Like many of the other adoptees who have shared their stories on this site, I too grew up being told about adoption. My parents read my younger brother (also adopted) and me books about what it meant to be a “chosen” child & explained that our birth parents loved us so much that they knew they had to give us to parents who were ready to have children. I never doubted their words, and was always shocked when I shared my story with others and they responded with “Aren’t you angry that your parents gave you away?” Never once did I feel I had been given away. Instead, I knew that I had been a gift to a man and a woman who craved parenthood and had everything they could possibly offer to a child, except for the physical ability to conceive.
I was always very curious about my birth parents. While I had all of the love, care, nurturing, and family time I could ever want, I still wondered who they were. I knew a few facts about them– for instance, their first names and how tall they were. I knew that my birth mother loved to read and write, activities which I, too, have always been passionate about. I knew that my paternal grandfather owned an auto repair shop, and my birth father was athletic. Every single fact I learned was like a precious jewel; it was verification about these “others” who had created me with their genes. It was also part of my own story.
I had always thought that when I turned 18, I would be able to legally seek out my birth mother. However, the laws in the state of Kentucky changed, and I found out that I was required to be 21 years old before I could officially search. That’s what I did on the morning of my 21st birthday, my dad (a judge) took me down to the courthouse and we filed the necessary paperwork. I was told that it could take up to 6 months for the social worker to try and make contact with my birth mother, that is if she was still alive.
Looking back, I had never even considered the possibility that either of my birth parents could be deceased, incarcerated, or even that they might live very far away. Almost six months to the day of turning in my request for contact, I received a call at my college apartment early in the morning. Truth be told, I was so busy with being a senior– working towards my degree and having fun with my sorority– that I hadn’t been thinking very much about when I would hear back. The social worker informed me that she had spoken with my birth mother and that my birth mother had given consent for me to contact her. Immediately my mouth went dry, my heart beat sped up, and I felt a little short of breath. I was ecstatic and terrified. She told me my birth mother’s full name, so I now had a last name to go with the first I had always known.
I hemmed around, waiting, taking a shower; the news buzzed around my head, and I found it difficult to concentrate on anything. I remember going to class and all I could think about was making that phone call. Finally that afternoon, seated next to my boyfriend for support, I called. There was a man’s voice on the answering machine, so I knew she had a husband or boyfriend, and I left her a message. I talked to my birth mother for the first time later that day, and learned that she was thrilled to have contact with me, that I was her only child, and she had wondered about me for a long time. I found out I had an aunt, a grandmother who was still alive, and one cousin who was three. I also learned that my grandfather had abandoned my birth mom when she was two. I began to ask questions about my birth father, and she told me everything that she could, adding that the last she had heard, he was living in Georgia, and she hadn’t seen or spoken to him in many years. Armed with his full name and birth date, I began searching.
I looked in Georgia, Indiana and a few other states with no luck. Finally I thought, “Well, perhaps he really just stayed in Kentucky.” I found that he did live in Louisville, and I found his number that same day. Another wave of anticipation and fear crashed over me as I dialed the number. A man answered and I asked for him by his full name. The man indicated it was him and all I said was “Do you know why someone would be looking for you? I’ve been looking for you for a long time.” He paused for the briefest moment, then said, “Yes, I know who you are, and I’m so glad to hear from you. My wife and son know about you as well. Do you want to talk to your brother?”
At this point, I almost squealed, realizing that I had one biological sibling, a brother who was 10 years younger than me. It has been nine years since that day, and I have gotten to know much of my biological family. I fortunately got to spend time with my birth grandmother and great-grandmother before they died, and was by my birth mother’s side when her husband passed away from cancer earlier this year. It isn’t easy having so much family, and there are times when I’m not really sure how to feel about my biological parents because I already have a mom and dad. I do know that I have enough love in my heart for all of them, but I don’t ever expect to feel the same about my birth parents as I do about my “real” parents, the ones who held me and rocked me as I screamed as an infant, who calmly put me in time-out when I broke the rules, and who never ever let me believe I was anything other than a very special gift.