A young girl finds herself pregnant. The year could be anywhere between 1940’s-1970’s. She is unmarried. She is scared. If her parents know, she is sent away to a home for unwed mothers…a home filled with strangers. A home run by nuns. A home filled with other pregnant girls. No support of family. But sent away out of embarrassment and shame. During her pregnancy at this “home” she is told over and over again that this baby will be adopted, life will go on and they will resume their life like nothing happened. The are “brainwashed” to believe they will NEVER see this baby again, that this is the ONLY way and there will NEVER be contact with this child again. There is no choice. There is no keeping their baby. The young girl gives birth and is returned back to her family as if nothing ever happened. This young girl goes thru her life knowing and BELIEVING that their baby is gone, never to be seen, heard about and to be convinced to not even think about it. The baby will NEVER know this young girl and vice versa. All paperwork and proof of this birth is locked away. In a way there is no evidence of a birth even happening.
Life goes on for this young woman. She finishes school, perhaps goes onto college, gets married etc. All the while burying that dark secret somewhere deep in their soul. After all, they were convinced to the point of belief that their child is gone. They were convinced to never think about the child and that they would have more children when the time is right.
Imagine yourself at say 17… you are young, naïve, pregnant and been shamed by your family because you had sexual relations before marriage. You are sent away. You are brainwashed into knowing this baby is a thing of the past and get on with your life. You bury that event in your life and move forward. As if you are throwing a sweater into the Goodwill bag. You believe that with all of your being. No one counsels you on the grief and loss, no one even talks about it because you are supposed to just forget about it.
Life moves forward. This young girl is now grown and married and has a family of her own. She may have told her husband about the child she had. Maybe she hasn’t. After all she was brainwashed into forgetting about it. She has children of her own. Her children grown into young adults. By now times are changing. Teen pregnancy is looked at in a whole different way, open adoptions are more of an acceptable way of life, and these babies that were born back in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s are now young adults. While the mother of these babies were brainwashed into forgetting – these now young adults are grown and wondering about where they came from, medical history and finding that missing piece of their life puzzle. DNA kits are the new thing and people can be tracked down easily.
With all these new changes and acceptance of teen pregnancy…memories start to flood back for the young woman. Her thoughts go to “Maybe I could actually find my child” or “What if my child finds me?”. This secret that has been buried for decades needs to come out. In some cases the secret when told can be a beautiful story, other times it can be traumatic and filled with pain and loss that has been buried. Think of how that pain and loss must feel like….and knowing that their is a tiny glimmer of hope meeting that child? Where there was one no hope, there is now. So many emotions and feelings whirling inside the mind of this woman. She never told her own children or perhaps husband because she was told to bury it and put it in the past and leave it there. That there was no hope or future connected with that child. Why bring it up now? It has no impact on her current life and family. It was in the past.
I have heard so many stories from women in this situation…women who now have the chance to find their birth child and the birth child to find them. So they decide to tell their own adult children – because the past could actually surface…when for most of their lives they believed it never would. They tell their family because they need the support . The part in all of this that actually shocks me to my core – are these now adult children of the woman that turn on their mother because they make it about them. They feel betrayed, lied to and sometimes the relationship is broken. Can you feel shocked? yes. Can you feel surprised? yes. Can you maybe feel hurt you didn’t know? of course. But what you can not do is to make it about YOU. You are allowed to have your feelings.
Do you know the pain and hurt your mother went thru all these years? Being told to get over it all and move on? Losing a child that she carried for 9 months – that was part of her…to “just forget it”. That grief is so deep when it surfaces. So if it has surfaced and she is brave enough to tell the story to those closest to her – that takes a lot of courage. This event happened way before you in another lifetime. It is your mom’s secret – a secret that she was brainwashed into keeping and forgetting about. She never thought she would have to or need to tell this deep dark hidden secret…but times have changed with technology, social media and DNA. These babies that were once “whisked away” are now looking for their birth moms. That is a huge life changing event that brings up so many emotions and feelings that have been buried for decades! This is the time your mother needs you.
Also when there is reunion with woman and her birth child….it is overwhelming and life changing. That woman needs all the support she can get – she never had it back then. She NEVER in a million years thought even the idea of a reunion was possible. Think of how that child feels too…meeting a woman that also has a family. Where does this child fit in? Will this child be accepted? Just SO MANY things to think about. So many layers of emotions and people involved.
This part of the woman’s life happened so long ago – when she was too young to make any kind of decision and really had no choice like we do today. Just stop and put yourself in her shoes before you make a move. Listen to her and be there for her. Give your mother grace, love and support.
