I have been asked how being an adoptee has played a role in my adult life. Well, pull up a chair, put your feet up, and settle back for a little story. I have known I was adopted since forever. My parents always told me I was adopted. Even when I was an infant they would read children’s books to me about it. As I got older, they had conversations with me about it. They put me in an adoption support group at my elementary school with others who were adopted. I don’t remember not knowing I was adopted, and I don’t remember a time when I was not proud to be adopted.
As I have entered adulthood (age-wise, mind you . . . I still yearn to be a Toys R Us Kid), my life has taken twists and turns through the Trail of Adoptee Wonderment, starting with pregnancy.
When I became pregnant for the first time, I met with my OB, who asked all these medical history questions. At the time, I knew NOTHING. So I told him just that. As a result, I was tested for a slew of genetic disorders. I wouldn’t have had to complete this blood work had I known my genetic makeup. (And I would say I may have had more anxiety completing these tests than those who knew their heredity!)
Then I had my first son, and he was beautiful and healthy. (He still is.) I went on to have my second son in March of 2012, and when he was about one month old, I decided I wanted to search for my biological mom. I had this sadness after my first son, and it reappeared after my second. How could a mother hand her child over?
As I started to search, my life as an adult changed. It changed in multiple ways, good and not-so-good. I became engrossed in searching. I let my relationship with my husband become a star far up into the sky, sometimes visible, other times barely visible. I realized I had excellent searching techniques, which ended successfully after a year of searching.
Then I encountered nerves similar to those many feel before taking a big test, or before a big race. These nerves surfaced when I decided to tell my parents about my search. My adoptive parents are my parents. Period. I love them unconditionally. I have always been their daughter, a part of the family. I have never felt differently. I don’t call them my adoptive parents except when I am writing articles, and then only to decipher between them and my biological family.
I was worried that when I divulged my search for my birth mother, I would cause them to feel I didn’t love them as much anymore, and I was afraid they would worry I would leave my family for this new person, if and when I found her.
These feelings I had were not enjoyable, but my parents told me they understood my need to search. They told me they supported me, and they truly did. I pushed the anxiety to the back of my mind and continued the search.
In May of 2013, I located my birth mom through Classmates.com. Within 24 hours, I felt happy, excited, nervous, and sad. I found my birth mom’s identity, and within one day received news that she had died in 1999. Opposite emotions all close together. I didn’t know what I should be feeling. After a few hours of digesting her death, I decided I wanted to know her life. I wanted to know the rest of my biological roots. So, over the next few weeks, I discovered that I had a biological uncle (we still keep in touch) and biological cousins.
Being an adoptee has played an important role in adulthood. It has made me open my heart to people who share my genes, and open my friendship and family circles to let them into my life. I have pieced together my birth mom’s life up until she died. The pieces I’ve found have made me realize how lucky I am to have the family I do. I was placed into a family full of unconditional love and kindness. A family that has always said, in words and actions, “You are one of us. You always will be.”
I have earned an education as an adult adoptee. I have become very educated about—and maybe a tiny bit of an expert on—Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). I was given the sad, hard truth that my birth mom was a chronic alcoholic before her pregnancy with me . . . and during her pregnancy with me . . . and after her pregnancy with me, up until the moment she fell down the stairs to her apartment and broke her neck. Yes, that’s right. She drank when pregnant with me. A LOT.
The result is a diagnosis I received at 34 years old: FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). So, in the past year, being an adoptee has also given me the opportunity to advocate for adoptees to have their original birth certificates, and to have open birth records. I was adopted from New Jersey, a closed adoption state. If I had access to my hospital records at birth, and to my original birth certificate, my parents would have been able to pursue early intervention for my FAS, and we would’ve been aware early on that my biological family has a strong history of heart disease and heart attacks.
Being an adoptee brings its joys and challenges through every stage of life. I am excited to see what is in store for me in the future.