I would like to introduce you to my dear friend Kim. We have been friends for over 10 years and both celebrated our big 5-0 this year. I remember the first time we met – over creativity and laughter – the 2 things that define both of us. We had an instant bond. Over the years we would become close friends and she would be part of my tribe of women that are called upon in good times, bad times, celebratory times and just plain fun an silly times. We laugh together til our sides hurt – but we also can cry together over the complexity of life, marriage, parenthood and adoption….She is an adoptee and this is her story:
Tell me about yourself – where you grew up – siblings – family life then and now.
It was in the late sixties, when my 18 year old “belly” mother, conceived me. Lutheran Social Services in Mpls, MN handled the adoption, as well has provided a safe home for other pregnant teens prior to giving birth to me and other adoption cases. After I was born, I was placed into a foster home for a few months before being placed into the my adopted parents home for 6-months. It was told to my adoptive mom, that this placement was typical for new families and they had to wait this time out, as the law stated that a birth mother or birth father has 6-months to void the adoption and giving up all parental rights. However, Lutheran Social Service told my now 19 year old “belly” mother, that she can not change her mind after she reported to them that she wasn’t sure that she wanted to go through the adoption. They told her that she would not be a good mother because she did not have a stable family to raise a child in, no college aspirations, a minimum paying job…the child would be better off with a 2 parent home. That was how I became the second child into my adoptive parents home. I was raised in an affluent suburb in Minnesota. I am a typical midwestern girl, who grew up in a typical Scandinavian, Lutheran household. My adopted mother had many miscarriages and was only able give birth to one son. My parents did adopt another child 4 years later and he would become my brother from another mother! We spent most of and ½ of our adult life trying to be the better child or “win” my mother’s approval. He was always the winner….he still is! Sadly, my parents “natural” child (I only use this language for the sake of this question) was always in his bedroom and we had little “family” time with him. I am not sure why. To this day, we are very distant and not close. I have been married 18+ years (together 23 years), with two children, Noah (16) and Sophia (13).
I am a dance mom and soccer mom…but not kind most people identify with…I’m crafter then them! LOL Kidding…no I’m not.
I also have the great pleasure to chauffer my kids, view the latest clothing fashion styles…ON THE FLOORS of my kids bedroom and bathroom floor. I keep fit most days by exerting my energies towards moving various dry/paper products by redistributing products from downstairs locations to upstairs various locations and from inside to outside locations.
You are adopted….when did you first find out/or were told you were adopted.
WHAT??? I don’t remember the exact age, my mom said around kindergarten first grade, but I know I was old enough to somewhat understand that I was “A-bob-ted.” Sadly, a childhood neighbor friend told me this one summer during a fast moving game of statue maker that my mother didn’t love me like their mothers did because I was adopted!” Honestly, I am not sure if at time, if I was more upset about being adopted or I was really reacting to the fact that someone outside of my family culminated my feelings of rejection. I know that my mother did not feel as close to me as she did with my younger brother, so when the words exploded out of my childhood friends mouth, I knew that I was not making things up in my mind. It meant, that they can see it too!
Growing up – did you feel “different” or like something was missing – either before or after you knew. What were the social perceptions or attitudes about adoption then?
Absolutely! After I knew. My mother and I were never close. As a young child, I wanted more than anything to be a mama’s girl, but that day never happened. In fact, I was in my early 30’s when my husband (then boyfriend) asked me how many times am I going to run myself into a brick wall before you realize that the results will never change. I was that child, who was constantly sensory seeking, adopted into a typical Scandinavian Lutheran family. Little talking, pushing family issues/struggles under the rug, with small amounts of snuggle time and even less body-facing eye contacting conversations. As a young child, it was hard to understand. I have always been aware of “connections” between individuals. I could read “love & affection” in my friends and their mothers, just not my own.
Knowing what I know now at 50 years old, I’m sure part of the lack of mother/daughter bonding time was interrupted due to the fact I was placed in an orphanage for the first 3 months of life. In the late sixties, if you wanted to adopt a child, the adoption agency (Lutheran Social Services) would place a child into an “adoptees” home for 6 months. During these months, the child is acclimated into the new family and environment. After the 6 months trial period is over, and the birth-parents are not “reconsidering” relinquishing parental rights over the child, the agency files the paperwork for adoption.
As for perceptions regarding adoption, I know that my mother’s cousin would not dare call her own adopted daughter…her daughter. She would always refer to her as her adopted daughter. My mother was great at keeping my adoption and my brother’s adoption a secret. To this day, may of my parents friends have or had no idea that myself and my little brother were adopted. My little brother and I weirdly have the same narrow head and green/hazel eyes, so people assumed that we were just that…siblings.
When did you decide to find your birth mother? Or her find you? What was your age and or deciding factors around it….
Before meeting my birth-mother, I couldn’t remember a birthday that I did not think about her and my biological father. The urge became strong in Jr. High, but I did not do anything about it until I was in High School (10th grade). Deciding factors: Pro: to thank my birth-mother for life. Sure I thought about family history, but my heart really felt compelled to just thank her and to let her know that I was good…that I was thriving in the life that she choose for me.
Did you have mixed feelings about reuniting? Was there an instant connection?
