Recognize Your Worth

Many adoptees don’t even realize that they are carrying unhealed trauma with them throughout their lives. Because for infants who were adopted, this trauma occurred during a per-verbal stage of their lives, they lacked words to describe what their emotions were saying to them. Both of my parents were adopted when they were less than one year old. My mom was adopted after having been placed temporarily in Porter Leath orphanage as my desperate maternal grandmother tried mightily to find a way to support the two of them with Georgia Tann circling them like a vulture. My dad was adopted after the Salvation Army coerced my paternal grandmother into relinquishing him. So both of my parents were carrying unhealed trauma throughout their lives.

The various ways people anesthetize themselves . . . is a wail from the deep. I once listened to Marianne Williamson’s A Course in Weight Loss on cd. I gained a lot of insight into my own compulsive eating experiences listening to her. I see how clothing our bodies in excess weight is a protective device. Both of my parents were more or less overweight their entire lives. I am told that my father was still breastfeeding with his original mother when he was taken for adoption. My mother struggled with her body image due to an adoptive mother who was obsessed by eating and weight issues. I have one memorable experience of that with my adoptive grandmother when she took me to England and embarrassed me dining at The Dorchester in London when I reached for a warm dinner role. I didn’t talk to her for almost 24 hours but gave it up in favor of not ruining our whole experience there together.

Your Blogger at The Dorchester

My mom was passive and secretive about eating. Some of that behavior certainly filtered down to me. My dad struggled with some drunken experiences, one that I didn’t even learn about until after he died, when my sister and I found a letter from him about spending a night in jail for DWI and praying not to lose his job and family over it. But after he was “saved”, he didn’t stop drinking – though he was never a violent alcoholic – and able to work even double shifts and nights at an oil refinery.

Joel Chambers writes about The Lifelong Challenges of Adoptees at the LINK> Search Angels website – Adoptees face more traumas, and more challenges, than many other people, and it affects their lives in ways that we are just beginning to understand. He has also written a post, speaking at great length about how addiction, in all of its various forms, is all too common among adoptees. These have experiences such as grief and loss, self-esteem and identity issues, substance abuse and addiction, mental health, and challenges to the types of relationships that they can form with their adoptive families. Adoptees also deal with feelings of grief, separation, and loss for their biological parents and birth families, even if they never knew them. 

A healing I didn’t even know I needed started in the Autumn of 2017, when I began learning what my parents never knew – who my original grandparents were. Then, it was only natural that I really begin learning about this thing called adoption. My daughter once said to me – “it seems like you are on a mission.” True, guilty as charged.

Are We Entering A New Baby Scoop Era ?

Before the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, >LINK Time magazine carried an article – What History Teaches Us About Women Forced to Carry Unwanted Pregnancies to Term by Kelly O’Connor McNees on Sept 30 2021. She is the author of The Myth of Surrender about two young women in a maternity home back in 1961.

Her article was motivated by Texas’ severe abortion law back in 2021. Reproductive rights advocates are justifiably concerned about a potential increase in unsafe abortions and adoption activists are right to be concerned about more adoptions taking place that will leave more people dealing with the trauma of separation from their original mother.

The image of coat hangers may seem obsolete in an era where medication abortions can be safely self-managed at home, but we also know that there will be some women who lack access to health care. They will resort to desperate measures to avoid the physical, psychological, emotional, social and economic trauma of being forced to complete their pregnancy and give birth against their wishes.

We have been here before. In the decades from 1945 to 1973, now known as the “Baby Scoop” era, more than 1.5 million pregnant girls and women in the US were sent away to maternity homes to surrender children in secret. In realizing that my adoptee mom conceived me out of wedlock in 1953, it has become to my own heart a minor miracle that she did not get sent away to have and give me up for adoption. I will always believe I have my dad’s adoptive parents to be grateful to for encouraging him to do the right thing when he had only just started at a university in another nearby town. This is why I was born in Las Cruces NM but I am happy to claim I am a native of that state.

