Monday, December 17, 2007

Holding My Breath

Last night, my first mother and I exchange Christmas gifts.

A tad awkward, perhaps, since we were 12 hours apart. But we agreed on a day to open gifts, and a time to call one another afterwards. She sent me a lot of neat little things. She got me a Star Wars pop-up book that's just cool. (My wife nearly got me the same thing, but told me she changed her mind at the last minute.) And she knitted me a scarf in the color of my birthstone. I have worn it almost constantly since opening it last night. (She sent my wife a scarf in her birthstone color as well.) There were some other gifts too, including ones from my brothers and nieces. It was just a very nice experience.

We had a good conversation on the phone. I wish I could see her for the holidays, but it just isn't possible this year. Maybe next. We are planning to go visit sometime in March perhaps.

Now I'm just holding my breath. She has a medical procedure today to take care of her cancer. It sounds like it should be simple. But it still makes me nervous, both the procedure and the cancer. She should be going into surgery as I type this, actually. I probably won't hear how it went for several hours.

I'm trying not to be a basket case about this. The emotional ups and downs just continue. I feel like I'm largely just at the mercy of events out of my control. That might not be so bad if it all wasn't so emotionally charged. I try to take it one day at a time. I'm not sure what else I could do.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Being Negative

One reaction that I've always experienced when I talk about adoption is something along the lines of... "Everyone has bad things happen to them. You can't dwell on the negatives in life." In other words, some variation on the "get over it" theme.

Understand that I say this as someone who had a relatively good adoption experience. My adoptive parents are good people who have given me lots of love, care, and support. They were, in a word, good parents.

But none of that changes the very real problems adoption brings with it. The lifelong struggle with abandonment fears, with trust issues, with being walled-off from people... These are real problems. My adoption caused some very real pain in my life.

When I talk about that pain, I'm sharing my story. I'm trying to educate people about what adoption really is (for some, at least). It's about loss and separation. It is basically a tragedy for the child, just as much as if the mother had died during childbirth. The loss and pain is real, even if good things happen later.

Recognizing the negatives about adoption, and about my life in general, does not mean I have not moved forward, that I am not functioning. I do think and talk about other things. I manage to have a job. I have friends and contribute to society. But that doesn't mean that adoption doesn't have a dark side.

As long as society doesn't want to hear our stories, as long as it wants to pretend adoption is win-win-win, the damage done by adoption will continue. It will continue for those of us who have experienced it. And it will continue to be visited on new generations of adoptees. We persevere and even succeed. But that doesn't mean the pain isn't real. And it doesn't mean the pain doesn't need to be acknowledged and validated.

I am negative about adoption. And it isn't directed towards my adoptive parents. Nor is directed towards my first mother. But that pain and sorrow is there. And I can't make it go away by ignoring it. I've tried that. For several decades. It doesn't work.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

When Things Get Scary

I found out something that scared me deeply yesterday. My birthmother has been diagnosed with cancer.

Apparently, it is very treatable and the doctor expects her to be fine after a minor procedure to remove the cancer.

But I didn't know that right away. It came up, accidentally, in an e-mail, and I spent a few hours worrying about it. She feels awful about that. She didn't even want to tell me until it was taken care of so that I wouldn't worry. And I completely understand.

What surprised me is how much it upset me. I'm generally fine about death. There has only been one person close to me who has died that really, really upset me. Not because I'm a heartless bastard, I think. I just have a very matter-of-fact attitude about death. The one that bothered me was a suicide and should not have happened.

But yesterday, I was horrified that I might lose her so soon after finding her. It really shook me up a little.

It reminded me, once more, of how much a little kid I feel in all of this. All my adult reactions are out the window when she's around. At this point, I just want her to be around, to be there to make it all okay. It's not rational, I know. And I did calm down, even before I was completely reassured, but my initial reaction was that of a child. It was a basic fear of losing her again.

I keep hoping this will mellow. People assure me that it does. So far, it hasn't. But I suppose it's all still pretty new.

For now, I'm just glad she's going to be okay.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rewriting History

If you had talked to me a year ago about my adoptive parents, I would have been nicer than if you had talked to me twenty years ago. I've come along way in my thinking about them. I always loved them. But I was really upset with them for much of my adolescence.

