Monday, January 30, 2006

A Letter in the Mailbox, A Story in my Head

Getting the mail and answering long distance phone calls have now become the highlight of my days. An "unavailable", "anonymous" or even an unrecognized phone number give me an adrenaline rush. Checking the mail after work has taken on a new meaning. Today, I actually wasn't thinking about what could be in the mail when I got the mail. But when I opened the box, there was a LOT of stuff in there, and I remembered - I'm waiting for something...

2 medical bills, one web hosting bill, an ad for pet medications...and there on the bottom was that very official looking envelope with the return address written in old english typeface, a large ornate seal next to it and my name typed on the envelope. "Pennsylvania Clerk of Records, Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans' Court Division" - what a mouthful.

I open it up and there are two pages, so I start looking at the one on top. It is a receipt for the payment I sent. They printed the receipt on January 26. On to the next page. Its printed on letterhead with the same old english typeface and the ornate seal at the top. It is a really, really short letter. Just 2 very short paragraphs. My stomach sank - all I could think was,

Dear adoptee,

We got your money and called your mom and she doesn't want to talk to you.

But thanks for the money.


Your Friendly County Courthouse

I sucked it up and read it. Basically, they got my money and my petition. They sent my petition to the Orphans' Court Investigator (sounds so CSI, doesn't it?) and she will inform me if there is any information available regarding my adoption. Then it gave me the investigator's direct line and said I could contact her with any questions.

Yeah, I have a question. Is this for real? Because a lot of the time I feel like it is really fake.

It is such a weird feeling to know that "my file" and all the information that I want to know so badly is probably sitting right there on someone's desk. That lady has got some power! I'm thinking of what is sitting on my desk right now - a to do list (or rather a to do notebook), some business cards, receipts and articles. Nothing of any interest to anyone besides me, really.

But this lady has on her desk files full of information that people have been waiting their whole lives to know. It is the rest of my story. It is my identity. My story has a lot, I mean a lot of missing pieces and I've always been a pretty imaginative person, so I've just made up the parts that I didn't know. My mom was a good person. She was smart and pretty and funny and she got drunk one night and got pregnant - whoops! It happens. Now she is older, successful, sophisticated and thinks of me often. I have an entire story about what happened in the hospital. I know what she thought and felt when she was pregnant. These are things that every other kid really does know, but since I didn't have any way to know, I just made it up and has always been truth to me. As much as you might be Italian or the miracle child your parents thought they'd never have or the "whoops" baby that came 15 years after your siblings, I am the kid in these stories. That is who I have been my entire life - the daughter of that woman. No one could ever prove otherwise. But this lady at the courthouse can. She might already know things to shoot holes in my theory, without ever contacting my mom.

So I guess that's what I've been thinking about lately - what is my reaction going to be if the truth doesn't match up with my story? What if my mom was angry about being pregnant? What if she was bitter that she even had me? What if now she's a screw up, drug dealing, alcoholic? Its a lot to comprehend, to think that in a matter of weeks, days even, the entire foundation of everything I've ever thought about my birth, conception and relinquishment, my identity could be changed.

I think that is why I'm still not able to accept my birth mom as a real person and not just something the government made up to keep me happy. Because if she is a real person, she could be different from what I've made her to be in my head, so it might just be better to keep her on paper, the way I've always known her.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


I had an idea to start a group at my church for adoptees, birth moms and adoptive parents to connect and talk to each other. I emailed my church about it and told them I didn't necessarily want to be the leader of the group, but I would definitely have an interest in being involved with a such a group. They wrote back and said they thought they knew just the person to lead the group. Turns out, the woman they knew wants me to help her lead the group. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I agreed to it. I met her after church today.

Earlier this week, I emailed her a description of what I looked like: really tall with short, dark hair. I still wonder what my birth mom, who is 5"4, blonde hair and blue eyes would think if she ever saw me. I was at church by myself today because my husband was sick. I was standing at the back of the church, in a large mass of people, feeling pretty stupid, when I saw a lady holding a baby staring at me. I figured that must be her. I was right.

She was a nice lady. Her son is six months old, an open adoption and they have a very good relationship with the mother, who is 16. Every time they visit with the birthmom, she spends the hours following the visit journaling everything that happenend, what was said, etc. I was in awe - what an incredible idea. Maybe that is really common and I'm just not familiar with open adoptions, but I was really impressed. Is it wrong that I'm jealous of a six month old baby? Ha Ha!

