On Being Adopted, Quite Happily

Sometimes people ask me what it’s like to be adopted, but honestly, I have no idea what it’s like to not be adopted, so I’m never sure how to answer that question.

I never not known that I was adopted.To their credit, my parents did a great job about normalizing the adoption experience. (They adopted my brother and I at birth, so we’ve never known any other family structure.) Both my brother and I were lucky enough to know who our birth mothers are, instead of having to wonder. We’ve always known – there was no awkward conversation when we realized that we look nothing alike.

(My brother is two years younger than me – but he’s been bigger than me since I was about seven. He’s now 8 inches taller.)

(Easter 2011)

My boss, whose four children are all adopted, always says that adopted kids always want to know two things: why was I given up for adoption? and who are my parents? I can answer 75% of that question. I know why I was given up. I know who my birth mother is, but my father will always remain a mystery. Instead of finding myself less curious as I age, I find that my curiosity grows. Not that I’d like to know the man. I have no desire to have any sort of relationship with him.

I’m fascinated by the aesthetics of it all – I look very little like my mother. I do have her double-jointed limbs. I do have the paw print in my eye (which will always remain my favorite part of myself). But I am more elf-like. Where did my nose come from? (She has a very German nose, while I ended up looking like a resident of Rivendell.) I am longer, and pointier. (I have ridiculously sharp ears.) My coloring is different. We are very similar emotionally, spiritually, and share similar energies, but outwardly, we share little, except shapes of our chins and eyes.

My mom used to tell me that when I was little, I would be talking, and she’d turn around expecting my birth mother to be standing there, because my tone and what’d I’d just said sounded exactly like her.

Granted, it’s not always such a rosy, happy love fest. When I go the doctor, and they ask me about my family history, I shrug. And it makes for some complicated emotional stuff. As much as I’ve been loved, I’ve also had to deal with an immense amount of family turmoil.

I love that we have such a connection. I am glad for it, but at the same time, I’ve never felt the immensity of the mother-daughter relationship. (This isn’t something that I’ve ever necessarily wanted or assumed or expected.) I hope that makes sense. I felt a wave of jealousy rise through me when my brother got to be with his birth mother and birth father for lunch earlier this year. It surged through me, really. Mike’s birth mother is active in my life – she likes my posts on Facebook, we’ve been playing a word game together on our phones, she sends positive loving comments my way all the time. I’m so glad I got to keep her, too.

At the end of the day, I’m glad for the extra mothers in my life. I’m glad for my birth mom, I’m glad for Mike’s birth mom, and I’m glad that I get to have both my mom and Mike to keep forever, even if they are the worst guys. I’m glad for the love, and for the magnitude of support and acceptance from my family. I’ve never felt like the odd one out at family gatherings. Mike and I always had a hard time in middle school pulling the “you’re adopted” joke on each other, because if he’d say, “Oh yeah? Well you’re adopted!”, I’d respond with, “So are you!”

Mike is fascinated by the nature vs. nurture question, as am I. The two of us grew up in the same household, yet we are nearly complete and polar opposites. We love comparing personality traits with our birth mothers and our mom. We laugh because when I’m mad at Mike, I use the “mom voice” exactly like our mom does. That’s definitely a nurtured behavior.

My birth mother gave me a book, “Guess How Much I Love You,” when I was in third grade.  A part of me will always be the Little Nutbrown Hare reaching up into the sky, trying to find more ways to show his love. I read that book to the kids I babysit sometimes, and I always tear up. Being loved so much that I got to have this life is overwhelming.

I got to see her this weekend. (I’ve seen her twice this year! That’s the most in any year ever!) It was wonderful. It was so wonderful. This is the woman who gave me life, who nourished me and took care of me when I was a tiny cluster of cells. She loved me, even though she’d never met me. She held me after I was born. She chose my parents, my future family. She set me off running in the direction that my life would take. I will forever be grateful.

I love that I was adopted. I hate the unknowns, but I love the wild speculation. And should I ever meet anyone who looks like me, I will be thrilled. I love that I have a spiritual connection with my birth mother that no one will ever take away. It’s the paw print. It’s the protection. It’s not something anyone else will ever understand.

I’m not sure how I’ll look when I’m 80, or whether or not I’m genetically pre-disposed to anything (except breast cancer), but I do know that I’ve got a good head on my shoulders and that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and that I am loved. And that’s enough for me.

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