I have spent some time wondering what my life would be like if I had not been placed for adoption by Joan Chanowski. I let my mind wander to bits and pieces from my life, the way it was, the way it is. I wonder where and how it would be different.

Me as a little girl

Take me as a newborn. With my parents, I was in a warm house where I was fed, rocked, changed, and held often. My cries of sadness, my cries of hunger were answered within moments. I was soothed by my parents when needed to be. If I had been with Joan, I may have had a mother’s arms holding me and rocking me, but they would probably be shaking from needing a drink, or limp from too much drinking. I would probably not have been changed or fed timely. I don’t think I would’ve felt the warmth and safety I felt with my adoptive family.

I grew up in the suburbs, and attended a very affluent school system. My life consisted of dependable routine. I got up at the same time every day, I ate breakfast and went to school. I would come home from school, start my homework and play with my friends at their houses. I would eat dinner with my entire family most nights of the week, finish my homework and then head to bed. I never worried about not eating, about not having time or a place to do my homework. Joan worked at a bar seven days a week. It is all she knew. She would sit from dawn until dusk, drinking and working. She would become a customer at the end of the night. What would that look like for me, had I stayed with her? As an infant, I would probably sit in my infant seat on the bar, while Joan worked. I would be passed around by strangers all day, fed by multiple different people smelling of cigarettes and liquor. As I got older and became school aged, I envision sitting at the bar with a coke, asking the regular drink customer what 2 + 5 equals. I imagine late nights, no strict bedtime, and when I did go to bed, I would be alone in the apartment above the bar where Joan resided. She would remain downstairs, drinking as a customer, but still serving drinks like a waitress.

I graduated high school with a 3.7 GPA. I went to college at SUNY Geneseo and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Communicative Disorders and Sciences (Speech Therapy). I was well disciplined in college and knew how to study successfully. If I had grown up with Joan, I am hoping I would’ve graduated high school. I don’t think I would have gone to college, and there is NOTHING wrong with that. I think I would’ve been working at the bar since high school at that point, and would continue to do so. Again, there is nothing wrong with not attending college. I just think I was lucky to have been given the experience to attend college. I was given the opportunity to see what there is outside my hometown world. I thank my adoptive parents for that.

My vision if I had not been adopted is one of a lonely life. A life that mirrors what Joan’s appeared to be. I think I would have had the sweet, innocent, helpful nature I possess now, and I would want to fix Joan. I think I would take her situation upon myself to make better, because she was my mom, but also because it is what I do, or try to do. That life would not be healthy. I think I would become and enabler to her addiction of alcohol. I think maybe she would become dependent on me to take care of her when she was too drunk to take care of herself.

Through each of these visions I have occasionally, I always end up with the same impression. I have two parents who love me unconditionally. Although we have our spats and don’t always see eye to eye, I am their daughter. I always have been, and I always will be. They do not see me as their adopted daughter but their daughter. . . period. I am married to a wonderful man who does not hesitate to stand up for me. We have two wonderful little boys who are my every breath. I met my husband at college. Had I never been adopted, I would have never met him, and my life as I know it today would just be a distant spec in the sky.

My two beautiful children

Life turns into something, no matter what. It is ever changing. I am happy I am where I am, and I am excited to see where I will go.