Calgary woman opens up about being adopted and her quest for closure

At age 24, Jessica Lovatt is taking steps toward connecting with her birth mom for the first time. Born in Calgary and raised in Edmonton, Lovatt says the adoption process was complicated from the beginning.

 The Early Years

“I was a month old. They (my adoptive parents) were supposed to adopt me right from birth but the adoption agency had fired someone and they actually lost my records, so they didn’t call my parents when I was born. They brought me to a foster home for a month,” she said.

April 25, 1987, a month after her birth, Lovatt’s parents took her home. They never got the chance to meet her birth mom.

“She [my birth mom] actually gave my mom a letter to give to me when I was 18 and it said that she was 18 and she didn’t have the resources, her boyfriend wasn’t around, and she thought that I could have a better life,” said Lovatt.

Lovatt says she didn’t fully understand the concept of what it meant to be adopted at first.

“We had this comic on our fridge all the time and it said something along the lines of – kids from mommies tummies – it was something about adoption. And I remember thinking that was weird. They (my parents) just kept telling me (I was adopted) until I understood. It was probably about Grade 3 that I realized.”

Once she gained that awareness, Lovatt said she had some interesting theories on who her birth mom might be.

“For a long time I thought, 100 per cent, that Claudia Schiffer (a German model and actress) was my mom. I would tell everyone that,” she said. “I remember in Grade 4 I would say, ‘I’m adopted and Claudia Schiffer is my mom.’”

Daughter of a celebrity or not, Lovatt says as time went on the urge to connect with her birth mom continued to grow. She says her birth mom was living in Calgary at the time she went through a closed-adoption process and placed Lovatt up for adoption.

“I’ve always wanted to see a picture. I’ve always been really curious to see what she looks like because now that I’ve moved to Calgary, I’m always like, ‘oh, that girl looks like me, I wonder if she’s related,’” she said.

Adoption Today – An Open Process

Graph courtesy of: Government of AlbertaWhereas 25 years ago adoptions were often closed, the process today is much more open and a relationship is developed between birth parents and adoptive families.

Laura Swifte, supervisor of the domestic adoption program at Adoption by Choice in Calgary, works directly with parents who are looking to make an open-adoption plan. She said that as Alberta no longer has closed adoptions, apart from situations where the government has intervened to remove a child from the care of their birth parents, situations like Lovatt’s are less likely to occur in years to come.

“With parents today, they have the opportunity to meet the family. There’s a negotiation of on-going contact, so there’s no mystery in where their child is placed,” said Swifte.

Graph courtesy of: Government of AlbertaShe adds that one of the reasons for the shift toward open versus closed adoption is the need for the child to develop and understand their identity, a problem faced by Lovatt herself.

“Every child asks about their birth parents. Who do I look like? Why am I artistic, or athletic, or left-handed? Every child has those questions and openness (adoption) facilitates a family in answering them,” she said. “If you have contact with the birth parents it’s easier to answer some of those questions as opposed to when you don’t.”

Reaching Out

Lovatt, who says the letter left to her from her birth mom states that her birth mom had her records in a Calgary office and that she should “feel free to contact (her)” when she’s ready, filed to connect with her birth mom just two weeks ago through the Alberta post adoption registry.

She says her biggest fear is that her birth mom is “not whom she thinks she is.”

Lovatt says she would love for her birth mom to be a part of her life from now on, should she be able to connect with her.

Photo by: Ashley Freeman“I probably have higher expectations than I should,” said Lovatt.

Swifte said the questions and uncertainty surrounding the adoption process is not unique to the child; the birth parents experience these emotions as well.

“I think essentially, every birth parent questions whether they made the right decision after they signed the consent and following that time period,” said Swifte.

As for Lovatt, she remains realistic yet optimistic about what the future holds for her and her search for that woman whose belly she once called home.

“I’m ready. This is the time in my life that I want to do this. You have to realize that there are going to be negative outcomes. She could be deceased, she could not respond.

“And if I don’t hear anything, I’d just be able to move on. It’s always in the back of your head, but, it’s not like I lost it because I never had it to begin with.”

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. For more information on this, the process of adoption or connecting birth parents with adoptive children, visit the following websites:

Adoption Awareness Month

Government of Alberta Children and Youth Services

Adoption By Choice

afreeman@cjournal.ca