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.
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.
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.