Congratulations, it’s a girl! ( 47 years later)

It’s Wednesday afternoon, and time for another post from me. Today’s topic for discussion?

My “other” families. 

I’m still getting used to having a second/third  family. For most of my life, I knew they were out there, but they were nebulous, sort of like ghosts. I hadn’t given much thought to finding them, but assumed that if and when I ever did, it would go well. I find the pieces of myself that always felt like they were missing, and I’d be whole.

That didn;t happen.

My other family, for the most part, probably doesn’t know I exist. If they do, they may wish I never existed. To the ones who know about me, I was a disruption ad something to hide. I was like a dandelion seed launched into the wind, hopefully to take root somewhere else. I know it may sound odd, but I could have lived with that. I grew up in a household that may not ave been perfect, but there was lots of love to help salve any wounds,

For all those years ( 46.9999999999 of them,…I found out the truth on my birthday…happy birthday to me!) I had a vision in my mind of meeting my biological father. Since the information my mom and dad were given implied he had no idea I existed, I thought I’d have to do a lot of looking, but I’d find him one day. He’d be gentle and kind, maybe married with kids, and be surprised and happy to discover he had a daughter he never knew about.

That didn’t happen.

The truth has come out, and I don’t know if he even knows I know. One of my fears is that  one day I’ll get a call or email from one of my half siblings/ nieces/nephews on his side, wondering who I am and why they have a half sister they never knew, and who is also their aunt. How can i tell them the truth? Is it even me job to do that?

This is where I’m hoping that somebody can lend me a helping hand. Is there anyone out there in the cyber universe who have found this out about your father? If so, and you don’t mind sharing, what happened? How do you feel about the situation? Is there any advice you could share? If so, I’d really appreciate it. 

As a side note, I’d like to put a call out to those who follow my blog to make a donation to the efforts to help those affected by hurricane Dorian. There are lots of reputable agencies out there, and they can make sure the money goes where it’s most needed. Every bit helps. I’ve made a donation already to the Red Cross, which has relief efforts underway.

Baby Bird Found?

Hello all!

I’m back, after a hiatus. The summer days are almost over, my autoimmune disease is relatively under control and I have some amazing news! Can you guess from the photo and title of this post what it might be?

A while back, I decided I’d had enough of the dithering. Name of my biological mother in hand and an idea of the community where she might live, I found two possible addresses that could be her. My daughter and I bought two blank note cards and in each, I put a short note saying I was adopted and looking for genealogical information about my biological family. I put in an email address where I could be reached and thanked both recipients for their help in advance.

When they were ready, my daughter and I walked down to the post office to mail them. Once we got there, we turned around to go home, as I realized I was no nervous I’d forgotten them on the table. Another walk to the post office, and they were in the mail.

A few weeks went by, no response.  I was feeling a mixture of anxiety mixed with rejection. I took it as an indication that I had been right all along. No mother could love or want a child conceived in the circumstances I was. I was sad, but it was about what I’d expected.

Then it happened. I was having coffee and getting ready to start work for the day when I got an email form an address I didn’t recognize. I opened it and started to read.

By the time I finished the first line, I knew I had a half sister. She sent me a long letter and told me that our biological mother had gotten my note and I would hear from her soon. I can’t say how I felt at that moment, as I really can’t explain it.

A few days later, I got another email. It was from my biological mother! She wrote me a long letter and told me about herself, a bit bout her family,  details about her pregnancy and why she chose to give me up. She didn’t know I already knew about my genetic background, and not wanting to overwhelm her, I didn’t tell her I what the DNA testing I’d had done had revealed.

Over the summer, I have learned more about her through her emails. I also have a half brother, and it’s been interesting to see the similarities between my biological family and I. She told me how she hadn’t really realized she was pregnant, but her school nurse did. Once her family found out, she was promptly sent to a maternity home. After I was born, she was allowed to care for me for a couple of days in the hospital before she had to go home, and the last she ever heard about me was when I was four months old and she had to go to court for the final adoption hearing.