In that, I don't think I'm special. Many kids go through that. My phase, though, lasted well into my twenties. I had a lot of issues with them.

But once I moved away, that began to subside. I began to get some perspective. And most importantly, though I never said anything to them directly, I forgave them for being human. I hadn't forgotten their flaws. I just recognized that we all have them.

So a year ago (say) I would have said mostly positive things about my parents. But I wouldn't have said they were perfect. I had real complaints about my childhood. And while I don't care to rehash those now, here, I think I would have been honest about my own feelings about my childhood.

Since finding my birth mother, though, that has all changed. It's almost as if, to protect my birth mother, and to prove my loyalty to my adoptive parents, I feel the need to rewrite history. I have to paint a rosier picture than the one I would have painted before finding her. I have to eliminate all the bad from the story of my life. I would feel horrible saying anything negative about my adoptive parents. And I wouldn't want her to feel bad for any of it.

So I purify my own biography. I don't know if I'm being dishonest or if I'm beginning to recognize more of the good than I had before. But I suspect it's the former. And that's bad all around. Yet I don't know how to overcome the impulse to purify.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Report on Open Records

I posted this on Over A Candle, but I should have posted it here, as well. So here's a bit of a cross post. A news story about a report advocating for open records for adoptees and a link to the report...

Unseal adoptees' birth records, report urges:

NEW YORK - It's among the most divisive questions in the realm of adoption: Should adult adoptees have access to their birth records, and thus be able to learn the identity of their birth parents?

In a comprehensive report being released Monday, a leading adoption institute says the answer is 'Yes' and urges the rest of America to follow the path of the eight states that allow such access to all adults who were adopted.

'States' experiences in providing this information make clear that there are minimal, if any, negative repercussions,' said the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. 'Outcomes appear to have been overwhelmingly positive for adult adopted persons and birthparents alike.'

I'm not terribly impressed by consequentialist arguments. I happen to believe that it's a matter of rights and equal protections under the law. But, for people who may be of a more consequentialist persuasion, this is an interesting finding.

Here's the link to the full report: "For the Records: Restoring a Right to Adult Adoptees" from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute

Monday, November 12, 2007

Being a Child

One of the things that has struck me being in reunion is how much I feel like a child again.

What I mean is that my feelings seem to be the feelings of a child.

I'm grown up. I have grown up concerns. I have grown up emotions.

Or I did. At one point. Now I have the feelings of a child.

I want my mom.

Seriously, that's what it feels like. I want my mom. I want her to put her arms around me, and make it okay. These are feelings I've had for years that I've suppressed since I was what... ten?

I'm excited to the point of grinning stupidly when I get an e-mail from her. And when a few days go by without an e-mail, I worry. I want to go visit her, even though that's out of the question at the moment.

All these feelings from childhood that have been locked away for years, come out now.

It's hard to be a mature adult when your emotional state is that of a small boy.

Monday, November 5, 2007


One thing that my reunion has done is bring up a lot of emotions that I never really dealt with much before.

I am feeling a lot of sadness and a lot of anger right now. Not at my birth mother. And not at my adoptive parents. All of them did the best they could for me. I have few complaints. (I have some, mind you. What child who was raised by other human beings doesn't have some complaint? We're imperfect creatures, after all.)

But I still feel anger. I'm mad at the situation. I'm mad at the social workers, the nuns, society, and even my birthmom's mother, who didn't giver her a choice. I'm angry about what I've lost, even though I was taken care of. I'm angry at the time that's been lost, and the questions that have long festered.

I also recognize that, while being angry is understandable, I can't let it take me over. I need to do something I've never been able to do before. I have to give myself permission to feel it, without letting it totally consume me. If I bury it, I'm just doing what I've done my whole life. And if I don't rein it in some, then I become embittered. I don't want that, either.

All of this just raises my long-standing ambivalence toward adoption. I don't think I've ever been completely against adoption. (Maybe because that raises too many questions about my own situation that I can't face up to?) But I also have thought it was highly problematic. And I still don't know what to say about it all. I just know that, even if it does sometimes seem like a necessity, that it should never be celebrated. It comes from pain and loss. And that has to be acknoweldged. And I've been really bad at acknowledging it in the past. Now it feels like it's overwhelming.

