Adoption

As adoption legislation finds its way in and out of the legislative session for another year, I’ve watched carefully, but haven’t covered it. As a journalist, and as an adoptee, my objectivity would be compromised.

It was second grade when I started to figure out that people just didn’t talk about adoption.

As a topic, it seems to sit somewhere in between racism and homosexuality — People know it exists, but they don’t want to hear about it, see it or discuss it. They certainly don’t want to know what it does to a person’s insides.

My second grade class was given the assignment to go home and ask our parents what it was like the day we were born. Then next day, the teacher went around the room and asked everyone, one by one, what they found out. Some said it snowed. Some said there were thunderstorms that day. Others talked about how Grandma had come over to stay with their older brothers and sisters.

When she got to me, I told her I didn’t do the assignment. She did not look happy. (Let’s just say it wasn’t the first time I’d skipped my homework.)

“Why not?” she snapped.

“Because I’m adopted,” I said. “So no one knows what it was like the day I was born.”

The awkwardness that followed was one I soon learned would be a running theme in my young life.

No medical history. Filling out paperwork at the doctor’s office is pretty easy when all you have to do is write a big “N/A” on the forms.

A fragmented guess at cultural heritage.

Social weirdness. “Who do you look like, your mom or your dad?” “Neither. I’m adopted.”

And there it is again — that familiar awkwardness.

Being pregnant with no clue about health concerns, genetic defects, birth history or otherwise.

And just when I thought I’d gotten a handle on it all, it came full circle.

My daughter was in second grade when she was given an assignment to find out about her ancestry. Ironically, her dad is adopted too. So though she knows both of her biological parents, many mysteries remain.

She was not satisfied with the answer I gave her, which is, “Here is my educated guess. I’m pretty sure you’re English and Irish. Pick whichever one sounds most appealing to you and go with it.” And she didn’t just look dissatisfied, she looked puzzled, mad, hurt, frustrated. It’s a feeling I knew too well.

After so many years of being a genetic mystery … I even went through one phase where I told people I was from Mars … I said [you-know-what] the legal system and found other avenues to track down my biological mother. It took 17 years.

She said she always knew I would find her. Had counted on it. And despite all the good we’ve come to realize over the past few years of knowing each other, the hurt won’t ever go away.

I have talked to dozens of people either who have given up their children for adoption or who were adopted as children. I’ve read the stories of hundreds more and have yet to find a single situation where someone felt their privacy was compromised. So I’m wondering, by not overturning archaic laws that stand in the way of so many people’s physical and emotional well-being, who exactly is it that we’re trying to protect?

By the way, I found out I come from a long line of evil French elves.

The Missouri ones were milliners (hat makers) during the Depression.

No family history of cancer or heart disease, but the migraines are hereditary.

And it was cold and rainy the day I was born. My mother gazed out at the Liberty Memorial from her hospital window that day, utterly alone.

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