18 years ago and I sat down to our usual family TV time to watch some 20/20 Barbara Walters Special (yes, I am an only child). The segment that night was on adoption and by the end of that hour, my ideas, my life and my mind were changed. I was convinced that I would adopt. I was in my early teens at the time and I remember feeling the way that the parents on the segment described loving another human life… a desire to love everyone, an understanding that we all don’t have the upbringing I was fortunate to have with present parents, a kind family, fun trips, safety, love, laughter and a good childhood and a hope to make the world a better place any way I could.
A couple of years later I met one little girl and her family in Bend, Oregon, who would put my theory to the test. I was hired the summer before my Sophomore year in high school by this sweet family who suddenly needed babysitting for their 4 year old girl. Her Mom was put on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy and this little bundle of energy and ideas had a whole summer of play she wanted to get in! I should say that my Freshman year was the year I met them… I was an entrepreneur from the start with pet-sitting, house-sitting, yard maintenance and babysitting businesses that I ran throughout the year, but mostly in the summer. I’m pretty sure I was born making my own way in the world. I never wanted to work for someone else and I didn’t mind the hard work — as long as I was proud of it, I liked the people I worked with and was able to be creative and make a difference in a way that only I could. As a result, during my 16 years in that neighborhood, I got to know just about everyone one way or another. I loved it.
So this cute kiddo I met and got to spend the Summer with was no exception. She was loving, cuddly, creative, inventive, mischievous, funny and incredibly intelligent. I spent half of the summer with this little girl playing in the pool, building slip and slides, riding bikes, playing horses, reading books, building things, inventing magical pretend worlds, making forts, cooking ghetto meals (cause that’s all I knew how to make — thank god for grilled cheese), convincing her to take naps, and watching movies as a treat. On July 30th that year, her baby sister joined their sweet family. Eventually I grew brave enough to hold this tiny bundle of love (how was she so small and wonderful!?) I spent the next 8 years working off and on for this family. It took far less than that for them to call me their big sister and “older daughter,” I always wanted to know what it would be like to have siblings. I couldn’t have planned it better than the way that it happened for us.
This little 4 year old girl is now 20, an upcoming Junior in college, an incredible human being, a wonderfully talented artist and writer and someone I’m so proud to have spent 16 years of my life with. Her sister is going to be 15 and she is equally amazing. The most caring love bug who, though she now towers over me (which is a total trip!), always wants to hold my hand, play, laugh, and this girl, she cares so deeply about the world. She too is an amazing artist in her own craft.
Still to this day, though they moved to the East Coast, I visit them at least once a year for a week. They were the first ones I saw at my college graduation and the two girls walked with me in the graduation procession, even presenting me with my own scrolled diploma of which I think meant more to me that day than the diploma from the University (I cried instantly, of course). They visited me during my stays in the hospital for surgeries, I surprised them and dressed like Harry Potter for halloween one year when they were obsessed with it, we swam in the lakes, rode bikes, I attended their graduations, we spend holidays together and we still vacation together.
I would do ANYTHING for these girls and their family. And you know what? I didn’t know that about myself before I met them. I told their parents that if anything ever happened, I’d be there and I promised to take care of them and make sure they were okay in the world. That’s the stuff we never want to talk about, but that we should and I’m so glad we did.
They will probably never know it, but this sweet family gave me the biggest gift… I was born with a birth defect that doctors are unsure whether it’s genetic or not. Thus, I’m pretty hesitant to have my own kiddos with my own genes, which is shame because ridiculously awesome hair runs in my family. I’ll be doing further testing in the future, but for now, this is what I know. So, at the age of 17, I realized that I probably wouldn’t have my own kids and at the age of 19, after 5 major surgeries, my doctors advised me that carrying a child with the amount of trauma and scarring from surgery probably wasn’t the best idea.
I remember in a moment of upset at the thought that something so many women look forward to was no longer an option for me, the world around me got quiet and I thought to myself, “Wait, this doesn’t matter… I have loved and cared for these two wonderful girls as if they were my own for years… It doesn’t matter if they come from me or not.” What matters is that they are loved by me. It matters that they get the love they deserve and that’s something I have to give.
So as I near 32 years old, I’m thinking about my 3, 5 and 10 year plan. Kids are in these plans of mine. I just thought adoption was it. That is, until 3.5 years ago when I awkwardly came out after a year long crush (that I didn’t realize was a crush — just close friends, right? Wrong.), and made out with this girl at my best friends 27th birthday party. Interestingly, what I’ve wanted to be a part of was the process of being pregnant, so I’m interested in learning how it works, what has to happen and fortunately I’m with someone now to wants so absolutely to have and to carry children.
So while I still don’t know how it will go… will we use my genes, will we use hers, will we turkey baster it (sorry Mom), or will we choose in vitro?
I do know that I will love my kids because no matter what, they ARE my own. In coming out, I have been given the greatest gifts that I never knew possible. The gratifying experience of pregnancy, love like I never knew before and like I always dreamed of, a life I love so much that I want only to get better and better and more amazing. I also know my kids will have a faux hawk at some point in their lives… Even if it’s when they’re too little to have a say.
I will always wonder if my kids will bond to me like they do their biological Mom and I wonder how far our rights will have gone with not only the state, because although Oregon state laws support gay marriage, healthcare and educational systems have yet to catch up.
Here’s to planning for a life I never knew I’d have to begin with, let alone past 16 years old, a love that I absolutely cherish and get butterflies over everyday, and a career built on helping people share their gifts with the world… and in so doing, I get to share mine.
Here’s to showing up, to what’s next, the unexpected, the downright awesome, the scary and the most incredible.
Keep going, brave one, the world needs what you have to give,
PS – You know who you are, thank you. I love you.