Dear Mom and Dad

Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m writing to tell you that I am an adult now and I wish to search for my birth parents.

As a kid, I often wondered where I came from and why I was placed for adoption.  I wondered had I done something wrong, was there something wrong with me? Not because you didn’t love me enough or because I wasn’t happy, I was just a little lost. You told me I was adopted at such a young age that I don’t even recall first learning of my adoptive status. You must of thought it was very important to me to know this about myself at the time, to know the truth of how I came to be part of our family. Truth always seemed very important to you both as parents and I have learned the value of honesty from you both. I thank you for that. You always talked to me about my feelings about my birth family. I thought that was so awesome because you saw inside my heart and knew that I had a place for them inside mine. I felt that you loved them in a way too for giving me to you. That made me feel really loved and honored by you both. You told me that if I wanted to find them someday, you would do whatever you could to help.

That time is now Mom and Dad. I am old enough to start having children of my own and I feel that unless I know my family medical history, that perhaps I should wait to have children. I also feel that I want to learn the story of how I came to be placed for adoption, even if that story is not pretty, it’s part of the truth of me.  You both taught me to always stick to my truth, to honor myself. This is me honoring myself. I probably would have asked you years ago to search with me but although you were supportive, I still held guilt inside that I might be hurting you. But I am an adult now and I am more than ready. Whatever information I find, it will never change that you are my mom and dad. I will always love you just the same as I have since we met. This process might be a little stressful and scary for me too but I trust that you will be there for me, even just to listen. You have both always been open to hearing me talk about my adoption. That has kept many of the classic adoptee issues at bay for me I think. I know you both know I am not looking to replace you as parents and that you understand how this is about me and no one else. The best thing about our family is that we have always supported one another, no matter how scary it may be. I hope that when I do decide to have kids of my own, I can teach them half of what you have taught me. To honor myself in all things. To sit in truth and to love others as you would want to be loved. Thank you for raising me with strength and understanding and for educating yourselves about the special emotional needs of the adopted child and now adopted adult. Your support means everything to me.

 

Love, Me

 

 

I wish the above letter was real and I could send it to my adoptive parents. Unfortunately we are almost completely estranged because I found my birth family. I never had the support or understanding from my parents to express my feelings about being adopted. And when I finally did find them, they never acted the same towards me. Even my extended family cast me aside. I simply needed to know where I came from and what my medical history was for my children. They taught me that their love was very much conditional and that put a scar on my heart that will never go away. The most important thing to me was the thing that they were against the most. The pain was unbearable..yet I searched anyway. I had to. It was that important. And I would do it again even knowing the outcome. Because at the end of the day, the message was….you are ours. But the truth is…I am mine.

Adoptive parents, my hope is that you will always honor your childs wishes and feelings regarding their desire to search or not search for their birth family. You know they did not come to you biologically and acting as if they did is only detrimental to the psyche of an adoptee. As adoptive parents, you are called to a higher level of understanding, and a higher standard to be advocates for the child you  brought into your family…because there is much grief and loss for them and they had to suffer that so that you could adopt them.

I cannot stress the pain it caused not having the support I needed. Please don’t put your adopted child or grown adoptee through that. If you adopted in Texas, please support SB329 so that ADULT adoptees can easily access their original birth certificate. What a wonderful way to say “I LOVE YOU AND HONOR YOUR LIFE” to the now grown child that you love so much.

 

Shawna Hodgson is an adoptee rights reform activist and an adoptee.

 

 

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My name is Danielle, but you may call me Shawna : by Shawna Hodgson

 

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Identity is defined as the condition of being oneself and not another. A simple concept for most to grasp. Not so much for an adopted individual because the question arises…”Who WAS I”? Who was I before I was adopted?

To some that might sound silly, they might say, “You were just a baby, you didn’t know anything”. I can understand that response because it seems logical…but if I can stress one thing when it comes to adoption…it does not go hand and hand with logic.

It would be easy to imagine that a baby is born, placed for adoption, and the adoptive parents instantly take the place of the birth parents. In some ways they do, such as daily care of the child, nurturing the child, providing for the child. But those are parenting duties, what happens to the biology of the child once the adoption papers are signed?

Biology is what we are made of. Not just flesh and blood, but our talents and traits are held in our biology, our DNA. We inherit medical conditions and diseases from our birth family, not from our adoptive family. Biology cannot be transferred from birth parent to adoptive parent. When those records were sealed, we lost the very thing we are made of.

It is understandable how society can view an adoptee as ungrateful for wanting to know where they come from. As many times as I have felt the need to defend my search and reunion, I really do get why people can view it as ungrateful…BUT…that is because they are not adopted and do not know the loss we suffer at the hands of adoption. The world views adoption, which for us is trauma and loss of identity, as a happy ending, a miracle. There is much more to it than that. The adoptee is always left out of the equation, yet we are the ones who suffer the loss of self. We experience trauma at the moment we are separated from our birth mother. If we were relinquished as infants, we have no pre trauma self. We cannot go back before the trauma to heal. To remember who we were before.

While adoption is sometimes necessary and in the best interest of a child whose birth parents choose not to or are unable to parent, it is a PARENTING solution. It is NOT a means to sever the child from their biology. Somehow along the way, the best interests of the child went out the window.

The burden was placed on us to fill the void our adoptive parents had, which led them to adopt. But what about our void? I have heard recently an adoptive mother who opposes new legislation in Texas say, ” I was the one who was lonely, becoming an adoptive mother filled that void”. While one could certainly feel their heartstrings being tugged by that statement, the fact that this adoptive mother knows her adopted daughter’s birth mother’s identity and plans on keeping it from her forever, so much that she believes ADULTS who were adopted as children should not even be able to access their original birth records, makes the heartstrings very difficult to tug for those of us who were adopted. She is keeping her child from knowing her own self.