She said she had never stopped thinking about me, and had spent many hours wondering where I was, how I was doing, what I look like and if I was happy. She’d even tried to find me, but had no luck. 

I didn’t want to ask about my biological father, but I figured she had to know the question was coming, so I asked as gently as I could.

I know now. She was abused by a brother. My father is also my uncle. There is no doubt about where I came from. I also know my biological mother loved me, and that is huge.

More about this is my next post.

Is the really how society sees us?

Well, just when I thought I couldn’t see a more hurtful attitude, it was in an article that I learned about today. It had been shared by an individual who didn’t seem to agree with it and who was trying to encourage conversation about adoption and donor insemination.

I’m all for that. Openly discussing a topic is a wonderful thing.

What I didn’t agree with was the piece’s attitude towards those who are adopted or conceived through donor insemination. The author implied that the adoptees or those who came about due to an anonymous donor should be grateful that they merely exist and have no real right to want to know about their biological origins. How dare they want to invade the life of their biological mother or father?

Even worse, is the idea that if men or women think their future progeny may try and find them at some later date, they may not want to get involved in the process. While I can see that would be a very unsettling prospect, especially for the company that may stand to lose financially,

It’s as if they should just sit there and shut up. I take great offense to that attitude.

Why are we seen as different?

Many people have a desire to know their biological origins, whether they are adopted or not. Just look at the popularity of DNA testing and genealogical sites. I do believe this is part of human nature. A desire to understand ourselves and our place in the universe.

Lots of people brag about a famous relative or a relation who has done something special. That’s really normal and gives people a sense of who they are. As an adoptee, I don’t really get the chance. While I am very proud of my adoptive fmaily, I’d still like to know and understand my roots.

That’s so normal, but why, as an adoptee, do some feel I should be made to feel ashamed for wanting to know what most others take as a given? Is it really that bad? Is it wrong to wonder why I’m autistic, why I like to write more than speak or even why my hair is so damned curly that I look like Art Garfunkel every time the humidity gets high? Is it wrong to wonder where one of my kids who had her first book published at 12 got her talent for writing fiction? Why shouldn’t I know why I have a disease that is slowly taking away parts of me and may well lead to the end of my life?

Why shoudl I feel ashamed for asking what is seen as almost a basic human right for everyone else? Why am I made to feel like a beggar, hoping to be tossed a few scraps of information?

The right for privacy

All of this being said, I can also understand a person’s right to privacy. For some biological mothers and fathers, that is paramount for a variety of reasons. For some, giving up their child was such a difficult time that they don’t wish to be reminded of it. They were told they would soon forget their child and go on to live the rest of their life. They took that to heart and pushed it down so they wouldn’t have to deal with it.

One woman I spoke with told me that she had given up her son and gone on to finish school, get married and start a family. Her husband didn’t know about her first son, and she was able to bury his memory really deeply, but it did come out. She told me how, after her first child was born she couldn’t stop crying. Her husband wrote it off as “happy tears”, but the reality? She was mourning for the baby she never even got to see, let alone hold, tell him she loved him and say “good bye”.

For her, the only was she could cope was to pretend it had all either never happened or at least that it was so long ago it didn’t matter. She also said she would like to know how he’s doing, but a relationship with him would be too painful.

For others, the conception of their child was really traumatic, and seeing them may well bring it all back. I think that’s the boat my biological mother is in. If she sees my face, she’ll also see her abuser. I’ve seen a photo of her on a site for her local newspaper, and I look just like her. I don’t know what my biological father looked like, but I do look a lot like her brothers ( as would be expected if one of them is my father).

In the case where a spouse gets pregnant from an affair, there could also be a desire to keep the child under wraps as they are walking, talking proof that they slept with someone else.

Underneath all of this, there is an undercurrent of shame, at least for people my age and older. Many people forget how there was so much stigma about being an unmarried pregnant teen or woman. You were a “fallen woman”, and many ended up go to a maternity home to have their baby, give them up and then go home as if nothing had happened. They would tell friends they were going to visit a relative or make some other excuse, and then return a few months later.

