Laura de Medici-Bentley: Family not limited to a ‘common ancestor’
“How did you find out you were adopted?” is a pretty common question for me. Usually, I can tell that people are expecting to hear a story as dramatic as the scene from “The Avengers” when Loki finds out he isn’t Oden’s biological son.
The truth is, I’ve always known. I don’t remember a particular day when my parents sat me down to tell me. It has always been as natural as common knowledge. Not only were they transparent with me; they have always made sure I celebrated and learned about my heritage. I have visited my native country several times, and when I was 10, my parents took me to the hospital (even the room) where I was born.
I was adopted from the Dominican Republic when I was 2 weeks old. I was left in the hospital at birth. All I know about the woman who gave birth to me is that she used a false identity so that she couldn’t be traced once she left the hospital. This was not a woman who wanted an open adoption. This was someone who did not want to be found, ever.
When I tell this story, people usually react by saying “I’m so sorry!” I don’t want them feel pity, because my story isn’t a sad one. My biological mother bravely gave me a chance at a life she was unable to give me, for whatever reason. Anyone who has ever witnessed the poverty in the Dominican Republic knows I am extremely fortunate. And anyone who knows my parents knows that I am beyond blessed.
It may sound hard to believe, but sometimes, I forget that I’m adopted. When I was pregnant with Livia, I remember wondering if she would resemble my mom, and then I laughed to myself as I remembered that this “probably” wouldn’t happen.
When I was filling out medical forms during Livia’s first doctor visit, I came to the section about family medical history, and I began writing all of my parents’ information. I actually had to ask for a new paper so I could write the correct answer: “unknown.”
The only thing that troubles me is letting Livia know that I’m adopted. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t have to. I remember people asking me about my “real” parents, and I hated these questions with a passion. What if she asks me those questions? My real parents are the ones who raised me. My real sister, Marina, is my best friend and the best aunt Livia could ever dream of.
I never resented my biological parents, but whenever someone would ask about my “real” parents, I felt that my family was being robbed unfairly of that title — that is what hurt me.
One particular incident weighs heavily on my conscience. In fifth grade, I went out to dinner with a friend and her mother. Somehow, we started talking about the fact that I was adopted. Suddenly, my friend’s mother said “You know what? I’m adopted, too.”
I appreciated that she wanted to make me feel like I could relate to her. My friend, on the other hand, became extremely upset. Until that evening, she had no idea that her mother was adopted. She started crying and questioning who her “real” grandparents were. It became painfully awkward.
From that day, I dreaded and wondered about how I would tell my future children, praying they wouldn’t have a similar reaction. The fact that I’m adopted doesn’t matter to me — but would it matter to them?
What if Livia’s different? What if she develops an intense curiousity to track down biological relatives who don’t even want to be tracked?
I’ve come to the realization that I can’t control her questions or feelings, nor do I want to. However, in addition to being honest with my daughter, what I can and will do is teach her that the definition of family is not limited to “a common ancestor.” I will teach her that there is no way a family is “supposed” to look. Where there is love, you forget about labels like “adopted,” “blended,” or “LGBT.” Love is love, and that is what makes a family.
Laura de Medici-Bentley, of Winchester Virginia, is a former early childhood educator who currently enjoys staying home with her [almost] 2-year-old daughter. She is an author of a personal blog, CiaoMommy.com. She can be reached at email@example.com