In honor of November being National Adoption Month, Portrait of an Adoption is running a special series called 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by adoptees, birthparents, adoptive parents, waiting adoptive parents, and foster parents-turned-adoptive parents. Painful and beautiful, these stories will bring you a deeper understanding of what adoption looks like, allowing you to appreciate the many brushstrokes that comprise a family portrait.
I Learned I Was Adopted Through Facebook
By Andrew Cadieux
Growing up in a small rural town in Connecticut, I always thought I had a normal life. Sure, my father had passed away when I was five, but in a society where families are stricken with divorce, being raised by a single mother wasn’t exactly unusual.
It wasn’t until the digital age that I learned the true story of my birth and infancy, and then everything I believed was shattered.
I never knew I was adopted until shortly before my twenty-first birthday. I still vividly remember receiving the message on Facebook. A stranger sharing my last name sent a message asking how I was and if I knew who she was. I didn’t.
Curious, I contacted my brother, who keeps our family tree, to ask if he knew who this stranger was. He seemed nervous and shaken, which was a rarity for him. He said no.
The next morning, I awoke to find my mother in tears, and I remember asking her in a confused daze what was wrong. What followed would change my view on my life forever. My brother did in fact know who this mystery woman was that I had already written off. He spoke to our mother and informed her that this woman had contacted me, which caused my mother to panic.
As my mom explained to me, the woman who had contacted me was actually the sister of my biological mother.
My world was turned upside down.
No kid -- never mind a twenty-year-old -- ever thinks he will discover that the woman with whom he has spent his entire life is not really his mother. I then learned that my biological mother has Down’s Syndrome and was mentally unable to care for me.
She was impregnated by a man who ran as soon as she was pregnant, and it was never an option for her to raise me alone. The situation tore my grandmother up with grief, as she did not want to see me go out of the family.
That is when the man and woman I called mother and father all my life stepped in and offered to adopt me. They had been trying to have a baby, but were unable to conceive. They helped my biological mom through her pregnancy, and when I was born, she was gone from my life forever.
The best way to describe how I felt after hearing this story was a flood of every imaginable emotion. Confusion turned to sadness. Sadness turned to frustration. Frustration turned to anger. Anger turned to loathing. How could my biological parents do this to me? Why was I born into this?
Why couldn’t I have had a normal childhood? Why did my father run out on my mother? Did he even know my adoptive father had died, and that I had grown up with no fatherly presence in my life? Why did my adoptive mother never tell me, why did she feel she had to hide it from me?
Gradually I calmed down as college restarted and I had other things to occupy my mind. It took two years after learning the news for me to come to peace with the reality of my childhood. Many nights spent lying awake, staring at my ceiling and pondering my identity, helped me see my situation for what it really was.
I realized that just because my situation was unique did not mean it was bad. I love my mother, the woman who has raised me. I love my brother and sister. I learned that genes alone do not make someone your mother. Your mother is the one who was there when you scraped your knee on the playground, the one who was there to make you chicken noodle soup when you had a bad cold, the one who made you hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night.
Just because she didn’t give birth to me does not mean my mom isn’t my mother. And I am proud to call her my mother.
There was still one lingering itch in my head, however. My birth mother really had no choice about giving me up, due to her condition. While my biological father chose to abandon me, she placed me for adoption out of necessity. The loathing and anger I felt towards her slowly turned into sadness and pity.
It took all my courage to walk up to my mother and ask if she would be okay with me contacting my birth mother to simply tie up the loose ends in my head. After an emotional conversation, she gave me the go ahead.
I opened up Facebook and stared at the message I had received several years earlier and nervously sent a message in reply.
Within an hour, I had a phone number.
My heart pounding, I dialed the number. When I heard the “hello”, all I could think to say was “Hi Mom, it’s your son, Andrew”. The line went silent, and then there were tears. We spoke briefly about life, about mine, about hers, about my biological father.
By the end of the phone call, I felt complete. I finally had closure for the hole that had opened up in me a few years ago. Looking back on my entire ordeal, I have to say that while part of me wishes that I could have lived a normal life, I am proud of whom I have become today.
I have a loving mother, brother, and sister. I have a wonderful girlfriend, a good job, and in this economy, I can pay my bills. I have the same sense of security I did while growing up. I could look back on my childhood and focus on the bad parts, but in reality, I had a loving family who was always there for me.
This may not have been the case had my parents not stepped up and joyfully brought me into their home and treated me no different than their own flesh and blood.
I am my mother’s son, and she will love and care for me forever.
By Andrew Cadieux