HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ADOPTED?
My View of Life As An Adoptee…
I remember when I was 13, being asked by my parents if we could ‘talk’ about something important? It was summer 1979 and all I wanted to do was go back to the pool to play with my friends, I was hoping our talk wouldn’t take long. My parents were very nervous, my mother had a hard time speaking, then my dad told me I was ‘adopted’. I wasn’t a 100% sure what that meant? I’m not saying 13 was too young but I was pretty clueless about the subject. They said I was loved very much by my Birth Mother (BM) but for reasons unknown to them she could not keep me? They had prayed for a family and God had blessed them with children of their ‘own’. I have 2 sisters and a brother. We were all adopted, in the 1960’s, through Catholic Charities of Mn (CCOM). I didn’t feel any different, I didn’t feel abnormal. I still felt loved like any other 13 year old. All I ever wanted was to keep that ‘normal’ feeling. After all my parents prayed for a family and God had blessed them with children, how could that possibly not be a good plan? Looking back I do remember wondering why I didn’t look like my siblings or my parents? I didn’t have much in common with them but again, I felt that was a ‘normal’ emotion for a teenage boy. My parents asked if I had any questions about my adoption or if I ever wanted to talk about the subject there wasn’t a question off limits. I asked the obvious stuff, they informed me what they thought were accurate things from the CCOM case worker. My BF was athletic, my BM was musical, they were too young, but I was very loved. My parents were always supportive of any questions I had about adoption. They always informed me they would support a birth family search if I chose to. I never felt a need/desire to search. My life was complete…or so I thought.
Due to medical concerns, a little later in life (45 yrs old), I started a biological search for my birth mother. Still very clueless of the adoption topic I was unaware of the emotions to come. My CCOM case worker called me and introduced herself. She said she had located my BM and I should write a letter. I was so excited, for the 1st time ever, I started to let myself dream of this possible relationship. What my case worker didn’t say is she hadn’t yet spoken to my BM. I knew there was a ‘possibility’ of my BM not wanting contact but hoped that wouldn’t be our situation. I was wrong! My BM refused phone calls, all written correspondence were returned unopened. Our final attempt of a certified letter came back unsigned. For the 1st time in my 45 years I felt the adopted emotion known as ‘rejection’. So many questions, with no ability to find answers it was a very difficult process. I still had no understanding of the Birth parent role in the adoption process. I knew the adoptee emotion, I knew the adoptive mother’s/father’s emotion but had an absolute zero comprehension of the Birth parent role. Still, I was hurt, angry and confused but most of all I was resentful toward my birth mother for the 1st time in my life. I was mad at myself for the unavoidable feelings, how could I hold a grudge against someone I knew nothing about? I’ve always believed in the ‘beauty’ of the adoption process but was beginning to understand there is much more to adoption than unconditional love. I’ve always thought there was no greater love then for a BM to carry a child for 9 months and ‘love’ them enough to place them up for adoption. Was I wrong? Have I been delusional my entire adult life about adoption? I don’t know why I glamorized adoption in my youth but I needed to find some answers to my questions.
I waited about a year and decided to search for my birth father. I knew the statistics were not good for a positive reunion. I tried to keep my excitement limited with birth father search as my understanding was less the 10% of searches ended with success. I was one of the lucky ones. My BF answered the phone, acknowledged my existence and was willing to have some contact. My case worker explained my BF is married and had not told his wife about me. He has 3 children and had kept me a secret his entire adult life. I was asked to write another letter. This letter was much different than my BM letter. I was guarded and afraid. I tried believing my only goal was to find medical information and that would deem the search successful. He wrote back and shared about his life, family, career and my birth situation. He was a Jr in college, my BM was a year younger than him. They were college sweethearts who had been dating 2 years. He was grateful for my contact. It was nice to hear a warm response. We exchanged a few more letters and feelings were positive. After a few months of exchanging letters, he requested a meeting. I hadn’t thought this far ahead but accepted the idea. A few days later I received an email from our CCOM case worker explaining our ‘most unique circumstance’…we live in the same town! We live 1 mile from each other! This was an unbelievable development. OMG, what now? This is going to turn my world upside down. This was worst case scenario. This is going to turn into a soap opera! My wife quickly calmed me down. This is wonderful she said. Just think of the possibilities. My concerns immediately turned toward my family. My father had passed away 9 years earlier but my mother is alive and lives just minutes from me. My brother and sisters all live in the same town as me. I felt I needed to tell them what was going on. My mother was very excited and very supportive.
