That’s what I have to call my daughter sometimes.
“Now is she adopted too?” A new acquaintance will ask.
“Kajsa? No. She’s biological.”
Sometimes I mix it up and offer a more vivid response. She’s homemade, or if I’m really feeling jazzy, we worked on him in the office and her, uh…wink wink.
No matter how I answer the truth remains: all it is, is a word.
I wish the me of 2009, and 2010, and 2011, could believe that. Plenty of people know my husband and I wanted to adopt from the time we knew we wanted to get married. Like all good decisions, both were cemented at a football game before either of us could drive.
And plenty more people know that we tried to adopt, even before we tried to go biological, but at every turn we hit an impassable roadblock—age in China, money in Ethiopia, to adopt from Colombia we were going to have to leave work and medical school for 6 weeks at least.
What most people don’t know is this: I gave up on adoption for fear of the word biological. We could have easily transitioned our efforts from pursuing international adoption to local, but I secretly harbored a fear it wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t feel right, it wouldn’t work right, I wouldn’t become a mother the right way.
I actually believed there was a right way.
I believed I first had to cross the Rubicon biologically.
This is, fortunately, utter rubbish.
I can say that now, with my hand on a bible, before a jury of my wondering, maybe wounded peers, because I have become a mother both ways and it turns out biological is not that different from Lord Voldemort, minus all the black magic evil stuff: just a name.
Biological is just a word.
It’s most often nurses who ask me, or coworkers of my husband. Occasionally it’s a friend of a friend.
They ask, usually with an apology attached somewhere, did it feel any different?
Sometimes they wince a little, waiting for my response. The wincers often share later they have a brother who was adopted or a niece. Every now and then they themselves were placed in a family of strangers.
Each time this happens my mind drifts back to another conversation I’ve had over the years. The one that takes place when people find out my husband and I met in high school and have been dating (by which I mean initially our parents intruding on us in the living room) since we were 13 and 14.
“Oh, what a story,” they say. “How sweet is that? How wonderful!”
I smile here, and nod. It is sweet and wonderful and all of the kind things people say. I like our story. And then I want to hear theirs.
“Oh, I mean, we just met through friends. It was a New Year’s party. Not really much of a story.”
Okay pause. Meeting my future husband at 13 does have a certain shine to it, but it’s not superior to the couple who met, say, backpacking through Europe, or at a college tailgate, or via the internet, or at a game night at church. It just isn’t. In the day in, day out, dinner prep, and date nights, and bill paying, and making out on the couch, I never, ever, put my hand up and say, “You know why this is so hot? Because we had 3rd period algebra together in 1999.”
Believe it or not that has happened not once.
Back to my inquiring nurse. The same is true of my life as a mom. When we are doing something really fun or extra special, a beach day maybe, I never, ever, stop and look at my biological daughter and say, “This is neat because you attached to my uterine lining.” Then, side eye to my son, “And it’s slightly less neat with you because I had to have a criminal background check.” Her biology is yet to make the ocean any more spectacular.
The reverse? Also true. I don’t look at my boy playing in the water and think, this is incredible because his mom might have had that abortion and he’d be dead now instead of shouting here with us. And then look at my daughter and scoff, Hmpf. Don’t know what you’re so fussy about. Everything got handed to you. Born to two married, happy, healthy, stable, financially secure parents. Cry me a river, girlfriend. His adoption is yet to make the sky any more majestic.
Neither of their origin stories has ever enhanced or detracted from our life. Not once.
I’ve been stuck on that last sentence for weeks, coming back to it over and over. Why won’t these words loosen their grip on me?
I finally figured it out. They won’t let go of me, because they’re not true.
Neither of their origin stories has ever enhanced or detracted from our life. That is patently false.
In both the ordinary shuffle of dinner and bath time and the extraordinary treat of a family vacation, I do catch myself marveling at the wonder of it all. I do crawl to the edge of the cliff, just for the rush of looking down from safety at what might have been:
My son’s birth mom was told her pregnancy was likely unviable and termination was recommended more than once.
We were told our daughter had fluid around her heart, that I had intrauterine growth restriction, that she’d need to be born early, then that her lungs were infected and weak.
Both of my children could have been snuffed out by biology.
And here they are, throwing sand at each other and asking for more snacks.
The beach is indeed bluer because Ridley is there. Ridley is fantastic, a joy, a gift beyond words. He is my son. He became so through adoption after some tremendous biological triumphs. It’s a good story. I’ll have to tell you sometime.
The sunset is indeed a more brilliant shade of pink because Kajsa is there. Kajsa is fantasic, a joy, a gift beyond words. She is my daughter. She became so through a series of her own tremendous biological triumphs. It’s a good story. I’ll have to tell you sometime.
Biology isn’t just a word. It’s a good word. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it gets put in really good stories.
Good words with the capacity to hurt often end up in the very best stories: marriage, friendship, dragon, hold my beer while I try something, motherhood. A lot of good words lead to a little heart break, a little blood.
In two weeks we are reentering the adoption process. In about two months we are going to get really serious about uh…wink wink.
The amount of biological unknowns is staggering.
The range of biological possibilities is terrifying.
So this is what we do as we set out on what could be two very twisting tales, we remind ourselves of this: scary words lead to the best stories, almost every time.