Saturday, December 10, 2016

She Didn't Remember My Birthday

The day I came home to my family (2-25-66)
Today is my birthday. Traditionally, growing up I loved my birthday.  My mom always made me my favorite meal (lasagna) and chocolate cake with chocolate icing.  It was nothing extravagant like kid birthday parties are today.  It was just the four of us -- mom, dad, my brother Scott and me.  And that was enough.  There were no expectations that we would go to Bounce U, Laser Quest, McDonald's or have ponies parading in the yard.  I kind of miss those simple times.

Having a December birthday, many people feel "ripped off" when they get the famous combo gift at Christmas, but that was not the case for me at all.  Far enough away but still able to take in the Christmas excitement on my birthday.  My 16th birthday was the best because I was able to invite four or five of my closest high school friends over to the house.  There was no drinking -- just cutting up and having fun.

Birthdays as I got older into my young adulthood, usually had me thinking about my other mother somewhere out there.  Lots of unanswered questions, a mix or happiness and frustration of my powerlessness not to be able to have answers, but nothing too heavy.  I still liked my birthday.

So, I think I was a bit surprised to learn later in life as part of the adoption community that so many adoptees struggle with negative feelings on their birthdays.  I don't recall experiencing that as a child. But I understand now completely why there would be mixed feelings.

Karen Caffrey, attorney and therapist, contrasts the excitement of the birth of her grandneice with her own birth as an adoptee:

"Bathing in the reality of such an outpouring of love and welcome towards this infant, I have been struck that my arrival in the world, and that of my fellow adoptees, was almost without exception, very, very different.  Our mothers (and fathers) were either planning on being separated from us, or were being forced or coerced to do so.  Our grandparents were unaware of this impending separation, complicit in it, or were in fact responsible for orchestrating it."  Good God.  This is just the beginning of the story about the circumstances that lead so many adoptees to feeling rejected." (The Adoptee's Healing Journey From Rejected to Beloved, The Adoptee Survival Guide, pp.158-159.)

Wendy Barkett talks about her feelings and fantasies as a child and also as an adult surrounding her birthday:

"The wish was the same every year with a twist in the sequence of words....I made the same wish until my 32nd birthday: I wish to find my birth mother.  Each year on my birthday morning, I woke with hope.  There were years I would have never admitted to such dreamful hopes, but they were always there.  As a young child, I would hope that my birth mother would show up at our front door with a huge bundle of balloons.  I could never see her face in these daydreams, as the balloons were in the way.  However, I would know it was her the instant I opened the door and she always got to stay for my party.   As I became a teen, the hope turned to a phone call or letter from her. Each time the phone rang, my body tensed with hope and then disappointment.  The balloons, the letter and the phone call never came.  I stayed silent about my wish because I knew the golden rule:  Don't tell anyone your birthday wish or it won't come true. (Birth Day, The Adoptee Survival Guide, pp. 6-7).
First meeting  at The Cradle with Mrs. Magee, the social worker
Fast forward 40 years.  The social worker at the agency of my adoption found my mother late summer of 2016. Shortly thereafter, I recall sitting in the basement on the couch listening to my mother's voice for the first time. Her voice and the conversation was not what I expected.  I felt like I was living in slow motion, in some kind of pretend world.  She talked alot.  I listened.

She remembered by black hair.

She looked at me through the glass in the nursery.

She didn't hold me.

She knew it was near Christmas as she always grieved for me at that time of year.

But she didn't remember my birthday.

I was crushed.  All those birthdays as a child, I was convinced she was thinking about me. Convinced.

And I guess she was at least thinking about me during the month of December.  But not on my birthday specifically because my birthday was foggy enough in her mind that she did not remember the day, nor did she call the agency to clarify the day, nor did she call the agency to see if I was placed with a good family, nor did she try to find me when I became an adult.

Of course, there were perfectly reasonable explanations for all of the above.  I'm sure there will be birth mothers who send me messages explaining to me about birth mother trauma, the era that I was born in, that she will always love me, etc. (please, just don't).

However, the rejected baby still lives within me and now (post-reunion) she rears her head on my adult birthdays.  I have spent a decade grieving the reality that my family of origin did not want me.  It's my birthday and I can cry if I want to.

I can also celebrate!

I have an amazing family that loves me right here in this house! My adult son is bringing me sushi at 2:00 p.m.  I have a beautiful daughter and a husband who takes care of me and loves me to no end.

Yet, my own mother didn't remember my birthday.

 I think I can finally forgive her for that.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

My (fill in the blank) is Adopted But Is Not Interested in Searching

Photo credit:
If I had a quarter for everytime somebody said the statement, "My ______ is not interested in searching" I could go on a nice vacation.

Somebody said it to me me this week.  I cannot remember who but I remember it being said and it causes my mind to swirl with emotions and begin to shut down.

I react to this statement viscerally because I'm sure it could have been said about me at some point in my life.

And on top of that, I feel that this statement is a way of  negating anything I ever said to that person about my own adoption search, anything that they have ever heard me say about adoption or read that adoptees experience being adopted -- and even everything they heard from their adopted friend/cousin/niece/nephew/grand child) who doesn't want to search gets thrown into the box.  Then the box is labeled "Adoptee who Doesn't Feel Like You."

It may sound dramatic and you may accuse me of over-reacting and that's o.k.  Because I've heard it so many times that I completely understand why it is used so much.  People like neat categories to help them make sense of things they can't control.

