BIO: James T. Alfano; 46 year old adoptee reunited with natural mother and family since August 24th 2016. Proud and happy husband and father of two boys. Computer network engineer. Musician. Gamer.
“What Does It Feel Like To Be Adopted?”
By James T. Alfano
This question will have a different answer depending upon when in my life we are discussing, Pre or Post reunion. I will start with the simpler of the two, pre-reunion. I was adopted at three months old. I was one of the fortunate ones that was adopted by wonderful parents into a loving and wonderful family. I was told that I was an adoptee as soon as I could read children’s books. My parents used the white lie that I was chosen and therefore special. This conjured up an image of a room full of babies and I was the one that they picked. Some will criticize this, but, I’m thankful that they told me I was adopted and that they made me feel special with that white lie.
I did occasionally wonder about my natural mother.
I knew my records were sealed and that my parents knew nothing about her. Anytime I heard about someone else searching it always seemed to be a very daunting task that went on for years and often did not yield results. I would wonder why I was given up. Was mom a drug user? was she raped? This speculation was fueled by peers that would hear things from their families. No one ever discussed what was the truth about the clear majority of birth mothers. They were just like everyone else. The girl next door. I was just glad I was not aborted. My natural mother never felt like an actual person. She was a distant being that I KNEW I would never get to meet. Plus, why would I want to hurt my parents by thinking about her, asking questions about her, or worse yet, searching for her. I loved my parents so much the thought of hurting them or making them feel anything less than adequate was not an option.
So, basically, adoption for me, pre-reunion just felt normal. It was who I was. I was treated the same by my parents as if I was their biological child. Sometimes extended family would say hurtful things in front of me. I used to hate the term “blood is thicker than water”. That did not feel good. I was raised in a very Italian Brookyn, NY neighborhood, having red curly hair in elementary school encouraged some kids to call me Little Orphan Annie. They would sing “The sun will come out….”. To this day I cringe when I hear that song. It makes me angry. But as I said earlier, really, I just felt normal. I did not ponder my adoption very much as I was too busy just growing up.
My dad got sick when I was 13. He left this earth two years later. I made it into adulthood and was very busy with my careers and creating a family of my own. Being adopted was still not much of a concern of mine. My mother passed in 2012, when I was 41. Ancesty.com’s DNA test was released that year. Between then and when I did the DNA test in 2016, I would see their advertisements and consider doing it. It would be cool to know me genetic makeup, etc. Just curiosity. I’m such a pessimist that I never considered that I would have a real chance at finding my natural family.
Once the test was submitted I was anxious to see the results. It took every bit of the 6-8 weeks’ delivery time promised by Ancestry.com. Upon receipt, I checked the matching relations. Of course, I was hoping to find parents and siblings, but what I found was reasonably encouraging, two second cousins. I immediately messaged both explaining my situation in brief. One did not reply ever after repeated attempts. Cousin Patricia did reply. She was not optimistic that she would be able to help me but could provide some very useful information. I did a little research and investigation of my own, and narrowed the search down to what I though could be my mother. There were several fortunate things about my investigation that aided my search. Her name was very different. It was misspelled in my grandfather’s obituary by one character. There was not a lot of information about her online, but I could locate where she worked. When I called on the morning of August 24th 2016, I got her voicemail. I left a very uninformative message, this is James Alfano, please call me, and left my number. Now I’m anxious to hear back. Now I’m allowing myself to think “could this possibly actually be my mother?”.
Hours past and the day was getting away from me.
I’m not a patient person and the anticipation was driving my nuts. I was on my way to pickup my son from hockey practice and decided this would be a good time to call again. This time she answered the phone. I introduced myself as James Alfano. I asked if it would be OK if I presented a Personal question. First I verified that the obituary I was looking at was her father and this was her even though there was a spelling error. Then I requested to ask one more question, “Did you give up a child for adoption in 1970”. A moment of silence, then she said “is it you?” I replied “yes” and then she said softly “Oh my god” and started crying. Yes, it’s me. Now I’m crying. I think I fell in love with her or remembered my love for her at that very moment.
We had a great first conversation.
