It was the fall of 1989, I was in 4th grade and was assigned a class project… creating my family tree. This was the first time I remember feeling different when thinking about adoption. Before this, and countless times after, the thoughts and feelings I had about being adopted were positive: grateful, blessed, lucky, completely and totally loved. That time it was different, for the first time, I felt different. I completed the project but had a nagging thought that this wasn’t my family tree. It just wasn’t, that was not my biological family. I do not remember not knowing I was adopted. It was a topic of conversation in my house growing up, it was celebrated. Being adopted meant my parents were chosen for me. We were meant to be a family. (I was given the best one I could have possibly imagined. ) My story: I was adopted at birth. My birth mother chose a closed adoption. My parents picked me up on August 10, 1980. I was 20 days old. My mom forgot formula so they rushed to stop for some at a grocery store before heading to the adoption agency. (A story so often repeated at family gatherings.) They had waited 10 long years to have a baby of their own. I was told so many stories about the line of people waiting to see me when my parents took me home. Stories of people literally waiting in lines to see me. To this day, we celebrate my placement day. August 10 otherwise known as my second birthday. But that project felt different. That is when I began wondering, where do I come from? What are my biological roots? I wondered, often in silence, because I didn’t want my mom and dad to be upset. I didn’t want them to ever think I wanted something different than the amazing family I had. I didn’t want to hurt them. I found myself contemplating my word choice, if my meaning would be understood, or would this hurt my mom and dad? Because ultimately, they are just that- MY mom and dad. Their titles do not have adjectives to describe them- they are not my adoptive mom and dad or my second mom and dad. They are my mom and dad. I eventually did meet my birth mother. Even though I did not get answers to some of the questions I had pondered over for so many years, I felt a sense of acceptance and closure. I accepted that some questions aren’t always guaranteed an answer and that would have to be ok. Later, I found answers to the question from 4th grade. DNA testing kits were readily available so I purchased one. When the results came in I was able to close the chapter of longing and wondering. I felt at peace. I now know my heritage, biologically; however, as ironic as it is, knowing my biological heritage led me to feel even more connected to my family. This story, my story, is one I share whenever I am asked. I have connected with so many others that have their own story and formed relationships that I am so grateful for. My story has shaped me to be the person I am today. I struggled for so long believing I was not good enough, thinking the completely irrational thought that if my biological parents "gave me up," who would choose to love me? I now know that I am good enough, I do deserve greatness, and I am so very loved. I am able to help others through my work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I am able to help others work through feelings of not being good enough, not being worthy of greatness, finding their identity, and truly connecting with others. I think about that family tree from time to time and know in my heart that I do belong and I am loved as much as if I grew from one of those branches biologically.
By: Laurel Freeman, LCSW, Local Mom, Adoptee