Yesterday wrapped up November…National Adoption Month. Today is the first day of December – a month of family celebrations. I thought today was the perfect day to post my last interview in the series. I’d like you to meet a wonderful young man who’s birth mom chose adoption for him and was raised by his birth father.
Introduce yourself! Tell me a bit about your childhood growing up – who you are now as an adult.
Hello, I am Josh Webster! I am 31 and a half years old and I am married to my lovely wife Hannah and have 2 dogs and a house. I grew up with a younger brother and 2 younger sisters in MN and briefly in TX. I currently work at Thomson Reuters as an Information Architect.
Your situation regarding adoption is unique – your birth father raised you, he got married when you were young and his wife legally adopted you and became your mom. I heard she met you before she met your dad! How old were you when you first realized your mom was not the one who gave birth to you. What was the conversation like if there was one? What or how did it make you feel?
It wasn’t really something I ever realized or ever would have realized to be honest. It’s not something you think about when you are a kid and don’t know any different. I was told more so out of necessity than anything around the age of 6 or 7. My uncle had remarried and obviously told his then wife all about it. She then, irresponsibly in my opinion, told her daughter who was the exact same age as me. My parents were understandably upset and my dad had to tell me before my sisters birthday party because they knew I would see her and didn’t want to take the risk.
I remember it fairly vividly given how long ago it was. My dad had bought me a pack of basketball cards and I was looking through them while I was sitting on my bed and he told me that my mom wasn’t my real mom and that she had legally adopted me when I was a baby. He was like 24 so I can’t blame him for the clumsy verbiage but it definitely stung me. I just kept trying to change the subject by pointing out different cards to him.
Growing up realizing that, did it change who you were? Did it change you interactions with your mom and dad? Was there confusion?
I think something like that inevitably changes you. Especially at that age, I wasn’t equipped mentally to handle something like that. It created a weird dynamic with my parents and I. I almost idolized my dad for getting me back and I had such a wide range of emotions when it came to my mom. At first I had severe separation anxiety from her. I didn’t want to go to school because I didn’t know if she would be there when I got back. I spent every recess in the school counselors office for weeks so I could call her to make sure she was still home and then to play board games and talk it out. I think his name was Mr. Jenuska, I remember he had a kind face and a big mustache.
That eventually subsided and as I got older, 12 or 13, it turned into anger. I would throw it in my moms face when I felt in my mushy little kid brain that I was being treated unfairly. It created a rift between us for a long time. She never stopped loving me but we didn’t get really close again until I was 18 or 19 years old. I can only imagine how terrible that was for her, I still feel bad about it sometimes when a memory pops in my head.
Did you ever have thoughts about your birth mom? Or ever have the idea of meeting her?
I definitely had thoughts about her. Always wondered what her name was or where she lived. I never thought I would meet her to be honest, I always kind of figured she just moved on with her life.
I understand your birth mother found you….tell me what that was like hearing about/from her. What feelings did you experience?
That she did! I was 22 and it was honestly pretty surreal for a lot of reasons. First because she had reached out, something I knew was possible but never expected to have happen and secondly because she found me through a co-worker that grew up next door to her. It was crazy how small my little world actually was.
How did your parents react to hearing from your birth mother? Were they supportive? I can only imagine the whirlwind of feelings that went through their minds.
They were understandably somber about it. She had sent them a letter asking their permission to meet me. I remember my dad calling me and asking if I would come over to talk about something and I remember being clueless about what it could be. When they told me I was pretty stunned and I could see some legitimate concern on their faces. My mom’s especially. They were supportive of my decision but I could tell it hurt my mom a lot initially. I remember her asking if she had done anything wrong growing up that would force me to make my decision. It was a punch in the gut, we had gotten so close at that point and hearing her ask that almost stopped me then and there. I didn’t to be the source of that pain again.
She eventually began to understand. It was never about replacing her, I just wanted to see where I got some of my quirks that my siblings didn’t have. I wanted answers to questions that I was forced to ask at a really young age.
You met your birth mom in person – what was that day like? First impression?
It was a little nerve wracking at first. I didn’t really know what to expect for something like that and I honestly don’t remember many details. There was so much to take in. First impressions were mostly “Oh, that makes sense” haha. I look A LOT like my dad but somehow I also looked A LOT like my birth mom. There were so many similarities in our personalities that it didn’t really feel all that strange.
Did you feel a sense of completion or like a puzzle piece was missing? Any blanks filled in?