"Adoptee A is a bit of a rebel and has 'problems' -- his birth father was an alcoholic."

Adoptee B is an honor student and is not interested in searching."

See how that works?

I actually overheard a conversation similar to this at work a few years ago which prompted a blog on a similar topic.

It's an Us versus Them--- US are the adoptees who search and speak out about our adoptions and learn that their birth families are less than perfect.  Then there is THEM-the ones who never even think about it let alone act on it!   It's a way of separating us into two camps, both camps opposing each other.

We have in Camp 1 -- the inquisitive, questioning, outspoken, wanting answers, bad, adoptees who won't let it rest and we have in the opposite corner . . . .

Camp 2-- the compliant, happy, contented, good adoptee who accepts what he/she is told about her adoption and never questions that narrative (even in her own head).

Yesterday I read a life-changing article titled What We Lost: Undoing the Fairy Tale Narrative of Adoption by Liz Latty. I urge you to read it from start to finish.  This paragraph really jumped out at me:

  "As a child, I never let on that I didn't feel as excited as my parents did to celebrate my Special Day.  This is a complicated hallmark of an adopted childhood.  Adoptees often take on the emotional labor of holding our difficult feelings in places where no one can see them because we want to protect those around us from feeling hurt.  There also often exists a very real and primal fear of further rejection.  We understand we are loved and we understand love is tenuous, so we hide our feelings away because what if we didn't?  How will you feel?  Will you be mad at me?  Will you be hurt?  Will you love me less?  Will you send me back?  I don't want you to feel sad or think that I don't love you, so I hold this hard truth.  I hold it for you.  I celebrate this day, in this way, for you."

We hold many hard truths.. We hold our feelings inside as a way to protect you.  We don't tell you how we had an urge to yell at the teacher for assigning a family tree assignment.  We don't talk about how we are thinking about where our birth mothers are because we know it will hurt your feelings.  We try to pretend the comment about us not looking like the rest of the family didn't hurt our feelings.  We don't mention that we wanted to throttle the cashier at Walmart for asking us if we feel lucky to be adopted.  We don't tell you about the kid at school who said our real parents didn't want us.  We don't tell you about the girls in middle school who said we were weird for being adopted.  We don't tell you about how the next door neighbor commented about how "you never know what you are going to get" about the adoptee in his family.  We didn't mention about the choir teacher asking if we were were grateful we were not aborted (because whether you acknowledge it or not, my being adopted somehow prompts people to ASSUME I was seconds away from being aborted). 

If you live in a family that does not value the discussion of feelings, you can fly under the radar like I did.  My parents just assumed I was a kid who did not have many feelings (they never saw beneath the veneer that I am a highly sensitive person).  I learned to never discuss what I was feeling in my childhood home.  It was never safe and I don't mean in the sense that somebody would have been violent.  I just never felt safe to talk about my feelings. 

Have you ever watched the television series Dexter?  It's about an adoptee who is a serial killer.  In the show there are flashbacks to Dexter growing up and being trained by his adoptive father on how to channel his killing instinct into a "positive" way (he only kills bad people who have killed others). He trains and teaches Dexter how to FAKE his feelings and emotions so that other people will see him as normal.  Dexter is able to fit in at work, in his neighborhood and even with his unsuspecting girlfriend.  As I watched this last night, I was thinking about the irony of how this applies to real life adoption.  

Adoptees will do whatever it takes to attempt to fit into their families -- many times the cost is their silence. That is an important takeaway for adoptive parents who read adoptee blogs to understand.  We are taking a giant leap of faith by admitting how we feel now -- it may be after we are all grown up, but we do it to support other adoptees.  Adoption is complicated.  It does not fit into neat little boxes.  You can't put us in two separate camps, because the truth is a non-searching adoptee this year becomes a searching adoptee next year. A compliant, happy adoptee this year can become a sullen, angry, grief-stricken adoptee next year.  You can't control it.  The boxes don't help.  They shut down the conversation. Adoptees have been well trained to hold pain for others and not grieve their own.  We know what we stand to lose and we won't open up unless we feel safe.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

How Can Become Your New Best Friend

The yellow is my 11% Irish :)

You've seen the commercials . . . . . .she didn't know she was Native American . . . .he didn't realize he was Italian . . . . . .but what the commercials don't tell you is that by simply paying $99.00 and shipping your spit off to Ancestry, you can learn this. . . . . . . .

1.  The name of your biological father that left you were when you were too small to know the story of what really happened.

2.  Your mother gave up a child (your sibling) in the 1970's before you were born and before she married your father.

3.  Your parents never mentioned you were actually adopted.

4.  Friends or neighbors you personally know are actually related to you.

5.  Your father was busy in the 1980's and you have several new siblings to prove it.

Ok, all of these situations sound pretty shocking and your first reaction might be, "But I don't want to know!"

Fair enough.

However, knowing that you have a different blood line than you believed can actually save your life. I mean, what if you need an organ transplant?  What if you are having a multitude of unidentified physical or psychological symptoms and when you meet a close family member, the mystery is cleared up about certain medical conditions that run in the family?

Maybe that one blood family member you never really thought you cared to know actually has something positive to add to your life?  Sure, it could be a disaster -- meeting relative strangers could potentially go down in flames (when Pandora's Box is opened) and when family members have to find a way to fit you into the picture -- but again, it could be amazing and beautiful as well! You could develop lifelong relationships with one or more of your new cousins!

