The Gift Of My Parents’ Adoptions

If they were still living, today my parents would have celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary. Their anniversary was always special to me because I was already there the day they married. My high school junior mom was pregnant with me. I believe I have my dad’s adoptive parents to thank that my mom’s adoptive parents didn’t send her away to have and give me up. Just the fact that they got married in a church that my dad’s parents attended – the Church of Christ – and not in the church my mom’s parents attended – Episcopalian – speaks volumes to me.

I don’t think I would realize just how fortunate I am, if I had not learned the stories of my parents’ adoptions. When I was in junior high, I realized that there was only 7 months between my parents wedding and my birth. I was angry with my mom about that for a very long time and wouldn’t let her touch me. Strange I wasn’t as angry at my dad. I was a child and as a girl I had gotten all those good girl lectures and though I don’t remember it clearly now, it was probably my mom delivering them and why I blamed her and not him. I was probably only troubled by the perceived hypocrisy.

But they did love each other very much. They stayed married for just over 60 years. My mom died 20 days before their 61st wedding anniversary. At first, I didn’t think my dad would be able to carry on but somehow he mustered a bit of will to try. However, he died only 4 months after she did. That is how much not having her in his life anymore just made life no longer worth living. Not that he committed suicide but on New Year’s Eve he had a stroke. He came out of the hospital not believing it until he read the discharge papers. Then on the morning of February 3rd, he simply stopped breathing and let it all go with a slight smile on his face after a good night’s sleep.

Realizing the conventional norms in the early 1950s when my mom became pregnant with me (often referred to as the Baby Scoop era due to the high rate of babies surrendered to adoption) while researching all things related to adoption as I began to learn what my parents died still not knowing – who their original parents were as well as reuniting with cousins and one aunt – made me appreciate that I did not become another victim.

If my parents had not been adopted, I simply would not exist, nor would my two sisters. Our children, my parents’ grandchildren, would not exist. Though the circumstances that led to my parents’ adoptions were far from perfect, I can now say they were imperfectly perfect for my own self. My sense of wholeness has been restored. My sense of identity has been returned to me. And so much wisdom about all things adoption and foster care have made themselves known to me and that would never have occurred but for the gift (to me) of my parents having been adopted.

Forever Family ?

One adoptee wrote –

Does “forever family” rub you the wrong way?

I cringe EVERYTIME I hear it. So many of us were told this mythical thing exists, but then turns out we were always on some sort of weird job interview where there are no rules and the requirements of the job change depending on the mood of the boss, the boss’ family, or the boss’ pets.

I don’t think I ever had a “forever family”? Did you? Do you now?

When I finally became aware of my true biological, genetic family relations something dissolved in my feelings toward the members of my “family” that were only that due to adoption.

Does that mean I love the deceased grandparents LESS who were present in my life growing up ?  No, it doesn’t mean that.  I cherish my memories of the times I spent with them.  They always treated us genuinely and from a sense of loving us.

Does that mean that my aunts, uncles and cousins by adoption don’t seem quite as real to me anymore ?  That is true, though I acknowledge their humanity and that they are ALL of them good people.

Learning the truth about my parents adoptions and original family and re-connecting with the genetic/biological family I never knew all my life has meant more to me than I can possible convey to you in these brief blogs.

At the same time, there is this sad effect – I don’t feel like I belong to any of them.  Truth.  The adoptive family is no longer real family.  The real family I have no life experience with and can only try to go forward with 6 decades missing.

No – family is not forever.  My parents and my in-laws and my grandparents are all deceased now.  Divorces have happened, children have grown up in different families, cousins have always been distant anyway.  Where does one find family ?  Only in those people who we sense are able to accept us just as we are no matter what.

The Search Is For The Truth

Tim McGraw with pregnant wife Faith Hill

This is how it feels to be adopted –

“I had a spirit that was completely outside what my family was. I didn’t know anyone I was related to, biologically, which gives you a sense of not ­knowing who you are.”
~ Audry Faith Perry aka Faith Hill

“There was a period of time when I first moved to Nashville, like the first couple of years, that I was just simply lost. That’s when I went on the search for my birth family.”

“The first time I met my biological mother, I just stared at her. I’d never seen anybody who looked anything like me. It was the awe of seeing someone that you actually came from. It fills something.”

While her adoptive family hadn’t shared her level of musical interest, her birth mother’s sister and mother had been members of their church choir, just like Hill. My own mom’s musical compositions tended to be religious and were often performed by a church choir. In addition, the discovery that Hill’s biological mother was an artist helped her understand why she’d been drawn to a creative career.

Meeting her birth mother also brought new facts to light. Her birth mother had gotten pregnant while having an affair with a married man. Sounds a lot like my dad’s adoption story.