To a certain extent yes. I think having 15-16 years to think about it and draw some of my own conclusions a lot of my blanks were filled in already. For me it never felt like any kind of relief or like a burden had been removed or anything like that. It was more of a natural progression, like I knew it was going to happen even though I never really thought about it in that regard.
Has your mom met your birth mom? If so – what was that like? Easy? Hard? Emotional?
She has. It wasn’t easy to be frank haha. My wife and I were just a couple months from our wedding day and they still hadn’t met. It was hard to pull the trigger on it given the long history my mom and I had on the subject. She was incredibly brave about it and when they did meet I think she handled it pretty well. In another life they would’ve been friends for sure. I think it was emotional for both of them for different reasons. My mom was having to meet someone that caused a lot of fear in her life for a long time and my birth mom was meeting the woman that dedicated her life to raising the child she gave birth to.
It was hard for me to navigate but in the end everything went really well.
What are your relationships like now with your family? With your birth mom’s family?
My relationship with my family hasn’t really changed a ton. All of my siblings are aware of everything that went on and they know I will happily answer any questions they have but it just doesn’t come up often. Which I am fine with to be honest. I think it’s a part of my life more than theirs and they all have their own families and lives to worry about.
With my birth moms family I think things will only continue to grow and develop for the best. It’s been almost 10 years since we met and there are still a lot of bridges to cross. I love them all dearly and look forward to seeing them whenever our busy lives intersect.
Looking back on your life so far and the uniqueness of your family, what does your future look like when you have your own children?
You know that’s something my wife and I have only just started discussing. There are a lot of complexities to it that I honestly think we will have to figure out when the time comes. Neither of us have been parents before obviously, and no matter what anyone tells you there is no proven method to handle something like this. Hannah and I will just have to pray about it and make the best decision for our family.
Most of you who know me or follow my blog realize that this birth son is my birth son. I wanted it to be the last interview I did in the series. I admit it was hard to take of “birth mom” hat and be an interviewer! Joshua’s words and feelings are so honest. It is one of many stories of adoption that has so many layers. It is never black and white. It isn’t “just a decision” – it is a lifelong journey. In my journey it has brought me much joy…joy that I always hoped and prayed for. Some journeys don’t always have a positive ending. Where there is joy for one, there is pain for another. It is a vicious cycle. I believe the more stories we hear on adoption, the more we educate ourselves on the many many layers it has to it. In the end, reunion is just more people to love a child.
Thank you Joshua for opening up and letting me interview you! You are a blessing in my life! Love you –
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!
Lee Michaels is a radio host on AM 980 The Mission out of the Twin Cities, he is also a husband, a brother, a father, a friend….and an adoptee. I have know Lee for a few years now and we often talk adoption since it is a commonality in our lives. I thought it was appropriate to post this blog today, November 21 – it is Lee’s birthday. Happy Birthday Lee!! Here is my interview with him.
Tell me about yourself – where you grew up – your home life – present day – etc. My name is Lee Michaels and grew up here in the Twin Cities and live here with my wife and daughter. I have been working in radio for over 30 years and love telling my adoption story!
How old were you when you first realized or were told you were adopted? What did it feel like. I knew from as early as I could remember. My brother and sisters were all adopted too. I can remember going to the ‘Store” to get my brother and went to the airport to pick up my sister when she came to us from Korea. I never felt anything but love and support from my family, so there was never any issue.
Growing up…did you ever feel like a part of you was missing? Or ever have feelings of not fitting in? Struggle with it? Not really. My family was very loving and supportive. My grandparents were thrilled and I never felt as if I did not fit in. We were definitely part of the family! I did have some questions about my birth parents but never felt as if they did not love or care about me. I feel they loved me enough to make sure I had a good life.
How and when did you decide to look into finding your birth family? Did something other than curiosity decide it? I did not think about it often growing up. I did make an inquiry when I turned 18 but the initial search turned up nothing and at that point I did not invest the money to search more. My parents had always said they would pay for any search but I just did not pursue it fully. After my daughter came along there was more interest and I also wanted to know about health history.
DNA kits are used so much present day for families to connect…what do you see as a pro and con of them as a way to find birth parents in an adoption? I used a DNA search, I had done one about a year ago but it really did not tell me anything but possible regions my family might have been from. I decided to try another DNA test to see if that had more success. I was excited to see what I would find out but thought the chance of connecting would be slim. The advantage is you can find a connection but it is possible that if you make a connection that a biological parent my not know (the father) or want to make a connection. I feel it would always be a positive thing to have the info.
