I tend to write heavy stuff because I feel it’s essential we shine a light on the issues we’d rather keep in the dark.
Sometimes, though, encouragement is best gained from someone who points to positive experiences. Someone like Katie Carper. Besides the fact that her writing captivates me, and besides the fact she’s another owner of dark curls, Katie is also an adoptive mom. But mostly I’m intrigued by the fact that she brings to her children—and to us—lifelong experiences as a sister to three adopted siblings.
How refreshing to read the perspective of a child impacted by adoption. I hope you’ll find the same enlightenment from her story that I did.
Yes, She’s My Real Sister
In the early 1970’s, my parents learned that they would not be able to have any biological children. Though they had always considered adoption as a way to grow their family, this devastating news led them down that road sooner than expected.
After adopting two boys, Dad and Mom thought to increase the estrogen level in their home, so they adopted an infant girl. She was a dark-haired beauty with olive skin, full of giggles and spunk. They named her Melanie.
Ten months after the birth of my sister, I was born. Seems doctors can only make predictions regarding procreation. The Long family now swelled to two boys and two girls.
Growing up, I struggled to connect with Melanie, my almost-twin. I did not value our differences, made more apparent as we shared a bedroom. She was not bothered by a bit of clutter; I was a neat-freak. At 9 pm, she grew more animated while I crawled into bed. She often hit snooze; I jumped out of bed to beat the sunrise. Melanie did not stress over academics; I had mild panic attacks before every test. She was the optimistic extrovert; I was the overthinking introvert. She excelled in music; I began to sweat when pressured to publicly sing “Happy Birthday”. She had dark, silky smooth hair like Selma Hayek; I had a thick, course mane, like a brunette Ronald McDonald.
We were never mistaken for sisters. Strangers were stunned to learn we were siblings and even more confused to discover we were just ten months apart. Despite our conflicting personalities and interests however, I always thought of Mel as my big sister. I was happy to share stories that began with these two endearing words: “My sister…”
Over the years, many have asked, “So, is Melanie your real sister?” Real sister? What does that mean? Was that word a subtle attempt to cheapen Mel’s role in my life because we weren’t sisters by blood? Was it a question born of curiosity? Or did it reveal an ignorance in matters of adoption-speak? Whatever the reason, each time I was asked, I felt the need to explain myself, to provide concrete evidence that we were siblings, to prove to some jury that she was my legitimate sister. I imagined we were caught in a scandal, our sisterhood finally exposed as a fraud. Several years passed before I could name that feeling as shame–shame that we didn’t share the same womb, family history, physical characteristics, or core personality.
I’ve come a long way since those awkward, painful moments on the other side of that insensitive question. Time, adoption resources, and talking with other adoptive families have helped me to feel less alone as I’ve worked through those feelings of shame. I now have only deep gratitude for how God made us sisters through the pain and beauty of adoption.
I feel privileged to have enjoyed such a rich childhood, full of memories with my big sister, my only sister. Her feet kicked my own in the double bed we shared as kids. Beneath the handmade quilt and cool sheets, her brave hand reached for mine when late night thunderstorms scared me stiff. Those same strong hands yanked my thick hair during our knock-down-drag-out fights. Her fierce green eyes lost their sparkle when faced with my cruel words. Her stifled snorts only encouraged me to make her laugh harder when we got the giggles in church.
Melanie has always been and will always be my real sister. When we connect, we share real hugs, real laughs, and real stories while we sip our real blueberry wine over a real game of Scrabble. Regardless of the insensitivity of others, we know with certainty that our sisterhood is real and no one has permission to diminish that truth.
Katie Carper is a recovering people-pleaser with a strong sense of justice and a deep desire to include the excluded. She’s grateful for coffee, laughter, and this adventurous life with her husband and 4 kiddos. You can find her at katiecarper.com where she blogs about community, faith, adoption, and special needs with hope, humor, and a good dose of snark. She also shares snippets of her life on Instagram.