Assembling Self

Sunday, October 31, 2010

November - National Adoption Awareness Month - Let The Educating Begin!

This is National Adoption awareness month and it is appropriate that it also falls as I begin my fourth court petition this month for identifying information about my biological family, as well as, attempting to obtain updated medical information. I have received twice in the last twelve years from my biological mother current family medical information from her side, but nothing identifying as she can not come forward to reveal that I exist. Although at one point in time a reunion was alluded to, it never happened. At first court petition my biological father was not able to be found. Upon my second petition in 2005, he was located and although he doesn't claim to be my father, but doesn't deny it either, he stated that he understood my need for current medical information but that everyone in his family is healthy. Yeah, right.

My existence is a huge family secret. Per my biological mother's words in the non-identifying information letter she sent through the court, “stories were set in place to explain my absence, only five people knew of my pregnancy, and to this day no one, not even my best friend knows”. Since most of the people who even know about me have died, or are getting older, my hopes and chances for ever finding my biological family dwindles each passing year. I will always believe my adoptive parents, especially my adoptive father, have identifying information about my biological family but this information will probably be taken to their grave.

My biological father is not listed on my original birth certificate, only mentioned in the paperwork I was told. That is not abnormal though as in those days proving paternity was difficult if the father denied it, and, mine did. There are avenues I could take since my biological mother stated she was still living in the same community when she became pregnant with me. With my original birth certificate and my birth name, I could have access to my hospital records from where I was born, some public records, High School yearbooks, have the ability to do genealogy and ancestry research, and many other things. I could finally know who my siblings are, something that I have wanted, wished, and hoped for, and perhaps have some relationship(s) with them. If not then at least I would have the truth about my life!

I have been in contact with the best searchers around over the last twelve years. With no names, no cities, or states to begin looking in (one down with Missouri only 49 left to go), and very little in the way of information about my biological family there is a slim chance of finding anyone. My only hope really is, either to have one of my biological parents come forward and sign the papers for release of their name, or to change Missouri adoption law to open original birth certificates for adoptees. I am not holding my breath on the first one so, I focus on adoption education, reform, and activism.

I have lost a great deal of my life petitioning courts, searching with what little I have and know, and registering at every adoption site I can. I should not have to battle multiple genetic illnesses without recourse to try and obtain proper updated family medical history. I should not have to lose time that could be spent in so many other productive ways. I should not be bound by adoption laws and policy, and the government, that has no right to withhold from me pertinent and important truths about myself.

What we want as adoptees are the secrets and lies to be replaced by truth and honesty in adoption. What we want is to stop being treated as commodities available for purchase and ownership. What we DEMAND is that we no longer be controlled by adoption agencies and the government who treat us as perpetual children, unable to handle our own life information.
I'm about to begin my National Adoption Awareness month education blog to be sent to the agency I was adopted out of for the judge to read, the confidential intermediaries, and social workers.  I am sending it off to legislators, and to several other adoption agencies. I will share it with anyone who is willing to open their minds and listen, and open their hearts to try and understand.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Dark Side of Adoption

Over Cast - Adoption Depression

A gloomy gray surrounds my soul and covers hope from which life grows.
With murky tints in hues of black and darkened tones where colors lack.
I know no sun or sky of blue eternal night my only view.
In shades of doubt my heart beats on where I exist but don't belong.
Lost chances and unrealized dreams paint the landscape that I see.
Defeating endeavors to escape the desolate hours that are my fate.
Upon the surface all is well most never see my private hell.
I struggle daily to survive and squelch the anger deep inside.
I try before it is too late to douse these fires of raging hate.
That burn eternal flames that kill my hope, my prayers, my very will.
Can't seem to win or too succeed exiled from life that others lead.
I wrestle with the endless doubt that I will find my way back out.
Where one day I will hope to find a peaceful and unburdened mind.
This blog is not about the dark side of the adoption industry really, although I could go on and on forever about it.  This is part of the story about my personal experience with the dark side of adoption and being ill with no family medical history.  I long ago quit hiding and making excuses for things I have done in reaction to what I have known.  All in hopes, that other adoptees may realize and understand what is happening to them, that the nonadopted world can understand what it is that we need, and we can change the sytem of adoption as it has dysfunctionally operated in the dark for too long.  These stories that are kept deep inside me need their voice if I am ever to truly be free of them.

