My Life Could Have Been Different

Someone in my all things adoption group posted this – no biological, genetic offspring EVER HAD TO CONSIDER, what if they had been given away. Kept children never wonder if their life “would have been different if..” Not even IF it would be different, but HOW it would be different. No biological kept child will have a day where they realize that there was a whole other route that their life could have taken and that they could be a million miles away in a completely different situation and WHAT would that life be??

I replied – So, this touched something deep in me. I have. It came as a distinct understanding as I learned about my adoptee (both of them) parents original parents and the fact that my mom was an unwed high school student when she conceived me. Given how “normal” adoption was in my family – especially to my adoptive grandparents – how could it have been in the mid-1950s Baby Scoop Era, that my mom was not sent away by her socially prominent adoptive parents to have and give me away – just as she had been given away (and in truth, just as my dad had also been given away) – well, it is staggering to me that I wasn’t. Of course, with all I have learned about the traumas of adoption since joining this group, I am understandably grateful. Not bragging that I wasn’t, just realizing how I missed having that outcome by a hair’s breadth.

Yet, because of ALL of this, I have a satisfied feeling as I approach my own 68th birthday with both my parents now gone from physical life, that preserving me in my original family allowed me to care about reconnecting the broken threads of our family’s genetic, cultural, biological roots. Had I been given up for adoption, I doubt that would have ever happened.

If I had been given up, would I have had that same yearning as my own mother had to make contact with her mother ? To let her know that she was okay. My mom once said that as a mother, she would want to know what had become of her child. But by the time, my mom became seriously active in trying to make that happen, the information reached her that her mother had been dead for several years. Would my mom have searched for me, like she did for her mom ? Would my parents have been open to a reunion ?

I don’t know. Having adoptee parents is a rather complicated experience. While they were “good” parents – we were provided for, cared about, loved even – they were also strangely detached as we matured. I always knew I was expected to leave home after I graduated from high school. To become independent. After all, my parents were married at a young age and had to do adult things. So no wonder I did that – married, then had a child and went to work, even tried to pursue a higher education. I pretty much failed at all of that . . . but then I wasn’t the Super Woman the women’s liberation activists had made me believe I should be.

And I also think it was something to do with having those biological, genetic bonds severed that made my parents the kind of parents they were to us. Not judging them for that. They did reasonably well all things “adoption” considered.

Shonda Rhimes – Adoptive Mother

Shonda Rhimes and daughter, Harper

I read that Shonda Rhimes said to Time magazine, “I don’t think anybody has has kids is fully present at work.” She goes on to say “The idea of pretending that we have no other life is some sort of fantasy out of the 1950s, where the little lady stayed at home.” How could someone who’s responsible for at least one small, vulnerable human – responsible in a real way, not in a ’50s-dad way – ever be fully present when that child is out of earshot ? My kind of woman, I wanted to know more, especially when I learned that she adopted her daughters.

We don’t watch commercial TV networks or streaming content and so, I really don’t know anything about Shonda Rhimes work in film (we are stuck in dvd land for the time being). That she is famous or inspiring in general – and she is both – there is still the sticky issue that troubles me the most – separating any baby from the mother who’s womb that baby grew in but it is going to happen and I don’t see adoption ending as a practice any time soon.

Shonda says it was 9/11 that convinced her that she was lacking the experience of motherhood. She says that “Nine months and two days after 9/11, my daughter was born. I named her after Harper Lee. Now I can’t remember what I did with my time before she got here.” Shonda is now mom to three daughters – Harper in 2002, she adopted daughter Emerson in 2012, and welcomed daughter Beckett in 2013 via surrogate. (None of which changes the nature of my own concerns). 

She admits that, “There is no such thing as balance. That I will say right away,” as she told Business Insider in 2017. “If you are a working mother you are often not there as much as you’d like to be. I said this once somewhere, that if I’m standing on set watching some amazing thing being shot, then I am missing my daughter’s science fair. Or if I’m at my daughter’s dance recital, then I miss Sandra Oh’s very last day, and very last scene being shot on Grey’s Anatomy… Those are the trade-offs.”

Glad I Was

1997 with my adoptee parents, apologies for the blurry quality

With Thanksgiving on my mind, I was remembering an email from my mom in which she told me she had to stop doing a family tree on Ancestry because it just wasn’t “real.” Both of my parents were adopted. Then, she added “glad I was” but that never really seemed genuine to me and the more I’ve learned about adoption and the trauma of separating a baby from its mother, the more I doubt she sincerely was grateful that it had happened, yet that was the reality and there was no way to change that. In a weird way though, I learned to be grateful that both of my parents had been adopted because otherwise, I would not exist and I am grateful for the life I have lived.

Learning my parents’ origin stories (they both died clueless), which was also my own ancestors’ stories brought with it a deep sense of gratitude for me, that I had not been given up for adoption when my mom discovered she was pregnant with me. By the ways of that time in history (early 1950s), she should have been sent away to have and give me up, only to return to her high school in time to graduate (she was a junior at the time of my conception and birth). The photo I have at the top of my blog are the pictures I now have of each of my original grandmothers holding one or the other of my parents as infants.

I continue to be grateful that I grew up with the parents who conceived me and then raised me throughout my childhood. I’ve heard many adoptees say that having biological, genetic children of their own made them fully aware of what being adopted had taken from them. At least, my parents had each other. I do continue to credit my dad’s adoptive parents with preserving me in our family. They were also a source of financial support for my parents during my earliest years. First, giving them space in their own home and me a dresser drawer bassinet. Then, an apartment in their multi-family building until my dad had saved up enough and was earning enough working shifts (and sometimes two shifts in a row) at an oil refinery to buy a house for our family.

In 2014, I experienced the last Thanksgiving with my parents. I knew their health was declining but I still expected to have yet another Thanksgiving with them in 2015. However, my mother passed away in late September and my father only 4 months later. They had been high school sweethearts and had been married over 50 years. My dad just didn’t find life worth continuing on with after his wife died. I knew that in the days after her death but then he sucked it up and tried. One morning, he simply didn’t wake up. He died peacefully with a bit of a smile on his face. I think he must have seen my mom waiting for him to join her.

That last Thanksgiving with my parents