So for now I just keep on keeping on... I don't know what else to do.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

National Adoption Month

Today is the beginning of National Adoption Month. The day to celebrate adoption everywhere!

Unless, of course, you are adopted. Then it's a bit more complicated than that.

Adoption, for me, sets up a great deal of cognitive dissonance. I love my adoptive parents. They did a good job raising me. (At least, they didn't do any worse by me than they did for their biological children.)

And yet I can't help but wonder what my life would have been if I had been raised by my birth mother.

Does that make me disloyal? I can't have it both ways. I can't have been raised by both sets of parents. But that's what it feels like I want. I don't know how to make sense of this sometimes.

I am who I am because of my past. All of my past. The good the bad. The adoption. My adoptive parents' divorce. The problems with my peers. The fun I had. All of that leads up to the person I am today. If I change any of it, I cease to exist. So I can't really want it to be different. And yet I do sometimes. I suppose that's true about a lot of things, not just the adoption. But adoption brings all of this into sharp relief for me.

It's all very confusing. I'd feel a whole lot better about National Adoption Month if people were more honest about the complexity of adoption and how it affects the adoptees. Until that happens, I just can't feel good about a month that celebrates all of this.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Open Records

I posted this video at Over A Candle, but it really belongs here, too.

I'm struggling with this right now. I'm a bit upset at being denied access to my original birth certificate, even though I know my birth parents' names. You might wonder why I would want it, if I know their names. It's one of those things that's probably hard to explain, but it's a link to the events that shaped my whole life. How could I not want it?


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Coming Out

Last week, I had an odd experience. I was asked to speak to an adoption class. This was a class of a dozen or so couples who were preparing for adoption. The person who asked me to come speak had been very helpful to me during my reunion, so I thought the least I could do would be help out.

I wasn't the only one there. There was a birth mother and an adoptive couple. I spoke last. And listening to the birth mother and the adoptive mother speak, I realized I had little idea what they were talking about. Both had been through their experiences in the last six years. They were talking about what I've come to think about as adoption 2.0. I went through adoption 1.0. (Adoption beta is worse. My adoptive paternal grandmother went through something like what I think of as the beta version.)

Adoption 2.0 might not be better than 1.0. It has dangers and problems that we probably can't really see yet. But the kind of education and openness that seems common today seems to be an improvement over what happened forty years ago. (There were some odd things that came out. The big book of potential parents for the birth mother to look through to pick out parents for her child just struck me as odd.) Who knows, however, how these kids will feel when they are adults?

But the problems of 1.0 are pretty obvious. And that's what I tried to talk about. I stressed, as much as possible, that, whatever arrangement they decide for their child (whether open or not, and if so how open), they need to be open with the child. They need to find out as much as they can about the birth parents. Because their child is likely to want to know at some point. And if they don't have any information, their child is going to make something up.

It felt weird to talk as openly about my adoption as I did that night. Outside of my support group, this blog (which has focused more on reunion than on other issues), and a few extremely close friends, I don't think I've been that open about my experience. It went well, I suppose. But I hope I gave the potential parents issues to think about.

On another note... Given things going on in my head lately, I'm going to try to be more consistent about this place. I don't want it to die on the vine, as it were. So keep checking back. I'm not going anywhere.

Phil, i'm sorry. i'm back

well, life does tend to stomp all over our hopeful endeavors with its own will and agenda, doesn't it? when i suggested to phil that we should start this blog, i did so with every intention of participating in it! but the delay of a broken computer was followed closely by the joy and insanity of a new relationship and then a strong jolt of reality when i realized just how little time i have to do the required research and writing for my master's thesis. in all, i just got damn busy and i fell off the blogosphere for a while. but i am back.

i think part of my avoidance has been this sense that while phil is going through this remarkable, intense, life-changing experience, i am not really doing anything. just sitting around thinking about it and having occasional conversations about my fake newspaper sister and the small north dakota town in which i was born. but i guess since i have already established that i desire to make this the slowest procedure possible, i can only talk about it from this moment and these minor subtle moments are my process. every adoptee will be able to relate to the great diversity with which we undertake the search-or-not-search decision-making process.

