When I was growing up I had a friend named Kat. She was adopted. She had a Korean brother, Jun, who was also adopted. As a child, Kat and Jun were my frame of reference for adoption. Being a child, I had never given adoption much thought.
Many years later as a teenager, adoption became something that was personally defined for me.
I was 16 years old when I learned I was pregnant. I was a typical teenager. I liked to hang-out with my friends, went to school and did the typical teenager things. I was a good student. I was popular. I had lots of friends. I was involved in sports, student government, music and many other extra-curricular activities. I came from a respected upper middle class family with well educated parents. I did not fit the stereotype of the "pregnant teen."
When I realized that I was pregnant, I systematically and consistently put the idea out of my head. I went about my every day teenage life. When my family and friends ultimately found out I was pregnant, they were very supportive, once the initial shock wore off. My parents were divorced and I lived with my mother and two younger brothers. My Dad lived very close by and I saw him often. I had six very good, loyal and close friends who were incredibly supportive and protective of me. I was lucky to have such a solid support system. These six friends are still my best friends today. We are grown women with families and responsibilities and yet I know even today if I needed them, they would be there.
When I gave birth, options were discussed with me regarding what to do about the baby. Should I keep the baby and raise it with the support of my parents? For me, there seemed no choice but adoption. My parents were very clear that they would support me in whatever decision I made. I was now 17. The thought of raising a child was an impossibility. I wanted to finish high school. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to hang out with my friends. I just wanted to continue to be a teenager.
What I wanted for myself seemed untenable if I were to attempt raising a child as a teenage mom. More importantly though, without adoption into a stable, mature, loving home, my child would have many limitations in his life. How could I ever give him what my parents had given to me? My parents had been ready to be parents. I was not. How could I have any confidence that he would have all the opportunities I had as well as grow to be a healthy and well-adjusted human being? As a teenage mother - I could not see that happening.
I met with a social worker from the adoption agency to discuss the process. I was allowed to look through a variety of profiles of perspective adoptive parents. The adoption was to be a closed adoption. This was 1987 and open adoption was not as common as it is today. It was important to me that his adoptive parents be educated and interesting but most importantly warm and loving. J. and A. were all of that and more.
I remember vividly the day that the social worker came to the hospital to take the baby. He was four days old. He had been snuggled, cuddled and loved by my parents, my brothers, myself and the nursery staff at the hospital during his four days with us. As I changed him and got him ready for the big journey to his new home, I was sad. But I knew in my heart and mind, that this was the right and best choice for the both of us. It was a bittersweet experience saying goodbye. I both hoped and yet knew, that this was the best decision for everyone.
My baby was named Jordan by his parents and for the next 14 years I maintained contact with him and his parents through the adoption agency. At least twice a year I would send a letter accompanied by recent photos of me and my family. I always got a return letter from his parents, J. and A. In addition, they faithfully included recent photos of ‘our son’ as they referred to him. I have photos of Jordan from a few months old right up to his teenage years. I got to know him and his parents over the years through these communication. It was wonderful and comforting to see the photos of him in his crib, playing with friends, on the beach, skiing with his family, traveling all over the place and enjoying a wide variety of different experiences. I saw him doing all of the things I had hoped for him but could not have necessarily provided for him as a young mom.
I had always hoped when the time was right that I would have an opportunity to reconnect with Jordan and meet him again in person. I didn’t know if that would ever happen and never discussed it with J. and A. through our letters.
When Jordan was 14 years old, we did meet again. He had expressed a desire to meet me and J. and A. were very open and supportive of this idea. We met in a very special and fitting place; a beautiful park in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. I was born in Oak Bluffs in the same hospital where Jordan was born. As it turns out, Martha’s Vineyard had a special place in the hearts of J. and A. as well. Aside from being the place where their son was born, they had family connections to the Vineyard. They had been spending time on the Vineyard every summer since Jordan was born. If you are from the Vineyard, you feel a real sense of pride about being from that community. For me, it felt like Jordan had gotten some of that community and connectivity by spending part of every summer on the Vineyard. It seemed more than appropriate when J. and A. suggested this be the place to meet after all this time.
That first meeting was exciting and nerve-racking, but we both survived. J. and A. were always open with Jordan about the fact that he was adopted. I believe this played a critical role in his desire to meet me. My impression of him at our first meeting was that he was bright; a thoughtful young man. He was sensitive and he was funny. He was adventurous and open. I couldn’t have been happier. He had many interests, from traveling to horse back riding. Shortly after our meeting, my father and both brothers got to meet Jordan. My brothers automatically clicked with Jordan- especially my youngest brother. They seemed almost like a big and little brother who goofed around and enjoyed a lot of laughs together. My Dad, who was a man of few words, quietly observed Jordan and seemed to just enjoy being in his presence. I believe it felt like a reconnection for my father. Meeting Jordan again was an amazing experience for all of us and one I will never forget.
That was eight years ago. Since that time our lives have changed and grown.
I am now 39 and married to a wonderful man. I have a 20 year old stepdaughter, an 11 year old stepdaughter, a 6 year old son and a 4 year old daughter. Jordan is 22. He recently graduated from a great university and is working for a non-profit organization. All of these children consider each other brothers and sisters – even Jordan. They comfortably reference one another as brother or sister.
Over the years, we have had the privilege of attending some of Jordan’s high school play performances, basketball games, holiday events and graduations. Our family has created our own holiday tradition of having a brunch together with Jordan, J. and A. every year. It is something that I really look forward to. We comfortably and humorously refer to ourselves as a VERY blended family – J. and A. included.
As Jordan grew old enough to drive, he would visit me and my family on his own. We have been lucky enough to always get together over holidays and birthdays at some point to celebrate. In his later high school years and more into his college years, our relationship became more independent from his parents, J. and A. Jordan and I touch base on the phone, email and text frequently. Jordan recently visited my oldest stepdaughter at college. He treats her like the little sister he needs to watch out for. It’s adorable and touching. My six year old son and Jordan have a very special bond. The time they spend together seems so important to both of them. When Jordan arrives at our home, Noah’s face lights up and he won’t leave Jordan’s side. They are buddies.
This past May my husband James and I traveled to Jordan’s college graduation. I felt so honored to be a part of this incredible day. We sat with J. and A. as Jordan received his diploma and I was proud like any parent – birth or adoptive- would have been. But the strongest emotion that came over me was that of gratitude. As I watched this young man cross the stage to receive his diploma, I felt this was the moment that I had been waiting for. Twenty two years ago, I made a choice. I hoped it was the right choice. That day I knew. J. and A. had raised an amazing person. He was loved and happy. They had given him more opportunities than I could have imagined.
I feel so fortunate to have Jordan in my life and my family’s life. I truly believe from the beginning his parents and I have always made Jordan the priority. We have had open communication and respect for each other. We put aside any uncomfortable or anxious feelings of our own and focused on what has always been the most important thing- Jordan.
My story is a modern day example of a very successful adoption and there are many more out there, however it seems that the perception of adoption has not made the jump into its 21th century reality.
Open adoption is a much more common experience today than it was twenty years ago. Sadly, the public’s view of adoption is stuck in the 1950’s when unwed women and girls were sent away from their communities to have their babies only to return empty handed in a veil of silence and secrecy.
The public needs to be educated about modern adoption practice. More awareness and openness about the reality of adoption today will enable women and girls to consider adoption a more viable reproductive choice. One of the reasons my experience was so successful was because of the support and acceptance that was given to me by my family, friends and even my community. By educating the public about modern adoption, we will create more supportive environments for women considering it.
This post appeared originally on RHRealityCheck's OnCommonGround forum