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Stories of Adoption and Adaptation

OPB | Oct. 4, 2010 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:39 p.m.

I’ve never written about my connection to adoption, and it’s not something that comes up in casual conversation. Ten years ago, my sister became a single mom at age 18. Her son was a beautiful, strong-willed boy, adored by his six aunts and uncles and the entire extended family. She was a great mom at first, but by the time he was 18 months she decided she was not cut out for motherhood and could not give him the life she wanted for him.

I lived in another state, and didn’t suspect any of this from our previous visits. Then, I got a phone call out of the blue one sunny summer afternoon. My reaction was shock, disbelief, anger, desperation, and intense grief. Though we were told the adoption would be “open” and that we would be able to see him again, I couldn’t imagine how this would ever, ever be OK. The pain was worse than anything I had ever experienced. And I was just the aunt.

Fast forward. We survived the process, our family healed and my nephew is thriving with his adoptive parents. We, his birth family, are part of his extended adopted family. They are loving and capable people. People we are truly grateful to have in our lives. And yet, there is still a hole, a missing, a place I’m not sure will ever be filled. I’m concerned that my sister hasn’t completely dealt with her loss, indescribably deeper and more profound than my own. And I still wonder — occasionally — if we couldn’t have made it work somehow.

It’s estimated that about 60 percent of Americans have a personal connection to adoption — either by adopting a child, relinquishing a child for adoption, being adopted, or knowing someone who’s been involved in an adoption.

NPR’s Scott Simon has written a memoir of his own adoption experience, subtitled “In Praise of Adoption.” He and his wife have two daughters they adopted from China, and he describes adoption as “a miracle.” We’ll talk with him before his Portland lecture and with other Northwest families about their experiences and perspectives, about what adoption has meant to them.

Are you an adoptive parent? Did you relinquish your child for adoption? Did someone in your family? How did that experience change you? Were you adopted? Was that fact an issue as you were growing up? Are you considering adopting? What questions do you have about the process or outcomes of adoption?

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