I am in reunion with both of my birth parents and siblings. When someone asks me how I have a better grasp on who I am, I usually respond this way….

I now know what makes me who I am…I can see my face reflected in anothers and that brings me peace. I no longer worry where my parents are and if they are ok. I know that I respond to things in a certain way, unlike my adoptive family, because that is who I am and that is OK. I know where my ancestors came from and I know the talents I inherited from my parents. A sense of fairness and justice from my mother and my musical talent from my father to name a few. I know what diseases I stand to inherit from both of my parents and I can pass that down to my children and grandchildren so that they do not have the burden of an incomplete family medical history. I know why I was placed for adoption and was given the opportunity to make peace with that. I feel real, like a flesh and blood person, not an imposter. My birth name is Danielle but you can call me Shawna. They are now the same person. I am at peace.

Nothing in that last paragraph mentions anything to do with parenting or how much I love my adoptive parents or anything close. My parents parented me, they loved me the best they could and despite my lifelong feelings of loss, I loved them too. But that does not change the truth about adoption….that does not create logic where there is none…adoption is loss for the adoptee, adoption is trauma, adoption can feel scary and lonely. Whether you choose to believe that, it is the truth for adoptees.

SB329 will grant ADULTS who were adopted in Texas the right to access their original birth certificate. This law will only apply to ADULTS not minors. To know thyself is a simple concept yet is being clouded by every other side of adoption….remember without the adoptee, there is no adoption. The first time I held my own original birth certificate, my life was changed forever. Such a simple and private moment with just myself and that little piece of paper. Texas can do better by us and should do better. Please write to your Texas State Senator and Representative and tell them you support ADULTS in Texas and their right to know who they are. Tell them you support SB329.

 

 

 

 

Growing Up Adopted by Kim Dimick

From the earliest time I can remember, I knew I was adopted.  I knew I had another mother and father somewhere out in the world that were not the same people I called Mom and Dad. I knew that I was born on February 1, 1983 in Fort Worth, Texas and relinquished at birth.  I knew that my adoptive parents picked me up from the adoption agency and flew home with me on May 24, 1983.  I knew the first picture of me was taken on that day as my head rested on my new mother’s shoulder, right next to the fresh pool of spit up on her bare shoulder. I knew that my adoptive mom passed away when I was only two years old, and it was just my dad and me from then on.  I knew that I was different from other kids because I was adopted, didn’t have a mother, and didn’t have any brothers or sisters.  I knew I was always the uncoordinated fat kid with four eyes and bad skin because the other kids often reminded me of those things. I knew that adults looked at me with pity in their eyes because I lost my mother.  My adoptive mother, not my birth mother.  I knew that adults told me I was lucky for having such a great dad that took me in and treated me like his own.  I knew that my dad was the only person on Earth I ever felt completely comfortable around.  I knew I liked going to play with my cousins at their homes even though I didn’t feel like I was really a part of their family.  I knew my family never did anything to make me feel different; they couldn’t help that I didn’t look, sound, or act like them.  I knew that other people thought I looked like my dad, but I didn’t believe them.   I knew that I was involved in many group sports and activities, but I didn’t feel like I truly belonged to any team or group.  I knew I dreamed of many scenarios where I saved the day and was the hero that everyone wanted to be around so I would finally feel like I fit in somewhere.

I did not know where I came from or my true ethnicity.  I did not know a family medical history or possible medical issues to be concerned with growing up.  I did not know if I had brothers and sisters somewhere out in the world or if I would ever find them.  I did not know who I looked like, who I sounded like, or where my mannerisms came from. I did not know if I was creative by nature or a product of being an only child. I did not know if the woman I saw in the grocery store was my mother or the man at the mall my father.  I did not know what my mother and father looked like or where my grandparents were from.  I did not know why my parents didn’t keep me.  I did not know why I wasn’t enough for them or what I did wrong. I did not know how anyone else could love me if my own birth parents didn’t.  I did not know why I never felt like I truly fit in anywhere. I did not know why I felt like I should have been able to play instruments or sing but didn’t have any musical talents. I did not know why I could not have my accurate birth records even though they belong to me.  I did not know why the adoption agency wouldn’t tell me my sister’s identity when I did discover I had an older sister.  I did not know that adoptees are four times more likely to commit suicide, are more likely to have mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bi polar disorder or narcissistic personality disorder, are more likely to have learning disabilities, and are more likely to have colic as a baby.  I did not know that I wasn’t alone in my feelings as an adoptee.

Now I know where I come from and who I look like.  Now I know who my birth parents and grandparents and great grandparents are.  Now I know where my creativity comes from and who I sound like.  Now I know that I have three sisters and two brothers.  Now I know that my birth mother wasn’t the mothering type but kept the letters and pictures I sent her.  Now I know that my birth father never knew I existed.  Now I know that I have another family that looks like me, sounds like me, acts like me, and loves me.  Now I know that talking to other adoptees and birth parents is critical to understanding and making sense of my own experiences.  Now I know that my rights are being violated because I don’t have the same access to accurate birth records that non-adopted adults have.  Now I know my family medical history.  Now I know why I always felt so out of place growing up.  Now I know many ways my adoption still impacts my life.  Now I know where I fit and where I belong.  Now I know there is an entire community of adoptees out there supporting me through my journey merging my adoptive and birth identities and families together.

