Friday, May 15, 2009

Nature or Nurture

Every child has, at one time or another, wondered what it would be like to pick the perfect parent. The movie, Coraline, is about a little girl who finds out that indeed, you should be careful what you wish for, when her dream of the perfect mother, suddenly turns into a nightmare.

In the small town of Heppner, Oregon, two women found out that their DNA proved they had been switched at birth, resulting in 56 years of living a life with the wrong parents. The two women, Kay Rene Reed and DeeAnn Angell, were born in 1953 at Pioneer Memorial Hospital. They grew up, got married, had children of their own and are now grandparents. 

One day a neighbor of the the Angell family and friend to Kay Rene's mother, called Kay's brother with a secret that turned the lives of these two families upside down. The neighbor, now 86 years old and living in a nursing home, told a story of how Marjorie Angell was sure she had been given the wrong baby while she was in the hospital. Her concerns were brushed aside and after a year, she couldn't imagine giving up her daughter and let her questions go. 

Kay's brother, Bobby, was stunned by the news but decided to follow through with the information. There had been rumors and family stories that had eluded to the mix-up. Hard to explain one blonde, blue eyed beauty amongst a family of brunettes, and vice versa. When DeeAnn was told of the switch she jokingly asked if it meant she would not be invited to the family reunion. After the two women had their DNA test results prove there was a 99.9 percent chance of being related to the other's family, the truth was undeniable.

With both sets of parents deceased, it was left to these women to determine what course their lives would take. Pioneer Hospital agreed to pay for counseling for the women, but they both declined. Choosing to embrace their lives and share a birthday, the women are moving on rather than looking back.

They were no less loved, no worse for the wear and had the blessing of yet another family to fill their lives with even more memories. These women had the courage to accept what they could not change and the wisdom to recognize that a parent is the one who cares for you and about you and may not necessarily be the one that gives birth to you. 

My husband is an adopted child and I am the mother of an adopted child. My grandmother married a man with three children and no one ever knew she was not their biological mother. People are often surprised to learn that my daughter's two sons are from her husband's previous marriage. They are her sons. They are my grandsons. And no one can convince us otherwise. So I know first hand that the labor of love is just as binding as the labor of birth. Sometimes it is more about nurture than it is about nature. Families come in all shapes and sizes and apparently sometimes as a complete surprise! 

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