Long Lost Family with a twist
I have been on a mad tear trying to get my house packed up and cleaned and painted in preparation for putting it on the market. My deadline was to be ready for a May 1st listing, which I won't make, but hopefully it won't be too much beyond that.
My friend Dru had a job interview today, so I had sent her a couple of TED talks that I find very inspirational: Amy Cuddy - Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are and Reshma Saujani - Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection. Since I was working on finishing up the upstairs bathroom and cleaning out the bedroom closet, I decided to peruse some TED talks for my own inspiration, and one of those happened to be Brené Brown's The Power of Vulnerability. I ended up listening to it about 10 times. You see, putting myself out there, allowing myself to be vulnerable, is very hard for me, but I have been trying to be more intentional about it.
So I would like to share a story about putting myself out there, allowing myself to be really, really vulnerable. It happened a few months ago when I found my son's birthparents.
I don't know if you have ever watched to TV show Long Lost Family, but in it there are two researchers who take information from either adoptees or people who have placed a child for adoption, and they go out and find these people and it ends in a reunion where the birthparent and child are reunited. It's all very heartwarming and special, although the adoptive family, the family that raised the child, never appears on the show. You might wonder how they feel.
As an adoptive parent, I can tell you this is very, very hard. We adopted our son when he was only 3 weeks old. For years, our biological daughter, who was three at the time, thought her brother was born on an airplane, because she saw me get off the plane with him in my arms. For me, he is my son as much as she is my daughter.
Now my son had asked questions about his birth parents at various times growing up, and I had always tried to answer them as honestly as I could. No, his parents were not married. Yes his mother was very young, only 16 at the time of his birth. Yes, his mother was white, and his father was black. And I told him that when he was 18, he could meet his birthparents. Fast forward about 18 years.
A few months before his 18th birthday, he again mentioned finding his birthparents. Working two jobs and caring for my husband who was still recovering from cancer, I put it on my mental to-do list and filed it away, hoping he would forget. Then on the day before his birthday, he asked, "Have you found my birthparents yet?" Reality hit. Hard.
His birthday was, thankfully, on a Sunday, and he was away at school. So after church, I went home, pulled out the box that contained the records from his adoption, and I began to read. I actually had a lot to go on. I had the names of both his birthparents. I had his birthmother's birthdate, as well as her mother and father's first names. I knew what city they had lived in 18 years ago, and I had seen a photograph of his birthfather. It was more than enough information.
Really, the difficulty was not in finding them. The difficulty was in me. Quite simply, I did not want to share my son. It is a sentiment that a lot of adoptive parents understand intimately. Some adoptive parents have confided in me that they would rather go to the ends of the earth to adopt a child in large part because they don't want to have to ever deal with birthparents. It's cleaner that way. I get that.
Having spent two years at a job wherein I researched people and relationships, it took me only about three hours to find both birthparents. I had called a slew of wrong numbers before I finally found myself on the other end of the phone with his birthmother. All of a sudden, it occurred to me that I hadn't prepared what I would say. How could I not have scripted this all out? Where was my head?
I asked if this was Angela, and had she had a son 18 years ago today. She began to weep. Like seriously weep. Holy cow, why did I not plan for this? I assured her that her son was well, smart, tall and very handsome, but that I would let him decide what he wanted to share beyond that and that I would give him her number. I said goodbye and hung up the phone. Her son. My son. Our son. I texted him her information, and he thanked me.
Imagine suddenly sharing your child with a complete stranger. It's hard. Birthparents have given a tiny baby away, knowing that they may never know what happened to that child. That's brutal. Then adoptive parents, who have completely bonded with this child, attended every guitar recital and track meet, celebrated birthdays and kissed boo-boos, suddenly have to share that special place as parent with someone else.
The parade of emotions is endless, but the overriding emotion is fear, and it boils down to this simple question: What if he loves her more than he loves me? It's a soul crushing fear, and I brought it on myself. I could have said that I couldn't find her, or that she was deceased, or that she was a hopeless Gatorade addict living on the streets in a fictitious town in the midwest where no one has a phone and the internet is illegal. But I didn't. Out of my love for my son, I put myself out there. I put him out there. I let it play out honestly.
So what did I learn? I learned that his mother is married, that he has two half sisters, and that his mother is working on her PhD. I learned that his birthfather, unmarried, is also a professional, and while being slower to warm up, has maintained an email relationship with my son. But most importantly, I learned that I have room in my heart to love more people, and that our family can expand to include these people, and that my son still loves me in a way that is special to us. And I learned that the peace and joy I brought to my son, his biological family, and oddly enough to me and my husband, was worth the risk.