Adoption and reunion is a mind fuck.
I’ve lived in an adoption rainbow farting fog my entire life. I assumed my adoptive parents cultural, social and historical life. It is the only way to survive as an adoptee.
First I want to say that I love my adoptive parents. I had a great life. Anything a child could ask for. I grew up in affluence with parents very devoted to my health and education. They tried to be the best parents they could. It was my hard wired biology that kept getting in the way.
My adoptive Mother was not open to my questioning my heritage. She, like many adoptive mothers are fearful. I’m not sure about what. Maybe deep down they never quite feel like the baby they brought home is truly theirs? Perhaps it was that year of being under a microscope by the agencies, testing and assessing their parental aptitude? Perhaps it was her inability to adequately grieve for her own infertility? Then one day your supposedly “blank-slate” infant grows up and looks different, acts different, is not assimilating into the family “culture.” I believe that fear is ever-present with adoptive parents.
My search had to happen after my mother passed away. I was 53, and assumed that I would not be able to find my biological family, or that my biological parents were possibly deceased. Once the drive to search took hold, it was something I could not stop. I needed to know who I was. My life had been a series of death defying roller coaster rides for years, and I was getting deeply philosophical in my middle age. I had not been successful in the things I had been taught by my adoptive family. I was struggling.
Fortunately, the state in which I was adopted, Massachusetts, recently opened up their adoption birth records.* I was able to get a copy of my original birth certificate. After some time spent searching on the Internet, and with the help of an adoption “angel,” I found my family in Ohio. A few short months later, I planned a trip to go visit them.
Now I’m back from meeting my biological Mother, two half-brothers and a half-sister. We decided that I would go there for 12 days because I had no idea when I could get back to visit them. Twelve days is a long time to visit anyone, especially people you’ve never met before. So we all threw caution to the wind, and bravely ventured into the unknown. I stayed with my 77-year-old biological Mother in her home.
The trip was beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. It was full of joy. It was painful on many levels too.
I worked hard on that trip to keep myself centered, but failed quite a few times, even calling my husband to tell him I wanted to come home (4 days in). My usual resourceful and self-assured persona was overwhelmed. Everything I ever envisioned about a biological family, everything I felt about who I am was challenged.
My family. There it was, my biology reflecting itself back intensely. It wasn’t just physical appearance; it was attitude, social ideals and life philosophies. My family was typically flawed. Hurt feelings and imagined injustices just like any family out there. But they are a family, living close, involved with each other, supportive and loving.
I was readily accepted. I was called sister and daughter. There was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm with my arrival. As this initial phase wore down I became aware that I didn’t actually belong there. My place in the family has no anchor. I am woven into their fabric by very loose threads. I am in a nether-world, not fitting into my adoptive family, not belonging to my biological family. This is the adoption mind-fuck.
I wish I could say that we tearfully ran to each other in fields of daisies, fit for a reunion movie of the week. There were no Hallmark moments. I must say the trip was pleasant with some minor bumps. I will stay in contact with them, and I will call them my family. But if truth be told, my family actually resides in California – my adoptive Dad, who is dear to me, and my husband and son. My heart is with the people with whom I am familiar, who I have history, who have proven their love to me. My own little network for which I do have an anchor.
So that leaves me with what? The really cool thing is my blood-line heritage. I am descended, on both my Grandmother and Grandfather’s side from the early American settlers, from the Mayflower and the Daughters of the Revolution. I am directly descended from Governor Bradford, the first Governor of Massachusetts, one of the organizers of the Mayflower expedition, who is said to be responsible for Thanksgiving; from Robert Pike, a defender of Quaker women, who tried to stop the Salem witch trials; and from Deborah Sampson, a cross-dressing Revolutionary war heroine (perfect for my San Francisco persona). I apparently have a great-great grandmother that was full-blooded Native American.
It was amazing to me that most of my family had no idea of their history, nor did they seem to care. Taking one’s history for granted seems to run in biological families. For an adoptee, it is beyond imagination that one wouldn’t be interested in lineage. It is the one big piece missing in the “Who am I and where did I come from?” question. It was more than my immediate biology staring me in my face. It was MY heritage.
Another element that took me by surprise is how the women in our family are strong and intuitive. There was no doubt that I belonged. As a woman that seeks out strong female relationships, I was more than astonished at this connection. Surely this is hard-wired; there is no other reason for us all to be this similar. Before 5 days were over, I was finishing my sister’s sentences, and she knew what I was about to say before I said it. It was obvious there was something deeper lurking in our unfolding friendship. My sister will be my ally for life, and I will happily enfold her in my world, and perhaps at some point she will become an anchor.
I am unable to write about my biological Mother. This is too personal and too complicated. I cannot write out full sentences about her. I feel angry at her for giving me up, no matter what the circumstances. I love her. I hate her. I wanted to flee from her. I wanted her to hold me like a child. I wanted someone different, but was grateful she is who she is. She is very brave for letting me come stay with her for so long…we are both brave.
I am still recovering from this trip. At the urging of my dear husband, I will notate how I feel so far, and perhaps will need to revisit this post in the future. I have no idea what my future is with this family. I know I was accepted, thought of as a member and for that I feel humbled. But my internal struggles with where I belong, who I am, how I will live the rest of my life is still unfolding. While I was hoping that finding my family would fill in all the holes, I found there were deeper valleys forming. I am still standing on the precipice; my toes are still dangling over the edge. And it only leads me to believe that finding oneself is based on internal horizons, biological connections or not. No one will fill in those holes for you. It will always be a matter of finding your center, your peace, your own personal philosophy.
– molly bloom
(*NOTE: Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states that allows adoptees unrestricted access to their original birth certificates. The rest of the country has a confusing welter of qualifications and restrictions designed to keep the identity of adoptees a deep, dark secret. An excellent resource for learning more about the fight for adoptee rights is Bastard Nation. – c.a.)