In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness 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 people with widely varying experiences.
By Kathy Bright
I've known I was adopted since I was four. The same is true of my adopted brother. By design of my adoptive parents, it's part of who we are, a fact of our existence even as we developed from toddlers to adults. So it boggles my mind that while the world is finding itself very forward-thinking when it comes to debating definitions of family with gay couples and with grandparent's parental rights that the meme of actually being adopted is still stuck in past centuries.
For example, I go to a new doctor and I'm handed a two-page form full of medical history questions. Did my mother or grandmother have a history of breast cancer? Any diabetics in the family? High blood pressure? Heart conditions? Thyroid?
Well, I don't know because I'm a-d-o-p-t-e-d. Where's the checkbox that says "Adopted" or "Don't Know" or "No Family History"? Because I've never seen one. The forms get updated with HIPAA and every other thing, but that part never changes. Why not? On a side note, I have gotten over not having a genetic medical history. (Okay, not totally. You get a warranty when you get an appliance, but you can't even get a medical history with a kid? Really?)
But at least give me a real-world option on your forms, especially if we're going to talk about modern families and how we define them. If you can change "mother" and "father" to "first parent" and "second parent," you can certainly add "No Family History" or just "Don't Know."
And those family ties count for a lot - more than you think. Just recently I got into a discussion with someone about tracing my birth family. "Why do you need to know?" she asked. And I answered: how often have you heard or said among your family "she looks like her dad" or "that runs in the family" or "he's just like his grandfather" or "it's in his blood."
And I bet you don't even pause to think about what it means when you say it. It just flows right out of you. Why don't I have as much right as you do to be able to say that? Why is it any less okay for me in your eyes?
Now you'd think that as generations grow up, attitudes would change. After all, isn't this the 21st century, full of computers and phones that are smart and TV that doesn't require an actual TV? Haven't we seen a black President and lesbian ministers and the first female CEO of IBM? But not so fast. Just two weeks ago, my newly-married friend who wants to have children listed her options in priority order. First, natural born. (Well, of course. Who wouldn't?) Then, fertility treatments. Then foster. Then adopt. She would rather have a foster child than adopt a child. She thinks fostering is better because there you're actually "making a difference in that child's life."
What I hear is that raising a child who isn't your own in any way is preferable to making someone else's kid become an actual part of your legal family. She doesn't hear herself saying that but I do. Repeatedly. And I'm trying really hard not to feel a little bit insulted about that attitude.
I keep hearing how adoption doesn't carry stigmas anymore in the same way it did 50 or 60 years ago. I'm waiting to actually see that in practice. Because from where I'm sitting, time seems to be standing quite still.
By Kathy Bright
Kathy Bright is a one-time classically-trained actor and published writer who now works in IT in the health insurance industry. She says, “My mother and her sisters were foster children, and my brother and some of my cousins are adopted or stepkids, so you might say being an adoptee is almost part of the DNA of our extended family. Even my dog is an adopted mutt.”
Portrait of an Adoption has been nominated to the Circle of Moms Top 25 Book Author Mom Blogs! If you are enjoying this adoption series, please support Portrait by clicking here and voting! So easy to do, and you can vote once a day until December 7, 2012.
Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman, author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear. This year’s adoption series is full, but if you have a story you would like to submit as a candidate for next year’s series, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.