Category Archives: Adoption

New Jersey Adoptees OBC

I recently wrote in my post I Drank the Kool-Aid that I was so disappointed in my original birth certificate. I did not get the information I was hoping for. It did not list either of my birth parents names. It did not give me a birth name from my birth mother. It was actually illegally completed by my adoptive mother who claimed that she was the doctor. Yes I was devastated and furious at her and at the system for allowing this to happen. 

However, I am thrilled to note that a friend of mine who also knew she was adopted her whole life had a very different experience than I did. She received information on her birth mother who unfortunately passed away recently. She also learned of a birth father and four bio siblings!!! And she was named. I am so excited for her!!

Never give up trying to learn more about yourself. I’m glad I had already learned my truth without my birth certificate. I wish everyone the best in learning their own truth. 

I Drank the Kool-Aid: Adoptee’s Birth Certificate

I always knew I was adopted. Therefore, I always knew I had no medical history. I’d go to the doctor and tell them “I’m adopted”, end of story, no potential life-saving medical history for me. No chance to get those early screenings to learn if I might be a carrier of a deadly genetic defect like the one Angela Jolie got which led to her undergoing a preventative mastectomy, thus ensuring she will not die from breast cancer. No, not for adoptees like me with no medical history.

So when adoptees started fighting for the state to unseal original birth certificates touting their rights to their medical history, I was onboard. I was leading the pack tweeting and Facebooking my heart out to get the law in New Jersey changed so I could finally see my birth certificate. That miracle document that would tell me everything I always wanted to know. Even though I had done over twenty years of research and learned who my birth parents were, (detailed in my book Call Me Ella), I still wanted confirmation, in writing. I wanted to see if my birth mother had named me. I wanted to know where I was born. What time of day. I wanted to see my birth father’s name in writing. I wanted to know education, age, siblings. All those good things that people who were not adopted take for granted. I wanted written documentation of my start. Proof of my existence on day one, not a whole year after as noted on my amended adoptee birth certificate. For some reason I believed this knowledge would make me whole.

I was wrong.

I was one of the first to submit my application to the New Jersey Department of Health after waiting two and a half years after Gov. Christie signed it into law. The wait, he said, was to give birth parents the right, opportunity, to opt out, to have their names redacted from the document. This was a waste of time for me. I’d done my research. I knew all parties to my blessed event were dead. But I waited. And waited. Finally the day came when I could apply. I did.

Then I waited. And waited. Finally, in January, I was one of the very first to receive my birth certificate. I held the envelop in my shaking hand while remembering all the lies my mom had told me about my birth mother. Mom swore she had died in childbirth. She hadn’t. She swore she knew nothing of my birth father, or my medical history. Lies, lies. Now was the time I’d find out everything. Or so I thought.

I was wrong again. I knew something was terribly wrong when I bent the corner of the document and I recognized my mom’s handwriting. There was no denying that my adoptive mom filled out my birth certificate. She was in the hospital. On the day I was born. And she filled out the most important document in my life. Not only did I recognize that handwriting. She even signed the document with her real name and checked off the box, md, next to it. She lied on my OBC and said she was the doctor. Then she made up a fictitious birthmother name, (I know because it differs from that on my adoption papers) and put a big X over the entire section for father. I guess she got the last laugh.

But I don’t think she was laughing. From what I learned during my birth mother search, my birth was very painful to mom. She raised a child she had never planned to have. Not all adoptions are fairytale situations. Some adoptees are more like Cinderella. The unwanted step-child. I’d like to think most adoptions are beautiful. That a child grows up with loving parents who prayed for a beautiful, healthy child to come into their lives.

But remember. In every adoption there is loss. No matter how happy the adoption, the child in question always lost their original family. Their mother. Their father. Their siblings and extended family. Don’t tell an adoptee they are lucky without recognizing their loss.

I guess this puts an end to my search. No more hoping to find answers to my questions. I must settle to be satisfied that at least I now know what time of day I was born and at which hospital. I’m lucky I had found my adoption papers a long time ago or I’d be more devastated than I am now. Such an incredible letdown.

I hope other adoptees have better luck than I did. At least I can let go now.

One more thing – insurance companies should be forced to pay for all preventive genetic tests for adoptees. That could save many lives.

