Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Message on Adoption from an Adoptee

Happy Tuesday, Tiddly winks!

Someone has gotten me sick.  When I find said person, I'm going to use every bit of Dayquil-fueled energy I can muster to pummel them with dirty tissues and clots of Vix Vapor Rub.

I did manage to venture out to the grocery store today (try as I might to arrive at different times, I don't believe I've ever gotten groceries without that damn Christina Aguilera on the speakers trying to convince me I'm beautiful, no matter what they say) and go to Starbucks.

In the food-beverage department I am an old fart who sticks to what I know, and am immediately hesitant when something that clearly belongs in one food category tries to sneak into another.  So last fall, I was definitely suspicious of the salted caramel mocha frappucinno, but in a rare moment of food adventure, decided to try one.

I was an instant convert.  It was.. a mystical experience.  Transcendent.  Made my whole non-salt having life seem like a sham. It's like going your whole life thinking you were a white Irish woman only to find out that you are indeed a black man.

It is... delightful.  It's like fall in a cup.

After it disappeared off the menu in January, I have since put many exhausting hours trying to get Starbucks employees to recreate it for me even though they were out of the salt.  Today it was back on the menu.  As I picked up my drink, several employees who know me from the many saltless tears I've shed congratulated me on having made it through the full year.

So while it has the flimsiest of connections to today's "school" prompt, since I am no longer in school this is my one damn sign that fall is back in session.  Sharpen my bouquet of number two pencils and bust out the back to school clothes, I am ready for autumn.



As I've mentioned in passing a couple of times here, I am adopted.  I am an adopted infertile.

This is a teeny tiny strange little subculture within the Infertility community.  Had I managed to get pregnant my first time at the rodeo, even without needles and wands and drugs that enhance the eggs' performance (I am the Lance Armstrong of fertility), sharing a genetic connection with a family member to me, is science fiction.

It also makes, I think, the sting of someone saying "why don't you just adopt" hurt a little bit more, because basically with my history they're saying "you should know better".

It also adds a few weird questions about what to do when I have kids.  Not that kids come out demanding to know about they're genetics, but it's going to be a strange conversation should they want to know.

I'm a firm believer that when you adopt, you tell the adoptee they're adopted from the get-go (we'll get to that in a minute). But I don't know how necessary it is to tell my kid that they're grandmother isn't genetically related to them right away, or how to explain that they have an Aunt who they'll see all the time that looks nothing like them, but an Uncle who lives in Chicago that looks a lot like them that they'll only see every few years.  I have yet to find a book that explains how to handle explaining culture to the child of an adoptee.

For example, I was raised in a large, Mexican family.  I eat tamales at Christmas.  There will never be a wedding where people don't dance to La Bamba, when the dogs do something gross I yell "caca!" and I can't wait for Bub to get old enough for me to call him viejo as my grandmother does my grandpa.  I even lived in Mexico City a couple of years (which makes NYC look like a charming, 1950s suburb).

Genetically, however, I'm French & Native American on one side, and Welsh on the other.  I look Welsh.  I do not look like I have a drop of Mexican blood in me (with the exception of dark hair) because I don't believe I do.

So should I have a child that is genetically mine, nevermind the twists & turns I would be adding on top of this discussion should I adopt a child, at some point the conversation will go "you are Mexican, but not really.  You are Welsh, but not really.  You are white, but not really".

(And speaking of white, this was yesterday's prompt which I am taking as an opportunity to ask if anyone knows what to do with white asparagus...)




Anyhoo.

Just by looking at infertility through the lens of an adoptee, I have some weird opinions.  As far as adoption goes, there are things I have strong opinions about and there are things where much like my views on the death penalty, are totally waffly and I can't really seem to commit to one.

For example - I have (and I want to make this super clear) no real concrete opinions in regards to dealing with a child that comes from a sperm donor, an egg donor, or an embryo donor.  That's a whole different ballgame that I'm just learning about existing - I therefor have no experience in that department.  So what I'm talking about is situations similar to mine.

My situation: I was literally the product of a 14 year old and a 16 year old getting it on in a tent and not realizing I was coming until she was a few months into her pregnancy.  (Which makes being infertile now... mind boggling). I was then given to the awesome parents I was always intended to have.