Now I know what I didn’t know growing up adopted.

Thoughts from a Birth Father by Daniel Thomas

Last year I found out I had a daughter that I never knew existed. Kim was placed for adoption at birth, and was using DNA testing to find her biological family.  When I first found out that one of the brothers in my family (there are six brothers) possibly had a child, I didn’t think it could be me because I didn’t match the information about the father listed in her adoption records.  It wasn’t until I saw a picture of her and her mother that I realized I was the person she was looking for. My oldest son took a DNA test which confirmed he and Kim are siblings. I was shocked and just said, “Whoa!” I mean, what else do you say?  I couldn’t wrap my mind around having a 32 year-old daughter out there that I never knew about.  I saw some of her baby pictures and thought she looked like my oldest son did when he was a baby.  In her older pictures, I thought she looked like me.

My brother, Dave, and his wife, Charlene, had been working with Kim to figure out which brother was her father.  After results came in proving I was her father, Dave texted me and asked if I would be willing to talk to Kim on the phone.  I was nervous to talk to her because I didn’t know what to say, but I also didn’t have anything to hide.  I couldn’t deny anything even if I had wanted too anyway!  Kim and I spoke for the first time, and it was an awkward phone call because I was still in shock that I had a daughter out there but I was happy she found me.

My two adult sons were shocked to find out they had an older sister, and just kept asking me how I was going to tell their mom, my wife, that I had a daughter out there. Luckily, my wife took the news well since I dated Kim’s mother a few months before I met my wife. I then told my 13 year-old daughter about Kim, and she was excited about having a sister until she found out Kim was so much older because she wanted someone her own age to play with.

Kim was coming to New Jersey for Thanksgiving to meet the other side of her biological family about two weeks after we got the DNA results, and Dave and Charlene arranged a party for her to meet our entire family while she was there. The day of the party, I was a little nervous to meet Kim.  Okay, I was more than a little nervous because I didn’t know what to say or how to react.  I was worried that Kim wouldn’t like me or I would say something wrong.  Maybe she would think I was a little different or maybe I wouldn’t like her. It was just a weird situation meeting this adult who is your daughter that you never even knew existed until a short time before meeting.  I think it was probably easier for me meeting Kim because almost my entire family was there but Kim had come alone.  I thought she was a little crazy for flying out from Texas alone to meet these new people she knew very little about, but I was still glad to meet her.

Our first meeting is a bit of a blur, but I remember my nerves settling down once I had a chance to sit down and take it all in. My wife and kids sat at a table with Kim and talked for a while. I was still worried about saying something wrong, and I didn’t know how she would respond if I started asking her a bunch of questions so I didn’t say too much at first.  I didn’t want to put any pressure on her to answer questions, and just figured she would open up and ask any questions she had when she was ready. After a while, Kim left our table to talk with other family members.

I was happy that Kim was excited to be meeting her family. She certainly wasn’t bashful as she went around the room talking to everyone.  She seemed like she was jumping into the conversation and fitting in well with my family.  Everyone was welcoming, and I was so glad no one got upset or got into a fight!  Seeing her smiling and happy made me feel happy and relieved.  I couldn’t force her to sit with us all day, but it would have been nice to talk with her for a longer time.  I was wondering if she might be holding a grudge against me for not knowing about her or for not keeping her.

Since that meeting, Kim and I have kept in touch with phone calls, messaging, and video chats. We have slowly gotten to know each other over the last year although we have only met in person once. Sometimes I must remind myself that I have two daughters.  It has taken me a while to get past the shock of having a daughter, but my family and friends have been supportive.

I dated Kim’s mother, Michele, for about a month before she stopped coming around and returning my calls. She never once mentioned she was or could be pregnant.  When Kim found me, she told me she had learned that Michele had passed away.  I was sad for Kim, but also angry because I couldn’t call up Michele and ask her why she never told me I had a child.  I was pissed that Michele never gave me a chance to keep the baby or have a say in what happened to her.  Things would have been different if I had known that she was pregnant.  I missed out on being a part of Kim’s life for 32 years, but I’m so happy she found me and I have a chance to be a part of her life from now on.

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Danny and Kim

 

This I Believe: An Essay by Kayla Medford

I believe that everyone has the right to an identity. In addition, I believe that it is a crucial part of one’s identity to be able to see their family members and pick out the characteristics that are comparable. In closed adoptions, children are given no biological ties to their birth parents, and have no rights to their original birth certificate even in adulthood. I believe it is a violation of civil rights to deny a person their birth certificate and the identities of their birth parents under any circumstances.

On several occasions growing up I can recall my mom and dad talking over the circumstances of my mom’s adoption. She appeared confused, lost, hopeless, and angry, and as a child I could not fathom why.  It was not until I was much older that I learned that my mom had tried several times to get her birth record or any type of tangible tie to her birth parents, and over and over again she was denied the rights to not only any blood lineage, but also medical histories as well.

My mom was adopted in 1975; this was a time in which many adoptions took place in the state of Texas. It was a closed adoption meaning she and her adoptive parents would have scarce details about the circumstances surrounding my mother’s birth, along with any information on her birth parents. Even though she is an adult she still has no right to know anything about her birth family or even to her own birth certificate. The excuse for withholding the information is that it protects the birth mom, but at the same time does not protect my mom’s rights. There have been several instances where my mother expressed to me the hardships she has faced, being adopted. She expresses that although she loves her adopted parents dearly, she is lost with out a tie to someone biological. I have memories of being in the car with my mom when a song by Joni Mitchell would come on, and my mother would smile a sad smile and say “I used to pretend she was my birth mom”. Being a child and watching my mom feel a lost connection between her and her birth mother, I could not help but look at my mom and see our many resemblances and not feel saddened that she did not have that.

