In the beginning….
Let’s have some really early backstory here. In 1954 I was born in New York City, and named Nancy Harrison. A week later my birth mother surrendered me to the State Charities Aid Association and I was put into a foster home. Three months later I was adopted by Larry and Helen Miller. I was given a new name, Catherine Almyra Miller, but everyone called me Kate. My new parents later adopted three other children and, voila, we were a family! My adopted family was pretty great, of course we had our own issues, what family doesn’t, but overall it was a family full of love and learning and, well, life!
Ok, so adoptees have their issues too, fears of new stuff: new places, new people, new experiences. In one womb for nine months, going through whatever our birth mom was going through. Arriving in a hospital and within a week mom leaves me with strangers and is gone. Now I have a foster family, of which I remember nothing consciously. Then, at three months, a new home with new adults. No room for grieving here, everyone is overjoyed.
I carry other fears as well. Fears of loss and abandonment. Where did my first mom go? Why? What happened to her? I have imagined her for years, pregnant and alone in New York City, a place she might never have been to. For a while there is a foster family, then they are gone as well. What about these new people, will they go away as well? They read me my book, “The Chosen Baby”, all about adoption and how my parents wanted a baby but couldn’t have one, how they looked and looked, how they found me and chose me to be their baby, how happy they were, how happy I should be, the chosen baby. Chosen is special but also different, do I want to be different? And why didn’t my first mom choose me?
For years old church ladies would croon over my siblings and me, how lucky we were to be adopted, not poor orphans left to wither in orphanages. We would squirm under their pitying eyes, run away as soon as we could. But their words of the past we might have had, if our new parents hadn’t “chosen” us but abandoned us as our birth parents had, slithered into our nightmares and haunted us for years.
I have more fears, fears that I will never be good enough. I’ve read the original adoption papers, “The family may return the child to the association if the child is found unsatisfactory.” The one thing adoptees think they know for sure is that they are already “ not satisfactory, at least for two people, their birth parents. So what guarantee do they have that they will live up to these new parents’ expectations? Or the expectations of their first grade teacher, or their first lover, or their marriage? The one thing adoptees know for sure is that the world starts with a question, and goes on from there.
Again, I was blessed with a wonderful home and parents who were not only good parents but good people, interesting, involve, caring, and talented as well. I wish they were still here to come on this journey with me, as I know they would have loved to do so.