Yesterday wrapped up November…National Adoption Month. Today is the first day of December – a month of family celebrations. I thought today was the perfect day to post my last interview in the series. I’d like you to meet a wonderful young man who’s birth mom chose adoption for him and was raised by his birth father.
Introduce yourself! Tell me a bit about your childhood growing up – who you are now as an adult.
Hello, I am Josh Webster! I am 31 and a half years old and I am married to my lovely wife Hannah and have 2 dogs and a house. I grew up with a younger brother and 2 younger sisters in MN and briefly in TX. I currently work at Thomson Reuters as an Information Architect.
Your situation regarding adoption is unique – your birth father raised you, he got married when you were young and his wife legally adopted you and became your mom. I heard she met you before she met your dad! How old were you when you first realized your mom was not the one who gave birth to you. What was the conversation like if there was one? What or how did it make you feel?
It wasn’t really something I ever realized or ever would have realized to be honest. It’s not something you think about when you are a kid and don’t know any different. I was told more so out of necessity than anything around the age of 6 or 7. My uncle had remarried and obviously told his then wife all about it. She then, irresponsibly in my opinion, told her daughter who was the exact same age as me. My parents were understandably upset and my dad had to tell me before my sisters birthday party because they knew I would see her and didn’t want to take the risk.
I remember it fairly vividly given how long ago it was. My dad had bought me a pack of basketball cards and I was looking through them while I was sitting on my bed and he told me that my mom wasn’t my real mom and that she had legally adopted me when I was a baby. He was like 24 so I can’t blame him for the clumsy verbiage but it definitely stung me. I just kept trying to change the subject by pointing out different cards to him.
Growing up realizing that, did it change who you were? Did it change you interactions with your mom and dad? Was there confusion?
I think something like that inevitably changes you. Especially at that age, I wasn’t equipped mentally to handle something like that. It created a weird dynamic with my parents and I. I almost idolized my dad for getting me back and I had such a wide range of emotions when it came to my mom. At first I had severe separation anxiety from her. I didn’t want to go to school because I didn’t know if she would be there when I got back. I spent every recess in the school counselors office for weeks so I could call her to make sure she was still home and then to play board games and talk it out. I think his name was Mr. Jenuska, I remember he had a kind face and a big mustache.
That eventually subsided and as I got older, 12 or 13, it turned into anger. I would throw it in my moms face when I felt in my mushy little kid brain that I was being treated unfairly. It created a rift between us for a long time. She never stopped loving me but we didn’t get really close again until I was 18 or 19 years old. I can only imagine how terrible that was for her, I still feel bad about it sometimes when a memory pops in my head.
Did you ever have thoughts about your birth mom? Or ever have the idea of meeting her?
I definitely had thoughts about her. Always wondered what her name was or where she lived. I never thought I would meet her to be honest, I always kind of figured she just moved on with her life.
I understand your birth mother found you….tell me what that was like hearing about/from her. What feelings did you experience?
That she did! I was 22 and it was honestly pretty surreal for a lot of reasons. First because she had reached out, something I knew was possible but never expected to have happen and secondly because she found me through a co-worker that grew up next door to her. It was crazy how small my little world actually was.
How did your parents react to hearing from your birth mother? Were they supportive? I can only imagine the whirlwind of feelings that went through their minds.
They were understandably somber about it. She had sent them a letter asking their permission to meet me. I remember my dad calling me and asking if I would come over to talk about something and I remember being clueless about what it could be. When they told me I was pretty stunned and I could see some legitimate concern on their faces. My mom’s especially. They were supportive of my decision but I could tell it hurt my mom a lot initially. I remember her asking if she had done anything wrong growing up that would force me to make my decision. It was a punch in the gut, we had gotten so close at that point and hearing her ask that almost stopped me then and there. I didn’t to be the source of that pain again.
She eventually began to understand. It was never about replacing her, I just wanted to see where I got some of my quirks that my siblings didn’t have. I wanted answers to questions that I was forced to ask at a really young age.
You met your birth mom in person – what was that day like? First impression?
It was a little nerve wracking at first. I didn’t really know what to expect for something like that and I honestly don’t remember many details. There was so much to take in. First impressions were mostly “Oh, that makes sense” haha. I look A LOT like my dad but somehow I also looked A LOT like my birth mom. There were so many similarities in our personalities that it didn’t really feel all that strange.
Did you feel a sense of completion or like a puzzle piece was missing? Any blanks filled in?
To a certain extent yes. I think having 15-16 years to think about it and draw some of my own conclusions a lot of my blanks were filled in already. For me it never felt like any kind of relief or like a burden had been removed or anything like that. It was more of a natural progression, like I knew it was going to happen even though I never really thought about it in that regard.
Has your mom met your birth mom? If so – what was that like? Easy? Hard? Emotional?
She has. It wasn’t easy to be frank haha. My wife and I were just a couple months from our wedding day and they still hadn’t met. It was hard to pull the trigger on it given the long history my mom and I had on the subject. She was incredibly brave about it and when they did meet I think she handled it pretty well. In another life they would’ve been friends for sure. I think it was emotional for both of them for different reasons. My mom was having to meet someone that caused a lot of fear in her life for a long time and my birth mom was meeting the woman that dedicated her life to raising the child she gave birth to.
It was hard for me to navigate but in the end everything went really well.
What are your relationships like now with your family? With your birth mom’s family?
My relationship with my family hasn’t really changed a ton. All of my siblings are aware of everything that went on and they know I will happily answer any questions they have but it just doesn’t come up often. Which I am fine with to be honest. I think it’s a part of my life more than theirs and they all have their own families and lives to worry about.
With my birth moms family I think things will only continue to grow and develop for the best. It’s been almost 10 years since we met and there are still a lot of bridges to cross. I love them all dearly and look forward to seeing them whenever our busy lives intersect.
Looking back on your life so far and the uniqueness of your family, what does your future look like when you have your own children?
You know that’s something my wife and I have only just started discussing. There are a lot of complexities to it that I honestly think we will have to figure out when the time comes. Neither of us have been parents before obviously, and no matter what anyone tells you there is no proven method to handle something like this. Hannah and I will just have to pray about it and make the best decision for our family.
Most of you who know me or follow my blog realize that this birth son is my birth son. I wanted it to be the last interview I did in the series. I admit it was hard to take of “birth mom” hat and be an interviewer! Joshua’s words and feelings are so honest. It is one of many stories of adoption that has so many layers. It is never black and white. It isn’t “just a decision” – it is a lifelong journey. In my journey it has brought me much joy…joy that I always hoped and prayed for. Some journeys don’t always have a positive ending. Where there is joy for one, there is pain for another. It is a vicious cycle. I believe the more stories we hear on adoption, the more we educate ourselves on the many many layers it has to it. In the end, reunion is just more people to love a child.
Thank you Joshua for opening up and letting me interview you! You are a blessing in my life! Love you –