It was not until this year that my mom started to piece together her origins. She was contacted by the agency not too long ago by a caseworker, which informed her that someone from her birth family was searching for her. She filled out ceiling high stacks of paper work, paid hefty fees, and did hours of mandatory counseling, only to hit a dead end when her birth mother stopped replying to the caseworkers calls. This was a cold reminder to my mom that she had no rights in this situation. It has broken my mom’s heart to be denied, yet again, the right to know who she is. Refusing to give up, she gathered what very little information she received from the adoption agency, a file containing all the information about her birth parents, which had been whited out by the agency wherever any names or dates were. She studied it closely and has also put an immense time and energy into finding birth relatives through genealogical cites. My mom has recovered a few distant relatives by doing extensive genealogy research, but has still not been able to match herself to birth parents.

I believe that is unjust and cruel to keep information about a person’s birth family hidden from them as an adult. I believe we all share the right to know where it is we came from and be able to know the names of our parents. Lineage is a right, not a privilege. Some might argue that closed adoptions are a practical way to offer protection for the birth mothers who are unable to care for their child, but after seeing my mother go through what she has been through, it seems strange to me that she should be released from all responsibility to a child she has brought into the world. In addition it is even more cruel to deprive that person of their identity as an adult. I also believe that it is unusually cruel to have a file in an office that could clarify most anything my mom would need to know, yet keep it just out of reach. I cannot help but feel my mom’s frustration. Not only do these laws deny my mom her rights, but also make it impossible for my siblings and I to know where we come from. Many people do not realize the sort of confusion and exasperation that comes with not knowing what health issues, character traits, genes, etc, that come along with having no tie to some form of family history. This past year, I have watched my mom go through drastic ups and downs because of the laws surrounding closed adoption. I can not understand how in a country that is suppose to be dedicated to the people and what is best for them, there are still laws in place that prohibit someone from having their own birth certificate. This law more than has the potential to affect generations, and I personally cannot help but feel the effects of the gaps in my family history.

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Kayla and her mom, Shawna

 

My Adoptee Journey: A Blog by Roiann Baskin

I am typically a very private person. I’m not a talker. I tend to keep personal experiences to myself unless I feel comfortable enough to share. But in honor of National Adoption Awareness Month, I feel compelled to talk about my adoptee journey. And what a journey it is. Each adoptee has their own unique set of experiences and feelings. All adoptee perspectives are essential and valid. Aesop said “in union there is strength”. As I stand together with my adoptee sisters and brothers, I hope to bring strength to those who are struggling and educate others to create change.

If I had written about my adoptee journey 3 years ago, I would have said that the first and only biological relative I knew was my 1-year-old daughter. I grew up knowing I was adopted from as early as I can remember. I had a manila envelope with all the paperwork my adopted mom had compiled concerning my adoption. I remember one piece of paper in particular. It was pink and stated the non-identifying information about my biological parents. This piece of paper was very important to me because I always wanted to know who I looked like and it provided some basic clues. But my imagination continued to run wild. I was pretty convinced that Wonder Woman aka Lynda Carter was my birth mother. Or if I was in a large crowd somewhere I would often study people and their facial features to see if anyone looked like me. I started searching for my biological parents when I was 19. I was not concerned about a relationship with them. I wanted to know who I looked like and also medical information. It’s quite frustrating to go to the doctor and fill out medical history forms when you don’t know your medical history.

If I had written about my adoptee journey 2 years ago, I would have said that a letter changed my life forever. One day after work, I picked up my three-year-old daughter from preschool and we headed home. She likes to get the mail with me and as I let her open the box and pull out the mail, I noticed a letter from Catholic Family Services. My heart immediately started beating faster. I knew the letter had something to do with my adoption. The letter was sent by a social worker and said that he had some important information for me. Maybe my biological parents were searching for me? Maybe they were dead? A million different scenarios were running through my mind. I called the social worker that day and that’s when I learned that I had a brother and an aunt that had been searching for me. There are no words to really explain how I felt. Shock and disbelief come close. From that moment forward, my life completely evolved into a new normal. My brother and I were connected from the moment we spoke. After all these years I finally had someone that looked and acted like me. It was amazing, wonderful, but very overwhelming. Feelings started to come up that I had never experienced or thought of before. I really began to examine myself as an adoptee and process the extremely complex emotions I was feeling.

If I had written about my adoptee journey 1 year ago, I would have described myself feeling nervous, frustrated, anxious and discouraged. After meeting and establishing a relationship with my biological brother, I was able to make contact with my birth mother. I sent her a letter and hoped for the best. We communicated primarily through email and text. Our relationship was complicated by several factors. Those factors being my bio mother’s current relationship with my bio brother, the mental health of my bio mother and her unwillingness to answer questions about who my bio father was. I let her have space and didn’t push but I decided to take matters into my own hands. I contacted the social worker in charge of my adoption file and asked if I could contact my bio father. The social worker agreed to contact him for me and see if he would be willing to talk. Thankfully he agreed to speak with me and even agreed to a DNA test. He felt that he was not my father but remembered another man that my bio mother was dating around the time he knew her. The DNA test proved he was not my bio father and so I moved on to the name of the man he gave me. This man was again contacted by my social worker. What was different about his story is that he believed I was his child. He remembered dating my bio mother off and on and always felt he had a child or children out there. He believed it so much that he had always told his children growing up that they had a sister and/or brother out there somewhere. He was a very nice man and as we waited for the DNA test results, I felt very confident that he was my bio father based on the information he gave me. But the DNA test came back negative. He and I were both shocked. I felt discouraged and emotionally drained. These were some of the most stressful times in my life. I decided to make yet another effort to find out information. My husband, daughter and I were planning a trip to Arizona for Thanksgiving to visit my bio brother and his family. I decided to reach out to my bio mother and ask if she would like to meet while I was there. Maybe she would be willing to share more with me when I was sitting right in front of her, her own eyes staring back at her.