On the phone a few weeks ago, I suggested that she read "20 Things Adopted Kids Wish their Adoptive Parents Knew". Today, she pulled that book out of her bag. She put it on the table. She told me she found it really disturbing. "Really?" was my shocked response. I think she didn't like the part where the author theorizes that babies suffer a loss due to the separation from their birth mothers. I don't know what I think about that theory. It makes sense. But there is no way to really prove it, and I like data. Either way, I don't think "disturbing" is the word I would use to describe that book.

It was a harsh brush with reality, to hear someone who is involved with adoption tell you that the concepts and ideas that had made you feel validated about being adopted for the first time in your life were "disturbing". I talked to her for about an hour. That's the longest I've talked to anyone, ever about adoption, and it was really hard to keep my composure for that long, especially in front of a complete stranger. I left feeling tired, anxious and like I am a "disturbed" person. I'm a little afraid that this group is going to consist of a bunch of adoptive parents and no other adoptees are going to show up except for me, on display as the classic adoptee whose parents did everything wrong and who everyone hopes their kid doesn't grow up to be, even though I woke up feeling like I was pretty well-adjusted person.

Strange how people can have such different takes on things; what one person finds enlighting another finds disturbing.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Some books I've been reading

I've been reading a lot. I have some business books I got for Christmas, some books that friends have let me borrow that are sitting on the coffee table collecting dust becuase I want to read these books about adoption first. I finished Sherrie Eldridge's "Twenty Life Transforming Choices Adoptees Need to Make" a few weeks ago. Her writing style is captivating and it also helps that I agree with her on just about everything she writes. I read this book in just a few sittings. Some of the more helpful "choices" that she highlights are:

-"Thoughts about our birth parents are innate: our choice is to give ourselves permission to think about them without reservation." I had never heard anything remotely like this until I read this book; thinking about my birth family has always been somehow "wrong" to me. And in 26 years I had never really even considered my birth father until now. It's been enlightening to think about these people and not feel guilty about it.

-"Letting go of our birth mother's original decision will set us free: our choice is to let go of rejection and move toward forgiveness." I have definitely come a long way down this path.

-"We can be wounded healers: our choice is to lay down our lives for others through transparently sharing our story." I guess that is what I'm trying to do through this blog.

The other book that I'm currently reading is "Journey of the Adopted Self" by Betty Jean Lifton. This book really freaks me out. It feels like reading a psychology book. And everyone in the book seems to be a lot crazier than me. There was almost an entire chapter dedicated to adoptees who go on to kill their adoptive parents, become serial killers, etc. It made me really uncomfortable to read it. I mean, I know that it happens, but the book is called "Journey of the Adopted Self" and that is not my self! Nearly every adoptee she talks about seems a little wacky to me. Maybe I lucked out and am just one of the more well-adjusted adoptees, I don't know. Regardless of how creepy I am finding most of this book, there are a few things that I have found that really made me think, and those little bits of information are what keep me reading this one:

"But we have to wonder: Does the baby destined for adoption know even before it is born that it is going to be abandoned? Does the fetus get a physiological message of its dark fate from the turbulent wrenching of the womb as its mother's body lies convulsed with grief?"

"When a nonadopted child loses even one parent, everyone is aware of the child's need to grieve. But no one considers that the adopted child also needs to mourn. How can you mourn someone you never knew? people ask, disregarding the child's prenatal bond, as well as the human need for biological and historical connection."

"Adopted children, who get the message that not only were they chosen, but they were chosen to be the light of their parents' lives often do not feel entitled to express any negative feelings, such as grief or anger at being cut off from their origins."

"Adoptees are not clear what they are searching for when they first begin. They say they just want to find medical information, or the reason they were given up, or someone who looks like them...Having been out of touch with their feelings for so long, it is hard for adoptees to know what it is that is driving them forward."

So, there are some good points in this book, but it definitely isn't a "feel good" book. In fact, its pretty depressing and I'm not even sure that I'm going to finish it.

All in all, if you are looking for a helpful book that you can identify with and that will help you grow, go for Sherrie Eldridge's "Twenty Life Transforming Choices Adoptees Need to Make".

Friday, January 20, 2006

Being Excellent - For the Right Reasons

The one phrase you hear a lot as an adopted kid is "You're even more special because your parents got to pick you! You were chosen!". I heard it so much and from so many people that I even repeated it to other people. Let me just state for the record, that this is not what a kid needs to hear. No matter how young, I think that a kids are a lot smarter than adults give them credit for and they are able to read waaay too far into that statement. I know I did.

