On May 18, 1964, I was born in the Provo Hospital (now Utah Valley Medical Center). Two days later — if legend is true — my parents’ lawyer picked me up from my birth mother, who said, “Tell her I hope she has a wonderful life.” (I was there, but my memory was fuzzy, so I’m going off third hand information here — fourth hand if you include my just as fuzzy memory of being told the story.) The lawyer took me to the Skaggs parking lot a block away where he handed me over to my new parents.
I like to call myself a “blue light special.” My dad doesn’t think that’s as funny as I do.
As a child my parents were very open about the adoption. I can’t remember being told I was adopted. I can’t remember not knowing. It was always part of my story and something that made me feel special. My parents had to go out of their way to get me. Way out. I was chosen.
My brother, David (4.5 years my senior), was also adopted as a baby. My sister, Nora (3.5 years my senior), was not.
[When I was nine, we also adopted an 11-year-old boy who had been in the foster system for a number of years. He only lived with us for six (very rough) years, until he chose to leave and return to live with his (jerk of a) birth father (who had put him and all his siblings up for adoption). That only lasted a few months when the sperm donor kicked him out. Robbie has been on his own since and his life is a mess. But the adoption of "hard-to-place" kids, is a post for another day.]
In our church, we believe that marriages and family units exist not just “until death do you part,” but can exist eternally. This is an awesome principle if you love your spouse and kids. (Not so much if you can’t stand each other, I suppose.) When Mormons marry, we are counseled to do it in a temple, where we can be “sealed” for time and all eternity. Couples are sealed when they marry or later if they choose (just meaning they are married forever) and children are sealed to parents (meaning they are a family forever).
If a couple who are sealed to each other has children, the children are said to be “born in the covenant.” If they are not sealed to each other — or if the child is not born to them — the children can be sealed in a special sealing ceremony in the temple.
When I was one year old (following Utah law at the time) my parents legally adopted me and took me to the Salt Lake Temple to be sealed to them and to my siblings. Nora, then 4, became despondent. After a couple of days, my parents were finally able to learn the reason. She didn’t understand why they loved David and me so much that they had us sealed to them — but not her. Although it had been explained, she didn’t grasp that she already was sealed and didn’t need a ceremony to invoke it.
In other words, in our home adoption was the norm. Our next door neighbors also had four kids, three of whom were adopted. So even outside our home, it didn’t seem unusual. Because of that — and because of a long-held desire to give kids who didn’t have families a real home — I always thought I would adopt.
My parents served in church leadership most of my life and were often in the position of counseling others. Because of their own infertility issues, they seemed to counsel an inordinate numbeer of other couples with infertility issues. Because of that — and because infertility seemed common — I always thought I would adopt.
Although never in my 49 years have I had anyone imply that adoption is negative, many people think is mysterious or strange. My entire life I’ve been asked questions about it. So I thought I’d answer the most common once and for all.
Do you know who your real parents are?
Yes. They raised me. My real mother died in 2003 and my real father (nearly 84) lives with us.
OK, so do you know who your birth parents are?
No. My parents were told that my birth mother gave up a baby for adoption before she was married. Then she married my birth father and had children (more than one, but we do not know how many). She divorced my birth father at some point before my birth. They were also told she was in graduate school at the time, to the best of my memory. She wanted me to be adopted by an LDS couple, so I assume she was also LDS.
Do you want to know who your birth parents/siblings are?
It doesn’t really concern me much. If my birth parents or birth siblings found me one day, it would mostly just be interesting, I think. Although I’m sure I’d be nervous, I really don’t imagine I’d be terribly excited. To me they are strangers.
I grew up decidedly not looking like my family, so that’s the norm for me. It would be interesting to see familial similarities and to hear background information. But finding them has never been something that I was curious enough to do anything about. Given that I’m now 49, I’m not even sure my birth parents are alive.
I think I’d be more interested in meeting my birth siblings just to see what our similarities and differences are. You know, how much the nature/nurture factors contributed to the outcomes. Kind of a case study.
When I was in college I had people who knew me really well, mistake another girl for me multiple times. I never met the girl, but people swore we were like twins. It would have been funny if I had birth siblings attending the same college (and not too far fetched given the ages of siblings and the share religious background (I attended a Mormon college)).
Don’t you worry about genetics?
No. We all have health issues and we all die. I don’t really think knowing I might die of X or Y will improve my quality of life. I don’t really think that feeling I have a propensity for A or B helps me reach my potential. I kind of enjoy feeling like my fate is in my own hands and that I can be what I choose. I also know that I’m pretty glad I did not inherit some of the health issues of my adoptive parents, so I see having my own set of genes as mostly positive!
Does it make you feel bad that you were given up?
No. Honestly. I didn’t even think about it until we had our first daughter. Only then did I realize how grateful I was that this woman — whoever she was — carried me to term, gave birth to me, and gave me to an intact family because she thought it was best.
As I said above, I know how difficult, long, and expensive the adoption process is and I felt very special that my parents went to such trouble to have me.
How old were you when your parents adopted you?
My parents got me when I was two days old. The Utah law at the time required a one-year waiting period before final adoption, so I was officially adopted when I was one year old.
Does it bother you that you don’t know where you came from?
I don’t really know what that means. I came from God. What else matters much?
I think the fact that I’m sealed to my parents makes a difference in how I feel. I do feel I am where I belong, so the other stuff is just peripheral. As my adopted neighbor friend’s mom said, “You just came down a different chute!”
My oldest daughter just did one of those genealogical blood tests things and found she has a huge chunk of Irish ancestry. Of course, I’ve said that all along.
Is it weird being adopted?