“Meeting her birth mother was the most profound life-altering experience for her. After that, her world turned upside down. I was part of her old world, and she had to let that world go.”
~ Daniel Hill, ex-husband

Her second husband, Tim McGraw discovered that the man raising him wasn’t his biological father. Very much like a dear friend of mine who only recently also made such a discovery.

“Having been adopted, I really have a strong sense — a necessity almost — for stability. A foundation where my family is concerned.” Her close ties with the family that raised her didn’t change when her biological mother and brother entered her life. And when she and McGraw had three daughters together, Hill took time off from her career in order to be with them as they grew up.

Hill never forged a deep bond with her birth mother, who passed away in 2007. This is not actually an unusual result with adoptee reunions nor is how Hill appreciated her biological mother’s actions, at one point noting, “I know she must have had a lot of love for me to want to give me what she felt was a better chance.”

I believe that BOTH of my grandmothers were also motivated by such a love when they made those difficult choices.

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.

 

Complete Moving Forward

It is that end where nothing actually changes but we move forward into the next one which this year also sees the change into a new decade.

I feel a sense of completion this year as I have continued to learn about the impacts of adoption and the wounds of separating children from their mothers.  I have spent the last year reviewing the most significant events of my entire life.  One was being the executor of my deceased parents’ estate.  I have no doubt that it was a blessing that my parents, both adoptees and high school sweethearts who were married for over 60 years, died only 4 months apart.  I had to make arrangements for my mentally ill sister’s support in ways my parents feared to initiate.  Sadly, my lifelong close relationship with her was wrecked by my having to do so as there was no one else who could.

I also finally managed to come full circle in learning who my original grandparents were and because they are all dead, managing to find living descendants with whom I can begin to create new relationships.  I recognize that relationships are not instantaneous and we have lost decades but I do my best to go forward and feel a wholeness and peace that I could not even know I was lacking until I found that.

A year ago, I self-published a limited edition of our family’s true history and genetic cultural roots.  Sadly, it wrecked a relationship with one of my nephews.  Honestly though, there was barely a relationship there.  That he could not see the purpose of my revealing what I did related to his own relationships with his maternal line, I can’t help.  Though I regret his decision to close the door on half his family, I still feel the information was necessary within the family and so I accept the outcome with sadness.

I’ve spent the last year rewriting a commercial version of my story that includes the aspects mentioned above.  I had not gone into my parents’ deaths and the ramifications of those deaths in the previous publication but realized that to tell the story of my discovery of my grandparents, it was necessary to look at that difficult time in my own life to give context to the final miracle that unfolded.

In the coming year, I do hope to acquire a literary agent and find this book commercially published.  May that prove to be so.  Best wishes to all of you who have chosen to read my blog over the last year.  I hope you continue to follow me and if my hopes and dreams come true, will want to buy and review my book.  Happy New Year – soon.  Like in a few hours now.

 

 

Abandonment

Is abandonment one of your core wounds?  It is for most adoptees. This poem by Jeff Foster speaks volumes.

if abandonment is the core wound

the disconnection from mother

the loss of wholeness

then the most potent medicine

is this ancient commitment

to never abandon yourself

to discover wholeness in the whole-mess

to be a loving mother to your insides

to hold the broken bits

in open awareness

to illuminate the sore places

with the light

of love

When the damage has already been done there is really only one pathway forward – find the love for that self that you are.  No one can change what has already happened but we can begin to refrain the experience to find something about it to be grateful for.

In learning about the wounds of adoption and separation in my own immediate family, I came to realize the miracle.  When my mom conceived me out of wedlock, how is it with adoption so accepted in our family structure that my mom wasn’t sent off to give me up for adoption ?

I think I can credit my dad’s adoptive parents for preserving me in the family.  Even if they had built their own family through adoption, I suspect they realized that keeping parents and their children together was the best possible outcome.

 

Eye Of The Beholder

We need to talk to each other more.  We each have a perspective but it is not the whole picture.  We need to be able to hear the sadness, grief and anger.  We need to be able to hear the needs and good intentions.  We need to be able to hear the frustration of a young parent not receiving enough support to do what it is they were assigned to do when they conceived a child.

Perspective is everything but it need not be fixed in a rigid position.  We can expand upon what we are able to understand by seeking to hear from those others with a different view on a situation.

Money tends to rule too much of what is considered the right perspective in this country.  For too long, the rules have sided quite strongly with the perspective of those people with the money who desire for their position in the adoption triad to be inviolate.  We’ve allowed the legal system to put up walls to deny 2/3s of the triad any kind of rights in the circumstances.

Maybe I don’t have all of the answers to how we go about providing for the welfare of children in our society but I do believe that denying people their right to know where they came from or what became of a child they gave birth to and then lost – often for no better reason than poverty – can’t be the best answer.