I lived in a foster home for 4 months before my parents got me. They have never kept my adoption a secret, I always knew that I was adopted and I knew about the foster home. However, I never understood what a foster home was until I was older, maybe 9 or 10, and since my adoption wasn't exactly a topic to be discussed at the dinner table, I never asked. I vividly remember exactly what I thought a foster home was. I even had a story in my head about what happened to me in the "foster home". I thought that when I was a baby, I lived in an orphanage with a lot of other babies, and this was a "foster home". People like my parents would come in and look at all the babies and pick the best one to adopt. The babies would all try to be good when people like my parents came in. My parents thought I was the best one. I swear that until I was about 10, I thought I came from some kind of humane society for humans. Living with that thought as you grow up, coupled with everyone telling you you are something special that was chosen makes you feel like you have to do something to prove that you were a good choice for your parents.

Granted, I was never one to think that my parents were going to get rid of me, that thought never crossed my mind. But I did always feel like I had to live up to a higher standard than other kids, including my brother and sister who aren't adopted. So I overcompensated in everything that I did. I got straight A's. I joined every club that I could. I was hardly at home during middle school and high school because I had some club meeting or extra curricular activity every single night of the week. When I was at home, I practiced the piano for hours and hours. I was the kid that did it all - good grades, musically inclined, behaved well in public and went to church. With a resume like that, there is no way they could regret picking me. It wasn't to make my parents proud, it was to make them happy with their choice. Looking back, I don't even think I enjoyed most of what I did, in high school especially. I just kept myself involved with everything I could so that I could add it to my list of "Why I was the right choice".

I never wanted anyone to be able to say something like "No wonder her mom gave her up for adoption" to me and thank God, no one ever has, because I don't think I could handle it.

Sounds pretty dumb, right? Yeah, I thought so too until I realized that I still do this. Now that I don't have school to gauge my success, it just becomes other things. I try to be the perfect friend, the perfect wife, the perfect employee and the perfect coworker. In a way, it is like trying to prove to everyone in your life that your real mom obviously made a mistake by getting rid of you.

I think its great to strive for excellence, the problem lies in the motivations behind it. If you're motivated toward excellence because you genuinely want to do a good job that is one thing. But when you are overachieving because you feel like you have to prove something to everyone else, to prove that you aren't defective, that you aren't a mistake, that's not healthy. I have always been an perfectionist - I loathe making mistakes. 98% on a test and I'm obsessing over the one question I missed. But I never thought about why until recently. Part of it is just my personality, but there still is that little kid somewhere in there trying to prove that she was the right choice. It's a pretty crappy feeling, especially when you do mess up and prove that you aren't the perfect friend, wife or worker. These are a couple of verses that have been helpful in reminding me why I should be doing a good job, being a good friend, etc.

"Whatever you do, do with all your might..." Eccl. 9:10

"Work hard and cheerfully at all you do, just as though you were working for the Lord and not merely for your masters, remembering that it is the Lord Christ who is going to pay you...He is the one you are really working for" Col. 3:23-24

No Great Expectations

I got the papers from Erie County in the mail yesterday. The information they sent (which she said she couldn't fax to me) consisted of 6 pieces of paper. Granted, they were stapled together, but how long would it have taken to take the staple out and fax them? Anyway...

I filled it all out, wrote the check for $150, and sent it in today. From what the information they sent me says, they are going to try to track her down and ask her if they can share her contact information with me. I included my contact information for them to share with her. I also had to write the reason I wanted to contact her, and this is the reason they are going to give to her. I'm sorry, is it weird or unnatural to want to contact your mother? Can't I just want to contact her because I want to? But, something about those forms feels like a test, like I'm being evaluated, and if I write the wrong thing (like "I want to see someone who looks like me" or "I want to know if she remembers my birthday or not") they'll just throw away my forms as soon as they read them. So I wrote something about medical information and wanting to be able to write her a letter.

I'm almost afraid that it is all going to happen too quickly. What if she is really easy to locate and they find her next week and call me with her info? I guess that I always put the thought of finding my mom off in the distance, and now that it could really happen in the not-so-distant future, it is kind of scary. I'm still not sure that I actually believe she's a real person. Like I said before, she's always been like a character in a story to me, a made up part of my imagination or something. I don't have the slightest idea what I would even say to her.

