1. Who are your real parents?

This is an adoption question I have been asked for years and years. When I was younger, my peers would ask this one a lot. It always rubbed me the wrong way, but I never understood why. I would often reply in a snarky tone, “My REAL parents are Tom and Kelly!” (my adoptive parents).

First of all, this question is phrased so poorly. To refer to any of my parents as real delegitimizes the others. What does real even mean? Biological? Or the ones who raised me? Of course, I understand that when people say this, they are asking about my biological parents. I don’t believe I have ever had someone phrase it this way with ill intent. But I hope that as time goes on, more people will start to understand that they need to ask it differently. Instead, try “Do you know anything about your biological parents?”

Part of the reason this question was so bothersome to me as a child was I didn’t have an answer. I was raised in a closed adoption. And for the first 8 years of my life, I didn’t even know I was adopted. I used to make up stories about how I was adopted from other countries. I would usually say I came from Russia as a baby and I didn’t come with any information. It was a tad overly dramatic. I was adopted from northern Ohio—much less exciting for my teenage peers. The funny thing is, I took a DNA test a few years ago. Turns out I’m roughly half-Russian. 

2. What is your ethnicity?

There is nothing wrong with this question. I do find it funny, though, how it is often the first question that follows once people find out I am adopted. It’s interesting because I don’t think this question is one that non-adopted people typically get.

I have to say, much like the “real parents” question, this one was hard for me up until about 4 years ago. I didn’t know my ethnicity for a long time—that is until I took several DNA tests to finally find out. And shortly after, I met part of my biological family and had the results confirmed.

Oddly enough, this is now one of my favorite questions! And I am glad that the topic of adoption opens it up for me. I love all things genealogy. It is one of my favorite hobbies and pastimes. I have even started making family trees for friends of mine. I also had my husband take a DNA test just so I could find out his ethnicity. If you were curious, I am half Russian and Polish, as well as a few more of the smaller eastern European countries. The other half is made up of English, German, Swedish, and a tiny little bit of Egyptian. I can already see my oldest son taking interest in his ethnicity, so I am glad I have the full picture for him.

As an adoptee, I am often asked a series of questions about my adoption story. Here are a few and how I answer them.
Me and my oldest son, Walter.

3. Why did your mom give you away?

This question is not the best. I still don’t know how to gently correct people when they ask. No one gave me away. I wasn’t a puppy or a kitten, I was a precious baby, just like all babies are. My biological mother placed me for adoption. I like to say to people that giving away implies that my birth mom gave up on me. That couldn’t be further from the truth. She chose what she saw to be a better path for me. And it was one of the hardest things she ever had to do. She placed me for adoption because she loved me.

To answer the question, she was young, and my birth father was in a bad place. She knew that if she chose to parent me, I would be in danger, given the life choices my birth father was making at the time. She was raised with a mother and a father in the home, and she understood the importance of having both parents. It was very important to her that I grew up in a house with a mom and a dad. 

From left to right, birth grandma, birthday grandma, birth mom and me, adoptive dad, and adoptive mom.

4. How old were you when you were adopted?

This one is kind of complicated to answer for me, and a lot of other adoptees I know. There wasn’t just one magical day that I was adopted. Well, their kind of was, but not really. Let me explain. 

If you have been around adoption at all, you know that it is very complex. Emotionally and logistically. The amount of time and paperwork that goes into a single adoption is crazy. My birth mother decided on adoption later in her pregnancy. I don’t know the exact date, I just know it was later. She had filtered through many hopeful adoptive parents. She had settled on one couple, but after a few uneasy visits, she told them they were not the right fit. In the very last days of her pregnancy, she miraculously met my adoptive parents, and things fell into place.

My birth father was not keen on signing off his parental rights when I was born. So I spent the first month and a half in a private foster home. I didn’t go home with my adoptive parents until I was 6 weeks old. 

So was I adopted then? Nope. Because I was being adopted in a different state than where I was born, my birth mom had to sign off on me in two different states. The process was long and drawn out. I think I was officially and legally adopted around my second birthday. But even that I am not entirely sure of. So, as you can see. It’s complicated. I usually answer this question with “I was adopted at 6 weeks” since that is when I moved in with my adoptive parents. 

As an adoptee, I am often asked a series of questions about my adoption story. Here are a few and how I answer them.
Me and my adoptive mom. Shortly after they were able to take me home. 

5. Are you going to adopt?

This is a new one for me. Now that I am married and settled, people ask this a lot. If you are adopted, you have to adopt, right?  People are usually shocked when I respond with no. My answer is a little more complex than just no. Here’s what I mean.

Adoption isn’t for everyone. It is an extremely complex journey to go on. I now have three biological children. I have been blessed to get pregnant without any issues. I’m sure if my husband and I had had trouble, adoption would have been an option. But so far, it hasn’t needed to be. 

Someday, I would like to become a foster parent. I have 4 siblings, all of which were adopted from the foster care system. There is a huge need for foster families in our country. A lot of people go into fostering with the mindset that they will be able to adopt easily, quickly, and cheaply. But that is extremely inaccurate. The foster care system is put in place to remove children from difficult and dangerous circumstances, and temporarily put them in a foster home. Only if it is unsafe for them to return home, will they be available to adopt. I want to foster with the intent of reunifying. If we were put in a situation where a foster child needed a permanent home, I am confident we would be willing to adopt them. For now, our three little kiddos keep us busy enough. Fostering will hopefully be something we can do down the road.

I know there are countries where resources are few, and orphanages are overrun. International adoption always weighs heavy on my heart. And if there was ever a circumstance where my family felt led to adopt from overseas, that is another possibility. 

When I was younger, adoption questions made me uncomfortable. For me, that is just the result of being raised in a closed adoption. Now that I am older, married, and in reunion with half of my birth family, I am much more open to these discussions. I rather enjoy it when my adoption makes its way into everyday conversations. I jump at the opportunity to discuss all things adoption. I am still learning how to answer difficult or controversial questions. But I hope with the help of fellow adoptees who are older and wiser than me, I can continue to learn. 

Me, pregnant with my daughter, holding my two sons.