My life/work schedule did not allow us to meet for 2 days. We had lived 1 mile from each other for 12 years but we’d have to wait 2 more days to meet. For the destiny part of my story, I hadn’t always lived near my BF. I moved my family 1000 miles only to one day find out I was minutes from my BF.
We met for lunch. Our visit was friendly, informative and emotional. He was very concerned I would be angry with him. I tried my best to assure him his insecure feelings were not necessary. My goal was simply to look forward and not backward. He explained the situation of my birth. He dreamed for a long time of our possible meeting. Our first encounter was how I hoped it would be. I should say our first encounter knowing who each other was. We had met before on multiple occasions. My wife and I own a small business and my BF and his wife have been customers. I had met my BF at least 4 x’s not knowing who he was.
A few days later my BF and his wife came over for dinner. She is wonderful, supportive and very accepting. I’ve met his children and we’ve formed a ‘family’ relationship. We spend as much time together as possible and we all share a very blessed feeling for our newly formed relationships.
My BF explained my BM situation. She was from a strict Catholic family. She was not going to ‘embarrass’ her father by being 19 & pregnant out of wed lock. She hid her pregnancy from her parents and all her siblings. I can only imagine how lonely and scary that must have been. He shared with me her name and where she lives.
So now what do I do? Things were so positive with my BF and his family, how do I not try to contact my BM? Perhaps a letter from me with a photo or 2 would be exactly what she needed to open her heart to having me as a part of her life. I wrote her a letter. She waited 2 months but finally replied. She was very angry. She was angry at me for contacting her, angry at BF for sharing her information. Pretty much just angry in general. Her letter was a bit like a Seinfeld episode. She unloaded on me with anger for almost 2 written pages, then concluded page 3 with ‘that being said’ ‘I’m glad you’ve had a nice life don’t contact me again!’. Unfortunately I didn’t listen, I wrote back quickly asking her some basic questions of my birth, her family, her immediate family, etc. No reply! I waited a year. Nothing! I sent her a Christmas card with photo of my family. I sent her a Mother’s Day card. Nothing! Another Christmas card, another Mother’s Day card, including a copy of the book ‘The Girls Who Went Away.’ Nothing! I became obsessed. My compulsive behavior consumed most of my thoughts with her. I traveled to her home town and was fortunate enough to find copies of her High School yearbooks. FINALLY I had a photo of what she looked like. At least what she looked like in 9th, 11th and 12th grade. I learned some of her HS accomplishments. Class Vice President, National Honor Society, multiple clubs and activities. She seemed very much like the person I thought she’d be. I came to a conclusion, I was going to lay it on the line, I decided to call her on the phone :o) – bad move! She was again very angry. She asked if she talked to me on the phone would I never contact her again? I said I couldn’t promise that. We spoke on the phone for approximately 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe I was finally talking to my BM and it was horrible. Her anger and resentment was awful! While I recognize I was the one breaking the boundaries she wanted I still felt her negative emotions were confusing to me. I am the father of 3 children. I’d fight Hulk Hogan if it was preventing me from seeing my family. Shortly thereafter, I realized, I’m not her family. Our shared history is not glamorized to her. Her unconditional love for me almost 50 years earlier is gone. I am now a tragic memory she wants to erase. I had opened a painful door. All she wanted was to close that door and never open it again. Still, not being the brightest bulb, I sent her a Christmas card again this year. I sent her a Mother’s Day card with an apologetic letter. Recently my oldest daughter had a baby, so I sent BM a birth announcement with a photo letting her know she is a very young Great Grandma :o).
Does she really hate me? Am I nothing more than a painful memory? Am I the closet she has to keep closed? On the phone she told me to forget about her. She said her life was complicated and we would never meet. Why do I still believe in maybe? Why do I still have hope? Am I the 13 year old inside still learning about the emotions of adoption?
Adoption to me is a bit like a roller coaster ride in a big world fish bowl. Sometimes up, sometimes down, thrilling, scary and unpredictable, yet, just maybe, I’m related to the next person who walks into my life…
Minnesota Anonymous, Adult Adoptee