Adopted at 16, April O'Neil explains that accepting the love and involvement of a new mom isn't an automatic or smooth process.
Because of the support of my mom, and our choice to go forward with adoption, my life has changed in ways I never would have imagined.
In the last few years, I have graduated from high school, got through my first year at Simon Fraser University and, somehow, managed to convince ICBC to give me a driver’s license.
I’ve also been an active participant of AFABC’s Speak Out Youth Group, and spent some emotional Saturdays with some amazing kids in and from care who had experience, or are interested in adoption. I’ve also travelled around BC to raise awareness about teen adoption, and appeared on breakfast television to talk about teen adoption.
Life with my mom has been an interesting roller coaster. Technically, it’s only been three years since I was adopted by my social worker at the age of 16. But don’t try telling me that. The last three years have felt like an entire lifetime, and I simply cannot imagine it being any other way. When I think about it, I can’t believe that I was “okay,” with my life in foster care. I truly had no idea what I was missing. That’s not to say that things haven’t been difficult.
In all honesty, being adopted had been the most challenging experience in my life. While I’ve attempted to change my mindset, break down walls and accept the protection and love which comes along with having a mom, all the while I still wonder, “Why me?”
The process of switching from an independent, hard-headed teen in survival mode, to a young adult who openly accepts guidance and love, has been the cause of many arguments and heart wrenching fights between my mom and me. It has been difficult for me to understand how easily she loves and accepts me. And it is difficult for her because she knows I don’t understand. She wants nothing more than for me to experience the warmth and joy that being in a family has brought her, and though I am constantly challenging that, I’m still eternally grateful for her refusal to give up on me.
On more than one occasion, I’ve gotten upset and declared that I was moving out. Mom’s response is simply to reassure me that I will always be her daughter. There are no limitations with my mom. No matter where I go or what I do, I will always be hers. I cannot express the comfort knowing that has brought me—no matter what I’ve done, or what mean name I might have just called her, I can always scurry out of my room (even moments after) and curl up on her lap. This, as I am learning, is what a mother’s love looks like.
Adoption has helped me learn what it takes to allow someone to care for and be concerned about me. For the past few years, whenever my mom would want details about when I was going out or become concerned about something in my life, I would become defensive. I automatically assumed that I was in trouble and that she didn’t trust me. These feelings stem from growing up in a foster home where, when someone asked you questions, those were generally the reasons. I am learning, however, that wanting to know these things is something she is entitled to because she is my mom, and that's what mothers do. It’s been a slow process, but I think I am getting the hang of it.
As well as all this, there have been several moments when I’ve been extremely appreciative of the fact that I have a family. It was so gratifying to see my brother, sister and niece sitting in the crowd through a three-hour ceremony just to see me walk across the stage for five minutes during my high school graduation.
On the other hand, I have also been equally appreciative to have a family through the not-so-happy experiences. For example, when my car broke down just one day after I got my license, I stood on the side of the road bawling my eyes out until I remembered—I have a mom! It was such a relief to be able to call her and to know that she would know exactly what to do.
As for that question of why, I still don’t fully understand. Why did she choose me? And how can she love me so easily? Although she has attempted to explain this to me (several times), I’m not sure if I will ever really understand. But I’m okay with that. I’ve learned to accept this as an amazing fact of life that I am incredibly thankful for. No matter what, somebody loves me. And, honestly, what more can a girl ask for?