There is one adoptee-opinion that is strong above all the others and I'd like to put out there.  You may consider this kind of pushy if you're considering adoption or are in the adoption process, and I'm sorry, but I'm going to put it out there anyways, because hopefully in the process of internally cursing me you will be forced to at least consider what I'm saying for a moment.

Tell your child they're adopted.  Tell them they're adopted before they are even able to say the word themselves.

As an adult, I've met a lot of other adoptees.  Most of whom always knew they were adopted - some of whom were told... later.

Later - from all the people that I've known who have had to go through that - never feels good and rarely works out well.

By keeping it a secret, on the day that you have to reveal said secret (and it will come - for a medical reason, for resemblance reasons - please know that the day will come) you will inadvertently reveal the following:

  • You are adopted, which we kept from you because we think it's terrible.
  • Not only are we not your genetic parents, but we are liars.
  • We didn't think of it as your story at all - we thought it was just ours.

I can't even imagine how that last part is difficult to grasp for an adopting parent - that the story that has been yours for so long is in fact your child's.  But I promise, it's your child's story.

Even though this is over simplifying it, try to imagine if your whole life you had thought your birthday was in June, only to find out that it was in January. Your parents just told you it was in June because they thought it sounded prettier.  Even though they were the adults in charge when they did that, it still wasn't theirs to do (and it would of course make you go.. 'what the fuck is wrong with January?!'). 

If you have any thoughts associated with adoption that mean 'unwanted' or 'abandoned', you may be tempted to not let them know that they were adopted because you want to save them from feeling unwanted or abandoned.... but by keeping that a secret for so long, one day you will essentially be saying to them "you were unwanted and abandoned, and we knew that, so that's why we kept it from you" which isn't easy to take at any age.

By delaying an uncomfortable conversation, you are in fact simply revealing that you are uncomfortable with it because there is something to be uncomfortable about.


For me, I don't ever remember being told.  I always knew.  I was read books about it, we discussed what adoption meant - which was basically "you are special, and of all the babies in the world, I wanted you. You weren't a random circumstance - I picked you." Because I was told from such an early age and it was made normal - the 'abandonment' feelings were at a bare minimum - I always looked at it like I was particularly wanted.

The only moment that even remotely felt odd in terms of being adopted was finding out that my Mother was not.  It was made so normal, that when I found out she wasn't, I felt bad for her. That is my only vivid, sad adoptee moment.  Sitting in a bathtub and finding out my poor mother wasn't adopted. No drama, no pining. Just an accidental product of two people getting it on.  Barely a story at all, the poor thing.

When you adopt, other people will know your child is adopted.  Relatives, friends, etc.  By keeping the adoptee in the dark, you are allowing strangers and bystanders to trample around in a story the adoptee doesn't even know he/she has - and to discover that kind of betrayal as an adult isn't even something I can put words to.

I had an awesome friend in High School.  Her and her brother weren't that far apart in age - and they were Italian.  Dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin - and they looked exactly alike, spitting images of their parents.  I went to her house one day, and she had a much younger sister, around 10 years old, who had very pale skin, white-blond hair and light blue eyes.  I met this younger sister, and after she left the room I kind of said "what happened there?" and my friend said "oh she's adopted, but she doesn't know yet".

It was like someone punched me in the gut.  I have always understood that there are some people who aren't adopted who don't understand it - but for me, I felt so gross.  I was a complete stranger, and I understood something about this little girl who I met for 10 seconds that she hadn't been let in on yet.

And I knew that one day that long delayed conversation that was supposed to protect her was going to hurt. like. hell.  Because secrets are shameful.  Instead of dealing with the perfectly natural feelings of abandonment that you get in tiny doses as a well-informed adoptee, she was going to get it all in one day.  Because it was kept so long, she was going to 'know' that it was something awful, and instead of having long ago understood that this was her family, genetics or no, she was going to instantly feel isolated.

It was her story to have - definitely not mine, and not even her parents.  It was hers, and she was being robbed of it without even knowing.


So my deeeepest storkiest apologies for getting preachy - but I just read a story about someone who found out at the age of 42, and it inspired me to just friggin say this whether you like it or not.. Because this is the one thing, as an adoptee, that I know... that I know.


