“When people hear that I was adopted, one of the most common follow-up questions is, ‘When did you find out?!’
My answer sometimes disappoints people. There is often this moment for adopted children where the parents sit their child down in their teens or later and explain that they’re adopted, or those stories where the child accidently finds out. My story wasn’t quite like that; My parents always shared with my older sister and I that we were adopted. My mom would rock us to sleep as babies and tell us that we had not one, but two mommies that loved us. Our birthmothers and herself.
It was important to my mom that my sister and I knew we were adopted because she had her own experience discovering she was adopted by her dad when she was 13. That was a trial for her as a young girl because she didn’t feel like she was who she had always thought she was before. It was a jolt to her system, and it took her a little while to view her adoptive dad – her dad- as her father again.
My sister was placed with my parents 4 years and 9 months before I came around, when she was just under a day old. She was born on Christmas day and was the greatest Christmas gift my parents could have asked for after eight years of struggling with infertility.
My sister, Katelyn, had a much more closed adoption than I did growing up. My parents and my sister’s birth mom were only allowed to exchange letters for the first 5 years of her life. We didn’t know her birthmother’s name and her birthmother didn’t know Katelyn’s name until Katelyn wrote to the state of Idaho when she was 18 as she began the search for her birthmother, Gina.
As a family, we met Gina, her husband, and three children just before Katelyn turned 19. That moment standing on her doorstep was so full of emotion. Gina had decided not to meet my parents during placement, so this was the first time she would see the parents of her firstborn child. We spent the weekend laughing and crying together and aweing at the familiarity we all felt for each other.
Shortly after meeting Gina and her family, my mom was on the phone with her dad telling him about the experience. ‘Leanne,’ he told her, ‘you really should think about reaching out to Bill, your birthfather.’
‘Dad, I don’t feel like I need to. I have you and you’re my dad.’
My grandpa explained to my mom that even if she didn’t feel like she should have a constant relationship with Bill, it could be a blessing for him to see that she was happily married with kids and life was treating her well. Through Facebook, she was able to make connections and ultimately come in contact with her birthfather.
His wife told my mom, ‘We always hoped you would knock on our door, and this is the knock.’ When my mom called Bill the first time, she was touched to know he still knew where all her baby pictures were and that he had thought of her every day of her life.
A few months after contact was made we were able to meet Bill, his wife, and several of his children and grandchildren. That family scooped our family in with open arms and a wonderful love. We were even included in a family reunion in Florida with their extended family last summer.
My adoption was much more open than my sister’s or my mom’s. My story starts in 1999. My birthmother was a senior in high school, my birthfather a junior. Unsure of how to tell their parents a baby was on the way, they opted to keep it a secret until I was born in the fall. My birthmother graduated five months pregnant, lived at home with her parents and even shared a room with her older sister; But still, no one would know about me besides my birthfather.
When I was measuring 22 weeks, my birthmother went to Planned Parenthood. The nurse ran an ultra-sound with the sound off and the screen turned away from my birthmother, Megan. It was explained to her that she was measuring further along than they usually terminate. She told them she wasn’t interested in terminating, to which they told her that if she wasn’t there to terminate there was nothing more they could do to help her. She went home feeling more helpless than before and continued to hide her growing bump.
Early in the morning of September 29th, Megan went into labor and her secret would soon be out. Her parents were on a trip to the Oregon coast when the drama began. Lying on the hallway floor, Megan called out to her sister in pain. ‘What’s wrong?,’ her sister frantically asked after hurrying to her side. ‘My baby is on the way. I need to be taken to the hospital.’
After I was born, a nurse was doing a standard vital check round and congratulated Megan on the new baby.
This was the first time Megan truly considered the option of adoption. ‘Adoption. Tell me more,’ was Megan’s reply. An agency was called and in a whirlwind, a stack of prospective adoptive parent profiles was brought to the hospital and my birthparents worked together to choose my parents.