We met for the first time the day after Thanksgiving. The nerves I felt while driving to meet her were unlike anything. I felt so nervous I wanted to throw up. My legs were shaking. But I mustered the courage to go into the restaurant. It was like looking into a mirror. The similarities were pretty intense. We had a nice conversation and I began to relax. It was easy to talk to her and there were several times we would say the same thing as the same time. I felt she answered my questions as honest as she could. She didn’t remember who my birth father could be but at least I got an answer. I left that meeting feeling like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders.

And as I write about my adoption journey today, I feel a strange peace. I say strange because my journey is not over. I am currently awaiting DNA results on a man that could be my biological father. I was connected to him through Ancestry DNA and the help of a genetic genealogist. But there is no fear, no anxiety, no emotion whatsoever. What will be will be. I think that I have felt every emotion one can feel over these past few years. And right now I feel at peace. I love my family. I don’t use “adopted” because I have never thought of them that way. They are my family and I’m so glad that I was raised by them. I also love my biological family and am so glad that I have the chance to finally learn who I look like, act like and more about my medical history. Most adoptees never get to know this information. Everyone deserves the right to know where they came from. DaShanne Stokes says it best…

“Adoptees come from every race, gender, and sexual orientation. We are your mothers and fathers, your sisters and brothers, your lovers, friends, and coworkers. In the U.S., we number 6 million strong, but our voices touch the lives of tens of millions more.

Our rights are your rights. Your rights are our rights. And together we will be heard.”

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Loneliness in Adoption: a Blog by Tina J. Bowen

There’s a loneliness that comes with being adopted that no one seems to ever acknowledge or talk about. It seemed to define me, and my persona as an adopted child. For me, I grew up the adopted child, as well as the youngest of six, and they were all related, including two sets of twins. My adoption wasn’t like everyone else’s in the sense that I wasn’t adopted at birth, nor was I even legally adopted, and I also had contact with my (not so great) father, so no matter what, I never felt like I fit, or belonged. Instead, I felt as if I was an outsider in every place I ever went, including the home I grew up in. It’s no one’s fault, but I felt like an alien. I was never formally adopted, and where I grew up, there was a stigma surrounding it, that your parents didn’t want you, or something was wrong with you, so I never felt as if I could talk about it with anyone. Obviously, this is 2016, and we all know that birth parents always have reasons for giving their children up for adoption that usually have nothing to do with not wanting them.

I compensated for this by being incredibly withdrawn and introverted. I was shy and anxious, and most situations immobilized me from fear or judgment or just plain anxiety. My birth name wasn’t legally changed to reflect my adoptive family’s last name until I was 14, and I can still remember one of my teachers in the 6th grade butting heads with me about the name I was being called, and the name I would respond to. She insisted on referring to me by the name on the roster, which I have never in my life responded to. Even though I was non-confrontational and an introvert, the attitude in me wouldn’t let her push me around, so I only responded when called by the name I knew, which she never did. Despite my introversion and my shyness, I also had a stubborn streak that was unbreakable, and it caused a bit of a ruckus. None of it ever seemed to dull that ache of loneliness I felt inside, however.

Even now, I still feel a tinge of loneliness and a lack of belonging that most people who grow up with their birth parents can never understand. It was the constant knowledge of, “These aren’t my people”, or, “They’re not my REAL sisters and brothers” that was always in the back of my head, nagging at me and dragging me down. Nothing ever felt right, so I just got used to the feeling of wrong always being right. I guess it gave me a messy outlook of wrong and right. It constantly felt like there was a barrier up between myself and my family. I felt like an outsider constantly. I still do.

I often wonder if my mother, who was also adopted, ever felt this way. Maybe it could have been something we could have related on together. The one thing that I took from the experience of finding my mother as she was dying (which, for the record, is an AWFUL way to meet a birth relative, even if I’m glad that I did get to meet her), was it was the first time that I ever had that moment. That wave of recognition in her eyes, the one where we were both thinking, “This is her. I KNOW it. I know HER.” That moment broke through a whole lot of medicine, narcotics, and pain, and pierced straight through to both of us. It brought her out of a morphine and pain stupor, and it snapped me out of the fog in my head that that entire day had left me in. I don’t know if any other adoptee or birth parent has ever had that feeling, but I will tell you, it gave me a peace I had never known. That was where it started, the knowing of that feeling, and the knowledge that I had never felt it before, because now I was.

Finding my birth sister was the first time I ever felt like that barrier wasn’t there. I was so used to it that I didn’t know how it felt to not have it. When I felt it, that clicking in of “Oh, wow, this is my SISTER,” the feeling was so indescribable. We spent four hours on the phone and a lot of it consisted of, “Oh, my God, this is so weird” and a lot of giggling. We are so alike in some ways that it’s been the biggest comfort to me when things with my adopted family were incredibly weird.

