I consider myself very fortunate to be adopted. My parents suffered disappointments one after the other when trying to have children, and though it took a long time before I arrived in their arms, I feel like the most blessed person in the world. I know, nearly everyone says that about their parents — but I can’t help but feel like I barely escaped a fate that is an unfortunate reality for many kids across the world today.
My biological family consisted of two extremely young, naïve parents, barely making ends meet and nowhere near the necessary maturity level for raising children or having a healthy, functioning marriage. My brothers grew up in poverty; I grew up spoiled, getting pretty much everything I wanted for birthdays and Christmas. My parents could afford to put me through piano lessons, little league cheerleading, Girl Scouts, various clubs and activities, buy me a car, and send me to college; neither of my brothers had any opportunity remotely resembling those things. My parents valued education; my brothers were too concerned about what was going on at home to focus on school. They did the best they could for my brothers, and it’s not like I think my childhood was “sooo much better” than theirs. I just wish they had had the same opportunities I did.
I met my biological family nearly four years ago. I was spending the weekend with my (now ex) boyfriend when I received a phone call from a girl I went to high school with, and hadn’t spoken to since we graduated in 2008. She wanted to know if she could ask me some personal questions, which I agreed to. She asked me if I knew my biological parents names (I did) and if I had brothers and what their names were (I did). She awkwardly told me that she believed she was dating my older brother. That’s a feeling I can’t really describe—finding someone I’ve known about my whole life, feeling like this whole other side of me I couldn’t ever really know before has been found…it was overwhelming.
I talked to him for the first time on the phone; my hands were shaking furiously, and I was crying. He told me that his dad knew it was me as soon as he’d seen my Facebook page, provided by my friend, and that I looked exactly like my biological mother. We all met in December 2010. It was a really great experience; hands down one of the happiest days of my life. I like to joke that I have two moms and two dads and watch how confused people get. Well, I guess now that I’m engaged I can say three and three and make it even more interesting.
With a story like mine comes a lot of questions. Honestly, most of these questions don’t offend me. Some could be perceived as hurtful or ignorant if you want to take them that way, but most people are genuinely just curious about a life experience they have no knowledge of. So, here I answer five of the most common questions I’ve received about my adoption—hopefully, my answers will help you feel more comfortable if you have someone in your life who is adopted and you’re curious about it, and will educate you about adoption in general.
1. What was it like meeting your real parents?!
This is the only one that’s really ever set my teeth on edge. I try to be understanding, but I feel the answer is obvious. My parents are the ones who raised me, not the ones who birthed me. I met them on June 20, 1990. Let’s just set the record straight—I have no adoption baggage or abandonment issues. I’m sure there are people adopted from less than pleasant circumstances who do. This question can come off very offensive, especially to someone who may have those issues. That said, let me set your mind at ease now if you’re reading this as someone who is interested in adoption—your child will not resent you for not being their “real parents.” Oh sure, some adopted kids will throw that out there when they’re pissed—“You can’t tell me what to do! You’re not my real mom!” And yeah, it hurts. I did it, but I didn’t mean it. I was a kid. I was immature and angry I wasn’t getting my way. The key is honesty. Which leads me to the next common question…
2. How long have you known you were adopted?
Since forever. And I take a huge issue with people who wait until their kid is 16 or 18 or whatever to tell them. If you’re honest about things like adoption, you establish trust with your child early on. If you wait until they’re high schoolers, you’re dropping an identity-scrambling bomb in the middle of their teenage angst filled lives. As much as I thought my life was “soooo awful” in high school, I can’t imagine how poorly I would have reacted to being told I was adopted. And the reaction doesn’t come from anything being “wrong” with adoption; it’s trust. It’s the assumption that the child can’t handle the knowledge, or the fear that the child won’t love you, or whatever excuse you come up with. I don’t remember the conversation, but I have known literally as far back as I can remember that I was adopted, and it was never a big deal to me. I was a girl with brown hair and brown eyes who was adopted. End of story.
3. Why did your parents wait so late to adopt?
People assume that because my parents were 39 and 42 when they took me home that they just decided to wait that late. Noooo. This question poses a great opportunity to educate people about the process of adoption. It’s expensive. And lengthy. And stressful. And emotional. In the state of Georgia (where I was born), potential parents have to go to a 20 hour classroom session for adoption preparedness. You are evaluated very strictly as candidates for adoption (your income, your background, etc.). You have to have letters of reference, and many parents (like my own) choose to get a lawyer. Getting a lawyer is tricky business because if you’re unfortunate enough to get someone who really only cares about making money, the process becomes a lot more stressful. The first two adoptions my parents attempted, the lawyers rarely ever contacted them, and when they finally did it was to tell them that the parents had decided to keep the child. After all that money, time, and effort…nothing. My parents finally found a good lawyer who didn’t make them pay up front and kept regular contact with my biological family, but by that time so many years had passed. It takes at least a year from time of application to be placed with a child, in most instances.
4. Why did they give you up?
Personally, this question doesn’t bother me. But I would NOT advise asking this of every adopted person you meet. Some people don’t want to talk about it. Not everyone is as fortunate as me, to come from a relatively drama-free adoption process. For me personally, my biological parents simply couldn’t afford another child (and then went ahead and had another anyway…SIGH) and wanted to give me my best chance in life.
5. Did you get any weird diseases or anything that you didn’t know about until now OMG WHAT IF YOU HAVE AIDS!?
Usually this question is asked more politely, but I have been asked THAT way before. Sure, when I’ve been to the doctor in the past, it’s been a little weird and uncomfortable that I don’t know how to answer the questions about preexisting conditions in my family. And yeah, once I met my biological family it was pretty cool to hear about our heritage (Norwegian/German/Canadian!) and any health problems we were predisposed to. But don’t you think if I had something like AIDS that I would have found out before age 23? Honestly.
Bonus Not-Really-a-Question Statement:
I just really can’t imagine not having my own kids.
Okay well it looks like I veered off my original goal of trying to present emotionally neutral questions and answers, but when I started thinking about all the things I’ve been asked about my adoption, I just felt like I really needed to put this out there. Why are people so obsessed with the idea of “passing on their genes” and having “their own” kid? Newsflash: if you adopt, that will be your “own” kid. No, it won’t look like you, or have your blood running through its veins, but so fucking what? You’ll still be providing love and support for him or her. You’ll be there for his or her first steps, first words, first day of school…and if you’re a decent human being who should actually be having children in the first place, you would realize that love is something that is born of more than blood. It really hurts me more than I let on when people say things like, “Ohh that’s so great for you. I just can’t imagine raising a kid that wasn’t mine/I didn’t birth/whatever.” It makes me feel like you’re devaluing my relationship with my family. I actually have an amazing relationship with my family. I love and respect my parents more than anyone in the world. There are so many people on this Earth already; there are so many children without families. What’s the point in making more people when you could adopt one that already exists? My adoption isn’t something I think about regularly. In fact, I have a better relationship with my parents than a lot of my friends who were not adopted.
The final thought I’d like to leave you with—please be respectful of families with adopted children. Consider your words carefully, and if you’re curious about the adoption process or story, find a time to ask the parent (or adopted person, if they’re an adult) privately about it. For some people, their adoption process is a touchy or painful subject. Be respectful of that.