I Will Never Forget the First Time I Saw Her

I Will Never Forget the First Time I Saw Her

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 Will Never Forget the First Time I Saw Her

By Katie Dombrowski

My parents were told they couldn’t have children, as the story begins for many couples who choose to adopt.  When I told my Mom I was writing this blog and asked her how long the process took and how long they had to wait, I was shocked when she said “we knew in one month that you were ours.”  Mostly due to religious affiliation, my parents were indeed fast tracked to the front of the waiting list, and I arrived on October 19, 1982.

And as the second part of the story often goes, my parents very quickly got pregnant and gave birth to their own biological children shortly after adopting me. We are 1 year and 4 years apart, respectively.

I grew up knowing I was adopted. There isn’t a moment in my life I can pinpoint when I was told.  I always knew I was loved, and my parents always told me I was special.  However, growing up adopted wasn’t easy for me emotionally.

My first memory of being teased is from the 4th grade, when I decided that I wanted to talk about being adopted for show and tell.  I spent the remainder of my elementary school days regularly seeing the school guidance counselor.  Kids can be cruel, and at that age, I was too young to understand why.

I didn’t make things easy on my family growing up as I was always a bit more emotionally unstable than your average teenager.  I did my fair share of torturing my parents; telling them I hated them, that they weren’t my real parents and they couldn’t tell me what to do.

I threatened them with running off to my biological mother once I found her, and I’m sure I said other awful things that I can’t remember.  As I got older, I began to battle depression, not necessarily because I had issues with being adopted, but because I had issues with everything.

My parents spent a lot of their time and money taking me to therapy or to a tutor, in an effort to help me and keep me on the right path.  I was sad and angry and easily distracted; meanwhile, my sisters thrived in school and their various hobbies and activities, a stark contrast to how I was handling my life.

As I continued to struggle through high school, I received a letter from my adoption lawyer. This letter came two weeks after my 17th birthday.  He said he had been contacted by my biological mother, and that very simply, she was ready to open our file.  In the years prior, I had been the one sending him letters, sometimes several a year, telling him that I was ready to meet her.

I had decided at a young age that I would begin my search as soon as possible and I wanted the lawyer to have no doubt about contacting me if my biological mother ever came around. My parents supported me in my quest to find her, but they also did their duty and prepared me for heartbreak, no matter how high my hopes were.  Now here we were, unexpectedly facing the moment I had been waiting for my whole life.

Her name is Beth Ann.  My family and I decided it would be best to begin corresponding via letters.  She sent me the first hand-written letter, enclosed with pages about her life and pictures of her and her family.

She explained her reasons for giving me up for adoption; she was young, in college and not ready to be a mom.  I never held her decision against her, my parents raised me to believe that she loved me enough to let me go, and I have always felt that to be true.  For a few years, Beth Ann and I exchanged pictures, stories and eventually, phone calls.  Getting to know each other, but taking it slow and one day at a time.

Three years later, when I was twenty years old, she traveled to the state where I live, along with her sister and her mother (my biological Aunt and Grandmother).

I will never forget the first time I saw her at the end of my parents’ driveway. When I looked at her, I saw myself; the same eyes, the same hair, the same smile. The first thing I said to her was “I look just like you.”  The emotion that I felt during this time is really hard to put on paper.

As I said before, my parents never made me feel like anything less than a daughter they had birthed themselves, but the reality was that I looked different, I acted different and to finally see face to face where I had come from, well this was a moment I was waiting for my whole life. A moment that I desperately needed to put the pieces together.

We all enjoyed a weekend of getting to know each other; her family was wonderful, and I will always cherish that time.  I am glad that my sisters were there to share it with me and of course more than anything, happy to have my parents by my side during the whole experience.  It was just as much their experience as mine, and they supported me the whole time.  A few days later she was gone, and our long distance relationship continued.

During my college years, we would talk on the phone once in a while, but I was not really focused on my relationship with her.  To be honest, she wasn’t focused on it either.  We would both flake on each other.  Time between cards, letters and calls took longer.  She moved around and I moved around, but we managed to keep in touch just often enough not lose each other completely.

I can’t say that there weren’t times when I wasn’t disappointed, where maybe I had set my expectations too high for our relationship.  The fact of the matter is, she didn’t want to raise a child then, and I could never fully expect her to want a relationship with her child now.  Not to say that she didn’t want one, but realistically as I see it, I am the only child she has ever had, which indicates the motherhood thing just wasn’t for her.  I’m okay with that, but at times, it was a harder pill to swallow.

After college, we met in Atlanta before she moved to the Midwest. She gave me a bunch of furniture.  She introduced me to her neighbor as her daughter, and it was the first time I had ever been called that by anyone other than my parents.

When she told me she loved me, it was the first time someone else had told me that outside of my immediate family and friends.  But I was her daughter, and she really did love me, and I accepted that. I think at the time it was difficult for me to process, but looking back, and especially now that I have friends with kids, I understand.  We still stay in touch to this day, mainly through texting and phone calls.  We are supposed to get together in November this year.

They say you are a product of your environment, and I have undoubtedly inherited many of my parents’ traits and qualities.  But even after spending just a small fraction of my life with Beth Ann, I realize that there are many things that are just genetic, and part of who I was destined to be.  Some of those things have been difficult to overcome, but other things have made me the person I am today.  I am extremely grateful to be a combination of all the above.

I feel more than lucky to have my birth mother in my life, and even luckier that I was adopted by two people who had enough love in their hearts to love a child that wasn’t their own.  I love being adopted.  This is me and this is my story.

Katie Dombrowski is a 31-year-old adoptee living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She works as a Communications Manager for a Media Research company, and enjoys writing, listening to live music and watching sports in her free time.

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