Building a family tree is a fun and popular hobby for many people -- but for those of us who were not permitted to know our blood lines as both children and adults due to discriminatory laws, find genealogy to be life changing in so many ways.  Even if you have no skeletons in the closet, or skin in the game, the cheapest, fastest way you can support an adoptee in your life is by purchasing an autosomal DNA test.

The adoptee you help may just be your niece!

So what are you waiting for?  Order your Ancestry DNA kit today!

You'll never know what you didn't know until you spit into the little tube and mail it back to!

This has been a public service announcement -- not for the purposes of advertising a product but for the purpose of celebrating National Adoption Month 2016 by improving the lives of adopted people and bringing truth and transparency to adoption.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Heading to National Conference of State Legislatures - Chicago 2016

NCSL-Minneapolis, MN - 2014

The Adoptee Rights Coalition is gearing up for another exciting opportunity to speak with state legislatures and their staff members about sponsoring bills in closed record states for equal rights for adoptee access to original birth certificates.

This year will be different in that we will be educating lawmakers on the boom in DNA/genetic genealogy testing and that through this testing, there is no longer any reasonable expectation that privacy or anonymity exists between a parent and their offspring (adopted or not).

For $99.00, anyone can purchase a DNA test and be matched up with cousins and sometimes, close family members, who also have tested.  Just a few years ago, it was only a lucky few who were getting close matches.  Nowadays, people are getting first cousin, grandparent and sibling matches on a regular basis.

I myself have a first cousin match at Ancestry which has allowed me to see which of my other matches are maternal versus paternal.  I am fortunate to be adopted in the state of Illinois which allows most of their adoptees access to their OBCs.  A majority of adoptees are still discriminated against in their home states of adoption.

Gaye Tannenbaum of the ARC has written about this phenomena in her blog titled DNA Game Changer - Part I: Thoughts on the "birthparent privacy" argument.  Please share this article far and wide.

If you will be at the NCSL, please visit BOOTH 824. We will have DNA tests as door prizes.

Hope to see you there!


Friday, July 15, 2016

How Can You Support an Adoptee?

I arrived at the idea for this post thinking about all the amazing people I have met, seen and heard through the Facebook room called DNA Detectives.  The group is managed by genetic genealogists who spend hours a day helping total strangers seek out and find their roots - many of these members are adopted.  When I feel myself losing hope in my own search, I log into DNA Detectives and read posts about people who have searched for decades without much to go on, due to sealed records and secrets, but were able to get a breakthrough thanks to autosomal DNA testing.

So, what can YOU do to help an adoptee, even if you are not part of the adoption constellation? You don't have to be a birth parent, an adoptive parent or an adoptee yourself to do a few very important things to help adoptees find their roots.

My ethnic breakdown

Normally, the test at Ancestry cost 99.00 but you can get it on sale for 79.00.  How does this help an adoptee?  Simple -- every new tester in the database is a potential relative of an adoptee who is waiting for answers.  Using your saliva and a simple process of shipping via mail, you can learn of your ethnic breakdown.

Ancestry will also match you with your genetic cousins and statistically, you will be related to an adoptee somewhere on your tree.  Be sure to log in regularly to check for new matches.  Also check your messages both at Ancestry and your Message Requests folder on Facebook. My closest match at Ancestry has not logged into Ancestry in a year and she does not have a tree.  There are other steps to take after you test at Ancestry and joining DNA Detectives can guide you.  An adoptee will thank you for your efforts.


When you have a well-documented tree on Ancestry, you are helping other members research their own genealogy and you are helping adopted people find their roots.  Your tree must be set to Public to help others.  Even when your tree is set to Public, your living relatives cannot be seen by other members -- only your deceased ones.


This seems so simple that you are probably wondering why it is even on a list of things to do, which is what makes it so powerful.  Validate in words of support when somebody does not know who their biological family is and is taking active steps to learn about them. My husband always asks people who don't understand an adoptee's plight this question,

"Do YOU know who your mother and father are?"  (usually a yes follows this question).

"So, do I". (if you have ever heard my husband's deep, booming voice, you can imagine the silence that follows.)


This could be as easy as writing a quick letter of support to your state representative or sending money to an adoptee rights organization. Go here to learn more about adoptee rights.

The Adoptee Rights Coalition, which I am a board member, is a group of volunteers (adoptees and friends of adoptees) who travel at their own cost to the National Conference of State Legislatures annually to educate that adoptees' birth certificates are treated differently than non-adoptees' birth certificates in a majority of states in the U.S.  If you are able, please donate to the ARC to fund the NCSL 2017 Boston booth, go here (the donate button is to the far right)

Supporting an adoptee is as simple as words of validation, understanding and participation.

An adoptee in your life will thank you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Adoptee Triggers and a Sense of Belonging at the World A'Fair

World A'Fair 2016 - Dayton Convention Center
I had an amazing experience this past weekend when I took DD to our local World A'Fair. Many communities put these on, or you may be familiar with the Epcot Center at Disney World, which is the same idea.  You will experience different countries, cultures, foods, dancing, and become educated on what products and ideas came from which country (Example:  Ethiopia's claim to fame is coffee).

