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facts & arguments

James Thew

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I've always known I was adopted. In fact, I don't even remember my parents telling me, so I was very little. Both my brother and I were adopted in the early months of our lives, from different families, three years apart.

Four years after my adoption, our parents were blessed with a pregnancy that they didn't think was possible, bringing along a little sister for us.

My adoptive parents are my parents as far as I'm concerned. They've raised me, loved me, held my hand, wiped my tears and taken me to countless dance, horseback riding and school sports events.

They've educated me, and been there to talk to regardless of the situation. They came to my singing competitions and graduations from high school and college. They've helped me through painful times, and celebrated with me.

Still, like most adoptees at some point, I felt a void in not knowing where I came from.

My parents were asked in the adoption questionnaires if they would be supportive should I decide to search for my birth mother. My mom and dad were amazing during my search process. They were inquisitive in all the right places, without showing their own emotions.

I'm sure they were scared, worried and hopeful for me in every sense, but they mostly showed that they simply loved me and cared about what I wanted.

After a couple of years of searching, I located my birth father and his two daughters. I formed a relationship with them from a distance, visiting occasionally. But as the years passed we went our separate ways, as they expected more from me than I was willing to give.

My birth mother was adamant about not meeting me or having anything to do with me because her children and current husband did not know about me. She'd hidden the fact she was pregnant, and signed adoption papers months before I was born. My birth father hadn't been aware of my pending existence until I was born.

I did meet two of my birth mother's four other children, and I speak to them on rare occasions, but we haven't built long-lasting relationships.

I'm thankful, though, that I was able to make the search, and that I received some medical history – something all adoptees wish they had.

It was a bit surreal finding out that all of these people lived only 45 minutes' drive from where I grew up, in a town where we shopped on a semi-regular basis; that on any of those trips we might have seen my birth parents and not have known; that I'd played soccer against some cousins I didn't know about.

We were in two different worlds, only 45 minutes apart.

Through my search, I found out what my life would have become if my birth mother had decided to keep me; if I had remained Jessica Armstrong, my name at birth.

I'd always wondered why she gave me up; why she didn't want me. Was she scared? My adoption papers said "child relinquishment due to child being born out of wedlock."

I was confused about how someone could give up a baby, but it became evident to me that she would not have been able to care for, love or provide for me.

I was a mistake to her, and would be a blessing to parents who would be everything I needed, and more.

There are feelings that come along with being an adoptee – fear of abandonment, a desire to be the centre of attention, a need for constant praise and approval, emotions that arise on birthdays and holidays. We long to be loved and liked by everyone. We give everything we've got, and are disappointed when it's not returned by others.

I've finally come to terms with these feelings. They sometimes sneak up unexpectedly, but I've learned to deal.

My parents, my real, every-day-of-my-life parents, have been able to love me as if I grew beneath my mom's own heart.

I may not have been born out of love, but I was adopted into an amazing family. The most loving, charismatic, kind, generous, wonderful family is mine, and I couldn't ask for more. I am blessed with their morals and values.

I have my mom's passion for reading and crafting; her kindness and loving ways. I have my dad's generosity and compassion, and his sense of strength and perseverance.

My brother and sister and I are all very different, but as siblings we love, we argue, we confide and we share joy with one another as if we shared the same blood.

I don't need to have my mom's eyes, or my dad's nose, or the same complexion as my fair-skinned sister, or my brother's contagious laugh. They are my family, and I wouldn't trade them for the world.

As I near my 30th birthday, with some fertility issues of my own, I'm unsure of whether I can bear children. If I can't, there is no hesitation in my mind about adopting. And I will love that child with my whole life, just as my mom and dad have with me, since the day they first held me in their arms and took me home.

Leslie Scott lives in Ottawa.

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