Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Do we Really Know What Adoptees Are Thinking? 4 Reasons why I Reunited

Some truth to this?
Mary* was excited about her "gotcha day" each year.  "Gotcha day" is the day when adoptions are finalized, or for some adoptees, when they entered into the home of their adoptive parents.  Mary's "gotcha day" was like a second birthday, full of excitement and love.  Mary's fondness of her "gotcha day" was something I just couldn't identify with when she explained it to me.  I did not like my "gotcha day."  The year I was old enough to realize I had a special day in my family that acknowledged my adoption, I stated my preference not to observe it.  Even when a trip to the aquarium was arranged in the day's honor, I asked not to go.  "I have a birthday," I told my adoptive mother.  And that was that.

After reading this brief glimpse into the life stories of Mary and I, I wonder what people might assume about us and our experiences that led to our views on our "gotcha days."  It would be one of many assumptions people make when they encounter adoption and adoptee stories everyday.

Surprisingly enough, Mary and I both describe our childhood view of being adopted in the same way.  We were both "OK with being adopted."  We are about the same age.  Both adopted as infants.  Both raised in loving and supportive adoptive families.  As adults, we both acknowledge the complexities of being adopted.

Our similar childhood conclusion on being adopted was simply expressed in a different way.  Mary embraced her "gotcha day" because she was "OK" with being adopted.  She wanted to celebrate the special day that made her a part of her adoptive family.  I did not want to celebrate my "gotcha day" because I too was "OK" with being adopted.  My "gotcha day" reminded me that there was a time where I didn't belong in my current family.  This was a time I knew nothing about and thought I never would know anything about.  "Gotcha day" reminded me that I was "different," and I didn't feel like being "different."

Reunited and searching adoptees also encounter assumptions about their quest to meet original family members.  I thought I'd share the top four reasons why I chose to search and reunite.

I had more love to give to everyone.  
I did not reunite to "replace" my parents.

Every human being has dignity and worth as a person; every person in my life has their own unique place.  No human being replaces another.  Human interaction benefits people and the more connections that I have, the more I benefit those in my life and they benefit me in return.  Not every connection is perfect and I never expected my connections with my original family to be perfect--just real.  I would never have had a chance to know how positive a connection I could have with my original family if I didn't seek it out.

I sought an inclusive definition of "family."
I did not reunite because I believe that only biology makes a family.

Biology is one of many elements of family connections.  I once had a social connection with my biological family and I sought to restore that.  A lot of people think of biological, social, legal, and emotional ties as being embodied all in the same people.  Because this is not my reality, choosing to define family by one type of connection but not another would exclude quite a few people I care about.

I believed she deserved to know.
I did not reunite to "disrupt" her life or because I felt she "owed" me something.

I never planned to think about being adopted when I gave birth to my first child.  It simply happened, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I looked at my sweet little boy and I could not imagine never knowing anything about him or not seeing him again.  Yet my mother had lived almost 25 years without knowing who or where her child was.  Connecting this fact to my own motherhood sent a sense of terrible grief through every part of my heart and soul.

I accepted that my original mother might not want to know me.  But I believed that she deserved the chance to make that choice herself.

I believed that my kids deserved to know.
I did not reunite because I was "ungrateful" for the blessings that I have.

The day I chose to become a parent is the day that I became an advocate for the precious lives that I brought into the world.  The reality of being an adoptee with sealed records is, in some States, only the adoptee can open them.  Often times, successful search, reunion, and genealogy isn't helped at all by accessing records.  It is by interviewing relatives and other people connected to both your adoptive and original families and following those traces.  The more generations that pass, the more memories that provide clues become lost.

I realized from having a father whose own mother is adopted that my refusal to access my roots would mean that my children could not access half of their own roots either.  To go without half of their roots is a choice that I did not feel that I had a right to make for them.

Perhaps the most bizarre assumption people have is that searching and reunited adoptees believe that they will find blissfully perfect human relationships at the end of their search.  Adoptees, like everyone else, experience challenges and triumphs in life.  We're aware that human relationships aren't perfect.  I sought reunion and I found it.  I cherish the family I found each and every day.  My story is just a drop in an ocean full of many other reunion stories.  Each story is as diverse and unique as the next.  When we assume that from one piece of information, whether it be how someone feels about "gotcha day" or that they'd like to reunite, that we know everything about their beliefs and experiences in adoption, we lose out on what we stood to learn.  Assumptions make every adoptee the same.  The assumed story plays over and over again in our minds and we lose compassion for the individual and their family systems.  Let an adoptee give their own story meaning; your assumptions about them say more about your own biases than they do about the real story.

*Mary is not her real name.