 

Why Vote Democratic 

I need to vent 

I am proud to be a citizen of the United States of America. The key word here is united. The Republican Party wants to remove the word “United” from our laws. For abortion, they want to toss out Roe v Wade and send that back to the states to decide if abortion should be legal. What does that mean? It means that if a woman wants to get a safe abortion she can. In some states. In New York she would have access, on demand, to a safe abortion.

What about women in Ohio who want to get an abortion? (Don’t forget that this is currently legal throughout the entire country.) Kasich wants each state to decide. He wants his state to make abortion illegal. What would that mean to the women of Ohio? Well, as always, if the woman has money, it would basically just mean an inconvenience. She would have to travel to New York to have a procedure that should be available close to her home. What about a woman that does not have the means to travel at will? She might seek an illegal, unsafe abortion. Or be coerced into giving birth and told that it would be best for her to give up her child for adoption. The conservatives are convinced that women giving away  babies are doing a good thing for the child. Obviously they haven’t asked any birth mothers or adoptees if they are happy for having been separated. Adoption is not the solution to the abortion problem. 

As a matter of fact, better access to birth control, i.e. Planned Parenthood, is one of the best plans for preventing abortions. But the conservatives want to defund Planned Parenthood as well. 

One of my personal reasons for opposing laws going back to the state is is the case of adoptees obtaining their original birth certificates. State by state, adoptees are very slowly gaining access to their OBCs. This is far from acceptable. In Ohio, OBCs are now available for adoptees. This legislation went through rather quickly after years of petitioning the government. However, I was born in NJ. Gov Christie finally allowed access to OBCs two years ago, with a 2 1/2 year wait. Therefore, I’m still waiting. You see, when laws are left to the state, there is no equality. The woman who wants an abortion that might be illegal in Ohio, could, theoretically go to NY if she could afford it. But adoptees born in NJ can’t go to Ohio to get their birth certificates. 

This is my personal issue. The issue that affects my thoughts way too often. But what is truly making me furious these days is how some states are making it difficult for LGBT constituents to be treated with equality, dignity and respect in their day to day lives. I don’t give a damn if someone wants to make a cake for a gay couple. Let them put an anti gay sign in their window so the gay community and any LGBT supporter knows where to stay away from. But issuing marriage licenses! That is a federal law! Not an individual choice. It’s not a cupcake. It’s a law. A right. And this bathroom nonsense. If you had any idea what a transgender person goes through just to feel comfortable in their own body, you would praise the person for their courage. If they might make you feel uncomfortable in the bathroom, get over it. Get over yourself. Have some human understanding. Most likely you have shared a bathroom with a transgender person and didn’t know it. If you are afraid in a public restroom, don’t use it. 

If everyone would just live their own life and stop trying to take rights away from others we would all be happier. We must vote democratic if we believe in human rights. Please. Don’t take away our constitutional rights that should be guaranteed to everyone. It shouldn’t be done on a state by state basis. 

 Adoptee Questionnaire – What Traits Do We Share?

I clicked on a link from my Twitter feed that requested I take a survey about adoptees. They wanted to know if I believed that adoptees should be able to have access to their original birth certificates (OBCs). Of course I do. On the federal level, not state by state. They wanted to know if I believed that birth mothers, original mothers, should be able to find, have information about the child/baby they relinquished. Yes, I believe they should have that right. They also asked about transracial, gay, single parent, and other types of adoptions. Yes, those seem like valid questions. I believe the most important quality for those wanting to adopt is their want to give love to a child.

The questionnaire did not ask anything about if I believed that children should be given up for adoption because they couldn’t afford to raise the child. Or because the birthmother’s parent forced them to. Or how I felt about a child being relinquished because a church considered childbirth without marriage is a sin. They also didn’t ask if I felt that a birth mother and a child should stay together if at all possible. That would have been a good question to ask. Yes, I hate stories where a young women put her child up for adoption so she could complete her college degree. Four years later she has a piece of paper and an empty space in her heart for the rest of her life?? That’s wrong. I’d like to see that never happen again. But that wasn’t my survey. I answered the questions on my iPhone without adding much. Once I get started on the subject it’s hard to stop me.

Anyway, one question really took me by surprise. They asked: Have you experienced any of the following: divorce, depression, anxiety, OCD, ADD, dyslexia, obesity, anorexia, thoughts of suicide….There were more but this is a long enough list. WOW, I’ve experienced all of these! Are they trying to say that these are symptoms of adoption? Symptoms of the adoption system? Do they believe most adoptees have deep rooted issues because of the circumstances of their birth? I don’t know if I believe that. I’d like to know what part of the general population suffers from these issues.

