On being adopted

November 5, 2010 in Baby tips, Latest, Life


I know somebody who consistently refers to my father as my adoptive father. It really gets on my wick, I have to say.

My parents adopted me when I was about 6 months old, and I know nothing about my birth parents. The people who raised me are my parents, not those who provided the genetic code. And nothing annoys an adoptee more than hearing their parents’ role denigrated by the word “adoptive.” It makes them sound second class, in some way, even though the effort they went through to get me was probably considerably more than most birth parents go through.

I have two siblings as well, and they too are adopted. Yes, I know what your next question is, because it’s always the same: did we come from the same birth parents? Err, no. Why would we?

First of all, let me explain some background. We have always known we were adopted. I think my parents told me when I was about 7. I have no idea when they told my siblings. Maybe they waited until all three of us were of an age where it could be understood, so we could be told at the same time. Which would mean we would have been 9, 7 and 5. I imagine they would not want to have told one and expect a secret to be kept until the next one reached the same age. The point is, in our family, us being adopted was never a big secret.

The reason we were all adopted (and there was almost a couple of twins to be added to the mix) was because the blood type of one of my parents is rhesus positive and one is rhesus negative. This means that the baby has to have a complete blood transfusion at birth. Nowadays it is a straightforward procedure, but back in the 50s and early 60s it was not. That means both my parents could have had children with other people, but they couldn’t with each other.

I once had an argument with my teacher at grammar school, because he made the fatuous comment that only birth parents could bond with their children (he was my German teacher, which made his comment even more surreal!). I was 14 and obviously a feisty chick even then, so I called him out on this. I pointed out he could only speak from his own experience, which was probably as the natural child of his parents. In which case, he could not possibly comment on the nature of the bonding between adoptive parents and their children.

And indeed, I would say I was closer to my parents than most of my peers were, for the very simple reason that I knew they had specifically chosen me. They could not possibly, in a moment of anger, claim that they had not wanted me, because I knew they had. My parents went through hell to adopt us, and that in itself is a bonding process.

To the outside world, my parents rarely commented on us being adopted. We were their children, plain and simple. If the subject was ever raised with third parties, it was usually we three kids who started it. I have no issues about being adopted, and I’m always happy to talk about my own experiences. Although nowadays adoption seems to be a far more difficult situation, given that unmarried mothers are no longer forced to give up their babies – the chance of a couple being able to adopt three children during early babyhood probably just doesn’t happen any more.

As it happens, I know nothing about my birth parents. That’s because I’m not actually that interested in them and so haven’t followed it up. My parents are my parents, and it would feel like a huge betrayal of them to look for someone else, just because they provided the sperm or the egg. Also, I have this romantic idea that my mother gave me up for a better life than she could provide – and I would be devastated to discover she was really a crack whore who abandoned me on the hospital steps!

Occasionally, I do wonder if there is a woman out there desperately looking for me and – if so – I feel sorry for her. Perhaps I might change my mind when my father dies (my mother died 7 years ago), but I can’t really see it happening. I’m not someone who suffers from inexplicable yearnings. And I’m very aware of the damage that can be done when an adult birth child suddenly appears and disrupts a family’s life, because that child would almost certainly never have been mentioned before.

The rules on contact with birth parents have changed now, but when I was adopted, the rule was that no contact was maintained, and any contact must be initiated by the child. I don’t even know how difficult it would be to find them.

Perhaps I should ask my sister. She went though a period about 10 years ago, egged on by a friend who told her “how can you know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been?”, of looking out her birth mother and finding out her birth name. Puh-lease! She was adopted at 6 weeks old – how much history before that did she have? Anyway, having found out about her mother and her original name, my sister didn’t take it any further.

As for my brother, I have never known a twinge of interest on this topic from him. He is a more simple soul (!) and simply takes life as it comes. It would probably never occur to him to be interested in any other adults there may have been in his life – unless of course there were a suggestion of an inheritance he could benefit from!

One other issue, which is often raised, is the question of medical history, as we three have none. Personally, I quite like being able to write N/A – Adopted on the Medical History sections of forms. It gives me a clean sheet to work from and I don’t spend my life worrying about inherited risks of heart disease or cancer etc. But, then, I’m an optimist and believe life is what you make it. My sister, on the other hand, probably frets about this lack of information. But it’s ok – she’s a pessimist, so she assumes she has most illnesses anyway! :)

One thing that does interest me, intellectually, is the whole nature vs nurture argument. My father, who used to be a child psychologist, claims it is nurture which is the main determinant in how a child turns out. But I don’t think I agree with that. My siblings and I were all raised in the same way (though of course there was some favouritism involved etc), yet I am the world’s greatest optimist and my sister is the world’s greatest pessimist. In that sense, I would be interested to find out more about our genetic backgrounds, from a purely academic point of view.

Anyway, do you have any experience of adoption or any views about anything I’ve said? Do share…