About a year ago, someone shared a piece on Facebook titled “I Hate Adoption.” It took me two tries to get through it, as the author’s assertions left me indignant and sad. She doesn’t think adoption is beautiful; as a biological daughter with many adopted siblings, she thinks it only means brokenness. I disagree.
I love adoption.
My parents took me home from the hospital when I was a week old. They fussed with the car seat, arguing over who got to sit closest to me, and brought me to my grandparents’ house, where a giant “Welcome Home” banner hung over the garage and where my extended family had gathered to celebrate and eat cake while I snoozed innocently away.
Note that I said “my parents.” Not “my adoptive parents.”
My parents are the ones who raised me, who fought over who got to change my diapers (I still don’t understand that one, Mom and Dad) or stay up late listening to the baby monitor.
My dad is the one who cradled me against his chest, making up words to songs as he waltzed around the kitchen, trying to lull me to sleep. “We could have daaaanced all night; we could have daaaanced all night; but no, we had to have a bottle.”
My mom is the one who rushed me to the doctor’s office anytime I developed even a hint of a sniffle, who read me storybooks in bed whenever I was home sick from school, who let my brother and me push the couches together to make a couch-boat from which to watch our favorite Disney movies.
On the wall above my childhood dresser was a poem written in calligraphy in a blue frame. It was the Legacy of the Adopted Child, and I have it still:
“Once there were two women who never knew each other. One, you do not remember; the other, you call mother.” More: “One gave you up; it was all that she could do. The other prayed for a child, and God led her straight to you.”
The adoption was something my parents couldn’t keep to themselves. Somewhere I still have the pink-plaid baby blanket featuring cartoon pictures that my mom’s first-grade students drew when they first learned I would be coming into her life.
Raising me involved a lot of blood, sweat and tears — literally. When I was in fifth grade and my hair inexplicably started falling out, the doctors wanted to cut a biopsy out of my scalp to help figure out what was wrong. But I was too scared, so my dad let them take a biopsy from his scalp first to show me that it was all OK. He even got stitches. He still brings this up sometimes to remind me that he’s the best father in the world, and I’m still thankful.
My parents never concealed from my brother and me that we were adopted. We even had a book, “Why Was I Adopted?” that explained things pretty well. “Sometimes, your birth-parents are so young that it would be like kids raising kids,” read the page with a picture of two teenagers poring over the Sunday comics with a baby nearby.
“Sometimes, children are born in war zones and it’s not safe for them to stay there” was accompanied by a picture of a baby crouched beneath an Army helmet.
And my favorite: “Adoption doesn’t mean your parents went to a store and picked you out,” with a picture of a vending machine full of babies. (The exact wording is assuredly different; please forgive my paraphrasing.)
Growing up, I always liked being adopted. It made me special, different from all the other kids, and it was great fun to surprise friends or classmates who never would have believed it. My brother and I don’t look unlike our parents, though there are no true familial similarities, so everyone just assumed we were all blood-related.
For me, being adopted meant I was chosen. It meant my parents worked very, very hard to get me, going through more than a year of paperwork and legal proceedings to make it happen. And it meant my biological parents cared enough about me to find a loving, stable home that could provide me with the upbringing they were unable to offer at the time.
I bear no ill will toward my birth parents for giving me up. I respect their choice, and I am so happy to have the parents I do. I’m also happy that, as an adult, I’ve been able to build relationships with my birth parents and their families. Everyone has been excited; everyone has been welcoming. I find I’ve been loved for years by people who’d never even met me.
I get to have a grandma now, when all my grandparents had passed away. I have two new sisters and two new brothers, when I grew up with one brother (Mark the Marine, whom I wrote about a few years ago). I have aunts and uncles with whom I’ve been thrilled to find I have a lot in common. My life is so much richer simply because I am adopted.
It should be noted that my experience with a private adoption is very privileged compared to many. National Adoption Day, celebrated today, aims to bring awareness specifically to the hundreds of thousands of kids nationwide waiting to be adopted out of foster care, most of whom have endured significant trauma in their lives.
I’m incredibly thankful for all the family I have. I know how lucky I am. But I still bristle a bit when people ask about my “real” parents. My real parents are the ones who raised me, who took care of me through years of skinned knees and braces and trips to the emergency room, who yelled at me for fighting with my brother or refusing to do my chores or answering back with seemingly endless sass.
They’re the ones who came to every soccer game and every piano recital, who volunteered their weekends and weeknights to build sets and sew costumes for my high school plays.
They’re the ones who continue to answer my frantic late-night phone calls when I’m sobbing that I’m not good enough for this job or that boy and that I’m never going to achieve what I want in life.
They’re the ones who won’t shut up about me to friends and co-workers; who show me off whenever I visit; who tell me over and over again how proud they are of me and how much they love me. If I am at all worthy of their praise, it’s because of what they taught me, and the way they molded and shaped me from childhood into my adult life.
Adoption doesn’t mean my parents settled for “less than” a “natural-born child of their own.” It means they wanted me so badly that they worked for years to get me, and then did the same for my brother. And it doesn’t mean that my birth parents didn’t want me. It means they loved me enough to realize a life with them would not be best for me, so they made the sacrifice to give me up in order to give me a better life.
Adoption is beautiful, and I believe it fits right into the heart of the Gospel. The good news is that family doesn’t end with blood; that family can be by choice, not by chance. God opens his arms and welcomes us into his family, and we have the ability to do the same for others. That’s an incredible gift to receive, and, from what my parents seem to think, an equally incredible thing to give.
The adoption poem sums it up well: “Heredity or environment — which are you a product of?” it asks at the end. “Neither, my darling, neither. Just two different kinds of love.”