September 29, 2006

Are you my Mother?

Something has been on my mind for the past couple of weeks, thanks to questions asked by a curious friend.

As a lot of you know, I'm adopted. My parents adopted me when I was two months away from turning three, so almost the same age as Cael is now. I know absolutely nothing about my birth parents, and very little about my life before the adoption. I know I spent some time in a foster home, but I don't know how long. If I go by pictures, then I THINK I was placed in care at about the age of 18 months. I say this because I have very few photos of myself as a baby, and the ones I do have are so blurry you can barely make out my features. (I do see a lot of me as a baby in my kids though, no matter what the MIL says…) There are a lot more photos of me as a toddler, which makes me think that my birth parents took very few pictures, but my foster family took more when I was placed with them. One of the few baby pictures shows me at about nine months old with a black eye.

I had fallen down the stairs in my walker at the babysitter's (according to the picture caption) and had spent some time in the hospital. Notice that I am sitting/standing in…the walker. The photo was taken the same day I got home from the hospital. Great.

So now, here I am. Thirty-one, married and two kids. I still have no idea who my parents are or where they are. I don't know how old they were when I was born, I don't know the circumstances surrounding my foster care and adoption. All I do know is that Jon and I aren't related…mom checked when we got engaged.

My brother was also adopted, four years after me. I remember very clearly being allowed to take the day off school so we could go pick him up, and I was the first to hold him. He was only three months old and so tiny! My parents were thrilled to have the opportunity to care for an infant, since I was well beyond that stage when they got me. They happily got up for night feedings, made bottles, changed diapers and wiped spit-up. And he was an incredibly good baby. So happy and giggly…I had so much fun with him! Especially when he got to the jolly jumper stage…he loved it when I would pull him back and let him swing through the doorframe. Until mom caught me…she wasn't too impressed.

My parents have always been very open about my brother and me being adopted. I'm sure they would have answered any questions we may have had growing up, but we just never asked. Partly because we were happy, loved and well cared for…why would we question such a great life? Neither of us have ever used the "you're not my real parents" thing in a fight and I can't imagine what that would have done to them…my mom for sure would have been devastated. Because as far as I'm concerned, they are my parents. They are Mom and Dad, while my biological parents are known as my Mother and Father. I don't share DNA with Mom and Dad, but they've raised and nurtured me to become the person I am now. And I think I turned out pretty good! I'm polite (which I'm sure came from growing up in the political spotlight, with dad always being involved at some level), environmentally aware and vote New Democrat. All from them.

Which leads me to the nature versus nurture debate. I think I'm a LOT like my parents. I have a temper, which most attribute to the hair and that I MUST have some Irish blood in there somewhere. But my mom is pretty firey herself…so it may have come from watching her. I'm fairly scientifically minded. My dad has a BSc in biology and is always interested in all things scientific. My mom is insanely mathematical….I'm SO not. She does Sudoku like its going out of style…she loves it. But she is also bookish…and so am I. When I was a kid/teen you'd never see me without my nose in a book. We'd go to the library every weekend and my mom and I would each get a few books each and read them all within the week. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a broadcaster, and threw myself into school. Didn't get a job even remotely related to my training, but that's ok…the interest was there to take the course, and I'd still love to get back into it in some form someday. I'm sure that comes from my dad…he could sit and watch the news all day, as could I. I love cats. So does my mom. Although I have a toddler photo of myself at the foster home petting the resident cat, a big fat calico, practically curled up in the chair with her.

When I was pregnant with Cael, it was pretty much understood that I would breastfeed. And use cloth diapers. (Actually, that's how I broke the news to them that I was pregnant…I handed Mom a Kissaluvs diaper and asked if she could replicate it since she is a good sewer). Mom was thrilled about both. Little did I know that her biggest disappointment of not having biological children is to be able to breastfeed. If she were to adopt today and knew more about the options, she would have done induced lactation. And she used cloth on my brother until he got such bad rashes that she switched. I had no idea of these things until I was pregnant.

So where do I get the traits mentioned? IS it from Mom and Dad, or Mother and Father?

I look at my brother. He is very artistic. So NOT like mom and dad. Neither of them have any artistic ability whatsoever. But since we grew up in small town Nova Scotia, a man who is an artist MUST be gay. Unfortunately my brother is easily swayed by public opinion and decided against taking any art courses. For a time he wanted to go to chef school, but changed his mind for the same reason he didn't pursue any art training. He hasen't taken any training since he graduated high school six years ago. He just doesn't know what he wants to do, and won't go with what he's good at. Now he's working as telephone support for a high tech company. And its looking like he's going to go west at some point to work on the oil rigs. He does have an excellent work ethic, which would come from both parents…my dad grew up a farmer and my mom was in a military family. Both pretty strict. So I guess it’s a mix…he gets the artistic ability from someone, and is sure as hell isn't mom or dad.

