Content Warning: The following article you are about to read may contain written material of a serious factual nature that may be disturbing to some individuals. Reader discretion is advised.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ADOPTED?
Some months ago, as I began to really work in-depth at healing from adoption, I wrote these words in my journal about how I really felt as an adult adoptee.
“I feel like a living abortion. The walking dead. Unlike an abortion, I was killed outside the womb and an ‘I’ was created to replace ‘me’. The infant ‘I’ cried all night long, screaming with night terrors in her sleep so loudly, her adopted parents were afraid the neighbors would think they were abusing her. There is a gnawing ache in my entire gut, down to the very core, that never completely goes away. No means of comfort – people, food, drugs, alcohol, sex, money, religion – has healed it. I call it the wound that keeps on bleeding. If it had a voice, it would be screaming ‘I want my mommy. I’m lost, help me, save me. Please hold me. Don’t leave me.’ While the wound has no voice, it causes pain to other parts of my body in the form of physical ailments, and to my mind, where it has infected my thoughts. It has created thoughts of ‘I want to die. I wish I was dead. I am dead. I’m worthless, ugly, unlovable, unloved. It’s hopeless. I’m not wanted.’ This is what adoption feels like to me.”
I was adopted in 1967, placed in my adopted parents’ home at three days’ old. My adopted parents often told the story I wrote above to whomever would listen. How I was such a happy, “good” baby during the day, but would have horrible nightmares upon falling asleep. Those neighbors my adopted parents were concerned might think I was being abused? If they did think this, they would have been right. My adopted father sexually abused me for over a decade. My first memories of this begin around the age of 2 or 3. My adopted mother verbally and physically abused me into early adulthood, and turned a blind eye and deaf ear to what my adopted dad was doing to me. I sometimes wonder if the State of Florida had completed a home study before I was placed in the home, the adoption and subsequent abuse might have been prevented. However, according to non-identifying information I received from the Florida Adoption Reunion Registry (FARR), a home study was attempted but thwarted by my adoptive parents’ attorney and the physician who attended my birth.
I always knew I was adopted because my adopted parents would celebrate adoption day every March 1st with us, starting when we were toddlers. The “us” I refer to are my two adopted sisters, who were adopted from different birth families than mine. Thanks to my adopted uncle, for years I thought babies were sold for adoption at garage sales because he told me when I was three years old that they had bought me from one for 25 cents. I never felt bonded to either of my adoptive parents and because of this, I suffered from an inability to feel close to others and from terrible anxiety my entire life. I was always afraid my adopted parents would leave me or “sell” me too. When my adopted parents separated for two years, almost divorcing, I was convinced of it. During this two year period, my adopted mom attempted to “give” me to various relatives and friends and would periodically put me in the car and drive me to a local home for girls’, threatening “I’ll leave you here if you’re not good.” After a few times of this, I became defiant, telling her to just do it. She stopped doing this once she realized she couldn’t use the threat of abandonment to manipulate me.
I’ve been searching for my birth family for over 30 years, particularly for my birth mother. Really, I think I began searching as a young child, when I would stare at female strangers walking by and wonder if one of them was my mother. My search has been frustrating and maddening, in large part because the State of Florida sealed my adoption records, which includes my birth certificate with my birth mother’s name – my “real” surname – once my adoption was finalized in 1968. Adding to my frustration – and anger – were the several differing stories my adopted parents told me about my birth family, which only made me confused. My adopted mother always told me when I would ask questions about my birth that she would give me my adoption papers when I turned 18. When I asked for the papers at 18, she first told me she never had them and I was imagining that she had told me she would give them to me, then she told me she had burned them. It’s impossible to search for someone without a surname, and I never got that from my adopted parents before they died. Currently, there is no communication between myself and other members of my adopted family, for numerous reasons. One incident which really helped me start breaking away from them occurred when an adopted family member told me I wasn’t “blood related anyway”.
Ancestry.com’s DNA testing has been a tremendous help in starting me on the road to healing and answering some questions about my genetic background. Through them, I have been able to connect with a 2nd and 3rd cousin, and have been linked to numerous distant cousins. I finally know my nationality, which was an exciting thing for me. At one point, a third cousin was convinced her cousin was my birth mother, but when she took it upon herself to contact her cousin and tell her about me, her cousin denied being my birth mother. I attempted to contact her myself on one occasion, but she never responded.
I appreciate the findings I received from Ancestry DNA because I finally have evidence I’m “real” and am blood related to SOMEBODY.
So, as you can see, my journey is still ongoing. While I’ve made great strides in my healing from my adoption experience since first writing the paragraphs at the beginning of this story, I still have a long way to go. For me, adoption has been extremely disempowering in many different ways. The State of Florida still has my “real” birth certificate, and adoption papers, “sealed” until they decide if and when I’m allowed to have access to these documents. Many times, I’ve felt a sense of enslavement to the State of Florida, who upon my adoption provided me a falsified birth certificate listing my adopted parents as my natural parents. I don’t feel as if the state sees me as a human being, but just an “adoptee”, who is not entitled to their real identity nor their medical or genetic history.
Finding communities of other adoptees has also helped me immensely. I now know I am not alone, that what I feel as an adoptee is also shared by other adoptees, and even for those who did not have abusive adopted parents, the sense of loss and betrayal is still there. Hearing their voices and reading their stories – while triggering at times – also gives me a sense of connectedness to the world. Finally, my belief in a Higher Power who loves me has helped. This belief has been difficult to cultivate, because every authority figure in my life either abused or betrayed me. However, my spiritual life and beliefs are what sustain me and give me hope that one day, I will feel whole.