How Does It Feel To Be Adopted?- Marlana Deatherage

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My Husband & I

BIO: My name is Marlana Deatherage, and I am a 49-year-old adoptee.  I was adopted as an infant, and I had the most wonderful adoptive parents in the world.  I have an adopted sister who is three years younger than me.  She has health problems and is mentally challenged.  She now lives with my husband and me since my parents have both passed away.  I grew up in a small town in northeast Texas where I still live today.  I am in my 27th year of teaching and currently teach high school math.  I have been married to my wonderful husband almost 27 years.  My husband and I have three grown children, two grandchildren, and another due in February 2017.  I enjoy reading stories from other adoptees because I can relate in some way to each story, so I hope that other adoptees can relate to parts of my story and know that they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings.  I believe it is very important for us to support each other.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ADOPTED?

 I have been asked that question many times, and my answer to that question has changed over the years.

I grew up knowing I was adopted.

  I had the most wonderful adoptive parents a child could ask for, and my mother starting talking to me about it before I could even really understand.  There was no moment in time when I “found out” I was adopted.  I grew up knowing it.  During my childhood years, when someone would ask me what it felt like to be adopted, I would just say I didn’t feel any different than anyone else.  Things started to change for me when I became a teenager.

My parents were wonderful people, but a lot of the time I just didn’t feel like I “fit in.”  I now understand that this was probably during the stage where I was forming my own identity, and I just couldn’t quite figure out who I was.  I started then to wonder about my birth family and wondered who I looked like.

I wondered a lot about my birth mother during my first pregnancy at the age of 24.  I loved my baby from the moment I knew I was pregnant, and I wondered all during my pregnancy how my birth mother felt during that time.  After I had my daughter, I remember thinking, “This is the first person I’ve seen in my life that I am blood related to.”  A few years after I had my third child, I had some mental issues and was eventually diagnosed with ADHD and Major Depressive Disorder.  I was in my early 30’s at the time.  Through counseling I found that I had never really established my identity, and this was most likely due to being adopted.

I decided then that I really needed to find my birth family.

My counselor and adoptive parents supported that endeavor wholeheartedly.  I had my records opened to an intermediary in or around 2000, but my birth mother never responded.  The intermediary was a birth mother herself, so she told me all she could legally tell me from my file.  I found out my birth mother was married at the time of my birth, but her husband was not my birth father.  The intermediary said she was still married to him, which probably explained why she didn’t respond.  I knew from the non-identifying information I had that she was in her early 30’s when I was born.  That had always puzzled me; you usually think of teenage mothers giving up their babies, not women in their 30’s.  That explained why I was probably given up.  The intermediary also told me I had a half-brother.  I never really did any serious searching on my own.  Since my birth mother had not contacted the intermediary, I felt that maybe God was closing the door…that maybe there were some things better left alone, so I went on with my life.

I thought about my birth mother from time to time, especially on my birthday.  I wondered if she was thinking about me like I was about her.

I once told someone I felt like a walking, talking set of random DNA just floating around out in space.  I felt like a stranger in my own skin, which may sound strange to a non-adoptee.  I didn’t know why I excelled in school and enjoyed academics, especially math.  I didn’t know why I loved to read.  I didn’t know where I got the ability to sing.  I didn’t know why I liked animals so much.  I didn’t know why I was so headstrong and stubborn.

I didn’t know who I looked like. 

I didn’t know who I was!

In early 2014 I decided to send in my DNA to 23andMe.  I don’t remember why I decided to send it to that company over the others, but whatever reason I had at the time, it was definitely divine intervention.  When I received my results, the closest relatives were a couple of possible third cousins.  I sent the top matches a message but never heard anything.

On Saturday, March 28, 2015, while my husband and I were out shopping, I decided to check my email on my phone.  I had a message from a woman who had recently received her results from 23andMe, which showed us to be second cousins.  She said she was surprised to see our match.  I immediately sent her a message and briefly told her my story.  I told her I was not looking to disrupt any family relationships but I was sure she could understand my desire to know my biological history.  I received a message from her rather quickly saying she had talked to her father and she believed that my birthmother was her aunt, her dad’s half-sister, who I will refer to as “Nancy.”

This cousin gave me her phone number and I called her immediately.  Nancy, her aunt, had been deceased since October 2012.  I was shaking the entire time I talked with her and was so emotional that I don’t remember a whole lot of details about the conversation with her.  The one thing I do remember, that to this day gives me chills, is when she told me what my grandfather’s name was.  His name was Levi and the reason that gave me chills was that I had a grandson that was almost three months old and his name was also Levi.  That was a moment I will never forget.  She told me she would talk with her dad some more and she was sure he would probably call me.

That night her dad called me and his sister called me.  They were both half-siblings of Nancy and were quite a few years younger than her.  In fact, she was 20 years older than the uncle (the youngest sibling) with whom I spoke that night.  Levi, my grandfather, had 12 children.  Nancy was the third child.  All of her full-blood siblings were deceased, except a brother.  He called me the next night and we talked for quite a while.  I found out I had three half-siblings, two brothers and a sister.  The brothers were 12 and 14 years older than me, and the sister was 10 years older.  They knew their mother had given up a baby.  Their dad was in the military, and he would be gone for long periods of time.  During one of those times, Nancy had an affair, and I was the product of that affair.  I found out from one of the family members that Nancy and her husband were having marriage difficulties and she believed that the marriage was over, but when her husband returned from overseas, they evidently decided to stay together, so for obvious reasons, I was given up for adoption.