It was believed back then that both the child and the birth mother would be better off. It would be a win-win scenario: the baby would be saved from the stigma and shame of illegitimacy, and the birth mother could put the unpleasant chapter behind her and make a fresh start. Meanwhile, the young men who shared equal responsibility for the pregnancies typically carried on with their lives unfettered by social stigma.

Birth mothers sent to these homes received little to no counseling on what to expect from labor and delivery, and were not advised of their legal rights once the child was born. They endured psychological abuse from nuns and nurses, and gave birth alone in sometimes terrible conditions. This is the scenario I imagined my paternal grandmother endured at a Salvation Army Home for Unwed Mothers when she gave birth to my dad. Many women still foggy from the effects of anesthesia following a birth under “twilight” sleep were coerced into signing papers terminating their parental rights. That was a tactic employed by Georgia Tann during her baby stealing days up until her death in September of 1950. Those who wanted to keep their babies were threatened with financial penalties, since many homes only covered the cost of prenatal care and room and board if the child was surrendered. Some women who refused to give up their babies were committed to mental institutions.

The promise that birth mothers would surrender their babies and “move on” turned out to be a lie. They did not go back to normal; they did not forget. Many were haunted for the rest of their lives by the uncertainty of their child’s fate and were prevented by strict adoption statutes from acquiring any information that might ease their minds. My maternal grandmother, exploited by Georgia Tann, reverted from her married name of Elizabeth to Lizzie Lou, the name on my mom’s original birth certificate, and even has that name put on her grave stone, when she died many years later. She never had another baby after my mom.

Unplanned pregnancies create a complex constellation of decisions that resist a tidy narrative. Sometimes they are the result of love, sometimes casual sex and sometimes rape. That was true in 1945, in 1965, and it’s true today. Given a different set of circumstances—access to legal abortion and open, non-coercive adoptions—the women caught up in the Baby Scoop era might have chosen to terminate their pregnancies, carry their pregnancies to term and make a plan for adoption, or keep and raise their children, and they would have made these decisions for all kinds of individual and personal reasons. In that more humane version of midcentury America, the decisions would have been theirs alone.

Women with unwanted pregnancies are no longer physically warehoused, but many of them are still trapped by what happens when they lose the freedom to choose whether or not to give birth. The overturning of Roe v Wade, and the rush in almost half these United States to totally ban any access to abortion regardless of the circumstances that caused the pregnancy, now guarantee that more women will face the same formidable future that women were facing back in the Baby Scoop Era.

Conflict of Interest ?

I got seriously triggered with my husband yesterday. I need to work through my thoughts and I’m sure this is going to prove a lengthy process of contemplation.

Some background –

Both of my parents were given up for adoption in the 1930s. Their circumstances were somewhat different and somewhat similar. My mom’s genetic biological parents were married but at 4 mos pregnant after 4 mos of marriage for reasons I’ll never really have reliable answers to (but a few theories given what I have learned), her husband left her. He didn’t divorce her for 3 years, so there is that as well. With no husband in sight, she was sent to Virginia from Memphis TN to give birth and I would assume expected to leave the baby there but she did not. Instead, after her return to Memphis with my infant mom in tow, she became a victim of Georgia Tann.

My dad’s mom was unwed. She had an affair with a much older married man. Then, she went to a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers to give birth. After about 2 or 3 months, she was released with my dad still in her custody. It appears my dad’s father never even knew he existed. When my grandmother found no support for her and the baby with her cousin, she returned to the Salvation Army seeking employment and was transferred with my dad still in tow to one of their homes in El Paso Texas.