This was DD's first trip to the World A'Fair and she was mesmorized from the moment we walked in. We were handed a passport to make our way around to the different countries where someone would stamp the passport and answer the trivia question that was posed in the passport.

First stop -- Colombia!  It is purported that my biological father was Colombian so we made our way over to try out the amazing beef empanadas and churros.  SO DELICIOUS!  I had a conversation with a man from Bogota, Colombia who gave me the lowdown on the cheapest and safest way to visit Colombia.
El Meson--beef empanadas from Colombia

We made our way around to the different countries, DD trying out different dances, foods and asking lots of questions.  Before DD even asked, I shared with her that she was German, Irish and a little bit Native American.  I felt compelled to share with her which cultures were part of her heritage as I did not want her to experience the emotional pain that I felt attending the World A'Fair many decades before with my own mother.

As I reflected back to that time many years ago, I remembered looking around at all the different countries, envying how each culture  of people running the booths, cooking together, dancing together, and laughing together, looked alike, knew their history and knew that they belonged in that group.  I was deeply sad that I didn't know which country and culture was part of my history and it left me reeling and apparently, brave.

I said out loud that I wished I could find my birth mother.

My mother's response to this wish was to share a story about a birth mother who had never shared with her husband that she had relinquished a child and when the adoptee showed up, the woman's life was devastated.   In my usual fashion, I retorted back, "Well, I guess that is what happens when you lie." which abruptly ended that conversation.

This memory has always stayed with me as it made clear where my mother stood on my wanting to know about myself.  It may have been the reason I have not regularly attended the World A'Fair as well.

On Sunday, sharing my first World A'Fair with DD, I looked around and caught a glimpse of Italy (the country I most identified with for all those years of not-knowing), and felt a sense of peace that since taking an autosomal DNA test, I now know the truth (I am not Italian!).  I can walk up to Mexico and know that some of these people are my people!! I can visit Germany, and although German food is not my favorite,  I can embrace that this culture is part of me.  I can eat Colombian food, and feel a sense of belonging, even without knowing for certain who my father is.
DD dancing with a Lebanese dancer

For the first time in my life, I walked among the diverse cultures and countries, and knew that I belonged somewhere!  It was also such an amazing bonding experience to be there doing all this with DD, who like me, is adopted; however, has all of the information about her background.

I hope, she too, felt a sense of happiness and belonging at her first World A'Fair.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Looking for your birth parents? Create a Facebook Search Party!

photo credit:
Today I am writing about a collaborative approach to finding one or both of your birth parents. This is especially helpful if you have already gone down the genetic genealogy/DNA testing route but you don't have close enough cousin matches to make a connection with one of your birth parents.

Keep in mind that statistically, you could get a close match any day, with the number of people testing; however, there are certain adoptees, like myself who have a parent who was a recent immigrant to the U.S. that may prevent you from getting close enough matches in a timely fashion.  For example, you will be looking in your DNA, and see all sorts of distant cousins from Italy, but you just can't pinpoint who that parent is, because you only have clues, and not cousin matches close enough to begin investigating their genealogy.

But looking at your ancestry breakdown, you realize that this parent is at least 1/4 Italian, maybe even 1/2 Italian and you notice that a big majority of your matches have ancestors living in Detroit, Michigan.  You may not have a close cousin match, but you have some valuable information to use when you create your search party.

Creating a search party is really simple on Facebook.  You create a new secret group (make sure it is secret because you will have sensitive documents and information posted in this Facebook room). Once you have created your secret group, you can begin to invite people to join your search group.

Here is how I did my own.  First, I thought about all the people who were currently helping me or following my journey in some way and invited them into the room, which is very easy to do on Facebook.

photo credit:
Some of the people I chose were related in different ways within the adoption community.  Here are some examples of the people I chose and why:

* my friend who is a genealogist and has been working on my tree since 2006
* my search angel who was already familiar with my case and has interviewed people in the past
* a group of writers that showed interest in my search and/or knew my story and wanted to help
* a few friends I met through this blog who felt compelled to help me.

*Note, sometimes the more obvious people you know will not be the ones to really dig in and help you.  Your best friend may not be a good choice for your search team or he/she may.  You decide.

I chose around 40 people, but I know other people who have less than that.

These are the special skills you want your search party to have:

* good genealogy skills -- very proficient in looking up information on,, etc. (obituaries, newspaper articles, city directories, etc).

* good legal skills -- knows where to find what legal information and where (i.e. marriage certificates, divorce decrees, etc.)

* Very persistent diggers, people with analytical minds and good intuition (can go from point A to B really quickly, can sniff out falsehoods, can find yearbook photos in a single bound and can create a "story" out of your information)

* Thinks outside of the box (not afraid to write to strangers for information, will purchase and send DNA tests to potential relatives, etc.)

* Genetic genealogy skills -- a thorough understanding of what the DNA results mean and how to interpret them properly

* Good people skills  and social media skills so as not to offend those people who will be providing leads or information and locating relatives on social media

* People with psychic gifts (if in doubt, read this book for further understanding on how a psychic helped adoptee Rhonda Noonan find her grandfather, Winston Churchill.)

Ok! So you have invited your friends who are smart and savvy, but you may be lacking some people with skills you need.  What I did, is I posted a general update on my main Facebook page asking if anyone wanted to join the search team.  I was very fortunate to find a new person with all of the above skills rolled into one person.  She is the rock star of search angels and was able to take my search to a whole new level.