It’s not like that so much today. Bering single mother isn’t seen as being terrible. It’s not ideal, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of either. Up until not that long ago, it wasn’t like that.

Some NPE who were conceived using donor sperm or eggs feel they are in the same boat as an adoptee. They may know a few facts, but they still want to know more. I can understand that, and to be frank, shouldn’t they have the same right to know where they came from as anyone else?

Looking ahead…

One of my kids is in law school, and in one of her classes, they briefly touched on the future of DNA testing, privacy issues and the laws as they currently stand today in my country. The laws that exist to directly address this are scant to non-existent ( although it may fall under general privacy and adoption laws in some ways). This is an area that may very well see some signification changes as the laws catch up to the technology.

As an adoptee, biological parent, adoptive family, NPE or a member of the public, you have been tasked with a great responsibility. You have the power to help drive laws and public policies and positive create change. I issue you the follow challenge:

Inform yourself. Do lots of research and look at the issue of adoption and privacy from all sides. Put yourself in the shoes of each of the stakeholders and try and look at the situation from their point of view. Share and discuss your opinions and if you feel really passionate, contact you politicians and lawmakers. This time, maybe society can get ahead of technology.

Many times, laws are drafted to be black and white, free of emotions. In this case, the emotions of all parties should actually be the driving force.

Adoptees, NPE and other in a similar situation didn’t ask for the hand they were dealt. We just want answers to one of the most basic of human questions… where did I come from?“. Surely, there is a way ahead that benefits all parties involved.

An angry day

Last night, I was working on a guest blog post I had been asked to write about my NPE experience and how I was dealing with it. I wrote a piece, tried to be as informative as I could, had one of my adult kids edit it for me and sent it off. It was chock full of positive language, and when I wrote it, I really did mean every word of it.

Today, I feel like a hypocrite. I am not okay.

I’m sorry if this post is somewhat scattered and angry. It’s just been a bad day.

Are you my mother?

I am 95 percent sure I found my biological mother on Facebook, along with some of what are my aunts/sisters and uncles/brothers/father(?). I bit the bullet and sent messages to each of the profiles that are my biological mother’s ( she has about five of them along with profiles under a different first name. Oddly enough, it’s the same first name as my adoptive mom) along with friend requests, and I also did the same with two of her sisters. I never said why, just that I was looking for this particular person.

The end result? I got the rejection that is the deep down fear of many adoptees. The friend requests sent to her sisters were rejected, the messages never read. I don’t know if the requests have been seen by my biological mother or not.

This leads me to the two feelings that I have found to be the most difficult to deal with. The sadness and the anger. Neither is rational, and I am disappointed in myself that they are there.

Sometimes, I feel just like this little bird…

What’s wrong with me?

I know there is no logic to it, but it’s hard to deal with this feeling of rejection. Heck, the one person in the world we are supposed to know loves us is our mother. Before I received the NPE result, I assumed mine loved me. She loved me enough to allow me to be born and then to give me up. I know the paradox of giving a child up equating to love, but in this example, it really does.

I don’t think my mother loved me, and that is incredibly sad to me and hard to write. The logical side of my brain tells me this is to be expected. Her whole pregnancy and me being born, let alone having to see me was just a big reminder of her abuse. She may well have been told to hide what really happened, and it could be that’s the origin of the fairy tale I was told. I wonder if she even started to believe it herself?

My friend who was also adopted, had a similar experience to mine. The difference is, her birth mother was attacked by a group of men and has no idea which one is the father. Right now, my friend is coping with her own difficulty, as she’s had a DNA test done and some biological brothers and sisters have popped up. She’s struggling right now with what to say to them to explain why they have a newly discovered sister in her 50’s.

I know it’s not fair to compare the two women, but it’s hard not to. Why is her mother able to have a relationship with her, but mine can’t with me? Does she imagine I’m really that horrible?

I know, in the rational part of my mind, that this may simply all be too much for my biological mother to cope with. I also know it’s not “me” she’s rejecting, it’s the situation. Even so, it’s still a blow.

I hate to admit this

If I look deep down and am honest about it, there is also a lot of anger about my situation. I hate that it’s there. I don’t want it to be, but again, it is what it is.