my parents visited from arizona in late august. while we were sitting in the coffee house one day, phil came in and i introduced him as my friend who was in the middle of a search for his birth family. this is the safest way to test the waters for their feelings about the whole thing. my mom bit. she was interested. we all chatted in fine, forced midwestern form and then phil opened his computer to work and my mom focused her attention on me. "have you ever done that?" she asked pointedly. "searched?" that is, in fact, what she meant. i told her about the photo in the paper and the intrigue it triggered in me. then i told her about the non-identifying search and the letter i received. she wanted to see the photo. she wanted to read the letter.

when i placed the photo in front of her, her eyeballs got really wide and her head bobbed in surprise. she saw the cause for question. then she read 5 pages about my birth family and she was genuinely interested and seemed to enjoy the mystery of it all.

my parents have told me my whole life that they would respect my need to find out about my biological roots if i wanted to do that. they have also told me my whole life that they would never want to be involved in that or to help me do it. i asked my mom about this seemingly reversed position. she said, "well, before it was kind of scary, but you've been with us for over 30 years, i don't think you're going anywhere."

i know now that i got my eye color and stature from my bio-mom. i can only hope that i will develop the strength of character that i have witnessed over the years in my mom-mom.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Holding Pattern

I'm in a bit of a holding pattern. Life has a way of... well... getting in the way.

My birth mother and I have met and we exchange regular e-mails. But... well... that's just about it for now.

We both feel like something else should be happening. There was this massive upheaval in finding one another, exchanging stories, getting to hug. But now, it feels like there's nothing. I think we both want there to be something. Some major next step. But nothing happens.

We live too far apart to visit often. Indeed, it will probably be months before we can see each other again. E-mail and the phone are nice, but not the same as being there.

The world kept moving, even while this earth-stopping event happened to the two of us. Now life has dragged us kicking and screaming back to itself. And we're left scratching our heads wondering... What's next?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Round Two

Searching for my birth mother was hard. It brought up all kinds of emotions and fears. The initial reunion was also fraught with worries and anxiety. But here I stand, still alive, and at the beginning of a new stage in my life. The fears and worries (though not the emotions) seem to have dropped away for the most part. Life is good.

But it's not over. There is still the matter of my birth father. For my whole life, I never once can recall feeling angry at my birth mother for giving me up. She did what she thought was best. And I had a good life. What was there to feel angry about.

Now that I've been reunited with her, I know a bit more of her story. And a bit about who my birth father was, and how he acted. My birth mother recognizes that they both did things wrong, that it's not all his fault. But I'm ambivalent about most men already. And I can't help but feel a little upset at events that happened nearly forty years ago.

And I keep wondering how I can put myself through the roller-coaster again so soon. So maybe I'm using this knowledge of my birth father to avoid putting myself through it. Or maybe all the fears and worries are just gonig to come up again. I have no reason to think he's interested in finding me or knowing who I am. But maybe I'm wrong. And people can change a lot in 36 years. (Heck, people can change a lot in ten years.) Don't I at least owe him the chance to make the decision?

My birth mother thinks she knows where he is. I even think I know the address and phone number of his current residence. But when do I use that information? Should I? How long do I wait? How do I know I'm ready for round two? I certainly don't want to wait another 36 years. But I don't know how to figure this out, either.

I guess it never really ends. And I think I knew that already. But sometimes the universe seems to really enjoy reminding me anyway.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Second Phone Call

My birth mother and I had our second real phone conversation last night. (We talked once or twice briefly when she visited to arrange meeting.) Our first phone call felt awkward to me. I was nervous as could be, and there were long moments of silence. But this time felt natural and easy. I know I felt more comfortable talking. We have been e-mailing a lot, and that is great for telling long stories and getting to know one another. But the phone conversations seem important, too. They allow for a more natural and informal kind of give and take. It was just a nice conversation.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Random Encounter

I've been reading Jean A. S. Strauss' Birthright. It's a wonderful book so far. I think I can recommend it highly to anyone doing a search, or anyone who cares about someone going through a search. I'm not quite a third of the way through it, but it is very engaging. A bit of a mix between the practical and the therapeutic. Some of the practical search recommendations may be a little outdated. (But I actually don't think so. It just was so much easier for me that I didn't have to do as much work as she describes. I was prepared to do so; I just got lucky.)