My mom’s adoptive parents relocated to El Paso Texas and in high school, my adoptee mom met my adoptee dad. Probably during the summer after my dad’s graduation from high school before entering a university my parents had sex and my teenage mom discovered by Autumn that she was pregnant. My dad’s adoptive parents supported him marrying her and quitting his hopes of a university degree to go to work and support his new family. I’m pretty certain my mom’s adoptive parents, had they had a chance, would have sent her off to have and give me up. Thankfully that didn’t happen to me.

So the truth I cannot deny is that had my parents NOT been adopted and had they both not ended up in El Paso TX and attended the same high school where they met at a party through mutual friends, I would not exist at all. I owe my very existence in this life to ~gasp~ adoption. I think I once described this situation as imperfectly perfect.

Until about 5 years ago, when I was able to uncover the identities of all 4 of my original grandparents (something that both of my parents died still not knowing), I thought adoption was the most natural thing in the world and that my parents were orphans. I had no idea there were people I was actually genetically biologically related to living out lives as unaware of me as I was of them. I knew nothing about the mental and emotional impacts of the trauma of my parents being separated from their mothers may have caused. I’ve learned a LOT about that since then – as this blog very frequently shares. To be honest, I now would prefer to see vulnerable women supported, so that they could raise their own babies.

So what is my conflict of interest ? My husband’s desire that my writing add some revenue to our family. Of course, I would love for that to happen as well. I have developed a negative attitude toward Christian Evangelical saviorism as it applies to adoption. My husband wants me to make my next book oriented towards Evangelical Christians (I have just finish a revision of my parents’ adoption stories for the 3rd time and will go about trying to obtain a literary agent for that work).

What !?! I accused him of asking me to betray my values for monetary reasons. He spoke of “witnessing.” That stayed with me all afternoon. I reflected on the kind of people my adoptive grandparents were. 3 of the 4 were religious. My dad’s were fundamentalist in the extreme. When one church wasn’t as strictly interpreted per the bible as they wanted, they changed churches to a stricter one. My mom’s adoptive father has been described as morally ethical but not religious. I see that same characteristic in my husband. My mom’s mother however had a surprisingly enlightened spirituality – especially when I consider what I have heard of her own very bible religious mother (to the extent of neglecting home and family). This grandmother’s spirituality was not far different than my own (which was what surprised me when I discovered it). My husband has a negative perspective on religion in general and believes vulnerable people are exploited by it. So I could not believe that HE would suggest such a thing to me. He admits that he is a bit like Mr Krabs in the SpongeBob episodes – all about the money (only really he is incredibly down to Earth, he just worries about supporting this family as he ages).

Yet, aside from the last 5 years of having it banged into my consciousness through my favorite adoption triad group, where the voices of adult adoptees are given preference and describe all that is wrong with adoption and foster care in general, what is it that I actually know from my own experience ?

My parents each felt differently about their adoptions. My dad never spoke to me of his but cautioned my mom against her efforts at locating her birth mother – who had already died by the time she was actively seeking that. One of the last things she wrote to me before she died was an explanation regarding why she couldn’t complete a family tree at Ancestry.com – “it just wasn’t real, because I was adopted but I’m glad I was.” Though I cannot say that she truly was “glad.” She didn’t know any other life.

Both of my sisters gave up a child to adoption. I cannot honestly say that my niece or my nephew would have been better off being raised by my sisters. They are good solid people – both of them – now married in their own adulthoods.

So the question is – can I find a way to target a Christian Evangelical audience, who is going to adopt anyway – regardless of how much I might preach to them about all of the impacts of trauma in this child they desperately want for whatever reason (I do believe there is a bit of missionary purpose in those desires) – and gently prepare them for reality and hope this brings about better outcomes for the adoptee ? Honor fully my evolved values in the effort ?

Increasing The Supply

I did think this – immediately. That banning abortion is meant to increase the number of babies available for adoption. Actually, I’ve thought this for some years as I have learned more about the traumatic impacts of separating children from their biological parents and have generally turned against the practice, even though but for adoption, I would not exist.