Why am I angry? There are several reasons.

First, I’m angry that I have been lied to by so many and for so long. I’m not even sure where and when it started, or even why. If I’m in a charitable mood, I think it’s to protect me from an unsavory truth. If I’m feeling low, then it becomes a whole lot darker. Was the lie of my origin crafted to protect my mother’s abuser? I expect knowing that I was to be bundled off to a foster home once I was well enough to go home from the hospital was actually a huge relief to my biological father, not to mention the rest of the family.

Secondly, I’m angry that I’ve been made to feel like I’m a beggar, pleading for information, both medical and genealogical. Again, in a charitable mood, I paint this as being due to a desire to protect me from a painful ( and let’s be honest, for my biological fmaily, embarrassing) situation. I understand that, but who asked anyone to do this? For goodness sake, I’m in my late 40’s and am able to weight the positives and negatives of a situation and determine what is best for me. I don’t need a stranger, or group of them, to decide this for me.

If asked what one of the most unsettling aspects of all of this is, while it’s hard to pick just one, it’s this odd feeling like I am walking evidence of a crime. I wonder if my mother’s abuser ever had to face justice for what he did to her?

A few final thoughts

I apologize if this post was sort of all over the place and rather whiny. That’s not my intention. One of the reasons I started this blog was to write about my feelings and experiences, as it helps me to work through them and maybe, it will help someone else too. As usual, please feel free to comment and share your own story.

It really does help.

Let’s talk about it

Until about two months ago, sexual abuse was something that had happened to other people. I knew what it was, even had s couple of friends who had been abused as children, but I had never been impacted by it personally.

That has all changed.

Down through the years…

When you think about it, my situation, and those other NPEs have experienced goes to show how abuse can have such a huge impact on future generations. Now I now you may be asking how we could be hurting due to events we never experienced, but we are.

Many of us feel a range of emotions. Sometimes, we feel okay and we accept the situation. Other times, we feel a mix of shame, guilt, sadness and we mourn. We mourn the fantasy family and happy reunion we will probably never get to have. We mourn the loss of who we thought we were and we mourn the loss of who were really are at a fundamental level. It’s hard not to fele ‘tainted”.

Why the guilt?

That’s a really easy one. Sexual abuse of children has likely been going on since people first walked on two legs, but it was often hidden and kept in the dark. In recent years, people have begun to talk about it, and we have learned just how devastating it can be to a boy or girl, even on to their adult years.

How can we not feel guilty? While it’s certainly true we never asked to be conceived or born, we also know the pain our existence may well have put our mothers through. Many of the NPE people I have talked to expressed a sense of guilt. I can’t imagine how painful it may have been for my biological mother. She had been abused, gotten pregnant, and from what I can tell ( but I could be wrong) she was shuffled off to a maternity home, where she had her child in secret. How can I not feel some guilt over that? Maternity homes back then were not known for being the kindest of institutions, and I imagine she may well have been made to feel guilty, like some sort of fallen woman, even though she was completely innocent. It was her abuser who was at fault.

In an odd way, some of us even begin to develop protective feelings towards our biological mothers. We want to take their pain and shame away, even though we have never met them and they are strangers to us. It’s strange, but the parent/child roles can sort of get turned on their heads.

Shining a light in the shadow

One of the feelings that I have about all of this that I really don’t understand myself, is the sense of shame. I have done nothing wrong, but let’s be frank. I am the product of incestuous child abuse. It makes my skin crawl to type that, but it is what it is. I can accept that. I can’t change it, even though I wish I could.

It’s the shame and embarrassment that really sticks in my craw. We’ve all heard the “inbreeding” jokes at one time or another. They really are not funny. There is so much stigma attached to discussing familial sexual abuse, and I think that’s wrong. I also think it’s wrong that we don’t talk more openly about some of the potential fallout, beyond how it impacts the abused. While that is one of the most important pieces of the discussion, it is not the only one.