I was adopted at two weeks, where I was before that remains a mystery.  Most say it does not matter.  I was "chosen" and "wanted" and I should be "grateful".  But first, I was unchosen.  Most nonadopted persons don't know that this "chosen" term comes with many strings attached.  Those, of fitting the adoptive family mold, of being what you are expected to be not who you are, and finally of fulfilling the desires and dreams of others.  I was not unique and celebrated as a person, I was never accepted, I was not a genetic match instead the exact opposite, and I was an outright disappointment.

Although I lined my room with ribbons, trophies, and medals from an early age at almost every group and competition I entered in, and made good grades and was never in trouble at school, I was never good enough.  Perfect was expected in everything, anything less was failure. And then, I got sick.  It was such a huge inconvenience for my adoptive parents.  They were after all, dealing with health problems with their own biological child.  That came first and foremost while my health issues were dismissed, ignored, and determined faking it for attention.

I remember around age fifteen passing out in the bathroom more than once, calling out to my mother for help and being told to get up and go to school and quit being dramatic.  Once, I woke up on the floor after losing consciousness to being nudged HARD by my adoptive mother's foot and yelled at to get up and clean up the mess I had made and get to school.  It was then I realized I had fallen into my little sister's training potty and had tipped it over spilling urine all over the floor and onto myself.  Soaked in piss I got up and cleaned myself, and the mess up of course, and went to school.  Because, being at school was far better than being at home.  I was safe from the emotional, mental, and physical abuse from this woman, and my adoptive father who believed per my adoptive mother, I was a horrible child and deserved everything I got.  I grew to love school more and more.

I ended up in the nurse's office at school several times over the course of the next few months.  I remember calling my adoptive mother from school asking to come home as I was not feeling well.  She came and got me but when I got home I was punished.  There was no caring or love.  No understanding or concern at all.  There was only chastising for pulling my adoptive mother away from her woman's golf league.  I had taken away her only morning that was "hers".  I began to learn to say, and ask for nothing.

Unfortunately, my dwindling health began to take a toll on my grades and class attendence.  I couldn't keep up especially after a very competitive season of gymnastics.  I was depleted and fatigued to the point I was unable to function.  Fortunately, my teachers who were angry and unaware of my health problems called me out and I went before each of them.  My gym teachers wanted to know why after gymnastics was over I had quit going to gym.  Physical education was always one of my favorite classes.  I finally broke down and told them of my physical ailments and my inability to stop bleeding, female trouble, and the fatigue and weakness I was feeling.  They asked why my adoptive parents didn't do something about it.  I relayed the facts.  I told them and that they thought that I was faking it.

I remember confiding in a friend at school who told me she had had the same problems.  Her parents had taken her to the doctor who had put her on birth control pills to regulate her hormones that were off balance.  Still afraid to tell my adoptive parents, I remember the extra birth control pills in the cabinet that were my adoptive mothers.  There was an extra pack with pills missing.  I took a few here and there and it immediately stopped the health issues I was having.  But, then my adoptive mother realized there were pills missing and I was confronted by both parents.  They were outraged and this must be because I was having sex and was a slut or a whore and this is where my problems stemmed from.  I told them about my friend and her diagnosis, and once again, I was called a liar...amongst other names.  They did finally take me to the doctor where he determined I did have, the same health issue as my friend, and was also very anemic and prescribed iron and yes, birth control pills!  My adoptive parents never did give me an apology.

I remember attending my junior prom which happened to fall the night, and early am with after prom festitivites and breakfast, before my state flute solo music competition. I was exhausted and really not concerned about how well I would do. Still on an emotional high from the previous night I went and played. I did not get a one rating, instead I received a two. My adoptive mother snidely and hatefully commented "You just didn't try hard enough".  I was one of the few soloists from school who had even made it to the state level.  Still, not good enough.  I think at that point in time I stopped caring what they thought of me at all.  I was in a no win situation anyway.

My health problems never went away instead they multiplied over the years as I got older.  My adoptive parents told me if I lived my life according to the word of God I would not be ill. It was implied that I was a sinner and being punished by the almighty for not going to church and tithing. So, I did my best to assume the role of a good christian. I was baptized and joined my husband's church and on a regular basis attended services, the required three times per week. Still, nothing about my health changed. Nothing about the attitude of my adoptive parents toward me changed either.  I was still an unworthy embarrassment to them, and their God.

So if being "good" doesn't work and healing doesn't come, and there is no sympathy or support from your family, what do you do? You become bad. It's much so easier. And if you surround yourself with bad people then you don't have to worry.  No one expects much of you and the pressure to conform, obey, and excel is gone.

