BIO: Jennifer is a former art teacher that loves children, animals and the arts. She wishes someone would write a book or make a movie about her life. This is just a small part of her life.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ADOPTED?
BY Jennifer Shrake
I grew up in a unique home. I always knew that I was adopted. I had a younger brother that was also adopted. We both turned out to be very different. He took his own life several years ago, addiction is what he turned to, starting as early as fourth grade. The problem with both of us is that we didn’t fit in, actually no one fit in. We were a dysfunctional family, all with mental problems. We looked good from the outside, but not inside of the walls of our home.
My mother had a vision of how I should be. A lady of class, quiet, polite, entertaining, socially known, taking care of my husband and children. She would repeat her fears over and over to me. She believed she was not smart and told me how terrified she was of school. She kept repeating things to scare me. This is how I believe she tried to control me. I was pretty much brain washed. We lived in a dirty house with squirrels in the attic. She was afraid of water and did not bathe. We had seventeen cats, four dogs, turtles, fish, snake and alligator. Both of my parents were hoarders, we had stacks of papers and junk from the floor to the ceilings, filling the basement attic and the entire house. I believe she did not want a girl baby, so I pretty much raised myself, hearing verbal abuse. Zero bonding and love for me. I was an introvert, unloved, unwanted child that dreamed what her real family would be like.
As for my brother Jeff, she would hold and read to him every night. She would always tell him how she loved him of course in front of me. She loved Jeff so much. She kept repeating that she wished her father could have seen him. He was a farmer, so naturally Jeff was told he would be a good farmer and had lots of farm toys. She was a den mother, always helped Jeff with his homework. He would get into trouble and she would bail him out. Who would buy their own hubcaps back from a kid for $75.00? My mother of course! She could see no wrong in him. He would try different jobs but never be able to hold one down. He went to different types of training and schooling. She helped them out financially, even though they filed bankruptcy twice. On her death bed, she pleaded with me to never let Jeff lose his home or car. Guess what? He wanted rent money from me, I told him I would think about it. He called and I didn’t feel like answering my phone. That was the end of Jeff. He couldn’t make it without mom.
My father loved me. Unfortunately, I did not realize this when I was a child. He has been gone now about 23 years. I noticed when I looked at pictures he was always holding me, playing with me, he adored me. I really regret that I didn’t tell him I loved him. He would come in my bedroom and kiss me on my forehead every night. He did not know how to deal with his personal issues. He would seldom be home. If he was, he would retreat to the attic and we were told to not go up there and bother him. One time my brother and I sneaked into the attic and found inappropriate sexual material. We both realized that all of my parent’s close friends were LGBT. Back then sexuality was hidden behind the doors. When my father turned 50, he lost his job and became afraid to drive. My mother drove him everywhere. At this point he retreated even more. My father had no relationship with my brother. He didn’t know how to do boy things. He let my mother continue the enabling of my brother and the bullying of me.
So how did I turn out?
I was so scared and insecure. I probably didn’t say two words in school. A neighbor boy use to beat me up. I was overweight and depressed. I married my high school boyfriend to get out of the house. He couldn’t believe how my home life was. He was a real faithful, two women became pregnant in our short 2 ½ year marriage. I divorced him. My mother let me know that I was a disgrace to the family, the first ever divorce and that they would not help me out financially. Guess what, I made it with very little money and only a part-time job. I paid my rent, ate on a tight budget and shopped at garage sales. Still kept wondering about my “real” family.
Shortly after my divorce, I became close friends with my neighbor a social worker, I also started going to counseling. This is when my life really changed. I realized I didn’t need anybody and could be independent, which I already had been doing my whole life. Carol helped dig me out of my depression hole. I started enjoying life, just the simple things like having a garden, making my own paintings to decorate my walls, hanging baskets from my ceiling, just living a free spirit life enjoying time with my friends and two cats. One Halloween Carol and I went to a party, she met John and fell in love.
A few months later I met my future husband Tim. My parents met him for the first time at my brother’s wedding reception; a keg at his trailer. We had already been dating a couple of years. I wasn’t seeing my family very much.
Tim was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor. We went to Mayo Clinic and he had brain surgery. Six weeks later we decided to get married. Three months later I became pregnant. When my son was born, my parents were back in my life. It had been a nice vacation. They both loved and adored my son. They were good grandparents. When my mother tried to tell him her fears, I would cut her off. She kept calling my son Jeff, we kept correcting her. My son was her dream child. My goal was to raise my son to be a strong independent young man. My husband and I did a good job.