I’m a hypocrite ( I admit it)

I know how hypocritical it is of me to talk about how the stigma around discussing sexual abuse in families while I hide behind an anonymous user name and blog. How can I do that?

The answer is both simple and complex. I’m not exactly a “socializer” and a lot of people don’t know who I am. If it was just me, I might be more willing to use my actual name, but I don’t want to put my kids in that position. That would be so unfair to them! So instead, I hide behind my username and try to get the word out as best I can. Perhaps one day I will have the courage to be more open.

Ending the stigma may help break the cycle

While I wasn’t sexually abused myself, I’d like to think I can help to break the cycle, at least for someone out there. As a society, this is a topic that we really need to address openly, honestly and without fear or shame. It’s the shame and fear that allow it to keep on, often generation after generation. Isn’t it high time we said “STOP!” and started talking about it more openly?

As many abusers were abused themselves as a child, making sure that child ( and adult) victims have timely access to mental health care, counseling and support is also so important. While there can be no guarantees, making sure these measures are in place may just help break the cycle from continuing on, and on and on and on ad nasuem.

In closing I would like to issuer the following challenge ( don’t worry, it’s an easy one). I ask everyone who reads this to talk to just one or two people about sexual abuse in families, NPE and how more and more people are finding out that, like me, they are the end result of this crime. To borrow a phrase from Amnesty International, it’s “better to light a candle than rage at the darkness”. We can all make a difference.

Surprise! Your beginnings aren’t what you thought they were

Now I had my DNA test results in both interpreted and raw forms. I had my birth certificate, such as it was, but I was really no further ahead. I joined a couple of online support groups, but they were full of people in the same boat as me. We had information, but just bits and pieces, and for a lot of us, it wasn’t enough to find our biological family.

I thought there must be more I could do.

Opening Pandora’s Box

I write for a living, and one of the largest components of my job is research. I put those skills to work, chasing down information and trying to put it all together. Since many of the DNA testing and research sites allow you to upload your raw DNA data for free, I did so, hoping to find more relative matches.

I didn’t. It was almost always the same people. I couldn’t figure it out. Other people had lots of matches, but mine were sparse. That made no sense to me, especially considering that, according to the information I’d been given, my biological mother had a big family. One site gave me a lot of helpful health information, but there were still no concrete answers. What was I doing wrong?

Then I found another site that let me upload my data so I could run in through several different utilities. As expected, no matches, and a lot of details I didn’t really understand.

The lid is off!

At that point , I was more confused that ever. Each of the sites gave me slightly different racial group, but it was all similar. I knew my maternal haplogroup, that I have a whole slew of genes that result in a range of autoimmune diseases and a couple that are believed to be linked to autism. This makes sense, as two of my kids, along with me, are autistic.

I began to feel like I was spinning my wheels but getting nowhere, which is a feeling I’m sure a lot of adoptees feel when they are searching for their biological family. I went through pages of documents online, contacted “matches” on DNA testing sites, networked with other adoptees to share search tips and did my best.

Then it happened.

I found the utility program on a site I had been using. It would turn my world upside down.

So What’s Your Story Anyway?

I’d prefer to remain a anonymous, and when you find out why, I think you’ll understand.

In the beginning…

A little less than 47 years ago, I was adopted as an infant by my mom and dad who already had an adopted son. They were really wonderful parents, and I had a normal enough childhood.

They had always told me that I was adopted, and the way my parents framed it was they had wanted a little girl to love, and when they saw me, they knew I was the right little girl for their family. I knew right from the start I was adopted, and my mom and dad told me my biological parents were young and couldn’t care for a child. They felt that giving me up would give me a better life, so that’s the decision they made.

The early years…

When I turned 12, my mom and dad gave me all the records and other information they had regarding my adoption and we went through it together. They told me if I ever wanted to start trying to find my biological family, they would help me in any way they could.

I didn’t feel the need to. I felt secure in my family, and didn’t feel any real sense of curiosity. In my mind, I built up a picture of what my biological family was like, what they were doing and where they lived. It was nothing special, just ordinary, but it was comforting to know they were out there somewhere if I ever wanted to look.

