First aired on The Next Chapter (23/1/12)
Family life is complicated, and adoption only ups the ante by adding to the mix questions about belonging and identity. Somebody's Child is a collection of essays from all over the adoption map: parents, children, and even grandparents and siblings weigh in on the experiences of adoptive families. It's a fascinating picture of how "family" is defined, and of how resilient families can be. Two of the book's contributors, Judith Hope and Christina Brobby, spoke with Shelagh Rogers on The Next Chapter about their experiences with adoption.
Calgary-based Hope adopted her teenaged son Jonathan in Hong Kong when he was a toddler, while Brobby, who is from Whitehorse, writes about her mid-life search to reconnect with her biological family in England and Ghana.
At the time that Hope adopted her son, she and her husband -- a journalist -- were living in Hong Kong. "We had one biological son, and no more babies were coming down the tube," she said. "We were there, it was an option, and we started looking into it." Hope and her husband both came from families with at least four children, so the idea of expanding their brood, as it were, was natural and appealing.
Brobby, meanwhile, grew up knowing she was adopted. "It's one of those things that I can't recall ever not knowing," she said. "It was just so much part of my life...you just know you're adopted, it's just another piece of your vocabulary that you learn very early."
Similarly, Hope's adopted son has always known. "It's always been part of his story that we've been telling him since he came to us," said Hope. "So it's a very natural part of his story." Hope now has two biological children as well as Jonathan, and in her essay, she discusses how, though she bonded with her two biological children in utero, her love for Jonathan was "rooted in choice."
"It was a special choice, to embrace someone into your family," she said. "But the bonding was different, it was a learning curve for both of us. It took years and years for me to realize that I'm in love with this boy for who he is, not for anything else other than that. It's a different kind of bonding than happened with the other two. Not in value any less or more, just different."
From Brobby's perspective, being placed in an adoptive family did give her a sense of feeling different, if only in a vague way. "It's difficult to say...it's just so subjective," she said. "I can't really put my finger on anything, it just felt different."
Brobby and Hope are affected by one another's stories as well. "Listening to Christina tell her story, it does strike deeply, more so that it's just [about] finding this connection, finding the pieces of the puzzles of our lives," said Hope.
Brobby, meanwhile, had these words of wisdom from adoptive child to adoptive parent: "It's another huge journey if and when [Jonathan] does undertake [the search for his biological parents], but you'll be there for him regardless, and that's the most important thing. It's not all about the family that you find, it's about the family that you've had."
edited by Bruce Gillespie and Lynne van Luven
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Our quest for origin and, by extension, identity is universal to the human experience. For the twenty-five contributors to Somebody''s Child, the topic of adoption is not-and perhaps never can be-a neutral issue. With unique courage, each of them discusses their experience of the adoption process. Some share stories of heartbreak; others have discovered joy; some have searched for closure. Somebody''s Child captures the many unforgettable faces and voices of adoption.
The third book in a series of anthologies about the twenty-first-century family, Somebody's Child follows Nobody's Mother and Nobody's Father, two essay collections from childless adults on parenthood, family and choices. Together, these three books challenge readers to reexamine traditional definitions of the concept of "family."
Read more at TouchWood Editions