Archive for July, 2016

What Challenges Will my Child Face After Adoption?

Are you pregnant and considering adoption for your baby? In your heart, you may feel that adoption is the most positive option for your baby. This choice will allow your child to grow and thrive in a loving, devoted adoptive family. You may know that, through adoption, your child will encounter greater opportunities and experiences than you can offer at this time.

As an expectant/birth mother, you want what is best for your child. Still, you are worried about your child’s happiness and wonder how he or she will feel years down the road. You may worry that adoption will bring your child more problems than it will positivity as he or she grows. So you are asking, “What problems will my child face after the adoption takes place?”

For over 30 years, Adoptions With Love has seen adoptions unfold. We have watched our adopted children grow up to be successful, joyful adults. We have celebrated the good times and worked with them through challenges life brings. We have helped many adoptees find and contact their birth parents. We have witnessed beautiful relationships stem from those reunions.

We want to assure you that, if you choose adoption, your child will have countless positive experiences. In our most recent infographic, we discussed the benefits of adoption and the positive outcomes that adoption can bring to children. We found that adopted children typically lead lives no different from their non-adopted peers. Sometimes, they even have better experiences than the general population.

While they often have positive experiences overall, many adopted children will encounter challenges at different points in their lives. They have experiences that are unique to being adopted, which can then have an impact on their feelings and behaviors growing up. While every child has a different adoption experience, these are three common challenges that adopted children face as they grow.

Feelings of Loss or Grief:

As adopted children mature and try to understand their adoption, many will develop feelings of loss, grief, anger, or anxiety. They may feel as though they lost their birth parents, siblings, language, or culture. This grief may also stir feelings of uncertainty. Adopted children may wonder “What is wrong with me?” or “Will my adoptive parents leave me, too?

Constant communication is essential for adopted children to overcome their anxieties. When adoptive parents acknowledge their child’s emotions and provide an outlet for self-expression, adopted children typically fare well. Those who feel especially secure in their adoptive family or have an open adoption arrangement are also better able to manage their uncertainties.

Issues with Identity Formation:

Identity development begins in childhood and becomes increasingly prominent through the teenage years. Adolescence is when children start to understand and explore who they are, where they came from, and their purpose in life. For adopted children, filling in the blanks can create an extra challenge. Adoptees in closed adoptions may wonder why they were placed for adoption, what became of their biological parents, if they have siblings, and whether they look like their birth family.For adopted children, genetics often hold a particularly special place.

Adoptees often want to know if they resemble their biological family in personality or physical traits. We have heard stories from adoptees who, as children, always looked for their birth families on the streets. Adoptees also want to know their medical backgrounds. Having access to their genetic history allows children to know about any diseases or conditions that may run in their family. For these reasons, open adoption is especially beneficial for adopted children. It gives them tangible answers to important questions.

Self-Esteem:

As they grow, adopted children may face issues with self-esteem. They may view themselves as different, out-of-place, or unwelcome in social circles. At times, they may feel as though they do not fit in with others. This lack of self-confidence usually arises in those who feel embarrassed or ashamed of their adoption.

When adopted children are raised to see their adoption in a positive light, they are more likely to have a better sense-of-self growing up. When adoptees have good relationships with their adoptive and  birth families, they also tend to have higher self-esteem and self-worth.

Through experience and research, we have found that open adoption often brings the most positive outcomes to adopted children. Open adoption gives adoptees a sense of wholeness and helps them overcome any challenges growing up. They can understand who their birth parents really are, rather than fantasizing. Children in open adoptions do not have to question where they came from, what their biological parents look like, or wonder why they were placed for adoption. Instead, they can carry the pride of knowing that both their adoptive and biological families love them unconditionally.

Choosing an open adoption means giving your child an invaluable gift: a sense of self. It means giving your child the opportunity to communicate with you and put all of his or her puzzle pieces together. It means giving your child the chance to get to know you.

