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 own. 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.