How Does It Feel To Be Adopted?- Sarah Pape

image1BIO: My name is Sarah, I’m 42, born in Madison, WI and I was adopted as an infant.  I grew up in Missouri.  I have 4 kids (19, 15, 14 and 6).  2 girls and 2 boys.

Content Warning: The following article you are about to read may contain written material of a serious factual nature that may be disturbing to some individuals. Reader discretion is advised.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ADOPTED?

Instead of stories being told of when I was born….my stories were about when I was adopted.  So “Adopted” was a term I grew up with until I was able to ask what that meant.

I was adopted by a white (birth mom’s request) Jewish couple.  I didn’t know much about my adoption except that my birth mom was white. My father was black. That my father passed before I was born.  That I was born in Madison, Wisconsin at Madison General Hospital.  And that I was a secret.

My dad’s (adoptive dad) family lives in Wisconsin, so when we drove to visit, if I saw a black person I always wondered if I was related to them.

Looking back now and understanding my feelings better, I’ve realized that I have always had anger towards my birth mom.  I never wanted a relationship with her.  I just never understood how one could leave a child and never look back or speak about it.

Any types of relationships are hard for me.  Having an argument/disagreement with someone, I’m always triggered and automatically start to think that “they’re going to leave me” (abandoned again), so I tend to leave first.  (Definitely working on this tho!)  As far as I can remember my abandonment thought was “she left me. So could you.”

I tested my parents as a teenager, seeing if they’ll leave me too. They’ve gotten upset with me but they never left.  But still, I always think they will.

My childhood was fine. Great. No complaints. My parents took very good care of my 2 brothers and I.  (One who is also adopted a year after me).  I played basketball.  I had my friends, but me being adopted was never a topic I’d bring up.  Never something I wanted to explain to new people.  But, it was something that was always on my mind.

The older I got with meeting new people, the more comments and questions I got.

“I didn’t know you were adopted”

“Do you know who your parents are?”

“Do you have any siblings?”

“Why did your parents adopt you?”

“How old were you?”

“You should be grateful they saved you”

“You should be happy that she didn’t abort you” 

“Aaww.  You’re special.  You were chosen”  

(Fact: I was the next available baby to the next available adoptive family)

There were always comments or questions that reminded me and made me feel like I had a big arrow with flashing lights pointing at me like “hey! She’s different!!”  To this day…..no matter how much I try and “forget” I’m adopted, it’s never possible.  There’s always going to be a trigger.

I attempted suicide a year after high school. Couldn’t explain what I was feeling then, but now I can say is that, triggers of abandonment took a toll on me. I was just tired of thinking I was unwanted.

In 2003 I finally decided I’d give it a try and do the whole “contact” thing.  So at the beginning of January 2003 I mailed off my first contact attempt.  It took a few months but I finally received the phone call from Wisconsin’s Department of Health and Family Services.  The lady told me that at this time my birth mother wanted no contact or the release of her identity.  There I was, left broken hearted.  I was rejected all over again.  All I could do was cry….in secret.  I kept my emotions and feelings to myself.  I knew no one would understand.

Through social media (MySpace, had an adoptee group) I learned about “non-identification”. Which is basically your adoption file with “identifying” information blanked out.  So when when I was able to do my search request again,  I requested my non-identification as well. This time around, I get a letter in the mail.  A letter explaining to me that the birth mom still didn’t want her identity known.  But that she would write a letter to explain everything.  (Still waiting for that letter).  The letter continues to explain that I couldn’t have my father’s name because a father was never established.  (buuuutttt……they needed his death certificate at the termination of parental rights hearing. Ok. Whatever!).  I then started to look over the non-identification paperwork.  It was an unexplainable weird yet exciting feeling.  Here in front of me were the papers my birth mother filled out. Here was a letter to her case worker IN HER HANDWRITING!!!!  Here it was, the timeline of her pregnancy.  Her pregnancy with ME!!!! And then came the reality of it all.  She never wanted me. There was never a time where she thought “maybe I can do it”.  All I seen was how quick it all went down.

