November is Adoption Awareness Month. As an Adoptee and Birth Mother, I can talk forever about this, so lets talk again. Remembering that it doesn’t matter if you are an adoptive parent, birth parent, know an adoptee, read a book, or anything else, unless you are actually an adoptee, you will never truly understand. So please for the love of all that is holy, stop telling Adoptees how to feel, that their feelings are wrong, that they are over reacting, or anything else like that. Adoptees have every right to feel everything they feel, all the conflicting, hard to understand feelings, they are all valid. Just because you dont understand something, does not make their feelings wrong.
So lets talk about belonging. Its a strange thing. We simultaneously belong to multiple families, yet dont fully belong to any. We are forever an option. In our adoptive families we struggle to belong, we dont look like anyone, we dont have the same mannerisms, traits, we struggle to fit in and blend in with our families. We notice all the questioning looks we get by people trying to figure out our connections to each other. We have even had to deal with strangers comments and questions. Our adoptions are constantly pointed out to us, when people compare looks, especially at family events. We are constantly referred to as the “adopted children”. When we go to the doctors and asked for medical history, there is a big blank spot, or adoption is simply written there. In school its pointed out every time we are asked to do a family tree, learning about genes and asked to go back in our family tree with eye colour, hair colour and such. We are constantly asked if we will ever look for our families, then guilted as soon as we decided to do it. We are asked what its like to grow up in a home with strangers. We are referred to as being “chosen” or “picked out”. People ask us how much we cost for our parents to ‘buy’ us. When people do family trees there is constantly a symbol next to our names for adoption. More times than people care to admit, adopted children are placed for adoption again because they didn’t “fit into the family”, or some other issues came to the surface. We are considered an option. We are told we will be sent back. When we get in trouble, we are told in must be in our genes and what a burden it must be for our families to deal with us.
Then if and when we are able to find birth families, we are treated an as option. We have to wait to see if our birth families will accept us or reject us, again. Always an option. IF we do get accepted, we rarely ever fully get accepted. Our lives before they met us dont matter because they never knew us. We are never truly the first born, second born, third , or last born, because we weren’t there. When people talk we are separated in speech, like “my kids and you” or “my boys and you” its always “them and you”. There is always a subtle separation in speech. We are told to wait till kids are older to be told about us. We are told to wait because older generations can’t hear about us right now. We are kept secret from some members of the family. We are told to wait till their kids are fully grown before they will consider spending holidays with us. We are told they have their own traditions and things they love, and they won’t grow and evolve those things to include us. We are told that to involve us in traditions would be the same thing to them as throwing away years of family traditions with ‘their family’. Always the separation in speech. Never fully accepted. We aren’t considered ‘close family’ when it comes to family events, birthdays or holidays. We are told that people need time to adjust to our existence. We are told that people that are supposed to be our family need time to figure out if they want to ‘try to be friends and see where that goes’, instead of truly accepting that we are family and include us as such and work towards building relationships that way as sister/brother/cousin/son/daughter or whichever it is. We are always treated as an option. Someone that belongs, but not fully. We are welcome, as long as we stay in our little corner over there, and dont mess with their family setting and traditions. If we dont fit in just right, we are again abandoned, because we will forever be an option for people. An option they can walk away from whenever a single issue arises. We constantly walk on egg shells out of fear of being abandoned again. Many times adoption reunions fall apart after a couple years.
We belong to multiple families, yet not fully and truly. Its a weird sense of belonging, being on the outside looking in, longing for acceptance, longing for connection, feeling at home, being surrounded by family, being loved and accepted, and still feeling alone.
One year ago my world got flipped all around. Everything changed and nothing made sense. Yet somehow it all made sense. A year ago I wrote this post about a DNA test I took on one of those sites, I thought nothing of it, because you know, I already had all my answers from my 10 year search. But turns out I was wrong, so very very wrong. And the man I believed to be my birth father wasn’t, and I had to start all over. This time however it only took 17 days. In 17 days I messaged a stranger on Facebook, took a paternity test, and met my birth father. All in the span of 17 days my world changed forever. And then you know a global pandemic happened and put all plans on hold and made it impossible to meet people, family, and spend time with them.
