There are moments in life that can change all that you thought to be true. It happens in the blink of an eye and often, without any warning. It may be a choice you make, a thought you have, a new person coming in to, or leaving your life, possibly a choice someone else makes for you, or even in their own lives. As far as my adoption story is concerned, I’ve had two of these moments.
The first came in the form of a kick.
I can still remember the first time I felt my daughter kick in my belly. Out of nowhere, there she was, and out of nowhere, I thought of a woman who I’d never met, a woman I couldn’t actually remember specifically thinking about much in my life. A woman who had once felt me kick inside of her. The woman was my birthmother. Her name is Deborah.
I was 22 years old at the time, and until that very moment, I had never really thought about my birthmother much. She was a person who I respected greatly, for having carried me and then given me to a family who wanted, and could, take care of me. That family, my mom and dad, raised me in a way that I very rarely even remembered that I was adopted, although I have always known that I was.
Growing up in the Air Force, and living all over the world, allows you to see the vast diversity that different people and places have to offer. No one really looked like anyone else, so no one really asked why I didn’t look like my parents. Blood doesn’t define the relationship between a father and his only daughter, or between a mother and her only daughter. Because of these things, I had no reason to really ever think about my own adoption, or what it meant to be adopted.
After that first kick though, it was on my mind constantly. What had my birthmother thought that very first time I kicked? Whatever went through her mind, at that point, and all along the way, I have to say how very proud I am of her. I’ve been told that she was 26 when I was born; certainly old enough to start thinking about being a mother, but for whatever reason…choose not to at that point. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to give birth to a child who you knew wasn’t going home with you. She is a good person. That fact, and her first name, is all I know about her.
When my daughter was born, she looked just like me. Was there anyone out there that I looked like? Suddenly, I felt like a piece of my life, a part of my story, was missing.
For the next few years, being a working mom and finishing college, kind of sidetracked me from, well, everything, including the desire to learn more about my birthmother. Life began to settle down again when my daughter was about 4 years old; I was about to finish school, had a great job, and had fallen for a spectacular man.
This man (my sweetheart) had a connection with his family that I had never experienced before. It was really incredible to see, and over time, to become a part of. After dating for a few months, I met one of his nieces, a young woman he had only recently met himself. Meeting her, and hearing her story, was the second event that challenged me to completely rethink my feelings about my adoption.
Joelle had grown up with her biological mother and her stepfather, not knowing who her birthfather was. At some point in her teenage years, her mother decided to tell her who her he was and, with the help of her stepfather, she decided she wanted to meet him. This brave young woman made the trip to meet her father, and his family. A relationship with not only her father, but his entire family, developed. It was like she’d always been loved by all of them. She had a new-to-her sister, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and nieces and nephews.
A short time later, her father (my sweetheart’s brother) passed away suddenly, and without warning.
Her story instantly broke my heart, but as my own relationship with her grew, I came to understand that she felt blessed to have met him at all, and to have an entirely new family because of him. She had enough time to fall in love with a father she never knew, and enough time to be loved by him. For that, she is grateful.
While I felt a little better about her story, feeling happy that she had such an amazing attitude about it, I began to have serious anxiety about my own story. The thought that would wake me up at night was, “What if Joelle had waited…even a few more months? I’ve waited years…what if…” I lost it. I told my mom that we absolutely had to find her. She had always told me that once I turned 18, she’d be happy to help me.
Turns out, it’s not always easy. She’d not actually done any research when I’d been pregnant and a new mom…when I’d first asked her to. She said something about a “really busy time in her life.” That was 7 years ago. She said since I hadn’t brought it up much, it must not have been a big deal…and she was right, until I’d met Joelle. Now, it was a big deal…and trying to explain that didn’t go over very well. Hurt feelings and passive aggressive reactions was not something I ever thought I’d have to deal with. We’d always been so open and honest about my adoption. I was floored.
Some time went by; I did a little bit of research myself but couldn’t come up with anything. It had been a closed adoption, in a foreign country, had gone un-researched for over 20 years and now I was dealing with my own anxiety about it, and my mom’s very unanticipated reaction. I began to have questions that I really needed the answers to. Who was this woman who gave me up? What color eyes does she have? Where does my ridiculously stringy, mousey hair come from? Are my quirks shared with someone else? Do I have siblings? Would they want to know me? Would she want to know me…or her grandchild for that matter?
I felt this hole in the story of my life, this giant missing piece. After talking to people much smarter than I am, I discovered that it’s normal to feel that way, especially growing up the way I did. I have no siblings. I moved every few years. I am not close to my extended family at all, grandparents, cousins and the like. I have no lifelong roots or relationships. I came to realize that even though I am a very independent woman, a sense of self was missing.
So, now what? What does it all mean?
I decided that I am going to look for the answers. It’s okay for me to want to know. I cannot control how that will affect anyone but me, but it is worth the risk. I don’t know what I will find, or who I will find, or even if I will find them. I’ve gotten over the fairy-tale reunion dream, and have accepted that I may not even like what I find. Even if that’s the case, it is a part of my story, and I deserve to know. Don’t we all?
The questions are important. Questioning is important. Life, growth in life, is dependent on questioning. We may not find all the answers we are looking for, but it’s the questions, and the choices based on asking them, which create the story of our lives. In thinking about all of this, I remembered a quote that I adore, from a woman that I adore.
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change your life; and the process, if nothing else, will be its own reward.” Amelia Earhart
I may never know the color of my birth mother’s eyes, or where my (and my own daughter’s) crazy hair and quirks come from. I may never know what having a sister, or a brother, feels like. I may never know what my birthmother thought, that first time she felt me kick in her belly.
I do know that I will search. I will question. I will be tenacious and unafraid. There may always be a piece of my story that is unclear to me, a part that I cannot control. I am okay with that, as long as I remember that even at this moment, I am creating new pieces to my story, and regardless of what I find, I am still me. I have green eyes, my daughter has brown. I have mousey, stringy brown hair that I have passed down to my daughter. I’m super quirky, and I think it’s endearing. I have a beautiful life, full of love. I have, and have always had, a blessed story.
Answers to my questions will not change who I am, but I do hope to find those answers.
I am a mother, a daughter, a friend, a sweetheart, a writer, and many other things. I am an adoptee. This is only the beginning of my story.
Written by Jamie Hower, Blog Author of Cue Your Life
Photo Credit: Jamie Hower