What I do not know is what to do with white asparagus.




46 comments:

  1. I completely agree. Secrets are no good...especially in this area. P.S. I have NO clue what to do with white asparagus.

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    1. Yes indeedy do, secrets imply there is something to be ashamed about.

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  2. I'm with you 100%...Should we have an opportunity to adopt a child, which we did look into when we were starting out this process, it was made very clear by me that any child added to our family would be aware of his or her birth circumstances. 3 of my cousins are adopted, one of my BFF's is adopted...and now I know one of my internet BFF's is adopted :) All of them were made aware of how special they were and about their birth circumstances at a very young age. I never thought any different about my cousins....they were my cousins regardless of genetic make up or connection...Thank you for sharing the adoptee's perspective. When Babe and I were looking into adoption, I did a lot of talking to my adopted cousins and BFF for their perspectives. It was weird for me because I never thought of my cousins as adopted...because they were in fact adopted...does that make sense?

    Thanks again for sharing...oh and if you figure out wtf white asparagus is and what to do with it, let me know....although it looks kinda freaky to me...

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    1. Good on ya, girl! I think anyone considering adoption should find and befriend some adoptee. I have yet to find an adoptee that says "tell them when they're older" but there still seem to be parents who choose to do that..

      I'm on a white asparagus mission.

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  3. My family background is a huge mish-mash of bio, step, and foster/adopted folks, and it's always been well known where everyone came from... but what matters is how we fit together to make a family. I have never understood the rationale of hiding adoption info, particularly from the adoptee (there's a situation in my Beloved's family that I am fully aware of, that the grown child supposedly knows nothing about... and I hate having to keep that secret). It causes no end of hurt, no matter how sensitively it comes out.

    As for white asparagus... all I can say is ick! My host mom, when I was an exchange student in Germany many many years ago, used to make it once every couple of weeks. She cooked it to death (steamed or boiled) and then served it with boiled potatoes and a brown sugar sauce that smelled great and was a terrible bait and switch. I love regular asparagus, but you CANNOT get me to eat white asparagus!

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    1. Exactly! Family has nothing to do with genetics... But by keeping adoption a secret, you're basically saying that it does. If we were all held to be loyal & loving only with people that we were genetically related to we'd all be in a world of trouble.

      YAY! Someone who knows wtf this stuff is!

      I have an unhealthy obsession with regular asparagus but have never tried the white variety.... So it's totally different?

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    2. Whenever my host mom made it, it turned out stringing and mushy. Maybe it was her technique, but in most other recipes she was a fantastic cook. I am not a fan. I would suggest, if you're up to an experiment, pic up a bundle and roast it in the oven with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice... see how it comes out.

      And let me know... I've recently begun to appreciate bacon after a lifetime of pure unadulterated hatred (it has to be in bacon-bit form, and it has to be seriously crispy... but it's a start). Perhaps I'm hanging on to an old dislike that is unfounded.

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    3. A lifetime hatred of bacon? Of BACON?! If I could I would wear bacon. I would WEAR it. and I'd end up naked and I would be too fat and happy to care.

      I may try this... It does seem to hang out with delicious asparagus in the grocery store at least, so if they're buddies surely white asparagus can't be that bad...

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  4. Great post on adoption! Should DH and I decide to take that route this would be roule number one. Being open and honest from the get-go. I love how you've highlighted that the story is about the child and not the parents!

    It's funny how white asparagus seem to freak out everyone over here :) Before I moved to Canada this was the only kind of asparagus I knew about. My mom would just boil them until their soft (cut the last 1.5-2" off - because this part is hard and isn't tasty at all) and then serve it with sauce bernaise or sauce hollandaise. It goes well with chicken (if you eat meat). Hope this helps :)

    As far as your sweet/salty tooth goes... have you ever tried "Lindt Exellence - A touch of Sea Salt". It is amazing!!!! I bet you'd love it!

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    1. It is definitely about the kid and not the parents! While it's certainly part of my Mom & Dad's journey, it's the beginning of my entiiiire journey.

      What is this touch of sea salt? I am looking into...

      Okay I'm thinking I may bite the bullet and just try the white asparagus. I'm too curious. I need a solid opinion.