Meeting my mother’s birth siblings was more of that feeling. Last year, my Uncle Danny invited my sister, Kim, my husband, Marshall, and I to his house for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, second only to Halloween, and it’s always been important to me that I spend it with people that I feel are family, even if they’re not really family. Of course I wanted to spend the holiday with my newfound family! I hadn’t met my cousin, Nicole, nor had I met my other uncle, Darin, although I’m 98% sure he and I had shared an elevator at some point, since we both used to work at the same pier when I lived in New York City. It’s possible the wave of recognition I had when I saw him for the first time was that he was, in fact, my uncle, but it was a feeling I had actually seen him somewhere else before. Either way, it felt as if I already knew the entire family.

I had had some anxiety that the feelings I had felt when I met my family in DC (where I first met my sister and Uncle Danny) wouldn’t still be there, that it would feel different, or that they wouldn’t like me as much, but none of that happened. I had anxiety about meeting my second uncle, Darin, and my cousin, Nicole, but there wasn’t even any awkwardness, or even a moment of weirdness. It was that same feeling of a clicking in of… “These are DEFINITELY my people”.

The best moment of the week was when I was constantly being mistaken for my cousin, Angelica. My aunt Liz, Angelica’s mother, came out to the front stoop to tap my shoulder, and when I turned around, was shocked to discover I wasn’t her daughter. We even took photos together and with my husband to try and confuse our friends on social media, and were shocked that it actually worked.

I can’t change not growing up with my birth parents, and from what I’ve seen, perhaps it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It doesn’t change what I’ve dealt with emotionally or who I am as a person as a result. I think it’s all a part of what makes me who I am. Adoption is not ideal for the adoptee, but it doesn’t have to rule the adoptee’s life.

The below photo and quote aren’t mine, but it’s one that I found somewhere, and it resonated so deep within me that I’ve cried about it a few times. Ever since finding my birth family, it just makes so much sense.

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Bitter Sweet Family Secret: A Blog by Daniel Altilio

Let me start at the end of the story. I have 3 beautiful nieces that I didn’t know I had, and I found out about a sister who I never had the opportunity to meet. I guess most adoption stories are bitter sweet.

 

It was about 11 years ago that it came to my attention that I had an older half-sibling from my mother’s side. I was 44 years old then, and I was the last to know. Even my brother, who is six years my junior, knew the “family secret.” My mother, in a perfunctory way, confirmed the story and mentioned some details, but not much. She seemed very unemotional and detached about it, as if it were no big thing. I didn’t feel anything that moved me to look for my sister. (I didn’t know if it was a male or female sibling at that time.) I had no feelings whatsoever. Now and then, I would google the name of the biological father, out of curiosity.

 

In January of 2015, I began working on my family tree with my mother’s cousin, Eileen. I was using Ancestry.com, and she told me that she did the DNA test through them and had the results. In March, I received a call from Eileen who was gingerly asking me questions, not knowing if I knew about the family secret. She said that she received a call from Texas from a young lady claiming to be my mother’s grandchild. She wanted to know if I would be willing to speak with her. I assured Eileen that I knew about the secret and that she could release my phone number and I would speak with the young lady. It was through the DNA test that Eileen was found to be a close relation to my mother and could be traced.

 

I was nervous when the phone rang. I don’t know why. I answered the phone to hear the voice of a young woman, not a child or a teen. She sounded articulate and intelligent, and she had a kind tone. I became disarmed, as I was expecting Marilyn Manson. Kim began to tell me some of the details and clues that lead her to me. They were all correct, and we both knew we had found the right people. My nervousness turned to excitement as I now had someone to fill in the blanks for me. My appetite became insatiable for facts. I wanted to know everything: who, what, when, where, why and how. I think I even asked her shoe size. In that phone call, Kim let me know that she was adopted and had 2 biological sisters, only one of which she had found, Tina, who had been born and raised in northern New Jersey and lived in New York, but now lived in North Carolina. I was able to find out about my sister. Her name was Michele, and she had died less than a year before at 54 years of age. Kim filled me in on the tragic details of Michele’s tragic life and death. We spoke for about 45 minutes, and when we ended the call, I made her promise to text me some pictures.

 

The first couple of pictures that came in were of my sister Michele. When I looked at them, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was staring into my own face as a teenager. Then an unexpected wave of sorry came over me, and I started to cry. I regretted not looking for her. I wanted to hug her and hold her in my arms. But I knew that was never to be. I was astounded that I was crying with a broken heart for someone I never met. But, I still loved her.

 

The next set of pictures came in, and they were of Kim and Tina. Although they never met, they made a collage of 3 photos each, side by side. WELL, no DNA test needed here! In fact, if I included my daughter’s photos you would think that they were sisters, and not cousins. I then sent the photos to my brother.

 

Over the next few weeks, my nieces and I corresponded via email. We filled each other in on our lives and I sent them the “family story”, including illnesses and quirks. I also sent them their family tree which goes back many generations. Kim commented that up until now, there has only been one person on the tree. It was then that I began to realize that there is much that I need to learn about adoptees. I also noticed that they were resentful of people saying things that are stereotypical, such as “You’re adopted? I’m sorry!” I can’t say that I have been enlightened enough to speak freely. I am still fearful of saying the wrong thing. I hope that my nieces know that my intentions are pure, and the last thing I want is to hurt them.

 

My mother, by this time was in a nursing home, suffering from COPD. She was deaf, which made communication difficult. I went to visit her with the photos of the daughter she gave up and her two grandchildren. I mentioned that her daughter had died. She was very vague and unemotional. It was as if she couldn’t care less. I did manage to take video of her saying hello to her granddaughters.

 

Our mother was always a very cold person, and it was a difficult upbringing for my brother and I. It took some time for my brother to interact with our nieces. Bitterly, it reminded him of yet another one of our mother’s messes left for him to clean up.

