Adopted: Family History Unknown
Last week was the first game for the middle school girls’ soccer team, and one of my daughters was starting as center midfielder. As she streaked down the field, she took a soccer ball in the face. She shook it off, and the game resumed. All’s well that ends well, right? Wrong.
Her comment the next morning that she was seeing black streaks started us on a journey that would end three days and three doctors later with laser surgery to repair a torn retina.
I spent the week in doctor’s offices waiting, playing cards, and filling out forms. In the past when we’ve gone to a new doctor, my daugher has been young enough that she was not paying attention while I filled out the forms. Either due to her age (13) or her anxiety about the black spots and flashing lights, she was paying close attention as I completed them this week.
Every form had a family history section. With the first form, as I wrote “Adopted: Family history unknown”, I thought that my daughter became a little more reserved. I slipped into my Mommy-the-role-model role to show her how to handle this situation in a matter of fact manner. Adoption is a natural part of her life, and throughout her life she’ll face situations where she has to explain it to others. I’m sure she has done this many times with friends, but maybe not with adults or when specific information is being asked. After we sat back down in the waiting room, I tried to use it as a conversation starter about lacking information about her birth family. It was a non-starter.
Later, the nurse felt the need to confirm that we had no family history, and then the doctor highlighted this fact when he reviewed the form. With each successive form and doctor I noticed my daughter growing increasingly quiet during these brief family history discussions. Her body language whispered discomfort.
I don’t really know what she was feeling; too much was happening then and since for me to have that conversation. She needs some time to process, and for life to settle into routine again. But what surprised me were my feelings. I wanted so much to protect her from all of this. Yes, from the torn retina and all that will entail both now and in the future, but also from a lifetime of writing “Adopted: No family history.” on medical forms and then explaining it to a lifetime of medical personnel.
I wanted to ditch the Mommy-the-role-model role and become Mommy-the-super-hero (complete with spandex costume), throwing myself in front of speeding soccer balls and mending torn retinas with one fell swoop. Mommy the super hero would be able to shield her child not only from speeding object, but also from prying questions. Mommy the super hero would make sure her daughter never felt uncomfortable about being adopted.
OK, as I type this, I realize how silly this sounds—ridiculous really. I know I’m over reacting. My daughter’s medical treatment did not hinge on family medical history. Nor is she emotionally fragile; she can and will learn to deal with these types of questions. This is a part of her life, and as her mom, I need to teach her how to handle it. But it stinks. It stinks that we don’t have this information and it stinks that she has to explain this fact. So, in my fantasy, I’m wearing my Mommy-the-super-hero costume, filling out medical forms and slaying soccer balls. And since it’s a dream, I also look good in spandex.
Image credit: Mercy Health