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.
When Adoptive Family + Birth Families = Happy Ending
By Colleen Walsh
My birthparents were sixteen and seventeen when they found out my birthmother was pregnant. I think about myself at that age, and I cannot even imagine what that must have been like. After some stern convincing from my birthmother’s father, I was put up for adoption and I was placed with the most wonderful family anyone could ask for.
I don’t ever remember not knowing I was adopted. My mom loves to tell me two stories surrounding my early discovery that I was adopted. When I was three, my babysitter was pregnant with her second child and I was fascinated by it. I went home that day and started asking my mom about when I was in her belly.
That was the first time we had an open conversation about how I grew in someone else’s belly, but I was extra lucky because my parents got to choose me.
After that, I told everyone I knew I was adopted because I knew it made me special. My mom also fondly talks about a time when we were watching a TV show and the woman on TV was in labor. My eyes got big and I looked at my mom and said, “When I grow up, I think I want to get a baby the way you did!”
My adoptive parents were at every school event; they cheered me on at every sporting event (even though I was terrible!) and they supported me no matter what I did. I never once felt like I had been abandoned or cheated by being adopted.
Even though my parents were so wonderful and loving, I couldn't stop wondering about my biological family. I was especially fixated on my birthmother. I thought she one of the bravest people on the planet (I still do). I knew I was born in St. Louis, and that my birthparents had lived in St. Louis at some point, but I didn't know if they still lived in the area.
I used to have these fantasies about running into my birthmother at the grocery store and we would just look at each other and just know. The fantasies often involved one of those slow-motion-running-to-each-other scenes that is often present in really cheesy movies.
The fantasy never came true, but it's pretty likely that we could have run into each other at the grocery store and just never knew it. When I finally got in contact with my birth families, I learned three pretty surprising things: 1) I grew up less than fifteen minutes from where my birthparents grew up, 2) I attend high school, had a class with (if I remember correctly...), and graduated a year after my birthfather's brother-in-law, and 3) my mom had been working off and on with my birthmother's brother, Jim for years.
I was blown away by how close to my birth family I had been for so many years. I finally believed in fate.
It was in the summer of 2006 that I had the pleasure of being reunited with both of my birthparents and their families. My life has never felt so full of love and joy. I have four wonderful, loving families.
Mine was a closed adoption, so I spent my first eighteen years wondering about these people and, as I mentioned above, imagining what it would be like to meet them. My expectations were blown out of the water. I had expected to have a one-time meeting with my birthmother and that would be it.
I ended up meeting both birthparents, their partners, their kids, and the rest of their families. I have had such an amazing time getting to know everyone and finally learning where some of my crazy quirks come from!
As an adoptee, I was always worried that my adoptive parents would feel left out if I met my birthparents. Shortly before meeting my birthparents, my adoptive father passed away suddenly. He was truly one of the greatest men who ever graced the Earth with his presence.
My mom had been taking it pretty hard, so when I finally got in contact with my birthmother, I was very nervous about telling my mom. I didn’t want her to feel like she was losing me too. At first I think she was a little nervous as well, but my birth families have done everything they can to make sure my mom is included. They do wonderful things like send her cards and flowers on her birthday and Mother’s day.
I met Amy, my birthmother first. She came to my mom’s house and the minute she walked in the door I was just speechless. I spent the entire afternoon just listening to Amy and my mom talk while I watched her every move. I had no idea what to say but I felt like I had a million things to say as the same time. It was so surreal. I will never forget that day.
Shortly after meeting Amy, I was able to get in contact with Brian, my birthfather. I never in a million years expected I would have the opportunity to meet my birthfather.
I think there is a pretty gender-biased stereotype that birthfathers are not interested in their children. Birthfathers get somewhat of a bad rap, probably because the media portrays them as being “deadbeats”. Meeting Brian for the first time was like looking in the mirror. (I have so many of his facial features, it’s scary!) I was once again just sitting there, staring at him and speechless. I will also never forget that day.
After meeting my birthparents, I had the opportunity to meet their partners and my half siblings! I was so excited since I grew up as an only child. I have two half-sisters on my birthfather’s side and a half-bother and half-sister on my birthmother’s side.
It has been so fun playing big sister. I have sleepovers with the girls and I love to spend time with my half-brother. I also had such a pleasant experience meeting my birthparents’ partners. My birthmother’s husband has been so nice and he never fails to make me feel welcome in their home.
My birthfather’s wife has been exactly the same way. The day I met her, she came up to me and said, “I know I’m not technically related to you, but I really want to be!” I feel so lucky that my birthparents both have such amazing and accepting partners.
I also have an extremely wonderful birth-uncle and two supportive (and beautiful) birth-aunts. They have made me feel so welcome and loved. My birth-grandmother is exactly what a grandma should be, full of love and an awesome cook and my birth-grandfather is exactly what a grandfather should be, full of love and understanding (and he spoils me with opera tickets!).
Since meeting my birth-families, my mom and I have been invited to birthday parties, holiday celebrations, family weddings, hockey games, baseball games, lunches, dinners, and so many other wonderful events. Last Christmas, we were celebrating at my birthfather’s home and my mom expressed her gratitude for how inclusive everyone has been. My birth-aunt, Lisa (who never misses a beat), looked up and said, “Well you two are part of our family now!” I couldn’t stop smiling.
Growing up, I was asked a million times by a million different people if I was ever resentful about being adopted. My answer has always been and will always be, “Not one bit”. I could never have any hard feelings toward my birthparents. They gave me the best gift anyone could have given me.
I cannot imagine having a “conventional” family. I love my adoptive family and my birth-families and I have always felt so supported in everything I do.
By Colleen Walsh