I am currently sitting in a viral incubator AKA, an airplane, flying over one of the Great Lakes en route to Philadelphia on this day after my birthday. I’m cramped in the middle seat with billions of microscopic cabin air pathogens swirling around mixed with my never-ending thoughts. I’ve contemplated reaching across my neighbor to lower the window shade so I can drift off in to a blissful dream, but that would be rude and ignorance doesn’t do my body any good. I decide to keep my laptop out, and let my stream of consciousness go – a belated birthday present to myself of sorts.
This weekend I’m speaking to The Academy of American Adoption Attorneys for their annual conference – I’m looking forward to meeting more professionals within the adoption community, and to be involved in legal conversations around adoption ethics. As I approach this weekend it’s saddened me to realize that historically I’ve lumped adoption attorneys in to one stereotypical pile. I’ve considered them to be nothing more than the folks who pushed the paper that led to the separation with my birth-family and the subsequent unification of my now-family as if this was as routine a job as scooping ice cream on a sunny day. I posit my angst to be rooted in the fact that the week after my actual birth date an attorney somewhere in the State of Tennessee scooped me up and moved me – in the legal sense – without listening to my pre-verbal cries. This is the precise moment that I feel my birthdate became reduced to a confusing date on the calendar, devoid of celebration and mired with illegible signatures, legalese and a sorry name; Baby Girl, ______ (my original last name was redacted of course). I hope you don’t misunderstand what I’m attempting to communicate. I have had many a wonderful birthdates which included candy filled piñata parties in my parents’ backyard, Oreo ice cream cakes with candles blazing on the top awaiting my wish, beautifully wrapped gifts filled with books, games, outfits – all of the quintessential Americanisms that turn a birthdate in to a celebratory occasion. To top it off most of my large family was generally present to revel in the celebration of birth and life.
Though my birthday was typically surrounded by youthful anticipation, joyful celebrations and reminiscent fun, these celebrations naturally also conjured up images of a stranger writing my thoughtless name; “Baby Girl” on my motherless crib.
This year was filled with many unforeseen highlights and privileges I’m still working to understand how I could be afforded such goodness, the least of which being the chance to hang out with my birthmom and show her around the city where I grew up.
Through all of the highlights of this past year, including, traveling to speak with transracial adoptive parents, listening to young adoptees try to make sense of their story, text messaging a friend in the Congo who has spent the past few months living with her children in their home country, and listening to my brother read his original birth certificate for the first time and learning how intoxicated his birth mother was during delivery, it can’t be understated the toll that these stories have taken. It is my great hope that the decision-makers at the conference this weekend will gain clearer understanding of how simultaneously woven in to each of these highlights are lowlights if looked at through an adoptee lens.
Though this year is certainly celebratory and cake-worthy I can’t help but to see the irony that the actual day of my birth is shrouded in more mystery than fact – largely due to the very people to whom I will be speaking. Rather than feel anger in the awareness that I cannot yet find or meet my other birth sister because of rules put in place by the folks in that room, I am choosing to accept this moment as redemption. As an adult I will be speaking to a group of people who were the first people to speak for me when I was just one year old. Oh the irony.
I’m so glad to continue to have the opportunity to give voice to adoptees.