When I was doing my own family roots journey, I contacted the Salvation Army in El Paso TX because I knew my dad had been adopted from there. They told me that they closed their home for unwed mothers after Roe v Wade because they had no clients to serve. Very revealing. Three out of nine justices on the Supreme Court have adopted children. Adoptive parents are very influential when it comes to laws related to adoption as they are the ones who have the money. They are the ones who wish to keep an adopted person’s information away from them and hidden away in a sealed file.

An adoptee friend of mine who didn’t even know she was adopted into well into her adulthood as that had been hidden from her, a family secret, wrote – “Domestic supply of infants?” I guess they want to restart the supply chain, no matter how wrong that may be, how harmful to parents, family, the person who ends up being funneled into the system. She added –

Note there are no safeguards being proposed for the people who will be forced into that system. No additional funds for sex Ed, contraception. No requirements for men to take greater responsibility, no requirements for prospective adoptive parents to undergo evaluations, education and ongoing therapy. No after adoption services. No additional services for people forced to give birth. No aftercare services for people who lose their children to adoption. No acknowledgment of the fact that the majority of states will be erasing the children’s identities and severing them from family and community. No. Just an acknowledgment that there isn’t enough supply to meet demand.

Marketing Matters

Barbara Corcoran

We don’t watch commercial TV. I read about this in my all things adoption group the other day. Someone in my adoption group posted about this, so I went to the linked article. He wrote –  My wife and I sometimes watch Shark Tank, and in one of the episodes, Barbara Corcoran mentions having an adopted daughter. I looked up more, and saw this article in INC, an excerpt –

“Attracting moms who wanted to give you their baby was exactly the same as writing a good real estate ad,” says Corcoran. “You needed a great top line, and my top line I used in every Pennysaver in the Catholic states was ‘I want your child to ski in the winter and spend summers at the beach.’ Sort of like the baby version of ‘views and lots of light,’ ” she says, laughing. “It’s all sales. I think I had 27 moms who wanted me to take their babies–and it’s not easy getting a baby in America.”

“You do what you gotta do,” says Corcoran. “It’s called sales.” Understandably, this does not sit well with adoptees. No one wants to think of anyone treating them like a marketable commodity.

It is rather well known at this time that there is only 1 “available for adoption” infant for every 40 couples wanting to adopt one. This is what drives all these Republican states to enact such strict abortion laws because as the Salvation Army told me when I was on my journey to discover my two adoptee parents’ original birth stories, after Roe v Wade, the Salvation Army had to close all of their homes for unwed mothers because they had none to serve.

It was not Corcoran’s ad writing skills that brought her 11 yr old daughter, Katie, to her. Corcoran’s adoption attorney called her one day and said she had found a birth mother who wanted to put her infant girl up for adoption–and needed an answer immediately. Corcoran said yes on the spot. “In the end, it was a relief to let it go. To let fate take charge,” she says. And this from a woman with a take-charge personality.

Much that she describes in this interview is familiar to me, as my husband and I have spent 30+ years in business together as entrepreneurs. It takes a high degrees of confidence and a tolerance for risk. For us, we have always had to know when to severely tighten our belts financially until things got better. So far, they always have. Though age is now weighing heavily on us, as my husband recently turned 70 and “technically” is retired from our business, which only means he is no longer taking a salary, not that he isn’t working all the time to bring some kind of income into our lives. We still have two dependents (one is almost 18 and the other is 21) and are not kicking either of our sons out of the house – these two houses on our farm are one each for each boy – rent free – as long as they want to live here. We really don’t mind. Who knows how long the 4 of us have together ? None of us is guaranteed a future regardless.

This how it was for my husband and I, we were forced into bootstrapping. It took us pretty far but we never really knew how to take that to the next step. “The best way to fund any company is bootstrapping. You spend your money smartly, because you don’t have enough. Every dime I had, I had to think about best use. It’s real money. It’s hard-earned money. It is born out of enormous hard work. That’s the kind of money you don’t lose so fast,” Barbara Corcoran says.