I was VERY interested in talking to her more. She was excited and seemingly happy to be talking to me. I told her I was married with two boys, had a great life. I thanked her for not aborting me and stated that I owed her my life and my children’s life. It was hard to maintain my composure as I drove. I guess I did not. I drove in a haze of sobbing and bewilderment, progressing slowly in the right lane. “I’m driving and cannot write down your information, here is my number, it’s my cell, home, and office number, please write it down and text me your contact information, I want to talk to you again”. She agreed and wanted to talk again. I was in shock for hours.
That was a Wednesday afternoon. Thursday came and I tried to conduct myself normally but the anticipation of her getting back to me was driving me nuts. I forced myself to wait and did not hear from her all of Thursday. I felt like I needed to give her time to absorb what’s going on. I did not hear back from her until Friday afternoon. I was at my son’s hockey game. She texted me. She was interested in talking more! I was thrilled. I texted her a selfie, and in a few minutes, she texted back to me a picture of her with one of my nieces. The first time that I’m seeing my mother not as a newborn. There are not very many people that can say they experienced this. It was amazing. I was floating on air.
Having repressed any desires of a reunion and any feelings about being adopted, I was NOT prepared for the magnitude of emotions that I was about to be dealing with. Our communication that Friday and Saturday was wonderful. Texts, phone calls. I was crazy with anticipation to meet. Mom lives two hours away from me, I had not yet gotten a date to meet, even though I had pushed for one. I could not WAIT to meet her. So, Sunday morning after dropping my son off at hockey practice at about 8AM, I drove to her home. On the way, I purchased a dozen roses. I drove until about 9:30, 30 minutes from her house. I did not want to drive all the way to her home and state that I was there, I felt that would force her to allow the visit. So, I started to text her while I was 30 minutes away. I pestered her until she agreed for a visit today. She had wanted to tell my brother in person about me, but he does not live close and she conceded to tell him over the phone and that we could meet today. Yippee! I then texted to her that I was 30 minutes away. She texted back something like “Why you brat! LOL”. I won’t go into the details of our first meeting, but it was wonderful, absolutely one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
I have been able meet and get to know all my maternal biological family. Mother, grandmother, sister, brother, uncle, nephew, nieces and their spouses. I cannot believe how awesome they all are. Better than I possibly could ever have imaged. I found the proverbial pot of gold.
At some point over a month into my reunion with my mother and maternal family I ordered and submitted my second DNA test with 23andme.com. I figured I may get some information about my paternal side, but as usual refrained from optimism. These test results came back quickly. One morning I woke up, sat at my computer, opened email, had a few sips of my coffee and there it was, the email stating that my results were in. I quickly logged into the 23andme.com web site and found the section for DNA matches. One the top of the list was a half SISTER! The sister I already found had not submitted her DNA anywhere so this was a NEW sibling. I messaged my newly found sister. I explained my situation, that I was hoping to find out information about my biological father, and maybe even find a relative, and that she was it. I then wondered how disturbing this message was going to be to some unsuspecting person’s day.
Of course, when you are waiting for the response it seems to take a long time, but she did get back to me quickly. She was reserved at first, only asking some basic questions, unsure of the results. I requested that we talk on the phone. She was skeptical, but we reviewed details. I told her the little bit of information that I had about my biological father. That clinched it. Now she new, not only did we have the matching DNA but our fathers name and his brother’s name matched, there was no mistaking that we were siblings. She is older than I by three years. She was also adopted as a baby. Our biological father died in 2001 and we will never get to meet him. His brother is alive and well. My biological father never told anyone about either of his children. My sister called our uncle to let him know that he had a nephew. This connection is still very new to us, but we have been speaking and getting to know one another. I will also get to know their spouses and I have another TWO nephews! I’m very happy to have found more of my awesome natural family!
One of the key differences in our scenarios was the reaction of Scott, our biological father, to the news that the girl he was dating was pregnant with his child. In my sister’s case, he was attentive and wanted to marry. Her mother though was likely pressured and scared and did not feel that she could or should raise her baby. In my case, mom told me that Scott literally turned his back to her, walked away and stated “What do you want me to do about it”, and that was that. So, I may have been able to forgive my biological father, and still may be able to do that eventually, but at this point, he walked away from my mother and me at our time of dire need. Frankly, I don’t think I will ever be able to totally forgive him even if he was alive to somehow justify or apologize for his actions.
