how adopted children feel


I have written about being adopted before. It’s not a secret thing. I have always known I was adopted and have always been forthcoming about it. It was neither good nor bad. It just was a fact. Like being ginger or near-sighted.

My feelings about my birth parents have waxed and waned since childhood. I was always curious, but as there was no way for me to satisfy my curiosity or find answers to my questions, I tempered my comments with some version of  “it doesn’t really matter cuz I don’t want to know them anyway”. Not strange really. When you know that rejection is a likely outcome, you are not going to set yourself up for it.

Last summer, my brother took one of those DNA tests at the insistence of his children. They were wildly curious about his birth family and wanted to know where he came from. I am not sure he did, but he can’t deny those girls anything, so he took the test and nearly instantly found a half-sister and a dad of sketchy repute.

After that my daughter, who has been curious about my background since she was quite young, thought a DNA test would be a good thing for me to look into as well. But, I didn’t do anything until the fall after my godmother died. Losing her left a hole and I guess finding my birth mother seemed like a logical way to fill it. Never-mind that this was expecting someone, who gave me away and never came looking for me in half a century, power she didn’t have and probably didn’t want. But grief isn’t very logical, and it isn’t like I haven’t looked for her before – because I have on and off for a couple of decades.

DNA tests themselves are interesting. They require a surprising amount of spit. They also don’t take as long as you would think. Less than six weeks from spitting to “here’s your ethnicity and a shit tonne of people you share DNA with!”

It upended a few things I had been told about myself. I am not, for instances, Swedish. Like at all.

I am, however, a very English though not so much Irish. More Norwegian than I would have ever expected and surprisingly, a tiny bit Icelandic, which is frankly kinda cool.

I had only 4 close matches though. No parents. No siblings.

Two of my matches were first cousins and one of them responded to my query. With her help, I found my birth mother in about two days. Well, my cousin’s help and my mom’s “help”.

I qualify the help part because I discovered in all of this searching for bio-mom thing that my parents had known her name all along. I could have found her years and years ago. They just chose not to tell me the truth when I asked them for information.

Oh, they let things slip here and there, and maybe had I been more observant and less ambivalent, I would have noticed.

The Nancy Drew stuff is a story for another day, but the short version is I found my mother, but unfortunately, she is dead. She died unexpectedly in 2014. Her husband died in 2018 though I have no idea if he ever knew about me. But I know my half-brother didn’t know about me. He told me so in an email. It was polite and basic info informative enough, but I really don’t expect to hear from him again. Disappointing, but family often is. Low expectations are best because those are the ones that will met much more often than not.

There are other relatives. A few cousins seem determined to establishing legit connections. I think that’s going well. I am – as I told my sister when we discussed it – sometimes too much myself for people. It can be off-putting. She didn’t say anything because what can one say to such self-awareness? And also, she agrees with my assessment of me. Sometimes I am a bit much.

Legit connections, however, are what I want. I am not a curiosity. As an adoptee, I have had my fill of my needs being ignored in the whole adoption thing. In my opinion, cats and dogs from rescue shelters have their feelings and well-being better looked after than human babies, who are treated as commodities in contracts between adults who are much more keen on their own issues and needs than the thoughts and opinions of a baby, who will one day be an adult with questions, needs, and opinions of their own.

The most satisfying part of the finding my mother’s family thus far is finding people I resemble. In some cases very strongly. I don’t think anyone can know what it feels like to not look like anyone you know unless you’ve been forced to exist in a community that is physically completely unlike you.

I grew up thinking everything about myself was wrong. Freakish. My hair. My height. My weight. I was made to feel, sometimes inadvertently but often purposely, that I was ugly and doing it on purpose to embarrass or annoy people.

Seeing pictures of my mother, who was beautiful, and being told I look so much like her was something I needed to hear growing up and never did. I am not sure I can forgive people for denying me the right to know I was perfectly normal. That includes all of my parents really. And everyone else who knew I was out there somewhere and never thought to come looking for me.

And that’s the “what hurts” part of this. Aside from my half-brother, almost everyone in my mother’s family knew about me. There is a younger cousin, who wanted to find me but didn’t have much to go on, but it’s a bit hard for me to be okay with having grown up and living most of my life within an hour or two of my mom’s family, and no one ever looked for me.

She didn’t look for me. She didn’t tell my brother about me. That’s nearly as big a betrayal as parents not telling me her name in the first place.