I also don't know how the whole situation works as far as sharing contact information. Will the people at the court house call me first to tell me that they gave her my info? Or am I just going to get a random phone call at some really inopportune time and place and it will be her? I feel like I'm going to be caught off guard and every time the caller ID displays a long distance number, I'm going to freak out. So this weekend, I'm going to write a letter to help me collect my thoughts so that if she actually does call me someday, I have something to say besides "The weather here is great!"

The whole situation is a little stressful and a little exciting all at the same time. I'm doing my best to keep my expectations low so that I'm not disappointed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Big Picture

Lately, I've been reading the book of Genesis. It is funny how you know all of the stories as a kid, but when you read them again as an adult, they can take on a completely different meaning. I just finished reading the story of Joseph. This guy was estranged from his family for most of his life because his brothers sold him, yet he was able to completely forgive them for everything they had done, because he saw the big picture. The fact was, after he was sold, Joseph went on to become a powerful leader, an opportunity he wouldn't have had if he hadn't been sold. Not only was he successful, he was also instrumental in saving the lives of his entire family because of his powerful position. And it wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been sold.

Can you even imagine that? It is sometimes hard to think of my birth mom in a forgiving way. After all, she gave me away - its not a good feeling. But when I think of the level of Joseph's forgiveness, it is inspiring. He remembered his brothers selling him. He knew it was because they were jealous. He had years and years to be angry about it, and he had every right to be angry. When his brothers came to him for help, he could have easily told them to go home and die. But it says that he wept at the sight of them and forgave them and it is because he was able to look past everything that is so wrong about what happened to him and see that it was God's way of saving his family from death.

It is a lot easier to be forgiving when you think of things that way. God had a plan for me, and it wasn't to stay with my mother, just like it wasn't God's plan for Joseph to stay with his family. By being adopted, I've been exposed to people and situations that I wouldn't have otherwise been exposed to, just like Joseph was presented with opportunities he wouldn't have had if he hadn't been sold. It is a LOT easier to forgive someone when you take a step back and look at the big picture and realize that even something that seems so inherently wrong, like selling your brother or leaving your baby, can be turned into a blessing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

No More Excuses

Yesterday I had an excuse not to call the Erie County Orphans' Court and find out what my next steps were, I left the phone number at home. But today, I remembered to bring it with me to work, so I had no excuse. Around lunchtime, I entered the number in my cell phone...but I couldn't bring myself to hit "call". Maybe I was afraid the person on the other end of the line was going to tell me there was no hope or tell me that I was just another nuisance adoptee trying to make more work for them. Either way, I knew I couldn't call from work. I don't know why, it's not like I work in some huge office with hundreds of strangers running around. I guess I was just afraid that whatever this person at the court house was going to tell me was going to be upsetting and, as most adoptees know, we always have to look like we have it together. So, the next logical place? From my car in the bank parking lot, of course. (I'm not totally crazy, I actually DID have to make a deposit!)

The lady was pretty nice. She is mailing me a packet of information. It sounds like what I read was correct, you pay $150 and they basically search for your birth mom and contact her to ask if they can share her information. I asked the woman "Can you just fax me this information?" and she replied "Well...are you here in town?" I told her I wasn't in town and she said she really needed to mail it to me. Later, I talked to a friend of mine who used to work at the court house in Erie and she told me that they do in fact have fax machines, but you have to enter a ten digit code before faxing to a long distance number. Forgive me if I'm jumping to conclusions here, but it seems like this lady was just being lazy. I find that unbelievable - someone is looking for a lost family member and you can't even fax them a form? UGH!

In my conversation with her, she asked me something that I had never thought of before. She said "Do you know what name you were given at birth?" Um, I had a name at birth? On my papers, it just says "Baby Girl Lynn" and I think my mom told me once that my foster parents gave me the name Lynn, but it had never occurred to me that I might have had a name at birth. I have no idea how things like that work, but the woman on the phone certainly made it sound like everyone was given a name at birth. Did I really have a first name and a last name at birth? That is really weird to me. I guess that for the most part, I have never even considered that my life started until I was 4 months old and lived with my parents. I mean, I have no pictures, I don't know what I was like as a newborn, no one that I know saw my first smile, my first dirty diaper, or the first time I rolled over, so in my mind, it is as if it never happened. I just showed up as a 4 month old child.

This is so bizarre. What if my birth mom did name me? And, if she ever thinks of me at all, what if she thinks of my other name? Maybe to her I'm "Jessica" or "Susan" or "Katherine". WHAT?!?! How weird is that?! This is really messing with my head.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


So today, much to my surprise, I had a letter from the McKean County Orphans' Court in my mailbox. As soon as I saw it, I knew that it was much too early for it to be good news. The government isn't nearly that efficient, I mean, I just sent these forms in on Monday to an office that still uses a typewriter to address their envelopes.

