My name is Rachel. I am many, many things, but I started out as an unwanted baby. My first memory regarding this came about when I was age three, and my mom had the worst stomach ache.
“Mommy did I hurt your belly that bad when I was in your belly?”
“No sweetie, you weren’t in my belly.”
I don’t remember too much about the exact details after that, but my mother kindly and patiently explained the process to my toddler brain.
I was adopted by my biological mother's hairdresser through a mutual friend. My biological mother was in the military, and she was not sure who my biological father was; I try not to think of the potentially negative reasons why. Regardless, at age 20, she wanted to travel the world and serve her country; the last thing she wanted to do as a single mom was tote a baby around to different relatives for months or years at a time in order to do so. I have such respect for her for that. I cannot imagine how my life would have turned out otherwise, nor would I ever want to be responsible for someone else to not able to chase their dream. This woman chose to take charge of her life, and give me a good shot at having stability at the same time. The couple who adopted me wanted an open adoption, where my biological mother and grandparents would have the ability to be in my life.
They chose not to. My biological mother came to see me once after I was born; she wrote me two letters that I still have. No other contact followed, and that's ok with me. The people I refer to as my parents wanted me more than anything in the world. They never hid the fact that I was adopted, and any questions I asked they answered to the best of their ability. They still do today if there is news to be had, and this lovely mutual friend who started it all even brought me the most recent picture of her when I was in middle school. I look nothing like her.
There is such a thing as an ‘ideal adoption’, I have noticed when talking to people over the years. The common wish is to receive a fresh baby they can pass off as their own flesh and never have to tell. It’s gotta be the right skin color, and they can have baby pictures of to keep the façade alive. A baby who isn’t “ruined yet” from a neglectful home. God, I freaking hate that. I have extended family who are adopted and don't even know it because their parents are so worried the kids are going 'to turn on them', or resent them, or not respect their authority anymore as parents. Rubbish, in my opinion. Honesty is always the best policy.
My parents caught a little bit of flak from a small, insignificant group of people. Some said that adoption was just unnatural, some pressured them to just keep going on with the very painful and expensive fertility treatments. Blissfully, my mom and dad are people with big, gracious open hearts and minds.
So. How has my life as an adopted child been? With full knowledge from an early age, the age of retaining memory, of being given up for someone to not be burdened with me to pursue a life she wanted?
Pretty freaking incredible.
I wound up being an only child, despite my protests of wanting to adopt the perfect baby brother. Dad worked very hard to provide a life for us, but insisted that another adoption would be too expensive. In exchange, I was spoiled rotten, something my friends and family upon reading this will nod their heads with in sage-like agreement. I was certainly blessed with more opportunities than I knew to be grateful for at the time.
Let me tell you, the wonderful man and woman who took me in and gave me a life and their last name were very much My "real" parents. They were there for every fever, parent-teacher conference, sporting event, and graduation. They were at the hospital when I was born, nervously waiting as the stumbling on-call doctor who had one too many eggnogs’ at a holiday party performed the emergency C-section, (no joke), and cried when the nurses brought me out in my big red stocking, (befitting of the Christmas Baby that I am). Mom likes to gush I’m her little "Christmas miracle", but in actuality, it’s totally the opposite way around.
In the spirit of bringing up a “well-rounded” young lady, I really came to appreciate my parents indulging my various childhood whims and fancies of activities and social pursuits. There were numerous dance classes, sports, girl scouts, knitting and violin lessons, anything that would allow me to pursue knowledge and help me find my ‘niche’, and if it didn’t keep my interest, I obviously wasn’t meant to do that particular activity and moved on to the next one. This allowed me to wholly commit to things that did bring me interest and joy. This liberty, I feel, has helped me now as a young adult in trying to pinpoint exactly what, career wise, I want to do for the rest of my life.
This also helped me realize that while I had it very, very good, many other children sadly did not. Now, I have a rather snarky streak and I’m by no means a saint, something plenty of people who know me well can give an ‘amen’ on that, but I’ve tried to take my positive experiences and pass it forward to others, so maybe they could find joy and empowerment in their lives as well.
I fell in love with competitive swimming in middle school, so in high school and college I taught scores of children how to swim. My mother taught me to knit, so I knit for various charities, and now teach knitting lessons so others can find a creative and constructive outlet (I could go on for DAYS with what happiness and shenanigans those knitting lessons from mom gave to me, but that’s another story entirely). Upon the recommendation of a beloved employer, I volunteered for a couple of years as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, (CASA), to work with children in foster care, and was fortunate to work with two beautiful sisters to find their "forever home."
Just as I had to experience new things to find my niche as a child, I am now doing the same with exploring my career. I have worked in a couple of agencies for social services and mental health and learned about the less pretty needs of our community. I have also gotten my feet wet with investigating a career in nursing, but I don’t know if that will be my best fit in the end. I want to use my experience and enthusiasm to bring happiness and success to those in need, especially to the children who are at the mercy of this world that they have no control over. Volunteering as a CASA opened my eyes to the staggering needs of children in our community, and it has inspired me to pursue the possibility of working within the foster care or adoption field to serve other children and make their situation better. Ask me a year from now, maybe I’ll be working within this field, maybe I’ll be building a non-profit to combat other children’s issues, or hell, maybe I’ll be doing some wild combination of all my experiences into one. I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I know, more certainly that anything, that my opportunities are infinite thanks to my parents, and another young woman’s wish to chase her own dream.
Sadly, last I heard, my biological mother’s dream took a wrong turn somewhere. Like I said, my parents have always been open and honest about her whereabouts and what she was up to over the years. Last I heard, after several tours of duty, my biological mother was fortunate to retire from the military. Sadly, she made some bad choices, and was convicted of robbing a pharmacy to feed a drug addiction. I found her mugshot on line quite by chance and was shocked at what I saw. Although I don’t recognize any features I share with her, this youthful blonde had become a sallow, hardened woman. My deepest hope is that she is choosing to turn her life around for the better. There is great power in our choices, and we can always choose to do better.