While we find open adoption to be very positive, we know that it is not right for everyone. At Adoptions With Love, we also offer semi-open and closed adoption plans to any expectant/birth parents considering adoption. If you would like to discuss your options or learn more about adoption, please call us at 1-800-722-7731.

To learn more about the effects of adoption on children, please download our free eBook by clicking below.

effects of adoption on children

 

 


Navigating Life After Adoption: 9 Tips for Birth Parents

how to cope with adoption

 

Adoption is a lifelong journey, one that brings many emotions, challenges, and precious moments along the way.  If you have recently placed your baby for adoption or are considering making an adoption plan, know that this decision may change your life, your child’s life, and an adoptive family’s life forever.  But by being open, honest, and staying true to yourself, you can make this lifelong journey a positive one.

Read about one woman’s experience after adoption, as she lights the way for expectant/birth parents who are trying to find their “new normal” once again.

How To Find Your New “Normal”

Navigating through life and finding your new “normal” after you place your baby with their adoptive parents is not easy. There will be days you find it hard to get out of bed and times where you feel alone.  I will never forget when I came home from the hospital without Aiden*.  All I could think about was how I am forever changed.  How will I ever be happy again?  How could I ever ‘“go back to life”’ after my maternity leave and feel “normal”.

This is still new to me and I am still finding my way.  That being said, there are a few important lessons I have learned these past 11 months; through my own experiences and through talking to other birth mothers who have gone through and are going through the same thing as me.  Here are a few lessons you need to know in order to find the strength to keep moving forward, and to navigate through this new “normal”.

1. Have Confidence In Yourself and Your Decision

This is the most important rule.  In order to get up out of bed in the morning you need to have confidence in yourself, and the decision you made in order to give your child the best life possible.  I have found that the reason I have more better days than not, is from my confidence.

When you make the hardest decision of your life: adoption for your child, what a lot of people do not realize is all that goes into making that decision.  I did not place Aiden with his adoptive parents because I did not love him, or thought I could not be a great mother to him.  I made a decision to put my son before myself and do what I felt would give him the best life at the time.

I knew from the second I found out I was pregnant, that I would never feel a stronger bond and would never feel more love in my life than I do for my son.  I also knew that I would be an amazing mother.

I could have easily raised Aiden (I say that with hesitation, because I know raising a child is a difficult job, but you get the point).  I had to think realistically about how Aiden would grow up between two biological parents who have no chance of ever getting back together, and between two very different families.  I did not want Aiden to have a lifetime of disappointments from his biological father.  Then— not to mention my biggest fear, custody battles, that could have taken place in his future.  I had to trust myself that I knew what was best for Aiden, and I went with my gut.

I have confidence in the parents I chose to raise Aiden, confidence in the open adoption plan Aiden’s parents and I agreed on, and confidence in the beautiful life Aiden will have with his adoptive family.  The most important thing I have confidence in, is my relationship with Aiden.  I know that Aiden will grow up always knowing me, knowing where he came from, and NEVER questioning that I did not love him from the second I knew he existed.

I am able to get out of bed and find joy in everyday, because I am confident that I did the right thing for my son, and that the decision I made for him came from the deepest place of love you could ever feel for someone or something.

2. Allow Yourself To Cry When You Need To

Not all adoption plans are the same; every plan is special and unique to the child and their families.  When I met my son’s adoptive parents, I made it clear that I needed a very open adoption where I would see Aiden often, and be involved throughout his life.  Luckily, I am beyond blessed with an effortless relationship with Aiden’s parents.  We have blended our families in such a special and unique way, that I know there is no possible way for Aiden to not constantly feel my love.  We have spent holidays together, met for Sunday brunches, weekend barbecues, and even the occasional random night for pizza after work.

Although there is nothing I would change in my decision for Aiden and the relationship I share with my son and his adoptive family, there are still times I find myself struggling to get through the day.  It is important to let yourself feel your feelings.  We are human.  Not every day is going to be easy.  On multiple occasions I have been overwhelmed with my feelings; especially when I go to bed at night and am alone with my thoughts.