I’m glad the final piece of my adoption puzzle has been put into place and I either know or have access to nearly all the information that I could want about my history.
So now, how does it feel to be adopted, post reunion?
That’s is a complicated question. I never imagined the floodgate of new and repressed emotions that would open with my reunion. My reunion is an extremely joyous and wonderfully life-changing event. So, post reunion, being adopted feels complicated. Even though my reunion itself has been fantastic, how I now feel about being adopted isn’t all roses.
Guilt: One of the first things I had to conquer once I felt the connection to my natural mother was guilt. Was I betraying my adopted mother and father? Were they looking down on me with approval or where they hurt? Had they been alive how would they feel? Was I hurting my extended adopted family? I am done with any guilt. I did not chose my situation. If I’m destined to have two mothers and love them both, so be it. People have multiple children and love them equally. So, guilt existed, but for me it was short lived.
Hurt: Once I had found and fallen in love with my immediate natural family, it hurt. It hurt to consider that I was robbed of the chance to know them for the first 46 years of my life. It hurt that this wonderful mother that I now know and love and get along well with did not raise me. It hurt that I was not there to know, support and love my siblings while we were all growing up. It hurts to consider these things while also considering that I do not regret my adopted life. I don’t regret knowing and loving my cousins and aunts and uncles, I don’t regret my adopted mother and father. If I was not adopted I would not have met my wife. I would not have the children I do. So, it all hurts. This has not and likely will not ever go away. I will deal with this emotion and it will lesson as I grow accustomed to my new reality.
Happiness and Joy: No matter how much I’m content with my adopted family and childhood, no matter how much I loved them, no matter how much I now love my natural family, no matter how well our reunion goes, I don’t think that I will ever be able to state that BEING adopted makes me happy or joyful.
Anger: I’m angry that I was adopted. I will always be angry about it now that I know my natural family. I suppose if they were terrible people that wanted nothing to do with me I would not feel angry, but as I’ve stated, they are the opposite of terrible and they have accepted me with love and open arms. I’m NOT angry at anyone in my family. I’ve spent a lot of time and thought since day one of my reunion learning about birth mothers and trying to understand everyone’s perspective in this. I understand why my mother made the incredibly difficult choice to relinquish me. I understand why members of my family may have encouraged my mother to relinquish me. At this point, I don’t think that encouraging a mother to give up her child is EVER the right thing to do. I’m not angry at my mother, not even a little bit. I’m not angry at the family members that were likely encouraging and suggesting that relinquishment was the best thing to do. I’m am angry at society. I’m angry at society for putting such pressures on people, for putting a stigma on unwed mothers, for treating woman that were at such vulnerable points in their lives so terribly. I’m angry at Catholic Charities and all the other homes for unwed mothers that lost their way and implemented extremely negative and coercive tactics to get mothers to give up their babies. This continues to this day and it needs to stop. The players may have changed but the basics of the game are still the same. It can cost $30,000 and more to adopt and healthy baby in the US and this needs to stop. I’m angry at the government that will not allow adoptees access to their own birth certificates. I’m angry at myself for living 46 years of my life in an adoption fog and not realizing that there was a good chance that my mother was out there, loving me, and hoping for the day I would find her. I’m angry at my biological father for turning his back on my mother and me when we were most in need. There is no excuse for that. I don’t believe I will ever be able to forgive him.
Confusion: Being adopted feels confusing. Putting together and understanding ALL of the emotions that I’ve had to handle pre and post adoption is amazingly complex. Being adopted as a child and growing up with that knowledge was confusing. Finding and reuniting with my natural family and handling all those emotions, is confusing.
I am fortunate in many regards. Relinquishment is NEVER a fortunate thing to happen to a mother or her child. But I am lucky that I had a good and loving adopted family. Many people never find their natural families or when they do, they find something negative. But I am lucky to have found the wonderful natural family that I did.
Overall though, I will sum up how it feels to be adopted in one word.
James T. Alfano
XBOX gamertag = USA Warrior
Email = firstname.lastname@example.org
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