My name is Kim Blake, and I have 2 kids who were adopted. My daughter Delaney is 18, and my son Mason is 11. My adoption experiences have been wonderful! I love our kids’ birth parents with all my heart.
Over the years I have been very open about my experiences with infertility and adoption and have shared our stories with whomever is interested. I have also sought out people that I know have been involved with adoption in any way to hear their stories. I have always wanted to hear stories from all perspectives: birth parents, adoptive parents, grandparents, and of course, from the adoptees themselves. I have wanted to know what they felt they have done “right,” their motivation for their actions, and things they wish maybe they had done differently. Through this advice I have learned a lot! I believe we have much to learn from each other.
One thing I always ask adoptees is if they want to meet their birth parents, what they expect from reunification, and if their parents are in support of it. Quite often the answer I get is that yes, they do want to meet their birth parents, but that they probably wouldn’t pursue it because they don’t want to hurt their parent’s feelings. They tell me they are curious about many things—they want to know where they get their physical or personality traits, if they have any siblings, and why they were placed for adoption. Some were very interested in a very close relationship and have yearned for the “missing piece” of their life puzzle, while others were just curious to meet them––with no desire for a more meaningful relationship.
Through these conversations and the information I got from them, I figured out how I wanted to handle this with my own kids. I always wanted my kids to know they were adopted because I didn’t want them to think that if it was a secret, it must be a bad thing. And I always wanted them to have nothing but love and respect for their birth parents because I figured that my attitudes about them would directly affect how my kids would view themselves. So from the time Delaney was a baby, I have always told her about her “story.” It was a fairytale story about her life, “Once upon a time there was a mommy and a daddy . . . the mommy’s tummy was broken so Heavenly Father chose a very special lady to bring her here to earth . . . ” (She loved that story and wanted to hear “The Story of Me” all the time!) I found that this story made her feel good about everyone involved, which made her feel extra special. And it also let her know that everyone involved felt good about the decisions made and that she was just exactly where she was meant to be.
I NEVER wanted my kids to feel that they were “given up” or “not wanted.” So many times over the years people would ask my daughter or me why she was given up, or why her real mom didn’t want her. Delaney would think that was the strangest notion—that she was not wanted. She always knew everyone loved her so she would set them straight. I loved her confidence and willingness to share “her story” with anyone who wanted to know about adoption.
Another thing I learned from talking to other people over the years is how important it is to NOT reflect my own insecurities, issues, or problems onto my kids. Yes, I have dealt with a lot of emotion going through the years of unsuccessful infertility treatments, and the broken heart that comes with that. And then the emotions involved with adoption: hoping someone would choose me to give their most precious gift––to be their child’s mother—and knowing that my child would have someone else’s eyes, feet, color of skin, etc.Then wondering if, when your child grew up, they would want to run off into the sunset with their “real” parents because you’ve done a rotten job raising them and been the meanest mom in the world. Would they never feel complete until they were back with the ones who gave birth to them, the ones they look like?
These are some of the things that run through your mind. Yes, I know it sounds crazy. Every situation is different, and there are so many different emotional circumstances that occur with adoption. But what I decided was that whatever my feelings and experiences were––they were mine, and mine alone. They had nothing to do with my daughter, as she has her own feelings and unique experience being adopted that likewise, are not mine.
So I try to not put my “stuff” on her. I try to look at things from her perspective, and if I were adopted, I would definitely want to meet my birth parents. I would want to know what they look like, what their life has been like, what characteristics I may have like them, etc. . . . And if I were adopted I would hope that my mother wouldn’t feel disrespected or unloved just because I was curious about my birth parents.
My daughter and I have always spoken about when she would be reunited with her birth parents––how fun it would be, what she would want to know. I have answered truthfully every question she has asked me about her birth parents. We knew she couldn’t meet them till she was 18, so we bided our time until then and just had a wonderful life.
About six months before Delaney turned 18, I got a call from the adoption agency telling me that there was a letter there for me, and did I want it? YES! Of course I wanted it! I was so excited to hear from Amy, Delaney’s birth mother. The last time I saw her was the day I met her. It was on St. Patrick’s Day in 1995 and she was 8 months pregnant with Delaney. I will never forget that day. She was the sweetest 17-year-old girl and she was beautiful. I was a nervous wreck and I could tell that she was nervous too. And the last time we had exchanged letters (per agency policy at that time) was when Delaney was 1 year old. My only contact had been with Amy, so I assumed the letter was from her.
But when I got the letter it was from Kelly’s (Delaney’s birth dad) mother. I was very surprised, but it was a very nice letter saying that her brother was very ill and had given her the advice to get out and live life, to do all the things she had ever wanted to do. One of those things was to contact Delaney. I wanted to write her back right away, but I felt like I should contact Amy first, since she was the one I was closest to with the adoption. So I sat down and wrote Amy the letter I had been writing in my mind for 18 years. I told her all about Delaney––all the things I had wanted to tell her about Delaney over the years, like that she had her hands, and the space she used to have between her front teeth. I told her how smart and independent Delaney is. That she has a wicked sense of humor and the cutest freckles.
I didn’t tell Delaney that Amy and I were in touch. I wanted to have some time for us to catch up before getting Delaney in the picture. I was giddy every day as we exchanged emails and letters. We even set up fake Facebook accounts so we could “friend” each other and share pictures on Facebook! I couldn’t wait to hear from her: what she’d been up to, hearing about her four kids, her husband and job, etc. We exchanged stories about how things were with her and me before Delaney was born. We talked and cried, sharing stories about how divinely guided our adoption paths were in bringing us together and what a wonderful experience it has been for both of us.
