When you live 3000 miles away from your family for more than a decade with little to no ongoing contact with your extended relatives, relationships tend to suffer. Closeness you might have felt at one time toward a person begins to fade despite your best intentions to keep a strong relationship going. You simply can not maintain healthy contacts with people if you never see them and rarely speak to them. Such was my predicament with my extended family in New York state and in other parts of the country before our son was born. I remember visiting with my New York cousins once at Christmas time years ago when a cousin’s spouse raised the question, “How are we, the cousins, going to stay in touch over the years?” The question was dropped over the dining room table like a bomb but I remember nobody had a definitive answer. The truth was, I wanted to be closer with my family but I didn’t know how that would happen living across the country from them.
Well the Universe must have heard my silent plea for help because when we finally got “The Call” that a birth family selected us to adopt their child, we learned that they happened to live in New York state just 15 minutes from several of my relatives on my mother’s side of the family, and only an 1 ½ hours from my parents house! I was astounded at our good fortune. The laws of many states, New York not excluded, require you to be in the state for a minimum of two weeks period so the birth parents have adequate time to sign legal paperwork which will take away their rights to parent their child forever. I ended up spending a lot of my time in New York reacquainting myself with much of my maternal side of the family.
It wasn’t just the maternal New York relatives that I began reconnecting with via my son’s adoption either but my Dad’s side of the family as well. When my Aunt and Uncle in Connecticut heard that we were beginning the adoption process they were very encouraging as they had acquired both of their children (my cousins) in closed adoptions years ago. My Aunt in particular, was very supportive throughout the process and began regularly checking in on me, mostly via email but sometimes by phone. Her support was especially appreciated during our long wait to adopt since she herself was not a stranger to the pains that infertility and adoption can bring. So the mere fact that we were adopting a child as well gave me a sense of connection to my paternal Aunt and Uncle that had never existed before.
During the two weeks we were actually in New York state, going through with the adoption my husband and I needed many things: a place to stay, a car, a crib, a car seat, a stroller, diapers/wipes, baby blankets, and a few articles of clothing. ALL of these necessities and more were provided to us with love by my relatives. (Many adoptive families spend a lot of money on a place to stay and car rental costs during this period.) My husband, myself and our newborn son were showered with generosity. The crazy thing is, had we ended up birthing a biological child we would have had a much smaller support group as we would have been in California, 3000 miles away from most of my family, plus none of the rekindled family connections would have ever taken place.
Our extended relatives STILL (four years later) talk about the time around our son’s birth because so many of them had some part of it. Just this last month, when I got together with some family members from New York, one Aunt in particular says that she feels a special bond with our son, for a time more so even than with some of her own grandchildren, and she will forever remember the weeks when we stayed with her as it was such an amazing and special time. Today, on my son’s fourth birthday, I can’t help but marvel at those events which forever impacted our new family. Our little boy, by being adopted and being born where he was, inadvertently removed all the feelings of isolation I had once felt toward my extended relatives on both sides of our family – for this amazing feat I am eternally grateful.