I don’t buy that they did this for my good. Because they didn’t. They did what they did for themselves. They never once considered me. How I would feel. How I did feel. How I feel still. They were selfish and short-sighted.

I’ve told people that my dad is lucky he died a decade ago because I would have ripped him a new one for burning my adoption info and lying to me all my life. But if I’d have found a live birth mom, less than an hour away from where I grew up? I don’t think I would have been too forgiving of her not seeking me out or at the very least, telling my brother about me. That she didn’t do that makes me feel dark and dirty. Maybe not her intention, but certainly something she should have thought about when she was pondering my birthday every year – as I am told she did.

So now, I have a “real” family tree now to go along with the one my dad and mom created for me via stories and pictures of their extended family. I am not finding either very satisfying right now.

Cans of worms, right? There’s a reason why Pandora was told not to open the box. I am not sorry though. I have some (not enough) medical information which has helped me enormously, so totally worth it from that standpoint. But, I have no closure. My mother is dead. Her son and brother are polite but not interested in helping me. No one seems to have clue one about my birth father (who ran away when he learned about my existence so my feelings are “fuck him” for the moment. I don’t have a use for such a coward). And that’s that.

For now.

It’s an evolutionary process. Bit by bit things are pieced together in a puzzle I never thought I’d be able to complete. That’s something anyway.


Oocyte viewed with HMC

Image via Wikipedia

Rob calls me “literal girl” because sometime nuance escapes me. I have often wondered if there had been an Autism spectrum when I was a child if I would have been slotted somewhere along it.

I make assumptions about the virtual people I know based on what they post and where they post it. If we are Facebook acquaintances, and your feed is a healthy mix of the personal and self-promotion, I figure that no question is purely rhetorical even at the crossroads of religion and politics.

Apparently, I am wrong about this. One can shamelessly promote causes and career and still feel that status rants are sacrosanct.

A blogging acquaintance roared a bit about the recent abortion scuffle during the almost shutdown of the U.S. government, which I personally feel has little to do with “life” and everything to do with stripping women of the few rights we still possess, and basically called out those of us who believe that women’s healthcare should number abortion among its many faces.

Why not just admit that abortion is about killing children, she asked. I would respect you more if you would simply own that fact.

I thought about it. And responded.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have. The cheering section that followed her bluster was a clear indication that only those who believed as she did would be actually respected, but I responded.

Why? Because she asked for responses and because she’s wrong. Her position, grounded in motherhood and Christianity, presumes that those who support the ability to choose to abort a pregnancy think the fetus is a child or that life begins at conception or that the unborn have rights that supersede the woman’s before they are viable.

“You know it’s murder,” she responded.

But it’s not, in my opinion.

I don’t believe in any of that Christian nonsense.

Life doesn’t begin at conception. Existence does. And just existing doesn’t mean much. My late husband existed for months in a spastic body with a brain scoured clean of dura matter, taking in nothing, processing nothing and responding to nothing. That’s not life. The embryos left over from our 2nd IVF existed in cryo-storage for over three years before I gave permission for them to be discarded. Frozen potential but also not life.

I know the difference between life and existence. That’s the quibble and we are nowhere near ready to admit it or deal with it as a society.

But I also don’t think life is sacred. We are born and ,if the stars align properly, we live, happily or not so much, depending on a lot of circumstances of which a goodly number are not ours to control, and then we die. That which is me – truly me – continues on. Maybe my self is born again or maybe there is another plane of existence. I don’t know. But this one life, while I like it very much, is just a blip on a vast canvas and given what I have seen, read, watched and experienced in my short life, I have yet to be convinced that anything about physical life as we know it is all that special. We certainly don’t treat it as such on the whole if one excludes the moaning over potential life, which seems to attract far more interest than the real live children who suffer within walking distance of almost all of us every single day.

But the bottom line is that someone else’s religious beliefs shouldn’t carry more weight in the eyes of the law than my own where my internal works are concerned and forcing a woman to give birth (or to risk pregnancy because you don’t believe contraception is moral either) is wrong. Woman are more than potential incubators, which is what the pro-life movement reduces them to – slutty incubators with the maternal instincts of magpies. (And just as an aside, since when does using your vagina for sexual purposes automatically translate into allowing the government jurisdiction over anything that results?*)

And I said so. But that wasn’t, actually, where I messed up even though – according to someone who responded later – I was rude to have replied at all.

No, what I did was tread unwisely into the “why don’t women who don’t want their babies simply give them up for adoption because there are a lot of us out here who can’t have kids who could benefit from this.”