She shared her story of teen pregnancy and how difficult it was for her at such a young age, and we marveled that we received inspiration at almost the exact times during the different steps that brought us together. It was a magical time for us to share “our girl.” I’m so thankful to have had this time, because this was “my stuff,” and I could go there with Amy knowing it was “her stuff” too. We met for lunch once, and she met with my husband and me once too. (Delaney’s dad, my first husband, Trent, passed away 10 years ago and I have since remarried, so Terry hadn’t met Amy.)
Amy let Kelly know we were in touch, and I was able to be in contact with Kelly too. Amy and Kelly had remained friends over the years. I had never had any contact with or met Kelly up to this point, so it was great to get to know him. I was able to find out some things to prepare Delaney for the reunion: Did their kids know about Delaney? (Kelly didn’t have any children.) Did they want their kids to meet Delaney? What kind of relationship do they want or expect to have with Delaney/us? These are important things to know to make sure everyone is on the same page, and to avoid uncomfortable situations. What if a child is looking forward to meeting siblings, but the birth mom doesn’t want her kids to meet the child she placed years ago? This can really cause hurt feelings. Luckily, we were all on the same page so I knew what Delaney would encounter. (This was so comforting for me to know––and I’m sure it helped Amy and Kelly as well).
Amy and I were in touch for about four months before I felt it was the right time to tell Delaney about our sneaking around. It was time to arrange a meeting. Delaney was at the end of her senior year in high school and very busy, but I just felt like the right time to tell her. She was elated! And she was relieved to know that I had tested the waters and found that everyone was all good with it.
She and Amy exchanged letters and then became Facebook friends. Amy told her kids about Delaney and soon Delaney and Amy’s oldest son, Braiden, were Facebook friends and texting each other. It was great!
A few weeks later Amy came to our house to meet Delaney. It was so sweet to see them look into each other’s eyes and hug. There were no words. We had a fun weekend together. A few weeks later Amy brought her whole family to visit and we had a great time together.
Delaney and Kelly were in touch and exchanged letters and text messages. Since Kelly was living out of the country they couldn’t meet yet. We secretly planned that Kelly would surprise Delaney on her birthday at her high school softball game.
Amy and Kelly both came and we all spent the weekend at our house hiking and picnicking, comparing eyes, feet, freckles, hair color, personality traits, likes and dislikes, funny stories, and more funny stories.
I think it was then that I realized that I had tried for so long to put Delaney’s feelings and interests first––to not put my “stuff” on her, that I hadn’t even considered that this would be hard for me. Her feet don’t look like mine, her eyes are a darker shade than mine, and her calves came from her birth parents. She has Amy’s floppy hands and she had the same facial structure as Kelly. She looks like them. I began to wonder where I fit in. I started to feel like I was the outsider. These feelings caught me completely off-guard! I knew my heart was in the right place: I wanted this meeting to happen for Delaney, for me, for Amy, and for Kelly. I had looked forward to this for 18 years. I had tried so hard to prepare Delaney for this and I didn’t want to mess it up for her.
I really tried to get real with myself, to remind myself that this was about Delaney, not me. I decided that I had to talk to Delaney and tell her how I felt. I realized that the way she handled things was based on how she saw me handling things. And what she saw from me was that everything was a-okay. I was acting like I was cool with everything when I was actually having a hard time. I broke down and told her my feelings. She just hugged me and told me she loves me, not to worry, that I’m her mom and always will be.
I felt much better after getting that off my chest and I felt like I was okay with things. I knew she needed to explore these relationships and I wanted her to. Future plans were being made—Amy and Kelly and their families were all coming for her high school graduation in May, they had a Disneyland trip planned with Amy’s family in June, and a California visit after that with Kelly since he had moved back to the states. I felt a little overwhelmed that they were making so many plans with Delaney since all those plans affected our family and our other kids too. Delaney was also pretty overwhelmed. She loved them and loved being in touch with them and looked forward to building a relationship with them, but there was a lot for her to take in.
She told me that they were only adding one person (her) to their lives, but she was adding each of them, and their families to her life–that’s a lot of people for an 18-year-old girl busy trying to make it through high school finals, graduation, and making decisions about college. She was stressed out. I was stressed out. I’m sure Amy and Kelly were stressed out too.
As the Disneyland trip drew closer and plans were finalizing, Amy and Kelly had disagreements about who got time with Delaney, and when. It really upset Delaney because she felt like she was put in the middle. They both said they felt like they were in a custody battle over her. I think that this reunion has brought out some old issues and feelings with Amy and Kelly (which is totally understandable), just like it did for me. Delaney almost canceled the trip because she didn’t want them to be upset. I realized that she didn’t need me to solve the problems, just to listen and support her as she navigated this new situation. The trip was fun and she made some great memories with her birth parents and their families.
Since then Delaney started college, Amy has moved closer to us and is able to see Delaney more often. Kelly has a new baby girl and lives in California. They have kept in close touch with Delaney and us. Delaney has worked through many decisions to figure out how everyone fits in her life—things like whether she should give Christmas presents to everyone, and how to fit everyone in. I think Amy and Kelly would like to spend more time with her, but so would we all! Ha ha! I think Delaney has done very well balancing her crazy-busy life and all the people in her life that love her.
I am very happy with how things have turned out. It’s been quite a roller coaster ride of emotions, but I would expect nothing less considering the emotions that went into the adoption decision from the beginning. I love Amy and Kelly. I think they are amazing, which probably explains why Delaney’s so amazing! I’m beyond grateful for their gift to me—the baby girl that filled the Grand Canyon in my soul from the minute I got her, and still does today.