1. For our reading audience, can you share about how you’ve been impacted by adoption/or rather, what is your adoption story?
My adoption story begins at three months of age. Actually, that is the age my parents took me as their daughter. My birth mother and father were in high school…either 16 or 17 years old….so they were unable to care for me. My birth father denied paternity and never supported my birth mother. My birth mother was not supported by her parents either. Both families were extremely strict and religious and back when I was born, in 1968, it was taboo in society to be an unwed mother. My birth mother, Susan, was sent to her aunt’s home in the same state but different city, to “take care of her sick aunt”.
My parents were unable to have children biologically so they opted to adopt.
I was born in Eugene, Oregon on February 6, 1968. My birth mother deeply regretted having to place her baby for adoption, but could not afford to take care of me. Her father, also, told her that if she did not make an adoption plan, he would not allow her back into his home nor would she receive any financial support. So, I was taken to a foster family until I was 3 months old.
I was told by my mother and father that the moment the case worker brought me into the room, she walked right over and took me from her, stating, “This is my daughter.” Both my parents knew immediately that I was meant to be in their family.
2. How do you think the lack of openness or abundance of openness regarding your adoption story effected you growing up?
I was fortunate that my parents were incredibly open and honest about my adoption. I had an older brother, who was three years older than me and adopted from a different family. There was never a time that I did not know that I was adopted. It was always in my vernacular and explained at an age appropriate level. My parents answered any questions I had about my adoption and any information that they had, they shared openly. I only knew that my birth mother loved to sew (I do NOT!), loved to cook (I LOVE to cook!), and she wanted me to go to a religious family (that happened!).
Later in life, when I was in my early thirties, I began to search for my birth parents. I had a sick child and even though I knew his illness was not genetic I began to wonder about other illnesses that might run in my genetic line that might have occurred as I got older.
My parents always told me that they would help me search for my birth parents and support any choice I made about them if I waited until I was 18 years old. I chose not to for so long because I didn’t want to interrupt or ruin any life my birth parents currently had. Maybe they hadn’t told their current spouses/partners or perhaps had put that part of their lives in the past. Anyway, my parents ended up not supporting me in my search. I don’t know what happened. Maybe they felt threatened, maybe they did not feel important in my life anymore….I don’t know. I tried talking with them about it multiple times but it never went well. So, that was hurtful to me because I had always shared my life with them. This was undeniably an important event in my life that I wanted to share with them. No one could ever replace my parents….EVER! I wasn’t looking for anything, other than had a curiosity about who they were and was I anything like them? It hurt me deeply to have had such an open dialogue my entire life and then it seemed it was cut off suddenly.
I will say that one of the best stories about growing up and knowing I was adopted was this: I knew I was special and very loved! My mom told me a story about me coming home from school and was upset that someone had made fun of me because I was adopted. She told me that the next time anyone was mean to me about my adoption, I was just to tell them simply, “My mother chose me but yours had to take what they got!”
3. If you could go back into your childhood and change how your family discussed or involved your birth family in your life, what would you change?
I would have to say nothing. I was blessed that my parents were so supportive and open about my adoption. That made me feel very secure and loved. They never treated me or my brother as if we were any different. We were family and this family wasn’t defined by being blood related.
4. What do you think is important for adoptive parents to know as they parent and raise their child?
I think the example of my parents is an important lesson to remember as you raise your adopted child(ren). Being open and straightforward with your language will help them understand what it means to be adopted but part of the family as much as a biological child. Helping them understand how special they are and how special your family is because of everyone’s place in your family.
It is important to be open and loving towards your child through adoption but to remember not be threatened by their curiosity about their birth family. It’s a natural thing to be curious and want to know what biological family members are like. They will feel more secure about themselves if you are supportive of their choices to get to know their biological families. Remember that being a parent doesn’t mean you have to give birth to your child. A parent loves, cares for, and takes care of a child, whether or not they are biological or adopted.
Most of the time, I forgot that I was adopted. I would have certain traits, either physical or cognitive, that my parents have and I would attribute those to one or the other of my parents in a biology sense. Then, we would all laugh when we realized that maybe it didn’t necessarily come from them. We all were just family…..nothing else.
5. Anything else you would like to add or any other thoughts you would like to share regarding adoption?
Adoptions are vastly different these days because many are open adoptions. Mine was closed. The way that I found my biological mother was that she was registered in the State of Oregon to an agency that matched parents and children only if both parties agree to it. So, she had placed her name and information with the agency when I would have turned 18 years old. When I finally found this agency and placed my name and information, they were able to match us together. Otherwise, all records were sealed back then. My biological father was contacted by my birth mother because he was still in the phone book. He didn’t want any contact with me. I am not sure if that was because he didn’t want to speak to her or if he didn’t want anything to do with me either. I have chosen not to contact him.
To share the story about when I met my biological mom…..I met her when I was in my early 30’s. She, her current husband, and her daughter came to Arizona to visit and meet me and my family. It was a nice week of getting to know one another. Her daughter and I did not get along very well. I thought I was very clear about what I wanted out of the relationship, yet she could not respect that. She wanted to tell me that she loved me constantly and I reserve those words for people I deeply care about…I barely knew her! Then, she was calling me frequently and wanted to know what was happening in my life. My mother didn’t even call me that much! I was caring for a sick baby and my daughter, who was only a year older….life was HARD! I just couldn’t handle this on top of it all. Therefore, I had to ask her to stop sending money, calling, etc. I wanted to get to know her more and take it slow, but it was apparent that she wanted things to be different. We agreed to staying Facebook friends and that has been the extent of our relationship all these years. I don’t talk to my parents about my birth mother at all. I do, on occasion, private message my birth mother to see how she is doing and see if there is anything that I can pray for her. She gets to see my kids and what is going on in my life, too. She has 1 daughter and 2 sons.
Keep in mind that each person’s story is different. Always make decisions that is in the best interest of your child and not for you. Each individual will react differently to their adoption. Believe me when I tell you that when I was a teenager I would daydream that my biological parents would whisk me away and treat me better than my parents were…..of course, that was when I was in trouble! Some adoptees feel unfulfilled or like some part of them is missing. Some people will feel like they were abandoned. This is not an attack on the adoptive parents or indicative of their lack of love. My brother and I were raised in the same household but felt completely the opposite about our biological parents. I was able to view my birth parents as young and financially unable to care for a child, whereas my brother struggled with knowing his struggled with addiction. I always felt love and felt no animosity towards my biological parents, yet my brother always felt abandoned, despite my parents reassurance that he belonged in our family and was deeply loved. He, sadly, had an alcohol and drug addiction later in life.
Be patient with your adopted child as they explore their curiosity and feelings about themselves as an adoptee, their biological families, and their place in the family. It may change throughout their stages of maturity.
Speak kindly about your child’s biological parents. Those are the people who brought your child into the world, regardless of the circumstances. Be honest with your child but praise their biological mother’s and/or father’s choice to love and care about them so much that they wanted them to be cared by someone who was able to. My parents never spoke ill of my biological parents and I believe that is one reason I had a healthy perspective about adoption.
I am proud to have been adopted. I didn’t and don’t mind sharing it with people. I never felt different. I am blessed to have felt that way because of the way my parents chose to openly speak about my adoption throughout my life. There was never a time I didn’t feel loved or wanted. I had a friend who found out through her friend in the sixth grade that she was adopted. She had a difficult time with trusting her parents or anyone after that. She felt abandoned and wondered what was wrong with her because her parents didn’t share that information with her.
We are so grateful to Stefani for sharing this piece of her story with us. Thank you!