You are sick and in pain year after year.  What do you do?  If doctors can't find answers you find the best way you can to escape.  Escaping became my life.  This portion I am not proud of.  But now, I understand why I did what I did.  I escaped in men, alcohol, drugs, pills, and acting out to get attention.  The rest of the time I spent isolated, in bed, and sick.  I hated the ball and chain that was my way of life, that of drinking or drugging and being supported by men that were as dysfunctional as I was.  But, being numb was better than living in physical and emotional pain.  Because, why would anyone "good" want me?  I was obviously damaged, unredeemable, and unworthy of love.

Thankfully, I had surgery and got better somewhat.  I returned to school.  I took Developmental Child Psychology to try and complete my degree in education.  I got an adoptive parent as a marriage counselor in my late thirties at the same time which gave me the ability to deal in healthy ways with what had happened to me.  She understood and validated my problems and issues.  She "got it".  I had abandonment rejection issues, detachment disorder, anger, self loathing, and a whole scope of problems that I needed to work on.  And work on them I did.  I joined adoption support groups, I workshopped, attended conferences, adoption seminars, and listened to the stories of others, especially, adoptees who were abused.

People say that the birth of their children is the greatest thing that ever happened to them.  No disrespect to my children meant, but finding the adoption community has turned my life around so I could be a better person and parent.  It has given me a reason to heal, and to change, and to help others.  After all, it has been the birth of me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Adoptee who is sick...and sick of it!

In life the two most important things are family and health, in my opinion.  So, what do you do if you have neither?  I really shouldn't be blogging when I am feeling this badly physically.  Unfortunately, chronic physical ailments also take their toll on you mentally and emotionally.  Add to that life circumstances, and throw in adoption issues, and it is easy to spiral down so deep you feel you'll never be able to climb back out.

Being nearly bedridden and unable to work gives me too much time to think and reflect.  I do better when I am active and feeling productive.  It also makes it easier to avoid feeling and thinking too much.  I am not one who wants to be dependent and weak.  But, the fact is, I am.

My health problems began at age 15 and multiplied as I got older.  I was relegated to an anorexia and bulimia clinic at age 29 when in fact, I was suffering from a rare genetic gall bladder disease only 6% of people with gall bladder problems experience.  I lost 10 years spent unable to eat much and vomiting.  It did not show up in blood tests, sonograms, MRI's, or CAT scans.  I weighed 98 lbs. at one point in time.  I am 5' 6" tall and looked like a walking skeleton.  I found out from non-identifying information at age 39 that my natural mother was 4' 8" tall and weighed 80 lbs. when she got pregnant with me.  My natural father was 5' 6" tall, I obviously get my height from him, and weighed around 130-140 lbs.  I come from small people!!!  Throw in a gall bladder disease and an adoptee with NO family medical history and what do you get?  Misdiagnosis and a life DISASTER.  My birthmother had surgery at age 15 for one of my illnesses I suffer from wouldn't THAT have been good information to be able to give to doctors rather than living ill and in pain from age 15-29 when I finally got that diagnosis? 

Most of my health issues are degenerative and not going to get better, or are incurable.  When one health issue strikes me down and I am sedentary it flares up the others from being immoble for too long.  No one knows the true cost of ill health until it strikes them, and young at that.  Most, are totally unprepared.

It affects my relationships with my immediate family and friends.  It's hard being around a chronically ill person who is in pain and doesn't feel good all of the time with zero energy.  Hell, I don't want to be around me half the time.  It is not living, not by any means.

It affects my work and job performance.  The only problem with employment I have ever had was from absences.  I have to out perform everyone else, make certain I am never late when I am there, and take on extra work and projects to compensate for my failure to be able to keep up as a normal healthy person.  A forty hour work week, especially a fast paced high stress one, takes a huge toll on me.  I have to plaster on the smile, check the clock and count down the hours, and just try and get through the days.

It affects me financially.  Lost work days, medical expenses, and time off work have almost bankrupted me, and a lack of being able to qualify for, or afford health insurance.  If you can't get well, you can't work, and if you can't work you can't afford to try and get treatment to get well enough to work.  It's an unending cycle.

I guess I should feel lucky I was able to receive one half of my medical history from my natural mother's side of the family.  But, I don't feel lucky.  It came at age 39 no thanks to, or help from, my adoptive family.  ALL thanks to the online and offline adoption community I found that guided me through how, and where, to find the agency I was adopted out of and petition the court for updated medical information.  I still have not been able to receive the other half as my natural father denied me any information and stated everyone in the family was healthy.  I tend to find that hard to believe, although it would be a huge relief since my natural mother's side is filled with all kinds of health problems and people that die young.  I am about to embark on my fourth court petition in twelve years.  I will not give up until I get all I can not just for myself, but for my children, and their children. 