I was right. Inside were the forms that I had sent in with a post it note that said "If you were adopted in Erie County, you need to contact them, not us". So what exactly does that mean? McKean county has NO RECORD of my having been born? That is a really weird feeling, did they just erase all evidence of me? It kind of pisses me off.

So now I move on to searching in Erie County, which is a completely different process. I can send them $75 to release my non-identifying information, which is probably the same as what I already have, but there is no way for me to know except to pay the fee and get the papers. This is lame. If a non-adopted person in Pennsylvania wants a copy of their birth certificate, they can pay $10 and get it. I'm not even asking for a real legal document here. I just want them to open my file and make a copy of some papers that don't even have any names on them and I have to pay $75 for that? And that is only IF I am "approved" to have that information. What the hell? That makes me really angry.

But there's good news (I think) in all of this. It looks like I can pay $150 (that is not the good news) and they will actually search for my birthmom, contact her, and ask her if they can release her information to me. This sounds all to good to be true, so I'm going to have to call on Monday to get the details.

So, all in all, at the end of my first official week of searching...I'm at the exact same place that I was when I started searching last week.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The 80-20 Rule

Today we had a lunch meeting at work, there were about 10 of us there. At the end of the meal, the owner of the company talked about how he thought it was good for everyone to get together and talk about good things that were happening in their lives. I have absolutely no idea what possessed me to speak up, but I just blurted out "I was adopted when I was a baby". Well, crap, can't stop talking now. Seriously, I don't know why in the world I started talking, it was like a bad case of verbal diarrhea.

So I told them about how I was adopted, had been reading a lot, and was starting a group at my church. I told them the story about how I was really wishing I knew someone else who was adopted, and right at the moment when I was thinking about that very idea, the girl across the hall came in and told me that she was adopted. Yeah, um, blank stares. Maybe it was due to my poorly formed sentences, or my stuttering or that fact that I probably looked like I was about to lose the delicious lunch we had just enjoyed. I mean, it wasn't too awful, because I'm lucky enough to work with a few of my good friends, so they kind of know what's going on, but everyone else - blank stares. So I ended my story with "That's a really big deal".

I am still about 80% horrified by the whole situation. I have to maintain that non-adopted people really don't understand the significance of adoptees meeting each other. I can't explain it. Obviously, since the only way I could describe it was "a really big deal".

But there is 20% of me that is ok with this instance of talking when I didn't mean to. After lunch, a woman at the meeting started asking me all these questions about being adopted, and come to find out, she's been trying to have kids for a few years and is now considering adoption. She wants to talk more, so we're supposed to get lunch sometime soon. So, I guess I'm glad I spoke up, because maybe I can help fill a need or answer some questions that I wouldn't even have been aware of otherwise, which is pretty cool. But it doesn't mean I'm not still 80% horrified.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Wait

I read part of a book this weekend and one of the chapters was called "An hour with a fellow adoptee is better than weeks of therapy." I talked to the girl in my office who was adopted yesterday for about 20 minutes or so about our stories and I would have to agree. I suppose that the next best thing to seeing someone who looks like you is seeing someone else who has never seen someone that looks like them. Also, it is good to know someone else who knows nothing more about their beginnings than what a few papers with fragments of sentences (at best) tell you. And finally, and perhaps the most validating, it is great to know that you aren't the only person who can't even make it through the commercials about that adoption show that comes on the Hallmark channel without crying like a baby.

Speaking of babies, my mom called me at work to talk about something that happened when I was a baby earlier this week. (Yeah, at work. That is really where I want to have this conversation) She told me a story I hadn't heard before. Apparently when my parents went to the courthouse to get me, the lady came out with me and said "I don't know if she's going with anyone...she's gripping on for dear life to whoever is holding her". And they had to pry me off this lady to give me to my parents. After reading what I've read over the past few weeks, that was really hard to hear. I've read that babies who are separated from their mothers at birth are in a state of fear and unrest and although they don't know what is going on, they know something is wrong. Obviously, its all a theory, but I suppose it makes sense.

Anyhow, I suppose that all of the places I have mailed my forms to will probably have them by Friday, so that means I should be hearing back sometime around next Wednesday, right? Just kidding. I've read enough to know that there are people who have been struggling with government for years and years to no avail. I actually got this really random email from a customer this week about patience...and I bet it is a foreshadowing of things to come. So now the wait...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Exciting...and not so exciting

Wow...that is all I can really say right now.

