How Does It Feel To Be Adopted? – Suzy Garber

2016 07 13 Suzy Garber-3 copyBIO: I’ve always been the one that played by the rules: a good kid, a good student, a good friend, a sister, a loving daughter, a wife, a mother, a neighbor, a volunteer and the one that kept the peace. I lived my life within the box, but I never really felt comfortable within my skin. Life was status quo, I was settling and then….My world was turned upside down (isn’t that how most change begins?) I was cracked wide open. I lost my parents, ended my long term marriage, the kids went off to school, questioned friendships, started dating, searched for my birth family, and looked for meaning! All that was my status quo just wasn’t anymore. You’ve heard the expression: Been there, done that; I have and I’ve survived and even thrived!

 

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ADOPTED?

I have always known that I am somehow different from others. I’m not sure that I ever felt it was because I’m adopted. But I knew that I had a missing piece.

I grew up in the late 50s, in LA, with older parents and a younger brother. He was also adopted, but from a different family and different circumstances. I’ve known I’m adopted as far back as I can remember. It was just part of my family’s vocabulary I was a ‘Chosen Child.’ In my mind, being adopted didn’t make me different –  it made me ‘chosen’! I thought,  “What kid didn’t want to be someone’s choice?”

I never really gave adoption much thought until I was expecting my first child, at the age of 30. Lots of questions about my medical history flooded in and I had no answers and lots of missing pieces. My parents didn’t really know much about my genetics other than I was from Jewish parents—so the testing began. When my son was born, he was the first person I knew that not only shared my DNA, but also my face. The attachment and connection was instantaneous.

I lost both of my parents in my early 30s. When their safe deposit box was opened, my adoption papers were inside as well as California’s non identifying information: lots of answers to my missing pieces.

My parents had always been very forthcoming with my adoption information so I grew up knowing that I had three siblings, my birth mother’s name, and the family couldn’t afford a fourth child. I was told that my birth mother died in a car accident when I was four and that the rest of the family was told that I was a miscarriage.

I sat on all of my information for two decades –  not curious or brave enough to look for answers to questions that I had and not wanting to disturb my birth family.

Fast forward to my 50s—a decade of huge transformation for me. I found myself divorcing, empty nesting, reevaluating my life and asking all kinds of self-discovery questions— all at the same time. I wanted to know who I really was and anything else I could learn about me and my missing pieces; my life and focus had shifted—completely. I became brave and stood in my own voice—something I hadn’t done since I was in my 20s.

On a random Sunday evening I was home alone on the couch reading Steve Jobs’ autobiography. He too was adopted. I’m not sure what motivated me, but I picked up the envelope with all of my adoption information, and called my brother and asked for the phone number of the researcher who had located his birth family 20 years earlier. One phone call, a 20 minute wait and I had all of the information that I needed to find out more about my missing pieces. I knew the speedy results weren’t typical. I was beyond fortunate to have had all of the information prior to my initial inquiry. My heart goes out to people who don’t have clues to their past.

The researcher made the first call to my birth father because I didn’t want to deal with the rejection—a common issue for adoptees. The call was answered by his wife, the only person that knew of my existence. She told the researcher to have me call back later.

I mustered all of my courage and made the call that would change my questions into

suzygarber3
(L-R) Myself, Birth Father & Oldest Sister

answers and find all the missing pieces. On the other end of the phone was an affable old man of 84 who said that everything that I had been told by my parents was true. He also asked for my patience because he would have to tell his children about my existence. They had all been told I was a boy who had died at birth.

We exchanged pictures. When the envelope arrived I held it with trepidation. Inside held the answer to my life-long missing piece: Who do I look like? The pictures were so revealing: I’m a mix of both of my parents and my three siblings. My boys are a mix too.

suzygarber2
Sister  & I

One by one I began to receive emails and phone calls from my siblings. Imagine being 62, 60 and 58 and finding out that you had been lied to your entire life by your father. My eldest sister called first, in tears, saying that she always had a feeling that I actually existed. My brother and middle sister were told a week later and they reacted by wondering what other information was kept from them. I’d wonder too if it was me.

I made plans to visit Los Angeles. For some reason I wasn’t nervous about meeting everyone—I was curious and that curiosity propelled me forward on my mission to find my missing pieces.

Each member of the family told me independently that I was the lucky one-the one who avoided growing up in such a mixed up family that was perpetuated by lies and avoidance of all meaningful or emotional relationships:  After the death of my birth mother, my birth father remarried a woman with four children, three of whom were adopted and one natural child. The blended family had more than its share of issues—nobody really likes each other, his kids raised her kids, lots of failed marriages, only three grandchildren from seven kids, and two of my siblings have very minimal contact with their parents. There are never any family gatherings.

So, here I am, five years later. I’ve developed deep relationships with my middle sister and brother. Bottom line, some people you connect with and some you don’t.  Lots of missing pieces have been filled in for me and a sense of knowing who I am has been deepened at my core. Knowing my missing pieces has given my life purpose and direction that I never knew I was missing. My passion project has become my life’s work. I am a Guardian ad Litem advocating in court for children in the foster care system and I am a certified life Coach. I work with people and their agenda to move forward to live a more purposeful and optimal life. I coach people in transition: divorce, dating again, empty nest, aging parents, etc., and I coach members of the adoption triad.

I consistently find myself in the company of people that are adopted or adoptive parents. People just talk to me and common threads are always revealed.

You can check out my website here: http://www.empowherfulvoice.com/ or find me on Facebook EmpowHERful Voice.

I always offer a free first coaching call so that you can decide if coaching is something that would benefit you!

Thanks for reading,

Suzy Garber

Adult Adoptee

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