Usually I don't even think about being adopted. Its part of who I am. But sometimes I get a pang…I'd like to know who my parents are. When I'm home I look at people in the street, wondering if we're related. Who do I get my fast metabolism from? And the hair? And the damn freckles? Do my kids have any traits from them? What are their occupations? Do I have brothers/sisters/nieces/nephews somewhere? What happened that I ended up in foster care? I'd even like to touch base with my foster family, more than anything to thank them for taking care of me until a more permanent family was found.

But somehow I don’t think I'll ever find out who they are, let alone meet them. And that's ok. I am very lucky to have parents who have supported me in whatever I wanted to do, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.


Anonymous Beanie Baby said...

This was lovely, Tanya. Thanks for writing it.

I think it's amazing how little drama there is in your life about this. I know if it were me, it'd have been A Really Big Deal, no matter who my parents were, just because I so hate not to know or understand things. And I'm sure I would have thrown out the 'real parents' thing once or twice too....

29/9/06 11:01  
Anonymous TT said...

Great post. It was really great to read about your life, and those cute pics(even the one with the black eye) :0)

29/9/06 12:24  
Anonymous Tania said...

What a wonderful post, and as an adoptee myself, I share some of your thoughts about my family (both sets).

I had great parents, and actually met my biological family when I was about 25. I think I was one of the lucky ones, because the whole family was wonderful and welcoming, and I have ongoing relationships with my bio mother, father, brothers and several other family members. I was okay before I met them, and I'm still okay...but it was nice to get a few more pieces of the puzzle. It may not seem like much, but seeing that both my brothers (full - my bio parents ended up getting married and having 2 more kids) had the same birthmark that I have was great fun, something I never really experienced growing up.

All that *really* is the people who raise you who are the true parents. I'm glad that yours were great and that your childhood was good as a result.

2/10/06 01:56  
Blogger ccw said...

A beautiful post! Your parents sound wonderful.

I love your pictures. My mom did not have a camera or money for one so I have no baby pictures either. She says Nonami looks just like me as a baby. I so wish I had the proof.

I met my bio. dad when I was 19. There are many physical similarities but not many "actions" that we share.

2/10/06 07:59  
Blogger Tanya said...

Tks folks!

Andrea, its funny how its always been a non-issue. With my brother and me, as well as all the extended family. Weird...

TT, wasn't I cuuuute? The boys didn't stand a chance with those genes. ;)

Tania, how great that you've met your bio family and everything went well! I think part of my not caring whether I ever find them comes from being scared of what I'd find out. Lets me have my own romantic idea of what my roots are. ;)

CCW, how sad that you don't have photos either. :( Neat that you met your dad at least, to see where you get the physical traits!

2/10/06 14:24  
Anonymous suze said...

what a wonderful post. I'm so sorry that you don't have more pictures from your early childhood but I'm so happy that you found a loving and welcoming family.

3/10/06 08:43  
Anonymous Amy said...

Hi Tanya!
Great post, I really enjoyed it. (Saw your dad on the news last night!) I really have to go with the Nurture on this one. Your parents are great, and you are proof of that.

3/10/06 10:50  
Blogger Yankee, Transferred said...

excellent post. Nice to see you at my place, and nice to be back over here.
You are living proof that adopted kids are the best in the world...not that I'm partial or anything!

3/10/06 16:01  
Blogger PeanutButtersMum said...

Tanya, Your parents must be such amazing people! They raised an amazing daughter and managed to do it in the healthiest way possible. How totally selfless of them! That's awesome! What a great life story you have so far... ;-)

5/10/06 08:49  
Anonymous Gillian said...

I am sorry, this is probably the most inappropriate thing to say, but that picture makes my heart hurt. I want to pick up that baby and just make whispery sounds as I rock her till she falls asleep and then I want to go beat the crap out of somebody. Doesn't say nice things about me I guess.

12/10/06 05:44  
Anonymous Rosie said...

Tanya...omg that's extremely insiteful and very *grown up* of you. I almost cried. Knowing your family....Mom and Dad almost all of my life as well, I can only were a blessing from the day they took you home. The joy..omg the joy. Trying to sit here and put myself in your shoes...well I just couldn't imagine. I guess I would be extremely curious about my bio family as well but I couldn't think of two more kinder generous and caring parents than you have. The support they gave my family during Ryans accident was incredable. Your dad actually accepted a collect call at his office from me. Of course I was hysterical and not thinking properly, but he did anyway. I couldn't be prouder or more comforted to be thought of as a part of the extended family. I guess what i'm trying to convey here is, I really believe that you have a rite to know *where* you came from and I understand that need. I would definately pursue that angle if I wanted. And at the same time...your family is wonderful.

13/4/07 18:33  

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