My column is going to focus on the journal entires I have been keeping since deciding to search for and reunite with my Birth Mother in early 2010. My story is remarkable - just like yours is or surely will be. I have yet to meet an adult adoptee who was victim to the closed adoption records of the 1960’s and 1970’s that can say that the experience of reunion has not changed who they are, how they look at the world, and how they view adoption. My reunion took a naive young Mom of three (me), who had just adopted a baby girl from Ethiopia primarily because of her own “white picket fence” adoption experience and transformed her into somewhat of an emotional wreck, passionate about opening adoption records and preserving biological families when at all possible. I look back on the past five years with a mix of horror, happiness, regret, peace, closure, trauma, drama, and humor. Some days I am so sick and tired of adoption talk, but other days I suck it up and admit that my experience can help others and isn’t that what life is all about? I will end each of my columns with a “Lesson Learned." I believe every life experience, good or bad, teaches us a lesson, and I want to share the lessons I have learned with you all.
Let me take you back to 2009. These are my personal thoughts prior to telling my husband and parents that I wanted to search for my Biological Mother.
What the hell was I thinking? I thought adopting a child would provide me a kindred sprit - an adoption BFF :) I would relate to her and she would relate to me because we were adopted. The thing is, I have no clue what it means to be adopted other than it is an adjective I sometimes use to describe myself. Usually I leave it out all together - it always leads to weird questions.
Sadie came home from Africa [Sadie Mitike is my daughter, adopted from Ethiopia in 2008] with pages and pages of personal history, pictures of her birth family, pictures of her country, and details of her Mother’s death three days following her birth. She was held, she was breast-fed and she was lovingly named “Mitike” by her Father which means Reflection of Her . Her Mother was studying nursing in a town 30 minutes outside her village and her Father is a retired farmer and Physics Teacher, supporting a family of eight on the equivalent of 20 US dollars per month.
The more I get to know Sadie the more I realize we have nothing in common at all in regards to adoption. I know nothing about my Birth Mother. All I know is I was born in Columbus, Ohio. My parents were called that a girl was born. They got on a plane and then I was home. I wonder what my story is? Crap! I think it’s time I talk to Mike about hiring an investgator about finding my Birth Mother. How can I relate to Sadie and support her if I don’t face the details of my own adoption? How can I fully support her if I don’t do this? What will my parents say? What will Fran [my mother-in-law] say? I’m gonna puke. This is going to be expensive. Mike will never agree. I bet it’s like $5000. I have to do this for Sadie.
So this is how it all began. My husband was fully supportive of my choice. I was sick for days before calling my parents about my decision. When I finally made the call, they were both on the line, as they always are, and I remember my Mother saying that she always knew I would search at some point in my life. I found this interesting because she never indicated to me that she felt that way. We never really talked about my adoption unless it involved my Mother telling me that it must have been a young girl that loved me very much. They told me I had their full support and at that point I began researching Investigators in Ohio. Fran is my Mother-in-Law whose opinion sometimes matters too much too me. She seemed annoyed, mad and skeptical all at once, which sucked, but I had already opened the can of worms. People were going to have to deal with this on their own. I knew early on this was about me, even though I got myself sick worrying about everyone else.
It’s important to also note, that when I went away to College, I made a conscious choice to never mention my adoption. I learned growing up that I had no clue how to answer adoption related questions. I usually just stood there stunned when questions about my adoption arose. College was the perfect escape to just become a normal biological child. In fact, many of my best friends had no idea I was adopted until I started posting pics of my Birth Mother on Facebook after our reunion. I was ashamed of my adoption and I hated that people looked at my family differently. I hated feeling that people thought my parents loved me less because I was adopted. Erasing my adoption from my life equation made me seem more normal and it worked for many years. The stigmas of adoption had such a negative affect on me emotionally that I was terrified to tell Mike when we were dating that I was adopted. It seems so silly looking back, but it was a real fear of mine and one I know many adoptees can relate to. Sadly, I thought of myself as unlovable.
I look forward to sharing the rest of my story with you and I wonder if many of you can relate to the emotions I felt before telling my husband and parents I wanted to search? I would love to hear if you ever kept your adoption a secret?
Lesson Learned: People who love you the most always react better than you give them credit for in your head. And, if they do react negatively, they usually come around quickly. Bravery is the first step in stepping out of the shadows and stigmas of adoption.