February 20, 2013

Dear People Who Aren't Adopted:
My DNA is Important Too!

Passing the nurse’s station of the maternity ward of a local hospital, my husband and I made our way to the room where our church member was located. Taking a customary spritz of the hand sanitizer outside the room in the hallway, we paused a moment to rub it in, knocked on the door and went inside to find a beautiful newborn girl and her parents.

Photo Credit Gregoryrallen, Flickr Creative Commons
After settling in and oohing and ahhing over the baby for a few moments, a hospital employee came in wheeling a cart with a computer that contained the proofs of the baby’s first photos. “Is this a bad time to review and select your photos?” she asked.  Before the parents could answer, we interjected that we would be perfectly happy to visit with them another time, and give them time in private to view and discuss the proofs. “No…please” they insisted, “we’d love it if you’d stay.” So we did.  

Newborn photos have really changed a lot just since I’ve had my children and things are much more elaborate. The photos were accompanied by music that set the tone perfectly. As things progressed, the parents got a bit emotional. I understood completely! 

Mother and father sat on the hospital bed together in an embrace, tears in both their eyes as they viewed the breathtaking photos and made the difficult decision about which ones to purchase. We didn't have this kind of proofing session at the hospital when our children were born but I remember receiving each of my children's photos from the hospital, and cherishing them.

As the display continued, the mother said, “Oh look! She has the Smith* chin! It comes down in a perfect little point, just like all the babies on the Smith side.”

“Oh, you can’t deny she’s a Smith baby,” said the Dad. “But you can also tell she’s a Manning baby by that head full of dark hair!” We all agreed, she was the perfect blend of a Smith and Manning.

Walking down the long hospital corridors after the visit, my body was in sync alongside my husband as we journeyed hand in hand, but my mind was somewhere else entirely. In the silence of our walk, I was face to face with my past once more.

I experience hospital visits all the time in the course of my work as a pastor, and I can say almost without exception that on a maternity visit we hear about how much the baby resembles other family members. Of course this isn't limited to hospital visits. People often talk about who their baby looks like, or how their personality and habits relate to others within the immediate or extended family.

So what's the problem? It has nothing to do with the couple in the above illustration. None of what went on in the hospital room was wrong -- in fact it's entirely normal, and...beautiful. 

What I am addressing in this post are those who so easily dismiss the feelings of adoptees who struggle with the loss of these experiences.
If it's so unimportant, why do non-adoptees talk about it so much?

I have no newborn photos of myself. 

Photo Credit: eyeliam, Flickr Creative Commons
There is NOTHING that can make up for this, including a present day photo shoot, nor would one when I was an older child have made any difference. (Yes, I know there's a viral post going around about a 13 year old who posed as an  infant. If you want to know what I think about that, as well as other Lost Daughters bloggers who are weighing in on the situation, go here.)

I very rarely meet adoptees who have newborn photos. I am in relationship with a few who have been given access to what was their confidential adoption file and a photo was included.
The earliest photos of me include one in the Children’s Home Society when my adoptive parents came before my adoption was finalized. But nothing when I was born. There is no record of the beginning of my journey on this earth. Well, there probably is something in my adoption file, but I’m not entitled at the present time to have it.  (Which I believe makes even less sense than it did in the beginning, now that I'm in reunion.)

Physical features, talents and traits were never discussed growing up because there was nothing to compare. I listened while my family members spoke of how everyone else resembled and related, while I just stayed quiet. 

When bringing all this up to non-adoptees, we sometimes hear cruel responses, even from psychologists like Dr. Laura Schlessinger who once remarked, "It’s just DNA.”


I love what Rebecca Hawkes recently said in response to this:

     "I almost can't even process the statement, 'It's just DNA.' I suppose you can put the word "just" in from of anything, but to me that's like saying, 'Its_just_the essential building blocks of identity and self.'"

When you speak of how you or your child are like their relatives in appearance or personality you are speaking of your DNA.

So, if you aren't an adoptee, why is your DNA important, but mine irrelevant?

Why do I need to just "get over" what you seem to enjoy so much?

  *All names and identifying details have been changed