Booth Girls

This looks interesting to me (I have not read this recently published book). My paternal grandmother gave birth as an unwed mother in a San Diego home in 1935. It was called the Door of Hope. After her release with my father some months after his birth, she tried to seek refuge with her cousin who lived nearby. I am guessing it didn’t go well. My grandmother returned to the Salvation Army home seeking employment and was accepted. She traveled by train to El Paso TX with my dad in tow to another home for unwed mothers where she became a helper. When I discovered a cousin, thanks to 23 and Me, with the same grandmother, she expressed surprise the Salvation Army “owned” my dad at the time of his adoption. The family story was a nice couple took my dad because my grandmother could not financially support him. I will always believe that the Salvation Army coerced my grandmother into relinquishing him. Thanks to breadcrumbs she left for us in her photo albums retained by her daughter, the next youngest child after my dad, I was able to identify who my paternal grandfather was.

About the book shown above –

In 1961, my mother delivered her first daughter, my half-sister, at the Salvation Army Booth Memorial Hospital in St. Paul. Booth was a home for “unwed mothers” and so, like most of the other young women in residence, my mother surrendered her baby for adoption. She kept the whole experience a secret until 1994, when my sister found my mother. After my mother died in 2009, I set out to learn more about her experiences as Booth girl in hopes of understanding my own as an adoptive mother. Based on oral history interviews, archival research, family history, and memoir, Booth Girls is a story about mothering through the losses and gains of adoption.

~ Kim Heikkila, author

There is an informative video posted, “Mother’s Day” watchable at Vimeo, available at Heikkila’s website (because of it’s privacy settings I cannot embed it her but I do recommend watching it !!).

My Adoption Files Interview

Adoptee Parents

Though the podcast has been live since Feb 6th, I was only able to finish listening to my interview yesterday. I had gotten through the first 41 mins previously. Life is busy and it is long and so I do forgive anyone who doesn’t want to listen to me talk about my experience of being the child of two adoptees for an hour and a half approx. Though my satellite quality of transmission is inconsistent, it seemed to me that somehow the audio zoom file was able not to lose words but after a disruption continued where it would have been anyway. I am happy to say I was not embarrassed when I listened to it. Though most listeners would not notice my only big blub – giving the wrong part of my dad’s birth name as it relates to his father’s actual name – I can accept that as mistakes go, it wasn’t significant to the quality of listening to my interview by Ande Stanley of The Adoption Files.

For those who don’t want to listen to such a long interview, I’ll try to hit on the key or more significant points.

Though both of my parents were mid-1930s adoptees, their individual responses to having been adopted could not have been different. My mom always felt like her adoption had been, in her effort to be polite, inappropriate. She knew a bit about Georgia Tann and from what she knew and from a weird quirk in what she did NOT know (having been born in Virginia but having been adopted still technically an infant in the first year of her life from Memphis TN, how did she get there ?) she had crafted a story to explain what she was never going to be allowed to know.

I say that because she did try to get her adoption file in the early 1990s from the state of Tennessee who rejected both her initial and subsequent appeal because they could not determine the status of alive or dead for her father (who had actually been dead for 30 years by that time). Basically for $180 dollars she had the privilege of being told the mother she sincerely wish to reassure as to her outcome as an adopted child had been dead for several years. It broke her heart.

No one ever informed her that just a few years later, by the end of the 1990s, she would have been given her adoption file as Tennessee changed the law of closed and sealed adoption records for the victims of Georgia Tann (who bought and sold babies for 30 years). That is why for less money ($150) I received over 100 pages of her adoption file (which thankfully was intact though minimally inaccurate – deliberately) plus 4 black and white negatives of photos taken the last time my maternal grandmother held her baby.