Sure, I did. I’ll start with the feelings surrounding my parents. The fact that I was going behind my parents back did not sit very well with me. My intentions were pure at best, yet, my curiosity to know who I shared similar genes with was stronger. I always felt deep in my heart, that my birth mother wanted to know that her decision to put me up for adoption was the right choice. In my 20 something year old mind, if I can just find her and let her know that I was happy and healthy. I had hoped that my adopted mother would be fine meeting my birth mother, and realize that I truly didn’t love her any less. In fact, I thought maybe my adoptive mother will come to love me even more for letting me get to know my birth family, and for being so welcoming and understanding to my birth family.
Now, my feelings regarding my birth mother before meeting her in person. Prior to our first phone conversation, Lutheran Social Services had me write a letter to my birth mother. I think it took me at least a week to write this letter. When we first spoke on the phone for the first time, I was shocked at how much our voices sounded a like. As for instant connection, I would say no. We did however have a instant connection via our mannerisms, especially with our hands. Our hands and feet were an instant connection, but that Maternal, mother daughter instinct was not evident. I think at the time, as excited I was to get to know my birth mother, back in my mind, I could not get out of my head that my adopted mother was still hurt and devastated the way I went about everything, totally behind her back.I know there are adoptive parents who claim they are okay with their child searching and reconnecting and even support this, but I don’t feel the same way.
Have you met any other birth siblings? Is your brother adopted as well? My birth-mother had one more child after putting me up for adoption. She married a man, while pregnant with my sister, Johnna. We are 18 months apart. My adopted brother, Troy, has also met his birth-mother and currently has relationships with her and his sister. My brother and I both struggle with what name to address or to introduce them as. Half sister? Adopted sister? Sister from the Same Mother?
How does your adoptive mother and birth mother feel regarding the reunion and how are your relationships with them now present day?
This is a very hard question for me to put into words. This has been a back and forth tug of words for the past 25 years. I’ll just say it is a daily struggle at times. I would be lying if I said that in some ways that my relationship with my adopted mother became more fragile than it already was. In my young head, I thought removing the “elephant from the room” (finally finding my birth/belly mother), would make my relationship with my adopted mother stronger. Sadly, I think initially, it pulled her away from me. She was very jealous and when she finally met “Linda” she had no problem in telling her that I was hers and that she has always been hers. It was a side of my mother I really didn’t see because she seemed to always shy away from any time of affection towards me in private or public.
To be fair, I can not speak on behalf of my mother at the time of answering these questions, I can say with confidence that my adopted mother still feels “insecure” when it comes to my relationship with my birth mother and how she fits into my family. I have heard for years from my mother that she is acting like a mother, giving advice and encouragement or asking my children to be more respectful after I do. Deep down, I know it still really bothers her that my birth mother refers to me as her daughter.
I always feel as though adoptees go through life with a missing piece of their “puzzle” – did you ever feel that way? Did it the puzzle feel whole once you met and got to know your birth mother?
Yes, I did feel growing up that there was something missing not knowing where or who I came from. Did I feel whole after meeting my birth mother or even today, 25 years later and as a grown woman? I think in our society, we are brought up to be a certain type of child, wife, employee, daughter, parent, caretaker, However, in each of these roles, we are seeking a certain kind of internal peace that makes it difficult when external forces are forced into our homes, schools, work environments, and families lives every second of the day.
Do you know your birth father? What types of thoughts and feelings do you have regarding your birth father if any?
I do not know or have any contact with my birth father. I have a name, but it is not 100% certain that this man is my father. My birth mother has said contacted him before we were going to met, but he said was not interested. Story was that he was in a band, and that he was not convinced that I was his child. I did try to reach out to him over 15 years ago at his work, but no inquiry back. I hear he has a large family. It would be fun to meet the brother’s and sisters that I supposedly have, but I understand. I have always wanted a large family.
If you had any advice for adult adoptees searching for their birth mom or vice versa – what would it be?
As an young and lonely Adoptee, I will say that I was a bit sneaky about trying to find out who or what agency my parents adopted me from. I learned early on that my parents, especially my mother, was not interested in going down this path with me, nor was she willing to provide me with any assistance to help suppress my curiosity to where I came from.
I can only suggest that even you are scared to confront your parents or continue to feel rejected when your parents deny your feelings of inquiry, keep the conversation and desire close to your heart. It’s best for in the short term and long term for the adoptive parent, to always be upfront and open about your questions revolving your adoption. As an adoptive parent, I would recommend that at whatever age you begin to talk about your child’s beginning chapters of their life, begin everything truthfully, lovingly and supportively. As a adoptee…never blindside
What have YOU learned about yourself being adopted???
Adoption is complicated and so am I.
I have learned even if everyone begins the search with only one intentional purpose, someone is bound to get hurt.
I have learned the reasons or truth surrounding the “why” someone chose adoption for you is somewhere in the middle.
I have learned you need a fair minded individual to help you through difficult conversations and/or family minded events or holidays.
I have learned my inner childhood dialogue of not being good enough for my birth or adopted parents does effect how I parent my kids today and how I communicate with my husband.
I have learned that while I may have let go of my quest to be enough for my adopted mother, it doesn’t change the “generational” feelings that are deeply rooted within me. and I have learned that being a perfectionists in everything that I touch, is emotionally exhausting!