Just because you have confidence in your adoption, does not mean you are not allowed to let yourself feel any emotion that might come your way.  When I catch myself getting emotional, it is never for my son, because I know he is exactly where he needs to be.  To be completely honest, I pity cry for myself. And guess what: THAT IS OKAY TOO!

No one ever dreams of having their first child, or any child for that matter, and then placing them with an adoptive couple; not raising them yourself.  I’ll find myself crying missing the little things that I am not a part of in Aiden’s every day.  I’ll find myself crying from a flash back of my pregnancy and feeling so alone.  I’ll find myself crying because I miss Aiden, and I wish I could kiss him up and play with him all day every day.

Then there are the times I sit and let myself have a good selfish cry that I never got to experience the complete happiness and joy that comes with pregnancy; planning out your child’s nursery, having someone throw you a baby shower, indulging in your pregnancy cravings with your partner and eating a whole pizza with bags of sour patch for dinner while watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air marathons.

There are a million reasons where I find myself crying, and a million more reasons that will come in my future where I will need to have myself a good cry too.  My advice to you is: cry when you need to.  Let yourself feel your emotions, no matter what they are, and do not ever feel silly about it.  Take them as they come and know that there will be a time where you will find peace with your adoption, and that peace will eventually trump the sadness and pain you might be feeling now.

3. Keep Your Faith: Everything Happens For a Reason

I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason.  You were meant to bring this child into this world; God chose you.  I would not have been able to get through my pregnancy, and I would not be able to continue living my life if I did not believe that.

Some days are hard and I have to remind myself to keep faith.  I have to remind myself that this all plays into a bigger plan, and that God’s plan for me and my son are greater and more beautiful than anything I could ever imagine.  I grew up in a home where my parents would constantly tell me and my brothers that our lives are like tapestries.  We look at them through the bottom and see all these random strings and colors that do not make any sense to us.  While we look up and cannot figure out the picture, God is looking at it from the other side and sees a beautiful masterpiece all complete and perfect.  I am convinced that one of the most beautiful pieces in my finished tapestry will be the part where Aiden came into this world.

This is the life you and I were given; it is important to accept and embrace it.  Feel special knowing that you are a part of such a beautiful miracle and story.  Your life does not end here.  You think God spent all this time bringing your baby into this world to then just leave you and end your story?? No way— he’s still working… keep the faith.

4. Weed Out The Negative Relationships in Your Life

This is a hard lesson to learn, and sometimes comes with heartbreak.  Sadly, you need to be prepared for the ‘haters’.  Not everyone is going to understand your decision of adoption.  Some people will come out of the woodwork and feel the need to give you their opinions,

“But, you will be an amazing mother!”

“Well, let me play devil’s advocate…”

“But, have you thought of what would happen if…..”

Again, back to rule number one: Have Confidence In Yourself and The Decision You Made.  OF COURSE you have thought of the “what ifs”, and that you very well could be/will be/ and are an amazing mother.  You have been drowning in your own thoughts of how to make this work in your child’s best interest since the day you discovered you were pregnant.  You need to wrap your head around the fact that you and only YOU are going to know what is best.  You might lose some people along the way of this journey that you expected to be holding your hand through all of it, and I am not going to lie, it hurts.

You will have your few haters, but you will also be surprised to see the people who have your back and stand in your corner.  You will be amazed at how much stronger your friendships will grow, and how close your family can become.

I lost, what I thought were, some crucial relationships during my pregnancy.  However, in return I gained the most beautiful relationships I never even knew existed, or were possible.  My group of girlfriends paused their lives in order to be a support system for me.  I had family that I was not as close with before my pregnancy wrap their arms around me, stand up, and fill those crucial roles I felt I had lost.

