“I feel like I should make one of those ‘imagine-the-audience-in-their-underwear’ jokes, but I feel like that might be mildly inappropriate.”
That is what I opened with at my banquet speech Friday night. That was the first thing I said. Yep. My opening line was about underwear.
When I think about it, I have an image of the real me on stage actually saying it, but I also see an imaginary, invisible me trying to catch the words as they come out of my mouth and shove them back in, silently whispering, “Oh my God! Shut up!”
I’ll defend myself by saying that this banquet hall was packed. One-hundred-and-fifty people, easily, all affiliated with Bethany Christian Services (the adoption agency I worked with), all staring eagerly up at me. I honestly don’t mind speaking in front of people, especially when I’m speaking about a topic that I’m passionate about (like you!), but that doesn’t stop me from getting nervous (and making bad underwear jokes). Likewise, being nervous doesn’t stop me from talking about the things I believe are important — and raising awareness about open adoption is certainly one of those things.
I love telling our story. I love telling the part where it was just you and me and those seven months we spent growing together. I love telling the part where The B’s and I met and how we came together as a family. I even like telling the parts that were difficult for me: having to sign the adoption papers, trudging through those ten days, and missing you all the time.
But my favorite part of telling our story is seeing the looks on the faces of others as I tell them about the relationship I’ve had with The B’s since the adoption became official. They all look a little…stunned. Wide eyes that look a little incredulous, even a few dropped jaws here and there. But they’re stunned in a happy kind of way: Like they didn’t know that adoption stories could turn out that wonderfully, or like they’re thrilled to hear that happy endings aren’t just for the movies.
I love seeing that look because I know that there is one more person out there who knows that adoption has changed people’s lives for the better. When I hear about adoption in my classes at school (if I hear about it at all, which is rare), the only things I hear are negative: negative impacts on the child as they grow up, negative impacts on the birth mother after her child is gone, abuse, neglect…the list goes on. And the sad part is that they’re not entirely wrong. In some cases, things end up that way: bad families, damaged children, etc. But that’s why I feel it is so important to share our story. Because if awareness is raised and optimism is spread, maybe the stigma can be lifted and people can learn about how openness can really change everything.
I know I always say that you are my inspiration, but I really mean it. The reason I love to do these talks and give these speeches and attend these banquets and info meetings and fundraisers is because I have you. You are a miracle, but not just my miracle. You’re a miracle for The B’s and their friends and family, too. Your existence has brought so many people together which, in turn, has spread so much love and happiness…how can anybody not want to share that? Personally, I like to sing your praises from the rooftops (or through social media, the new age “rooftop”) and judging by the great feedback I got on Friday after the rest of my speech, maybe your story will become someone else’s miracle too.
But hopefully, when that person retells the story I told them — about you and me and the wonderful family I found in The B’s and through open adoption — they’ll leave out the part about the underwear.