There’s also a part of the equation that we’ll never know the answer to. Again it’s nature vs. nurture. My having these issues could be due to the separation from my birth mother. However,since there was a reason that my birth mother couldn’t raise me, I might have had the same issues had she been in my life. Or worse. Also, what about my particular situation? My adoptive mother was abusive. I was not raised in the ideal situation. I believe my psychological issues had to do with my adoptive mother. Her insecurities. Had I been adopted into a more loving environment, I might have turned out very different. More confident. And then on the other hand, perhaps the challenges I faced growing up helped me become a stronger person. Made me work harder for what I have. Made me appreciate the love of my husband more. Made me a better mother.

When we look at psychological issues, I believe there are so many factors to take into consideration that perhaps a 45 question survey is just the tip of the iceberg. Genetics play a huge role in all these conditions.

What do you think? How many “experiences” would you place a check by? Do you blame your adoption for any or all of your problems? Or is it just a convenient excuse?

To the Brother I Just Found, and Lost

I spent twenty-four years looking for my birth family. Growing up I was told my birthmother died in childbirth. A year after my mom passed away, I learned my birthmother hadn’t died. She actually handed me to my father in the hospital. That’s crazy, I thought. She didn’t die? She handed me to my father? My adoptive father? Why?

I searched. And searched. In the beginning there was no Internet. As the Internet grew, I found more hints. One day, through an online search and with the help of a woman I met through my old-fashioned mail campaign, I hit pay dirt. I found the name of a woman who could have been my birth mother. Long story short, it turned out she was. And I looked just like her.

The sad part, she had already passed away. About the time I found her name, I also learned that her daughter had passed away as well. However, she had a son who was still alive. I was so excited.

I contacted my bio brother, fully expecting him to question me. To ask why I think he’s my brother. To ask if there’s something I want from him. He didn’t ask. He never questioned me. He never asked how I found him. He just said, “Wow – I have a sister.” Immediately, he told me he loved me.

We didn’t live close to each other, so I only met him in person a few times. However, we texted almost every day. For years. “Hi Sis,” he’d say. Always ending our conversation with “hugs.”

My brother, my new brother, didn’t have money. He had talent. He was a professional, record-holding bowler. He was a famous bowler! Ron (Stromie) Stromfeld even set a world record with 52 consecutive series of 600 or better! And he set an ABC record with 156 200-games in a season!

The second time I met him, Stromie gave me all his press clippings that he had saved over the years. Wow, I couldn’t believe how many 300 scores! Unbelievable!

After an injury, Stromie was no longer able to bowl. He lost almost everything. Everything except his friends. Stromie had friends. Stromie was loved.

After I learned my brother was in the hospital, I needed to do something. Since I did not live close to Ohio, I couldn’t be in the hospital with him. But he had great friends, Nancy and Sharon, who were there for him, sitting by his side, day by day, comforting him, telling him he was loved. These women were his angels.

When the condition up-date calls stopped coming, I didn’t know what happened. I called the hospital. He was no longer there. They transferred him. I called the new hospital. You know that feeling you get when you know someone isn’t telling you something? “I’ll transfer you to Chaplain Steve,” the woman said. My heart dropped.

I knew what Chaplain Steve was going to tell me. We talked for what seemed like hours. I wouldn’t hang up, wanting to know everything. You see, I was Stromie’s closest blood relative. Legally, because of adoption, I didn’t have a leg to stand on. But they didn’t need to know that. I believe people are put in our lives for a reason, a season, or forever. I found my purpose. At that moment I realized I was there to make sure my brother gets moved to New Jersey. To make sure it was known that there was a family plot waiting for him, next to his parents and his sister.

My brother, though he had no worldly possessions, didn’t realize how truly rich he was. While on the phone with Stromie’s brother-in-law, I learned that his friends, his bowling buddies, were taking up a collection, raising money to pay for their friend’s funeral.

The last text I shared with my brother went as follows:

You are loved…

Oh yes?

Yes, dear brother. You are loved.

Rest in peace dear brother.

Thank you to brother-in-law Warren who is working tirelessly to make this funeral happen. To make sure Ron Stromfeld rests in peace.