You have already gone through what will most likely be the hardest decision of your life.  You have experienced what it feels like to truly love someone, and put their needs and best interests 100% before your own.  You really cannot explain these kinds of feelings to anyone in hopes that they will ever understand what it meant for you to make the decision of adoption for your child.

However, if you have family and friends who are willing to try to understand, willing to be there for you to listen if you need to talk, or willing to throw their arms around you and give you a hug when there might not be any words: those are the people you need in your corner.

Surround yourself with as much love as possible.  I mean come on; you made the most selfless decision ever.  Why would you want to waste your time with people who are not like minded? Everyone else who is not there to support you, your child, and the decision that you made in your child’s best interest… BYE!  It’s that simple.

5. Let Go of Grudges

This is not an easy one to do.  Luckily for me, I had a lot of support from my friends and family throughout my pregnancy and after I placed my son with his parents.  As soon as I found out I was pregnant I got in touch with the biological father to let him know.  We met up to talk about every option we had in order to give our baby the best life possible.  After a few initial conversations and talking through our options, the biological father made it clear he wanted no role in this pregnancy, decision of adoption/raising a child, or in a future relationship with my son.

That broke my heart.  Not for me, but for Aiden.  How could ANYONE deny him; this sweet, innocent, beautiful boy.  After that conversation I never heard from him again.  He never reached out to ask how I was, or more importantly, never reached out after the birth of Aiden to know anything about him or if he was healthy.  That moment gave me the clarity I needed to know that I made the best decision of adoption for my son.

This is still new for me, so I am not going to sit here and pretend that the grudge I have for Aiden’s biological father is gone; it is not, but I am working on it.  I am working on letting that grudge go.  I know he is not a part of our adoption story for a reason and he ultimately has nothing to do with me, Aiden, or our family.  I know holding a grudge will only make it harder for me to live a completely full and happy life; embracing this miracle of our special family.

6. Find a New Hobby

This is so important because after you place your baby with their adoptive parents you are going to have a lot of downtime to think on your maternity leave.  This can be a good thing, or a bad thing, but it is important to make plans and stay busy.

It does not mean you are not thinking about your child or you are dismissing what happened, it just means you need to give yourself a break.  You need to find something that makes you happy and can give you joy while keeping busy.  You already did the hardest part; you made the biggest decision for your baby; a lifetime of happiness and security. Now it’s time to do something for YOU!

It can be a cooking class, an art class, riding a bike, going to therapy to talk out your feelings, writing in a journal, joining a kickball team, planning a vacation etc.  For me, I picked up boxing.  I have always been an athlete and sports have always served as some sort of therapy for me.  After Aiden was born I wanted to try something new.  I wanted to do something to help get me back in shape, and get back to my pre-baby body.  I also thought that this would be a good thing to learn in case I never fully got over my own rule of “Let The Grudges Go”, and ran into the biological father…. just kidding 🙂

7. Meet New People

Put yourself out there!  This goes hand in hand with rule number 6: Finding a New Hobby.  After my maternity leave when I moved back into my apartment in the city, I made a huge effort to put myself out there.  I joined the neighborhood volleyball open gym, a boxing club, and a few Social Boston Sports teams.  You could say I gave myself no time to sit and self pity.  That was the best thing I could have done for myself because through all of this I made a new close friend.

We met at one of the open gyms and completely hit it off.  We realized we enjoyed the same type of workouts and together joined the boxing gym, and Social Boston Sports Volleyball and KickBall teams.  I made a new friend that knew nothing of my past and what I had just gone through literally three months before meeting her.  Every night after work we would meet up in our neighborhood and go do a new workout.  After a few months of our friendship I decided I was ready to share my story with her.

Although I wanted her to know my story, I had built up all this stress as she would be the first person I would tell my story to after Aiden was born; she was the first person who was new in my “new normal”.  One night on our way back from boxing, I told her the whole story and all about Aiden.  It was the biggest relief.  In that moment it felt like I never needed to work out again, because I lost all of my pregnancy weight I had been carrying (Ha- I didn’t, but it was that big of a relief to share my story with a new friend)!

