Thirty-seven years ago today my adoption was finalized. The above picture was taken that day. My mother had sewn the outfit I was wearing, just for the day. My grandmother's friend sent the flowers. I was about 9 months old. When I was born, adoptive parents were not generally permitted to visit their babies in the hospital. My first 5 days were spent entirely in the care of nurses. When I was released, my parents' lawyer and his wife picked me up and brought me to my parents.
When I was 18 my mom gave me copied pages of her diary from the days when she and Dad first learned I would be theirs, when I was born, and when I came home. It filled in some of the gaps I had always wondered about from those days.
My birthday is always a bit odd. I share it with someone I've never seen yet upon whom I depended entirely at one time. I'm told she chose not to hold me because she wasn't sure she could let go if she had. I can completely appreciate that. I worry about this woman I've never met, whose name I don't know. Every birthday I need to draw away for some silent and private time. I need to spend time to reflect and, in my own way, wish this stranger peace and well-being. It's not a time of sadness like some overwrought TV movie of the week might have you believe. I give thanks that she was able to put my needs first since she was not ready to be a mom. I give thanks for my family. It is a strange day though.
July 3rd is my finalization day. There is a purity and clarity to it that my birthday doesn't have. Some decree by a judge isn't what gave me a family. A judge can't issue an edict of parental love and sacrifice. 'Do you promise to swab vomit, kiss boo-boos, braid hair, wipe tears, mend broken hearts, paint the bedroom her favorite color, make photo albums, engage in tickle wars, shop for clothing and listen to music you just don't get, bake cookies together, etc......' Many years ago I had the priviledge of being invited to the finalization for a friend's child. They thought I might like to see what it was like. I really appreciated that thoughtfully offered opportunity. It's a very simple procedure that only takes a few minutes. Parents explain why they wish to adopt, promise to provide for their child, and recognize him or her as a legal heir. After all the home studies by social workers and interviews by people within agencies, after all the probings and scrutiny and the months of first waiting for a child and then waiting for a court date, it's all over in a few words.
Sometimes I become irritated when people suggest or even insist that my family is not my 'real' family. I find it completely misinformed when people expect that being an adoptee is somehow a scarring experience. I become irate when media potrayals in movies or journalistic write-ups find the need to draw negative attention to adoption in a sensational way. But I take a deep breath and try to inform people correctly, reminding myself these attitudes generally come from ignorance not malice.
My mother said it was so hard to wait for the finalization day. She told me how she'd have nightmares of people coming to take me away. 'Sorry, your time is up. She's going back where she came from.' On July 3rd her bad dreams stopped and no one had any right to suggest my family was any less real than theirs.