Here we are, one year later and I am still trying to wrap my head around everything. Its been a lot. And today is a lot. I have all the emotions fighting it out for dominance. So many big, giant, conflicting emotions. A lot has happened in a year. Relationships have changed, which I guess is a totally natural thing, one way or another, good or bad, relationships change. I still can’t figure out the right words, or emotions to describe the last year. Yet I’m going to try, for my own sake, I need to get this out. I need to make sense of things.
This past year has been amazing. It really has. It has been so wonderful, magical even. Things have just clicked. There are these things, these little moments, these little things about myself, that just make sense now. Things I have kept to myself my whole life, parts of myself that I always kept just for me, because it didn’t feel like it was right to show them to the world, that no one around me would understand or connect, and now, it makes sense. The connections are there. And its weird, it feels foreign, I don’t understand it most of the time, but it all feels right at the same time. One of the strangest things has been to meet people that I look like, you know, other than the tiny humans that I created and birthed myself. Like being able to see myself in other people, and not just looks, traits, habits, beliefs. Its been such a shock to me, and I just don’t know how to explain what that is like after 34 years of life to finally experience that. Something that is just so common to most people, that it never crosses their minds, something so common that its not a big deal to people. And here I am completely crying and falling apart about it.
Can we also talk about how weird it is to find these people, essentially strangers, but they are family, and you feel a connection to them, but they are still strangers, and having to build friendships/relationship with them. Like we are strangers, but I’m their daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, granddaughter. But despite being genetically connected, we are still strangers. Who just happen to look alike, be related, and have things in common. But still strangers, and still family, all at the same time.
Also I need to mention that for the first time in my life, for my 35th birthday I got to spend the day with a biological parent. I still think about that day, and I am still in shock about it. That day meant so much to me. It was and still is such a big deal. Something so simple and easy that a lot of people never give it a second thought. And yet I had to wait till my 35 birthday to have that happen. Its unreal. That day was simply amazing.
Despite all the good and wonderful things, there has been so much fear and anxiety. And overwhelming amount of fear and anxiety. A big dark scary cloud that just follows you around constantly, threatening to ruin everything in the blink of an eye. Because sometimes adoptees get rejected by their families. Sometimes families decide they dont want them, they aren’t a real member of the family, they dont belong, and a whole list of a million other reasons. Sometimes adoptees are the ones to change their mind. But in my case, after 10 years of searching, 7 years after finding my birth mother, and 1 year of this, I know I’m not going to change my mind. I know what I want. But these people I just found, these strangers who also happen to be family, I dont know what they want. They never knew about me, never knew there was even a chance I was out there, never waited for me, I was never a thought for any of them. I was a total and complete surprise. My first reunion of course didn’t go well. So that fear of rejection, that fear of things going badly, was/ is all too real for me since I have already experienced it. And a year later, it is still there. Some days are better than others. Some days its a dull hum in the background, other days its front and centre. I hoped by now, a year into this, that it would be gone by now. Maybe one day. Hopefully one day. Hopefully soon.
I’ve also had to heal from the last reunion I had, the last 8 years with my birth mother. The guilt I have for believing her for 7 years. The pain caused from the man I believed was my birth father. The anger at myself for it all. The anger at her for her choices. There has been a lot of anger and guilt and pain I’ve had to try to heal from. Some days are better than others. It has been a slow process. I dont know if thats just a normal thing, or because it is mixed in with so many other things going on. Some days its hard to separate my feelings from the joy and happiness I feel, and the pain.
Having the chance to know my story, my real story, get real answers has been amazing. Yet in a way it has also been heartbreaking. That I can’t explain, even though I badly wish I could. Even just to myself. But I can’t and it is driving me crazy.