Obituary:

 Stromfeld Ron Stromfeld, Central Ohio – USBC Hall of Famer, died January 7, 2016 at Riverside Hospital. Celebration of life at Little Bear Clubhouse, January 16, 1-5 p.m. Memorial contributions toward his final expenses (Strikes for Stromie) may be sent in care of the Central Ohio – USBC, 643 S Hamilton Rd, Columbus 43213. 

Words of Wisdom in The Book of Joan, by Melissa Rivers

An open letter to Melissa Rivers.

Dear Melissa,

I want to thank you for sharing stories about your mom in The Book of Joan.

You don’t know this, but I am your sister. Although not biological siblings, we are siblings in my heart. As an adoptee, I spent countless hours wondering who my birth, or first mother was. One of my favorite fantasy moms was your mom, Joan Rivers. This was an excellent choice since I was obviously named after this famous comedian. I figured my parents named me Joan so that one day when I was ready to search for my biological roots, which we assume most adoptees will do at some point, my name would become my first clue to my origins.

As the years passed and I found no other clues about my birth, I began to take on the famous Joan’s persona. I developed her sharp sense of humor, unfortunately misunderstood by many. That didn’t matter. I figured, if they didn’t get me, their loss. My “standup” career began when I started working for Weight Watchers. As a group leader facilitating meetings in front of a room full of overweight women, potential Joan Rivers’ targets, I’d open my program with, “Can we talk?” I’d often toss out some jokes I borrowed that my members would relate to. One of my favorite lines was, “Elizabeth Taylor…we all used to want to look like her; now we do.”

Melissa, I loved reading your book. Your mom taught you about working hard and laughing at yourself. We knew the Joan whose humor was very self-deprecating. Who didn’t hold back pointing out celebrities’ flaws, giving voice to what others were thinking, whether they would admit it or not. The public did not often get to see the Joan you grew up with. The giving, loving, charitable woman you and her friends and family knew.

I was especially moved by Joan’s commencement address to your graduating class at Penn. I would like to share excerpts (that I copied from the Internet) here so people can learn a few important life lessons from the great woman herself. Lessons about pride. Failure. Success. It’s all possible.

When they asked me to speak at graduation, I thought they meant GRADUATION. I’d been looking forward to quaffing champagne and wearing a black cap and gown – to match my roots. And I thought I’d be receiving a degree! They said I wasn’t going to get the degree, then they said I was going to get the degree, then they said I wasn’t going to get the degree. It became a situation I’m sure some of these seniors can easily relate to!

It seems like yesterday my late husband and I were talking to our daughter Melissa about choosing a college. The choice was made more difficult by our California standards. There, higher education is anything above crayons; the only culture you find out there is in yogurt. The idea of a really deep, philosophical, existentialist question is, “How tan am I?” …

I’d like to tell you one thing, which is the truth as I see it. Please, everyone, look to your right, and look to your left, and look all around you – because right now, this is as good as it’s gonna get for a long, long time. I hope all of you learn to fail, and plan to fail, and fail early on. Failure is the best thing that can ever happen to anybody. Not only did each failure in my life teach me something, it made me stronger. And moved me one step closer to success. Don’t be proud. If you think the world is waiting for you now that you’ve graduated, you’re wrong. You think you’re hot. You think you graduated from Penn and Wharton: big deal. Nobody’s waiting for you. Try any path you can, go through any door that opens. Don’t wait for the right moment, because right moments come out of wrong moments.

Barbra Streisand is probably one of the biggest stars in the world, right? But if you think of her as unknown – she was no beauty: ug-o nose, stupid-looking crossed eyes, great voice, but nobody cared. She would go from audition to audition to audition. Nobody wanted her. Finally, in desperation, she sneaked into [an] audition for The Sound of Music. The call was for a 16-year-old, blonde, blue-eyed, young, very pretty Aryan. They’re looking for a Nazi. Perfect for Barbra! And she has the nerve to sing for them. [Someone told her], try nightclubs, which she did, and [eventually], she was discovered. She became a major, major star. And from that day on, I haven’t heard from the bitch.

If you don’t think [love and money] are related, spend a week in Hollywood. John Paul Getty once said – and I agree – “If you know how much money you have, you haven’t got enough.” Get out there, work hard, and thank God we’re living in a country where the sky is still the limit. And the stores are open late. And you can even shop from your bed, thanks to television!

