Friday, September 18, 2009

Nature/Nurture

Six weeks ago, my little family drove north on Interstate 5, hung a right at Highway 14 and drove into Antelope Valley. Sounds like a pretty place, doesn't it? Almost mystical. I would bet most of you, if you were to take out your own personal mental snapshot of California you would be looking at Rocky Mountains or the roiling Pacific, majestic redwoods or overpriced amusement parks. I'm sure none of you pictured Antelope Valley. Although it sounds like a lush savanna bounding with chipper quadrupeds, in fact, Antelope Valley has no antelopes. The poor creatures were obliterated by hunters in the 1880's, and replaced with prefab homes, out of date strip malls, alfalfa fields and the second largest Borax pit mine. Antelope Valley also has the distinction of being the crystal meth darling of the Mojave.

This is where my daughter, Maxie, was born. (Interesting to note, the nurse in charge of Maxie's care for the first two days of her life, told us an increase of meth users in the area coincided with an unprecedented baby boom. Thankfully, Phylis, Maxie's birth mom, did not partake of the pipe.) And on that day, six weeks ago, we braved scorching heat and unrelenting fast food temptations to visit with Phylis and Maxie's two half sisters, Cheryl and Taryn. It was Taryn who insisted on seeing her younger sister again. And who are we to thwart a ten year old's wishes?

I'm pretty sure seven years ago, when Michael and I started the adoption process, we did not anticipate trekking to Armpit, USA to visit with the birth family. I probably went into it thinking we'd do the same thing my aunt and uncle did when they adopted forty years before, which was to slam a very heavy door on anything relating to the birth mother and bolt it shut.

All my preconceptions changed when Michael and I went to an adoption fair, sponsored by the Pop Luck Club, an organization of gay dads in the LA area. There were many brochure covered tables with all sorts of folk from the adoption industry. There were representatives from adoption agencies, adoption lawyers and surrogacy providers (my favorite, Ova the Rainbow.) And we met a wonderful woman who told us about open adoption. It was her belief that the bolted door is pretty much old school. She said that it's more psychologically sound and in the child's best interest to fling that door wide open and invite the birth family to come on in and set a spell. Mind you this is a slow get-to-know-you process. Think of the birth family as in-laws. Consequently, we bought the whole concept hook, line and sinker and attached ourselves to Kinship Center, an adoption agency based in Santa Ana.

Sebastian knows four of his half siblings. And Maxie, as I stated, is in contact with her birth mother and two half sisters. And it's fun to see their family resemblances. Sebastian's people are small with expressive eyes. Maxie comes from a long line of long legged females with fierce intelligence and dry hair. (You can smear my daughter's head with Vaseline and by the end of the day all evidence of petroleum jelly will have vanished.)

Add to her genetic hard wiring, Michael's and my very special brand of poison (our gestures, our humor, our turns of phrase) and you have my daughter. (Take a gander at my previous post Poisoning My Kids.) It's hard to describe but a bond is formed between the hard wirers and the poisoners. Sort of a "your looks, our mannerisms" bond. To a certain extent we are all responsible for this little girl. So when Taryn said, "Come on, adults, I haven't seen my little sister for over a year," of course we all hopped to and made this get together happen.

Our afternoon in Antelope Valley was spent in a park. A much needed breeze wafted as Maxie reconnect with her birth family and we ate greasy fast food. When in Rome... Aside from the drug bust next to the playground it couldn't have been lovelier. An intoxicating commingling of nature and nurture.

***

Two pictures of siblings. One with a strong biological resemblance, the other without a drop of shared DNA, and yet, an undeniable sibling bond nonetheless.

Nature


Nurture


20 comments:

The Good Cook said...

Wow. What an incredibly loving couple you are. I just don't know if I could invite the birth family into my life. But how lucky for your little girl that you are much more giving than I!

SurprisedMom said...

