Most days I don’t think about it at all. It’s just a part of who I am. An accepted part. From a very early age—as long as I can remember—I concluded that whoever gave birth to me couldn’t take care of me so she, and possibly the he as well, gave me to someone who could take care of me. And I was okay with that.
But I’ve always, always wondered who I look like. My birth mom, birth dad, a grandparent? Aunt or uncle? A sibling? Maybe even a sister . . .
My entire life, I sooooooo wanted a sister. I had three adopted younger brothers and lots of cousins but not a sister.
What if I had a sister out there somewhere? What if she looked like me? A half-sister even. How incredibly cool would that be.
I’ve always found family resemblances so fascinating. I love looking at old photos and discovering shared traits between the generations. It’s especially cool to discover a “spittin’ image” resemblance when comparing photos of folks separated by a generation or two.
At my husband’s uncle’s funeral, as we perused the collection of photos from his long life, I exclaimed over the resemblance between the uncle in his younger days and his youngest son there that day. Apparently I exclaimed excessively over this not-unusual occurrence because one of my husband’s cousins turned to me and with a shake of his head and a minor eye roll stated, “Yeah, it’s called genetics.”
“Well, I know that . . .” I muttered, feeling the need to button-up my too-obvious enthusiasm. “But still . . . they look so much a like!”
As I defended my awestruck reaction, it hit me. If I had a clue who I looked like, this father-son resemblance wouldn’t seem like such a big deal. I probably wouldn’t be standing here gushing over how 40-year-old father and 40-year-old son looked like twins. So give me a break.
While my daughter and son take after my husband and I somewhat, there’s no “Would you look at that!” resemblance.
Thanks to the DNA test results of a prospective birth family member, we are closing in on one side of the equation concerning my birth parents. While this is quite exciting, nerve-wracking and sobering are fitting descriptors as well. As the pieces continue to fall into place, I find myself wondering more and more about the life realities and circumstances that would have urged someone to abandon an infant. I’ve never been sad for me and my situation, but I am sad for the person(s) who felt their only option was to leave a three-day-old baby on a doorstep and walk away.
It’s a simple yet intensely profound reality that not everyone who can father or give birth to a child is equipped to care for and nurture that child.
Even before I consciously decided to embark on this journey, I was keenly aware of how a search for answers could impact those on the other side of the adoption story. While I was certain I would be okay with whatever the quest would uncover, I had to consider that those involved in that long ago decision might feel anything but excitement when greeted with reminders of that past event.
As I seek to put the pieces of the puzzle together, I want to be as sensitive and kind and understanding as possible to whomever I encounter, regardless of their reaction or response to me or my situation. I realize that as much as I want to know the facts, others might long just as strongly to keep those details hidden.
The decision made long ago to leave me on a doorstep impacted every day of the rest of my life. In a similar way, my efforts to dig into the past will have lasting effects on me and who knows how many others.
A “This affects no one but me!” attitude gets a lot of mileage these days. When a person doesn’t want to be concerned with how a decision will affect others, they hotly defend a me-first position, refusing to believe that the choices they make today will impact someone else’s tomorrow.
But that’s not the way life works. Our paths’ connect and intersect and branch off from each other in twisting, turning ways that leave permanent marks. Our life influences those around us in either a negative or positive way—whether we choose to accept that reality and responsibility or not. Because that’s how life works.
Stopping for even a moment to reflect on the other side of any situation can make all the difference in the world, to everyone involved. If it pushes us to make wiser decisions, softens our reactions, sands the sharp edges from an angry retort, opens our eyes to the wounds those around us may bear in silence, if it slides us into someone else’s shoes for even a minute—the ripple effects of our more sensitive actions can be unbelievably profound.
Especially in this month of November that celebrates adoption awareness—but every other day as well—I am thankful for many things. Among a host of blessing, I’m deeply grateful for birthmother/father who gave me life and placed me where I could be found quickly, so that I could be raised by someone not only equipped to care for a child, but a couple who very much wanted a family.