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  5. Such a lovely post. You make so much sense and although my husband and I have talked about adoption, we never have thought about this aspect of things. Now, I will so thank you. As for the asparagus, I once made a soup out of it that was really good but now of course I can't find it. Oh and on the topic of salted caramel, the hot chocolate version at SBUX is also very good!!

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    1. There's a hot chocolate version?!? My life may have just changed.

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  6. Here's what you do with white asparagus: Don't buy it because they look like *fingers* and that is just creepy! XD

    Also, awesome post about adoption. I totally get what you are saying and if I ever adopt, I promise my child will grow up always knowing and feeling it is just the same as how other families have kids. Thanks for offering your unique perspective to the community!

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    1. Yesssss! I love hearing this from people who may ever adopt. Yessss...

      Sweet Jeebus they do look like fingers...

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  7. Great post. My best friend as a tiny tot and her siblings were adopted. I felt like it was always whispered about. Like it couldn't be talked about, and I never understood that. I never really thought about those issues until reading your thoughts. The only good secrets are the ones on your secret Sunday's.

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    1. I think it's kind of a knee-jerk reaction in any sort of situation where someone is 'different' than you are to prove how okay you are with it by never ever mentioning it ever. Which is... ludicrous.

      Yesssss! Secret Sundays is all about releasing the shame!

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  8. I love this post. REALLY love it. I couldn't agree with you more on the topic of when to tell an adoptee that they were adopted. I have a cousin who was adopted and he has known his whole life (although he is Eskimo-Indian in a caucasian family so that might have tipped him off at an early age). I was a nanny for 3 children after I graduated from college - 2 were adopted and 1 was biological. They all knew their stories.

    On a more personal note, I have felt since I was maybe in high school that I was meant to adopt a child. (I plan to write a post about this sometime on my blog.) But I still can't help but try to have a biological child. I am sure my hubby and I will eventually adopt but we can only afford one avenue at a time of trying to have a child. I would love to try to do both at the same time but my hubby does not agree.

    Also, I am facinated by the stories of adoptees. Probably part of the reason why I loved your post today so much. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Gracias, chiquita!

      I'm an open book about it because I was taught to be nice and comfy with it. One of these days I'll put in some stuff about meeting biological family, etc. etc.

      Good on ya for being determined to adopt some day! The world needs more awesome sauce adoptive moms.

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  9. D is totally right- the salted caramel hot chocolate is awesome sauce. It actually tastes even BETTER with soy. I shit you not.

    My DH and I initially looked into adoption before IVF. The process for adoption is totally different here than in the US- about 3-5 years for foreign and domestic. After we went to all the classes and seminars and training we looked at each other and said, "I can't do this.I can't wait thing long."

    So I while I'm glad there are lots of safeguards in place for the kids, I really wish it was easier to adopt. And, I because of that experience I have SO MUCH respect for the families who do wait it out. Amazing.

    Anywhoozle, I have given it lots of thought, and like your experience, I'd be telling our kid(s) right away to normalize it as much as possible.

    As for the white asparagus: steamed and tossed with a couple of tablespoons of pesto. Yum.

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    1. Pesto! I'm going to try this. This is on my experiment list.

      3-5 years? Good Lord that is a long time. A loooong time.

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  10. Another great post. DH and I actually tried the international adoption route before we even knew we were infertile...and still hope to one day adopt. I had spent some time in an orphanage and wanted to bring all the kids home (obviously the adoption didn't work out...huge scandal with a fraudulent adoption agency and all...) We were amazed that they even had to teach us in our pre-adoption classes about being open and honest with your adoptive child. It just seems so obvious to me that hiding something as huge as that would have a detrimental affect on the person. Crazy that people would even consider hiding it.

    And please, do let us know how the white asparagus turns out (complete with a picture, I hope). I don't think I've ever noticed it in a store here but if I do, I'll give it a try!

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    1. Oh they consider it. And there are some birthmoms who request the kid never knowing (the one instance I know of this - the adoptive parents said BS, and told the child, thank G-d).

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  11. Such a lovely, informative post - thank you. It helps me relate to my friend who's adopted infertile (yes she got the same, you're adopted- why don't you adopt!). I think from my social work training (not my area, but the course is generic) what you're describing is the approach most adopters will be encouraged to take, I wish they had your post to read!