If you still need people with skills, start asking friends for referrals. Think of people who are into genealogy, who enjoy investigating or love crime shows (raises hand!).  Think of your friends who are problem solvers and actively love following a trail to its conclusion.  Invite them! Leave no stone or person who can help unturned.

Important warning! Only invite people you trust to keep your information confidential or have the confidence of somebody you trust.  You may create your search party and become uneasy about one or two of the members, especially if you do not know them face to face.  If this happens, do not be afraid to remove them from the search party once you have gotten to the bottom of your unease.

Next:  Begin to upload documents with the "story" of your birth/adoption and your search.  I will give you examples of how I did this:

First I posted a document I received from my adoption agency (the Non-ID) so everybody could read it. I later posted my original birth certificate when one of my searchers asked what it said about my father on there.  Many adoptees do not have their original birth certificate due to closed record laws; however if you do, be sure to post it for your searchers to see.

Next, I posted a summary of the interviews with friends and relatives as well as conversations I had with key people so my searchers could read them and interpret them for themselves.

Next, I posted what my DNA was leading me to believe about my ethnicity, location of ancestors, etc.

You want to post these documents in your secret room but do not make them novels. Each of my posted documents were one page and summarized the information to the best of my ability.  Details are important but telling every detail is exhausting and possibly confusing to those who are new to your search.  Here is an example of how one aspect of my search party unfolded:

In my own search for my father, my non-ID from the adoption agency is contradictory to the interview with one of my relatives who remembered my father.  This is very common as adoption agencies were notorious in not getting proper information or documenting outright untruths during the closed era.  Let your searchers figure out what THEY believe is the correct scenario.  You have looked at this stuff until you are blue in the face.  You want a fresh perspective from your search team on what they believe your story is leading to.

From there, each of your searchers will take a lead and run with it or will "profile" your parent and the story of how you came to be (think of criminal profiling -- it's similar).  One might start looking up friends of one of your birth parents on Ancestry.  One might start combing through yearbooks for clues.  One may research at the library.  One may contact you individually and ask more questions about a particular angle of your search.

The hoped-for result will be many new documents posted in the room for all to see, many new leads, new people to talk to and fresh ideas on where to go next.  The best result, of course, is to find your birth parent.  It can happen! Just have faith!

Be sure to be available to answer any additional questions your searchers may have in a timely manner so you can keep this ball rolling.

When you create a search party, anything is possible and magic will unfold if you have the right chemistry in the room!!  Be prepared to find anything!

And please drop me a line if you are successful in this endeavor.  Would love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

My Adopted Self Spinning Out of Control by Emma Macgent

My car spun out of control quickly as metal on metal made a horrible noise.  I was on the Interstate in my small yellow Datsun hatchback. As others in crisis describe, many thoughts went through my mind.  It wasn’t individual thoughts, but a general sense of lack of accomplishment and things yet to do and experience.  

I thought I was going to die that day as I screamed an expletive. (You can imagine what you might scream if you thought this was the last minutes of your life).  I was in my mid-twenties, single, had completed college and had good professional career path. I lived in an apartment, had a roommate and had some family in the area.  

One minute I was at the gas pump, and the next I was on the interstate and the car was spinning out of control. Then I heard a loud metal noise.   I awoke in a hospital bed with the bright lights and people bustling around me.  I felt pain, but I couldn’t put it quite together with what had happened. 

The paramedics stopped by to check on me and told me on the scene I kept asking the question “Was it my fault?”  It wasn’t my fault, but thankfully there wasn’t an ambulance chaser who overheard my silly question. I had no memory of the previous day, let alone hours. I had IVs and tubes and gauze everywhere. I overheard their concern as I went to have my body scanned. Then the nurse questioned me about my family medical history. I felt some of the spinning of the room returning, the same as I had felt in the car.  

I realized how I had not resolved the huge questions of who am I?   I answered the nurse, “No, I don’t have a family history”. My head was throbbing and my shoulder was in pain. I was realizing what had just happened and how I may never really know my family history.    I whispered to the nurse out of sadness, not shame, “I was A D O P T E D”, as tears streamed down my face. 

I felt so alone. I just spoke out loud the secret that had continued to haunt me.  I wanted my parents there, my adoptive parents.  They were the only parents I knew.  I was lying in a hospital bed and searching for the meaning of my life and not knowing if I was going to live or die.  Not only did I want my adoptive parents, thoughts of my first mother came pouring in.  

I wanted her to hold me.  I just wanted to know who she was.  I wanted to be loved by her. I couldn’t and didn’t share those thoughts with anyone else and explained the tears away as pain.  The pain was just as much emotional pain as physical pain. I just wanted my mom, the one that birthed me; the one who gave me away.  I wanted to hear her words, her voice, see her face and feel her touch.  Might that be the last thought before I die? 

I survived the car wreck, but I knew that I had to again restart my search for answers about my adoption. The secrecy surrounding adoption and feeling less than whole came back with vigor after my car wreck and also on holidays, birthdays or even with the lyrics of a song.  

The details of my adoption were a secret although I was told in generalities about adoption when I was very young.  I was told of the fairy tale story and how I was chosen and saved.  (Both ‘chosen’ and ‘saved’ are not words I would use in describing adoption).   I had no idea at that time what adoption really meant, but I had a sense that it wasn’t the fairy tale story that I was being told. I felt confused with a sense of emptiness for this first family.  