 

After a week or two of emails, we decided that we should plan to meet each other in June. We picked DC as the location, as it was fairly central for all of our locations, and easy for Kim to fly into. I drove down from New Jersey with my wife and 2 daughters (their cousins.) We went directly to Union Station to pick up Tina. When I finally saw her in person, I got a warm family feeling. I felt an automatic bond. It was different than a bond with a friend. Somewhere in the back of your head, you know a friend can drift out of your life. Family never does. So, it gives you the warmth of a friendship in a more relaxed fashion.

 

We immediately got into the van and headed over to the hotel, where Kim who had flown in from Texas, was waiting to meet her sister, uncle, aunt, and 2 cousins. What an experience it was to see two sisters meet for the first time. It was an extended hug and tears with intense non-verbal communication. I’m sure both waited a lifetime for that moment. The rest of us then kissed and hugged Kim. It was an experience that I’ll never forget. After the hugging, for the briefest of moments, no one knew what to say. It was like the Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin reunion. “So, how’ve you been?”

 

Over the next two days, we got to know each other and (more importantly) like each other. The girls share our warped sense of humor, and we all sound the same when we laugh. I think we all felt the same way. We may not have a past, but we have a present and future together. By this time, my brother and cousin, Nicole, were firmly on board and wanted to meet the sisters. The sisters also looked forward to meeting their grandmother. All agreed to come to my house in NJ for Thanksgiving. We enjoyed DC, and had a special treat, history in the making, as gay marriage became the law of the land the morning we all set out on our travels to DC. It was especially poignant as some of us are members of the LGBTQ+ community, and are allies of friends who are as well. We were in front of the rainbow colored White House where we took our first pictures together. It was like a party.

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Tina, myself, and Kim

 

Unfortunately, my mother passed away that September. It was within days of the first anniversary of my sister, Kim and Tina’s mother, Michele’s death. I felt bad for the girls, for they would never be able to meet their grandmother; however, I’m happy that I videotaped her for them. At least that will last forever.

 

A week or two before Thanksgiving, the girls had a breakthrough in their hunt for their other sibling. They found her in Oklahoma. Ironically, her name was Michelle, like her biological mother. When I saw her photo, I was awe struck. She looked exactly like my mother (her grandmother) when she was young. Incredible resemblance. On Thanksgiving Day, with oven mitts on, I spoke to her on the phone. She sounded sweet.

 

Thanksgiving week was great. The girls got to meet their other uncle and aunt, three more cousins, and their mom’s cousin, Nicole. We got to meet Tina’s husband, Marshall. I took them to see where everyone had lived back in the day, and to a few Jersey and New York tourist places. On one side trip, we went to see my brother’s band play at an adult beverage location. Kim also met her biological father and that whole branch of her family for the first time. I felt a little jealous as I was Kim’s family now, not them. We also visited my sister Michele’s adoptive brother, where I learned more about her personally. We learned about her likes and dislikes, issues in her life; it was a complete history. There were other photos of her and other puzzle pieces were fit together. I was melancholy after this encounter. The more I learned about my sister, the more intimate she became. I regretted her loss. Somehow, I feel guilty that I didn’t try to find her. Maybe having her two brothers in her life might have changed how her story ended. It was not a happy life for her.

 

Regardless of the sadness of that meeting, Thanksgiving week was a magical time. We all bonded together as one imperfect family. It’s as if not knowing each other in the past just melted away, erased. As if we always were family, past, present and future. I love these girls, and feel very paternal toward them. Also, in a small way, by having a relationship with the girls, I feel like I am helping my sister Michele, who I never knew.

 

Bitter sweet.

 

 

 

The thing about cemeteries is that secrets aren’t always taken to the grave. I found myself walking among the dead almost weekly while I was searching for my birth family. After using DNA testing to find some biological matches, I learned my family was somewhere close, or at the very least, my ancestors were at one time. As it turned out, they were all around me my entire life. And somewhere deep inside of me, I knew this.

