I was born in September, just five months after my parents lost and buried their baby boy. I'm pretty sure I wasn't a very good replacement, but I am what they got the day they signed the adoption papers and took me home. I was only nine days old. Old enough to have spent time in my birth mother's arms and, at the same time, too young to remember it.
I had good parents. They gave me many opportunities: piano and accordion lessons, dance, swim lessons, 4-H, baseball, soccer, basketball, you name it! I was raised with morals and values and taught to have very high standards for myself.
Both of my parents were teachers. Dad taught at the college and mom set aside teaching until we were all in school and then she returned as a substitute teacher. Technically, they had four children before adopting me, but, as the world sees it, I was their fourth. After me, they adopted one more and then found out they were pregnant. So, there were six of us!
I learned I was adopted early on in life. I remember my best friend giving me a hard time one day when we were fighting with each other (we were four at the time). She said, “Your parents aren't even your “real” parents. Your mommy didn't even want you!”
I was devastated! This was the first I'd heard of it and I it was very upsetting. My parents had no choice but to sit down and explain to me how special I was and how lucky to have been “chosen” by them. Of course, for several years, I imagined a shop where you picked out babies to adopt; but, eventually, I learned what being adopted really meant.
I was in the second grade when I took my next devastating hit. I was out playing on the merry-go-round at recess and two sisters who were known bullies were being really mean to me and said, “we know who your “real” mom is. It's OUR mom and she hated you, that's why she got rid of you!” I'm sure there was much more to that little incident and, needless to say, I ended up in the office in tears and my mother had to be called to comfort me.
Fifth grade rolls around and our class assignment is to right about our heritage. Great in theory, but being adopted, maybe not so great after all. Come to find out years later, my father KNEW at the time that my birth father was Jewish. Would have been really good information at the time, but, maybe he was ashamed and felt not telling me was saving ME heartache. He was wrong.
I struggled with that assignment because, even though I was adopted, I KNEW I wasn't the same as the rest of my family and I REALLY wanted to right about who I really was, not who they wanted me to be. It was okay to be different, I just needed my own identity.
Growing up, I used to dream of being “rescued” by my birth mom. She was in Hollywood, of course, and famous, of course, and when she had time, she was going to come and rescue me. Not that I really needed rescuing, but it made things much easier knowing that I fit somewhere. I was so different from my siblings and parents that it was difficult to relate often times. I knew they loved me, but I really needed to know who I was.
Who did I look like? What mannerisms were similar? Who's personality did I have? I just needed to resolve the missing pieces of the puzzle and I would be fine. I needed to talk about my thoughts and feelings, but my parents seemed very threatened by the idea. I know now that they were worried that I would disappear and they would lose me forever.
We had been sealed together in the LDS temple so I was theirs, right? Why did I need to look anywhere else. After all, if we were sealed my other family didn't exist anymore. But they DID exist and I knew it and needed some sort of closure. I'm sure that people might argue that there was nothing to “close” because I was adopted early in life and, therefore, I had no memory and shouldn't need to “close” anything. That would be wrong!
My entire life I had a yearning that I couldn't explain then and can't explain now much better, but it was real and it was a part of me that needed to be heard. When I read books about adoption and try to discuss them with my parents, my dad would get so angry and stomp off. The idea of me finding my birth parents was so threatening to him that he couldn't even consider it.
I was in the eighth grade when my dad decided enough was enough. He marched me down to the courthouse and into the chambers of a long time judge that he knew very well. “Tell her she can't find her birth parents”, he demanded. So, the judge told me that I was too young to find my birth parents. There was a lot of work that would be required of me before sealed records would ever be 'unsealed'. Once he had appeased my father, it was MY turn. He told me that if I still wanted to know when I was 18 to come back and talk with him about it again. Well, I held him to it!
Just before my 18th birthday, my mom passed away suddenly and, left in total shock for a while, the idea of finding my biological family took a back seat. A year later, however, I took Judge Deerline up on his offer and went to see him again. This time, not only did he give me the info, he actually made the phone calls for me! A few days later, he called me and told me my mom would be expecting my phone call on this date at this time.
Wow! It's real! Talk about anxiety! What if she didn't like me? What if she was dead? What if she is a drunk or in prison? What if I found her and she had a bunch of kids and just threw me out for some reason? You name it, I likely thought it and it created so much anxiety in me I almost didn't call her.
Well, the day came. My neighbor set up a recorder to help preserve our first conversation. We talked for a long time and it was like talking to an old friend. A few days later, I received some pictures in the mail giving me an overview of the last 19 years. She had three children (different father), but I was the oldest!
Over the next few weeks, we would talk quite a bit. Finally, we prepared for a visit. I would fly to Fresno, California for a week to visit and then return home. If only it had really been that easy. From the moment I stepped off the plane, my biological mother changed. Once she saw that I actually looked like her (and one of my half brothers), I think she freaked out and didn't know what to do. The next few days passed by very slowly and it was obvious something was wrong and awkward. I just wanted to get home.
She wasn't a famous movie star. Matter of fact, there was nothing even remotely significant about her. She was just like everyone else. She had habits that I wasn't raised to embrace and she was very tight lipped about anything to do with me or how I came to be.