I remember having a need to know who I was.  This had haunted me since I figured out what adoption meant.  As a child, when I tried discussing my adoption with family, it was obvious it wasn’t a discussion anyone was comfortable having.  The secret just continued to grow into this big dark cloud of little information and no clarity.  

Eventually I just stopped asking questions of my adoptive parents when it seemed the questions were painful to them.  They had difficulties speaking to me about my adoption and therefore I assumed that searching would also not be something they would approve of.  As much as I felt different or out of place in this family, I still never wanted to hurt them. I didn’t share with them my great need to know the answers.  

I knew they loved me, but I also had an irrational fear as a child that they could send me back.  I wanted them by my side on this search, but I didn’t believe they would have the desire or the emotional strength to embark on this journey with me.  

Not having resolution about my birth/ first parents continued to be an issue throughout my life. I tried searching throughout the years with no luck and no clear plan. During those years the script that played in my head was;  ‘ If your mother didn’t want you then why would anyone else really want you?’  

This script has been an ongoing issue for me in other relationships too.  Secrets of little information and poor assumptions just continued to rule my life at that time.  After all, I didn’t really know who I was!  After the car wreck, I started searching again. I had tried various ways to find, but nothing really worked.   

After every big life event I would jump back into my research. I would fill note books with information, tracking everything I found and every scrap of information.  I had copies of city directories that I had secured over 10 years before from the 1960’s. They were sitting in my file with my mother’s surname scattered through the directory.  

Years later, I found, my mother’s name was staring at me the whole time in that directory. I just didn’t know it was her!  Can you imagine how I felt when I realized her name was right there in front of me?  The kicker was, when I first had the city historian send me the directories, my mother was alive!  I had her name in my hands and she had been alive, but I had no way of knowing it was her!  

The secrets surrounding adoption kept the information to find my mother out of my reach.  By the time I was able to find her in 2010 and with help from the internet and search angels, I found a grave instead.  I was three years too late.  

After 30+ years of searching and at 49 years old I found my mother had passed away three years before I found her.  I was feeling so blessed to find her, yet grieving her loss in a whole different way.  There would be no reunion, no stories, no hugs, just a grave.  How do you begin to grieve someone you never knew? 

I started a journey of discovery of the woman who gave birth to me, my first mother.  I was thirsty to know all about her and sought out other family members to fill in the pieces of this giant puzzle.  Also trapped in the puzzle was information about my father.  I didn’t have a name for my father and very few clues about him.  Without my mother, there was no way of finding his name.  

The person that deserves the most credit for identifying my father was Caroline, a 4th cousin I matched on  She had genealogy experience and we met through her own DNA family search.  Unfortunately, my father had also passed and again I had to grieve the loss of my father the day I found him.  Two graves was not the outcome I hoped for, but it was still better than not knowing.  

I owe Caroline a great deal for her help and her friendship.  I am convinced that with the information I had at hand, I would not have been able to pull the puzzle pieces together without her expertise in family trees and genealogy.  My birth records, birth certificate and anything that was mine before my adoption is no longer legally mine.  Once the pen of adoption is signed and sealed in New York State where my adoption took place, it cannot be opened.  I can never legally have a copy of my Original Birth Certificate, no matter how old I am.  

This made searching a challenge, but I knew I would never give up.  I knew I would break down the secrets that stood in my way of feeling whole.  I did not want to go through life or be faced by death again without full knowledge of who I was.  Then again, it is not who I was… but who I am!  

I still am meeting cousins and other family members and I am still filling in the pieces of the puzzle.  Although I know now who he is, my father is still a bit elusive.   I continue to learn about him as I piece together his information by caring members of my paternal family. I hope to continue to learn about this intriguing man that is MY father.  

I feel blessed that I know now my parents of origin and my family lineage.  Oh yes, and I am 100% European and a good percentage Irish!  I finally know my ethnicity as well, thanks to my DNA.
I continue to feel almost whole with my family surnames and relatives.  I am thankful and feeling blessed for finding the answers to the question of ‘who am I?’

Peace to all those who search…..

You can visit Emma Macgent (the author of this blog) here

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

I have every right . .. . . .

Dear DEMETER2010:

Thank you for the kind comment at my blog today.  I was looking for some new material to write about and you gladly provided that to me.

"Hey Lynn, 
YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO INSERT YOUR SELF IN ANYONE'S LIFE. She gave you up, and decided to keep you as a secret, get over it. Her children are not YOUR SISTERS OR BROTHERS. Your parents, you know the ones adopted you and worked hard to bring you up and their family is YOUR FAMILY. Jesus, the selfishness of you adoptees is incredible. Just because someone popped you out of their vagina doesn't mean it gives you some god awaful right to become a parasite and suck the happiness out of the woman's life by trying to befriend HER family. This is why mothers need to adopt filths like you."


I'm so glad you brought this to my attention, because I honestly thought I had the right to drop into anyone's life uninvited. . . . oh, wait!  You obviously didn't read the other parts of my blog where I discuss paying my adoption agency $500.00 for the "chance" to know who my birth mother was.  She had every right to decline my invitation to know me.  She chose to meet me more than one time.  As did my sister. Let me guess.  You had an adoptee drop into your life after somebody lied to you for most of your life and it rubbed you the wrong way?  Maybe you should take out your hostility on the person who kept the secret, rather than the adoptee.


