So, I introduce you to Kirsten. She blogs over at Running for Autism. Kirsten blogs primarily about her role as a parent of a child with autism, about navigating that for him, for herself, and for her younger son (who does not have autism). She also runs. A lot. I should have her give me some tips on how to get on that (although it probably wouldn't help, to be honest). I particularly love this post she wrote, A Letter to Autism. Really, you should go read it. It's beautiful.
Kirsten was also adopted. And I'm super excited to have her share her perspective as an adoptee who (now) has an open relationship with her biological family. Without further ado, Kirsten...
“...and the baby girl went home with her new mommy and daddy and brother, and they all lived happily ever after.”
“But Mommy,” I would say, in my small little-girl voice, “What about the baby girl’s first Mommy?”
“She was very sad,” my mother would reply softly, “But she knew that her baby girl was going to live with a family who loved her very much, and would always take care of her.”
I don’t know when my parents first told me that I was adopted. I was very young, so young that I do not remember a time when I did not know. There was no mystery about it, no taboo, nothing but complete acceptance and openness. The subject of adoption did not get any special treatment in my family – it was treated with the same frankness and occasional tactlessness as any other topic.
Like the time my brother said to me, during the course of a sibling rivalry incident, “MY birth father is a handsome prince who lives in a castle, and YOUR birth father escaped from prison and lives in a cave.”
(Kirsten and her brother)
Or the time when I was about six, when I yelled at my mom, “My other mother has long black hair, and she’s prettier than YOU!”
“I’m sure that’s true,” said my mom, with an expression that I now recognize as a desperate attempt to stifle a hoot of laughter.
Because the fact of our adoption was never a big deal in our house, my brother and I never had any angst about it. We were adoptees in the same way that other people are tall or red-haired. It was just a fundamental part of who we were.
There was, of course, some curiosity about who our birth parents had been. We were adopted in the late sixties and early seventies respectively, and back in those days the concept of “open adoption” hadn’t even been dreamed up. Birth parents and adoptive parents were not allowed any contact with each other. They couldn’t even know anything about each other. There was none of the picking and choosing that goes on today: the matching was done either by adoption agencies or by the child welfare society.
And so I grew up with no knowledge whatsoever of who and where I had come from. I suspect that this bothered my mom more than it bothered me. I had speech and learning delays as a kid, and in the absence of a family medical history, I think my mom felt a bit at sea.
I did ultimately meet both of my birth parents, over a decade ago now. There have been a few “aha” moments over the years, when I have recognized where I got some little mannerism or quirk. Meeting them has also, I think, been beneficial to my mom, who is now able to look back on my childhood challenges against the backdrop of my birth parents.
Now that I am a mom, I am grateful for the fact that I have been able to build friendships with my birth parents. When my older son was born, I peppered both of them with questions about their medical history – questions that they gladly answered. I am in regular contact with them via email and Facebook. I send them pictures of my kids and share stories of my parenting adventures – or misadventures, depending on the day.
People often ask whether meeting my birth parents affected my relationship with my mom and dad. I guess that, from the perspective of someone on the outside looking in, this is a valid question.
The simple answer is that my mom and dad have been my mom and dad all my life, and nothing is going to change that. They are the ones who chased the monsters out from under my bed when I was a little girl. They put the Band-Aids on my scraped knees and made sure I did my homework. They wiped my tears when I cried, reprimanded me when I was naughty, and celebrated with me when good stuff happened. They put me through school and then University, they advised me when it was time to get a job, and they helped me move when I got my first apartment.
(Kirsten's mom and dad)
My birth parents are friends who I happen to have a biological connection with. And they are good, true friends.
My mom, my dad – may he rest in peace, and my brother: they are family.
No power in the universe will ever change that.