It could not have gone better.  She threw her arms around me gave me a huge hug.  She was supportive and amazed at my relationship with Aiden, his parents, and what I had just gone through.  Better yet, I have a new friend who has been added to the list of All The People Who Love Aiden.

8. Be Open To Love

Dating again and being open to finding love has been my biggest fear for myself.  How will I ever meet someone who will understand and want to be a part of my unique family?  How and when in the relationship do I share my story?  I am afraid to be vulnerable, and I am afraid to open up my heart and take the chance that I can get hurt again.  These are all things I do not know, but what I do know is I need to put my fears aside and be open to love because I deserve it.

9. Do You

After going through this adoption experience you are left with a whole new outlook on life.  You just spent all of your energy focusing everything on your child and their future; but remember your own future is just as important.

Give yourself the chance to reevaluate your own life.  Ask yourself what your dreams are.  Ask yourself where you want your life to go.  Ask yourself what is going to make you happy, and then go out there and make the change to do so.

If you can survive the adoption of your child, you can conquer anything else you are afraid of!  This is your time to live.  Drop the guilt, drop the embarrassment, drop the sadness, and drop your fears.  Drop whatever it is that is holding you back, and get back out there and live.  Live for your child, and more importantly, live and love yourself.


Bring Your Child’s Story to Life with an Adoption Lifebook

Whether big or small, we all have our own, personal story to share.  These life stories begin the minute we are born and grow as we grow.  Every moment, every experience, every person that we encounter becomes a part of that story in some shape or form.  While everyone’s story is unique, yours and your child’s story are especially exceptional.  Why?  You both have been touched by adoption.

Adoption is what makes your story, and your child’s story, extraordinary.  As you begin your journey as an adoptive parent, it is important to help your child recognize just how special he or she is.  You can do this by talking to your child about adoption and telling his or her story every day.  An adoption lifebook can help guide this conversation.

What is a Life Book?

A lifebook tells the story of your child’s life, starting the minute he or she was born.  An adoption life book tells your child’s story from the time you decided to build your family through adoption.   Like a traditional “baby book,” adoption lifebooks typically contain photos, drawings, letters, documents, and other personal mementos or memories of the first years of an adopted child’s life.  These precious moments are preserved in a binder, photo album, or book and organized in the form of a story.

A lifebook is a keepsake written for the child, by the child’s parents.  Adoptive parents, sometimes together with the birth parents, gather all of the pieces of their child’s life – past, present, and future – and bring them together in an honest way that he or she can understand.  This is where adoptive parents become more than parents.  They become storytellers, too.

Your story as an adoptive parent began when you made the decision to build or expand your family through adoption.  Your journey continues from the day you met your child.  Your child’s story began long before that day when his or her birth parents decided to explore making an adoption plan.  A lifebook can help your child make sense of his or her story.  Your child’s life book is much more than a story put on paper.  It gives a child a sense of security, meaning, and purpose.  It is a positive, everyday story.

What are the benefits of an adoption lifebook?

Lifebooks are treasured resources that can be very beneficial for adopted children.  They:

  • Normalize adoption language and make the adoption conversation more approachable
  • Show adopted children that they were cared about before and from birth
  • Give children a clearer sense of their life story and life events
  • Offer details into a child’s birth family, genealogy, and ethnicity
  • Provide opportunities to create a positive identity
  • Build a child’s self-esteem and self-awareness by recording the child’s growth over the years
  • Serve as a vehicle for children to appreciate and share their life histories and adoption story

What should an adoption lifebook contain?