Had my mom been given her adoption file, it would have cleared up misunderstandings caused by a lack of information and given her a lot of peace. She would have seen how hard her original mother fought to keep her and the obstacles against her. She would have seen how over the moon her adoptive mother was to have received her (though in life they had a difficult relationship). Though not stolen, her mother had been exploited. More importantly, my mom could have reconnected with her genetic, biological family and learned a lot of first hand impressions and lived experience regarding both of her parents.

Closed, sealed adoption records continue to be an issue that turns adoptees into second class citizens in these United States. I encountered this in Virginia, Arizona and California. I believe the main impediment is money – who has it and who stands to gain from keeping adoptees from their own valuable personal information. These parties are the adoptive parents, the adoption agencies and the legal system including adoption attorneys. They are the ones with the money to hire lobbyists to impress upon legislators the need to keep secret adoptees records. It is a big money business.

My dad was never interested in knowing his origins. I tend to believe he was afraid of what he would find out as he didn’t much like my mom searching and warned her against opening a can of worms. For $100, the Salvation Army gave me one paragraph of information, which even so gave me something important – my dad’s full name at birth and that the Salvation Army had hired and transferred my paternal grandmother from Ocean Beach CA (near San Diego) to El Paso TX with my dad in tow. I do believe they coerced her into giving him up. They had legal custody at the time he was adopted. Also, my dad was adopted twice due to his adoptive mother’s divorce and remarriage. Therefore, he experienced a name change at the age of 8 (he also was originally adopted as a infant less than one year of age).

The aspect of my story that seemed to interest Ande the most was how being the child of adoptees had affected me personally. Adoption does not only affect the adoptee but their children as well and even more so when both of the parents are adoptees. There was only a black hole of familial and medical history information beyond my two parents. Just as my mom had made up a story of being stolen from the hospital in which she was born and transported to Memphis, I had made up a story that my dad was left in a basket on the doorstep of the Salvation Army in El Paso TX by an unwed Mexican national mother because her child was mixed race with a white American father.

I readily admit that I got lucky in my own attempt to learn the truth of my parents’ adoptions. Nothing we believed due to our lack of true information has proven to be true but the truth is definitely preferable. Not all efforts at learning an adoptee’s origins are as productive or end as happily as mine with acceptance by my genetic biological relations. Persistence and determination are important. And getting one’s DNA tested can make all the difference. I had mine tested at both Ancestry and 23 and Me. Also noted in the interview however, without actual names, just finding DNA matches does not yield very much useful information as my own story shows.

In case you missed the link at the beginning of this blog (and there is so much more there than I can reasonably write for today) here it is – https://anchor.fm/ande-stanley/episodes/Interview-with-Deborah-Hart-Yemm-e1djv8e.

The Stories We Tell

I do beg to differ with Mr Twain. When you don’t know, you make up stories to fill in the gaps. Before I knew the truth of my adoptee parent’s origins – I thought both of my parents must be mixed race – my mom was black and white and my dad was Mexican and white. Neither one of those turns out to be true.

My mom wouldn’t explain how she could have been born in Virginia but adopted at 6 months old in Memphis. She did know that Georgia Tann was in the baby stealing and selling market. My mom died still not knowing the truth because Tennessee couldn’t provide whether her dad was alive when she wanted her file (though he had already been dead 30 years by that time).

My mom’s story went this way. She was born to illiterate parents in Virginia. A nurse at the hospital was in cahoots with Georgia Tann. She gave my mom’s parents papers to sign that they couldn’t read. She said the nursery was too crowded and so they needed to move my mom. When her mother was released and went to retrieve her – she was gone. In my mom’s polite language with the Tennessee officials (though she believed firmly she had been stolen), she referred to her adoption as inappropriate.

