Lauren Hanekom's Adoption Story

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I wanted to share my adoption story with you. I am 28 and live in South Africa. I was adopted out of foster care when i was 6 months old. I don't recall a time in my life that I didn't know that I was adopted. My mom used to tell me (and my other adopted sister, unrelated and 5 years younger) bed time stories of how there was another mother but I was especially chosen to be her daughter. In primary school, children used to tease me sometimes but my brother (2 years older, unrelated) always stood up for me.

I always wondered about my biological parents growing up and my mother always supported the inquisitiveness. When I turned 18, I was legally allowed to search for my biological parents so I tried to approach the adoption agency that handled my adoption but it turned out that they had closed down. Their records ended up at a welfare that is run by social workers for young mothers or pregnant teens who have nowhere else to go. I had to go through a screening process to see if i was mentally prepared to start the journey of discovery.

It took them 4 years to locate my biological mother. I was able to email her indirectly through the social worker. She has 2 daughters, of which one is only 3 years younger than me. It made me wonder how she could keep that child so soon after giving me up, but I realized that I had to keep an open mind because I don't know what her circumstances were at the time or how I came to exist. We sent about 3 emails to each other, she then decided that she wasn't ready to have contact. My biological father is to this day probably unaware of my existence. I did hire a private investigator last year to try and locate him but he could only provide me with more information on my biological mother due to lack of information.

I intend to try establish contact with my biological mother again since her children are grown up now. I never felt bad about being adopted, my family has always supported me and provided me with whatever I needed. I grew up in a house with 6 siblings. It was certainly interesting when we all hit the teenage phase at more or less the same time. I don't think that it will bother me if I never have contact with my biological family but I do wonder. Other children know whose hair or eyes they've got, I would simply like medical history, a picture and to find out what they've done with their lives. I have a 5 year old son, so I can definitely imagine how difficult it must've been to give up a child, I just don't know how people manage to do it, but in my case, I'm glad she did because my life could've been very different and less fortunate.

Meredith McCullough's Adoption Story

I've known I was adopted for as long as I can remember. Growing up in a house with an older sister who was adopted from another family and having a childhood friend who was adopted made it seem like a very “normal” thing to me. I actually found it to be a very special and unique part of me. My family and I celebrate my adoption day, as we call it my special day and that’s exactly how it always felt: special. Of course, growing up from time to time I would have those moments where I’d wonder about my roots but as far as I knew my birth mother loved me so much, she gave me a better life.

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Off and on throughout the years especially as I got older I would “search” but didn’t try very hard and would hit dead ends and give up. Then I’d revisit a few years later. It wasn’t until I got pregnant that I really began to push to search. I wanted answers not only for my soon to be baby but for myself. Unfortunately I didn’t feel comfortable talking about this with my parents so I moved forward with the support from others around me.   

Coming from a closed adoption in the 80's I was only allowed access to non-identifying information. I thought why not, let’s see if I get any new information. Low and behold after a lot of back and forth I found out there was a letter from my birth mother in my file which was written when I was just one week old. She said that she wanted to be contacted if I ever wanted to contact her. Some time went by but the social worker was able to find my birth mother, who oddly enough was married to my birth father.

Over the span of a few months we managed to start our contact through the social worker and after three letters we decided to exchange full information. Two months following I was headed to meet my birth family for the very first time. Turns out I not only had birth parents who were together still to this day, but I had a full blood brother and sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. There was an entire family waiting to welcome me.

Needless to say the first meeting was extremely overwhelming. I wish I had documented my feelings throughout the whole process. I remember sitting on the couch that first meeting and just answering question after question about my life to each new person who sat next to me.

It’s now five years into our reunion. It has come with many emotions – emotions that I didn’t even know I had. Navigating through new relationships and trying to manage old ones. I have to remind myself that no family is conventional anymore. My hope is that one day both of my families will meld together. This may never happen but I’m a believer in the fairy tale. I mean what person doesn’t want that?

Despite the emotions that come along with search and reunion I’m glad I did it. I would have always wanted answers and now I have another family who loves me. I had a great life because one woman loved me so much she was brave enough to let me go and another one loved me so much she never looked at me like I wasn’t her own. I will forever be thankful for the life I had. This is my new “normal” and I wouldn’t change it for the world.