As you begin to create an adoption lifebook for your child, think about what you want it to contain.  Think about what your child will want to know about his or her birthday, birth family, and about growing up with you.  As a general guide, Adoptions With Love has put together a list of materials that you may consider including in your child’s lifebook:

  • Birth: Even though you were not pregnant, it is important to help your child understand that he or she did grow inside another woman’s tummy. On the birth page of your lifebook, you may include:
    • A birth certificate
    • Ultrasound photos
    • Footprints from the hospital
    • Photos of his or her birth family
  • Reason for adoption: In age-appropriate language, answer the inevitable question, “Why was I placed for adoption?”. It is important to express to your child that he or she was not given up, but rather, loved very much.  If you are in an open adoption arrangement, you can ask your child’s birth mother to help you tell the story.  Include photos and information about meetings you may have had with his or her biological family before, around the time of birth and immediately after discharge from the hospital.
  • Identifying details: Including details of childhood, such as your child’s favorite food or color growing up, are fun facts that children love to hear about. Compliment these details with photos of the house, neighborhood, pets, schools, even Halloween costumes, that your child had growing up.

The components of a lifebook vary person to person.  As you put together the pieces of your child’s story, try to think about the adoption questions he or she will want answered later down the road:

  • Why was I placed for adoption?
  • What do my birth parents look like?
  • What did I look like as a baby?
  • Do I have any siblings?
  • Does my birth mother love me?

An adoption lifebook provides the opportunity for discovery, celebration, and unity.  It can bring you and your child together, as you tell the story of how your lives came together as a family.  To learn more about your creating an adoption lifebook for your child, call Adoptions With Love at 1-800-722-7731.


A View of Openness: Margot’s Adopted Child Story

The beauty of adoption is that it can come in many different forms, and blossoms in many different ways.  Every adoption story is unique.  This is one adoptee’s story.

adopted children stories
Meet Margot, a beautiful, 29-year-old college-graduate, a loving sister and daughter, who is now pursuing her career in sustainability.  You may have met Margot previously in her birth mother Peggy’s adoption story.  Adoptions With Love first met Margot over 29 years ago, when her semi-open adoption plan began.  We continued our relationship with Margot and her adoptive parents over the years, as Margot thrived and grew to be the successful woman she is today.

Margot came to Adoptions With Love at sixteen years old with a heart full of love and great hope to meet her birth mother, Peggy.  With her adoptive parents by her side, we began the search and reunion process.  Margot met Peggy for the first time on Valentine’s Day—and it was truly a reunion meant for the books.  This is Margot’s story about opening her adoption, getting to know her birth family, and finding her missing puzzle pieces at last.

Opening my Adoption

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know I was adopted. For me growing up, it was always just a fact: that my birth mother gave me up for adoption because she loved me, and that my adoptive parents are crazy about me. I am very much a Kenney. Friends who have known me for years comment on their disbelief that my brother Adam and I are not biologically related. We share so many mannerisms; so many inside jokes, and truly bring out the ten-year-old in each other. We almost have too much fun when left to our own devices. As much as I felt loved and fulfilled in my adopted family, there was always what I described as a hole in my heart. Knowing that my birth mother Peggy gave me up out of love, but not quite understanding what that meant, left me with a lot of curiosity. I grew up with very little knowledge about her; I thought about her constantly and sometimes had fantasies that I had crossed paths with her when I saw someone whom I resembled on the street or in a magazine.

Biology has always been a strange thing for me. Most people don’t understand what it is to go through your childhood not quite looking like anyone in your life. Don’t get me wrong- I do resemble my parents Dan and Ginger, and my brother Adam–especially when we start talking. Strangers have often commented on the resemblance, but knowing that I don’t share a biological connection with my family—not seeing anyone with my very unique nose, little round “monkey ears”, or hazel eyes—was challenging. In science class, I could do the family tree exercise because I have an amazing family, but when asked to compare my biology to that of my family I simply wasn’t able to participate. It singled me out. I remember studying genetic traits like a widow’s peak, or bent finger, and then noticing how both of my pinkies have a defined curve. Not being able to examine the fingers of relatives for the same traits was painful. As superficial as I’ve always thought it sounded, I did want to find people with my genetic traits. More than anything, I just wanted to know Peggy. I wanted to know who she was, what she loved to do, the people who were important to her.

