November was National Adoption Month. On November 17th we were pleased and honored to participate in the first ever National Adoption Day Celebration at the Essex County Probate Court. We finalized 5 adoptions that day.
In addition to finalizing many adoptions, we celebrated adoption and the families formed by adoption.
Adoption is the legal process of creating a family. In our society, the word family has taken on many different meanings.
It was a very exciting day for all the families. Several families brought extended family members and others brought themselves and their child.
Ben and Julia, whose adoption of Isabella was finalized that day, invited her biological mother Stacey and her two children, Cassie & Charlie, along with grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends. This was a first for AWL and the Judge that the biological family was present at the finalization. I was quite taken that after the formal ceremony, Isabella’s grandparents all hugged Stacey and thanked her. Their love and gratitude was sincere. They are a snap shot into an open adoption; with adoptive parents, biological family and extended family all brought together through Isabella… they create a new family by adoption.
I want to share a story with you of a family created through adoption 30 years ago.
Peggy was an 18 year old high school graduate, heading to college, when she discovered she was pregnant. Peggy went to her parents and the father of her baby. Together they decided they the best option was to make an adoption plan for her expected baby. Peggy found AWL and with the assistance of AWL, she found the perfect family for her baby, Ginger, Dan and their young son Adam. One of the reasons Peggy selected Ginger and Dan is that she wanted her little girl to have a sibling. Peggy’s siblings and her extended family have always been an important part of her life. Peggy met Ginger and Dan when Margo was placed with them.
Peggy made the decision not to have ongoing contact with Ginger, Ken and Margo until Margo was ready for some contact. Peggy kept in contact with AWL, updating us with her new addresses and events in her life. Peggy graduated from college, became a nurse, married and had a child.
Fast forward 16 years: with the support from her parents, Margo contacted AWL and said she was ready to meet her birth mother. Ginger and Dan had shared all the information they were given when Margo was placed with them. Margo met with me and it was clear that she was ready to meet Peggy. I contacted Peggy and met with her and her husband, Tom. She was 8 months pregnant with her third child and ready to move forward to meet Margo; the teenager who was the infant she placed for adoption 16 years ago.
In Margo’s words, these are some of the reasons she wanted to meet Peggy:
“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 made an adoption plan for me because she loved me, and that my adoptive parents are crazy about me. I am very much a part of my family. 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…. 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 placed me out of love, but not quite understanding what that meant, left me with a lot of curiosity…… 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.”
There was a lot of fear, anxiety and excitement on everyone’s part for this reunion. On February 14th, 2003, Margo and Peggy met for the second time.
Shortly thereafter, Margo and her parents and brother met Peggy’s parents and then her extended Family.
Margo graduated from HS and chose to attend college in CA. Whenever Margo returned to the east coast, she always would visit Peggy, Tom and her half-sisters.
A family has been formed out of love and respect for one another.
There have been some stressful times, when different parties felt anxious and nervous, maybe even a little threatened as these new relationships were forming. Everyone was careful to maintain their boundaries; always keeping in mind, Margo’s best interests.
One of the most beautiful pieces of this story is when Margo graduated from college Peggy and her parents joined Ginger, Ken and Adam in CA and they all stayed at the same B&B. They are an extended family formed by adoption.
I am blessed that Margo and Peggy have made me part of their process of creating a new family.
It is important to note that not all adoptions are open; each family figures out what works for them. Many birth parents are not ready to have a relationship immediately after placement. They need time to grieve and get their lives back together; they need to find a new normal. Relationships ebb and flow over time. What I have learned is that we all need to be flexible, listen to one another and have respect for each other.
We, at AWL, are always here to help navigate the adoption journey.