Birthdays

Today is my birthday. Birthdays for an adopted kid are sometimes a strange affair. My birthdays have always been happy (except for my 30th, which I spent in tears because I was convinced that I should have been a mother by then, and my deepest, deepest apologies to my ex-husband for spending that very special birthday in such a state). But always, at the back of my mind, there’s the question of my biological mother, and this day out of 365 always brings her to mind.

I know some things about my biological parents. My mother was a musician (a fact that I like to spin into something even more fun by telling myself that since she was a musician in 1969, there’s at least some likelihood that I was, in fact, at Woodstock). My father was a sophomore at West Point, which explains at least in part why they did not get married and raise me as their owoman-street-walking-girlwn. I’ve scoured class pictures of West Point graduates that I could find online, wondering which one he was, seeking some resemblance in pictures, but I’ve never been able to identify him.

I wonder, too, what she thinks on this day each year, wonder if she thinks back to that day when she went into labor, how she felt about it, what emotions were running through her head and whether she revisits those emotions and that experience each year on this day.

As I get older, the question has begun to creep into my mind whether she’s still with us. She would be 64 this year.

Kids who are raised by their biological parents don’t have these questions. I don’t think that’s either better or worse – it’s just different. I was raised by the most wonderful parents a girl could have asked for – my mom and dad wanted me, chose me. I have never had to grapple with the question that many of my friends did growing up, regarding whether I was planned or not. While the pregnancy that formed me was not planned by my biological parents, the family I was part of definitely planned to be that family. That assurance in itself is one of the greatest blessings anyone could ever hope for.

Still, there are questions that have added to the tapestry of my life. How long was she in labor? Was it hard? Do I have brothers or sisters that share my DNA? Do we look alike? Does she have the same weird pinky toes I have and the baby fine hair? Are there medical things I should be watching out for that I don’t know about? Did my musical ability come from her? My intelligence? How much of me is a gift from my genes, and how much of me is a gift of my upbringing? Does she believe in God? Will I ever meet her? Have I met her already and not known it?

I wonder, too, about young women facing unplanned pregnancies now. I wonder if they think these questions will be too hard for the child to bear, and if that thought influences their decision about whether to have an abortion or to put their baby up for adoption. To any mothers who are struggling with that, I want to assure you: I am not worse off for having these questions form the backdrop of my life. I believe I am better off for it. First, because I’m here to ask the questions. And second, because I have had the opportunity that few have to thoughtfully determine who and what I am, what makes me me, rather than reactively accepting my DNA as the guide to my destiny. I am a whole person, and your baby will be, too. I hope this thought helps guide you.

5 Comments

  1. Kris,

    I totally get what you are saying, having a brother-in-law who is adopted, his feelings have been expressed very similarly to yours. I also have a mother-in-law who asked her own birth son to go find the man she gave up for adoption 50 years earlier. Her son returned from a trip to CA (he is an OTR trucker so this chore was easy) after he had found the now adult child, his half-brother. He told his mother that he had found the man, spoke to him and discovered he was happy, employed and had three children of his own. After that conversation, my mother-in-law wept, thanked her son for finding him and said, “I don;t have the courage to meet him, for that was the most difficult decision I ever made, but I am so happy that he has a full life, and that is all I wanted to know before I die.” She passed two years ago having never met this son, but she did die knowing that he was alive and living his life his way. So very sad indeed. I wept also when my brother in law told me this story. You are making her proud, wherever she is. Keep living your life your way, my friend

  2. Beautifully written, Kris…My older son’s very best friend (from age two) turns 44 today. He’s also adopted and one of the most wonderful men you’d ever want to meet and a spectacularly fabulous Daddy to his eight-year-old son. You did such a magnificent job of capturing both the poignancy and the joy of being an adopted child. Thank You!

  3. Florence

    Happy Birthday, Kris! Beautiful post. Honest insight. Abundant blessings. May you find the answers you seek and continue to share the gift that is YOU.

  4. Sheryl

    Happy birthday Kris
    That was very touching. I am glad that you had the chance to be brought up by wonderful parents who truly wanted you. I am sorry that you have never had the chance to learn more about your biological family. My step-father, who was truly my “dad”, was adopted and spent his whole life wondering why he was not wanted by his biological parents. I do not profess to understand what he felt, but I chose to think that the choice to give him up was not because he was not wanted, but because the parents wanted something more for him than they felt they could provide. He has since passed on and I believe he has found the answers to his questions. I am sure the unanswered questions are difficult to live with but I am glad you have embraced the questions that can and have been answered. No matter whether it is biological or environmental, you have turned out to be one heck of a great person!!
    XOXO

    • Kristina

      I am 100% certain that behind every adoption decision a mother makes is the love a mother feels for that child she has grown, and wanting the very best for that child. I am also certain that it must be a hard decision for a young woman to make, to find the maturity to realize that the very best lies with another family. I pray he has now found the peace of that certainty.

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