First, there have been over 60 unique visitors to this site, just since I started last week. I know that in web terms that is nothing, but these aren't customers or sales leads, these are real people. Every time I log in and see that the count has increased, I am amazed and encouraged.

Secondly, I have been reading about the benefits of connecting with other adoptees. That's part of the reason I started this blog. Not just to benefit myself, but so that other adoptees can benefit as well. I have also contacted my church and they are going to put together a group for people affected by adoption - I can't wait! I thought about it for most of the weekend. The group isn't supposed to start until mid-February, and I wondered how I could manage to wait that long.

But then, are you ready for this? At the end of the workday today, one of my coworkers comes into my office and says "You were adopted, too?" What!?!? This girl has worked in our office for a few months now but is ultra shy so I haven't really gotten to know her very well - however, her adoption came up in conversation with another coworker and he told her that I was adopted, too. I kid you not, I had to hold on to my desk in order to keep myself from falling out of my chair. What are the chances of that?! I feel so lucky and so blessed and so reassured that God is with me that I can't even begin to describe it.

In less exciting and encouraging news, I talked to my mom tonight. I just wanted the name of my adoption agency. Here is about how it went:

"What do you need to know for?" To which I wanted to respond, why do you want to keep everything a secret? But instead...

"I'm trying to see if she updated the medical file they have for me at the courthouse" That is a lie. I already sent all of my forms in earlier today. It did ask for an agency, but I put enough other information on there for them to identify me without an agnecy name. Yes, I'm a whimp. Definitely not ready to tell her what I'm really searching for.

"Well, she was only 24, I doubt many people who are that age that give up their kids actually come back and update the file" My mom always made my birth mother out to be some kind of whorish slut and whenever she talks about her she uses a really horrid tone of voice. It makes you feel really great, you know?

"I read online that some people have gotten updated medical forms"

"Oh, did they find their parents, too?"

"Some of them did, but some just got medical info"

I hate talking to her about anything that has to do with my adoption. My parents gave me a home and provided what I needed, but they never gave me an outlet to talk about being adopted. Once my mom knew that I understood the concept of adoption, she never brought it up. Not once.

I think that subconsciously, that forced me to choose between my biological family and my adoptive family. It was always like my mom was playing defense when I asked questions about my real mom; as if there were teams and my real mom was on the 'other' team, which of course was the wrong team, the bad team. They made it something that was covered in secrecy and, in not so many words, shameful. Just by body language and tone of voice I could tell she didn't want me to talk or ask about her. I mean, seriously, you could at least stop doing the dishes for a second to answer your nine year old when she asks you why there isn't any information about her dad. But instead, it was just "she didn't even know who he was" spoken in a completely judgmental voice while slamming down a pot. In essence, it feels a lot like being rejected all over again, because you came from someone like that and not people like your adoptive parents. When posed with this subconscious choice, I think I subconsciously chose my biological family, which I realize now is probably why I don't hug my parents and haven't told them I love them in probably 15 or 20 years.

But you know, at least I can learn from that. We plan to adopt kids someday, and I swear to you that those kids can talk about their real mom every single day if they want to. They can make up stories about her and tell their friends about her. I want them to talk about it and I can't wait to talk about it with them. I suppose you can't expect someone who isn't adopted to understand that it isn't a threatening thing to let a kid think like that. Sometimes the best way to learn is from other people's mistakes.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Turning Corners

I love my church - I go every week and not because I feel like I have to, but because I don't want to miss anything that happens there. It is an amazing, hope-filled place, and I really love it.

It is certainly no coincidence that the message at my church this weekend completely applies to everything that I've been thinking about recently. Like I said before, if you aren't a "church-person" (whatever that means) don't let the fact that it is a "sermon" turn you off. I am confident that any adoptee who is in the process of turning a corner in their life right now and discovering the impact that adoption really has on a person can learn A LOT, and be really encouraged by this message.

Download it here - it is the message from January 7. Even if you aren't an adoptee, it's a great message for anyone going through a change.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Better Days Are Coming

I filled out the dreaded "forms" this morning and they are now all ready to mail in. It wasn't as horrid as I imagined. I'm skeptical that anything will happen as a result (One form is a request to release my entire file, one form is a request to see if my mom ever updated her medical history in my file, and the last one is a form to enter my info into a large private adoption registry) Then, we went to church.