I was born in Houston, Texas and placed for adoption shortly after my birth. My adoptive parents were from the North, but settled in Houston as my dad was working for Shell Oil.
I was raised just north of town, near the town of Klein, Texas. From the moment I could read and make sense of street signs, names and places , I was on the hunt for something….
I would be riding in the car with my parents down Kuykendahl Road and I would wonder to myself and sometimes out loud, “Who were the Kuykendahls and did they still live here, and why is this road named after them”?   I chose the Kuykendahl road example for reasons that will become apparent as this story goes on.  Anyhow, my point is that I was curious about names and places more than the average person, and certainly more than any child I have ever known.
As I grew up, this curiosity became almost what I would consider an obsession. I didn’t talk to others about it much because even I didn’t understand it and thought for certain, they wouldn’t either.
  Names on schools and public buildings really got me wondering…street signs and older neighborhoods with rich history drove me wild with curiosity. I gravitated towards certain parts of the city and did not know why. A very early suburb of Houston, The Heights, had particular appeal to me, I just wanted to be there. The Heights was a decaying area by the 1980’s. It was actually quite scary to be there after dark in some parts, but if I could find an excuse to go there, that’s where I would be. On 19th street, there is an old movie theatre. I would visit it each time I was in the area. I loved looking up at the old sign. I wondered what it was like back in its glory days. There was just something about that neighborhood.
In 2014, my DNA tests started coming in and I quickly realized my birth family was from the Houston area. I had Blaylock, Fannin, Voss, Rice and Allen cousins turning up…if you are from Houston, you know I just gave you a tour of downtown with that list. Driving through town became a genealogical nightmare…my birth family is close, real close, should I just follow the street signs? Instead, I followed the gravestones.
I found myself in Huntsville after hearing from a third cousin on the 23and me testing site. From his research, we were able to piece together a few branches of my family tree starting with my great great grandparents. This ultimately led me to my birth mother and older brother….but that is another story for another time. Those cemeteries in and around Huntsville told the story of my early ancestors in Texas. They were all there! I sat with them, I talked to them, and I grieved the fact that I would never know them in this life. I did after all, begin with them. They belong to me, and I belong to them. No closed adoption law or contract could change that fact. I found them, and thanks to Texas law and closed adoption, I missed the chance to know them. Oh Texas, how you have betrayed me.
There are many arguments against closed adoption and archaic laws that keep our identities locked away forever. This entry is about just one of the many….genealogical bewilderment. We all have a need to know where we come from. Even birds fly back home after winter is over. Humans are built that way too. For an adoptee, the need and longing can be unbearable. No one could ever convince me that I didn’t have a right to search for my roots. Genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the United States. For an adoptee, its much more than a hobby, it is vital.  With each relative I identified, a part of me healed up. The parts that were always blank spaces finally had writing on them. I did what the law in Texas says I don’t have a right to do, I found my roots. They are deep, and they are mine.
A few words about serendipity….it should be my middle name!
My birth family was in fact from Houston. My mother grew up in the Heights and often went to the old movie theatre. She tells me the story of how Dale Evans and Roy Rodgers came there for a movie premiere when she was a kid. My brother is three years older than me and attended the all boys Catholic high school, St.Thomas. We frequented the same hangouts as kids and I’m certain our paths crossed on a few occasions. My aunt, my mothers sister, she lived and raised her son, my cousin just a few  miles from me. I always knew I was home, I just took the scenic route to find my way back.
I wouldn’t leave you hanging regarding Kuykendahl Road.  Although you may not have the curiosity issues that I have and have forgotten all about it…..
Week two after my DNA results came in, I received a message from a fourth cousin. She wrote:
Dear Shawna, So good hearing from you. I wonder what ancestors we share.
Regards, Sandra Kuykendahl.

 

 Shawna Hodgson is a Texas born adoptee and adoptee rights activist.

 

 

 

Meet Dick Huiras

Dick Huiras is an adoptee, adoptive parent, and successful business owner among other things.  This is a brief overview of his adoption story.

The True Story of an Adoptee

I was born on May 17, 1943, in St. Paul, Minnesota. My biological mother and father were married, though, just not to each other.  For eight months, my biological mother’s husband would not pay any attention to me because he was not the father.  My biological mother knew this was not going to be a good environment for me and decided, after eight months, that I should be turned over to the Catholic Charities Adoption Agency.  They took me in, sent me to a foster home and, then, sealed the records.  As the adoptee, my past as a human at the age of eight months was locked along with my biological medical history and family history.

For all intent and purposes, my life started at the age of three years and two weeks when a wonderful couple wanted to give a forever home to a child and were willing to adopt what was known as an older child. Most adoptive families, at that time and, yet, today want a baby.

So, off to a small farm in southern Minnesota. Over the years, I realized I was the lucky one as it was a great life with two wonderful parents.  I was told, as a very young lad, that I was adopted. However, my parents knew very little about my past and the families of my biological mother and father.

The adoption agency told my parents that my biological mother and father had the same financial background, which I later learned, was not the case. They revealed that my biological dad was a long haul truck driver of German decent and some other Scandinavian country.  The adoption agency gave no information regarding my biological mother.

Through the years, my doctors kept asking me about my family’s medical background which was a blank page. I contacted the agency four times in an attempt to get my medical history.  Each time the agency representative said, “Sorry those files are sealed and cannot be opened for any reason”.

At the age of thirty-five, I once, again, called the agency asking for my original birth certificate or, at least, my family’s medical history. By that time, there had been adoptees that took agencies to court and won!  Now a precedent had been set that courts are giving orders to open adoptee records.

When I got in contact with my adoption agency, they were happy to send a letter to my biological mother and father informing them of my search. They both agreed to have the original birth certificate released.  I, first, contacted my biological mother hoping she would fill in all the blanks.  She had four other sons, three older and one younger then myself.  Over a period of three months, we all agreed to meet at my biological mother’s home in Minnesota.  The first meeting was a little stressful, no one really knew for sure just how much of the family’s secrets should be told.  As time went on, the other four boys stopped communicating with me.  My biological mother came to our home for a visit. That visit set the future in progress.  My biological mother stated that she wanted to make up for the thirty-five years since she had given me up for adoption.  I told her that was not necessary. I hoped that we would become very special and close friends as I already had a mom and dad.  Needless to say, this connection was not going to evolve as communication faded very quickly.

Many years later, I decided I would search the internet and find my biological father’s side of the family. I still had not received medical information from that side.  After much searching, I found a member of my biological father’s family.  On this side, there were two bothers and three sisters.  My wife and I traveled back to St. Paul, Minnesota to meet the other side.  The experience was nothing short of amazing.  There were instant bonds between myself and my brothers and sisters.  We get together no less than once a year with the whole family.

My wife is unable to have a baby, and neither one us really felt the urge to have a child. We changed our minds, and, adopted a wonderful girl.  Because of her I reached in, and pulled out what I never thought I had, and that is “DAD”.  Our lives have been enhanced by her, and we do not know how we lived our lives without her.

 

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Dick, his wife Jeanne, and their daughter Ali.