I’m writing this because I have a few books on my list that deal with adoption. Whenever an adoptee comes out with anything negative about the adoption experience, it’s immediately assumed that they had a bad experience. That’s far from the case with me. I love my parents very much. They are a product of the time when there was no information given to adoptive parents; they were just told to take the baby home and love them and everything would be fine. That’s not the case. I will be referring back to this post many times when I review these books, because people can’t handle hearing that you can have a good adoption experience and still say there are problems with adoption.
I always knew I was adopted. The way it was presented to me was that I was “selected.” This gave me an image of babies being in cribs and my parents walking down the row while they cried and then saying, “I’ll take that one.” This was far from the truth, especially in the “baby scoop era” following World War II. Still, I felt pretty special for many years because of it.
My parents had been married in 1949 and had never had kids. One time my mother told me she went to a doctor and he said there was nothing wrong. She should quit working and “just relax” and a baby would come. She did that, and nothing happened. My theory is it had to do with my father. When he was born, the umbilical cord was shriveled up and he was undernourished. His parents were told to take him home because he was going to die. He surprised them all by living. I think that likely has more to do with why they couldn’t have kids.
They tried many different routes but were turned down. Usually, it had to do with money. They weren’t rich but were comfortable. My father worked as a draftsman at The Telephone Company, designing systems that were put in skyscrapers in New York City. One lawyer they went to in Pennsylvania said he had a baby for them, if they made an “investment” in one of his companies. They didn’t have the kind of money he was looking for, so he didn’t get them a baby.
My birthmother was a college student. Her family was close with the Pastor at my parents’ church. He had been the assistant Pastor at their church. I was conceived during spring break in 1965. My birthmother said it was over with my birthfather by the time she knew she was pregnant and wasn’t going to marry him, so she went to a Lutheran Girls Home in New York City, intending for me to be placed through Lutheran Social Services. This will be important later.
The Pastor visited with her and told her he knew of a couple that had been looking to adopt. She put her faith in him, and they had to play it to Lutheran Social Services that she had changed her mind and was going to keep the baby. Lutheran Social Services harassed her to no end to get her to change her mind, to the point that she fell down the stairs while still pregnant. I’ve had hard knocks in my life since before I was born. After I was born, she took me from the hospital. They drove down the street to where she handed me over to the Pastor and his wife, then I was whisked away to my new home.
Since it was a private adoption, I knew more than many other adoptees knew about their birthparents. It also happened that my mother was in a bowling league with my birthmother’s mother. They saw the name on the birth certificate and the paperwork, so they knew who she was. My birthmother had been told it was completely anonymous. That was the first of many lies we all were told. You see, the key part of adoption is secrecy and lies.
The first year after I was born, my mother still bowled in her league and often brought pictures. My “grandmother” saw them. She knew where I was. In addition, on of my “aunts” attended my church because of the relationship with the Pastor. They knew where I was as well. Yet none of them told my birthmother until after we were reunited. The only “counseling” my birthmother received was to pretend the baby died and to forget about it. What woman can forget she had a baby?
There are things I learned when I was pregnant with my own children. Particularly with my oldest daughter, there was a bond there before she was born. There were things I knew in advance about her personality. I remember having a dream where I said she didn’t really ever cry, she more like “bleated” when she was upset about something. This was true when she was born. When I remarked one time that I had that dream before she was born, my mother didn’t believe me.
You see, if there’s a connection then we have to acknowledge there’s a problem (or potential problem) when that connection is broken. I’ve been reading adoption groups since the 1990s, and it was eye-opening when I first found them. I believe there are many parts of our personality we are born with, and when we aren’t in the same environment following birth, it can cause issues. Learning to deal with that would be a terrific thing for adoptive parents, but many of them aren’t receptive to hearing it.
In my case, it was baseball. Somewhere around 1974 I started watching baseball. I was 8 years old and my parents never watched games, not even my father. But I fell in love with the sport. My father eventually loved going to games with me, but it definitely came from somewhere other than the environment I was raised in. I was always something of a “tom boy” and not the girly-girl my mother wanted. There were aspects of my personality she didn’t understand and just chalked it up to me acting out against her. I didn’t like dresses – I preferred jeans and a t-shirt. I still do. I hate getting dressed up. It wasn’t about my mother – it was about who I was and that was different than she was. I was just born that way. How many other adoptees out there suffer the same way, only in much worse ways? I have heard stories from many adoptees that would make you cringe.
I finally met my birthmother about a month before my wedding. I have four half-sisters by her, including one almost exactly a year younger than me (by 2 days). However, I’d always been told that when I wanted to meet her I could. When I was 17, that was what I wanted. My mother called the Pastor’s wife and talked to her. A message was passed back that she didn’t want to meet me. I was heartbroken. That was when I learned about the half-sister a year younger than me. Understanding the mechanics of how I came to be more than I had when I was younger, I couldn’t understand what was wrong with ME that she had gotten rid of me but kept my half-sister. I struggled for many years with that, and people blamed everything than what was at the root of it. At one point my parents took me to counseling at Lutheran Social Services. Of course, they aren’t going to say that many children who are adopted have identity issues. That was still one of their main sources of income.
When I did meet my birthmother, I found out that she had been lied to as well. No one had ever asked her 10 years before if she wanted to meet me. She said she would have in a heartbeat. All we know is that her mother and the Pastor’s wife knew I wanted to meet her and it was never communicated to her. I have a theory that they decided between them that it shouldn’t happen, but we’ll never know. Again, adoption is built on secrecy and lies. My birthmother told me that she had actually gone into her mother’s address book because she wanted to find the woman phone number just to find out about me – she’d respect my privacy if I didn’t want to meet her, but she wanted to know.
I’m not unhappy I was adopted. Knowing what I do now, I know it was the best thing for me, especially considering my sperm donor, a magazine publisher in San Diego, was driven off Twitter for his racist tweets about Colin Kaepernick. I made contact with him in the late 1990s, but the only communication back from him sounded like it was written by a lawyer. I am glad I wasn’t raised by him.
Adoptees who long to know their background are often vilified as not being “grateful.” Why should I be grateful for anything. I was being born and my life was pure chance just like anyone else’s. As another adoptee I know said, “There are far worse things than never having been born.” I know adoptees who suffered terrible abuse at the hands of their parents and siblings. Should they be grateful for that?
My parents did the best they could with the information they were given. My mother was notorious for anything I did that was good was because of her, and any bad sides of me that came out were because of genetics. I can laugh at it now, but it was a struggle at times. I also think my mother had issues not being able to have a child of her own that were never dealt with. However, they loved me completely and I loved them. I just wish we all had more information.
Reading the adoption groups, there are some people who do not think adoption should be allowed; they think we shouldn’t erase where people come from. I’m not that radical. There will always be people who can’t or won’t be a parent and the most important thing is the best interests of the child and making sure that child feels secure. However, I think we can do a better job than what we’ve done in the past. Making open adoption agreements legally enforceable would be one. There are agencies to this day who still tell prospective adoptive parents to agree to anything until you get the baby, then you can do what you want. There will be instances where it might be best to close an adoption, but then the case should be made before the judge for it, not just the parents wanting ownership, which is how too many prospective adoptive parents see it.