I was born on August 11, 1985 and adopted by my parents at five days old in Phoenix, Arizona. My birth mom was 19, not ready for a baby and even though my birth dad wasn’t in the picture, she didn’t want him to have any part in raising me, so she chose adoption.
I grew up knowing I was adopted. While it was legally a closed adoption, my parents made the selfless choice to stay in contact with Ginger, my birth mother. They sent pictures and letters back and forth throughout my life. And although they didn’t know it at the time, she lived only a couple miles from them, even shopping at the same grocery store when we lived in Phoenix. Naturally, this probably freaked my mom out when she found out later.
When I was seven, my mom and dad moved my siblings (biological to my parents) and me to Holland, Michigan to be closer to my mom’s family. The letters with Ginger continued but began to wane as time went on. I grew up knowing I had a biological sister named Tayler, seven years younger than me who my birth mom decided to keep and raise on her own. I was always excited to know I had another sister.
At 14, when email started getting popular, I asked my parents if they would be okay with me emailing Ginger sometime. My mom, although a little nervous and insecure about it, agreed, and contacted the adoption agency in hopes of getting any up-to-date info on her since we didn’t have her email address. When we got it and I wrote my first email to her, I was so nervous. What should I write about? Teenager things, I guess. Honestly, I don’t even remember what I wrote, but it started my first line of communication between my birth mother and me. We didn’t email every day, just once in a while to say hello. Ginger had mentioned we should keep it to a minimum to respect my parents and not make them feel like they’d been replaced or that I wanted to go back to her. I agreed.
Two years later, in my junior year of high school, we began to email regularly, learning more and more about each other. We talked about our personal lives and I learned that in addition to Taylor, I also had a little brother who was two at the time, from her new marriage to her husband. Inevitably, the conversation about meeting in person happened. I was so excited, but so nervous, when I got that email. How would my mom feel? Would she be mad that even came up? Would she be angry that we had been communicating as much as we had? Maybe she’d be okay with it if she came along to meet her? And so I had that conversation with her. To my surprise, she was thrilled, cautiously thrilled. Of course I’d expect her to be insecure about it. After all, I’m HER daughter. She’s the woman who raised me, fed me, took care of me when I was sick, disciplined me, taught me everything about life, hugged me and told me she loved me. But she was so excited I asked her to go with me to meet her. And so we booked our tickets to Phoenix.
We flew out there the week before I turned 18. I had just graduated from high school and was ready to find out where and whom I came from. My mom was a wreck on the plane; she hates to fly. I waited anxiously while my mom squeezed my hand the entire four hour flight. We landed in Phoenix and my heart began to race. Walking through the terminal into the lobby was surreal. I wanted to vomit, smile, scream, dance around, but instead, I just walked.
And then, there she was. Blonde hair, green eyes and short. It was like looking into a mirror. We hugged for what seemed like hours; I couldn’t let go. This was my mother, the woman who birthed me. The woman who chose life. This was the woman who selflessly gave up her firstborn daughter to a family who desperately wanted a baby after trying for seven years to have one of their own. The woman who gave birth to me on my daddy’s birthday, August 11th. I suddenly made sense. The first thing my mom said to Ginger and me was, ‘Wow, you both are shrimps! Now we know where Lauren gets her height!’ We all laughed and the ice was broken. I met her husband, Dane, my little sister Tayler, my little brother Mason and we all headed out of the airport a little less nervous.
I spent the entire week with them, while my mom stayed with relatives in Phoenix. I asked Ginger every question I ever had. Why didn’t you keep me, but you kept Tayler? Why did you choose adoption? Why didn’t you fight for me? Why, why, why? She answered everything without sugar coating or dodging, just straight forward, which is exactly how I answer questions. I realized the concept of nature vs. nurture. I wasn’t raised by this woman but our mannerisms are the same, we sleep the same, laugh the same, smile the same, speak the same. Our personalities are so similar, it’s insane. I am bold, stubborn, kind-hearted, forgiving, strong-willed, direct, and I don’t take crap from people. Now I get why I had such an identity crisis as a kid; I am so different from my family in terms of personality, even down to my delivery of words and my thought process. I am all Ginger. Looks, personality, everything.
I also met my grandparents for the first time. I am the eldest of the grand kids, so it was very special to meet them. They cried and called me their granddaughter. I met my cousins and aunt and uncle for the first time and still have a great relationship with them. We celebrated my 18th birthday together with my mom and relatives before heading home, both of us feeling great about everything that happened that week. But also relieved it was over and excited to see my new family again in the future.
That was twelve years ago and there hasn’t been a year since where we haven’t seen each other. I visit Arizona every year and they have also visited Michigan a few times. I have taken vacations with them, been there for birthdays and holidays, surgeries, and various other events. Ginger has been by my side, watched me grow into an adult, heard listened to me talk about my silly relationships, met my husband and embraced him like a son. She attended our wedding on June 30, 2012 and my little sister Tayler was a bridesmaid. She and Dale look forward to being grandparents someday.
I’ve been able to watch my little sister grow into the woman she has become and watch my little brother grow into the feisty teenager that he is. We are family. I can’t say she is my mom, or an aunt, or friend, or whatever label you want to put on her. She is my family; her whole family is my family. There isn’t any other way to describe them. All I can say is that I am blessed. I am blessed to have parents who were so accepting of Ginger, allowed me to grow up knowing about her, let her be a part of my life, embraced her when she was a physical part of my life, and consider her family. I am so blessed to have a birth mother who is so strong and selfless, and respectful of my parents. She never stepped on their toes as parents, she is grateful to them for raising me how they did and proud to be a part of our family. She will always be there for us.
I am so blessed to have more family that loves me and who I can love. I am so blessed to have a husband who has only been supportive of the relationship I have with my birth family and eagerly waits for our next trip to visit them. I am so blessed to have a ‘dad’ in Ginger’s husband, Dane. He accepted me as part of his family, considers me his daughter, even though he came into the picture years after my adoption and encouraged Ginger to connect with me.
Lauren Haveman is a real estate agent for City2Shore Real Estate, She and her husband, Todd, reside in Hudsonville, Michigan with their two dogs, Dweezel and Lola and enjoy cooking, camping, and living the Michigan seasons to their fullest. Ginger and her husband continue to live in Phoenix AZ and Lauren and Todd still visit them every summer; it feels like their second home.