It’s that time of year again; a time to give thanks for everything in which we are grateful. As I reflect on this last year – how much I’ve grown, all that I’ve accomplished, and the many storms I’ve weathered – I realized that this is something should not be taken for granted. I have a lot of things for which to be thankful and in the coming week, I’ll spend time with my friends and family recounting them. Today, thought, I’m sharing why for many, including me, November represents more than a time for Thanksgiving.
November is National Adoption Month.
During this month, across the country, hundreds of community organizations host events and activities to challenge adoption myths, draw attention to the thousands of children in foster care who are waiting for permanent families, and share positive adoption stories. Stories like mine.
In November 1976, I was adopted by two amazing people who desperately wanted children. As a child, I loved hearing stories about the day my adoptive mother learned that she was going to be a mother. In her words:
I was taking a bath, and the phone rang. I didn’t want to answer it, so I almost missed the call. At the last minute, for some reason I just don’t know, I decided to answer. I jumped out of the bathtub, wrapped a towel around myself, and ran across the hardwood floors, sliding the whole way. They asked me what I wanted to name you. Can you imagine? I had to name you…right on the spot! Dad and I always talked about what we’d name a baby if we ever had one. I always loved the name Jennifer.
We were scheduled to pick you up on a Sunday. We had nothing – no crib, no car seat, no blankets or clothes. So Aunt Donna and I went shopping. We shopped all day and bought so many things. Donna was running around the store pointing at me and telling everyone “she’s having a baby…tomorrow!” You should have seen the looks I was getting. People would look at my belly…then look at me confused. We had so much fun running around that day.
I didn’t tell your father where we were going until the day we were scheduled to pick you up. He cried when he held you for the first time.
This was just one of my birth stories. This was the day I was born into my family.
My adoptive parents took great care in helping me understand what it meant to be adopted. They always took time to explain how I was loved not only by them but by the woman and man who made it possible for them to be my parents. They never lied to me when I asked them questions that may have been difficult or uncomfortable to answer. They told me time and time again how lucky I was that someone loved me enough to make such a difficult choice and we marveled together at how brave and courageous my birth mother must be. It wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I understood exactly how brave and courageous my birth mother was, or how tough it must have been for my adoptive mother to open her heart wide enough to let someone else into the fold, someone she didn’t know, never met, but for whom she had so much respect and admiration.
Saying that I’m thankful for my parents is an understatement.
These honest and loving messages were a blessing. An even greater blessing was the support my adoptive parents extended when I told them many years later that I wanted to search for my biological parents. I am so thankful for their generous, open hearts, and for their guidance. Adoption stories are not always pleasant, and my adoptive mother made sure I understood every possible outcome before I embarked on this journey.
In November 2002, I heard my birth mother’s voice for the first time. On that day, I also heard my first birth story, and experienced my last. This was the day I was born (again) into my birth family.
It was eleven years ago when I met my birth mother for the first time. She drove more than 750 miles to see me. I can recall – like it was yesterday – the moment before I met her, standing outside a hotel room door at the Peppermill. My husband at the time said to me “Are you sure you want to knock on the door?” “I think so,” I replied. He continued, “You can’t just ‘think so’ because once you knock on that door your life will never be the same again.”
And I’m so glad that I did because it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Shortly after meeting my birth mother, I met my birth father. Today, my family is bigger than ever. It’s unconventional even by today’s standards. It brings acceptance, understanding, and love to an all new level. It’s all my boys know. It’s mine, and it’s all I ever wanted.
Although everyone’s adoption story is unique, they are all important, and important to share. My adoption story has taught me that depending on your vantage point, adoption is bittersweet but regardless of your vantage point, adoption is an amazing, courageous, and selfless act.
You know, my (ex) husband was right. My life has never been the same. My birth parents, similar to my adoptive parents, are strong and selfless. They’ve all in their own way, in their own right, sacrificed a lot to give me the life I’ve had and to mold me into the person I am. And although, my relationship with my birth parents has only existed for eleven years, thanks to my adoptive parents’ love and care, I’ve actually known them for a lot longer. I’ve known them in my heart since the day I was born.
November is a special time for me. And this year, like every year, I’m giving thanks.