I tend to isolate myelf alot when I feel like this.  First, being chronically ill for the majority of your life is something not many truly understand.  I've been labeled a hypochondriac, lazy, and crazy.  Not many people understand being adopted either.  I've been called angry, maladjusted, and ungrateful.  People pass judgement on what they don't understand.  I am here to tell them differently.

I refuse to give up my work in adoption reform, activism, and education.  It invigorates me and gives my life purpose.  It gives me a reason for getting up everyday and going on.  Something good will come out of my horrible life experience of adoptive family rejection and health problems if not for me, then for others.  I should not have spent years and a lifetime sick, without recourse to get a FULL family medical background.  I should have not had to navigate with only an ammended birth certificate in hand, and a system that continually denies adoptees the same rights as every other citizen of this country, without being able to provide any information and answers for doctors.

NO adoptee should lose their life because they are denied identifying information about their natural families to have the chance to get family medical history.  NO adoptee should be discriminated against by adoption laws that prohibit our chance at a full healthy life.  NO adoptee should have to struggle to be able to have full family medical background for their children.  It it vital, it is a necessity, and it is our RIGHT!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pro-Life, Adoption, & And Child Well-being

I am going to tread, and not very lightly, on a subject that is sure to cause some strong reactions. But, I've come to stir the pot because I believe, and hope, it can bring to light issues that need to be discussed, debated, and dealt with. As a child adopted into an abusive family, and then rejected when a biological child was born, this issue is important to me and for all children period.  People tell me all of the time I should be glad to have not been aborted.  They are shocked and taken back when I tell them very frankly that no, I am not glad really, who would want to be born into a childhood experience of 18 years of emotional, physical, mental, and verbal abuse?  Who would want any other child to?

I live not far from where protesters gather everyday near a woman's clinic with their signs that say “Pray to end abortion”. Their vigils anger me. Not that I am FOR abortion, although I am pro-choice. The point is where will these people be after these children are born? In what capacity are they going to help make certain these babies, and future adults, are safe and protected, fed and clothed, and properly educated? Adoption is not always the happy ending for a child born. What happens to biological families who do not relinquish and keep babies when there is abuse and neglect that already runs in that family? I realize there are no guarantees for anyone in life, but we need to expect that once these children are born, there is a great responsibility that will be placed upon someone.

I live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex, where there is a great amount of obvious wealth. Texas is listed nine times in the top 100 wealthiest zip codes in the nation. Yet here in the Dallas area, we have one of the highest rates of children living hungry, homeless, and in poverty in the nation. Texas is at the bottom of the nation's list of SAT scores, has a high drop out rate for students almost one third of students do not graduate, and over all, Texas falls nearly last in every educational statistic, including, cutting educational and afterschool programs, and not being competitive with teacher salaries in comparison with other states.  As we are all very well aware of, education is key for a child to have the ability to attend secondary educational institutions, acquire scholarships, and vie with others in opportunities for employment.

In July, 2010 on the Texas Care for Children website, the Annie E. Casey Foundation annual rankings of child well-being in their 2010 Kids Count Data Book for the nation were posted.  The state of Texas performed the worst yet again.  There was a sharp decline in infant health due in part to low birth weights.  And while the rest of the nation has lowered it's infant mortality rate, in Texas it rose 11%.  Six out of every thousand newborns do not make it to their first birthday.  Texas child abuse rates are also higher than the national average.  One social worker, and fellow adoption activist, told me that more children die at the hands of their parents in this area than nearly anywhere else in the country.

There are multitudes of children languishing in foster care, in homeless shelters, in abusive families, and in need of our help already. I see the time and effort these demonstrators exhibit, and as a fellow activist, I understand they are doing what they believe is best. But, if we took care of children when they are young we would not be needing to provide for them as adults in penal institutions, and social service programs, later in life.  We would not be burying them before their time.

Wouldn't time be better served for our children if we took care of the ones that are already here? If these people are pro-life why not advocate for the lives of children that are in need now? Perhaps some are, but obviously not enough. As activists raising awareness for their cause, that of life for unborn babies, life is not just being born it is the years that follow.  We are failing miserably at it here.

I am not just an adoption activism, I am an advocate for children. I vote, I donate when and where I can, I have volunteered with school programs, I have been teacher and child care administrator, and I speak up for the children that are here, and those who have no voices yet. These children will be our future if first, we give them a fighting chance.  So really, in truth, I am "Pro-Life".