Anyway, as I say, I've been reading the book. I had to be in the hospital the last couple of mornings for some tests. While waiting between the different bits, I went to the cafeteria to get some food. I had brought the book with me to occupy the down times. As I was paying, the woman the register noticed the book. I had actually been a bit sheepish carrying it around with me. I keep expecting people to think that I'm doing something wrong for searching.

But the woman at the register seemed excited. She asked if I was adopted. I said I was. She wanted to know if I was searching, and I explained that I had just found my birth mother. She seemed genuinely happy for me. We had a neat little conversation about it. She apologized for being nosy. It didn't actually bother me, and I assured her of that. It was actually kind of neat that she seemed curious in a positive way. It made me feel better about being more open about searching.

For some reason, events like this fill me with a little bit of happiness and wonder about the world.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Friday night I went to dinner with my birth mother. It was the first time we met. My partner came with us, as did one of her sons that she raised and two of her granddaughters (whom she is currently raising).

After dinner we sat up and talked until eleven-thirty. That's five and a half-hours of talking. I returned to the hotel the next morning bright and early. We had another five hours to talk before they had to leave.

It was an extremely short trip. Too short. Way too short.

It's hard to meet your birth mother for the first time and then have to say good-bye again less than twenty-four hours later. I've been moping about all weekend since she left.

But that aside, getting to see her, touch her, hug her... There aren't words. I feel like I should write something about it. But I don't know what to write. It was wonderful getting to meet her. And I wish we had had more time. Given how far apart we live, I don't know when I'll see her next.

At least I got some pictures of the two of us together. And I wouldn't have traded even that brief visit for anything in the world.

One thing I've never lost sight of... I know that I've been lucky. I suppose there will still be bumps and hiccups, but I know that this has gone very smoothly so far. And I couldn't be more grateful. I hope others can have as good a reunion experience as I've had so far.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Little Things

It's amazing how many of the little things can be explained simply by finding one person I'm biologically related to.

There are a lot of little weird personality quirks that are probably hard to tease out. My adoptive mother and my biological mother seem to have some traits in common. Where did I get what? This is not always an easy question to answer.

But then there are those things, little things, that you know had to come from biology.

I do not have a full set of adult teeth. I never had any wisdom teeth in my head. But more than that, I'm missing at least three adult teeth. They never existed, so they never came in and pushed the primary teeth out. As a result, I still have three baby teeth in my mouth.

It turns out, my biological mother also has a baby tooth left in her smile. (She had more, but lost them due to age. I've already lost one, myself, that way.)

She mentioned this in an off-hand comment in an e-mail. But it was like another piece of the puzzle just falling neatly into place. It's something I might never have remembered to ask about. But there it was, another obvious connection.

Tomorrow, she arrives in town for a short visit. Our first face-to-face meeting. I'm really nervous. But I'm really looking forward to it, too. I'll probably find out more little things then.

Monday, August 13, 2007


One of the things that has struck me in this process is how similar the experiences of the adoptee and the biological parent can be. (I have no reason to think everyone goes through this. But my birth mother and I seem to be.)

My birth mother told me about her fantasy that I was living the perfect life. And, like many adoptees, I think, I fantasized about my biological parents. These weren't the same fantasies, of course. But we both fantasized. And we both discovered that reality was different than the fantasy. It always must be, it seems.

Now that we've found each other, we both have fears. She is fearful that I won't like her or that I will pull away just after making contact. I have had similar fears. Maybe not always the same fears at the same time, but fears. Of rejection, of not being understood.

And the problem, for me, is that a feature of my personality that is probably due in part to the adoption in the first place, is the fear of abadonment. Of being left alone. This has always made me a bit closed-off, a bit reserved around others. I instinctively pull back and shut others out in order to protect myself. If I let people get too close, I'll get more hurt when they leave me. I've screwed up a lot of relationships because of that.

And it poses problems now, too. I am scared of getting hurt. So I keep feeling like pulling back. But that activates her fears that I'm going to leave again. She's already lost me once, and she doesn't want to do it again. Still, I have only begun learning how not to shut down and shut out. I'm not very good at it. I keep everyone at arm's length, and I have to make a conscious effort not to. It doesn't come easily.