January 1974, she finds out she’s pregnant.  Spotted for 7 months.  January 1974, she starts the adoption paperwork.  Agency tells her she needs the father’s consent.  February 1974, she’s told by canning company that he moved to Florida.  March 1974, receives notice from the canning company in Florida that he had an accident and passed away.  March 1974, decides to be induced. March 4th I’m born.  March 7th, she walks away.  March 8th, I’m placed in foster care. April, she terminates her rights.  Next to that, the caseworker notes “(blanked out name) happy to get it over with”.  April/May I’m placed with my adoptive family.

I couldn’t try contacting again for another 5 years.  Honestly, I was OK with that.  I truly needed to process what I just read.

In 2008 I attempted suicide again.

The thought of her never wanting me had been haunting me more and more, causing me to feel more unworthy than usual.  There was nothing my mom, my dad or anybody could have said to have made things any better.  What I needed was answers. The only one with those answers didn’t want to explain what happened.  My birthmom. 

In 2012 through Facebook I started connecting with people like me.  Adoptees who knew what I was saying without really having to say much.  Adoptees who were going through all the struggles I was going through.  Adoptees who were feeling EXACTLY what I was feeling.  And for once, I started to feel like I was understood.  Because for the longest, I always felt alone because no one could relate.

There were many things I learned from the community.  Found books by adoptees and read comments in groups on ways they healed from the feeling of rejection.  How they coped.  How to let my voice be heard.  I also learned in the adoption community was to “never believe your non identifying paperwork”.  I heard that a lot.  That their paperwork was all lies.  But I kept thinking that my paperwork was correct.  That it couldn’t happen to me.

In 2012 I attempted to find a therapist that specialized in adoptees.  I was still struggling and now I felt like I knew how to express what I was feeling in hopes to get that help.  No such luck.  Not in my area or even close to me.  Only found therapists who specialized in adoption (big difference I found out) but I decided to try it.  Biggest mistake ever.

First guy hears my story and my feelings.  His response “you need to keep telling yourself that she didn’t want you”.  I just sat there with a blank face, tears started rolling and I then ask “are we done?” (We still had 40 minutes left). He said “yup”.

Second attempt was with a female.  I thought maybe a female would be more sensitive about the topic.  Again. I tell my story and express my feelings.  Her response “find something of hers and burn it.”  I understood where she was going with that, but uuummm, I didn’t know who my birth mom was and definitely didn’t have anything of hers……except for what she left behind.

Me.  So my mind starts messing with me and thinks “so do I burn myself??”  I basically learned that there’s really only therapists to help the birth mom deal with giving up her child or for the new adoptive parents.  But nothing for the adoptee.  Made me wonder “Do our feelings even matter?”

March 2013, I do a 23andme DNA test.  The most exciting yet terrifying feeling ever, because I will be getting to see names of people I’m actually blood related to.  Longest 6 weeks ever waiting for those results.  I get my results.  I see people I’m related to.  2nd cousins, 5th cousins, segments and other “gene” terminology I knew nothing about.  I see the breakdown of what makes me. Yay!  But I still  had no clue as to what my next step was to be.

Luckily, through the adoption community I’m contacted by my search angel. 

Two and a half years pass.  August 2015, I’m about to park at Walmart when I get a message in the group messaging from my angels.  They found her.  They found my birth mom.  Name. Picture.  Location.  Her sibling’s names. Their location.  Her parent’s name.  All I could do was stare at the message.  Stare at the picture.  No tears.  I’m just in shock.  And now the hard work for me was about to begin.  I needed to make the contact.

This was going to be an extremely hard thing to do.

1.I’m extremely shy.

2. I do not want to disrupt anyone’s life. It’s a lose lose situation, for she or I or both.

Do I go on with not knowing the answer to my biggest question I had (who is my father?) or do I take that chance of exposing her secrecy and either getting the answer or being told to go away?

I take my chance. 

None of numbers that were listed for her were working numbers. So I had decided to send a message through Facebook. No answer. I then choose to reach out to her daughter.  I wrote down everything I wanted to say.  I needed this to be perfect.  I call the number.  It goes to voicemail.  I hang up.  She calls back.  I’m scared!!!  But I answered and I read what I knew I needed to say.Her response “but I knew nothing about you”. (The secrecy is now out)

And then I got hung up on…

I let it be.

