By Rhonda McClung // Guest Writer
When I was in my late twenties, out of college and working, I went with my best friend to meet her birth mother for the first time. I just happened to live in the same city as her birth mother, about five hours from our hometown. At that time, it never crossed my mind that one day I would adopt and there would be a birth mother in my life.
I met Tracy in first grade and for as long as I can remember I knew that she was adopted. We never talked about it. I had never asked and she had never mentioned if she wanted to meet her birth mother. Tracy only decided to meet her after she had children of her own. Born in the early sixties when adoptive parents weren’t given information about birth parents, Tracy grew up without a medical history.
She had no major medical issues, so it wasn’t an issue, but when Tracy became a mother and her children got sick, she sought out her birth mother to get the information she needed. Even then she only got it for her birth mother, since her birth father wouldn’t meet with her.
Fifteen years after that meeting, I met my daughter’s birth mother. We first spoke on the phone once then met in the hospital on the day she gave birth. I was given all of the information about my daughter’s birth parents that Tracy’s parents didn’t receive. I have medical histories and family trees for both parents. It’s not something that I would have appreciated had I not had the experience with Tracy and her need for her medical history when she became a mother.
With respect to the wishes of my daughter’s birth mother, we have a closed adoption. That was the plan from the beginning. Remembering Tracy’s experiences and knowing that I might not have another chance made collecting all of the information early in the process all the more important.
Several years ago, my daughter went to the emergency room with breathing problems. After a night in the hospital and more tests, she was diagnosed with asthma. I looked back over her medical records and found that her birth father was using an inhaler at the time that he provided his information. I was relieved that the adoption agency had collected such detailed information that let me put this medial problem in context.
When my daughter was four she went to a new doctor for the first time. My husband and I were answering questions about our daughter. As the nurse started down the list of questions about medical history, I realized I hadn’t brought the information with me. With her first question—“Is there a history of high blood pressure?”—I said, “I don’t know. I forgot to bring my packet.”
My husband looked at me like I was crazy and said, “I have high blood pressure.” I looked back at him and, trying not to laugh, reminded him that he isn’t her birth father. I love that he forgot that our daughter is adopted, but I truly appreciate being able pull out that packet of papers and answer questions about medical history. And I know that one day my daughter will be grateful that she can provide medical history for her children.
Rhonda McClung is a professional fundraiser and has previously worked as a legislative aide and newspaper reporter. She loves to tell stories, her own and other people’s. She is the mother of a son and a daughter. One is biological and one is adopted, but she can never remember which one is which.