In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the third annual acclaimed series, 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.
I Saw My First Name for the First Time
By Tina Wilson
My dad always likes to tell people that I was born while they were over the ocean. When he sees the look on the other person’s face, he laughingly tells them that I am adopted, and I was being born in the United States while he and my adoptive mother were flying in a small plane to Puerto Rico.
I cannot remember a time that I didn’t know I was adopted, and what that meant. I was very blessed with two adoptive parents who explained adoption to me in this manner: my birth mother loved me so much and knew she could not provide a good, stable life for me, so she put me up for adoption. I was born in 1970, before Roe vs. Wade might have changed her life (and mine).
I was adopted by my parents at two months of age and always felt loved and part of the family. My mother was especially adamant about the love my birth mother must have had for me, and drilled that into my brain from a very early age. I felt special, chosen, ecstatic that these people wanted me in their lives so much that they accepted a baby from a stranger and made her their own.
Now at age 42, I look back and I realize how much being adopted has shaped me and my personality. Mine was a closed adoption, and I knew that I couldn’t find out who my birth mom was until I was 19. My mother put so much emphasis on my adoption –almost too much -- that she instilled in me a craving for knowing where I came from, who I looked like.
When I got older, my parents divorced, and my relationship with my mother deteriorated. I lived with my dad for much of the rest of my childhood, and he encouraged my interest in my background but never made it seem like the most important part of me, as my mother did. Living with my dad, I was a normal kid and never felt abandoned or alone.
After I turned 19, though, I knew that I wanted to find my birth mom. My dad and my step mother were very supportive, and I met with a lady from our Department of Human Resources here in Alabama, who put the wheels in motion. I obtained a copy of my original birth certificate; I saw my first name for the first time, “Jennifer Marie Sachs”.
I got to meet my birth mother, Chris, after exchanging several letters with her over a period of three months, and she came to spend the night with my family in North Alabama. She was overwhelmed with me, having given up hope that I would find her, and we had a very emotional meeting.
I am Chris’s only child, even though she had been married twice. By the time I was three years old, she was being treated in an in-house program for mental illness. And yes, she loved me so much, that she gave me up for adoption; she sacrificed her happiness with me to give me a chance at a life beyond her world. It was just like my adoptive parents had said.
My birth mom was upper middle class, raised by an engineer and a stay-at-home mom, but she told me of cycles of abuse and alcoholism, and how she did not think she was capable of raising me the way I deserved. We see each other about once a year (I really try to get her to my house at Christmas, so she can experience with my three young sons what she missed with me), we talk fairly often, and I write her the same thing in every Mother’s Day card I send:
Dear B-Mom Chris,
Thank you for your decision to have me and for giving me to my family. Because of you, my mom and dad have a daughter; Ray and Josh have a sister; Rod has a wife; and I have three beautiful sons, and none of this would be without your sacrifice. I love you!
Adoption, for me, never made me feel left out or abandoned or unloved, although I know some adoptees experience those emotions. I do believe that you can also feel that way in families into which you are born, and it is not limited to adoptees.
I think being an adoptee has made me a better person, more optimistic, more loving and forgiving of others and myself. Because my B-mom chose adoption, she chose life for me, and that allowed me to be the daughter, granddaughter, sister, mother, and friend that I’ve become.
Tina Boshell Wilson lives in a small southern town, and is a wife and mom who is a chiropractor on the side. She would rather read than work, would rather play than be serious, and she is coming to realize her days might be long, but these years are very short. You can read her blog at tinabopper.wordpress.com.
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