Unintended Consequences

We do not always see down the road of our life’s journey far enough to know where our decisions will leave us.  When I left my daughter temporarily with her paternal grandmother, I did not intend for her to be raised by her father and step-mother and to never live with me permanently again.  When my maternal grandmother sought temporary care for my mom at Porter-Leath Orphanage she did not intend to fall into Georgia Tann’s trap and lose my mom.

At first, it was a joy to discover who my original grandparents were.  Both of my parents were adoptees and they each died knowing next to nothing (just a few names) about their origins.  Because of the Georgia Tann scandal, Tennessee turned my mom’s adoption file over to me in October 2017.  Suddenly, doors opened for me all the way down both lines and within a year, I knew who all 4 of my original grandparents were and for the first time in over 60 years of living, not only felt whole but had real genetic relations.

What I was not prepared for was how that would ultimately make me feel.  How do I feel now ?  Like a total outsider.  The people I grew up with are not related to me.  Oh I am glad my parents were treated well.  It may be that their lives were easier for having been adopted.  I loved my grandparents through adoption very much and deeply appreciated aunts, uncle and cousins.  Yet, learning the truth of my origins has unexpectedly diminished all of them for me.

I am full of joy for the genetic relations I have uncovered and they have helped me know my original grandparents’ lives better than I would have otherwise.  I do feel an honest connection to each of them.  However, I have no life experience with these people.  That leaves me feeling again like an outsider.  They are all very kind and welcoming but knowing me is not really a priority in their own lives.  I understand.  I go slowly and attempt to build relationships over time through the sharing of some experiences.  It is so late in life for me that it won’t be huge but it is something.

This is what adoption does to us.  It shatters our families and I had no idea when I embarked on this new journey that I would feel today the way I do.


Absentee Motherhood

I understand how it feels for a mother to live each day without their child.  Though I never legally relinquished custody of my daughter, financial pressures forced me to look for another way to support us.  I understand how my maternal grandmother felt when she was desperately seeking a way to support herself and my mom and how her best efforts failed in the end.

It is interesting how familial patterns can pass down through the generations.  In my case, I took a leap of faith that I could drive an 18-wheel truck.  I didn’t know whether or not I would succeed and so, took my daughter to her paternal grandmother for care.  Though the court granted me custody in the uncontested divorce from her father, he also refused to pay me any child support.  I was not about to spend my life in court fighting him for it and so, I looked for another way.

What I thought was temporary, just as my grandmother had thought she was only leaving my mom temporarily, turned out to be permanent for both of us.  My grandmother lost my mom due to pressures from Georgia Tann to surrender her.  Miss Tann had a repeat, paying customer who was growing impatient to have her specifications for a baby sister fulfilled.

In my case, I was able to drive that 18-wheel truck.  My ex-husband remarried a woman with a child and together they had another child, a yours-mine-and-ours family.  So that when my time on the road ended, it made no sense to take my daughter from a family life as I would have still been a struggling single mom.  Fortunately, my daughter and I remain close at heart, though not long ago she admitted to me there were times that being separated were not happy ones for her.

In the mid-1970s, there were no role models for absentee mothers.  I have resolved some of my difficult feelings of having failed my daughter but not all of them.  At least, I was able to have sporadic contact with her growing up and continue to have a relationship with her in adulthood.  Mothers who have lost their children to adoption do not always have as good of an outcome.  Even so, I have empathy for the difficult decisions each of them had to make.