I was one who, for about a minute and a half, went around saying, “Money doesn’t make you happy.” Yes, you can be happy without it. But it opens a lot of doors…From money, I turned to love, which is money’s first cousin. Look for love, and when you find it, grab it with both hands. And if it isn’t there at the moment, don’t be discouraged, because believe it or not, love comes to everybody. Even ug-os. When love arrives, you have to make a choice: should I buy a real sofa or a sectional? A sectional is good because then you can split it up if it doesn’t work out, but I’m saying to you all, please get the sofa. Go for the gold. Don’t live together. Get married. It sounds dull, but marriage is just like living together – except you get presents.

Success doesn’t mean everyone’s gonna love you. Forget that. Success is short-lived, and you never want to trust success. Enjoy it for the moment, then, for God’s sake, go back to work. Never forget that work is the reason you became successful.. I was asked to speak her today because I’m funny and I’m caustic and I’m cheap. That’s not the reason I accepted. I came because I wanted to pay tribute publicly to my daughter and to her friends and to the institution which has supported them and nurtured them and, please God, educated them. And what I mean by “educated”: I think that means that Penn has taught all of you to see, to hear, to smell, taste and touch.

You’re college graduates now. Use your education. Remember, it’s not who you know…It’s WHOM. 

Melissa, I want you to know that I cried along with you and millions of fans worldwide over the tragic loss of a woman whose senseless passing was due to negligence. On a selfish note, I also regret that I didn’t become famous in time to have Joan tell me to put down the cookies and walk away.

With affection,

Joan

Same Sex Marriage 

Sometimes justice is served. Sometimes things go right. Sometimes it seems we wait forever to get what we should have had all along. Freedom to marry the person you love is a human right.

I’m naively surprised the decision was 5-4. The same way I’m surprised by how many people still fight to display the confederate flag. I’m saddened that there are so many people who want to keep the Constitution the way it was written, forgetting, or maybe remembering, that when the Constitution was written there was slavery and women couldn’t vote. I don’t want to go back to those days.

We, as a country of individuals from all walks of life, need to learn to love and respect, and perhaps embrace our differences.

I’m especially pleased that the SCOTUS made this landmark decision on the anniversary of the day I met the love of my life!

Next, how about the Supreme Court rules that every adoptee has the right to their original birth certificate.

I Don’t Belong

I don’t belong,,,
I’m adopted in a world of people who grew up with siblings that looked like them.
I’m short in a world where height is envied.
I’m curvy in a world that covets jutting bones.
I’m introverted in a world that craves selfies.
I abstain in a world that drinks as a sport.
I cry watching loved ones hurt because I can’t take away their pain.
I’m lost but don’t want to be found.
I’m alone and content.
I envy those who have the courage to be themselves.
I admire those who stand up and declare they don’t fit the mold.
I believe there are new molds being made every day.
Look in the mirror and be proud.
Same is boring.
Happy and healthy new year to all those with the strength to break the old mold and create a new one.

Who Would Have Guessed?

We never know how life is going to turn out. All we can do is make plans, try our best, then be prepared to make changes when necessary.
When I started my search for my birthmother, I hadn’t realized that she had passed away the year before. However, during my search I came across a fabulous women, her family historian and self-proclaimed romantic, who wound up helping me sort together the pieces of my life. She helped me get a story. My story. The story I go into detail in Call Me Ella. You see, Ella was Elaine’s favorite aunt. She missed her favorite aunt. In a way, I think I brought her favorite aunt back to life.
And where am I now? I’m totally awestruck that I am sitting on my new porch, enjoying lunch, overlooking a golf course, in the condo I just bought right above my new, favorite cousin Elaine.
As we were watching TV last night, both of us missing our husbands, mine is out of town on business and Elaine just lost hers to cancer, Elaine looks over to me, smiling, “Fifteen years ago when you sent me that first letter asking if you looked like anyone in my family, did you ever think we’d be sitting here today, living next to each other, watching tv?”
“Never in a million years,” I replied.
I never did meet my birthmom, but sometimes things do work out. Just not the way we ever imagined.

Happy Birthday to Me

So many years I thought my birthmother died during childbirth. On my birthday, more than other days, I felt guilty. My existence took her life.
When I learned that she hadn’t died in childbirth, it took a while for the reality to sink in. She relinquished me. Whether by choice or not, she went on living a life without me in it.
Now, on my birthday, I think about my birthmother and wonder if she thought about me every year on this day in August.

When do you think about your birth family the most? Are there triggers?