I knew I wasn’t going to get to know anything.

A few minutes passed and I started to receive texts from the daughter asking questions and wanting to know more, somewhat. But she did say she passed on my request to her mother and that her mother said “she’d look into it”.  I never heard from her again and never heard from her mother.

The more time that passed the more upset I got. 

I just wanted to know his name!!!  

That’s it!!!!!

Why is this so hard to answer!!!???  

Why can’t I just get my birth father’s name!!!??

I then decided to reach out to my birth mom’s mother, because I knew she knew about me.  I made the call, talked for about 30 minutes and she confirmed it all.  Her daughter did have a child and put her up for adoption.  I then asked if maybe she knew who my father was.  She said she was unsure.  She too said she’d pass on my contact information.  It was always a dead end.

In January 2016 I messaged a relative on her side stating the same thing as I had with others.  I just wanted to know who my father was.  My question was finally answered.

“Jimmie Steele”!!!!!

I passed that on to my angels and a day later we found a Jimmie Steele with a Wisconsin location.  I messaged the gentleman who had this picture of Jimmie Steele.  Explaining to him a short version of my story. “That I was born in 1974.  That my birth father never knew of her pregnancy and asked if they knew my birth mom.”

The gentleman was so kind to me.  He said he would look into it and let me know. I began to think he blew me off because I didn’t hear from him for like 2 days. (Yes. 2 days that seemed like an eternity!)  I was thinking that maybe he thought I was a scam.

Saturday January 23rd, 2016.  The gentleman tries to call me on Facebook messenger but I was taking a nap. (emotionally drained from all the excitement)  When I wake, I seen the missed call and a message from him.

“You might be my daughter, get back to me”

WHAT!!!!????

Remember?  “never believe your non identifying paperwork” 

Right.  It happened to me!!

I call him back and I say “You’re supposed to be dead!!

And definitely not meaning that in a mean or disrespectful way, but for almost 42 years I “believed” that this man was to be deceased. A DNA test was ordered and done. (Yes. We face timed each other. I needed to see him do it! Lol)

The results come back……

HE’S MY FATHER!

My father is alive. 

But now the million dollar question is

“Who did she say was my father that allowed her to get a death certificate?”

So, my father never knew about me.  Never knew about my birth mom’s pregnancy.  But they met at a bar and began to date.  She even lived with my father and his mother.  But one day she just up and left and never spoke to him again.  She knew exactly where he was (Milwaukee). Knew his family and how to get ahold of them.  But because she didn’t want HIS consent to place me, she decides to name some deceased person.

#CrookedSystem

I did however, through all this, I found out the reasoning of why I was put up for adoption.

I was black.

I know “but you have to consider the time. It was 1974.”  Yea yea yea.  I get all that, but that still doesn’t take the pain away.  That because of my skin color, I was a dirty secret, I was unwanted, I was left and I was forgotten about.

Adoption is confusing, emotionally draining, filled with lies, dead ends, multiple rejections, against fathers who want to keep their child and unanswered questions.

Through my journey, I have gained and met a cousin who I love and adore and talk to daily, her parents (my uncle and his wife. birth mom’s brother) and her kids (my little cousins).  I’ve gained my father, I have a little sister (always wanted a sister), aunts, uncles and cousins.  I’ve learned that “my people” came from the south, Mississippi.

My search has definitely filled in some missing pieces for me. I’ve accepted not being accepted by my birth mom and some of her family.  But at the same time, it’s a loss that I don’t know how to heal from.

My search may have ended and I have new relationships to build, but my fear still remains.

“Will they abandon me?”

Sarah Pape

Adult Adoptee

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2 thoughts on “How Does It Feel To Be Adopted?- Sarah Pape

  1. That’s a very sad story Sarah. Makes me so angry how these things happen. I was adopted in 1971 and the pain is very real eh. Affects your life in such an intense way.
    Congratulations on persevering and gaining some of yourself back!

    Love

    Gareth Price

    New Zealand

    Liked by 1 person

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