Thursday, February 09, 2006

A story about adoption

I realize most people don't care about adoption, so skip this one if you want.

I have to admit that I am a fan of adoption, being an adoptee. Since 'choice' is legal, I am glad that adoption is out there as one of the choices.

I was told at an early age (fourish) that I was adopted, and I was well adjusted to it. I never really thought much about it, it was just another fact, something like, 'Your Uncle Bill is a dentist' thing. I didn't care, since I got fed no matter what. I am very satisfied with my parents as they are, and I had never intended to explore finding out who my birthparents were. Or are.

As time went on, I wondered sometimes what the circumstances were, but never really thought about it that much.

But I recently got curious about my own birthparents after a conversation with my wife.

She told me my dad had told her some minor things he knew about the adoption. Nothing major, just things like how old she was, and how she came to be in Texas, and where she was from.

My adopted mother died a long time ago, and I suspected my adopted dad would not mind - he seemed to be ready to offer what clues he had to me.

I decided that forty years was long enough to wait.

So I started looking.

I knew that searching for birthparents could be extremely frustrating, could take years, or even decades. There are no guarantees you'll even find anything. I figured it was going to sting some if I figured out the birthparents weren't even looking, and didn't want any contact.

I was ready.

I posted a listing on one of the first reunion sites I found, but didn't see any birthdates that matched mine. I saw a few that were close, but no matches. As I hit the various sites, I noticed the same names coming up again and again, some with desperate pleas for help. This was getting a little depressing. Some of these were pretty old searches.

Then, about an hour and a half into my search, I got an email in response to my post on one of the reunion sites. The email had a name and a birth certificate number. I had seen the name, but the date was wrong. Then I remembered that sometimes they will slide the dates around a bit to keep things a little more, well, hard to uncover. I was suddenly very scared. I had a name. Someone that could be my birthmother. Someone that was obviously looking. What do I do now?

I am not the type to sit and agonize over a decision, so the next day I called her.

We spoke for about an hour, and while we weren't positive, we have no reason to doubt it is a match. Over the last week, more and more details are matching up. We are going to meet next Tuesday.

She has been looking for seventeen years.

I looked for about two hours.

There are people who believe adoption records should be unsealed at their will. While it would be nice for someone who has decided to do this search, what about the other person involved? I know a couple of people who are adopted and who do not know, and their adoptive parents have no intention of ever telling them. Argue all you want if that is a good idea, but how will it be if some stranger shows up one day and breaks this news to them? What about the person who gave up a child, which has to be the most difficult think to ever do, and then moves on? Can you imagine rebuilding after something like that, and then having to come to terms with it all over again?

Both sides should want contact before contact is possible. Your birthparent does not owe you anything, and neither does the kid you gave up. If there is an issue where medical information is desperately needed, there should probably be a way to obtain this information blindly, through a process that covers the identities of both parties.

The internet has no doubt made this kind of search much easier than it was. If both an adoptee and birthparent want to be found, it will probably happen, given the current resources available. If not, it is going to be pretty tough. And it should be.

The system works.

I am glad I looked. It was an easy search, and so far it seems to be a very positive thing. My birthmother seems to be a great person. I have four decades of stories to tell her, and I am sure she has some to tell me. I have a whole new family to meet, and probably some more stories from them. I am so very glad I looked.

I just wish I had looked sooner.

More here and here.

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