Read the previous article in this series: Reuniting With My Son Has Completely Healed the Hole in My Heart
There are numerous reasons a woman considers placing a child for adoption. Whether she is single or married, a teenager or not, with a good support system or not so much, the ultimate decision to abort, keep, or place is one that will haunt her for the rest of her life. For me, I was 16 years old, with a loving, supportive family and an awesome boyfriend. I was simply too young. It was 1984 and choosing to place was a forever deal—closed and sealed with no choice about who the parents would be and with no option of ever seeing your baby again. This is my story about grief and healing but most of all, about love. I dedicate this series for all birth moms, whether their adoption was closed, partial, or open, for their sacrifice and grief and loss that is so profound and so deep and complex that even their closest loved ones don’t truly understand. May you find healing and peace.
After 19 parts of hearing Lisa’s story (plus another series), Lisa’s birth son, Ben Angus, answers questions about his journey.
What were the circumstances surrounding you finding out you were adopted?
I have an older sister who is also adopted, and it was something that we both found out at the same time. I can remember walking in on my parents talking to her about it and then talking to me. I was young enough for me to just accept it and have it become part of me.
As a child, what were your feelings about being adopted?
I really didn’t care. I was not treated any differently by my family or friends at all. My feelings started to change in the 5th grade when we had to go over my family tree. I knew that my Angus family was my family tree, but it was kind of a lie. I knew that there was so much more missing. Another time in school, we were studying DNA/genetics in biology class, and I began to really wonder about what I have in my DNA. We got into understanding about genetic makeup and disorders, sickness, and predispositions, and I felt that I had a huge disadvantage than my classmates.
What kind of questions did you ask you parents?
I wanted to know about my genetics. They told me that all they knew were the basic vital records on my birth certificate.
Why were you so interested in learning about your birth mom?
As I said, I wanted to know about my genetics. I hated not being able to answer questions at the doctor’s about my medical family history.
Had you looked for your birth mom before you found her?
When I was a teen, I tried to do some searching on the internet, but I had no luck. I knew that my parents went through LDS Family Services for the adoption, so when I moved to Utah when I was 20, I went to them, and they had only dead ends for me. I had given up after that. I then went back to where I started years before, the internet. I googled “adoption search.” The first one on the top was registry.adoption.com. That was all I needed.
How did you feel when you found a match?
If there was a way to explain that I was beyond nervous, that would be how I would explain it. I was filled with a lot of questions, and I had a lot of anxiety that I was getting my hopes up. As I was going over the listing on the registry at Adoption.com, every line by line, checking off things that were a match, the anxiety grew and grew.
What made you contact me?
That was one of the hardest decisions I have ever have had to make. I was sitting there looking at a name, phone number, address, email address . . . pacing backing and forth in my mind wondering what I should do. I even when to Google Maps and looked up the address. I called for my wife, and she helped grab me from outer space and planted me back on earth to make the decision to email you. She reminded me why I was looking to begin with, as well as what was at stake for us if I decided not to. I needed to know my medical history.
What were some of your thoughts and feelings during the days after initial contact?
Honestly, I think the only emotion I DIDN’T feel was anger. I was an emotional wreck. I was crossing my fingers that you were okay with me coming out of the blue and turning your world upside down. I was so excited about what I could find out, and I was so optimistic on where this could lead. The anxiety was so high that I could chew on it.
What were you afraid of?
I was afraid that I just invaded your life and that I just sent you into a place that you never wanted. I was already where I would be if I got a no, so what was the risk to me if I didn’t ask?
Why did you decide you didn’t need the genetic testing?
After seeing the pictures and reading the email you sent me about why you didn’t need a test to tell you anything, that helped me make up my mind. Here is the part of the email that helped me decide, “To be honest, I don’t need this verification. According to the internet, there are only three hospitals in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. One is a diabetic center, so you could not have been born there, one is a behavior center associated with Lutheran Medical Center, and the other is Lutheran Medical Center, where my son was born. So, the only possible hospital would be Lutheran Medical Center. The likelihood that there was another male baby born at Lutheran Medical Center on November 17, 1984 and was placed for adoption through LDS Social Services is slim to none. Both you and your son look like me (with you birth father’s nose, hair color, and eye color).”
What was the ride to the reunion like?
The drive was like any other drive. I didn’t get nervous until we got to the park (in the town where we met). My mind was blank or running a million miles per hour. Either way I couldn’t nail down anything to think about.
What was it like to meet your birth mom?
It felt natural, calming, right. All the nerves went away. I calmed down, and it was like I hadn’t seen you in a long while, but I already knew you.
What was it like to meet your birth mom’s husband, your siblings, your grandparents, and your other new relatives?
Right away Barry seemed so much like my father that for me there wasn’t an issue. He was so open and welcoming to having this child that was his wife’s but not his, come into his life and accept him as one of his. It made the process a lot easier and calming. Meeting my siblings was stressful. I was so worried that they wouldn’t accept me. I could see them thinking that I didn’t belong in their family or that I wasn’t family. I was afraid they would reject me as their brother. It didn’t go like that at all. It was a great experience. I have found pieces of myself in each of them. Meeting Grandpa Jerry and Grandma Barb was emotional, to say the least. Grandma Barb felt like a Grandma should. Meeting Grandpa Jerry will stay with me forever. The time I was able to spend with him (he has since passed away), finding out his side when I was placed for adoption was one of the highlights of meeting my family. He gave me a perspective that I wouldn’t have ever known if it weren’t from him. As for the rest of the family, I am still meeting new people. It all feels right. All these people have said that they have heard of me, known about me, and that it is awesome to finally meet me. That is the one thing that surprises me every time I hear it.
What surprised you?
That no one rejected me as one of the family. There was not a question if I was really the one who was placed for adoption or not. I was accepted.
How has your relationship progressed with your birth family since the reunion?
The relationship that I have now is like there were there all along—they are just family I hadn’t seen for a while. I get excited to see them and excited to be part of the family.
What would you tell someone who was placing a baby for adoption?
Remember that this is not a selfish act if it is for the child. Going down this road, you help not only the child with finding a good life, but you are also helping out people who want to help out your child. In quite a few cases, this is their way of having a child. You are filling a need that they can’t do without you. Just don’t do it for selfish reasons.
Read the final article of this series: My Journey as a Birth Mom Taught Me Something Huge
Read this author’s other series: “Silenced by Society: A Birth Mom’s Tale.”