According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 53,500 children were adopted in the United States in 2015, so the fact that I am adopted is nothing special.
Feelings about being adopted vary among adoptees. Some want to know the details, some don’t. For some knowing is enough, for others it is not. Some meet their birth families, some don’t. Some had open adoptions, others were closed.
Me, I needed to know about my birth family. I had the fantasy.
My parents (adopted) told me I was adopted when I was six or seven years old. At the time, I was too young to really understand what that meant or how it would later affect my life. As I got older, I began to question my identity. I would look at myself in the mirror and wonder who I was. Who did I look like? Did I have siblings? Would they like me? Would they accept me?
North Carolina, has closed adoptions. The Department of Vital Statistics will provide “non-identifying” information to an adoptee for a nominal fee. I requested this information and was provided limited physical traits of my birth parents and generic family histories. For me, this information was a start, but not enough. I needed more and I was willing to pay for it.
I hired a company that had a reputation for “gathering” information for adoptees whose records were sealed. Thirty-five hundred dollars later, I got half of the information I wanted.
They were able to get information on my birth mother’s family, but not my birth father. I found that strange, and still do, since NC had sent me his non-identifying information. Nonetheless, I had NAMES and ADDRESSES of my birth mother’s side of the family. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I discovered I had a half-sister.
Now that I had the information, I struggled with what to do with it. Eventually I decided to contact my birth-mother. I will freely admit the way I went about that contact was probably wrong on my levels. I called her. I began by telling her she hadn’t seen me since December 20, 1963 and that this may be a shock, but I was her daughter, the one she’d given up for adoption. She hung up on me and I was devastated. I felt as if I’d been kicked in the stomach. So much for the fantasy.
I then decided to focus on my half-sister and a cousin. Both had a Facebook page, so I messaged them both. My cousin immediately replied and was thrilled. She called and we immediately clicked. We discovered we had quite a bit in common and actually looked somewhat alike. We still talk, but have yet to meet, I’m looking forward to day we do.
As for my sister, that was a bit more difficult. When you’ve never met someone and you’re trying to relate some rather shocking news, difficult doesn’t begin to describe the situation. I sent her numerous messages before she finally came to the realization that I wasn’t a stalker or complete lunatic. I suppose I’d provided enough information regarding the “family” that she had to take me at my word. She messaged back and then called.
Again, like with my cousin, we discovered we had a great deal in common. We talked a few more times on the phone and messaged one another several times. Eventually, we decided to meet. To say I was terrified would be an understatement. We finally met for dinner and talked for several hours. One of her daughters came to the restaurant where we’d decided to meet, but I wasn’t introduced. In a way I understood, but at the same time, I had that sinking feeling of rejection. That meeting was the only one we’ve had and I still don’t know if her children know about their aunt.
Back to my birth-mother. She did eventually call me back and apologized for her reaction to my first call. I too apologized for handling it the way I did. I could however, tell from the tone of her voice, she wasn’t exactly thrilled that I’d found her. At the time of my birth in the 60s, being an unmarried pregnant woman in the deep south was something to be ashamed of, and to be kept hidden. I’m unsure of when, but at some point during her pregnancy, she moved to North Carolina to live with her sister until I was born. Coincidentally, this sister is the mother of the cousin with whom I have a relationship.
During one of the few phone calls we had, she told me she didn’t want my half-sister to know about me, not yet anyway. She wanted to be the one to tell her. I told her we’d already made contact. To say she wasn’t happy about it is an understatement. My half-sister did tell me they’d eventually talked. We both came to the conclusion, that our mother was not being completely honest with us. Perhaps she’d been telling herself the same story for so long, she actually began to believe it as truth.
I’ve tried to stay somewhat in contact with my birth-mother. I’ve responded to her request for pictures of me growing up, but after several years, haven’t received any response from her. Again, the fantasy is quashed.
I have a friend who is also adopted and recently made contact with her birth family. She got the fantasy, a family who has accepted and welcomed her back into their family. I’m extremely happy for her, but to say I’m not jealous would be a lie.
I haven’t given up on finding my birth-father, and am hoping for a more receptive outcome than that one with my birth-mother’s family. To be fair, I haven’t attempted to contact any of the aunts and uncles who were revealed in my search. Perhaps today is the day to attempt that contact.
Recently, as in yesterday, I did the Ancestry DNA test. I’m hoping the results will, at the very least give, me a sense of self. That’s been my problem all along. I felt as if I didn’t belong anywhere. I was jealous of people who knew about their heritage when I didn’t.
Some people won’t understand why this is important to me. Some adoptees won’t understand. I’m sure my adoptive relatives won’t understand. Perhaps they’ll think I’m ungrateful for the opportunities afforded to me by my adoptive family. But it’s not that, this is LITERALLY about me. Is that selfish? It could be.
By no means do I want to hurt any of my birth-family nor adoptive family members, but I want, no NEED, to know about my heritage. There are laws that protect the identify of those who give children up for adoption, preventing adoptees from finding out about their biological parents. For me, that is wrong and that is why I spent $3,500 for half of my family tree.
When a child is given up for adoption, that’s a conscious choice by the parent or parents. With choices come consequences. One of those consequences is a child who someday may come looking for you.