    Also thanks for the salted caramel big up- hubby works at Starbucks here in th UK and they are all scared and bemused by the soon-to-launch salted caramel drinks-I'll tell him to expect some weeping ex-pats when it finally lands!

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    1. I think sometimes they stillll ignore this because of their own feelings about adoption equaling abandonment, which is really just overall the wrong approach to take to it. Plus they think that a child knowing their roots is somehow going to make that child disloyal to them ( so they respond to this by... being disloyal).

      Salted Caramel - I'mma tellin' ya - it sounds bizarre but it's like all good fally things in a cup.

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  12. I plan to adopt one day, whether I have had my own biological baby or not. I've already told my husband I want to adopt a baby of another race so there's no hiding it.

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    1. Yay for adoption! I love it when people have that solidly in their plan somewhere.

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  13. Wll said. I still can't believe in this day and age that people could hide that from their children wheneveryone in that child's life will know. however we obtain our children, whether that's surrogacy or adoption they will know how they arrived on the planet before they can read (and I plan on teaching that soooper young!). so fundamental.

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    1. You would think it was fundamental! It just strikes me as odd being dishonest when that's your own shit that's causing you to be that way, not your childs..

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  14. Aww, I never really realized how it would be. I definitely see what you're saying, and you are right. I think it's very important to be honest from the get-go. Thank you for sharing your point of view.
    I hope you feel much better soon! Gooo away sickness! xo

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    1. Honesty is the best policy and all that.

      I feel better, finally! woot woooot

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  15. That makes a whole heck of a lot of sense and think that's a great theory. Also you should poke people in the eye who expect you adopt simply because you were adopted. If that is the path you choose, fabulous, but if IF treatment is the path you choose, also fabulous. My hubby's step mom took it upon herself to tell us we should adopt instead of IVF because SHE was adopted and knows how many kids need homes. Yeah thanks.

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    1. I am, wholeheartedly, against anyone telling anyone what to do with their uterus ever. People wouldn't tell you what positions to try but they feel the need to insert themselves into your reproductive life. Amazeballs.

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  16. Your post offered a lot of helpful advice. We have been struggling with if/what/when to discuss the donor egg status with our child and you brought up a lot of food for thought. Thanks

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    1. Yay! Happy to have brought up some food for thought. I'm firmly on team make-it-normal.

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  17. So I stumbled upon your blog today, and I read every entry from the beginning! And I love it, I love you! I have been dealing with infertility for a little over 2 years now, and just recently realized how alone I actually was IRL, in regards to support and understanding, just yesterday. And everything you've written about I can relate to, minus some things of course, but as a whole you're taking the words right out of my head!

    But to comment on this entry, my brother, from my dad's first marriage, I'm the illegitimate bastard ;), was adopted because my ex-step mom had infertility issues, which apparently back in the late 80's early 90's was not anywhere close to as informed as it is now. When they adopted him she made sure he was biracial like them so he wouldn't wonder why he looked different. My dad wanted to tell my brother but she didn't, and actually got rid of the letter his biological mom wrote him. Well close to him graduating, the cat got out of the bag. Surprisingly enough, he wasn't upset; which to me is I'm sure a small percentage of kids who find out they've been lied to.. My long and drawn out point here is that I knew from the moment I met my brother he wasn't my blood and I had to keep up a charade for my step-mom's selfishness; I agree with your point though, adopted kids should know who they are and where they come from; don't take that away from them.

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    1. Helllooooo new friend! Glad you found me!

      She got rid of the biological moms letter? woah. WOAH. Wonder what she was afraid of? So how did the beans get spilled, if you don't mind my asking?

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    2. I think she wanted it to seem, even if it was just to my brother, that she was his real mom. Then as time went on she didn't want him to hate her for lying to him his whole life. Now flash forward to her and my dad continuing an ugly battle over my dad not giving half of his paycheck to her for retirement and child support, and she, in an act of desperation tells my brother he's adopted and that it is in fact my dad who wanted to keep the secret! I'm glad that my brother knows I wish it had been under better circumstances, but he did get to meet his bio- mom and his two younger sisters.

