“We paid for you, Tyler Douglas.”
It’s a phrase I’ve heard my entire life.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been aware of my adoption. I've known that I was bought with a price.
You see, my parents had tried for seven years to have a child of their own, but no fertility treatments helped. Exhausted and hopeless, their dreams of parenthood were crumbling. Mother’s Day became a painful holiday. Important milestones in the lives of friend’s children –their first steps, the loss of a tooth – served as sad reminders of their child that wasn’t.
That is, until the phone call came.
“There’s a baby boy available.”
The call was a surprise. Though they’d dreamed of becoming parents, they weren’t sure how to respond. It all seemed too soon. They weren’t expecting to hear from the adoption agency just a month after registering.
Nevertheless, on April 26, I became the only child they’d ever buy. And, as it’s turned out, I think they got their money’s worth.
I was my parents’ miracle baby. Their promise fulfilled.
They didn’t throw anything away from that day. Every hospital document and legal paper – even the cardboard box they used to carry me home. They still have it. And that’s not all they’ve kept.
Stored away in file cabinets and cardboard banker’s boxes, my earliest childhood art has been painstakingly archived. No scrap has been tossed out. My mother wouldn’t have it.
She’s also filed away many photographs – glimpse into trips to Disney World, snapshots of early birthday parties, and records of my baby dedication at our family’s church.
And there are those early outfits. Shoes I’ll never wear. Hats that do not fit. Tiny suspenders that are cute as can be, but now, simply serve as reminders of days gone by.
Odds are good, they’ll never hold up a little boy’s drawers again.
I guess that’s what it’s been like for me to be an adopted, only child. To be someone someone else wanted so badly – an object of prayer and longing and waiting and hoping.
It’s been to know my whole life that I'm special, to believe deep in my bones that I'm valuable and worthwhile. And also, from time to time, to be saddled down by the weight that comes with it.
To be reminded by every document, every photograph, every outfit and birthday card that there are hopes and dreams I've been hoped and dreamed to fulfill.
Perhaps that's why I’ve always wanted to succeed, why I’ve always loved to do my best, why I’ve sought to stand out, and stand up, and share what I have with the world.
Perhaps it’s also why I’ve never felt the need to find my birthparents, never had a crisis of identity or existential longing to discover my “true family”.
Because I know my family.
They're John and Tonya. And Gracie. Can’t forget Gracie. (Mom would be furious if I didn’t mention my “cat sister”).
And I know that regardless of who or what I might become, I’ll always be the baby boy they brought home in the cardboard box.
“We paid for you, Tyler Douglas.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard my entire life. And they have paid. They’ve given me everything they’ve got.
They’ve taught me what it means to work, and live, and care, and laugh. They’ve taught me how to cry and how to think. They’ve taught me to spend and save. To floss and shave. To scramble eggs and head to the mechanic when the oil light comes on.
They’ve taught me how to mourn, and how to survive – how to maintain hope when times are tough.
They’ve taught me what it means to fight and what it means to love.
And quite honestly, you can’t put a price on that.