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Special Adoption Reunion Story

As most people know I carry my adoption reform soapbox with me wherever I go.  I'm usually retaliating against the closed records adoption system in whatever way I can, and advocating for truth and honesty in adoption.  Have mouth will travel.  But, no matter how many diatribes we write, studies and statistics we quote, I truly believe our personal stories speak volumes too.  I call this adoption reunion story special because it's special to me as I was fortunate to witness it firsthand.  I will never forget it.

I was at work and in the course of some down time there I was relaying my adoption situation. I had a coworker speak up to say he was also adopted and was looking to find his family of origin and we immediately bonded over this and became friends.  I took down the information I had for him and went home.  Thankfully, there are so many adoption search angels that excel in finding biological family members and I contacted one I knew well.

My friend had his non-identifying adoption information from his adoption file, along with some identifying information, and knew that he had been adopted around the age of one.  He had been told his first mother had other children and his first father had left the situation and that she did not have the resources to support all of her children.  Hence my friend, the youngest, had been placed for adoption.

He, like me, had not bonded with his adoptive family and had never felt as though he was at "home".  He was not close to his adoptive family or other family members and he had, as I had, always felt like a loner in the world.  His story felt so similar to mine and I was on a mission to try and help him get some closure.  I contacted a searcher I had worked with and gave her all of the information my friend had.  Luckily he did have his first mother's name and some good basic identifying information.  We were hopeful.

The searcher I contacted came back with a woman whose name, although a different married last name, and date of birth matched what my friend had provided me with.  Her address was also in the same basic area my friend had said he had been adopted out of.  I took the info, did some further research on my own, and finally had in hand a phone number that I thought matched the woman we were looking for.  I told my friend that I thought this is the woman I believed could be his first mother and he agreed that I should contact her for him in case she did not want to hear from him.

Nervously, I dialed the phone.  A man answered and I asked for the woman we were looking for.  He said "Just a moment" and put down the phone.  I heard a woman answer "Hello" and I took a deep breath and asked her if this was "insert name" and if my friend's date of birth meant anything to her.  There was a moment of silence and she said no.  I restated what I was asking her and she said again, that no, she was not the person I was looking for.  I apologized for interrupting her and thanked her for her time.  I was disappointed to say the very least, and down hearted as I felt badly for my friend whose hope was going to be deflated.  I knew he was waiting to hear what I had found so I made that phone call that is always so hard to make.

We spoke and I related to him what this woman had said and I did the best I could to help keep his chin up knowing that nothing can take away the loss that comes with not being able to locate your biological family.  Especially, for those of us who have been rejected and denied by our adoptive families it is a double whammy.  A few days went by and the phone rang.  I answered it.  I heard a man ask if I had called "insert first mother's name" a few days back.  I said yes that I had.  I heard his voice quiver and ask if this was in relation to "insert my friend's name".  I said yes.  I could ascertain by the inflection in his voice he was trying to hold it together as best as he could and he stated that yes this was in fact the person that I was looking for, and that he was his biological brother.  It hit me all at once that if I had not known better I could swear I was speaking to my friend on the phone.  Their voices were identical!  Apparently, his mother was very ill and surprised by my call.  She had been surrounded by other people in the room and did not feel comfortable speaking to me at the time about the son she had relinquished.  But, that she did want to know him and how he was.

It was then my friend's biological brother broke down some more and said he had been a few years older  and had always wondered where the little boy he used to play with went.  I was also having a hard time not becoming emotional as I was so moved by this brother who had obviously never recovered from the unexplained absence of his little brother.  I told him how similar their voices were and that they were obviously brothers.  He spoke of the circumstances of their childhood, his mother's dilemma trying to take care of her children by herself no family to help, and the fact that none of them had ever forgotten him but had no way of knowing where he was at.  I asked for his phone number and could I give it to my friend he immediately said yes.

I called my friend who was absolutely thrilled and took the phone number I had for his brother.  A day later he called to tell me he and his brother had spent hours on the phone.  The similarities that ran in their lives, including their voices, were proof that genetics speak loudly and clearly.  We, as adoptees, are the ones who know what weight and the importance of heredity carries.

I moved, my friend moved, and we lost touch.  I do not know to this day the total outcome of their story.  I know that they had plans to spend time together and for my friend to meet his biological mother and the rest of his siblings.  What I do remember hearing is two men brought back to being little boys when life split them apart, returning to recover that portion that had been lost and covered up, and making up for missing years.  I heard healing and joy.  I heard pain overcome and hearts reunited.  I hope for them the best.

Life is not a fairy tale nor do adoptees expect one.  We are only asking for the truth.  Our lives are based on changed names, changed dates, and falsifications and lies and we know, better than anyone, that truth is always better than fiction.