Shining light on secrets. That's what all this keeps coming back to for me. By writing about adoption, I hope to diminish the power that those secrets wield.
Often, while bathing or dressing my young son, anytime I catch a glimpse of his bellybutton’s curved, labyrinthine contours, I am compelled to touch his navel and tell him “This is where you were connected to me before you were born.” It’s a comfort and an inspiration to do this; his bellybutton is evidence that he is mine and I am his: we share the singular connection I have longed for over many years. I have been thinking about the idea of the navel of the world—a concept that exists in many cultures: the Hopi Sipapu, the Greek Omphalos; it is human nature to connect our existence with the earth’s—to create the cosmology of where we came from, to ground and connect ourselves with that which came before us and that which is larger than ourselves.
In this country, kinship is defined by biological relatedness, while in other cultures, genetic inheritance is not the main focus of kinship. Perhaps in those cultures, adoption is a non-issue; a child can belong to everyone, to everything, including the granite domes, basalt cliffs, and winding whitewater of the landscape. Perhaps one could belong to the earth; yet, here, because of the secrecy surrounding my birth and the circumstances under which I was relinquished, because my birth certificate—our culture’s signifier of belonging, heritage and kinship—was amended after my birth, and a second document replaced it while the first one was sealed in a envelope and hidden in an inaccessible vault, because of this early secrecy and scrambling of my personal information, I have not felt that grounding, that rootedness, that sense of belonging.
Despite the fact that if I wanted to, I could now put my hand on my birthmother’s belly, touch her navel and remind myself, “this is where I came from, this is who I was connected to before I was born,” a long-ingrained feeling of disconnection persists.