The most interesting / uninteresting thing about me is that I’m adopted.
This is one of the first pictures taken of me. Cameras and film were expensive circa 1969, although I’ve seen dozens upon dozens of pictures, rounding them up and transferring them to digital is a slow process. Anyway, that’s me.
I was adopted when I was 3 days old, in April of 1969. Roe v. Wade hadn’t happened yet, meaning abortion was illegal and for women who found themselves pregnant the only real alternative was adoption.
After being married for several years my parents found out they were unable to conceive naturally. They were heartbroken, in their religious world big families were prized, children were considered a blessing and every woman was taught her greatest accomplishment in life was to be a wife and mother. To say that infertility was a crushing blow is an understatement. They opted for adoption.
I’ve always known I was adopted, the story of how mommy and daddy were so excited they flew to pick me up and daddy nearly crashed the car he was driving so fast, that aunts and uncles and grandparents scrambled to buy a crib and dresser and all the necessities (first grandchildren are a big deal). Then they picked me up and we all flew home. I was so familiar with the narrative that upon finding out that a neighbor was pregnant my five year old precocious self asked when they were going to the airport to pick up the baby. I thought babies came from airports.
I don’t recall the moment when I found out that biology matters, perhaps it was when we adopted my younger brother from Korea, or when my cousins were born. Eventually I found myself big sister to 3 younger brothers and one sister, and younger sister to 3 foster brothers and one sister, who became part of our family. At some point I realized that I didn’t (and was never going to) look like anyone in my family. I think that’s when the sense of ‘otherness’ crept in. I fit in but I wasn’t quite one of them, in my teens I began to feel like an impostor.
I struggled for decades, thinking that my sense of ‘otherness’ or specifically of not belonging in my family would be different if I had any sense of myself. I knew my mind, my beliefs etc but the BIG question, my origins was kept from me. There are not words strong enough to convey my rage at having my biological origin legally kept from me. My adoption was private, I was told to have my original birth certificate, to have any information about my biological parents I would need a court order. Court orders were only given in extreme circumstances (life threatening circumstances), my right to know was invalid.
I had fantasies about taking an internship at the law firm that handled my adoption simply to get access to my birth records. I gave little or no thought to what I would do if I ever had my information, my records. No, I simply raged that what was mine was withheld from me. I of course had fantasies, what adopted child doesn’t, I wondered the circumstances of my birth, my parents gave me the spotty details provided by the lawyer. College students, unmarried, couldn’t provide for me, wanted me to have a better life etc.. I wondered how we were alike, I wondered if I’d know her if I saw her, or recognize her voice. I wondered if she was alive, I wondered if she thought about me on days other than my birthday.
In June 2000, something incredible happened, the citizens of Oregon passed a measure that gave adult adoptees the right to access their pre-adoption birth certificates. Suddenly with that I had the information that was previously denied me. Thank you citizens of the fine state of Oregon (I always proudly said “I was born in Oregon”, mostly to avoid the whole “oh you’re from Utah, are you a Mormon?” conversation). I was in the first wave of people requesting their original birth certificates, and although it was held up in court for months eventually it arrived. I was “baby girl Wilson”, and although no father was listed (this is where I make immaculate conception jokes), I had a name. I had my birth mother’s name!
The rest of my adoption story will follow in other posts. I suppose this initial introduction was just to briefly present why I feel I’m entitled to speak about adoption.