What changed?

I lived my life. I finished high school graduated from university, got married and started a family. Due to being a military family, we moved around a lot, and eventually moved to the city with the base that would be my husband’s last posting. We started to put down roots, bought a home but then my mom got sick.

My mom passed away from cancer, and then, one by one, my kids started getting sick. Then I became ill, and it was all autoimmune related. We weren’t getting many answers about why this was happening, so I decided to try and find some.

I sent away for my original birth certificate and signed up with a site to have my DNA tested to try and find some relatives. I had to wait a few weeks, but the results eventually arrived.

I admit I was getting really excited, and even my husband, kids, dad, and aunt were also on pins and needles. I got my birth certificate and a few days later, my DNA results were in. I thought I might get some answers.

The elation

I logged into Ancestry and was greeted with lots of matches. All of a sudden, I had a whole slew of biological cousins! Without understanding that a fourth, fifth or sixth cousin is actually quite distantly related, I started contacting as many as I could. They were all friendly and kind, but couldn’t help.

That’s when I started to notice that, compared to a lot of people, I had relatively few cousins, but I didn’t know why. I brushed it off and decided to take a closer look at my birth certificate.

That was the first sign something was wrong.

The deflation

When I compared my original birth certificate with the one my parents had been given, I learned several things. First, I learned I had been born two months premature. My second birth certificate lied about that. I also had my mother’s last name and some other information, but it wasn’t adding up at all with what my family had been given.

I looked for women with her name from the community listed as being her home town, and found nothing useful. I tried reaching out to people with her last name, but all I ended up doing was consoling a man who was my age and who had just found out he was adopted. I was able to help him a bit, so I guess that’s one good thing from this whole mess.

I sort of had this image in my mind that I would find my biological mother and we’d connect. I could ask questions of her, she could ask them of me and we could go from there. I thought the same things about my biological father. I wasn’t expecting sunshine and roses, but it would have been a positive experience.

I had no idea it could get so complicated

What Makes an NPE so Upsetting?

Some people out there may be wondering why and NPE would be such difficult news? After all, it doesn’t really change a person. They will still be who they always were, and after all, your life is what you make of it, isn’t it?

Yes and no.

While it is certainly true that many of the important things in life are self determined, on a very fundamental level, our DNA is what makes us what we are. It’s the foundation for all of the rest. Disturb that foundation, and it can really shake a person.

What’s it like when this happens?

In was adopted. That was the world as I knew it. I was fine with with somewhat nebulous idea in my mind of what my parents were like. In my imagination, they were a nice couple, in love but not ready to have a child. I liked to think they thought it was hard to give me up, but did it because they knew it was what was best for me.
While it’s possible, at least in the case of my mother, this was true, my reality is now very different.

For me, finding out that my biological family isn’t what I thought it was took away what was a very comforting fantasy. I never pictured my biological parents as being anyone important, famous or even out of the ordinary. They were just average.

“The Unpleasant Realities”

A friend of mine who was also adopted and I jokingly refer to ourselves as”the unpleasant realities”. Like me, she is a NPE. Her mother was sexually assaulted by several men, and she was the result. She learned all this when she decided to look into her background and found out the truth.

My origin was under different circumstances, but the end result is the same. A person in their late 40’s trying to understand where they came from.

How does it feel?

I can’t speak about how anyone else feels, just myself. For me, it completely blew away the scenario I had in my head of what meeting my biological family would be like. While I didn’t think it would be easy, I had thought it would be a positive experience.

Now, I’m not so sure. If I do find my Biomother (biological mother), it may well bring up some very traumatic feelings for her. Add tot hat the fact that I have no idea if she even knows I’m alive, as some women who gave their child up back then in what is referred to by some as the baby scoop era” were told their son or daughter was either stillborn or had passed away during the birth process. It was though to be easier if they never got to see or hold their baby.

Can I really approach this woman, out of the blue, and tell her I’m the daughter she gave up all those years ago?

I’m debating that right now.

If you’ve been in this situation, what did you do? If you found your genetic parent, what happened? What it positive, negative or neither?