Day 2 – November 2, 2018
I thought I would start National Adoption Awareness Month with my own adoption story:
My biological parents met in Downtown Las Vegas, at the Golden Nugget Hotel in 1965.
I was born in Henderson, NV in November 1965. I had 5 older brothers who were in foster care at the time of my mother’s pregnancy. She chose to relinquish me to adoption as she was unable to care for her 5 children, and having 1 more made no sense to her, and she was also told by social services that this was her “only option,” as they would have removed me anyway.
I was placed in an adoptive home at birth. Then, at 5 months of age, I was removed, placed in a foster home with Catholic Charities. I spent the next while there, and then, my parents met with a priest with Catholic Charities, gave him $400 in cash, and he handed them me. I was almost 7 months old. I have no idea where I was the first 7 months of my life.
The way my (a) mother describes me as an almost 7 month old is, “you were filthy, the dress they brought you in was a pink organza thing, and it was filthy, too.” She has always told me that “You were not in very good shape.” I had been physically abused in the first home and then put into foster care until they found another family for me.
My parents took me to the pediatrician where I had a full exam. I had food allergies and was malnourished. My head was flat on the back, I had a hard time eating out of a spoon and sitting up on my own.
This is me on day one in my new home …. after my bath.
I look at this little me and I see a caterpillar. Now, as a therapist who works with children this small, I know that babies explore the world with their right hand and sooth with their left. I seem to be doing just this in the picture. I also see a very flat affect. I look tired and a bit dazed. I had just been through some very traumatic months, and I am sure my baby brain was on overload trying to sort it all out.
During infancy and early childhood, a child attaches to and bonds with the primary caregiver. When a baby is removed from their mother, the natural attachment is broken, their brain does not know who the primary caregiver is and to whom to attach. The baby’s brain is full of 100 billion cells, give or take a few. These cells begin to be immediately stimulated after being born by the mother’s voice, scent, touch and presence. A child removed from their mother does not have this same stimulation, and the brain’s “hard wiring” begins to search and then change to adapt to their environment….always searching for the mother connection.
Once I was finally in a permanent home, my brain calmed down and I adapted. But, I never forgot that I was adopted. I never stopped wondering where I came from.
I grew up in a pretty normal home with an older, also adopted brother. He and I were completely different. In every way possible. But, we, again, adapted, to our home and figured out a way to coexist.
I had few friends in elementary school. I remember being teased because I was adopted. This occurred after I announced, proudly, to the class that I was adopted. This fact was perceived as “different, weird” and I was ostracized. Kids would ask, “Who are your REAL parents.” So, I made up wild tales to satisfy their curiosity. It worked and they would leave me alone.
We moved when I was 12. I went to middle school. I struggled with my identity. I did make friends, some of whom I am STILL friends with these many years later. I went to high school, had a decent group of friends, but never felt like I ‘fit’ in with them. I always wondered what they thought of me and my not fitting in-ness.
I went away to college. I came back. I went to Japan for 18 months. I met a man there, whom I married and we are still married 28 years later. He is the reason I am as grounded and well adjusted as I am. Before I got married, I was pretty scattered.
I have spent the past 52 years finding myself. I raised 2 amazing boys into men. I went to University. I bettered myself spiritually, and mentally through my own personal therapy and search for self. None of this has been easy, but it has been worth it to be in the place I am today.
In February 2017, I finally found my birth family through DNA testing on Ancestry.com I have met my birth mother and looked into her eyes. I have met others in my family and made lasting connections. I know who my father is and I know how I came to be. The finding, the learning, the truth – it was all such a struggle to comprehend and accept.
When a caterpillar enters the chrysalis, it stays very still for a long time. Then, the metamorphosis begins. The little caterpillar has to STRUGGLE to grow wings. It has to STRUGGLE to change. Then, it has to STRUGGLE to escape the chrysalis to finally be a butterfly. And, this is the amazing part: A caterpillar who enters the chrysalis has DNA that is NOT FOUND at all in the butterfly’s DNA when it emerges. This is what adoption reunion did for me. It was a struggle, I changed and now, I feel like a butterfly, ready to go from flower to flower collecting life pollen. I am more myself than ever. I am a work in progress, but I am the best I have ever been….. and, it is because I know my story and where I came from.