So really how do you even begin to describe a year like this? A year of finding your truth, your family, your connections, and followed right by a global pandemic. A global pandemic that has its own fears, anxieties, hardships, stress, depression, and is keeping you apart from some of the people you want to be with the most. Its been so hard, and heartbreaking. To know these people and have to stay away. Its soul crushing and destroying. The timing of all this. It makes it so hard. I believed my birth mother for 7 years, thats 7 years I lost with these people, 7 years without a global pandemic that I would have the freedom to know and meet and spend time with these people. But nope, that didn’t happen. I had to have all this happen right before and during a pandemic and global lockdown.
So here’s to a better year, a year with less fear, a year with more connections, a year of building better relationships, getting to know people, and hopefully being able to see them and spend time with them. Heres to a year where my emotions aren’t so raging and out of control. Where things make sense, where I can explain my emotions.
3 years ago, yesterday actually, I found my birth mother. Or she found me? We found each other?
I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a cold winter day, I was about 10 years into my search, I had made a break through and actually finally found people that knew her, one problem, no one seemed to know where she was at that time. I was trying to clear all the stress and drama while I walked to school to pick up my boys. On the walk back home my phone rang, as soon as I saw the area code my heart stopped, it was the area code from where I believed my birth mother was. I tried to calm myself, telling myself it was probably just some numbers calling me back after I left messages. I took a deep breathe and answered the phone.
On the other end of the phone was a woman asking for me by my birth name. It was her. She was real. She was alive. She was actually on the other end talking to me.
Then I verified her information, made sure it was really her. It was real. It was really her.
I screamed again.
When I got home I didn’t want to attempt to get the boys in the house, since they would be so loud, so I sat outside in the cold. (If you know me, that is a BIG deal) I was outside for over an hour. We talked about everything, mostly just shooting off question to question at each other.
The first few days and weeks we talked all the time. There were good morning and good night text messages, phone calls, a constant string of texts, I had to re-charge my phone countless times during the day. I have never used my phone so much or talked on the phone so much.
The “honeymoon” stage was such a blur. So much information was exchanged, so many questions were asked, so, so, SO many feelings were running around. Then something happened. The phone calls stopped, the text messages slowed and stopped.
3 years later I sit here, trying to figure it all out. Trying to piece together what happened. Trying to figure out why. Why it went this way. Why this all happened. Did I do something wrong? Was I not good enough for her? Was I not what she imagined?
3 years later and she has become a stranger again.
In all the questions asked, I’m left with a million more.
I don’t know what will happen, I don’t even know what happened!
This whole journey has been such a strange, crazy, unpredictable, emotional, rollercoaster. Sometimes I can’t even tell which direction I should be facing.
Should I have found her? Yes. Did I ever imagine that something like this could happen? No. Would I change it? I don’t know. Because I don’t know what I should change. I don’t know where things went ‘wrong’ to lead me to this path. I don’t even know if this is the ‘wrong’ path!
What I can tell you is that I never dreamed it would be like this.
Growing up I had a million different scenarios in my head, none of them even close to this.
In an adoption everyone wants a happy ending. Most birth mothers hope that if and when their child comes back it will be happy. Most adoptive parents want it to go well because they don’t want to see their child hurt. Most adoptees just don’t want to be hurt, they want answers.
When I think of my adoption journey I almost feel like a failure. I was lucky to finally find my birth mother, I was lucky she wanted to find me. But some where, some how, something, maybe, went wrong. Or maybe this is just how it was meant to be. I don’t know.
I imagined that we would have some sort of relationship, friendship. I didn’t imagine I would meet her and lose her again. I never thought she would become a stranger. I never knew someone and a situation could cause such confusion, and bring on so many questions, and so many different feelings all at once.
I found my birth mom 3 years ago, and I have even more questions than when I started.
This journey has been so much harder and emotionally draining and confusing than I would have dreamed possible.
Maybe the next 3 years will bring some more answers. Maybe. If there are even any answers to be had.
Lets be brutally honest for a minute.
I never try to judge another person, especially a mother, especially a birth mother. I don’t know their story, their feelings. And some times people say things that I don’t agree with, and that is their choice to believe what they want. But sometimes people say things that make me feel uneasy.
