This is the second of three essays which an adoptive mom wrote about the adoption of her son and his meeting his birth mom 18 years later. The birth mom wrote the third essay. All are well written, moving, and a tribute to the love and devotion two mothers share for their child.
My Son Has Three Sisters!
By Mia Hinkle
My son has three sisters! What a curious thought! I always knew he had a birthmother. After all, I am his adoptive mother. I remember the cold snowy December morning my husband and I picked him up at Wishard Hospital downtown Indianapolis. It was December 18, 1989. He was five days old.
But sisters? And three of them? It’s hard to wrap my mother-brain around that. He has been my son for over 18 years now and for most of that time, he has been the eldest of two brothers. So the thought of him having sisters is wild! And three of them! Wow!
We received an inquiry today from his birthmother asking to meet him, and saying he had three sisters, ages 20, 16, and 14 who would also like to meet him.
What do I think about this? How do I feel? Since my kids were babies, I have always boldly proclaimed that if they ever wished to search for their families of origin, I would help them however I could. I was sure that when the time came, I would be secure in the fabric of our family and certain that my sons would know without a doubt who their “real” parents are. Ah … so young – so certain. Today I am faced with real people asking for a real meeting. Wow!
Ultimately, I believe that this is my son’s information and his choice. Whether he wants to (a) meet his first family now, or (b) if he has no interest in ever meeting them, or (c) if he wants to wait to make a decision, I think birth parents and adoptive parents should honor that decision, whatever it is.
While it is true that he IS eighteen, he is FAR from an adult.
•· Is he too young? How can I keep this overture from him at this point in his life? I can not. It is his.
•· How can he choose one of these options? What frame of reference does he have with which to even consider the choices? After all, I don’t think he has researched or read up on the effects of open or closed adoptions. I doubt if he has given it much thought beyond the magical thinking in which adopted children sometimes engage when they are having a sad day, i.e.: “My birth mother must be Reece Witherspoon and I just know she is coming back for me!”
•· What unspoken feelings does he have about his birth mother? Longing? Rejection? Curiosity? Resentment? Questions? Indifference?
•· So how can we prepare him to think it through?
•· How can we provide him with enough information to choose?
•· How can we tell him about the reunions that end up answering haunting questions, giving the child a sense of completion?
•· Has he even considered that those questions might exist?
•· On the contrary, how can we let him know about reunions that have turned out to be a can of worms, where birth mothers want more from the relationship than the adoptee is able or willing to give?
•· How can we present all this in an unbiased fashion?
•· How much will he pick up from us in drawing his conclusion?
It’s a lot to think about.
Saturday – just three days later
We arrived at Starbucks early. We had decided that my husband and I should meet her first before presenting the prospect of a meeting to my son.
My husband was skeptical. I was hopeful. So to get the real scoop, we had to meet. I told myself I wouldn’t cry, but alas. We had never seen one another but recognized each other by the look in our eyes. As we embraced, hot tears clouding our eyes and messing up our carefully applied mascara, I wondered if those around us realized the enormity of what they were witnessing as they casually sipped their morning blend.
We exchanged photos. Three beautiful bi-racial teenage girls. One handsome bi-racial boy, nearly a man.
When she looked at his photos – mostly school pictures from junior high forward, she broke down again. I could hardly understand her words, and in retrospect I am not sure she was really talking to me. Perhaps it was more to herself. It sounded something like, “I have always second guessed my choice. For years I have wondered if I did the right thing. It hurt so bad. But now looking at these pictures, I know I could never have given him a life. Not with the mess my life was in then. I did the right thing. Just look at him!”
We spent the next few hours hanging onto one another’s every word. My husband and I did our best to condense 18 years of our son’s stories, traits, skills, aptitudes, family life, school life, church life, health, sports, and music into just one cup of coffee.
His birth mother was frank as she shared with us her life over the last twenty years. How she had a baby girl with her high school sweetheart when she was only 17. How she had signed over guardianship to her mother because she was in no condition to provide for a newborn. How the baby was raised by her grandparents and had never lived with her mom, although they have always enjoyed a close relationship. How she lived with her boyfriend and his mother after the baby was born. How she got really ill and went to the hospital in 1989 and that’s where she found out she was pregnant again. How she was heart-sick over the choices available to her, her life still mixed up. How she had spoken with adoption attorney Steven Kirsh about making an adoption plan and when she expressed her doubt, he had said, “You don’t have to place your baby. You can always move into a shelter.” Though it sounded callus, he was right, she admitted. As messed up as things were at the time, she acknowledged she could never take a newborn to a homeless shelter. She broke up with her boyfriend and got involved with another man with whom she had two more daughters, now 16 and 14. He was murdered in August 1995 as a result of a drug deal gone bad. And then during the last few years, things had really turned around for her. She now loves her job as a legal secretary at the State Capitol and was married four years ago to a man who is good to her and good for her girls. Her oldest daughter was her maid-of-honor at the wedding. She told us how much it means for her oldest daughter to meet her full biological brother – our son.
She said she had never intended to contact us, but that the new TV commercials for Kirsh & Kirsh with “that beautiful birth mother” had stirred up thoughts and emotions she thought were sound asleep in her heart. “I have never stopped thinking of him. I think of him everyday,” she said.
We left Starbucks all in agreement that whatever our son decided about meeting his first family, we would all support.
When we got home, we took our son to lunch and laid it all out for him. He didn’t say much, but when he did speak he said, “I always knew I wanted to meet her. If she hadn’t called us, I had planned to search for her one day.”
Friday, Leap Day 2008 – 7 days later
Dinner at The Journey. What an appropriately named restaurant for this meeting at this time with these people. Table for five: my son, his birth mother, his older biological sister, and his adoptive parents.
