Adoption – A Personal Journey

I’m adopted.

I’ve known since I was five.

My adoptive parents were very open about it with me, although they generously left out the biology details on why they couldn’t get pregnant. I don’t think I’d even want to know now…who wants to know the sexual details of their parents? Honestly.

Notice for a moment that I didn’t say “kids of their own”.

That’s on purpose, because they did have kids of their own; My sister and I. Both of us will always view both sets of parents as parents…however, the ones who raised us will always be Mom and Dad #1. Yes, it’s sappy and somewhat vomit inducing I’ll grant, but it’s true…so get over it. lol.

Now, spoiler alert, I’m going to be using some words that might be “triggers” so some folks. The purpose here is not to offend, it’s to educate (with some personal anecdotal evidence) and when you’re talking about birth parents and adoptive parents it can get a bit confusing.

One of my mother’s closest friends was adopted and she had a horrible experience when she met her birth parents…they literally slammed the door in her face and shouted for her to get off of their property. So, it was important for her to ensure that I was just as prepared for a negative experience as I was excited for a positive one. This became an alarming theme as I grew up whenever folks would learn that I’m adopted. Too many Orphan Annie and Oliver Twist adaptations have made everyone a little cynical in my opinion.

Now that I have children (biological) of my own, I am honest with them about their grandmas…I do get a chuckle when they explain it to others in our small town because it sounds like they’re a lesbian couple. I’ll admit I get more enjoyment out of their expressions that I probably should, but I’m evil that way.

My adoptive father passed in 1998 and my birth father doesn’t want anything to do with me, which is fine…and I’m not saying that passive aggressively at all.

My birth parents were dating in college and towards the end of their relationship my mother got pregnant. By the time she started showing, they’d broken up and she’d moved back home to have me. So, it wasn’t until about ten years ago that he even knew that I existed. I imagine it was quite a shock and when the three of us met for coffee he spent most of the time reminiscing with my mother. I definitely don’t blame him, if that was me I doubt I’d have a better reaction.

During the time my mother was pregnant with me, she struggled with what to do. The topic of abortion came up as well as adoption. I don’t want to “out” the folks who were arguing each because it really doesn’t matter anymore.

She contacted the government department that handles adoptions – withheld for privacy reasons (sorry…kind of) – and started the process…but still hadn’t decided on what she was going to ultimately do (keep me or put me up for adoption).

A few weeks prior to my birth, she decided to give me up for adoption and her case worker began contacting parents on a waiting list to find me a new home. Mom went into labour and had me, but still hadn’t signed the forms. It wasn’t until the social worker showed up with the papers that she finally pulled the trigger on my adoption. So, unlike a lot of adopted kids, my mom held me after I was born.

In most cases, the child is left in the ward and collected by a foster family who care for the baby until the adoption process is finalized. It varies, of course, base on local laws and policies, but this is still how things are done through the system where I’m from. Private adoptions are another option and those can vary wildly as well from the birth mother spending a few weeks with the new family to surrendering the baby upon delivery. I’ve heard some horror stories I would rather believe are urban myths…so all I can attest to is what happened to me.

I spent a little over four months in a foster home and then was delivered to my adoptive parents in August 1979. It’s pretty normal from this point forward. I was a loud, rambunctious kid into sports, daydreaming and writing. Not many of my friends knew I was adopted and the ones who did, couldn’t care less. I went through most of the things normal kids go through; dealt with bullies, played sports, got bruised and stitched but never broke anything, had years when I was Mr. Be Everyone’s Friend and years when I kept my circle very small.

In 1998 we went through some family trauma, every family does in some way, when my father passed away suddenly. We drifted apart for a while and then came back together, again…pretty normal family stuff. The point though is that adoptive families are like any other family. We do and say horrible shit to one another and yet that bond remains. Even years later my sister and I can fight like children…even in front of our own children, but we still love each other. Sometimes we’d rather beat each other with wiffle bats, but we’d probably feel bad afterwards.

It was also in 1998 that I met my birth mother. It was a few days after my dad passed away, so most of that year is a blur of emotions and craziness. I do remember it being very surreal. We started off exchanging letters through a case worker and eventually met. I’m a huggy guy, so of course I hugged my mom. I think she was caught by surprise, but we hugged for quite a while and I think that helped the guilt that a lot of parents who give their children away feel. I understand why they feel this way, but I’m not sure it’s fair. Feelings aren’t always very rational.

We took things slow, I was introduced to my half-brother and half-sister a month later. This was around the same time my adoptive family was going through the trauma of losing dad, so this was cathartic for me. It definitely wasn’t for my adoptive family though, they felt like I was abandoning them for a new family…which, of course, I wasn’t…but feelings are what they are and rationality be damned.

My adoptive sister and I didn’t hang out much growing up. But my brother did start hanging out with my friends and I, which I found fun. Looking back now, I think it made things worse. The timing of finding my birth family was horrible and it created a rift that took years to heal. Family, right?

These days we all keep in contact over Facebook and around Christmas time, but like all families, when you have children it tends to be all about them and their activities. So in that respect, we’re all too normal. We squabble and laugh, goof around with each others kids, tease each others spouses…it all settled into this very normal and arguably dysfunctional way that most families are with one another.

I’m not sure what a “normal” family looks like, but it’s the stuff of nightmares for me.

I prefer the mess…it’s honest and real…and much more fun.

Recently a friend of mine has been seriously considering adoption (for many private reasons I won’t get into here) and threw up a Facebook post asking for any friends with adoption experience to help with some information and advice. It shocked her that I was adopted. I’ve never hidden it, it’s just not something I start conversations with. I was surprised at how many people didn’t know.

I guess people are just too polite when I talk about my moms to inquire.

Anyway, the whole point of this is that I know things can be a little challenging for parent(s) who are considering putting their children up to adoption and parent(s) who are considering adopting. We so often hear the horror stories of abuse and neglect, while so rarely hearing any stories of the majority of us who are perfectly average and normal and lead happy lives.

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