All of my adopted immediate family are deceased. Five years ago, our state allowed adoptees to get their original birth certificate. There was a year notice before this law went into effect. I thought that November would never come. The day after it became legal, I took a personal day from school and took my papers and check to get my birth certificate. When I arrived. the lady said that it would be months before I would get it. They had been swamped with people waiting in line. I was disappointed. I decided that I would play detective the rest of the day.
My first stop was the hospital. I had always been told I was born there. I went in and asked for my medical records. They had no record of me being born there. I was stunned!! My next step was the court house. I had always been told that you could never get your adoption record. I filed a petition asking for my adoption file, stating it was my right. Two weeks later I got a phone call, my file was ready to be picked up.
I was scared to death. I waited for my husband to get home from work. We sat together on our loveseat, I was shaking as I tore the envelope. I had a different name, my name was Mary Schwab. My birth mother’s name was listed. I had never thought about the possibility of me having a different name. I was shocked. Most of the information regarding the adoption had been xxxx out. I was still extremely excited about the facts I had found out about myself.
Back to the hospital I returned with a different name. Yes, they had my records! The town from where my birth mother was from was listed on my medical records. She had driven herself from a small town that was about 40 miles where I live. I got in the car and drove to the small-town library. Immediately I found her in the yearbook and telephone book. She was so beautiful. No more fantasy, I had discovered who my birth mother was. More investigating to do…..
My next step in detective work was the internet. I started looking up her name. I found her brother’s obituary. Her name along with her husbands was listed as well as my aunts and uncles. She lived in a town only 25 miles from me. With a few searches I was able to drive by her house. There was an elderly man sitting in the driveway. She had the same type of yard decorations as me and a cat in her yard. I felt like I was just like her. Hum what to do next…..
It has now been two months since I requested my birth certificate. It arrives! Yep all of my detective work has been confirmed. I have found her.
Now how do I make contact?
I decide to send her a questionnaire with yes and no check boxes. I ask her about my medical history, her hobbies, who my father was and would she like to meet me. I immediately receive it back, all of the boxes have been answered. To my disappointment, she does not want to meet me right now. But I now have another clue…. My birth fathers name!!
I googled his name and found his obituary, he died two years prior to my search but I have half brothers and sisters. I send them messages on Facebook. I heard back from my half-brother Rob. He wants to meet me and so does his mother, my father’s second wife. We decide to meet at Applebee’s.
My husband and I go to the restaurant. I am so nervous, I don’t know what to expect. They arrive, Julia is crying and hugs me. “Your father looked for you, but couldn’t find you.” Tears are running down my face, my brother is hugging me too, we have the same nose, he just got back from a year in Afghanistan. We are all so emotional, my husband and Rob’s wife soak in this whirlwind of a dream. Rob called all of my other half brothers and sisters, even my father’s first wife. She knew about me too. I was confirmed. I existed! This was just the beginning!! When I met Rob’s kids, I found that my baby pictures looked just like them. When I meet my niece, I found that I have the same toes she does. It is a huge stress relief to find other people that I am related to. I have a family with similar characteristics as myself.
I have met two of my brothers, others don’t want to meet me. I had a lot of trouble understanding why the rejection, but I cannot get into their minds to know what they are thinking. But I know where I came from. I have also had two DNA tests and found more cousins, and cousins. I cherish the relationships I have with my birth family
After several months went by, I sent my biological mother a card. After several cards, she agreed to meet with me. She had never told her husband about me. It was not a loving, good first meeting. It has been almost four years since I met her. I did get to meet her husband and have a relationship with him. On his deathbed, I told him who I was. He said he always knew. I behave and sit just like she does, we have the same movements. She has not filled the void I have from not having the bonding at birth. I don’t know if that void can ever be filled. I think it starts at birth and continues as the mother takes care of the child. Our relationship is growing and still continues.
I have answered many questions about myself. I do not regret any of my research. My life has not been a fairy-tale but I have my answers. I became a combination of everyone. My adopted parents, my birth parents, my friends, my husband and my son.
If you choose to search, remember not all stories turn out with happy endings.
I still deal with many issues, especially rejection. My husband has been my love and stability through my life. My son and I have a bond that I will cherish forever. I have love and family. Adopted life is not easy, if you are a parent of an adopted child, don’t expect them to be like you. They will pick up some of your traits, help them find out who they are. Always hold them and tell them how much you love them.
If you are an adoptee, fight to stay positive, appreciate all of the blessings in your life, don’t consume yourself on what you don’t have. I wasted most of my life dreaming and wanting what I already had; love and a parent/child bond.
I would like to dedicate this story to my husband, son and friend Carol
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