Though my life was far from perfect, I had been raised so differently from what I experienced in her home. There were plenty of times I would have loved to trade my parents in for a new set, but, after meeting my birth mother, I was relieved to have been blessed with such GOOD parents. Suddenly they seemed so much of a better option!
Meeting my birth mother, I suddenly became extremely grateful for the family I had and the opportunities I was blessed with. Even the trying times and the times I thought for sure I was abused were nothing compared to the person I found; she was average for heaven sake! No lights, no glamour, nothing significant. What the heck! What ever happened to Christine Lahti and Olivia Newton-John? They were supposed to be my mom! Not some ordinary, average, human being who had bad habits and vices! What the heck!!
Needless to say, the saddest part about finding my birth mom was learning that she was just another ordinary person. I would have rather not known at all and continued on with the fantasies! THEN, I found out who dear old dad would have been. Oh my heavens!
It took several years to get my birth mom to tell me about my birth father, but, eventually, and under great strain, I managed to squeeze it out of her. It changed our relationship forever, but that would change anyway so I guess it was alright.
With a very odd last name, it only took me five of the six phone calls to get the right people on the phone; his parents. At first they were hesitant to talk with me, but when they found out who I was (they obviously never knew I existed), they let me know that he was in prison and gave me an address to contact him at.
To make a long boring story very short, turned out 'dear ole dad' wasn't any better father 19 years later. Initially, we wrote letters back and forth and kind of got to know each other. When he was released from prison, however, he dropped off the radar and I haven't seen or heard from him since. But it's really a blessing more than a sad thing.
Needless to say, my relationship with my birth mother faded rather quickly as well and wasn't all that healthy either. We had a lot of ups and downs and eventually, I had to separate myself from the dysfunction and just move on. Several years ago, she passed away and about a year after that, my youngest half brother died as well from the effects of drugs and diabetes being intermixed far too often.
So, we fast-forward to today when I have been blessed with a wonderful son. I became a foster parent almost nine years ago. Single, yes. I've never been married and never had children of my own. However, I have raised numerous children on behalf of their not so interested parents over the years. It took seven years to get M out of the foster care system, but we finally did it and now I have a teenage son. Wow!
Having been through it once, I would absolutely do it again. Being adopted myself, however, I am a huge advocate of keeping lines open on behalf of the children. I do not prevent M from seeing his mother, after all, she IS his first mother. She has problems telling the truth and making good choices (one of the big reasons he came into care to begin with), but if he wants to see her, I want to support that all the way. There are always parameters though so that I know he will be safe.
I have good friends who have adopted their children and had open adoption agreements. Typically, the parents fade into the woodwork before they are teens and are completely invisible before they are adults. At the same time, removing the question of who I am or where did I come from tends to balance things and the kids don't seem to have the fantasies or anxiety I experienced. Their biological parents are simply that. They know who they are so the fantasy isn't there.
I was a pretty rebellious teenager, so I can understand my parents fear in helping me to know about my birth family. Fear of losing me. Fear of not measuring up. Fear of having to put me back together should the experience be devastating for me. Fear of being judged by biological parents. Fear of having to explain to other siblings what is happening to their family. Whatever the fears, I have no doubt they are there.
Through the gospel, we know that we were sent here and that we are exactly where we were meant to be. We know that sometimes, due to human nature, spirits may need to be shuffled a bit from home to home to accommodate things. I KNOW that I was placed exactly where I was meant to be; whether or not it makes sense to me or whether I 'fit'. We also know that, since God doesn't make mistakes, whatever thoughts pass through our pointed little heads as we try and come to terms with the challenges in our lives. Most important, it's okay to deal with them head on without feeling threatened, afraid, or worried about the outcome.
Since losing my parents way too early in life, I've learned some very valuable things about life and love. Most importantly, I've learned that the titles that we value so much (mom, dad, sister, brother, auntie, etc) are really just “name tags” to identify our relationships. My life is FILLED with people who love me as though I was a part of their family and, yet, we haven't the slightest relation. I call these people mom, dad, sister, brother, etc, but most of all, I call them FRIEND.
Even though my parents are no longer here and my siblings all live in different states (far enough away that I don't see them very often), I am surrounded by love; and I realize that Heavenly Father wants that to be my focus! Not whether or not I “OWN” the people I call family. We are ALL family in more ways than one. If we look at genealogy, we can connect the dots and find out that maybe we are related by blood somewhere. When we speak of our church family, we are referring to people outside our immediate circle but love and acceptance should be the same. And, ultimately, when we talk about family, we should remember that we all came from the same place with a purpose to learn to work together and to remember that we are all a part of GOD'S family!
Whatever we call it here on earth, it all winds down to the same piece of thread. We are ALL family whether we like it or not. Eternal families are a great bonus at the end of the day, but doesn't it seem that it's important that we choose to love one another here on earth no matter how we are brought together?
I've learned a lot of things in my life thus far. I've made a lot of mistakes, hurt people, and likely, I've created a few enemies; however, one of the blessings I have obtained in abundance along the way is the love of the people around me (both near and far). What a blessing to learn that you can never have too much love, acceptance, or joy in your life AND you are granted as much as you are willing to find!