Adoptees are speaking out.  Original parents who gave birth and then lost a child who is yet alive and living elsewhere are speaking out.  And the motivations and needs for security by people who are investing their time and resources to provide a stable and secure home for a child should be heard as well – but not to the degree that we deny the needs of other two limbs of this triad of persons.

Adoption Reunions

Maybe it’s a woman thing.  Today, I am happily experiencing a long distance (via telephone) “reunion” with my adoptee mom’s cousin.  I had previously spoken with her brother and it was all about family origins and lineage but I already had researched and discovered most of it myself.

So, today, it is some insight into the more emotional questions that have haunted me since receiving my mom’s adoption file from the state of Tennessee.  She was a Georgia Tann – Tennessee Children’s Home Society baby.

Much this cousin has shared with me was as my heart suspected already.  But it was nice to receive a confirmation and not just my wild imagination making up stories.  There have been too many stories in my immediate family already in attempts to fill in gaps that couldn’t be filled during my parent’s lifetimes.

With this cousin, I feel more complete now.  This part of my family line was less developed.

My parents were both adoptees.  They died without any reunion.  It has been left to me to find my own closure with the circumstances.  Obviously, I would not even exist had their adoptions never happened.  Therefore, I am grateful for my own blessing, including that I wasn’t given up for adoption as well.  I also acknowledge the sadness and tragedies that came before I was born.

The Need To Know

I love to read stories about happy adoptee reunions.  They do not always turn out well.  I do believe that the need to know is universal in adoptees, even when they think otherwise.  Human beings are not meant to have no continuity, no connection to their origins and genetics, only a black hole leading into the past.  I have experienced a black hole beyond my parents and I now have the information they lacked.

My mom yearned for a reunion she never realized.  She once wrote to me in an email – “When I found out that my Mother was dead and my Father’s whereabouts unknown, the purpose of my search sort of fizzled out. I just felt that as a Mother I would be devastated to lose a child and never know what happened to it.”

So I love happy stories of adoptee reunions when the adoptive parents are supportive and encouraging of their adopted child’s need to know.  Today, I read a very nice story about a young man named Alex.  His parents were high school students and he was adopted when he was only 5 days old.  His adoptive parents are Jewish.

Alex was a Communication Arts major at the University of Wisconsin and was taking a documentary film-making class.  He needed a personal project and decided he wanted to look for his biological mother and document the development of his search.  His adoptive mother had his baby bracelet that came home with him.  It had his biological mother’s name on it, Trina Dunn.  He used Google and found four women named Trina.  One turned out to be the right Trina.  The reunion is happy and he has discovered another “family” religious perspective.  His original genetic family is Catholic and his parents have been married all these years.

Another story I read today was about Jenna, who was helped to find her original mother thanks to DNA and MyHeritage.  Their DNA Quest project is a pro-bono initiative offered to adoptees who have little information to aid a quest of their own.

Jeanna says, “When you’re adopted, you have no idea of the background that led up to your adoption. I didn’t know if she would be accepting. She was, and everyone in her family was completely accepting.”  Jenna says she now feels a sense of completeness that was lacking in her life.

If you are an adoptee and want to search for your genetic origins – know it is your basic human right to discover where you came from.  If the reunion doesn’t go well, you will know that at least you tried.  There is so much guilt and shame attached to any mother giving up a child that it is not always possible to overcome the damage.  Her response to your effort is not about your worthiness but about her emotional wounds.

 

#NotMyNAAM

It was almost two years ago now, that the door opened for me on my parents adoptions.  I had already lived 6 decades of my life and both of my adoptee parents had passed away.  In this brief amount of time, I have been able to become “whole” as regards my parents original parents – ie I now know who my grandparents were and something about each of their individual stories but thanks to adoption, I’ll never know them.

As I began to educate myself about all of the aspects related to adoption, I also truly began to understand there was something rotten in adoptionland.  I have also begun to learn about better alternatives for seeing to the well being of children and hopefully to the healing and repair of their original families.  Society has a long way to go.  I digress and not really.

The paradox for my own self comes when I consider the reality of my own existence.  Two major aspects of that have become crystal clear for me in the last two years.  [1]  I would not exist but for adoption – my parents would have never met.  [2]  It is a miracle that I was not given up for adoption as well.  Conceived by an unwed teenage mother in the deepest part of the Baby Scoop Era, I believe it was my dad’s adoptive parents who insisted that he quit the university he had only started to study at and do the “right” thing, marry my mom and go to work.

So becoming aware of ALL of the problems with adoption presents quite a quandary for me personally.  Even so, I am a #NeverAdoption convert now.  November is National Adoption Awareness Month.  It is NOT a time to celebrate the ripping apart of families to support a profit-driven and often ignorant practice but a month to begin to educate yourself if you believe adoption is all unicorns and rainbows, ie happy endings always.

#NotMyNAAM