What an experience! Our son stood up as they approached the table. She was breathless. He was smiling. They hugged for a long time. The next two hours were a blur of comfortable conversation, hard questions, teary answers, and compliments all around.
I observed virtually no resemblance between them. She says he looks exactly like his birth father; slightly built, neat in appearance, loved jewelry and the latest hairstyles, neat and clean, really a nice guy but a little goofy. He has seen his first-born daughter only twice in her twenty years. He was exactly our son’s age when they were a couple. During the five years they were together in high school and after, they had two children together and he had a son with another girl. She said he was about 5′ 6″ as an adult. My son is already 5′ 9″. That was important to him.
His older full biological sister was raised in a neighboring suburb by her grandparents, where she had all the opportunities of a two parent home and a suburban school. She graduated from high school in 2006. She calls her mother by her first name. She calls her grandparents mom and dad. She is a beautiful girl with a confident manner of communicating. She was very involved in high school where she participated in color guard, show choir, musicals, and was voted Homecoming princess and Prom Queen in her senior year. She went to Ball State for one semester and is now going to Ivy Tech and living back at home. She was really chatty with her brother asking him about soccer, high school, music, and facebook, and Guitar Hero.
The conversation lulled. I asked him if there was anything he would like to ask his birth mother. He nodded and said, “What were your thoughts the last time you saw me?”
She was blindsided. She tried to choke back tears as she began to recount the day he was born. She was living with her sister at the time, her five year relationship with his birth father on the rocks. She was 19 years old. She tried to explain just how torn she was about signing the papers when it came right down to it and had thought about changing her mind, but she knew she had to do the right thing. She said it was the hardest choice she ever has made in her life, but by far her most mature decision. On the third day after his birth, she signed the papers to relinquish her parental rights. The nurses brought him in so she could say good-bye. They pulled the curtain. She said it hurt so much and felt so final, she wasn’t sure she could stand it. He was so peaceful. She had never even heard him cry. The next time they pulled the curtain, he was lifted from her arms. That was the last time she saw him … until today.
By now she was sobbing, recalling it like it was just yesterday. “Wow,” she said, “I wasn’t expecting that.” She said the pain was eased a little as time passed, by the letters and pictures and updates she got from us over the following years. She thanked us and told him what great parents he had to be so kind and open with her. While it still hurt, she was comforted by and grateful for those communications.
His second question was also well thought out. “What do you think it would it have been like if you had raised me?”
She didn’t even hesitate. She and her daughter glanced at one another and raised their eyebrows at the same time. It would have been very different, they agreed. She explained that she had lived her own life, making poor choices about boyfriends and behaviors until she was about 27 years old, when she was forced to make some changes with two pre-school daughters depending on her. He would have been caught in the middle of all that. Her two younger daughters are a testament to how very different it might have been. They were raised by a single mom with little money or vocational training in bad neighborhoods and poor school systems. Had she raised him, she said, he wouldn’t have had opportunities to be involved in sports or school activities or lessons or extra help with school work or Sunday school or youth group. Just recently, since she was married four years ago, are her girls able to get involved in these kinds of things. Playing outside in a safe neighborhood wasn’t an option for her girls when they were little. Having the support of a father figure around the house was non-existent. She stressed that her younger daughters have tougher issues to face today as a result of all these factors.
He listened intently. She reiterated that it is clear to her now that she had made the right decision and that his parents – she nodded toward my husband and I – had done such a beautiful job raising him. “I never could have given you the life your parents gave you.” He smiled.
The conversation turned to hobbies, vocations, interests, likes, and dislikes. It turns out that she has always wanted to be an architect and that she loves to draw. My son loves to draw and is really good at it. He thought about getting an architectural degree until he figured out how much math is involved. They both laughed in agreement. It seems his birth father loved jewelry and the latest styles in hair and clothes. There sat my son with a big chunky diamond necklace around his neck hanging to his waist. His sister loves to sing and dance in live performances. My son has a great voice and likes to work up hip-hop dance steps and is usually the center of the circle at school dances. His sister is going to Ivy-Tech. My son plans to attend Ivy-Tech in the fall. And this we found amazing … they are both considering degrees in graphic design as it pertains to clothing.
We took pictures of one another with cell phones and digital cameras. We hugged good-bye at the end of the evening and promised to be in touch.
Our son was pleased with how the meeting turned out and so were we. We learned a few things at The Journey that night. On the way home, we talked about how God doesn’t make mistakes, and about how uncanny it is that his genetic and environmental influences turned out to support and compliment each other.
Genetically, our son comes from creative people who think outside the box and are not tied to conforming to the expectations of others. For instance, over the last twenty years his birth mother has had three long-term relationships with Black men, which is outside the norm for a Caucasian woman in Indiana. She made an adoption plan for her baby, which is definitely problem-solving outside the box (the vast majority of women faced with an unintended pregnancy choose abortion or to parent). Her parents raised her first daughter after raising four kids of their own; an example of grandparents thinking outside the box. Our son’s birth father loved to dress and look the part of someone outside mainstream America. His sister is artistic and loves to sing and dance. His birth mother loves to draw. So does our son.
Then God brought our son to us and his environmental influences, in many ways, support his genetic heritage. My husband is a singer, creative enough to make a living at music ever since he was 13. He runs a music ministry on an offering basis which is definitely thinking outside the box. I love the creative process of writing and photography. I am involved in Arbonne, a network marketing business, again thinking outside the box in terms of earning income. And of course, my husband and I thought outside the box in terms of what our multi-racial family would look like.
What all of this means for our son remains to be seen. Just how his own journey will unfold is just over the horizon, still hidden from view. But we now know that he will probably be one who marches to his own drummer and thinks outside the box, and that with God’s hand of protection and direction, it will all turn out just right!