I grew up the younger of two non-biological siblings. My older brother, Dante*, was adopted at birth. This was near the end of what is sometimes called the "Baby Scoop Era," just before Roe v. Wade. My mother said she got a call from the adoption agency (or whoever did these things -- I honestly do not know) asking if she "wanted a peanut," "peanut" being a slang term for a premature baby, she said. He had just been born, unexpectedly early, and my mother had already lost out on twin girls she'd planned to adopt when their mother had changed her mind and decided to keep them. She still talked about those twin girls sometimes, despite never having met them. She had planned to dress them alike and call them Missy and Chrissy. She recycled one of those names for me when I was born.
My mother said Dante's birth mother was fifteen years old. She said she'd been impregnated by an older man while she was babysitting his children. I don't know if any of this is true; it's just what my mother told us. Dante -- my mother said she named him after a soap opera character she liked -- remained in an incubator for somewhere between two weeks and two months until he was strong enough to go home. My parents had been married for three years when they finally adopted him, and my dad had two years left to live, according to the projected post-accident life span his doctors had predicted. I wonder if the adoption people knew that.
I'm a little fuzzy on my mother's attempts to become pregnant. She indicated that she'd tried to get pregnant before adopting, but it hadn't worked. With my dad being paralyzed from the chest down, I know they'd exclusively tried via artificial insemination. I don't know if they tried conceiving with his sperm though, or exclusively used donor sperm.
My mother told me she'd always wanted to experience being pregnant. She said she'd seen her own mother go through the better part of ten pregnancies in eleven years -- six of which had resulted in live births -- and she'd wanted to experience it herself ever since. When my brother was five years old, my mother says her reproductive endocrinologist called her to entice her into trying one last time to get pregnant. The technologies had changed and improved, he'd told her. She went for an appointment and discovered that one of her Fallopian tubes "trailed off into nothing," as she described it. They reattached it with minor surgery, and the very next time she was inseminated with anonymous donor sperm -- my father's sperm, Joseph Von Trapp's* sperm -- it worked. She was finally pregnant.
I don't know if my dad ever wanted children. My mother said he hadn't started hating Dante until he learned to talk. She said he hadn't wanted me at all and had told her he hoped she miscarried -- and threatened to hit her until she did. I don't know if this is true; it's just what my mother told me. It sounds like the kind of lie she might tell, but it also sounds like something he might say. He became my defender after I was born, but it almost exclusively made home situations worse. When I got upset or Dante did something to hurt me, Dad screamed at Dante and my mother. Sometimes he threw things. He defended me so much in this fashion that, when she found out Dante had done something to hurt me, my mother would scold and threaten me in advance to make sure I wouldn't say anything that might prompt my dad to start screaming or lashing out. He also screamed, "Why is that bitch crying again?" when he could hear me crying alone in my room. He seemed to like me more than he liked anyone else, but he didn't seem to like anyone all that much. Ours was a complicated family dynamic.
* These aren't their real names.