I had always thought that I had to wait until I was eighteen to search, but when I was sixteen, in my snooping I found a document that I hadn’t seen before with information on my birth family. I think I sat with the knowledge for a week, cooking up a half-baked plan with a friend to go on a road trip to find Peggy. Finally, I just talked to my parents and grilled them on everything they knew (once again). My mom got a photograph out of the fire safe of Peggy and me when I was a baby. I looked into the face of a very young, very curly-haired, and very strong woman. Her face looked calm and determined; she had a clear sense of purpose. I simply had to know her.

My parents agreed to stand by my side through the process of contacting Adoptions With Love, the organization that had placed me years before. I’m pretty sure we met with Amy. I forget if we did a few counselling sessions before or after we met with her, but I do remember that we all wanted to be sure that I was ready for this life-changing process. A couple of things that were crystal clear in my mind were that I was embarking on this adventure with no hopes or expectations, and also that I wanted to be sensitive to my parents and make sure they did not feel underappreciated or threatened. Instinctively, I knew that I wasn’t prepared for the disappointment if Peggy did not want to meet me. For all I knew, she wasn’t even alive. I prepared for the worst.

Amy spoke with my parents and me, and decided that we were ready as a family to initiate this step. She told me that she would call Peggy and that we were to wait for next steps. For some reason, the process moved very slowly; this drove sixteen-year-old me absolutely nuts. In the time that I held my breath waiting to hear if Peggy wanted to get to know me, I wrote her a letter. I told her about who I was at the time; I reassured her that I knew she gave me up out of love, and that I was not at all upset with her decision, but that I simply wanted to know her. Biology was very much on my mind (after being frustrated and embarrassed in class) so I traced my left hand, bent pinky and all.

We finally received word that Peggy did in fact want to establish contact, and that my letter had been sent. I was delighted! I got a letter back from Peggy, where she had also traced her hand. I remember putting my hand in her trace in disbelief. One day when I got home from school my mom said that she had spoken with Peggy that afternoon. It spoke volumes to us both that Peggy had the sensitivity and foresight to call the house when she knew I would be at school to make sure that my mom was really, really okay with this. She didn’t feel comfortable simply calling me without including my mom in the process. I called Peggy later that night, and the conversation mainly consisted on both sides of “oh my god, I can’t believe I’m talking to you!” To this day, I have never been more nervous making a phone call. We coordinated schedules to meet a couple of weekends from then, and the first day that we were free just happened to be Valentine’s Day.

February 14th, 2003 just might have been the longest morning of my life. My family left the house to allow Peggy and me to meet in private for the first time, and I must have changed my outfit fifteen times, running to a spot sitting at the top of the stairs, back to the bathroom mirror to make sure that my face hadn’t run away, about every other minute. I remember really not wanting to seem creepy and staring through the window at the driveway, but eventually I couldn’t take it anymore. I went downstairs and peeked through the lace curtains, staring down the street.

That Valentine’s Day there wasn’t much snow on the ground, just the crunchy brown remnants of leaves, stark branches, and a clear blue sky above. That day reminds me of my favorite line from my favorite Pablo Neruda Poem “I love you like the plant that doesn’t bloom, but carries the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself.” That tight love lay coiled in my heart and ready to spring free. A jeep pulled up the street and stopped in front of my house. I had wanted so badly to “be cool” and wait for her to ring the doorbell, but that tightly wound love sprang free when Peggy stepped from the car, and I burst out the door to meet her–enveloping her in my arms, and in the warmth of my yearning and love.