When I hear a birth mother say “I finally got my son/daughter back after 20-? years my family is complete” I cringe. I can’t help it. I feel uneasy. It took me a while to figure out why. It affects me on a few different levels. I will attempt to break it down for you.
When I hear a birth parent say “I finally got my son/daughter back”, from an adoptees stand point this bothers me. I’m sorry, but you can never “have me back”. I found my birth mother, I never got her back. She didn’t come into my life and suddenly become my mother, she is still my birth mom. I have a mother, a very good mother, and she will not be replaced simply because I found the woman who gave birth to me. It doesn’t take away all the years that I was raised by someone else. Yes I am in a unique position to have two families, one made by blood, one made by love. My family made by love is my family. Another family may have found me, but they can not have me back and take over role as family for me. I’m sorry, for me, it doesn’t work that way.
When I hear a birth parent say “I finally got my son/daughter back” from a birth mothers stand point I still feel uneasy about this. I will never “get my son back”. I gave him up for adoption, my role ends there, I am a birth mother, not his mother. Just because I know him does not change my standing in his life. I will never be a mother to him in the sense that his mother is to him, or in the sense that I am a mother to my 3 younger children. I love my son as much as my 3 younger kids. All four of my children are my life, they are my world, they are my heart, my reason. But when it comes to my older son, I am on the sidelines watching and cheering him on in his life with his mother, his real mother. I don’t get to sit here on the sidelines, wait till he is 16 or 18, and say “your old enough to make a choice, come live with me, I want you back”. It doesn’t work that way. I will never “get him back”. I will never have a legal claim to him. I couldn’t even take him to the doctors if I wanted to, I can’t make medical decisions. I am a birth mother, not a mother, and I can never get my roll as mother “back”. I love him like only a mother can, but I am not his mother.
Even when I found my birth mother after nearly 10 years of searching, I never once said “I have my mom back”. I have a mom already. I found my birth mom yes, but she is still just my birth mom. I love the woman, she gave me life, I have a great respect for her for what she did for me. But just because I found her, found my half-sister, does not mean I “got them back” and have some how replaced existing family members, or completed my family. My family was already complete. Finding my birth family was just an added bonus.
Let me just end this in saying there is a big difference between saying someone is back in your life, and laying a claim to someone saying you got them back.
Adoption can be hard. Especially when it comes to trying to find your birth family. Personally it took me almost 10 years of searching before I got any answers (And honestly I am still waiting for some). It was such a long emotionally draining journey. But I finally made it, I finally found my birth family.
Here are few things I learned along the way.
1. How important it is to keep up to date information with the agency or government. Always update it. Even if you don’t think someone is looking for you. Always update it. If you move for a job, get a new phone number, get married, divorced, whatever changes you make, Please update! My birth mother never updated her information, and even though I had a number and address for her, it did me no good.
And if there is any paper work to fill out stating you don’t want to be found, fill it out, don’t ignore it, let other person know so they are not left wondering and searching.
2. Don’t let fear hold you back. It is better to find out the answers than be left wondering. Don’t let the fear of bad news hold you back from what very well may be great news.
3. When filling out paper work, don’t just print the forms from online, Call. Talk to someone who works there, have them explain every little thing to you. Then call back again to talk to someone else and double-check. Trust me! It could help save you a lot of time, and ensure you get the right forms the first time!
4. Pray and have lots of faith!
5. Make sure you are actually ready for this, good news or bad news, and know what you want out of the relationship!
6. Make sure you have a good support system around you. People to help you, people you can lean on and turn to. It can be a hard journey, a little extra support and love goes a long way.
7. Sometimes what you are hoping for, isn’t what you find. Sometimes there are no happy endings.
8. Sometimes there are happy endings.
Hopefully if both sides of the adoption (Birth Family and Adoptee) can remember to do this, their search will not take as long as mine!
If you are searching I hope you find what you are looking for. I hope your road is a smooth one, I hope you find whatever it is your, or who ever it is, you are looking for.