My head has kind of been spinning for the past week or so, and I don't think I was ready for tonight.

First, there is this girl who always sits right in front of us at church. She is about my age and sits there by herself. Then, every week, about 10 minutes into the service, her family comes. She says hi to her dad and brother and hugs her mom. She always sits next to her mom. They look exactly alike. Same hair, same eyes, same nose, same smile, same size, same build, even the same sense of style. It always makes me mad. Or, in reality, its probably just that I'm jealous. I bet people tell them they look alike all the time. Tonight, her and her mom were singing on stage, no more than 20 feet right in front of me, so I had to look at them the whole time we sang. But, I suppose that if I had a mom like that, I would want to go everywhere with her so people would say we looked alike, too. A lot of times, I just feel like going up to people and asking them if they know how lucky they are to have that kind of connection with someone.

Anyway, besides my mom-envy incident, I have to say, after hearing tonight's message, I'm really, really excited about what lies ahead for me regarding this whole adoption issue, and I realized that even if my search is in vain, I personally have a lot to learn about life, myself and letting things go. When my church posts tonight's message online, I'll link to it here, because its something that every adoptee has got to hear, regardless of your religious background. I think that God is getting ready to teach me something big, I have no idea what, but I am ready for it.

This whole change in my attitude about adoption has been really unexpected for me. My plan was to just keep on pretending that it didn't have any affect on me. After all, I'd gotten this far without anyone knowing what I really thought. But I feel like I'm ready to learn as I go through this.

I sent an email to a few close friends this week and told them about this blog. It was nothing short of the most humbling thing I've ever done in my life. How do you tell people that you grew up with, people who have always known you, people that you spend hours with every day, people who were in your wedding, your best friends from high school and college, your husband that you're not who you appear to be? It took me a day and a half to get up the nerve to send it and I thought I was going to be sick after I did it. But, in spite of how awful it felt to get to that point, I needed to get there and even though I still feel slightly nauseous thinking about that email that I sent, I can already see how getting rid of that pride, that self-sufficient mindset is going to be way better for me in the long run.

Read A Book

I definitely don't have my act together enough to even pretend that I am able to give good advice to other adoptees, however, just in the few short weeks that I've revisited this part of my life, I can tell you one thing for sure. Every adoptee should read a book that is for adoptees. Not a book that is about adoptees, one that is for them. I started with "20 Things Adoptive Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew" by Sherrie Eldridge, however, I am in the process of reading "20 Life Transforming Choices Adoptees Need To Make", also by Eldridge, and I'd suggest you read that one first.

Reading a book about adoption took me from having never had more than a 15 minute conversation with anyone about adoption to having an entire blog about adoption. I have already written and saved drafts of enough thoughts and ideas to fill my next 10 posts. And to think that a month ago, I had no idea that I even had opinions and feelings about all of this.

Reading about adoption for the first time was nothing short of exhilarating. I just finished the first two chapters of "20 Life Transforming Choices..." and it is so intense that at times I have to literally put the book down, look away from it, take a breath and calm myself down because my heart is racing so much. It's like bizarro world from Seinfeld. How on earth does Sherrie Eldridge know everything about me?...

Adoption was no big deal to me in my growing-up years. It was kind of like a door with a peephole: The only times I peeked through it were when someone asked my nationality or when I had to fill out medical forms.

I was really born! I wasn't an alien who was dropped into my adoptive parents' arms. I was a real baby who experienced a real birth from a real mother at a real time of the day. For me, that tidbit of information was like a meal to a starving woman.

Like many adoptees, I have "antennae" that can sense rejection a mile away.

We are not off in the corner having a pity party. Heavens, that's the last thing we would ever do. We present a strong facade instead. We are the perfectionists of the world. The overachievers. The outwardly successful ones.

Dang, she really does know it all. However as uneasy as it is to finally come to terms with the fact that you have these feelings, there is something really comforting about knowing that you aren't the only one, and you aren't crazy. So read a book and I bet you will be surprised what you'll learn about yourself.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Too Much To Ask?

My goal for this weekend is to fill out all this stupid, crazy paperwork that I have had in a folder for 4 years and send it in. Honestly, I don't even remember how I got the forms or what information they are supposed to get me, but I'll tackle that this weekend.

I don't know why I never sent them in. Ok, that's a lie. I do know why I didn't send them in. Because the idea of actually finding my mom and her not wanting anything to do with me is really scary. Get rid of me once, fine, but I'm stupid if I let you do it twice. I don't want to be that annoying interruption to someone's life. I feel like I already did that to her once, and I'm scared to do it again.

