I was rejected at birth. Sometimes I feel weird, a bit different, not because I have a gaping hole where my natural parents should be, but because I don’t.
I’ve always been comfortable with being an adoptee. My husband fondly reminds me of how I told him about my heritage. Three pints into an early date I announced proudly, ‘I was fetched from the shops.’
In my imagination as a child, I saw a shop with rows and rows of cots and my parents walking along, stopping at mine and announcing, ‘We want that one.’ That’s how I chose to view my history. This was helped by my little sister once asking if I was more expensive than my older sibling because I was nicer. (I wonder if I would still tell that story if it were the other way around?)
My cheaper sister was adopted two years before me (we’re not from the same gene pool) and our younger sister is our parent’s natural child (they fixed Mum’s fertility issues). My big sister maintains she has never seen her adoption as relevant to her life, and whilst my background doesn’t enter my head most of the time, I’d be lying if I said it had no bearing on me whatsoever.
My positive experience of adoption came up recently when friends of ours visited with their two adopted little girls. As I talked I watched their tense shoulders relaxing, because, like most parents who adopt, they’re worried they won’t be able to raise their girls to be well-adjusted, emotionally-sound adults. Unsurprising really, when we live in a media-saturated world that often paints adopted or fostered children as angry, aggressive teens.
But this couple are kind, clever, unique and generous people. I know they will raise their children with care and love. Not only are they already determined and committed parents, but the resources and support available these days will help guide them through any turbulence ahead.
Talking to my friends threw a new focus on my own experience. Despite being given away at birth, then my adoptive parents divorcing and remarrying during my adolescence, I still feel very much whole.
I asked my Mum why she thought both of her adopted children failed to achieve the media-popular messed-up standard. ‘Perhaps it’s because you always knew you were adopted.’ She said, but I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s because I actively decided to believe that I was chosen, that they specifically wanted me.
My choice in what to believe and the ability to adapt that view has stood me in good stead. The nature/nurture argument has always fascinated me. It was in my interest to wave the nurture flag. I’m much more like my Mum than her natural daughter is, in thought, deed, interests, and mannerisms. I used to work in her office during University holidays and we always exchanged a wry smile when someone said how alike we were. We must have grown alike. Now, I have two daughters of my own, and I’ve switched camps. One of my children looks exactly like a younger me; the other has replicated my personality so exactly that we can almost read each other’s minds. The nature argument won there.
Having children of my own was a powerful experience (as I’m sure it is for every parent) but being physically related to someone is a big deal for me. Every time I recognise a similarity between one of my daughters and myself, I feel an electrical current of pleasure. People talk about how much my eldest looks like me as though it’s nothing, just a mildly amusing fact. To me it’s so much more than that, it’s an invisible, unbreakable tie.
These ties weren’t available to me as a child, but I didn’t see that as a bad thing. Being untethered by genetics, I was free to invent my own fabulous heritage. I would tell people that I was the granddaughter of Grand Duchess Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia who, reputedly, escaped when the rest of her family were executed. A little part of me still believes this might be true (Don’t tell me about her being found in a communal Russian grave — I’m not interested)
My youngest daughter is curious about my real genetic background. She wants me to do a DNA test to find out whether I’m related to ‘Hitler or a Yorkshirian Warrior,’ apparently, those are my only two options. But why would I cut down my possibilities? Being adopted makes me more exotic. It’s rare for someone not to show an interest if I mention it, and who doesn’t like people being interested in them?
Finding out exactly where I came from would make some elements of life easier. The Family History section on medical forms glares at me with its white, unfillable space. I don’t know if I am prone to any hereditary conditions, and that does sometimes bug me in the middle of the night.
Once a year, on what should be a joyful day, I wake with a leaden feeling. It does sully a birthday, knowing that your introduction to the world would have made someone so very sad.
These are undeniable drawbacks, but they are not significant parts of my life. What is real to me, and many of my adopted friends, is that someone wanted us so badly that they chose us and brought us up as their own. How lucky are we?
Whilst I understand that many people aren’t fortunate enough to be placed with families who make them feel safe and special, many others are, and to those parents adopting today, you are heroes. Tell your children that you chose them (I’m sure you already do) and allow them to make the choice to believe that they, like me, are the chosen ones.
(Note from The Editor. Many thanks to Lisa Timoney for being so honest in her guest post. If you would like to read more about Lisa, you can read her author page here, follow her on Facebook or even chuckle at her musings on Twitter.)
Lisa is a Yorkshire woman living in the London ‘burbs. Once the owner of a Drama School, she is now the sole inhabitant of her Writing Cave. She’s surprised to find herself in her 40’s with a beardy, bass-playing husband, and two hilarious daughters. Lisa’s known for straight talking and, as…read more
Originally published at theglasshouse.xyz on April 19, 2018.