After my birthparents chose the family they wished for me to be placed with, my parents were called and the social worker told them a baby girl had been born and they could come get her (me) on Monday. My parents were able to meet my birthparents, and both sets of birth-grandparents. After I was born, my birthparents separated, and both were married to other people within the next couple years.
My adoption was set up that letters and pictures could be exchanged once a year around my birthday. That communication continued with my birthmother until I actually met her. For some reason, my birthfather was cut off by the agency when I was five.
Around the time we reconnected with Bill, we were sitting at the dinner table playing a board game as a family; a Sunday evening staple growing up. The bishop of our church congregation called us and said, ‘I’ve just gotten off the phone with Hannah’s birthfather.’ My birthfather, Brent, had learned that Megan had been in contact with me my entire life and set out to regain his own connection to me. He went to his own bishop, who recommended Brent call our bishop so we could decide if we wanted to regain contact with him. We did. My bishop acted as a sort of intermediary for us as we began sending pictures and letters back and forth.
On my 16th birthday, I added Megan as a friend on Facebook. I followed Brent on Instagram shortly after. I decided to meet them both in the summer before my senior year. My family and I travelled to meet Megan in the beginning of August. I will never forget the drive from our hotel to her house. I have never felt my heart beat so fast while the world around me moved so slowly. I knocked on her door, and could hear her fumble with the baby-proofed door handle from the inside. Before I knew it, I was embraced in a warm, indescribable hug; My face buried in wonderful-smelling blonde hair.
We spent that Friday evening with her, and then returned the next day to meet her four young children. I adore her children so much. We had planned to meet the weekend of her eldest son’s birthday. He always knew he had an older sister out there and looked forward to meeting me, so we decided to surprise him. We had planned to have me open the door when he returned home from a party. The moment he opened the door and realized it was me will be a moment I hold in a special place in my heart. He was so tender and leaned in for a most precious hug.
Two weeks later, we had a similar reunion with my birthfather. Walking up to his house, we hadn’t quite made it to the door before he ran out and held me in the tightest hug I had felt to that point in my life and I have been a part of since. Like when we met Megan, we spent Friday with Brent and then spent Saturday with his wife, two children, as well as his parents and sister.
That weekend we were able to have the ‘grand reunion.’ For the first time since my birth nearly 18 years prior, both of my birthparents and I were in the same place. That was absolutely surreal.
Since that meeting almost two years ago now, my relationship with my birthparents and siblings has grown to something I treasure more than ever. But growth cannot come without a handful of bumps in the road. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved building relationships with both my birthparents, but there is no blueprint on how boundaries and the workings of open adoptions are supposed to look.
After reunification, I started my senior year. I had looked forward to meeting my birthparents my entire life but didn’t anticipate the hardships that occurred after meeting them. It was hard not to know when I would see them again. I wanted to spend all my time with them. I obsessed over texting them and anticipated their replies. When they were preoccupied with their own things in life, I would become overwhelmed with worry that I had done something to offend them and had somehow ruined our relationship. Because I had held them on pedestals (and still do, to some effect) as heroes, I had to readjust my view a little and realize they are just humans.
My parents struggled after reunification as well. I was still living at home, but I had two new adults that posed a parent-like role in my life. So over the next couple months there was communication to figure out what exactly our role would need to be for each other. I’m sure over the next several years as I enter new stages in life, communication will need to continue so everyone knows what everyone expects.
But the number of ‘struggles’ (for lack of better word) does not for a minute outweigh the immense love I have felt because of adoption. If done correctly, with constant communication and understanding, adoption is a wonderful way to grow a family. Looking at my life now, and how many wonderful people I’ve been blessed to be connected to, has had a tremendous impact beyond words.
I look forward to making more memories with not only my birth family, but my sister’s and my mom’s birth families. I can’t wait to see my younger siblings grow up and graduate and move forward. I am so grateful to have my sister in my life because our birthparents placed us with our parents. I love who I am and feel blessed by the sacrifice it took to get me here.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hannah Rickords. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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