By Marcy Twete
Real is a word with great meaning to most adopted children, and a word that can cut deep. Inevitably, in childhood, someone finds out you’re adopted and says it.
“Who is your real mom?”
“Have you ever looked for your real family?”
What is my real story?
What is real for me about adoption? My sense of pride and honor to be adopted and my sense of gratitude for the family I love and cherish.
On the day I was born, my parents were dancing. While their little girl was entering the world hundreds of miles away, they were celebrating the marriage of my cousin Renee with my entire family. Just 13 days later, they journeyed to Fargo, North Dakota to bring me into their family.
When my parents arrived to pick me up, one of the women at the adoption agency asked my brother Jeremy if he would like to meet his sister.
He obliged, and she whisked him away behind a door where she privately introduced him to his baby sister. Just a few minutes later, my parents arrived. Jeremy and I have always been close, and I like to credit that moment.
I tell you these two initial stories because I truly believe my being adopted makes me “special.” Nobody else shares my story.
And from day one, my parents set out to ensure I knew that I was special, wanted, dreamed of and loved. There has never been a time when I didn’t know I was adopted. For Jeremy and I, being adopted is part of the fabric of who we are. He knew his own adoption story well before I came into the picture.
We continued to read books and hear stories throughout our childhoods. My parents were always willing to answer questions whenever we had them. I remember loving to read my baby book and see photos from my baby shower. Most mothers get cards and gifts before their babies were born. Mine came after. I still enjoy reading the loving sentiments of friends and family, surprised and excited that my parents finally got their baby girl.
This distinction in my childhood is an important one for adoptive parents. You have a choice to make your child’s adoption positive, special, and meaningful. I never felt sad or ashamed about being adopted, even when other kids were cruel or questioned my family. That sense of self comes from strong, confident parents who were never scared, sad or ashamed about their children or about their own story.
Like most adoptees, even with positive beliefs about adoption, I wondered about my biological family. This sense of questioning became profound in my early teen years, the time when I recognized I was the same age as my very young birth mother.
At the same time, a streak of independence grew in me like my parents couldn’t believe. I wanted nothing more than to leave my small town in North Dakota and became obsessed with moving away and traveling the world. I rebelled, as most teenagers do, but that rebellion coincided with questioning and a longing to find more information about my origin story.
Who are my birth parents?
What are they like?
Do I look/sound/act like them?
How must my biological mother have felt being pregnant at such a young age?
Most adoptees will grapple with these questions at some point. Not because our families aren’t enough, or because we secretly want different parents. It is a part of our identity– our story of origin– and most of us wonder about how we began before we became who we are today. Numerous times since I turned 18, I’ve stopped and started a search for my biological mother. At times, I may have gotten close to connecting with her, but it hasn’t come to fruition at this point in my life. When I really think about it, I believe I will meet her at some point. I’m not sure when.
For now, I’m always delighted to share my story with friends and family considering adoption or those who have been adopted. Each of our stories is unique, but there are threads of similarity everywhere.
And inevitably, for every adoptee, someone will always ask…
“Do you want to find your real family?”
Here’s my answer, from The Velveteen Rabbit:
“Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you.” […] “It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.” […] “Once you are Real, you can’t become unreal. It lasts for always.”
Every day, as a child who was adopted, I have realness in my life. My parents are real, my brother is real, my nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, and uncles are real. My husband is real. I am real. And perhaps someday I will meet my biological family…because they are real, too.
Marcy Twete is a corporate sustainability leader, bestselling author of the book, “You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works.” She lives in Chicago with her husband Charlie and her tabby cat Betsey. Marcy was adopted in 1984 in rural North Dakota. The child of a teen mother, Marcy is passionate about inspiring confidence in young women. She is the Chair of the Board of Directors for Step Up Chicago, a member of the Board of Directors for the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, and a Trustee for the Chicago Architecture Foundation.