Matthew, an FIA (Friends in Adoption) spokesperson for the APC Conference and now, a college applicant, shares his college essay with our FIA community. Below he describes his open-adoption experiences through the years, discarding many adoption taboos along the way."
Many people seem off put when I mention my birthmother in a casual conversation. Most people have a vision of adoption that is very different than what my open-adoption is. People think of adoption as parents picking a kid from a foster home, and the kid not knowing anything about their biological family. My adoption experience included none of that. I have very close ties with my birthmother and her family; my middle name Hayden means field of Heather (my birth mother's name). Heather realized she couldn’t raise me alone and wanted a better future for me when she was still early in her pregnancy. I was adopted at birth so I luckily never saw the inside of a foster home. My adoption experience is a blend of families, cultures, and backgrounds; my biological mother and her family are Irish Catholics from Rhode Island, while my parents are Jewish and we live in Manhattan. Heather stays at our apartment in Manhattan for the weekend every few months.
I remember when I was little my adoptive parents and Heather took me to the playground and we ran into one of my friends. He asked if the lady with my parents was my aunt, and after chuckling I told him she was my biological mother. This was not an easy concept for an eight year old in a traditional family to grasp. His face was blank for a few minutes and then he started spitting out the same questions I have been answering since I could form sentences: “Why did she give you up?” “Aren’t you mad at her?” “Where’s your birth father?” “Were you in foster care?” With a smile I answered his questions and continued to answer questions of the same sort for years. Since me, my birth mom, and my parents, who were seen almost as trailblazers since open adoption wasn’t as popular in the 90s as it is today, have answered these questions thousands of times, we like to speak at FIA (Friends In Adoption) conferences to inform potential parents, and professionals, about open adoption. These conferences help spread awareness about open adoption and every year the crowd gets larger.
Being someone in an open adoption has exposed me to different lifestyles and taught me to be accepting of everyone's circumstances. Advocating for open adoption is important to me because it brings two homes together to give children the material tools and opportunities they need to succeed while still knowing their roots. Some of my friends in closed adoptions resent their biological parents because they’ve never even seen their face, or never knew why they were given up for adoption. This resentment builds because there isn’t much children in closed adoptions can do. I have nothing but love and admiration towards Heather. She made a brave, selfless decision to secure a better future for me and I will always be in her debt for doing that. The friends I have through FIA have no grudges against their biological families either because we all know we are in a better place with our adoptive families. Many people who are in “normal” families try and put my birth mother into a category they can relate to like an aunt or godmother but she isn’t; Heather is my birth mother and she has a strong connection to me and my adoptive parents. My adoptive mom even got a Celtic tattoo to recognize my and Heather's heritage as a part of hers. I strongly believe that because of open adoption, more birthparents who, for economic, or personal reasons feel more comfortable giving their kids to more capable families and will still be able to watch them grow up. I believe that being immersed in two different family backgrounds led to my wanting to understand more cultures and aspects of the human condition, which led to my growing interest in psychology and sociology.