I was adopted at birth, 22 years ago, but I've never felt like anything was missing from my life. Then I received information about my birth parents. I got butterflies in my stomach when I saw the letter in the mailbox. It had also been awhile since I’d really thought about what it means to be adopted.
Getting that information: height, weight, and characteristics of the people whose genes I share, made me aware of a piece I didn't know had been missing.
I’d always known I was adopted but it didn’t bother me. Other people were curious about it, though, and some even surprised. It is just part of my life. If I hadn't been adopted by my parents, I wouldn't be the person I am today. I didn't know what the fuss was about. I knew I was loved and cared for, and that was enough.
Adoption is not about second-hand babies. The birthmom’s sacrifice is probably the most difficult decision she will ever make, but it's a rewarding one. She can give life not only to a baby, but to a couple who are filled with love and desire for a child.
That is how it was in my life. My parents were my parents. They spoiled me, loved me, and spent the time with me that I could not have gotten from my biological parents.
Still it feels strange that there are people out there whom I've never met who may be thinking about me, worrying about me, and even loving me.
When I think about them, many questions come to mind: Do they think they made a mistake? Do they talk to each other? Was their relationship a reminder of the baby they gave up? Do I have biological siblings?
When I think about my mom and dad I wonder if it hurts them that I am interested in my biological family. I hope that they understand that I know and love them as my parents.
My curiosity stemmed from something primitive. I'm not searching for replacements or anything I missed out on. Right now, I'm not even searching for them, just the bits of information delivered on Tuesday.
So much is unknown. They might not be alive. They may not be interested in finding me. Perhaps when I was placed for adoption, they washed their hands of me and wouldn't want to face the past now. Or it's possible that they have been searching for me for years. I can’t imagine meeting someone and learning that for years they loved me, worried about me, and on my birthday every year, this person I know, thought about me.
Some of the things I know about adoption I have learned from other people. A woman I know placed a son up for adoption 16 years ago, and she said that a day doesn't go by that she doesn't think of him. When she had her second child, he was so loved and wanted because of the loss she felt when she made an adoption plan for her first baby. She asked me if I ever thought about my birth parents. She seemed to be searching for some peace and closure to the situation.
Similarily, an adoptee said that, like me, she hadn’t been bothered by it for years. Then when she gave birth to her first child, she was filled with sadness and anger and she thought, "How could anyone give up something this precious?" That sent her on a search for her birth family. When she found her birth mother, she said, it felt like she’d regained a part of herself.
I helped a friend place a baby for adoption. I was there during the pregnancy, the birth, the 10-day waiting period, and the moment she let go of her daughter.
I learned how much has changed since I was adopted, how there are many choices and types of adoptions. Most agencies help the woman make the best possible choice. An adoption can be closed, with no contact between the adoptive parents and birth parents. The birth mother can leave her child in charge of the staff at the hospital and not be involved any further. An open adoption is the opposite, with continual contact throughout the child’s life. A large grey area lies in between where special agreements are made between those involved.
Years ago, the government picked a family for the baby based on an analysis of the adoptive couple. Now, with an agency, the opposite is true. The birth parents read files on potential adoptive couples and choose the one that best suits the baby.
As my friend and I read profiles of the prospective parents, I had a heavy heart for all of those who wanted to share their love with a child. I joked that I would have a child for each one of them.
The choices available make me hopeful that more people will consider adoption a worthy alternative.
I believe in choice for women, but I don’t believe in abortion as a form of birth control. In a world lacking in time and love, I’ve seen the way a wanted child can restore meaning and life into a couple’s future.
Receiving that letter about my birth family has made me realize that, as an adoptee, I want people to hear what a fortunate life I am living.
At some point, I hope I can tell my biological parents they did a good thing. I only received a bit of information about them, but I recognized part of me. I am a product of everyone in my life. And that's not so bad.
Shara JJ Cooper is an adoptee and student at Kwantlan College.