I’m adopted. I’ve gone through cycles of wanting to find my birth mother; not caring about being adopted; not wanting to find my birth mother; feeling disenfranchised; feeling like I belong to my (adoptive) family. For 11 months of the year, including birthdays, anniversaries and other family-related special occasions, I can mostly curb my temptation to feel like an alien from some other galaxy. But when December hits, all those Christmas card warm fuzzy present sharing family feelings rise to the surface. They’ve become more intense since 2010, the last Christmas I shared with my Dad in Winnipeg.
I’ve talked to people who were adopted. From those who, like me, knew right from the start that they had been adopted to those who found out when a parent had passed away. I worked with a gentleman who looked up his birth parents and expressed regret about doing so – he became sucked into an extremely dysfunctional family that he felt uncomfortable dealing with. There’s also the flip side. A female acquaintance searched and found birth parents living in different parts of Canada, and connecting with both of them turned out to be a good experience for her.
Just as an amusing aside, when I mentioned to a library co-worker (I lived in Winnipeg at the time) that I was seriously thinking about finding my birth mother, she gave me a novel by P.D. James titled Innocent Blood. The book is about an adopted woman who discovers her birth parents were convicted of committing crimes together. Yes, thank you, as if children of adoption didn’t already know that the whole birth mother/father search issue wasn’t a risky business.
Every Friday afternoon for the six years I was in elementary school was an emotional time for me. Most everyone in my class brought things prefaced by “This belonged to my Mom when she was my age” or This was my grandfather’s; he got it as a present from his dad for having my dad.” I never felt so keenly aware of being a buoy bobbing in an unnamed ancestral sea as I did on Friday afternoons.
Over the years, I have battled with the idea of being adopted; mixed feelings of alienation and belonging, accompanied by the push-pull battle of was I “wanted” or had I been “abandoned.” I slithered many a time down the slippery slope of imagining what my birth mother was like. I often wondered did I take after her or was I more like my birth father? Did he even know about me? What happened to my birth mother and where was she now? I was born in Winnipeg, but did she stay there?
My lifelong war with being adopted came to a screeching halt in a hospital room in Winnipeg in 2011, when someone on my dad’s care team remarked, “You don’t look like your father.” To my surprise, I was reluctant to say the words – in light of his imminent passing, it seemed irrelevant that he wasn’t my “real” dad.
Recently, I began to look at being adopted from another angle. My birth mother chose “Heather;” since my (adoptive) mother and father liked my original first name, they kept it and combined it with two middle names (maternal and paternal grandmothers). I have come to terms with it essentially because of my name. It is a bridge I traverse from the people who gave me life to the people who shaped me into the person I am today.