Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Just Another Lost Daughter

Karen Pickell
by Karen Pickell

Hello everyone. I'm thrilled to be blogging here at Lost Daughters, and very grateful to Amanda for giving me his opportunity to speak about my own experience with adoption.

I was born and adopted in Ohio in the late 1960s. Growing up I always knew I was adopted, though I don't remember being told. I imagine it happened around the time my parents adopted my younger brother. My parents were a bit older, and when I was very young, I thought their age was the reason I often felt different from the other kids I knew. But by the time I became a teenager, I realized that my feeling of being different had more to do with how I didn't fit with my family, how we didn't function the same as other families I knew. I also became accutely aware that I looked physcially different than my parents, with my red hair and fair, freckled skin.

I often thought about my birth mother, whom I was told had been a teenager when I was born. What had that been like for her? How was she able to give me up? Where was she now? Deep down, I missed her very much. When the internet started to become widely available in the late 1990s, I started lurking on adoption message boards, hoping to find a message from someone searching for a baby girl born in Ohio on my birth date. I never found that message. I began leaving messages of my own, but no one ever answered. I wasn't brave enough to do anything more. I knew my parents would be terribly hurt by my wanting to search, so I didn't tell anyone about my feelings.

After I gave birth to my son, my desire to find my birth mother grew even stronger. Then my adoptive father passed away. Suddenly, I felt more free to find the answers I was looking for. It seemed the guilt I had about hurting him had been holding me back. I knew my mom would have her own doubts and insecurities as well, but I also thought that over time she'd come around and be ok with me knowing my biological family. To top it off, I had married a man who was an adoptive father himself--he and his first wife had adopted two children, one of them from Korea. My husband had always been ready to help his own adopted children if they ever wanted to search for their birth families. He supported my search 100%.

In Ohio, a person adopted between 1964 and 1996 cannot obtain her original birth certificate unless a signed release from her birth mother is on file with the state. I doubt that many birth mothers even know they can do this. I couldn't find my birth mother without the help of a professional searcher. I was luckier than most because I knew the first name my birth mother had given me when I was born, and because I knew her ancestry from my non-identifying information. The searcher was able to find a name that was likely my original name on Ohio's birth index. After that, it took less than a week to locate my birth mother's address and phone number.

I was also very lucky that my birth mother was overjoyed to hear from me. We corresponded by telephone and email for several months before we met in person. (I moved to Georgia a few years before I began my search, so distance has been a factor in our reunion.) Seeing her and hugging her for the first time was like finally going home. I gave birth to a daughter, and my birth mother was able to come and hold her the way she had never been able to hold me. Soon after, I met my birth father, with whom I share many similarities. Without knowing him, I would not be complete. I also discovered I have half-siblings on both sides. The entire landscape of my family, and by extension, my children's family has changed forever. Our history is no longer a gaping black hole. Last year, my son's class talked about immigration, and I was thrilled to be able to tell him where his own ancestors had emigrated from.

Everyone who says that reunion is a rollercoaster ride is absolutely right. My birth relatives and I have had our ups and downs since this all began back in 2005. At this point in time, I'm in a good place with some and in not such a good place with others. I continue to hope that one day we'll all get to a place of love and acceptance of each other.

I'm looking foward to sharing more of my thoughts on adoption with the other adoptees here at Lost Daughters, as well as with others touched by adoption, and even, with any luck, with those who don't have an adoption connection at all but who want to learn more about how we navigate these journeys we're all on. I know I'll learn from all of you as well.