Thursday, July 03, 2014

Dependence Day

adopt
Forty-five 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 privilege 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.

19 comments:

Craig said...

Thank you for this, my friend. You know how I can identify. . .

Oddly, it wasn't until after I was reunited that my birth-mother's stake in my birthday came clearly into focus for me. But then, us guys can be kinda thick that way. . .

I surely get your annoyance with the whole 'real' family thing. I mean, as far as family is concerned, they're what I got (no offense to anyone in my birth-family, several of whom I've grown quite close with). The whole 'swabbing vomit' thing, and all that. . .

Anyhoo, Happy Finalization Day!

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

Thanks for sharing something so personal and opening a window to understanding.

Tabor said...

A real family vs. a fake family? Family is a very broad term in my eyes and it includes those with adopted children and those with adopted grandparents. It is all about sharing and love and you seem have gotten lots of that. Your mother can be at peace with her thoughts about you...both mothers.

Stephen Hayes said...

Thanks for shedding light on a situation few people have experienced. I can only imagine what this must have been like for you. It does seem that you won the parent lottery here. Take care.

silly rabbit said...

I think the giving up of a child and the adoption of a child are most times, absolutely beautiful acts of love. This post proves it.

Hilary said...

I don't think I can say it any better than silly rabbit did. Beautiful post.

Anvilcloud said...

This is such a sincere and poignant post. You have a great attitude. And I think you were blessed -- as were your parents.

Kat said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. Too many times we hear the sad stories and focus on those. I have always been an advocate for adoption and often consider adopting.
Again, thank you for sharing this with us.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Family is family, parents are parents. It's not biology that makes it "real."

lecram sinun said...

I love this posting, Lime. I have cousins who are adopted and they ARE family.

It is a great thing your parents did... and you turned out more than OK.

Cheers!

Suldog said...

A wonderful piece, Lime. Have you ever submitted this to a newspaper or magazine? I'm thinking it could definitely find a home somewhere and be loved(much as you did!)

messymimi said...

You and your parents are blessed to have each other! A friend i grew up with was adopted, as were both of her brothers and both of her sisters, all from different families. But they were one family, and while they celebrated birthdays, a bigger deal was made of the part held for each on their finalization days. Those were the days that sealed them as a family, and no one could say different.

Red said...

My children are adopted so your post today is bang on all the feelings and emotions surrounding adoption.

Hilary said...

My dad's cousin adopted two babies, they are 40 and 44 now......never have they ever considered that they weren't part of the family. They also celebrated their "finalization" day. Thanks for your post. It is nice to know that everyone doesn't think it's a trauma to be adopted, when in fact, it was right for all.

Jocelyn said...

Wow. Wow. Wow.

Leave It To Davis said...

A year and a half ago, my niece adopted a baby girl. I worried about this little girl growing up in a much different family than what she was born into and worried that she would be okay. I am glad I read this post....I will no longer worry. It's not that I haven't known and been friends with adopted children before, but this baby is from an entirely different world....and culture...and is obviously not their child....so I worried people might treat her differently. But I know my niece anticipated the finalization day just the way your mom did, and I see the love in her eyes for this child...and after reading this, I KNOW she will do amazing things in this life. Thank you for writing this.

Bijoux said...

Thank you for sharing your story. We have many friends who have adopted and what I find most amazing is how the children (even ones from other countries) begin to resemble their parents.

Saz said...

awww Lime, thank you for sharing this....wonderful post...
lovely to drop by and visit

saz x

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