Truth was my maternal grandmother was exploited by Georgia Tann in her desperate financial situation. She was married. I have a story about my maternal grandfather. His first wife died almost 9 months pregnant in the dead of winter with the baby still in her womb. I have thought consciously or not, he was concerned because he was WPA, the children from his deceased wife were in Arkansas, his job in Memphis had ended and he went back to Arkansas. He was insecure as to his living conditions there and so didn’t take my grandmother at 4 mos pregnant, also due to deliver in the dead of winter with him. My cousin who has the same grandfather does not believe he was the kind of man to abandon his family that way. I can’t know – no one left living to tell me. My mom didn’t feel close to him and maybe that is because her own mother felt abandoned.

My dad was adopted from the Salvation Army. When his adoptive parents died, he found a letter copy to the Texas requesting the altered birth certificate that mentioned his mother’s name as Delores. Growing up on the Mexican border in El Paso TX, until I finally knew better, my story about my dad was that his mother was Mexican and his father white. Her family would not accept a mixed race baby so she took him into El Paso and left him on the doorstep of the Salvation Army with a note to please take care of her baby. Understandable given the circumstances but still not true.

This is a common experience for people with adoption in their family histories. Making up stories to fill in the gaps. Knowing the truth is preferable – even if the story was a very pretty and exciting one (as some I’ve heard about are).

Adoption IS Trauma

Today’s adoptee story –

Through writing this story, I became *very* angry with my biological mother for the first time since I met her almost ten years ago now.

I’ve always known I was adopted (at birth, through Catholic Charities, not “private” adoption but also not a foster care adoption.). I had great adoptive parents, who I know loved me (but didn’t always). There were no biological children in the family. My sister was adopted at four years old (when I was six) from foster care.

Blogger’s note – adoptive parents often adopt another child to be a sibling to the first one they adopted. This was true for my mom – the Jill for the Jack they already had – as her adoptive mother actually wrote in a letter to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. This was true for my dad – who’s adoptive mother went back to The Salvation Army home for unwed mothers in El Paso TX to get a brother for him.

I always, always, always felt alone. I’d cry, when I was very young, and curl up on the couch and sob “I want to go home, why can’t you just let me go home.” I’d never known another home, but that was what I always wanted when I was very small, was to “go home.”

I always believed I was something different than my peers. I found it hard to make friends. I had no sense of my own identity. I spent my entire childhood longing for my blood kin. When I grew up and finally found them, only my mother and her younger son (who wants nothing to do with me) were alive. My older sister, my father, my older brother, all gone.

Blogger’s note – it is interesting that as a child I never connected the dots that my parents being adoptees made me “different”. I never thought about the fact that my parents were “different” from the parents of my school peers, that their parents were not also adopted, though subconsciously I knew this because I could not say to anyone what my cultural identity was (Danish, Scottish are what I have learned, along with Irish and English).

Even now, in my early forties, a part of me feels like there’s something about me not worthy of being wanted by them, not worthy of knowing them (the biological, genetic family).

I’d have rather been aborted.

Blogger’s note -This is true for many, not all adoptees, but in my all things adoption group, I’ve seen this written many times.

Great adoptive family or not, this life is not what I deserved. My biological mother doesn’t regret her choice. And part of me hates her for that, now that I’ve had some time to really process everything that’s happened since we met.

This is not a life I would wish on any person.

Adoption IS trauma.

Realizing the Value of DNA Testing

Getting the results of my own DNA tests (both Ancestry and 23 and Me) did NOT bring surprise results to me – in that I knew BOTH of my parents were adoptees at the time I did the tests. What was I hoping for ? Answers to my cultural identity. A question that had plagued me since public school. What are we ? I asked my mom. We’re Americans, she answered. No, I said, what ELSE are we ? We don’t know because we were adopted, she answered.

And I did get insight into what I had yearned to know from childhood. Yet, my DNA tests did something for me that I did not anticipate. As actual genetic, biological relations were found at the two platforms, my DNA test proved to these that I actually was related to them. Me, someone they never knew existed. Though to be honest, I never knew they existed either. Building relationships with people who have decades of history with my original families (the families my parents were conceived as part of) and none involving me is slow and not earth-shattering but soul warming never-the-less.

