When I met my biological mother’s family for the first time last month, I felt akin to them almost immediately. It was very odd to meet and converse with the only people I have ever known to look like me, to see the origins of my affinity for word games, to feel a part of a community that would have been mine.
The most powerful experience for me came in the form of a 6-year-old girl. My birth mother’s niece [my cousin?], Erica, looked just like I did when I was younger, and seeing her catching minnows in the lake and tricking her older cousins in the sandbox reminded me of doing those things with my adoptive family… spending summer days fishing off the dock and coating my cousins’ cabin with fart spray. By watching her, in a way, I felt as though I was mourning a childhood I never quite had, a childhood surrounded by people I met 18 years too late.
But I feel guilty for feeling this way, for the thought even crossing my mind… because I had an amazing childhood! I was cared for and adored by the absolute best people in my life. I had the opportunity to live in two very different parts of the world. I was guided by and got to share experiences with my wonderful older sister. I had grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who always made me feel welcome and loved. I would never, ever wish that away.
But in embracing another family, a part of me feels like I’m doing wrong by the people who raised me. My biological family never knew me when I was a troublemaking two-year-old or an awkward twelve-year-old or even an overconfident sixteen-year-old… but does that mean I should value them any less now?
A few months ago, I posted an image on my Instagram account with a quote disparaging the general public for referring to either my adoptive or my biological parents as my “real parents.” By doing so, you demean the other party. This is to say that one of my parents’ roles were not as important, not as valuable to my life. This is to say that I can’t have full, loving relationships with both of my families without favoring one over the other.
This is, of course, the delicate balance of family. It is knowing that I will never call my birthmother “Mom,” but I am her daughter. It is knowing that I will go home to my adoptive family after spending two days with my biological one.
My familial relationships are complicated and nuanced and confusing… but at the heart of everything, I feel doubly blessed. As my birthmother explained to me, there is no rulebook for this… but we’re going to give it our best shot.
About the Author: Peyton Lewis is an adult adoptee who was raised in New Ulm, Minnesota and is now studying Journalism at Emerson College in Boston. This post was originally published on her blog.