I did get a connection through a DNA test and it turns out that a few years after my biological parents put my up for adoption they got married and just celebrated 50 years of marriage. I also have a full biological brother and sister. We have just begun the process of getting to know each other thru emails and picture and looking forward to meeting in person. We have taken is slow and enjoying getting to know them. I am sure more questions will be asked and answered but there is nor need to hurry though it.
Was adoption talked about openly in your family growing up? If so, what was said about it? My family was very open to it. We had family friends that had adopted too. I would talk about it if it came up and was always a positive experience. My parents would always share with us about the process, how much they loved us and were so grateful to get us.
What questions have you always wanted answered by your birth family? or your adoptive family? I can’t think of any burning questions. I have never been hung up on why they choose adoption because I believe they wanted what was best for me.
Does you adoptive parents know your interest in finding your birth parents, if so – how do they feel about it? My parents have always been very supportive and I wish my mom could have met my birth parents. She would have been very happy to share about my childhood. My dad would love to meet them and I hope that we can make that happen.
Today is your birthday! Does it feel different this year, now that you know your birth parents? This birthday will be a little more special. I did not always think about being adopted on my birthday but this year I am for sure! Really happy to for my birth parents as they now don’t have to wonder anymore. (me either!)
You can hear more from Lee on AM 980 The Mission Mondays-Fridays at 4pm! Here is a recent show he invited to be on as we talk about adoption and our adoption stories.
Thank you Alexis for letting me share your beautiful story with others. Being a birth mother and making an adoption plan for your baby is a hard thing to go through. I applaud you for your bravery and heart of love!
With all the people I know who have been touched by adoption, I am shocked by what people who don’t understand have to say. Maybe it is lack of education on adoption, curiosity or just stupidity. I honestly don’t know. Comments that are said, questions that are asked can hurt and open wounds that may have started healing.
I think of the emotional process that people on all sides of the triad (triad: birthmother, adoptive mother and adoptee) go through when it comes to adoption. It is not as simple as give and take. The birthmother doesn’t “give away” or “give up” a baby. For the generation of birthmothers in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and some 70’s they were not given the choice to choose adoption or raise their child. They were whisked away to a home for unwed mothers where they felt shame and embarrassment. Did they do something wrong? No, other girls were having sex but these gals got caught with a pregnancy. They were made to feel like they did something so horrible. These women were told they did not have a choice and this was the only way. They were told not to think about the baby, it will all be fine and to go on with your life. This door will shut forever.
Then there are the generations of women that did have a choice. They made the decision to place their child for adoption to better the child’s life. These women were unable to give their child a good home, life or support – could be due to young age, no income, no support or a trauma of some kind. No matter what the circumstance…the decision to place their child was done out of bettering that child’s life. Did the birth mom not love the child – no, they did. Did they make a decision without thought or pain – no. Do they place their child and forget – definitely no.
As for the child, they grow up knowing or not knowing they were adopted – depending on the times. They grow up in a loving home with parents – the only mom and dad they know. Sure there are circumstances that aren’t that “perfect” – but there is that in any type family. Adoptees grow up loving their family and respecting their family – like any other child does. The only difference is another woman carried them in their belly.
When an adoptee talks about adoption as a young child….they can get comments that are out of curiosity but they also are subjected to comments like this:
“Why did your mom hate you so much?”
“Why were you given away”?
“Do you know your REAL family?”
The birth mother never hated, decision was out of love.
You were never “given” away. It is not an old sweater you are taking to Goodwill, its a child that an adoption plan was made for.
Your real family is the family who cared for you, loved you, supported you. Your family can be friends, siblings and relatives. Family is not race specific…is not blood specific.
As adoptees grow up and go thru life, a part of them often wonder about where they originate from – maybe who they look like, where the bump in their nose comes from, what medical history do they not know about etc. It is natural to wonder. Wondering does not equal unhappiness or a question of loving their family. I am not an adoptee, but a birth mother and adoptive mother. I think it is normal to wonder about these things. I wonder about my relatives who have passed away. Adoptees want that missing piece of the puzzle. It isn’t disrespect for their adoptive family. It’s natural and normal. Some comments that adoptees searching hear are:
“Aren’t you content with your life?”
“Didn’t you have a good life?”
“Why are you disrespecting your parents (adoptive)?
“Why make trouble and stir up the past?”
Yes, you can have a content life and STILL want to know where you originate from.
You could have the best life ever with the best family ever….still, you want to know who you look like and where you come from.