I am pretty certain I came as a surprise to some of these – especially on my dad’s paternal line. His father’s family was located in Denmark. Several of his father’s siblings as well as his father immigrated to the United States. Unfortunately, his father never knew he had a son. More’s the pity. My dad did look remarkably like his own father and they shared an interest in boats, the ocean and fishing. They would have made wonderful friends as father and son. So, that family has been the most amazed at my existence. I originally found my grandfather’s step-granddaughter who told me quite a bit about him. And only recently, I now have email contact with one of his nephews in Denmark, who has told me something about my grandfather’s early life in that country before immigrating.

With my other 3 grandparent family lines, there was some awareness of my parent’s existence. One of the first that I met shared the same maternal grandfather with me. His daughters (my mom’s half-siblings) were aware of her existence. My cousin said to me upon my emergence into her life, My mom always wondered about your mom and wanted to have an opportunity to meet her. Sadly, I barely missed this half-aunt of mine. She died only months before I began my own search into my roots after BOTH of my parents had died only 4 months apart.

Next came cousins and an aunt on my dad’s maternal line. 23 and Me outed my cousin and she wrote me in excitement, Delores or Dolores Hempstead/Barnes is my grandmother. The aunt is her mother and she was living only 90 miles away from my dad at the time he died. He never spoke to me about being adopted except that one time after his adoptive father died and my dad was going through some papers and marveled that his original surname was Hempstead. My mom did tell me that he was not supportive of her own effort to search, warning her that she might be opening up a can of worms. That has informed me somewhat about his perspective – that the people who adopted him were his parents – end of story. We did know that my granny “got” him at the Salvation Army. There is so much more to that story that I have now been able to learn and I will always believe that the Salvation Army coerced her into surrendering him to adoption as she was unwed. I’m told she regretted losing him the rest of her life. One cousin lead me to another cousin who had the breadcrumb clue that my paternal grandmother left as to my dad’s father’s identity. A few photos and some notes written on the back of these.

Though the initial focus of my adoption related searches was my mom’s Stark family line, that one took me the longest to finally connect with the children of my grandmother’s youngest brother, who I also just missed as he had died not all that long before. I did learn early on from a woman “related by marriage” who was also a genealogist that my Stark family was Scottish. She belonged to the church across the street from the cemetery where my grandmother, her second husband and her parents are all buried. My maternal grandmother was a victim of Georgia Tann and the baby stealing and selling scandal of the Memphis Branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. My mom knew some of this background information, believed that she had been inappropriately adopted (her words for what happened to separate her from her mother) and actually tried to get her adoption file (the one I now have the complete file of, including photos of my grandmother and baby mom) but was denied it by the state of Tennessee. These second cousins (as they are my age but would be genetically my mom’s cousins) had close and fond relationships with my maternal grandmother. They gave me the warm kinds of intimate details about the kind of person she was – what my heart had yearned to know since I began my own journey.

I believe I have fulfilled my destiny to reconnect the broken threads of our family’s origins – the reason I managed to be preserved with the parents who first conceived me out of wedlock (my mom still in high school, my dad had only just started at an out of town university – high school sweethearts they had been. They did marry and remained married until death did part them).

Until I began learning more about the traumas of being adopted, it was the most natural thing in the world to me. So natural, that both of my sisters actually each gave up a baby to adoption. Thankfully, I’ve met and have contact with both of these wonderful, valuable persons – my niece and nephew. It’s impossible to know how their lives might have been different if my sisters had kept them. If my parents had never been surrendered for adoption – the miracle of it all for me personally is – I simply would not have existed. I love my life and for having one at all and with my original parents, I am grateful. So, I am also grateful I wasn’t given up for adoption – it would have been the most normal thing in the world to have happened to me.