An adopted child

I am an adopted child.

The first picture of me, in the little box my parents had me in for the drive. No car seats, just a little padded box, strapped to the seats of my dad's Buick with seat belts.

The first picture of me, in the little box my parents had me in for the drive. No car seats, just a little padded box, strapped to the seats of my dad’s Buick with seat belts.

The story goes like this: My parents really wanted a child. They had tried everything biologically possible and there was still no baby. They worked with Lutheran Social Services of Ohio to find a baby. They were excellent candidates — educated, loving, gainfully-employed (and, per my birthmother’s requirement, Lutheran). They waited. And waited. And were let down a few times. Still they waited. My dad (not much of a church goer) promised God that if they got a baby, he would dedicate his life to the church.

My birthmother was divorced with primary custody of an 8-year-old son. She was working at a minimum wage job. I don’t know much about her relationship with the other half of my genetic material, but the story is that when she told him she was pregnant, he ran. Some of her family wanted her to have an abortion, some wanted her to keep me as a punishment. She wanted to keep me and went back and forth about whether she would keep me or give me up. She prayed and went to church and sang in the church choir, hoping the right choice would become clear. Finally, her brother came to her and was blunt: There was not way she could keep me. She just couldn’t afford the time or money to have kid #2. She would put me up for adoption.

I was born with jaundice, so I stayed in the hospital for a few days and then was taken to live with a foster family.

My parents got the call that there was a baby for them a week after I was born (mom, correct me on this if I am wrong). They had two weeks to pull together all of the things most parents have months to get together.

My mom and dad came to pick me up. When I would ask them to tell me the story, my dad liked to tell me that they went to court and I was nailed to the judges bench by my diaper. When all was signed and the judged cleared them to be my parents, they got to unhook me from the bench and take me home (he also claims he wanted to name me Hortense Boom-Boom, I’m glad my mom prevailed).

They arrived at a friends house to stop for the night with me in tow. My mom’s friend had to teach her how to give me a bath and took her shopping because, apparently, everything my mom bought was wrong. It took my dad twice as long to get from where they stayed to their home because he was so nervous driving with me in the car.

I was raised in an amazing family. I have had every opportunity I could imagine, been able to explore both myself and the world. I have been well loved, raised in the church (per my birth mother’s instructions). I am smart, confident, funny and generally awesome ๐Ÿ˜‰

I write this because in all the yelling about abortion, there is not enough conversation about adoption — but there are still many, many misconceptions.

  • Adopted kids aren’t messed up, there isn’t something wrong with us because we are adopted. I hate this assumption. Yes, some adopted kids come with problems. So do some bio-kids. Some of my brothers and sisters in adoption were subject to horrible abuse before they were born. Some of us are born addicted to drugs, many born affected by alcohol. But many of us are not. Many of us had birth parents who took seriously the responsibility of giving us the best life possible, and had the education and support to care for themselves and their fetus. This meant caring for us deeply in utero and then giving us to someone who would be more equipped to raise us.
  • Being adopted doesn’t mean I wasn’t wanted. It means I was doubly wanted, doubly loved. My birthmother could have had an abortion. She didn’t. She kept me, carried me, cared for me until it was time to pass me on. I cannot imagine how difficult this was for her, to give away her child. I am forever grateful that she carried me to term, that she cared for me that whole time, and that she gave me up when and how she did. My parents carried me in their heart, waited for me day after day, never knowing if I would arrive at all. Then, there I was, with my little tuft of black hair and penchant for sleep. My dad followed through on his promise to God, becoming incredibly active in church. They raised me incredibly well. I wanted for nothing. I was doubly loved, doubly wanted.

Not every kids adoption story is so rosy. Some kids are neglected or abandoned. Some kids who are put up for adoption have been abused. But for so many of us, the story is much brighter than that. And you should never, ever assume otherwise when talking to an adoptee. If we want you to know the situation of our adoption, we’ll tell you.

Today, birthparents have some amazing options for giving away their baby. They can meet prospective adoptive parents, they can keep contact with their biological child (if they wish). Birthparents have so many things they can do to ensure your kid goes to an awesome home.

  • No baby should be a punishment. No pregnant woman should ever be encouraged/forced to keep a kid she doesn’t want and/or doesn’t have the ability to care for. I am amazed at how many people will talk about life being a beautiful gift and then talk about keeping babies as punishment. I know a few kids who were kept under this mentality. And they grew up knowing they weren’t wanted, which messed them up a whole lot more than adoption would have. Not everyone has the magic loving parent button that switches on when the baby comes out. Some people aren’t ready to be parents, some people will never be ready. Let everyone make that decision for themselves.
  • Do not assume that because I am adopted I am pro-life. Some adoptees may be. I’m not. My mother had a choice. I’m glad she made the one she did. I would prefer it if more women would choose adoption rather than have an abortion. But I don’t know other people’s situations or what anyone else can handle. However, the adoption community needs to get more vocal about how awesome adoption is and what a wonderful gift it is to this world. Keep it or abort it are not the only options.
  • Don’t keep adoption a secret from the adoptee. If you adopt a child, tell the kid he or she is adopted. Don’t make it a secret. I once worked with a kid whose parents waited until he was 12 and they were getting divorced to tell him he was adopted. That’s messed up. My parents were told to tell me as soon as I could read. My main reaction was, “They won’t come back to take me away, will they?” Three-year-old kids don’t have identity crises, but older kids and adults sure do.
  • Adoptees, if you meet a birthparent, remember that their feelings are involved here too. I met my birthmother and got so excited about meeting her that I told some people. I have no idea how common it is for birth parents and adoptees to have people in common, but we did. She hadn’t told anyone about her pregnancy and subsequent adoption and then I went and told people. Now her secret was out. It wasn’t my place to share her information, but I didn’t even think about that when I was so excited to share my news. There will be things birthparents are sensitive about, things they don’t want to talk about or don’t want talked about. Remember that.
  • Finally, don’t use the phrase “real parents.” Ever. It’s nonsensical. Both sets of parents are actual human beings, both cared for me in their own way (well, in my case, my birth father, not so much). I call the people whose genetic material I carry my birth parents and I call the two amazing people that raised me my parents. Some others may do it differently. But real parents? Please. Just don’t.

Adoption is awesome. I’m proud of being adopted. I think it makes me extra special. I hope, over time, the world sees adoption (and all involved in the process) that way too.

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About Elizabeth Rawlings

Lutheran. Feminist. Child of God. Thinking about how to be a leader in a church that is trying to rediscover itself and what it means to live simply so that others may simply live in tandem with what exactly is the fast God asks of us. Chronic alliterator. Generally silly person. View all posts by Elizabeth Rawlings

5 responses to “An adopted child

  • Judy Fesko

    Your mom told us this whole story while we were on vacation: I had never heard it before. She and your dad are the greatest…you were prayed for and loved before they even knew you!

  • Brenda Bos

    Diggin’ this. Thanks.

  • Mainecelt

    Thank you for your witness. I grew up with three adopted siblings and hope to adopt a child myself. One of my sisters, born in South Korea, has an extra (tiny) bone in her feet. I’m missing a (tiny) bone in my feet. She used to laugh and say, “see, that proves we’re related. I stole your bone! I love my family and can’t imagine a “realer” family than ours, even though it was “assembled in the U.S. with some foreign parts.”

    • ERW

      Thank you so much for sharing your story — how wonderful (it made me a bit misty)! We assemble our families in so many ways, they are all “real.”

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