I believe that adoptees deserve to know where they come from. It has nothing to really do with adoptive parents – it’s their right to know.
Finding out your past, heritage, medical history and have questions answered is not “stirring up the past” its wanting to find that missing puzzle piece.
I have also heard stories of adoptees that had distant relatives question wills and estates because the adoptee “Isn’t family by blood” – are you kidding me!?! A daughter is a daughter. A son is a son. A parent is a parent. Does not matter how it happened.
I look at my daughters who are adopted…they are every bit my children…my daughters…my family. Period. I can say the same for my birth son and his family.
My hope is that people educate one another – get rid of the myths, the stereotypes and the ignorance. A family is a family. As time goes on and people get more educated, my hope is that people will see what adoption really is about and the layers that come with it.
This is an interview with an adult adoptee, also a friend of mine. She has so many questions, feelings and thoughts that many adult adoptees have – especially when they have children of their own. Meet “Melissa”…..
Tell me about yourself…how you grew up, what your family is like etc.
At about 4 months of age, I was adopted into a home with one older sibling who was also adopted as an infant. Closed adoption. We were raised in a suburb of Minneapolis where we always had a dog, loved being outside and what I think, was a normal life – church, sports, Campfire Kids, music lessons, etc. Now I’m married with kids and repeating how I was raised!
When did you find out you were adopted? Or was it always talked about in your home?
As long as I can remember, I knew I was adopted. But it wasn’t talked about much at all. Still the era of ‘ashamed’ or ‘don’t want to be different’. So never conversations over the dinner table about it. Some of my friends I never told until high school and I bet some don’t even know now. I look a lot like both of my adoptive parents, so it never would have even been assumed that I was adopted. I blame ‘that era’ for not being discussed. I look back and I’m glad it wasn’t – I think it really would have worried me more as a teenage girl.
Growing up, did you ever feel like something was missing? I always wonder that about adoptees…
As with most adoptees – there was something missing, but I could never quite put my finger on it as a kid. Toward my late teens is when I started to imagine -Do I look like my mom? Where did I get my musical talent from? Did my dad pass along this bump in my nose? And then I started to ask a couple questions. But not many as I knew it would hurt my moms’ feelings. But just enough to put a story in my head and have satisfaction so I didn’t worry. “They were too young and just couldn’t keep you”. Adoptees in a closed adoption have this great option to make up a story about their birth parents/birth story. Be it good or bad, I think that is what is missing. How I came to be. At least during this stage of my life. Now that I’m married and have my own kids, I can see so many other scenarios as to WHY I was put up for adoption, but until recently, I never changed that story in my head.
How old were you when you started feeling curious and want to search for your birth parents?
After I married in my early 20s, we thought about having kids and conceiving wasn’t happening as quickly as we had hoped. After many medical tests, my husband and I had a heart to heart and that is when I realized I needed my own blood children. If I couldn’t have kids on my own, we would just have dogs. I realized that since I didn’t have all the answers (regarding ancestry, etc.), but I wanted my kids to have them all. Life is hard as a kid and I didn’t want that burden added onto them. That was also about the same time my dad gave me my adoption paperwork. He said, ‘since getting pregnant isn’t coming easy, we think you should have this’. I set it aside. I knew I needed a day to myself to go thru everything and process it. I had a day off work and I sat on our patio and read it word for word. My parents were right – it stated my birth parents were young and just wanted a better life for me. But one thing stuck out in my mind in the paperwork. Birth mother was going to school for Child Care. STAB ME IN THE HEART. She obviously enjoyed children but couldn’t bear to keep me. WHY? But the stories in my head were confirmed.
Tell me about your search and what steps you took. (agency vs. DNA etc.)