When I look at the person I am today, I can see how a lifetime of that kind of thinking has affected my life. I absolutely hate to inconvenience anyone, I really do. It makes me really uncomfortable to ask anyone to do anything for me, so I usually just manage to find a way to do things without asking for help.

For example, when I moved away to college, I came by myself, and I didn't have anyone to help me move my stuff into my dorm room. There was a 'Welcoming Committee' that was helping freshman move in, but I remember thinking about how badly I would feel if I had to ask one of them to help me. And they were there for the sole purpose of helping! I didn't ask, and I ended up moving everything in by myself. I preferred it that way.

I hate asking for favors, I hate when people give me things, and I try to keep a running tab of everything that everyone has ever done for me so I can pay them back for their time and trouble. Sometimes I feel like I used up all my favors in my first three months. First, my birth mom was kind enough to endure 9 months of pregnancy, unmarried, and then labor and delivery. I have to hope that she was thinking of what was best for me when she left me. And to top it all off, I was adopted. I didn't have to live in the foster care system my whole life. That's a lifetime of favors, just in my first 12 weeks. How could I possibly expect anyone else to do anything more for me? Hasn't she already done enough? And now I'm going to look her up, ask her to have lunch with me and have our picture taken together? It seems like I'm asking too much, sometimes.

But, I suppose that if I'm actually going to pursue this search for my birth mom, I'm just going to have to get over it, and in the long run, it will probably be better for me if I do just get over it. All that to say, the papers will be sent out this weekend. =)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

My Papers

I thought I'd start with some history. I was born on December 28, 1979 in Bradford, PA to an unwed 24 year old woman who didn't know my father's last name. She left me at the hospital. I lived with a foster family for 3 months before moving to live with my parents who adopted me 6 months later.

The only thing I have to help me connect with my past are some papers, I'm sure that if you are an adoptee, you have the same thing. It is a collection of non-identifying information about your birth family including some medical history, physical appearance descriptions and various other information. I always knew these "papers" existed, and when I was in college, finally got up the nerve to ask my mom for them. I've read them a hundred times, at least. I have every word on those papers memorized. It seems dumb, but if my house was on fire, my papers are one of the first things I would want to get out with. It's like reading a fairytale, very surreal. I know there really was a 5"4' blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman of Swedish-German descent who gave me life. However, she is no more real to me than Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.

When I read them, I feel completely engaged in the story. She "needed time to think through her feelings", "didn't know father's last name, was probably a one time deal". That one always gets me. The "one time deal". She worked at a bank. She was in the National Honor Society in high school. To me, she's still that same 24 year old in the story, even though I know that she's over 50 by now.

My papers are the only link I have to my beginning. I sometimes think about how my birth mom was probably in the room when the doctor took the notes. I wonder if she saw when he wrote that she was "giggly, but can be serious at times". I also wonder if that is why I laugh so much. I wonder what the reaction was when she told the doctor or social worker it was a "one time deal" with my father. Did he sneer at her? Give her a dirty look? Or was he compassionate and understanding? I was probably there in the room, too, which is even harder to wrap my head around. It is like immersing yourself into some sort of alternate reality. The idea that I actually lived inside of someone for 9 months seems untrue to me. Sometimes it is hard not to feel like some kind of alternate being, like you fell out of the sky and have no connection to anyone else on the planet. After all, the only way you can prove that you actually had a mother like everyone else is by some papers they gave you. And I don't even know who "they" are!

Right now, my papers are everything I have to explain my entry into the world. Over the next year, I plan to search for my birth mother. I know that I have a one in a million chance of success, but I don't think that my scars will truly finish healing until I've at least tried to find her, even if I am never successful.


Well, here it is, the first post. I don't even know where to start. I'm on a journey that goes way into my past and will probably continue far into my future and I wanted to document it and hopefully help others who might be experiencing the same thing.

One of my favorite songs is by a band called Thrice and it is called For Miles. It is the song that inspired the title of this blog, "Every Scar Is A Bridge", with the lyrics "Every scar is a bridge to someone's broken heart". I didn't realize until recently that adoption has had such a profound impact on the first 26 years of my life. Now that I am thinking about it more, a lot of things are making sense to me, and it is true that although I don't remember what happened to me, there are still scars. I hope that other adoptees will find this blog and be able to relate to my journey and realize, like I did, that adoption has a real impact on adoptees and that the feelings we have are legitimate and not uncommon.