I’ll never forget the smell of her, so soft, clean, and heavenly, and the feel of holding her for the first time. Peggy is a person of big personality and small stature, standing at 4’11”. It is somewhat shocking to reach for your birth mother to find that she is shorter than you. She has this amazing curly hair, and hugging her (if you are ever lucky enough to do so) is hugging a tiny woman with a mass of lovely curls. At that time she was also very pregnant. We held each other tightly with our eyes closed for some time. I don’t think that either of us was really ready to pull back and take a good look at each other; it was just too much. We reveled in the warmth of our hug, and the strength of our bond. The hole in my heart began to fill. When we finally did pull back to look at each other, all I saw were big blue eyes. They were just the shape of mine, but such a different color–and they were brilliant to look into.

There it was! My nose! Or maybe it was I who had her nose, but nonetheless it was magnificent to see it on her face. The rest of her face is absolutely lovely, but the eyes and the nose spring forth in my mind’s eye as my first memory of seeing my biological mother’s face. I’m amazed how clear the memory is thirteen years later. I don’t think that we cried quite yet; both of us were just too shocked. I finally looked past her to see a very tall, blonde Midwestern man desperately trying to regain his composure. It might just be the most adorable thing I have ever seen, and it gave me a sense of peace to see how much Tom clearly loved Peggy.

Tom, my dad, and my brother are the three men I blame for being 29 and single. It is hard to imagine anyone coming close to their kindheartedness and the sweet way in which each of them love me. Tom helped Peggy get a box out of the trunk, and then drove off without a word (I later found out that he couldn’t speak for fear of losing it).

Peggy and I finally went into the house on our own to set about the process of getting to know each other. She had a box of memories prepared for me, and she told me the story of her relationship with my birth-father Chris, her pregnancy, and how hard she worked to learn about open adoption in a time where closed adoption was the norm, and Rhode Island had a mandatory foster care stay of 2 months– something she found unacceptable. She told me of her struggle to find an agency that would allow her a place in the process of finding my family. Hearing of her dedication and drive to provide for me all of those years ago was incredible. We discussed what might come next in our relationship, and she told me that there was a huge Irish-Catholic family waiting to meet me if I was comfortable with it.

At the time, my sister Helena was four years old. Despite his initial reservations, Tom allowed me to be introduced as Helena’s big sister. I got to meet my sister Allison the day after she was born. After a lifetime of being the little sister, being a big sister brought so much joy and pride into my life. I don’t remember exactly when I met the rest of Peggy’s family, but my whole adoptive family was invited out to a pavilion in Rhode Island for what felt to me like a blending of families. Not just me, but my parents and brother were embraced. It was an overwhelming and wonderful day, to meet my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and many cousins. My parents had met Peggy along with my birth grandparents John and Marie prior to my adoption, and had very warm memories of them. Seeing them bonding was wonderful. I have always said that our reunion has been like getting in-laws. We are all so much happier and stronger for it.margot and peggy

As an adoptee I feel blessed to truly understand that blood does not make a family, it has allowed my heart to be open, and to make friends who feel like family wherever I go. I decided to go to the University of San Francisco just a couple of years after meeting Peggy and her family, and I moved out to San Francisco at age eighteen.

It was an incredibly tough decision for me; I had just become a sister, and I felt torn. A part of me still feels guilty for moving so far away from Helena and Allison, especially since as an adoptee I understand abandonment issues more than most. I hope that my independence, and the work that I do in sustainability, gives them something to look up to. It warms my heart to hear that Allison wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up, and to see how excited Helena was to tell me about the college she is interested in attending because of the green buildings on campus. In the end we all do the best that we can, and this is truly a blessed family that I am a part of.

The decision to reunite with my birth family was one that my family and I did together. It was not a decision we took lightly, and I think that my resolution to have low expectations made the elation at my instant bond with Peggy that much sweeter. In reconnecting recently with Amy and Adoptions With Love, I was shocked to learn of their upcoming thirty-year anniversary. We have truly been with them since the beginning as one of their first adoptions. They made our semi-open adoption possible in a time when it was controversial and rare. They made our reunion and blended family possible, we are lucky to have them in our family’s life.