This is my story and mine alone. Your results may vary. The one message I DO not wish to convey in any shape or form, is that adopting a child is a negative thing. I know plenty of people who were adopted and grew up in very loving homes and enjoyed a wonderful life due to that moment all those years ago when a woman made an impossible choice. These experiences are mine alone.
I learned that I was adopted from an early age. There were books, explanations, my baby book even says, “An Adopted Baby’s Book”. I do believe that my mother (I will refer to her as my mother and my birth mother as such) and father both wanted another child very much…in theory. However, when they didn’t get the child they ordered (the perfectly behaved baby doll to dote upon) things changed for me and decades later, I still have the wounds and the damage left in the wake of what I endured.
From the outside, I had an idyllic life. My father worked in a union job and my mother was a stay-at-home wife and mother. She kept an immaculately clean household, had dinner on the table by 5:30 every evening, and she was a whiz at cooking, baking, holding dinner parties and hosting family holidays. Not a hair was ever out-of-place. My sister was a quiet, well-behaved girl and I was often asked why I could not be more like her. Well, because I was not her.
Adopted from a Catholic orphanage at the age of 6-1/2 months of age, there are hundreds (and thousands to be honest) of photos that catalog my entire childhood and beyond. We lived within the city limits, allowing my father to take the local bus to his job downtown and for my mom to have a car during the day. Our home was modest, yet very adequate. We had a garden that I’m surprised was never featured in Better Homes and Gardens and I enjoyed a life with plenty of things. I had a backyard pool, a little girl’s room that any child would love, all the material things that a little girl could want. I attended all my schooling at private Catholic schools since we lived in the city and the schools were “rough” back then.
Behind the façade that my mother and father presented to the world, was a dark and scary side that I still bear the scars of today. My father was very quick to temper, and had a violent streak that would lead him to put his hands around my neck on my bed and scream at me while spittle splashed onto my face. Of course, this was never talked about, but I was, and often. Did I deserve to be reprimanded? Certainly! I would use a “fresh mouth”, talking back and being the little smart ass. Sure, especially as a teen. I was what they called a wild child. I smoked cigarettes, snuck out, drank beer with the older kids in my neighborhood and gave my parents a hard time. I would never profess my innocence. In spite of that, I look back on my childhood as a time of great loneliness, sadness and a lost opportunity to be loved.
You see, despite the fact that I had every “THING” a little girl could ever possibly want, the one thing I needed was to hear that I was loved. I NEVER did. The only time my mother ever presented the words “I love you” to me was inside of a gift that she gave to everyone (an egg that opened up to reveal a message) and a tiny scroll inside that reads “I will always love you”. Otherwise? Neither of my parents ever said the words to me.
From the outside, people always tell me what a wonderful childhood I had and what great parents I had too. For those who did not exist in my mother’s world that consisted of a raging, undiagnosed case of OCD Personality Disorder and her need to control and manipulate everything to her favor, they see the ideal. For me, all these years later, I now see the damage and I struggle to live with its present day ramifications. To learn about how the things I did or didn’t do were twisted and manipulated hundreds upon hundreds of times to reflect badly upon myself and make her look like the long-suffering mother is not lost on me.
To this day, my extended “family” ignores me. They often talked openly about me as a child in front of me, often engaging in conversations that I recall (mostly during holidays at our house) where I would hear, “Oh god, what did she do NOW?” or “Are you surprised by anything she does anymore?”. When my father passed, after my mother, I pretty much felt like an orphan. There were no offers of family friendship, no more cards, my kids were ignored on holidays, birthdays etc. They still ask me, “Didn’t we used to have other family?” That still blows me away to this day. Once in a while it angers me, wondering why these people act like they don’t exist. Perhaps I never was truly “family” to them from the beginning? It sure appears that way.
I have continued on with my life without them in it all these years later and seem to be “OK”. Even my sister is cold and distant, but I truly have learned to live with it. You truly can’t change people and after the years of damage my mother did with all the altered stories and exaggerated truths/lies, who knows what they believe. It’s their problem now, not mine. I’ve done just fine without them and so have my kids.
Fast forward to many years later and the discovery and eventual meeting of my birth mother. She entered my life as a whirlwind, with lots of emails and phone calls and even a surprise visit. We talked all the time and I felt like a wanted child at last. Heck, she even told me she loved me! That didn’t last long. The phone calls stopped, the emails ended and I once again had that orphaned feeling. Starting off life as an orphan just keep resurfacing in my life, so I learned to live with it.
About a year or so after I first was in contact with my birth mother, I heard from her other family members that she was very ill and dealing with very serious health issues. The talks were awkward and difficult. I felt like I was the token ‘child on the side’. There was a point where I truly believed she was going to die, so I think they felt like it was the right thing to do, to let this “other child she had” know what was going on. I tried to remain in the shadows, waiting to hear back, but when the conversation dwindled to nothing, I knew it was time to once again “let it go”. While I was fortunate enough to find a blood relative that I will continue to stay in touch with, I’ve had to let a second mother go. The realization that I will continue on without family, except for my children, is a tough pill to swallow sometimes. I can’t force people to want/love/care about me etc, so to accept the way things are and to move on is the best course of action. I’m done reaching out.
After all this time out of my cocoon, I am becoming more and more comfortable in my own skin. I go to regular therapy to address these very intense issues and it helps me seek and find a semblance of balance in my life. I may never fully understand why my life unfolded the way it did, but I am left with the pieces in my hand and many of them do not fit together. I want what most people want, to be loved and cherished, wanted and desired and to have a purpose for myself first and then for my children, others and the world. So, I think I survived whatever it is I endured on some level and every day I strive to make this day better than the one before. One thing I am very certain of is that I am not alone.