Sunday, February 25, 2007


When she was three days old, Sonia's parents took her home from the hospital. They were grateful to Jane, Sonia's birthmother, but the cloak of shame that surrounded adoption in those days meant they never had the opportunity to thank her in person.

Sonia knew she was adopted as early as she was conscious. Her parents never attempted to lie to her about her origins. At age four, Sonia asked Ellen, her mother, "what is my real mother's name?" Ellen calmly replied "I am your real mother. Your natural mother's name is Jane." Ellen always had a positive and realistic attitude towards adoption, and Sonia absorbed this.

Unfortunately, since this adoption was closed, all that Sonia and her parents knew about Jane was her name, where she had lived and what church she belonged to. When Sonia felt normal adolescent rebellion towards her family she would sometimes imagine being rescued by her natural mother. In the absence of real information about Jane, Sonia imagined her as a particular television character from a popular series of the time set in Jane's home state.

This is the drawback to anonymous adoption. Real knowledge is absent. But an adopted child, naturally curious about her origins, will conjecture. "I have high cheekbones and straight hair" the adoptee might ponder "I must be a Cherokee princess".

In an open adoption, there is no mystery, and thus no glamour. The birthmother is a known quantity, with her natural human flaws on full display.

Still, Sonia at least never had to wonder why she was the only brown-eyed person of average height in a large family of gigantic, blue-eyed people. She knew that her mother wanted her for years and years and finally brought her home with great joy. Knowing she was adopted was a wonderful thing for Sonia.

At nineteen, when she met Jane, Sonia felt a sense of wholeness. She had answered those life-long questions. But she never again felt anything but gratitude that Ellen was her mother, and not Jane. Jane is Sonia's friend but Sonia knows exactly who her "real" mother is.

Meanwhile, Jane had handled this situation very differently from Ellen. We can contrast the two approaches as our story concludes.