The unspoken companion fairy story spins off into the “win-win” weeds of how everyone gets what they want and a poor unwanted baby is loved and cherished.

I really hate it when it’s assumed that I was unwanted or that my birth mother was little more than a brood mare.

Being adopted, however, I take all sorts of issue with the idea that adoption is a panacea without consequences. There are oodles of studies supporting the fact that even newborns know their birth mothers, and how can anyone think that an infant separated from its mother and carted off by strangers doesn’t know it or that marks aren’t left as a result?

There is also the tip-toed about problem that, at its heart, adoption is a legal transaction that comes uncomfortably close to buying and selling a tiny human being, who will someday be an adult that the law still regards as a child where the adoption is concerned.

And finally, almost no one goes into adoption as a first choice. Unless you are Angelina Jolie, maybe, you likely adopted as a back up plan when biology failed you. There is nothing about this that makes you a bad person, but the disingenuous way many adoptive parents approach this obvious truth is insulting to adopted children. We know the truth. We only think less of you when you won’t admit it.

I am not a puppy. Here are my papers, bundle me up and take me home. Woof.

My birth mother was seventeen, Catholic and it was 1963. She had no choice but to put me up for adoption.

My parents were infertile. If they wanted a family, they had no choice but to adopt.

Kudos to my parents for never pretending I wasn’t adopted or that the reason for it wasn’t the fact that they couldn’t have biological children. It never mattered to me. I knew nothing else. I was torqued, however, when I found out as an adult that not only was I not entitled to contact my birth parents for a health history, but that my dad had torched all the papers the agency had given them that might have helped me find out the information I am entitled to.

Dad took that tongue-lashing with an uncharacteristic meekness, I might add.

What was annoying about the responses I received on my take on adoption (one I think I earn by being an adoptee and therefore knowing something of what I speak) is the consensus that I was “wrong” and “need help”.

Seriously?

Really?

“Aren’t you glad that your mother cared enough to give birth to you? Wouldn’t you just hate it had you been aborted?”

What kind of backward logic is that?

Being a fetus, or even an infant, is not something I can recall, so if I had been aborted, how could I possibly know or care about it?

And if I had been and being born was important to me, wouldn’t I have simply been born to someone else? Or what if simply being conceived was all I had to do to complete what assignment this go around had me down for? What if my only task had been to blink into existence and then cease to be in a cellular form. providing my birth mother with the opportunity to have an abortion, which was part of her life’s lesson plan?

Of course, I had a more active curriculum to complete and to help others with this time. Being adopted was part of that though I still feel it is just a slightly harder to justify form of the whole ownership thing we pretend doesn’t exist where our children are concerned anyway.

It’s too bad, I suppose, that abortions have to occur. They are no picnic for the women getting them either, and it’s incorrect to assume why women have abortions by stereotyping them in the same category as those who take established lives.  But life is hard. Choices can be hard, and abortion is one of the hardest and making it harder, or impossible, might make you feel like a good person but it doesn’t solve the issues that bring women to choose it now, does it?

*Ah ha, I hear the righteous squeal, then why do my tax dollars have to pay for STD and PG checks via Planned Parenthood? If you want privacy, take care of your own damn health. To which I reply, good point. And let’s add getting old to that because my tax dollars shouldn’t have to replace a knee or hip you didn’t take care of when you were young because you were too lazy to exercise, right? Or that heart by-pass or the diabetes you developed eating nothing but processed food. Or the cancer you have because you couldn’t suck it up for the hot flashes and took hormones for too long.

And while we are at it, shouldn’t you have to fund your own retirement? It’s not my problem you thought your house was an ATM or that your children need five star summer vacations, is it?

There are a lot of things that tax dollars cover. Bank bailouts. Sketchy military actions. Corporate welfare. The list of waste is long and shifts depending on your politics, faith system and socio-economic status.

Lighten up.


My trip to Dubuque inspired a soul-search about being adopted. Read it here.

And I’ve got a couple of good pieces about education – unions and tenure – over at Care2, which no one will read. They are more interested in posts about lesbian students being bullied about prom attendance and whether it is okay to bully bullies back than they are in the fact that the very foundation of public education in their country is being artfully chipped away by the Obama administration. Seriously, if this guy gets two terms, the great divide between the upper classes and everybody else will be defined by a Grand Canyon chasm that would make Dick Cheney proud. But oh well.

Yoga. Yoga. Yoga. And maybe scones. Then I will call it an afternoon.