So we both seem to have to learn to do things we aren't accustomed to doing. She has to learn to trust that I'm not going to disappear from her life again. And I have to learn to let down my guard. I guess we both need to work at it, and hope the other person has enough patience to stick it out.

Nobody said this would be easy. But I didn't really have any idea how hard it could be.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Sense of Self

Last night, I spoke with my birth mother for the first time. We talked on the phone for over two hours.

There were awkward minutes. Neither of us seemed to know what to say at times. But we talked more than we sat in silence. And I think we got a sense of one another. Which isn't to say we covered everything. But I feel like I have a clearer picture in my head.

Maybe the hardest part of the conversation for me was when we drifted, however briefly, into the "what if?" zone. I had mentioned, in one of my letters, that my parents had divorced when I was younger. I'm okay with this fact, and both my parents love me and are still very much part of my life. But they didn't work together. I won't pretend there were no problems because of the divorce, but overall, I don't regret the life I was given. I think I had a good life, in general.

But my birth mother, last night, began choking up at one point. She said that she had always imagined that I was being raised by wealthy parents who treated me like a prince. When she found out that it wasn't like that, she had a thought that she could have kept me. And I could tell it bothered her a lot.

I don't like to see anyone in pain. And in this case, I really wanted to allieviate the she was feeling. It isn't my job, but it's how I've been most of my life. However, I felt as though there wasn't anything I could say here. If I agreed with her, in order to sympathize, I would be lying. I do think I had a good home. But if I emphasize how good I think I have it, then it sounds like I'm saying she couldn't have provided as good a home as I had. And I don't know that that is true. It felt like I had to walk a very fine line in reassuring her without sounding like I was putting her down, which I didn't want to do in any case. And, on top of that, I didn't want to deny the very real feelings of loss and regret that she clearly was feeling.

I hope I managed it okay. I don't regret the life I was given. And I don't want her to feel any more guilt or sorrow than she has already lived through.

Anyway, I felt better after the conversation. (The above mentioned difficult portion didn't last long.) I seemed to be less tense, I thought, after we hung up. And it occurred to me that I think some of my anxiety was due to worrying that my sense of self was going to evaporate. I think, once I had pictures of her, and a looming phone call, and maybe even a face-to-face meeting in the near future, I was starting to panic. I started to think that all of this was going to lead to a complete undermining of my identity, with a new person standing in my place.

The phone conversation seemed to ease my mind in that regard. It was as if I realized that this was providing some answers and some pieces to a large puzzle that is my sense of self. And it didn't mean that sense was going to go away, but that it might be a bit more complete in a way it hadn't been before. We had talked, for hours, and I was still here. And I still would be. This changes things, to be sure. But it doesn't destroy them. I'm still me. Just me with more of an idea of where I came from.

That doesn't mean I don't have any anxiety. But I don't feel nearly as overwhelmed as I did twenty-four hours ago. And that is a good thing, I think.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Time Keeps on Slippin', Slippin', Slippin'...

Events keep moving, whether I get my head together enough to post or not.

Last Friday I received pictures from my birth mother. Shelly put this perfectly... The pictures made all of this so much more real. She was a real person. I could see what she looked like. I could see what my half-brothers looked like. I, and others, could see some of my features in those grainy pictures. Suddenly, I felt even more scared than I had before.

Why was I scared? I'm not sure. I think because they had become more real. There were real people on the other end of this. They have feelings and hopes for all of this too. And what if I couldn't meet them? What if I couldn't live up to them?

Is that silly? I hope not. I know, intellectually, I think, that it's not about meeting hopes or expectations. But I suddenly felt worried about that.

But all told, I was still excited by everything, just a lot more nervous than I had been. And I had been pretty nervous. It feels like there is so much to take in and to process.

Now, today, this morning, I finally got the contact information. And we've started exchanging e-mails. It's so much nicer getting e-mails than having to wait weeks for the next letter. And I really can't imagine how much money I would be spending on express mail if e-mail wasn't an option.

