I’ve lived life under the stigma of being adopted. While I felt special and chosen, the reality is that people often cast negative judgment on me because my parents are not biologically related to me. I’ve been called “a genetic roll of the dice,” I’ve been asked how I feel about my “real parents,” and I’ve been vilified for speaking out about the positive side of being adopted. We’re told that natural parents are best, that adoption is unnatural, and we’re constantly bombarded by images of adoption “reunions” that paint a picture that is absurdly unnatural to me.
Adoption reunion isn’t some kind of fairy tale. Take it from me, because I’ve been through it.
I’ve written a number of times about how I feel about being adopted, how I found my birth family, and what the aftermath was like for me. It’s not that I don’t believe “reunion” stories can be positive, it’s that my own was so far from the stories I see that I find it hard to relate.
When I met one of my full siblings for the first time, I was completely overwhelmed with emotion—here was someone who shared my genes, for the first time in my life. I desperately wanted to connect, to find a shared history somehow. But the reality is that genetics do not a connection make.
My sister and I stared into unfamiliar faces, and, much like siblings who have grown up together, we found little common ground. We look nothing alike, our personalities are polar opposites, and our lives may have been lived on separate planets for all the differences in experiences we’ve had.
It’s a strange feeling, being borne by a woman I do not call, “Mother”. The day I met her, I felt no attachment whatsoever. Where was the biological overwhelm recalling my connection to her? Where was the emotional dam breaking? She was a stranger, sitting across a table from me. There was no teary greeting or lingering hug—there were only shy smiles and quiet words.
After reading article after article to prepare for that day, I felt certain I would not be disappointed no matter what happened. The truth is that meeting her felt no different than meeting any other complete stranger. I most certainly feel appreciation for her choice to carry me and hand me over for adoption. I feel gratitude for the life I’ve been able to have thanks to her decisions. But I feel nothing more than that.
I was born on Mother’s Day in 1975, and that’s a fact that made an impact on me most strongly when I had my own kids. Of all the days to deliver a baby, name her, and place her in the hands of the Children’s Aid Society, it had to be the most difficult. I wanted to connect with the people who share my genes and find some residual bonding, but instead, I felt awkward and like an imposition. There’s no blame here, only thankfulness for a life led with a family I will forever be grateful to have.
For me, it wasn’t a “reunion,” but an awkward meeting that, I think, stirred up sludge from her emotional past that perhaps was best left untouched. This Mother’s Day, I’ll remember the gift my birth mother gave me and feel lucky. Then I’ll call my Mom, tell her I love her and remind her that I’m so thankful for her. And I’ll hug the children I carried and delivered, and hope they’re as thankful to have me as I am to have them.