I had another surprise in store for me. 

Nancy’s two youngest half-siblings had been contacted a few years prior by a man stating that he had an affair with her, and she had given their baby daughter up for adoption, and he was trying to find his daughter.  At first they thought I was that baby, so I had my hopes up that my birth father was looking for me, but he said that his baby was born in 1968 and I was born in 1967.  Also, his baby was premature, and I knew I was full term.  I started to wonder if maybe I was connected to this family in some other way.  When I talked to my brother, he said he knew who my birth father was and gave me his name.  The name he gave me was not the man who had contacted my aunt and uncle a few years before.

In the state of Texas, if you are an adoptee and have the name of the parents listed on your original birth certificate, you can fill out a form, send it in with $10, and if the information you provide matches the information on the original birth certificate, you can get an unofficial copy of your original birth certificate.  I felt pretty certain that my birth mother listed her husband as my father on the birth certificate, so I filled out the form and hoped that everything matched.  About six weeks later, I received an unofficial copy of my original birth certificate in the mail, confirming that I was indeed, Nancy’s biological daughter.  My siblings and other family members knew my birth mother had given up one baby, but to everyone’s surprise, she had evidently given up two baby daughters about 16 months apart.

It has been a roller coaster ride since finding my birth family. 

I got to meet my brother Mark in June 2015 right before he passed away from lung cancer.  I have also met my half-sister and some other family members but have not been in contact with them in a while.  I hope that maybe we can get together again sometime.  I guess I could reach out, but as just about any adoptee will understand, the possibility of rejection is too painful to think about.

In May 2015 I contacted my birth father’s daughter, my half-sister.  She had no idea I existed.  She didn’t seem to think her dad knew about me, but Nancy’s family says they think he did know about me.  My birth father is still alive but has Alzheimer’s disease, so I doubt that I will ever meet him.  When she talked to him about me, he seemed confused.  She looked at my pictures on Facebook and told me I look like him, especially when I was younger.  She sent me a picture of him, and I just sat and stared.  The resemblance was remarkable.  I have not confirmed paternity through DNA, but I don’t feel like I need to.  Just seeing his photo was enough for me.  Also, I sent my DNA to Ancestry and I have several ancestors with his surname, so I don’t have any doubts that he is my birth father.  I found out that he was a professional piano player and singer!  His wife sent me a CD of him singing and playing the piano.  I have listened to that CD over and over.  A few months later she sent me a DVD with a clip from a Dallas/Fort Worth news broadcast highlighting his last public performance.  He played in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for years.  I hope to maybe meet my half-sister one day.  I have not discussed that with her yet, but I am ready to find out more about my birth father’s side of the family.

As for the other baby my birth mother gave up, I have not yet done any serious searching for her.  I have the names of 19 baby girls born on that day in that county, so I know it has to be one of them.  I really do want to find her, but it just seems that life gets in the way.

As I write this, I realize that I really need to make it a priority to find her.

Finding my birth family has been a life-changing experience for me.  I have learned so much about myself.  I can now answer those questions I previously mentioned.

Why did I excel academically, especially math?  My birthmother’s sister had a Master’s degree in Math and taught high school math.  I have two cousins that are math teachers.  Math ability has always been strong on my birthmother’s side of the family.

Why do I like to read so much?  Why do I love animals?  The first thing my sister asked me was if I liked to read and if I like animals.  She said Nancy loved to read and loved animals.

Where did I get the ability to sing?  My birth father was a professional pianist and singer.

Why was I so headstrong and stubborn?  My uncle described Nancy as boisterous, demanding, and wanted things her way.

Who did I look like?  I actually favor both of my birth parents, but it seems that I most favor my birth father.  However, when my sister and her daughter both saw me walking toward them the day we met, they both broke down crying, because they said I reminded them so much of my birth mother.  I am about her height and they said I walked like her.

My adoption journey is not over and probably never will be.  I have not regretted for a second finding my birth family.  My only regret is that I found them after both of my adoptive parents were gone.  They were very supportive of me finding my birth family, and I am sorry that they weren’t here to share this experience with me, especially my mother.  I am also sorry that I was never able to tell my birth mother that I had wonderful parents who loved me and took very good care of me.

As I look back over my life, I realize that I have been formed by both nature and nurture.  I think that I am a balanced combination of the two, but before March 28, 2015, the nature part was a mystery and for me, I needed that information in order to know who I am.  I finally feel complete instead of some random set of DNA.

So, how does it feel to be adopted?  Without knowing my biological history, I felt isolated and alone.  Knowing what I know now has given me a sense of well-being and peace that I had not experienced before.

The “nature” and “nurture” parts of me are now reconciled.

Thanks for reading,

Marlana Deatherage

Adult Adoptee

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4 thoughts on “How Does It Feel To Be Adopted?- Marlana Deatherage

  1. Love your story. I am an adult adoptee, born 1963, in Texas. Have found my birth mother, she is already passed, no siblings found yet. Havn’t found BF yet. Your story is so like mine! It could be MY story, about your Adopted family and your “feelings”. MY thoughts EXACTLY! Glad you got some closure! I’m hoping to someday! Have talked with several 2nd-3rd cousins, and its so cool! Meeting one in january. Cannot find pix of birth mom but was able to get one of her brother and i resemble him so much, it blew my mind! Thank you for your story! God Bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and feelings. Your adoptive mom was so precious- you couldn’t find a better one! I always thought that Diane was your birth sister. So glad for you to be putting the pieces of your “life puzzle” together. Bless you on your identity quest!

    Liked by 1 person

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