In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the fourth 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.
By Deborah Lea Serrano
Last month, my son was married to his college sweetheart in an intimate and beautiful wedding in a garden overlooking Berkeley, CA. All of his family, as well as hers and many of their friends, were there to celebrate with them. Beautiful and happy, but this doesn’t seem remarkable to the outside view.
But there is much more to the story, as there always is. I hope my son’s wedding is one of the first to set a new pattern for inclusivity at such celebrations. What makes it notable is the complexity of the family there to represent the young groom. In addition to his parents, and older siblings, the festivities included stepparents, and most importantly, my son’s birth parents and brothers from birth, including his twin brother who was raised in the original family.
My son G is 29 years old. At the time of his adoption, the lawyer informed me that ours was the most open adoption to date in Massachusetts. At that time, nearly all adoptions were closed; in the years since then, the proportions have made a complete flip, and now the overwhelming majority of adoptions are open.
Before I became G’s mother, I always knew I wanted children. When it became clear that fertility would be elusive, I sought out RESOLVE and volunteered as a phone counselor, which I did one day each week for about five years. Between calls, I researched the literature on infertility, treatment options and adoption. On one of these afternoons, I read Kathleen Silber’s “Dear Birthmother” about pioneering open adoptions in Texas and North Carolina. This approach made a lot of sense to me, and I remembered this book when we began to put together our adoption plan.
While recovering from surgery for endometriosis — my last planned medical intervention — I received a call that led to G’s adoption. A married couple with a toddler were expecting twins, and they were considering placing one of the twins for adoption. This was an unusual situation. It was emotionally risky for us, as they could easily change their minds about placement, though they had very clear reasons for making this plan.
We took the chance and met with them at our home a couple of months before the babies were due. We felt comfortable with one another, and after meeting in person, the plans became a lot more tangible to all of us. Since the babies would be twins growing up separately, we looked for professional advice on how best to keep them connected. It soon became clear that we would need frequent direct communication before the birth and a plan to keep in contact with regular reunions afterward for the benefit of the children.
When we got the call that the boys had been born, I hurried to make travel arrangements and gather what I would need to bring our baby home, all the while knowing there was a good chance that it would not happen in the end.
We held our first reunion when the boys were about one year old. In subsequent years, we spent time together between one and three times a year, sometimes in our city, other times in theirs. After one of our visits when the boys were two years old, I heard G talking about the “other me”, so it must have taken awhile before he realized that he and T were actually separate individuals.
I found that after these visits, as pleasant as they were, G would regress a bit, then recover. I never felt a need for secrecy. G knew his birth family, and he also knew us as his parents. I always felt a warm and close attachment with G; he is my son in every way imaginable, though I can also see and appreciate the qualities he has inherited from his birth family, such as his unique sense of humor.
Over the years, we have shared G’s milestones with his birth family; in the beginning, through letters, then phone calls – not frequent, but whenever needed or wished for. So there was a growing sense of trust and friendship between the two families.
This closeness was disrupted when my husband and I got divorced when the boys were six. I know that G’s birth parents, R and B, were disappointed to the point of feeling betrayed. Over the years, though, as we reached a new normal, and I built a new home with a rebuilt sense of security for G, this was gradually forgiven. We moved forward and we came together.
And so it came to be that we were ALL present in a garden in the Berkeley Hills on a sunny summer morning to witness the marriage of G and S. G’s whole family was present: parents — birth, adoptive and step with respective spouses – and all of his siblings.
I had been asked to offer a toast, and I found one written by poet Richard Wilbur for his own son’s wedding. G’s birthmother R is a gifted calligrapher, so I asked if she would render this special poem in calligraphy for G and S as a keepsake. R made this her gift to the couple, and we enjoyed planning the layout together as she drew up three renderings. When we chose the final version, I had it matted, framed and then shipped to our hotel and brought to the wedding site.
During the reception, I asked R to come up with me (she did so very shyly). I read the text and told G that this was from “both his mothers.” I think R was happy. We all brought our best to the new couple, and we all feasted on the love we felt for them. I hope in the coming years we will hear of more events that celebrate this kind of expansive, albeit complex, family. It was a joyful wedding for each one of us.
Deborah Serrano lives in the Seattle area with her husband and their mini labradoodle in an over-55 community where she is one of the younger voices in the community chorus. She reads a lot and still daydreams. Her greatest joy and honor is that she got to raise her son.
This year’s Adoption Portraits series is filled. You may send a submission for next year’s series to Carrie Goldman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Portrait of an Adoption on Twitter and Facebook.
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Check out Carrie Goldman’s award-winning book Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.