When I was a kid, I loved going through the photo albums that lined our book shelf, looking at pictures of “young me,” as well as other people I knew. In one album were photos of this beautiful little dark-haired baby girl, often held by my mom. I was my mother’s only child and as blonde as blonde could get, so I knew that baby wasn’t me. When I asked my mom about the dark-haired girl from the photos, she told me her name was Jessica, that she was my sister whom my mother had at a very young age and that she had been given up for adoption. As a child — and now as an adult — I always had an insatiable thirst for information, so I had question upon question upon question for my mom, and she answered them as well as she could with what information she had and with what she believed I could understand.
My mother got pregnant at 15 and had Jessica a few months after she turned 16. She was able to keep her for a year before she had to make a very difficult decision to give her up for adoption so that Jessica could have the life she deserved. Both my mother’s parents had passed away prior to this and family support was not a viable option. It was hard for her, especially after having spent a year caring for Jessica, but she knew it was best.
Once I learned about Jessica, I knew that I wanted to meet her and have a sister relationship with her. But as I got older, I realized how unlikely that was. Even if she ever wanted to meet me, I was the child that my mother raised and she was the one who had been given up for adoption. Of course, I was born about five years later and my mom was married and stable and no longer a teenager, but how would Jessica know that? Would she understand? I always knew I at least wanted to try to find out.
As a teenager, I researched ways to track down siblings who were given up for adoption and I even registered on sites designed for adopted people to get in touch with their biological family members. I decided that no matter how much I wanted to find her, I wouldn’t actively try to. If she didn’t want to meet my mom or her biological family, that was her business and I had no right to interfere with that decision. But I still hoped that one day she would get in touch with us and I wanted to make it as easy as possible for her to find us.
We knew that when Jessica turned 18, she would at least be able to get information from the state regarding her birth parents if she was interested, but Jessica’s 18th birthday came and went with no contact. We knew when she turned 21, she’d be able to get even more information, but we still had no contact from her after her 21st birthday came and went. I thought about her all the time. I wondered where she was, what she was doing and how life was going for her, but I stuck to my decision to not actively seek her.
When Jessica was about 25 years old, mom got “The Call.” A representative from the state called to say that Jessica was trying to get information regarding her birth parents and wanted my mom’s permission to release the information. Mom had kept her information updated with the state in case this ever happened and told the representative it was fine to share it with Jessica. She knew that it was possible Jessica might never use the information, but she called me later, and through the tears, I heard her say something about Jessica trying to get in touch with her. My mother had carried Jessica for nine months, gave birth to her, and had taken care of her for over a year. However much I wanted to meet Jessica, I knew that my mom wanted it exponentially more.
After Jessica contacted my mom, they made a date to meet in person. I asked my mom if she wanted me to come with her, but she decided it was something she wanted to do on her own. She knew it was possible that this could be a one-time deal with no relationship developing between them. But when my mom called me from Jessica’s house just two hours away, she sounded so happy. She got to meet her daughter for the first time as an adult and her two grandchildren in the same day. She even decided to stay the night.
A few weeks later, I met Jessica for the first time. She was so amazing and welcoming, and we learned that we have a lot of things in common. We both love of horror movies – especially the B-rated ones – and we both love tattoos. We even both have a cat with wings tattooed on our right upper arm! Unlike the other half-siblings I have through my dad, I finally found the sister I could be close to. We just clicked.
Sure, there are things that we disagree on, like any sisters do. We have occasional moments of “What the hell is she thinking?” that I think stem from the different backgrounds we were raised in (she was raised in a strict Puerto Rican family — biologically speaking, she is half white and half Mexican — that hold different views towards family and male-female relationships than the family I was raised in). But on many things, we see eye-to-eye.
Jessica and her kids have always been part of our family, even before they knew they were. We found out after meeting her that the reason she did not try to contact us earlier was because she didn’t know that she was adopted. She has a sister who was also adopted, and her family chose not to tell them. They still choose to ignore the fact that she knows us and spends time with us, but that is their right. I know her mother is coming around a little bit and has expressed interest in meeting my mom, but for now we have all we need.
Things are not always been rosy and wonderful. Sometimes I feel like my mom gives Jessica special treatment because she feels guilty, which she’s pretty much admitted to me. She’ll occasionally loan money to Jessica and then hesitate about loaning me money simply because Jessica hasn’t paid her back yet. Sometimes I wonder how Jessica feels about me being “the one mom kept” but just by her actions as my sister, I don’t think she feels a lot of jealousy. She had a good childhood and has parents who love her greatly. And generally, we don’t let anything like that interfere with the relationships among the three of us.
We did an interview with a local organization highlighting adoption stories, in which my mom said that when I was a baby, my father was the one to get up with me in the middle of the night because she just couldn’t do it since I “wasn’t Jessica.” Luckily, that didn’t keep me from having an amazing relationship with my mom – just last year she bought a duplex with me and we are now permanent neighbors. She has always been a great mother to me and I couldn’t ask for a better parent. And with Jessica, I couldn’t ask for a better sister.
Our collective adoption story is admittedly unique. Usually when an adopted child finds his or her biological family, it does not turn out as happily as our situation. It’s been about seven years since Jessica came into our lives and I can barely remember life without her. My mom takes her kids about once a month to give her time to herself, we visit each other regularly, spend holidays together, and chat all the time. We had a lot of lost time to make up for, but now it’s like she’s always been around.