Last time I checked, siblings could be by adoption and blood.  Adoptees have both. I'm sorry you can't wrap your brain around that simple concept, but that is just the way it is.  I share DNA with several siblings and I have a brother by adoption.  Each of them has a right to know me or to ignore me.  Their choice and my choice as to whether I want them in my life.


Nobody has the right to keep anyone else a secret.  A person is not a secret (thank you, Rayne Wolfe).  If somebody has a secret, then it's not the responsibility of the rest of the universe to bow down to it.  IF an adopted person is a secret, that is not their responsibility to stay that way unless they choose to for their own peace of mind.


Family is what you make it.  My adoptive family and my biological family and my friends are who I consider family.  Other people make other choices, but you have no right to tell me or anyone else who their family is.


This comment is a perfect example of what adoptees deal with on a regular basis.  Ignorance, slander and outright hostility for doing what regular-born people do:  exploring their roots.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why Secrets Hurt by Margaret Therialt

I love surprises.  I love when a friend comes to visit me with flowers or with a plant and surprises me.

I hate secrets of any kind. I especially hate secrets when the secret is about me. A secret is never a secret long because it goes from one person to another person and this was what happened to me. 

 Secrets have impacted my life from the time I was a little girl, when my  mom  was telling me that my parents could not look after me and asked them if they would care for me. I heard from my mom that, "We are glad you are in our family." I asked who my parents were and the response that  I got  was "hush it is our secret."

A wall came up between my parents and I because mom had told me that my adoption was a secret. I could talk to mom and dad about general life experiences but when it came to emotions and expressing myself, I was told that I needed to not be angry or I needed to stop crying. So I stuffed down my emotions until they erupted and I could not contain my sadness any longer. 

Despite this I had good times with mom and dad going swimming and biking and picnics and visiting with friends and family. 

I was curious and I wanted to know about my birth family. I thought I was being sneaky and I would whisper to people that I was adopted.I did not think that I belong in my family. I shared with one girl that I was adopted and did not belong and  one girl told me that I looked like one of my cousins.  The only part of my adoption that I heard was, "your parents could not look after you."  I  found it hard when mom would say, "we are so glad we have you."  I wondered if mom was pleased she had me when she would not talk about my beginnings. 

I mentioned to a friend  that I did not belong in my family. She tried to console me that I did belong in my family. 

I knew that asking mom and dad would close the line of communication and I was afraid to ask them in case they got angry with me or would decide they did not want me any more. 

When I was in my late 20s,  I overheard mom and dad talk about the possibility of opening adoption records in Ontario, Canada.  My dad expressed concern that this was not a good move as they had been promised privacy. So I knew the lines of communication would be closed on the details of my adoption. So I did not interact on this topic about adoption with mom and dad's conversation and my views on adoption. 

The wall between me and my parents continued to thicken and closed up  healthy communication. My emotional state suffered as I could not talk about what was bothering me and what I was thinking about. I could not concentrate on my school work. 
I would talk to everyone about my problems about not being loved or belong  but not my mom and dad. I never talked to a professional about my adoption. It was a secret. My parents  considered me a part of the family. I knew they loved me and I tried to fit in but I know that I thought differently than they did. I did not like myself very well. I became depressed at times and a couple of times I wanted to kill myself. 

Shorty after hearing this conversation of opening adoption records in Ontario, Canada, my dad suddenly passed away. My world inside crashed and there was a scramble of emotions so deep that I held inside my grief. I could only cry.  I jumped at the slightest noise. My mom asked if my uncle would take me back to Toronto. So my dad's brother, Uncle Harold, and cousin drove me back to Toronto from Port Hope. 

I found I could not manage looking after active 3 year old and a 14 month old family that I was employed with as a nanny. The family I was caring for at the time were both adopted through the Catholic Children's Aid Society. I shared with their mom that I was adopted and that was a first time for me to share that I was adopted. 

Another friend gave her baby up for adoption and I was impressed how she had written a letter telling her child about the circumstances of her giving her baby up for adoption. I wished my mom and dad had talked to me and had told me the truth. 

A month after my dad's passing I began to date my future husband Maurice,who lived in Kitchener. I was living in Toronto at the time. Our first date was at a Christmas banquet in Kitchener. 

A year later, Maurice suggested that we live closer. I think he was trying to pop the question and I interjected by saying that if I was to move to Kitchener that I would need a commitment. With this statement Maurice replied, "like get engaged?" I nodded my head and said that will do. In December, 1988, we announced our wedding date: December 23,1989, the next year. 

In November, a month before we were married, I traveled by bus from Kitchener to Port Hope to work on some arrangement for our wedding day.

One Friday afternoon. Mom and I went to the bank to retrieve my Canada Savings Bond from mom's safety deposit box. Mom gave me her key and I opened up the box and inside there was my Canada Savings Bond and a white envelope with my adoption certificate. I opened up the white envelope  and on it was the record of my adoption with a different person's name on it. I was expecting to see my name, Margaret Diane, on it and instead I was taken a back by the name of Linda Marie. 

I asked mom who Linda Marie was. Mom answered my question by saying, "this was the name that  your mother named you."  Before I was able to ask any further questions, mom mentioned that she did not feel free to tell me the name of my birth mother. 

