The Rev. Ann Gibert is the Pastor of the United Church of Christ, Federated, in Webster, Mass. She and her husband now live in Newton. In her spare time she loves to read, cook and knit, and she has recently begun learning how to paint. She has written a powerful meditation on her experience as an adoptee that she has graciously shared with BPAR.
Hi, I’m Ann, and I’m adopted. Normally, this is not how I would introduce myself, but in this case, I may as well put it out there, since otherwise you will be wondering why this blog is here on the BPAR website. I’m in my mid-fifties and was adopted as an infant. My parents (note: for clarity, when I say “parents” or “mother” or “father,” I mean the couple who adopted and raised me) did a great job of making the fact that I was adopted just that, a fact, plain and simple. It is a part of who I am and it’s what made us a family, and I am grateful.
This didn’t stop me from reading books like The Little Princess and wondering what it would be like to find a parent. When I did finally make contact with my birth mother, just a few years ago, it wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. When she handed me to the attorney who put me in my mother’s arms, she was promised confidentiality, and it blew her mind when the agency who handled my adoption contacted her. Just as I have been living my life without her, she has gone on to live her life without me, and she decided that meeting me would be too much for her and her family. So, it’s likely that I will never know my three half-sisters or their children, although I still pray that she will one day change her mind.
Because the fact of my adoption was always a part of my life, and not a big family secret, and because my parents were amazing people, I never remember wishing that I wasn’t theirs. I didn’t think too much about the circumstances of my birth until my parents passed away, and those feelings intensified when I became a parent myself. I can’t begin to imagine the circumstances under which I would surrender a child, but knowing what I do about the attitudes toward single parents in the ‘50s, it certainly made sense to my birth mother.
As I began to investigate the story of my birth, it became clear that the professionals involved in the adoption and my parents weren’t told the whole story, or even the same story. I was able to clear up some of the mysteries when I exchanged letters with my birth mother, but answers give rise to more questions. For now, I must be content with knowing more than I ever thought I would, since I never expected to locate her at this late date.
Family is a flexible word for me. I define family as those who are kin by love or by blood, and family are those I choose to welcome into my heart and life and those who likewise choose me. I was not only adopted, but an “only”, so I was determined that when the time came to have a family of my own, I would have more than one child, because I always relished hanging out with friends who had siblings. In spite of the squabbles, there was a loyalty as well.
When I make a friend, that person is a friend for life. I’ve been blessed with many friends, and we do, indeed, think of one another as family. If you’re having a bad day, you can call me and I will listen. It thrills me that this kind of connection has extended to the next generation, and that my children’s friends think of me as both a second mom and as a friend.
I don’t know how much of who I am as a person is how I would have been had I grown up in my original family. I do know that because of the circumstances surrounding my birth, I would not have had the upbringing my parents gave me. I was pretty spoiled – toys, clothes, private school, travel and a college education. Of course, my birth mother is still alive and my parents are not, and I miss them every day. Still, I wouldn’t trade a day in their house for a day anywhere else.
So, If you are reading this because you placed a child and wonder about your decision, I hope this story gives you hope. If you are an adoptee, I hope your life with your family is as great as mine was, “secrets” and all. There are so many ways to be a family, and many of them are more accepted now than they were when I was a baby.
I have a letter from the attorney who took me from my birth mother and handed me to my mother. He recalls my birth mother’s sadness, but also her confidence that she was doing the best she could do for me. That is what all parents ought to do. That is love.
Written by Rev. Ann Gibert