Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Beautiful Adoption

Guilty pleasures confession: I like the MTV Reality Show Teen Mom.  I like it so much that last night, when perusing the Huffington Post, I clicked to read an opinion piece about it.  And then I scrolled down to read the comments section, and here’s what one commenter had to say about a teen couple that gave their baby up for adoption:

Caitlyn and Tyler do wrong by encouragin­g other parents to give up their children. As I and many birth mothers will attest, losing a child to adoption is painful no matter how open the adoption is and the pain can last a lifetime. Experts … all agree that the best option for children is to be raised in their biological family if at all possible. For many children, being adopted by an older, more affluent couple is no compensati­on for losing their natural family.

I realize that adoption is an emotional and contentious subject matter, and that adoption experiences are as intensely personal as birthing experiences.  Yet, as an adopted child, I can’t help but feel offended by the above comment.  I pray that my own birth mother does not share such a perspective, and that she knows in her heart that I got the happy ending she always wanted for me - and that she got hers, too.  So I started writing...

I could write a book on my beautiful and blessed experience as an adopted child, but I’m not going to. Nope.  I’m only going to write a few posts about it this week - and that's it - because adoption is not who I am.  You see, “adopted child” isn’t one of my primary identities, just like “biological child” isn’t one of yours.  I am simply my parents' daughter.

I’m also not going to write much about it because I don’t want you to see me only through the lens of adoption.  Even though I know better, I realize that some people see it as a painful hiccup in one’s life story - like adoptees are orphans-lite.  Excluding Daddy Warbucks and Annie, adoption seems to get a bum deal in most of its popular representations, focusing on identity crises and emotional searches for birth parents.  Even Moses abandoned his adoptive Egyptian family in the Old Testament - and then brought pestilence and plague upon their kingdom!  Certainly, many adoptees and birth parents rightfully struggle with issues of identity, loss and abandonment, but some of us do not.  I am so lucky to have gotten the happy family that my birth mother wanted for me and to be able to fade into the public background while the rest of the world watches Find My Family on TV.

So let these musings serve as a voice for the comfortably adopted.  Maybe, in their own little way, they will help correct some common misconceptions about adoption.  Maybe by telling my side of the story, I can dissipate some of the fear surrounding adoption and encourage more people to consider it.  Because I know the beautiful truth about adoption, and I celebrate it in my heart every day.

First, my story:

My parents grew up on the East Coast, met at college in the Midwest, and moved to Indiana where my grandfather lived and had connections to help my dad find a job.  In following with their young and liberal ways, my parents decided to abstain from parenthood to curb overpopulation.  ‘Twas the 1970s after all.  But then something happened: one of their close friends had a baby, and they realized that being parents might be fun.  Thus began Operation: Get Pregnant.  

It failed.  Badly, actually.  Following a slew of hormone injections and fertility treatments, an ectopic pregnancy landed my mom in the hospital and ended their pregnancy hopes.

Enter my sister and me. My parents adopted my sister when she was four years-old.  A few years later, when they were ready to expand their family again, a social worker that lived in their neighborhood matched them with a baby girl being fostered in the Indianapolis area.

That was me.

When my parents came to meet me for the first time at the foster home - so the story (and the photo) goes - I smiled when my dad first held me.  I came home with my parents a few weeks later, just two months after being born.  Our adoption was a traditional closed adoption, so I have never known my birth parents.

27 years later, I have framed in my living room that photo of my father holding me for the first time.  It sits in tribute to my adoption, which catalyzed my life and started the blessed chain of happy things that have come from it.  

I have always been - and still am - fiercely proud of being adopted.  But my understanding of adoption - specifically how people view me as an adoptee - changed in my early twenties following a conversation with a good friend in college.  During a casual discussion about my adoption story, she asked me if I felt distant from my parents because they weren’t my “real parents.”  That was the first moment I realized that not everyone views adoption as a blessing.  That people may perceive my relationship with my parents as less-fulfilling because we are not biologically related.  

On the contrary, my parents and I feel that our relationship is uniquely special, and that adoption is a tear-jerking, heartstring-tugging, thanks giving blessing from God.  And I’m not even religious!  Yet, if ever something strengthened my belief in a higher power and in destiny, it’s my own adoption story.  For most people, they wouldn’t have their families if their parents hadn't met and, well... you know.  For me, it’s much more complicated. If my birth mother hadn’t had a romantic interlude with my biological father, then I would have never been conceived; and if she’d chosen to abort me instead of making the courageous and unimaginably difficult decision to place me up for adoption, then I would have never found my way into foster care in Indianapolis; and if my social worker didn’t live in the same neighborhood as my parents, then my parents may not have heard about me; and if my Grandpa had never moved to Indiana, then my parents wouldn't have moved here either; and if my mother’s uterus had formed correctly instead of developing a flap inside of it, then our family would have never come into being.  It all could have turned out so differently.

Through luck or grace, I found my family and they found me.  We may not share the same genetic makeup, but we share everything else (including the same rare blood type).  While a loving young woman courageously suffered through emotional and physical pain to bring me into this world over a quarter-century ago, my parents gave birth to me in the most sacred of places: their hearts.  And that’s the beautiful truth.


Lindsey Balogh said...

beautiful, annie! :)

Nancy said...

Dear Anne,

This is a beautiful tribute to your wonderful parents.

I know they are very proud of you,as we are. You are a very welcome addition to our family.