I'm trying to build up the nerve for a phone call. I've never been really comfortable talking on the phone, I think. Well, that's not entirely true. I think I was really good at phone conversations when I was in high school. But I seemed to have lost the skill now that I'm older. I can talk to my family pretty well on the phone, but sometimes I even feel awkward with my siblings. So I'm hoping I can get over myself and screw up the courage to talk on the phone.

For almost three months I had no idea what was going on or how long it might take. Now things have just snowballed. It's hard to get a handle on things long enough to take a breath. But so far, I'm hanging on.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

phil: Scary Steps

As I'm waiting for the next contact with my birth mother (having read and reread the letter I received Saturday), I thought I'd do a little of the catch-up work.

There were a lot of scary moments during the last few months. Contacting Catholic Charities was a big hurdle. I don't like the phone much, so calling people I don't know, to start something I'm nervous about, is not the easiest thing in the world to do. And committing to the search itself was more than a little unnerving.

I think what helped me through all of that was that I didn't realize how much this was going to affect me at the time. I approached the whole process with a rather academic, even clinical, attitude. It was something I was going to do. But if it didn't work, as I assumed it wouldn't, then I can say I tried and got nowhere.

At some point, all of that changed. The whole process, for me, didn't really kick into gear until the beginnig of May. Most of April was spent getting ahold of Catholic Charities and figuring out the process and what to do next. But at the beginning of May, or thereabouts, I sent in my request.

Shortly after that, I began to do some more research online about searching. And I began to realize that this was a lot more important to me than I had expected it to be. It began, I had told myself, as a search for medical information. (I'm really, really good at lying to myself, it turns out.) It became a lot more.

I know, from talking with others and reading, that it's common for adoptees to feel somewhat out of place, disconnected. And I've felt that my whole life. My family loves me and accepts me without question. Even so, with my peers, I felt like an oddball. I mean, I know I'm odd. But there were times in my life when I felt like I didn't know who I was and that I didn't fit in. (I guess I still feel like that now, at least some of the time.)

This search became a search for who I was. It wasn't a search for a new family. But a search to try to find some answers to questions I've had my entire life. And it became a lot more important to me. I needed some closure. And I was afraid that if the search failed, it would be worse than if I hadn't started it.

I wonder about that now. Now that I've begun to find a few answers, and that the search seems to be successful, would it have been worse to try and fail than to not have tried at all? I don't know. I've never thought that "better to have loved and lost..." made any sense. Having lost a lot, that sure seemed to hurt pretty badly.

I don't think it was a fear of being rejected again. I mean, I knew, intellectually at least, that there were lots of good reasons my birth mother might have had to not want contact. I hoped it didn't happen. Being rejected would have sucked. But the loss of a chance to find some answers, to find something, seemed really bad.

So far, though, the scariest part of the search so far has been telling my family about it. This, also, seems to be pretty common. Here, the worry, in part, was alienating my parents. The other part was hurting them. Whether related to my adoption or other events in my life, I've always seemed to have a fear of being abandoned. And I was worried that I would both hurt my parents and make them leave if they found out about my search.

I should have given my parents more credit. My mom was happy for me. And my dad also seemed to understand. Neither of them were upset with me. And they have both been great. It was still frightening at the time. But I was glad I told them. I guess I felt as though they had a right to know. And I don't like keeping things from them.

So far, I think I've been pretty lucky. My search has gone quickly and about as well as I had any right to hope. I know others don't have this good of an experience.

Okay, this is much longer than I expected. I will stop now. More later.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

phil: a brief current

Ages? We're going to tell them ages? Hmmm... the things I agree to... ;)

I'm 36. I suppose I've been thinking about this on and off for... well, 36 years... But I've only seriously considered doing anything about for the last ten or twelve. College was too insane for me to deal with all of th emotions surrounding searching for my birth parents.

But this year, Ronni, my partner, finally got through to me. I had been dragging my feet about doing something, and she kept asking me about searching. She didn't want me to wait until it was too late. So I finally gave in, and contacted Catholic Charities (the agency through which I was adopted). This was the beginning of April I believe. I started my search.

Shelly suggested to me, about a month after this, when I told her about the search, that we do this blog. I wish I had taken her up on that right away. Now events have gone pretty far, and I feel like there's a lot of backtracking I'll have to do later. Ah well, such is life.