First of all, let me tell you I love to read your writing. You are a very, very talented writer.
Secondly, those photos are beyond words . . . as photos usually are. They certainly point out nature and nurture well.
I don't know how adoptive parents do the balancing act with birth families, but you seem to do it well. I'm sure it's a good thing for your kids.
So, your kids have gained your sense of humor???

Chris@Maugeritaville said...

Great stuff. I live about 30 miles east of Antelope Valley, so I know of which you speak. "Armpit USA" is a compliment.

PJ said...

Just think of all the Lifetime Original movies you've avoided by keeping that door open...no dramatics and Maxie will be all the better adjusted as a result.

Cassie said...

I strongly believe that both the biological and the adoptive families blend together whether they want to or not. Looks like your kids got a double dip of the good stuff :o)

BellaDaddy said...

Absolutely beautiful...the kids..not Antelope Valley...yup, been there too LOL!

Not The Rockefellers said...

You sure sound like a loving family to me...and you have taken the burden of searching for birth parents off of your kid's shoulders.

Beautiful children.

Peace - Rene

Mandy's Life After 30 said...

Glad you survived the Armpit Adventure! Did you sing "Holiday ROOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD" like the Griswolds on your road trip?

Your children and your story is simply beautiful. I'm so glad I found your site.

Vodka Mom said...

you really are amazing.

I've decided to let you adopt me. I'm packing as we speak.

Steven (Green Dads) said...

Wow, wonderful story! We don't have a relationship with our son's birth mother or family, and she lives right here in the same city (complicated situation).

CSY said...

Your kids are ADORABLE! I've lived close to Armpit, USA, not alot of people think that when they think Cali - but the sad fact its that it IS there. LOVE your writing! Missed it this summer!

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

Priceless!

The pale observer said...

Great post! Love the family issues - nurture counts for alot and you two seem to have alot of love!!!

More power to you!!!

I'm your newest fan!

Cheers
Holli in Ghana

C said...

i am with you all the way. my first 2 kiddos are adopted and then i had 2! miracles each one of them! anyhoo... my oldest son's birthmother terri is in our lives. he looked her up 2 years ago and i always knew we would meet someday. she is part of the family. so many wonderfully great things are, because of this. my daughter, unfortunatly hasn't been able to get info about hers, so i am sad about that but maybe someday.

you guys are loving, wonderful, deserving of the best, people...

what a difference you make in those babies lives...

c

trasha said...

Family is all about the people who love us and how lucky is your girl that her sister wants to maintain contact. Your babies are fortunate they got you guys for dads. You dads are lucky to have got such gorgeous babies.

C said...

hey hon, left ya a lil prezzie over at my blog... come and get it!

c

--Tumbleweed said...

Your children are beautiful! Your daughter's smile in the second picture stole my breath for a second. Congrats on your marriage, and thanks for making me smile.

Brett said...

Free competition time again, those wonderful people at blurb have given me 3 voucher worth £30 each to give away, to help promote their latest book competition in which you could win $3,000. The book competition ends on the 22/10 so to give the winners of the vouchers time to do their books this give away ends on Friday 9th.

To enter you just need to follow one of my blogs and tell me your funniest pet, travel or family related story. If you already have a post on your blog just link to that in the comment and I will read it there.

Why have I chosen those categories well they just happen to be the themes of the books for Blurbs competition, Pets, Travel or Families, so get your thinking caps on as this competition for the £30 vouchers ends Friday.

Loni said...

I Love it! More love all around!!!

thetotalfemme said...

Hey! What a jolly blog! (Thanks Dana, over at mombian, where I stumbled across "Thing-in-Hand" which I immediately forwarded to two straight-mom friends always in need of support and a giggle).

I've got one bio and one adopted, and I am always amazed and what comes up in their personalities, senses of humor, anxieties, etc. And may I say thank goodness they both have senses of humor?

Thanks for your wise and funny blog -- glad to have found it!

thetotalfemme