2018-09-06 / Columns

World of adoption filled with love

A column by Jen Murphy

Recent opportunities I’ve had to talk with folks in Leelanau County who have connected with long-lost birth family members have created a special opportunity for me.

These stories have created a space for me to reflect on the experience of someone close to me who never made connection with her birth family, and to my knowledge, never made an attempt to discover who they were. They also led me to ask myself why.

At the age of three, my mom was adopted. To this day, she has never told me this herself. Actually, she hid the fact that she was adopted so well that it wasn’t until a few years ago as I was packing up things from her house of many decades that I found the envelope. It was taped shut and simply labeled, “Private.” Because I was helping my sisters go through all of her belongings, including paperwork and financials, I opened the envelope. To my surprise, it contained an adoption agreement.

The papers outlined the adoptive parents’ names and gave a brief synopsis of the birth mother’s situation. This young woman had tried, during the first few months of my mother’s life, to keep her daughter, but she couldn’t manage the responsibilities of motherhood at that time. And so, at the age of three, my mother left an orphanage to live with her forever family.

Adoption wasn’t something people talked about in the 1920s when my mother’s unwed mother discovered she was pregnant, or something my mother ever felt comfortable talking about years later. And, based on my conversations with people like Becky Hemmingsen and William Giegerich, it became clear people didn’t talk much about these things in the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s either.

Hemmingsen and Giegerich, unlike my mom’s birth family, went to great lengths to find their children who they had parted with so many years ago. And these reconnections are inspiring, their stories were a pleasure to tell.

As for my mother, she never talked about her adoption.

Why? I will never know. But one thing is clear: Her sense of family is fierce.

In fact, an often repeated phrase I heard from her while I was growing up was, “blood is thicker than water.” This statement typically made its way into conversation in her attempts to solidify family loyalty about some situation. The funny - and ironic - thing is that her definition of “blood” must have been different than everyone else’s, because her actions, and her life story, illustrate an inclusive sense of love that runs beyond the stuff that flows through our veins.

She found a loving adoptive family. Raised as an only child, she was so bonded to her cousin that she has frequently said she was closer to him than any brother she could have had. And clearly, there was no “blood” relation there. And coincidentally, that cousin / brother ended up adopting his two sons.

Once my mother married my father, she became a mother of four. And she was also the one who most strongly supported one of my sisters who adopted her daughter - I actually suspect that’s her favorite grandchild.

Today, nothing makes her happier than hearing the voices of her daughters or one of her many grandchildren. All because of love.

To me, that’s where the stories of the reunited parents and children intersect with my mom’s - the driving force of love. A love that’s so wide it would love a child who needed a home, a love so wide it would go to any lengths to find and reconnect with someone after decades, a love that has nothing to do with blood. It’s a love that’s so wide it’s unlimited - a love this world needs more.

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