For most people, their birth story consists of their mother getting pregnant, giving birth to them and the rest is history. For me, it’s a bit different. I was born on December 2, 1987 and both of my parents (Steve and Sally) were in the hospital room, but they were observers, not participants. A woman named Lisa gave birth to me and from the moment I entered the world, I was a Scott. The story of how I became one of the luckiest kids in the world begins nine months before I was born, which my parents explained to me twenty three years later.
“I remember exactly what I was wearing when your Dad and I had our first meeting with the adoption lawyer,” my Mom describes, “a red sailor style dress with a photo album tucked under my arm.” My Dad didn’t remember what he had on, but last weekend when my parents went on a walk to discuss my adoption process they found themselves thinking about the story for a first time in a long time. Like me, they often forget that I was adopted at all, but as soon as the topic is brought up it all floods back.
Five years earlier they had my older sister, Emily, but after my mom failed to get pregnant a neighbor suggested they consider adoption. It seems bizarre that a casual conversation between my Mom and a neighbor served as the catalyst for my adoption, but that’s exactly what began the process. From the initial meeting on, my Mom shared how they helped Lisa through the pregnancy process. “When we first met her, she had a bruise from falling off of her bike. From that day on we insisted on driving her whenever she needed us” my Mom shared. My parents brought her groceries, made sure she got enough vitamins, and did whatever they could to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
My Mom and Dad both shared some of the same sentiments; the day the paperwork was finalized at the courthouse, how nervous they were, why my middle name is Hope, (they had “hoped” for me) and that Emily had insisted on signing the court papers in five-year-old scrawl next to their names. “The judge was one of the strictest in the county who didn’t crack a smile the entire meeting until your sister asked if she should sign the papers as well” my Mom recalls, “He smiled, and uttered ‘yes’ matter of factly, as if it was official business.” My Dad told me that their lawyer had messed up the final paper work and how nervous he was walking into the courthouse. “The night before the six months were up (the legal time period in California where the birth giver can ‘take back’ the baby) we had gotten a phone call in the middle of the night from Lisa saying a medical bill had been sent to her address by mistake. For a moment your mom and I were lying in bed scared to death that she had changed her mind before we found out the reason she had called. Your Mother went completely white.” My Dad remembers.
June 6, 1988 my adoption was legalized in the state of California and I officially became a member of my family, a day which both of parents said they will never forget.
Upon hearing my parents retell the birth story, which they first told to me as soon as I could understand; I am always incredibly humbled by how many stars needed to align in order for me to live the life I am living. I am incredibly lucky. The true extent of my family’s love is shown through their ability to provide me with so much encouragement, love, and support, that I never focus on the fact that I am (technically) different. The adoption process is an extremely personal ordeal, and something that is unique to each individual. In my case, it is never something that I am plagued by. It doesn’t “haunt” me like other people who are also adopted, and I credit my family for my own self acceptance.
Five years after I was adopted, my Mom had my little sister, Betsy. We were all thrilled and to think of our family without her is unfathomable. I am the middle child although I never felt like I had to compete for attention, or strive to be heard as “middle child syndrome” often implies. From a very early age I’ve loved having two sisters to confide in and to this day they are my closest friends. To say the fact that I am adopted significantly shaped my role in my family isn’t true. As bizarre as it may seem, we actually forget. It isn’t until I need to fill out a form requiring my family’s medical history, or someone mentions how similar my sisters and I look that I consciously think about the fact that, “oh yeah, I am adopted”.
I am fortunate enough to have a family that has always supported me. We sit down for dinner together every single night we are together and use that time to discuss whatever is on our minds. I never have to feel like I am alone in any situation, or that I had to keep my opinions to myself. Now that I am older, I can truly understand how important that was in me becoming an independent and strong willed adult. There have been people in my life who have had to hide their sexual orientation from their parents, who were given no support to do things like go to college and begin a life on their own. At my twenty –three years of age I have only just begun to understand just how much my parents have given to me. Besides a roof over my head and food in my stomach, they helped me become someone who is able to stand on my own two feet. When I eventually earn my degree from Portland State, it will be in large part because of their unwavering support on my somewhat unconventional road to independence.
A lot of people, in fact most people don’t have a foundation of unconditional love. Families are often divided by divorce, sexual orientation, religion, and addiction. I am in no way ignorant of the troubles that can divide even the most devoted family. It is because of this understanding that I understand how lucky I am. It’s not because we’re bound by love and not blood, but rather the values and beliefs my family taught me from before I can remember.
My parents told me about my adoption when I was very young. It was never something that I was ashamed of and I was very open about it. When I was in the fourth grade, a classmate yelled, “at least I wasn’t adopted!” when they were upset I took their favorite book and that was the first time I ever considered that other people may not be as accepting of my situation as I am. The little boy in my class most likely has no idea that he played a role in one of the most significant defining moments in my life, but from that day on I became determined to be proud of the fact that I was adopted, even if it meant explaining why. After hearing about the situation n my fourth grade class, my Mom came into my classroom to talk to the boy about what it means to be adopted. She made a point to make sure I forgave him for his outburst, and understand that after she explained what being adopted meant, he no longer thought of it negatively. My Mom taking the time to share this lesson with me and the young boy in turn played a role in my ability to be confident in who I am. The support I receive when I voice a concern to my parents is invaluable. No matter what obstacle I am facing, my parents have made it clear that they are behind me.
This project served as a testament to just how much my family means to me. Upon rushing to get the requirements for the interview completed, I called my Mom in a stress induced huff demanding that she recall the warm and fuzzy details of my adoption process before I abruptly ending the conversation. My Mom didn’t yell, she didn’t get upset, she waited a few hours until my stress wave passed and she filled me in on the details I had so eloquently requested. My parents have realized some very important things about my personality over the years and unfortunately not all of them are traits I am proud of.
Growing up, I wasn’t always the best at controlling my temper and there were more than a few times my tongue got the best of me. Over my twenty-three years, I’ve worked at getting it under control, but only recently since I’ve entered my twenties have I been able to “get a grip.” As cliché as it sounds, it’s hearing stories like my adoption process that serve as a reality check for how much my family means to me. It’s easy to say “I love you” when you hang up the phone and go on with your day. When I hear about the lengths my parent’s went through in order to adopt me; the hoops they jumped through in order to make sure I was a part of their lives, my heart swells up and there aren’t words that can describe what I mean when I tell them “I love you”. My family is a part of who I am, they’re present in every single thing I do, and they mean the absolute world to me.
My whole life I’ve been lucky enough to know that my family is proud of me. I’ve made a fair share of mistakes, but they’ve never lost faith in who I strive to be. My sisters inspire me to be a better person and serve as a driving force of light in my life. I am thankful for them every day of my life. My parents are two of the most admirable people I’ve known and they’ve managed to provide their children with the childhood every kid deserves, but so few have.
It’s rare that children take the opportunity to reflect upon the life in which they are given. Between the birthday parties, graduations, failed drivers tests, deaths, births, and everything else that life throws at you, every once in awhile it’s important to think about what I mean when I tell my family, “I love you” every night on the phone. It’s for all of the times I didn’t say it and should have, and all of the times they said it and I didn’t reply, and for every morning I’m lucky to wake up knowing I have them to talk to at the end of the day.