I was adopted. Way back in 1943. A war baby. And I’ve never had the slightest doubt that it was the best thing in the world that could have happened to me.
Unlike the unhappy adoptees you read about, I have not gone through life feeling like part of me is missing, or feeling some intense need to find my birth parents or any other possible “blood” relatives.
I don’t know how adoptions were handled in the U.S. back then; I don’t know if mine was typical or not. I never cared enough to ask. My dad was a young doctor at the time, an obstetrician/gynecologist just starting out, and I always assumed maybe he and Mom found me through his professional associations. I was adopted at just a week or two of age; my adoptive parents’ names are on my official birth certificate, which avoids a lot of questions and protects me from anyone digging into my past.
There was a book out at the time — The Chosen Baby by Valentina P. Wasson — that my parents gave me, probably before I could read. They read it to me. It was all about a mom and dad who wanted a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby girl more than anything in the world, and out of all the little girls they could have had, they chose me. Me! That made me special beyond words. There was even an older brother in the book, just like mine (except in the book he had been adopted, too.)
Imagine being so special that out of all the babies in the world your parents could have picked, they picked you! And someone even wrote a book about it.
And that was that. From before I could understand, I was told I’d been adopted.
At some point, it became a non-issue. I don’t really know why. I’ve never been one to go around bragging about anything that sets me apart, so I never saw the point in mentioning it to anyone. I don’t recall it being discussed much with my siblings, nor did it seem like many people outside the family were aware of it. But that was fine with me. I didn’t want to be different, and my parents, I’m sure, were being careful not to say or do anything that would cause me to be treated any differently than my siblings.
Yes, that’s siblings — plural. My older brother is nine years older than I. I always assumed I was adopted because my parents concluded that, after nine years, for whatever reason, they weren’t going to be having any more kids. Then, of course, as you hear so often, with me there and the pressure off, two sisters and another brother were born — 18 months, 6 years, and 8 years after my arrival.
Five doctor’s kids. What great childhoods we had. What a wonderful, busy, diverse family. Have I mentioned how lucky I always feel to be a part of it?
Did I ever ask my parents about my adoption? No. For many, many years, I was really too shy to ask and had decided it wasn’t worth bringing up ancient history and possibly upsetting my parents. I wouldn’t want them to think maybe I was unhappy enough to go looking for my birth parents or something. I know it sounds silly and maybe inexplicable, but that’s the way I felt about it. There was nothing to be gained by asking, except possibly satisfying a passing curiosity; I went for years at a time without it even crossing my mind. Life was good, and I was busy living it.
Didn’t I want to know who I was, you ask. Hell, I knew who I was. I was the eldest daughter in one of the most respected families in the city. I had four wonderful siblings and two wonderful parents who loved me.
Granted, by the time I got married and was considering having children, I gave some thought to what my genetic heritage might be. But that was the beauty of my dad being an ob/gyn. Surely he checked out my background back in ’43, and if there’d been any potential problems, he’d have told me. My son was born big and healthy and wonderful and continues to be. As do I, despite letting myself go in recent years. I am undeservedly healthy for a 65-year-old who is overweight and never gets any exercise.
There was one ugly incident when my son was very young that proved to me how wise my parents had been not to tell a lot of people I was adopted. I lived in the same city as my parents; my mother-in-law had chosen to leave that city and move several hundred miles away to be near her younger son. Anyway, she was visiting us one time and the conversation turned to her not getting to see my son, her grandson, as much as she wanted. She started complaining that my parents got to see him more than she did, and how that wasn’t fair. “After all,” she said, “he’s not of their blood.”
I don’t know when I’ve been so hurt, so utterly dumbstruck, by the words of another human being. Who knows how many more comments like that might have come my way if my adoption had been common knowledge. On the other hand, maybe I’d have developed a tougher skin if I hadn’t been protected so much.
About eight years ago, after both my parents had passed away, some papers came to me from my dad’s safe deposit box. I was able to tease from them my birth mother’s name — no father mentioned — the name of the hospital, and the attending physician. Apparently it was a private adoption. I sent a half-hearted letter of inquiry to the state of record, giving them the info and asking only for any medical background they might have, but I never heard back from them. That’s fine. It’s no big deal. If no medical problems have shown up yet, I doubt there are any still waiting to ambush me. As for any possible “blood” relatives out there — I’m not interested. I know who my family is.
Amazingly, my precious childhood book was discovered also and returned to me. I hadn’t seen it for 60 years. I was deeply saddened to see lots of childish scribbling throughout the book, and some pages torn out. My sister teased me about it, but I cherish books. Always have. That one in particular. I have never in my life defaced a book, that one least of all. The damage smacks much more of my younger siblings.
My older brother was nine when I was adopted. He might remember or have been told details about my adoption. I suppose I could ask him, but I don’t see what for. What I know is all I need to know, and I’m happy and content with it.
My son is healthy; so are my two grandchildren. My daughter-in-law might have been a bit worried about my lack of history, but it hasn’t amounted to anything.
That’s my story. I’ve no doubt that family counselors and pediatricians have all manner of theories about the best way to handle the adoption scenario. Amazon has tons of books on the subject. The book I had is not particularly well thought of these days, but it may have been the only option back then.
I’m sure every adoption story is different, and that many don’t turn out as happily as mine did. I can only tell you how my story unfolded, and it seems to have been nearly perfect. I’m no professional or expert on adoption; I’m just one more adoptee in the world putting my story out there for anyone who might find in it something worthwhile.