Adopted perspective


Kelsey Keranen

By Gage Van Dyke and Kelsey Keranen

The West Side Story asked students to share their personal outlooks on being adopted.


Lauren Dunkelberg ’14

 “I call my adoptive parents my actual parents because they raised me; they didn’t just birth me.”

Senior Lauren Dunkelberg’s adoptive mother was unable to have kids and was searching through international adoption agencies before she met Dunkelberg’s biological mother.

“She was looking to adopt through a Russian agency before she found my birth mother. My mom (adoptive mom) was her doctor,” Dunkelberg said.

But despite Dunkelberg’s biological mother being the woman who birthed her, Dunkelberg recognizes her adoptive parents as her parents through the open adoption.

Dunkelberg’s parents get along with her sister’s parents; however, both families have different lifestyles and occupations.

“It’s hard for me to connect with [my biological family] because their lifestyles are so different from my parents’,” Dunkelberg said.

Despite the fact that she and her sister are being raised in separate families, Dunkelberg has made a strong connection with her younger sister who lives in Montrose, Colorado.

“I talk to my sister, not as often as I should, though,” Dunkelberg said. “If she ever needs advice I’m there for her. I do wish my sister was with me. I think about her every day.”


Becca Hilmer ’15

Adoption has been somewhat of an impersonal experience for Becca Hilmer ’15. “For some people, [adoption] feels different, but it doesn’t really make me feel any different,” Hilmer said. “Sometimes people ask me questions about my background and I feel bad about how I can’t answer them, but it doesn’t impact me that much.”

Adopted out of Iowa City when she was three years old, Hilmer recalls little about her biological parents.

“I’d like to find them, but I worry that if I ever met them they would just brush me aside,” she said. “I would try to contact them ahead of time before getting into contact.”

In addition to the siblings from her adoptive family, Hilmer has three biological siblings whom she has never met and all live in different places.

“I have an older brother, an older sister, and a little brother. I’d like to meet them someday [because] I’ve always wanted a sister.”  Hilmer said that if she ever meets her siblings, she will try to build a relationship.

As a word of advice to people who have been adopted, Hilmer said, “I hope people who are adopted like me don’t feel bad about it, and I don’t want people to feel bad for people who have been adopted because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to have the life they have now.  People who are adopted should be grateful, not ashamed, of the life they have.”



Mari Sullivan-Spitz ’16

Adopted from Vietnam when she was still a baby, Mari Sullivan-Spitz ’16 doesn’t consider her adoption to be a particularly influential part of her life.

“[Being adopted] isn’t that different from not being adopted,” Sullivan-Spitz said.

Sullivan-Spitz, who was adopted at six months of age, has never met her biological parents and doesn’t have any recollection of biological siblings.

“My original parents took me to an orphanage,” she said.  “I think I want to meet [my parents], but they said not to come looking for them.  If I ever met them, I would probably be really nervous– I’d just try to talk to them.”

When considering whether or not adoption has had a personal impact, Sullivan-Spitz believes that “as a person, you’ll always wonder why and stuff like that, but I don’t really think about it a lot.”


photos used with permission from Becca Hilmer and Mari Sullivan-Spitz