Openness in Adoption: A Sister’s Story

sophie flying
One day the phone rang and it was my dad’s voice on the other end of the line. I didn’t hear from my father very often – maybe a couple times a month – and a phone call usually meant he had something on his mind.

“I’d like you to come over to see me. Can you stop by the store some time tomorrow?”

“Sure.”

My dad was a checker at a grocery store. He’d had that job as far back as I could remember.

I walked up to the front door of the large market and the automatic double doors slid open. Dad was working the middle lane and was ringing up a customer’s order when I walked up to the end of the counter. Dad gave the woman her change and told her to have a great day. He looked at me.

“You have another sister.”

My parents had been divorced for about 22 years. The fact that he might have fathered another child didn’t surprise me. One thing, however, did surprise me.

“How old is she?” I felt a wave of curiosity wash over me.

“She’s nine.”

Nine years old? Was he kidding? My oldest son was nine!

Later that afternoon, I went to Dad’s house. He went to his closet and brought out a shoebox filled with neatly folded letters, holiday cards, and lots of photographs. He took out a picture and put it in my hand. The smiling little girl in the photo was my sister!

I immediately fell in the love with the blue-eyed girl with long dark blond curls. My mommy heart and my sister love came spilling out. She looked just like my kids and my siblings. She especially resembled one of my sisters. She could have walked in the door at that moment and I would have known she was family. Her parents had done a fabulous job of keeping my dad in the loop with pictures and letters of their little girl over the years.

Megan always knew she was adopted and she was now 9 ½ years old. I don’t know if she started asking questions, or if her parents initiated the correspondence, but the adoption agency had contacted Dad and asked him for more info. He asked me to write a letter.

I wrote to Megan’s mom and told her all about the family. I grew up as the oldest of four – three girls and a boy. I shared details about Megan’s two older sisters and brother. She also had nieces and nephews that were just about the same age as she was. It turned out, in fact, that Megan and my oldest son had been due the same week in late 1984. Megan was born a few weeks earlier than she was expected, and she was just three weeks older than her oldest nephew.

Before long I was getting to know my sister’s adoptive mom over a lovely lunch at the Peppermill Restaurant in Fresno. A few weeks later, on a beautiful summer day in 1994 I, along with my sisters, brother, and our families met our baby sister. Since that day she’s been to weddings, birthday parties, funerals, and holiday celebrations. She’s family.

I can’t thank her mom and dad enough for sharing their daughter with our family. She’s my little sister. I’m so blessed to know her and to have her in my life. I’m blessed to know her whole family.

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Openness in Adoption: A Daughter’s Story

Kenzie, feather

Growing up I always knew that I was adopted. I don’t have a dramatic story of when I “found out” like most people I speak to think I have… or maybe hope I have. Everyone seems to like to hear a good story. I, however, always knew I had a birth Mother and Father who received annual letters and pictures from my parents, and sometimes, I would get things in return, i.e. Birthday Cards and Christmas Ornaments. I also knew I had several half brothers and sisters, from both sides.

When I was nine my parents sat me down to tell me they had been contacted by a half sister on my birth fathers side. She, along with her brother and two other sisters, wanted to meet me! I don’t remember my initial reaction but I do remember being given time to think about it and knowing that if I were to meet them that it would be on my own terms.

When I made the decision to meet them I had one request, that I bring along my closest friend, the only friend I had who knew I was adopted. I remember the visit occurred just after my 3rd grade school year ended…I even remember what I was wearing!  I was nervous and had no idea what to expect. We met at a park and I was overwhelmed at how many people were there; 4 adult siblings and 7 nieces and nephews. I am a very shy person so it took me a while to warm up – but when I did I was “showing off” for the crowd. I had everyone’s attention and what 9 year old doesn’t want that!

At this meeting I was given a small photo album that my sibling’s mother made for me; she was not my birth mother. The album was full of pictures of my siblings at various stages of their lives. I remember looking at a picture of one of my sisters and for the first time seeing a family resemblance; my eyes, my smile, my hair! I didn’t realize it at the time but I know now how significant that was, this is where I came from.

In the years to follow I have been involved in the lives of these half siblings. I have been to birthday parties, Christmas get-togethers, weddings, funerals and I have even met my birth father.  I now have 10 nieces and nephews and twin great-nephews! It’s been a wonderful journey and this biological connection means more and more to me as I get older. I am also grateful to my parents for allowing this openness to occur, knowing the decision could not have been an easy one.

Openness in Adoption: A Mother’s Story

Sarah and Kenzie

Does openness in adoption scare you? It doesn’t have to. It can be an amazing gift not only to your child but to you!

May I tell you my story?
I am an adoptive mom of two through domestic adoption. My oldest is a girl. When she was a mere 9 years of age I got a letter from one of her ½ sisters – on her birth father’s side – requesting that our adoption be opened. To this point we had what I would call a semi-open adoption. We exchanged pictures and letters once a year through our agency.

Of course my initial response was ‘heck no’! My mama bear instincts rose up in immediate protective mode. But then I looked that the pictures that my daughter’s sister had sent along with her request. Pictures of herself, two other sisters and a brother. They looked, ‘normal’ and happy. People who looked very much like my daughter. I should interject here that my daughter’s birth mother was not young and her birth father was even older so the siblings I’m talking about were young adults at this point.

My initial instinct was to write back a very nice, but cordial, letter to her letting her know that when my daughter turns 18 she can decide whether or not she would like to meet them. Fortunately, I didn’t just dismiss their request like that but made a call to our social worker – who I hadn’t talked to in almost 9 years. Of course she was aware of the request as it had gone through the agency before arriving in my mailbox. She was able to calm my fears and think of what would be in my daughter’s best interest – not my own comfort zone. This was definitely out of my comfort zone at the time. She told me that she felt these people were good, safe people. People who already loved my daughter just from her pictures and the letters I’d sent to her birth father. She also told me that she felt it would be a benefit to my daughter, especially at this point in time – just before reaching puberty – also while she was still under our care and guidance. So, stepping out in faith I made arrangements to meet them at a local restaurant – without my daughter – to ‘check them out’. It was a bit strange, I will admit, but they were all so nice. They brought pictures of themselves when they were my daughter’s age. I could see that they genuinely cared for her and wanted to get to know her. I walked away from that meeting knowing that it would be in the best interest of my child to meet some of her birth family but I also knew it wasn’t something we would force on her.

I don’t remember how long after the meeting it was that my husband and I told our daughter of the request to open her adoption more and showed her the letter, but it wasn’t too long. She was a little hesitant but excited too. Her one request was that she be able to bring her best friend with her.
I remember that day so clearly. Pulling into the park parking lot at just about the same time they were arriving. We picked a nice spot under a big tree and started on a journey together that I have never regretted and neither has my daughter.