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Courtesy Art

By: Tara Woods

My pony tail slung back and forth as the bus chugged along on the way to school. My eyes were tired as the sun came up over the fields of corn. A boy on the bus turned around in his seat in front of me, looking at me in the eye.

“Your parents didn’t want you,” he said with a nasty sneer twisting his face.

“It’s because you’re ugly.”

I looked up at him, unamused. “Actually,” I started, “my parent’s chose me. You were just an accident.”

I was in third grade when that boy said that to me. The previous day I had told my class that I was adopted. I was the only person in my class who was. It was never a secret in my household, there was never a moment that changed my life forever. I just always knew that my mom hadn’t given birth to me.

Many people did not understand the concept of adoption. They would ask if I had ever met my ‘real’ parents. I would always look at them weird and say, “Yeah, I live with them.” Of course I knew that was not what they meant, but I wanted to make the point that just because someone donated their sperm or gave birth to me did not equate to them being my parents.

Each adoption is different from the next, but my adoption was kind of unusual, because my mom and dad were able to be with my birth mom through a lot of the process. My birth mom, Jennifer, was 17- years-old when I was conceived. She hid it for a while, wanting to keep it from her parents and not knowing what to do. Her boyfriend at the time, my birth father, said he would pay for her abortion. She had considered the idea, but in the end couldn’t go through with it.

She told her parents, and they wanted to shield her younger siblings from what was going on, so they decided she would stay with a family friend up in Traverse City. She carried out the rest of her pregnancy and gave birth to me there.

My parents got involved because Jennifer’s uncle was an elder with my dad at church. My father came forward one day and asked for prayer, as they were trying to find a birth mom on their own. My parents had adopted my brother, Taylor, four years earlier and wanted to adopt again. On Christmas Eve, Jennifer’s aunt called my parents saying she wanted to see their adoption profile. Shortly after, they were chosen.

I was born on groundhog’s day, 1998. It was also Jennifer’s 18th birthday. I always joked that I was her gift. My parents gave her a gift, too, and selected her first name to be my middle name.

On the day I was born there was drama in the waiting room. My birth father and his parents showed up. Jennifer’s parents did not want them there, as my birth father was simply a bad influence on Jennifer, and his mother wanted to keep me. I’m told there was a lot of tension.

They eventually both signed off on the adoption, but that wasn’t the end of the tension. Nine months later my birth father was suing the agency that did the paperwork for my adoption, claiming that he wasn’t of sound mind when he signed the papers. There was a huge legal battle over whether or not my parents would get to keep me or if my birth father and his family would. His mom was behind the whole thing, she really wanted her first granddaughter.

Not only that, but my mom had pictures of me taken at Meijer. My mom told my birth father’s mother she would send her some to try to ease some of the tension, but his mom went to Meijer on her own and picked up the pictures without my mom’s knowledge, claiming she was my grandmother.

Shortly after that incident, the court found his claims unsatisfactory and I stayed with my parents. Unfortunately, the agency tried to put the legal bill on my parents instead of taking care of it themselves. My parents threatened to expose the situation to the media, and the agency paid it without another word. They also changed their documents and policy so that another case like this wouldn’t happen again.

But after all the drama, I was home. My birthmom was a part of my life for the first year or so. I even went to her High School Graduation party. But as I started to get older she decided it would be best if her and I didn’t meet until I was 18. She wrote my mom a letter, explaining how tough her teenage years were and how she didn’t want me to feel like I had a place to run away to if things got hard.

So for the next 17 years of my life I didn’t know her. She would email my mom on my birthday every year, or on Christmas. My mom would tell her about me and send pictures. I would always think of her on my birthday. I would add 18 years to my age and think about how old she was turning and who she might be celebrating with.

As a kid I would be in the back seat looking out the window at other cars passing, and I would imagine if I was a part of that family instead of mine. Where would I be going? Who would my friends be? Would I have more toys? I always generally decided I liked my family more. It was real to me though, the fact that it was more than a possibility that I could have ended up with any family.

When I was 13, I had recently signed up for Facebook and got a notification in my inbox. It was from a middle aged man, asking “do you remember me?” I was very confused, and a little scared, so I ignored it and deleted it. A few years later though, the same man asked the same question again. Then I realized it was my birth father. I immediately replied and we started talking. It only took a day of conversation to realize that I didn’t want him in my life right now. I was young, and he was sharing things about his life that I was not ready to hear. I stopped talking to him, but he started commenting on my wall. So did his mom. My mom found out shortly after, and I told her about how I was feeling. She relayed that to my birth father, who confirmed my feelings of unease by acting like a child about the situation. He got very upset, and said he was just trying to do what his therapist told him to by reaching out to me. It was really hard for me, but at that time I felt more blessed than ever that I have the family I do. Both my parents protected me and made me feel safe.

I don’t know if my feelings will change in the future, but right now I have no desire to have him be a part of my life in any way. Not even as friends on Facebook.

Finally though, I was graduating from high school in a week and was 18. After my 18th birthday one of the main thoughts I had was that it was finally time. Before my graduation my mom reached out to Jennifer asking if she would like to get dinner with us. She said yes, and we planned it. I was really nervous, I didn’t really know what it would be like. My mom always told me how much I sounded like her or said stuff that she would say. I wondered if she would like me, or think I was too bold or too quiet. I wondered if I would like her too.

The day finally came, and me and my mom headed off to Roses, a small upscale restaurant on a lake in East Grand Rapids. We got there on time, and she was waiting for us. She said hello and I was suddenly calm. I realized that no matter what, my mom loved me and so did the woman who gave birth to me. They both only wanted what was best for me, and both gave me exactly that.

The dinner was great, Jennifer spent a lot of time talking about her life and what happened during the adoption and the pregnancy. She swapped stories with mom. She gave me a gift as well, a beautiful ring with our birthstone, right next to my mothers. She designed it herself weeks in advance. Inscribed inside was the words ‘Romans 8: 28.’ It was their Bible verse from my adoption.

It reads, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” The reason this scripture was chosen, was on Jennifer’s birthday, the day I was born, my parents gave her a necklace with the same scripture on it. I wear it every day. Shortly after that, she came to my graduation party. It felt like a full circle moment. The day was filled with special memories, but none as memorable as that.
It’s been two years now, and I haven’t seen her since. She has two young children with her husband now, and is a busy mom while I navigate college. I don’t know what’s next for our relationship, but I want to be respectful of her boundaries and her life, just as I’m sure she wants to with mine. I am content for now though. I have my mom and dad, and my brother – my family that chose me.

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