Taylor Christensen was raised in an adoptive family. She has always known that she is loved and that she belongs. Taylor was also curious about her birth parents. In the 1990s, when Taylor was born and placed for adoption, it was common for adoptions to be closed. After taking a DNA test through Ancestry.com as an adult, Taylor was able to find and meet her birth parent, Chris. Taylor has learned through her journey the importance of family.
Tell me about yourself.
I was born in Sandy, Utah and the next day I went home to Springville with my adoptive parents. The adoption was through LDS Social Services (now LDS Family Services). I have an older sister, Heather, she’s two years older than me, she’s also adopted. I was raised in the Church and my family has always been active and involved. I met my husband, Carsten, on my mission in Mexico, he was on his mission as well! He asked for my email the day he went home, and we emailed back and forth during the last six months of my mission. We were both dating other people when I got home from my mission but it didn’t take long for Carsten to get in contact with me again to ask me on an official date. I knew it was serious after our third date.
Was the adoption open or closed? Did you know anything about your birth parents?
I didn’t really know anything about my birth parents, only vague information that couldn’t be traced. I didn’t know names, addresses, where they were from, or anything like that. I did know that my birth mother loved animals, dogs, horses, and that she wanted to potentially train police dogs or work with animals in some way. I knew that she had blue-green eyes and brown hair. I knew how tall she was. It was mostly things that would help me know what I might look like when I grew up. I didn’t know anything else about her. Adoptions through LDS Social Services were closed at that time, and I think in the whole state of Utah.
Was your sister’s adoption also closed?
My sister’s adoption was also closed. LDS Social Services allowed letters to be sent through their office, but they would go through them and redact any personal or identifying information in any letters. They used a black Sharpie marker to hide that information. My parents must have included some information on accident in a letter because my sister’s birth mom was able to hold it up to the light and get first names. When my sister was 18, her birth mom reached out to her through Facebook. They were able to meet, it was really worth it for my sister to finally meet her birth mom.
Were you ever curious about your birth parents?
I love my family. My sister and I have always known we were adopted, since we could first understand that concept. That never changed how close and loving we have been as a family. But I have always been curious about my birth mother! Of course! There were so many times when I wondered about her. I never wished I was with her, I just wondered about her, what she was like.
How did you find out about your birth mother?
I got a DNA test through Ancestry.com. It gives you all this information about people you’re related to. Mostly, these people are distant relatives. I have a close friend whose mom is really interested in family history and sorting through ancestry information, and she has helped other people find birth parents in the past. She offered to help me. She asked if she could have access to my Ancestry information and go through it to help me narrow it down to potential birth parents. She did some master research with my information, and through using Facebook as well, she narrowed it down to a particular couple that she thought were my birth grandparents. She wasn’t sure which of their daughters was my actual birth mother, but she was confident in who my birth grandparents were. I got on Facebook to check this out with all the non-identifying information that I’ve always had about my birth mother, including physical descriptions as well as my birth grandparents’ occupations. I knew that my birth grandpa was an air traffic controller and my birth grandma was in real estate, and that’s literally what it said on their joint Facebook page! I was like, oh my gosh, it has to be, right? They were both from the Salt Lake Valley and at the time were living in St. George. I Facebook messaged them and set up a time to meet. This was in October 2018. I went to St. George to meet them, I also got to meet their son and one of their daughters. It was really exciting. I then found out about my birth parents.
What is your birth parent like?
Chris had a hard childhood. She had ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), but back in the late ‘70s they didn’t diagnose girls with ADHD. They thought if you’re a girl, you can’t have ADHD, that’s impossible. They ended up misdiagnosing her with schizophrenia as a teenager. She was taken from her family and placed in a state mental ward for a few months. It was absolutely a misdiagnosis. By the time she got her GED, she and her family realized she was not schizophrenic. A doctor working with them said that the science was showing that girls can, in fact, have ADHD. She was able to get on correct medications to help her function well. She had a really hard time, she struggled at school, her childhood and school years were hard for her. She struggled with depression and anxiety. I don’t know the situation surrounding her pregnancy with me, she can’t remember much about the guy, my birth dad. I believe she made the right choice to place me for adoption.
Was that meeting difficult for you?
I thought it was fun, it was cool and exciting. My family is the most important thing to me, so I got to include more family into my circle. It’s wonderful that I was placed for adoption with my family, I wouldn’t change that for anything.
How has this prepared you for your own family and in your own motherhood journey?
The family life that I grew up in prepared me to give my daughter Kate all my unconditional love. I share my testimony with her, help her to know that our family is forever, that she’ll be loved forever, and always have our support. We all struggle and we all have hard things that we deal with. My birth parent, Chris, has the love from family forever and has a strong support system. We don’t make decisions for other people, we don’t get to judge people. The point is to just love. You love your family for who they are. That’s what Chris’s family has done and it’s really cool.
What does an eternal family mean to you?
I am loved and I belong. Being able to grow up knowing this was really nice. I grew up with unconditional love. I grew up knowing that my family is eternal. I felt so secure because I knew my family was mine forever and ever. It felt good, it felt safe. I think that’s so important. I’m very grateful for my parents and their testimonies that bolstered me as a child and teenager. I grew up in an incredible neighborhood, a great ward, all my best friends are from that ward. It’s wonderful. It was a strong foundation for me to take off from, to know for myself that families are eternal and know of the gift that Christ gave us, the Atonement. It’s so comforting to have the gospel, I feel like I don’t have to worry. Life can get scary sometimes so it brings me hope and peace to know I’ll be with my eternal family.
I love psychology and human development, looking at nature vs. nurture is fascinating. I love thinking about how I belong with my adoptive parents, and to also analyze traits I clearly inherited genetically. Chris has four siblings. The sisters are very feminine and blonde, but Chris has brown hair. Chris always felt closer to the brother, they wore the same clothes, and played all the same sports. My birth grandpa showed me pictures and home videos of Chris as a child and I thought, “That’s me!” I had the same short haircut, I enjoyed the same things Chris enjoyed. I liked all the “boy” gender typical things. The boys were always the heroes in the stories and I identified with that. When I was play-acting as a child, I always wanted the boy part because they were allowed to have the cooler roles! The boys were doing all the active things and were the center of the story! Why can’t girls be that? I can be strong, fast, good at sports, and also get married and have a baby.
I want my daughter Kate to see girls being the heroes. I want Kate to see girls doing the cool stuff. It’s one thing to say it, but I need her to see it! As a child I was told that girls could do anything, but it was hard for me to imagine because it wasn’t represented in media, shows, or movies. Kate will see Captain Marvel, she’ll see Wonder Woman – women being heroes and not just the sidekick or the love interest. Representation is so important! I can show my daughter that she can do anything, I can help her to know her power. She can be a princess, a superhero, or both. Kate will know that she can do anything.
At A Glance
Location: Logan, Utah
Marital History: Married to Carsten
Children: One daughter, Kate
Convert to Church?: No
Schools Attended: Snow College, USU, UVU (Bachelor’s Social Science Education)
Languages Spoken at Home: English, occasionally Spanish (non native)
Favorite Hymn: All Creatures of our God and King
Interview Produced by Megan Spurlock