After having our own children with medical intervention, life got busy. I was able to dive in head first to be a FT mom and make this the best life for them possible. AWESOME! But then it hit me like a brick wall. I needed answers. I had lost my dad, have a great relationship with my mom, but that missing factor cranked up after looking at my kids. Why? Because I knew my kids were OK, but my birth parents didn’t know that I was OK. I was able to put myself in my birth mother’s situation now, but I was imagining the hole in her heart of NOT knowing if I was OK. So, after doing some research and inquiring with different agencies, I sent a letter to the Dept of Health & Human services to request my original birth certificate & find out what adoption agency handled my adoption so I could pursue a search for my birth mother. After a year of waiting and numerous phone calls & emails, I finally got the agency name and was able to proceed with a search. During this time, I started to attend a support group of birth mothers and adoptees and it helped me TREMENDOUSLY. I read books and listened to all sides of the story. There was a reason the state took so long – it was so I could meet all these wonderful people and be informed of all sides of the situation before I just jumped back into my birth mother’s life and maybe turn it upside down. Also during this time, I did DNA tests mainly to get some family health history – I am very concerned about Breast Cancer and one of the DNA testing sites checks for those markers. When those results came back was about the same time that the adoption agency got in touch with me to start the search for my birth mom. Within 2 weeks of each other, I had health results in my hand and a letter off to the adoption agency – now waiting for a phone call. But when it came, it wasn’t what I had hoped for. I wanted the perfect happy scenario that we all dream of. But that didn’t happen. “I’ve made contact with your birthmother, but I’m sorry, she isn’t open to having contact with you at this time. “I gave her up all those years ago to have a better life than I could provide for her – I have no desire for contact” ”. STAB ME IN THE HEART, AGAIN….I took a day or two to process it and then remembered the shock that some of my support group members felt, and I just keep telling myself ‘Maybe once she processes this, she might be open to receiving my letter’. But then it hit me – what about bio-dad. So I called the agency back and they said no father listed in the paperwork. My paperwork had nothing listed either. And the first DNA test had no paternal matches. SHIT – I bet he doesn’t even know that I exist. So, I did a different company’s DNA test and that started the ball rolling on my paternal side – but that isn’t an easy task either. It is literally like a needle in a haystack that is as tall as a barn. Many hours combing thru public records and obituaries. And then I hit a road block. Stop searching or send a letter to one of 25 men in a family of 54 cousins and hope and pray they are willing to help. So I did it. Hoping to not send a family into an uproar, I carefully wrote out a letter seeking help. And wouldn’t you know – he called. He wasn’t ‘my dad’ and we still aren’t 100% sure who is, but he was willing to help! So another letter was sent to one of his cousins, another phone call received and now I wait. Wait for him to accept that this could be a possibility. Wait for him to spit in a tube. I’ve waited 40 years – and I’ll wait as long as I need to. I know that he needs to be ready for this too.
Do your parents (adoptive) know you are curious and searching? If so – how do they feel? Does that affect your feelings with the search?
Only my husband and some close friends are aware of my search. I feel like I’m lying to my family – my kids included – but I’m using the analogy of ‘need to know’. As of right now, I know NOTHING. If someone doesn’t NEED TO KNOW, I won’t ante up the information. It is a hard situation to explain to non-adoptees so it isn’t info that I make readily available. I do enjoy being able to talk with the support group about it and hear other stories. It puts me at ease and also horrifies me. Some reunions are great, some tear families apart – both sides of the family. If I’m a secret to some woman out there, then I’ll stay a secret if it keeps her life normal. Does any of this affect the feelings with the search – not really. I have come to the realization that I need this for ME and my closure with the situation.
In your search, what are you hoping for? Reunion? Medical? Questions answered?
I think any adoptee would say ‘I’ll take anything I can get’. So many years without any answers, anything would help fill that missing piece. My main purpose is to let my birth parents know that I’m OK as I think if I was in their situation, I would want to know. BUT, would I be opposed to a reunion – Nope. Would I be opposed to Medical History – Nope. Would I want another Christmas celebration shoved into 1 week of December -NOPE, but I would do it if they wanted it 😉 A wise friend once told me ‘Relationships are like dimmer switches – they aren’t all or nothing, adjust it as needed’. Currently I’m in the dark, but any light on the situation would be fantastic!
What kind of support have you had during this time of searching? (spouse, family, friends etc.)
My husband and close friends that know have all been fantastic. I bounce things off them and ask for honest opinions. Some pull me back down into reality and some say, ‘I don’t know why you need to do this, but I support you doing it if you have to”. The support group I attend has been fantastic too. To just be able to see the situation from the other side is HUGE! One quote from a book states “It was the first time I had met people who could understand exactly what I was feeling even though I wasn’t always able to express myself”. I know I can take any one of their scenarios and slide right into it and adjust how I would react as an adoptee. To just KNOW that my birth mom MIGHT think of me one day a year puts a smile on my face. To know that there are other people out there with these same feelings and emotions is PRICELESS!
What advice do you have for adult adoptees searching?
Read books & find a support group if you even remotely have the urge to search! Many MANY books out there to read – all have different viewpoints, but there is not one book that I haven’t taken something away from! Support groups are fantastic. But most of all – Be Patient. Be patient with yourself and with all sides of the situation.