I get to quiz the men I date about their family histories
There's always an awkward moment early on when I'm getting to know a man when I have to ask some interesting questions about male family members. You know, to ensure I'm not starting a creepy soap opera "I didn't know we were siblings!" relationship. It's always a little uncomfortable to set up, but it's usually good for a laugh.
9. "I was chosen!"
Kids can be cruel. I was always very open about being adopted because it was never a secret in my family- Mom told us from the time we were little, so there was never a heartbreaking conversation where I learned I was adopted (best way to do it, hands down!). Kids would tease me and Mom would tell me, "Your biological mother didn't get rid of you, she gave you to us. You were chosen." Well, that gave me a fat head. The next bully who told me my biological mother didn't want me was hit with, "Well, I was chosen and your parents got STUCK with you!" I know that wasn't the ideal way to make that child feel loved, but you gotta deal with bullies.
10. I know two sides of maternal love
It's true. I know the love of a mother who raised me, not as if I were her own but because I am, adoption or no. I also know the love of a mother who gave birth to a child and made the best decision she could to give that child the brightest future possible. Those are two pretty freakin' amazing gifts! It's almost as if the best part of being adopted is not feeling adopted at all, but feeling as if two families came together to make and raise a baby, despite being separated by genetics and the law.
It's part of who I am, but it's just a part. I can't imagine growing up any other way. I'm so lucky to have two moms and a whole, big family of great people. I'm lucky to have such a great sense of humour (no doubt inherited from my biological mother and cultivated by my adoptive mother!) because there's no way I get through anything without it! Today is a great day to remember how fortunate I am to have the family I have. Unfortunately, Hallmark doesn't make a "Happy Anniversary of Your Adoption" card and it has yet to be recognized as a gift-giving holiday. I'll keep hoping.