How this mom’s journey to learn her own adoption story has shaped her view of what it means to be a family.
Growing up, I would sit next to my mother in front of the mirror, cupping our chins and pressing my face to hers saying, “Same, Mommy?” I was looking for some similarity, some physical connection, some way to unquestionably bind her to me. You see, my mother is my mother, but she didn’t give birth to me.
I was adopted at birth, and spent the majority of my life holding that fact to my chest like a precious jewel. I felt special, and very loved, but I also felt a sense of unvoiced disconnection from my family. Although nobody would guess I was adopted (I’m similar enough to my parents that I could be a combination of their DNA), I always wondered whom I looked like, where I came from, and whose personality traits trickled through my genetic code.
In 2013, I rather accidentally stumbled onto the thread that would unravel my biological secrets. I’ve now met a first cousin, a full sister and my birth mother. It’s surreal having genetic relatives after nearly 40 years of wondering. What I now know without a doubt is that blood is not always thicker than water. I discovered that a shared genetic history does not necessarily equal a strong emotional bond.
Finding the pieces of my genetic puzzle certainly answered some questions for me, but it did not give me the sense of family I had wondered about. Instead, it drew me closer to the family I have, making me realize that sometimes nurture really does take precedence over nature.
In retrospect, it’s obvious my adoption played a much greater role in how I developed, and how I entered marriage and motherhood than what I ever realized. Family is not formed by shared blood or genetics.
My husband is also an only child, my father has no siblings, my mother has just one, and I have only two first cousins. We are a small family, but I am absolutely overflowing with love for those who have become family to us. I have aunts and uncles who, although not technically related, are most definitely my people. I have always had close friends, and people in my life that are like family; they are my family, without a doubt. Our web of support is far-reaching, and not bound by traditional familial definitions. Those who come into our lives are welcomed as family, too.
Ryan and I also have children of our own now: two kids who resemble both him and me. I finally get to cup my children’s chins in my hands and look into a mirror and see sameness. It is incredible to behold, of course, but I realize now that it isn’t this physical similarity that binds us.
In the end, it’s just love that makes a family.
Photo: In Bloom Photos
This is #1000families post number 114. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.