Let me, in order to avoid writing a full book here in this one post, cut to the chase. My search process began back in April. Today, it bore fruit. Seriously, today.

Well, okay, Wednesday. Well, probably earlier, but today is when it really came home. Wednesday, I received a phone call from Catholic Charities that I missed. I didn't get in touch with them until Thursday. That's when I was told that they had made contact with my birth mother and a letter was being sent, through them, from her to me.

Today, as we were sitting at our table eating breakfast, I heard the mailman knock on the front door. He said something like "I've got your Harry Potter." (I know, I know... But it takes me back to my childhood. And ordering from Amazon seemed easier then going to a bookstore today.)

I'm sure the mailman though that the Harry Potter book was the most important thing in the mail today. He was wrong. The letter from my birth mother arrived today.

It's just the first taste of filling in some gaps that I don't know I had even fully realized were there. I had already found out a few more things about her than I knew before. But now I knew more. And from her directly.

The anticipation from Thursday to today has been intense (as Shelly will attest to). Now I have a lot of things to process. But I will say it was a good letter. And I feel good about where this process has led.

At some point, I want to write more about the events and emotions leading up to this point. And I'm sure there will be a lot of things still to come. I've always thought that a good story begins in medias res, in the middle of things. I don't know if I can get more in the middle of things in this story than to start where I'm at today. I'll try to catch you up along the way. But this seemed too important to sit on.

shelly: a (very) brief history

i am a 32-year-old adult adoptee with wonderfully conflicting feelings about searching or not searching or when to search or when not to search. i am on a 4 year search-obsession cycle but for one reason or another i have always stopped short of actually intiating the real thing. it has looked something like this.

the day i turned 18-- called lutheran social services to request search forms; received said forms, filled them out and threw them away. i was living in my parents' house at the time and it felt too weird.

at age 22-- probably with the hope of finding some kind of connection or meaning that was for a thousand reasons, otherwise eluding me, i called lss again. requested the forms. filled them out, filed them away; i wasn't in the best condition to be meeting someone who would then have to suffer the anquish of having created me.

at 26-- having met several people over the last couple of years who were members of the adoption triad, feeling sufficiently removed from my parents' home and immediate daily lives, being more like an adult and a lot more stable than i was at 22, i called again. with no other excuses for why this couldn't happen right now, i concluded that i couldn't afford it and since i was living in NYC, it would just be too complicated.

age 30-- my friends and colleagues draw my attention to a newspaper photo of a young woman who looks eerily like me. everyone i know is immediately convinced that this person is my biological sister and they all want to stalk her to find out. i try to remain reasonable, holding fast to the knowledge that there is a very very small chance this person who looks like me is actually related to me. but she does look like me. a lot like me and this is my very first experience of that. i have never known anyone who looks like me. it's an experience that adoptees just don't have. people will say it, but we laugh at them when they are not looking. "you look just like your dad!" says some person who doesn't know that my dad had nothing to do with my genetic composition. then we laugh at them. but this woman does look like me and since it was timely, on the 4 year cycle (which was totally accidental, by the way, i only noticed it when i was 30) i went to lss again and asked for some new forms. search request forms. but i like things to move very slooooowly, so i asked for only the non-identifying info.

a few weeks later i received a 5 page letter that told me all about what my bio parents looked like, their hobbies, their families.... i'm still riding that wave.

at 34, i know that phil is going to make me request the full identifying search. but right now i am only 32.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Okay, I think we're all set up now.

This blog actually has a purpose. Its purpose is to discuss issues, feelings, and the like surrounding adoption and, at some point, searching for our birth families.

In what can only be described as an odd moment, while talking in our local coffee shop, Shelly and I discovered we were both adopted as infants. I had just started searching for my birth mother. She had, well... I should let her tell you where she is.

We both already have blogs, but we wanted a place where we could talk specifically about this topic. And, we hope, reach out to others that must be going through some of the same thing, and maybe hear back from some of you.

Apparently, there are many people on Blogger who have thought about starting blogs about adoption, so all the really good URLs were taken. And not used. Seriously. Check out "" for instance. That sort of ticks me off.

But we found something we can agree on, so I'll deal.

Let this serve as an introduction for now... More later... When I have the time, and when Shelly gets her new computer.