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  18. I didn't know white asparagus was even a thing.

    I have to say I was shocked to read that people still keep adoption from their children. Still? Really??? This isn't the 1940s. What the hell, people?

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    1. I didn't even know that was still a thing until high school... And now with the internet there are tons of stories of people finding out late. Which is.. in my opinion.. awful.

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  19. I am surprised and shocked too, I thought it was just what was done in the 'oldun days'. I will write special stories for my children however they end up coming to me and always tell them the true story, their true story, whatever it may be. Fabulousa post my wonderful stork.

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    1. Good on ya, girl - everybody I think needs their own true story.. I think maybe some people don't appreciate it that they've always had their own because it was straightforward?

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  20. I would be surprised to see someone making the decision to keep it a secret today - I hope people aren't still doing that. We looked into adoption pretty thoroughly and were going to go that route before deciding to go with IVF instead (cost, time, etc). Since I'm 38, we felt like we had to choose one and just hope for the best.

    I know you said your comments don't apply to donor eggs, but it's something that's been in the back of my mind a lot lately. We haven't even decided if we'll use DE or not (if IVF with my own eggs doesn't work), but figuring out the whole telling and how to tell part of DE is factoring into the decision of whether we'll do it. It seems harder to explain, but my fear is that not telling could or would result in the same things you mention in your post.

    I thought white asparagus could be cooked the same way as green? I'd probably grill it!

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    1. With donor anything, I would tend to lean towards it being the same way - it's going to have to come out someday, for a medical reason, a resemblance reason, etc. Better it not be a secret. But you know, again, I'm barely learning about donor eggs existing, much less wrapping my head around it completely.. But as a person with a weird story of my beginnings, I think it's better that people know their stories - no secrets.

      That's it - I am purchasing this white asparagus and making it my bitch.

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  21. This is a great post! It was nice to learn more about you, and I agree with you 100% with you about telling an adopted child their story from the get-go. I thought a lot about adoption too and always knew if I did adopt, I would tell my kid straight from the beginning.

    Good luck with the white asparagus. I dont know what the hell to do with it either lol, but it sounds like people here have some great ideas!

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  22. I just started reading today and I'm almost caught up! I've wanted to comment on a lot of your posts, but this one hits home for me because my hubs is sort of adopted.

    My hubs dad is not his bio dad. He adopted him when he was itty bitty and too young to remember. His mom is his bio mom. This doesn't change his relationship with his dad (although his dad is an alcoholic chain smoker as is his whole family, so in that aspect we're grateful for the biological separation). He loves his dad, he respects his dad.

    Here's where the problem comes in-Hubs didn't find out until he was 22. His mom only told him because she was going into surgery and wanted him to know in case she didn't come out. His dad was so mad, because he didn't EVER want him to know-which infuriates me. He has a right to know. He has a right to know that even though, yeah, someone knocked up his mom and ran out on her, someone else came along and loved them both so much that he gave them his name and his love for their whole lives.

    Hubs turns 30 in about an hour and he still loves his dad of course. But we know now that his dad probably has less than five years left to live. When I talk to him about it he says "well, I won't be as sad as my mom and my brother-they have more of a right to it. I'll just take care of them and help them get through it." When he says things like this it makes me want to crawl in a corner and cry. Hubs has every right in the world to mourn his father the way the rest of his family will, but because they kept this big secret from him his whole life I truly believe they have put up this wall that says "we didn't want you to know that you're not REALLY one of us-just sort of".

    If they had told him when he was little and explained that really, his dad's love for him is so great that he couldn't stand the idea of not being his dad, then maybe hubs would understand that he is almost MORE a part of this family because of that love. Anyway. Sorry to get all emotional on your blog. We've been married less than a year and this part of his life makes me hurt for him-because I love him so much.

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  23. My mother was adopted as a baby, and from what I understand knew very early on that she was. Her adoptive parents never tried to hide the fact and she eventually did end up meeting her biological mother. Despite being adopted, she grew up knowing only those parents. And once my brother and I were born, we knew those grandparents as if nothing were different. It seems cruel and dishonest to not tell children that they are adopted. They should know the truth. In the end, it doesn't really matter and they grow only knowing one set of parents anyway!

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