I was 30 and my mom could not tell me the name of my birth mother or about my beginnings. I was getting married the next month and mom was treating me as a little girl. I also wanted to keep the peace with mom (pick my battles) and I dropped the subject. 

In January, I went to give some wedding pictures to my friend, who was also a counselor and mentioned about how mom had dropped the subject about my adoption.  My friend suggested that I contact the Ontario government office in Toronto for forms requesting an application for non-identifying information about my birth mother. 

I decided to not advise my mom about my decision on pursuing my questions about adoption, as mom had not opened up to me in   talking about my adoption. It put a wedge in our relationship and communication was stifled about this topic of my beginnings. 

It hurt that mom could talk life and about everything else except about what was close and dear to my heart my beginnings. I also contacted by mail the Children s Aids Society in Cobourg. I requested information about my adoption from the Children s Aid in Cobourg, the town next to Port Hope where I grew up. 

I waited for a reply from the Ontario government office and Children s Aid Society in Cobourg. Two years later, just before Christmas, a registered  yellow envelope came from the Children 's Aid Society. 

Inside the envelope the documents stated my adoption was a private adoption. I telephoned the Cobourg office and the lady explained that if my adoption was private, that it was likely it could be  someone I knew. I thought back and the only name I could think of was dad's brother Harold and his wife, Joyce. I pushed the thought out of my mind not wanting to believe they were my parents. 

Another suggestion the worker put out there to me was that I could find out who my parents were if I would ask my mom as she would know my parents' identity.

This was a new thought about asking my mom again and being persistent and insistent in finding out about my adoption. I was now 34 and still did not know about my birth parents and why they could not look after me. 

I prayed about asking mom about my adoption and I asked my friends to pray that mom would be open to telling me about my adoption. A week or so later, my husband and I traveled down to Port Hope to celebrate Christmas with my mom and Aunt Joyce and Uncle Harold, who usually celebrated at noon with our family. 

We were celebrating our third wedding anniversary on the 23rd with mom. Maurice and I had already celebrated our anniversary. Mom had broken her ankle and we came down to help mom adjust to being at home.

After dinner, mom and I sat down with the family albums and once more, I opened up the topic about  my adoption. I asked how did I come to be at their home and asked if she would tell me the details about my beginnings. Once more mom clammed up about the topic. I persisted gently and after the tension of the subject about my adoption got too much for mom announced that she was going to bed but first she was going to soak her broken foot that was beginning to heal. 

The topic was closed. I persisted even when mom was soaking her foot in the bucket of water while sitting on the toilet. I continued on to ask questions and mom would not budge.  Mom let  it slip out that after my dad died that she had told my sister about my birth parents and she could give me the rest of the information. The inner churning of being pushed aside on the topic on my adoption resulted in me blowing up and loudly declaring that it was not fair that she could be open and honest with my sister and not me!

There was a deep cloud that lingered in our house and It hurt that mom would not talk to me. I was put out with my mom that she considered my sister capable of telling me the truth about my beginnings. Why couldn't mom tell me instead of my sister, after all, it was about my beginnings?

After mom was quiet for a while, she came to the doorway from the bathroom to the hallway and said from the hallway, "you might think differently of your parents if you know who they are." I said, "No, I will not."  Mom blurted out  to me from the hallway without any emotion that it was Uncle Harold and Aunt Joyce.  I was in shock and I could not believe what I was hearing. My birth parents were my aunt and uncle -- my dad's brother and his wife. 

On Christmas day, unknown to my aunt and uncle, I was eating dinner with my birth parents and my mom and husband. It was hard for me not to stare at them as I could see the resemblance. 

The truth came out that day and I was able to put together why my birth parents acted nervous and formal when they interacted with me. I could see that I did look like both my dad and his brother and wife. My roots were the same as my adoptive family as well as my birth parents -- my aunt and uncle.  

Now i was awkward around my aunt and uncle as I knew their true identity of being my mother and father. 

Unfortunately the secret about my adoption continued. My mother did not want my sister to know about me and that my brother knew. I went to other family members about my adoption and everyone knew about my adoption but were sworn to secrecy. My dad's sister and my grandparents did not even know  the truth about my birth. My dad's sister found out and told my grandparents.  

My birth mother kept my brother who was 23 months older than I was. It hurt that they kept my brother and not me. I wondered what was wrong with me that they could not keep me. Ten years after I was born, my aunt gave birth to another girl. 

I joke that I am the family secret but it hurts that my family is more concerned about their reputation, than acknowledging how I was raised by my aunt and uncle and how my mother would prefer to keep my identity under wraps. 

I was conceived out of wedlock and there was a lot of shame in the 1950s and 1960s. It has put a shadow over the events concerning my birth about life. 

I know that God made me by his hands and the adults messed up what he created and my beginnings about how I got here is not my fault. 

I am soon to be 57 and I am still dealing with the secret of my adoption. I still am at times looking over my shoulder. 

My mother ripped up a copy of my memoir and threatened me if I spoke about my beginnings . She had buried my birth and I had dug up the truth about my adoption. 

I have come out to share the truth of my adoption as I know I will be set free from secrecy and shame. 

My identity will not be held in secrecy any longer and I will tell anyone who will listen to my story. Please be honest and please answer questions as honestly as you can. 

I have health issues because I had to keep a secret that really was not my secret to keep.

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