A Stork Bound for South Jersey

Twenty-two years ago, William Davis wasn’t just adopted by a family. He was adopted by a region. Now, he aims to give back to the community that gave him a love for baseball, and a place to call home. William’s essay was a finalist in Holt’s 2016 adoptee essay contest. 

White Coat

William with his parents at his medical school’s “white coat” ceremony.

I don’t remember my parents ever telling me that I was adopted. I certainly knew at an early age; I remember responding to another child’s, “Do you know that you’re adopted?” with an off-handed, “Of course,” when I was 7 or so. I wasn’t that perceptive, though, as apparently my parents had told me when I was even younger, showing me videos of me coming home from Philadelphia International Airport and pictures of my brief time in South Korea from time to time.

I think that molded how I thought of adoption. From my (very basic) understanding of cognitive development, really young children’s brains aren’t entirely convinced that something has actually happened if they don’t experience it firsthand. That meant that being adopted was just a word, something that might not even exist, especially compared to all the hugs and kisses and band-aids and bedtimes from Mom and Dad.

And since there really hasn’t been a reason for that line of thinking to change, it’s stuck with me, I suppose. I say, “Oh yeah, I’m adopted,” the same way I say, “Oh yeah, that’s my sweatshirt,” or, “Oh yeah, I’ll take my coffee black.” That really struck me about a month ago, where partly due to a small assignment (but mostly due to personal interest), I was chatting with several of my classmates about our background stories, how we got to where we are. I was asked predominantly about my adoption. “Did you ever feel… differently?” No. “Do you want to visit back someday?” Nah. “Have you tried to find your birth parents?” Nope.

I tried to explain to my friends, “You know, some people are born vaginally, some via C-section, and some via airplane.” When I told Mom this story, she said it better. “You could just say that you were brought by a stork.”

So, from a certain viewpoint, adoption has meant very little to me.

But that’s ridiculous! By any reasonable estimation, adoption has had a massive impact on my life.

Because the day I flew into Philadelphia International Airport twenty-two years ago, I wasn’t just adopted by a family. I was adopted by an entire region. Excluding my four years at college, I have spent the entirety of my life so far in South Jersey. West Avenue Elementary, Paulsboro High School, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. Countless classmates, teammates, friends. I got caught up in the 2008 Phillies World Series championship fervor, and I fell in love with baseball during Roy Halladay’s insane 2010 season. Villanova was at the top of my bracket last year, and not because I had any idea that they would actually win. I trust the process (and I’d raise the cat if I had one).

More than anything else, being from South Jersey has defined who I am. And when I started to discover the disadvantages that many in the area face, with 42% of Camden (a small city about twenty minutes from both the airport and my folks, traffic permitting) and over a third of my hometown, Paulsboro, beneath the Federal Poverty Line, that became a part of me too.

“Camden is our classroom. Camden is our home.” You could probably guess that that’s my favorite slogan of Cooper Medical School, where I am a first-year medical student.

Cooper has been, by my approximation, one of the major forces working to bring about change to the Camden area. And while the medical school is a recent addition, the hospital has long been a major component of the community, and even my own life; a couple months before I started medical school, Mom found my two-decades old “Personal Medical Record Card” from when I had my cleft lip and palate treated at Cooper. (Why she still had it in her wallet is beyond me.) And, in a story to be told at a different time, a few months ago I had the phenomenal privilege of spending a few days with my own surgeon.

Now, here I am, having come full circle, starting my medical training at one of the places where my post-stork life started. In my application to Cooper, I wrote, “I love the prospect of serving the community that has given me so much.” And that, I think, is how adoption has shaped who I am. It gave me a gift, and put me where I am. And now I get to give back, in what small ways I can.

But still, part of me thinks this is all silly. There are probably hundreds of babies that were born within just a half-hour drive of Philadelphia International Airport on July 6, 1995, and I’m sure almost all of them have seen videos of them coming home and pictures of ultrasounds. Why does being brought by a stork have to make my story any different?

William Davis | Camden, New Jersey

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