Tag Archives: adoption

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.

 

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The Phone Call

Unless a loved one is expecting a baby, the phone call you get at 6:45 a.m. is never a good one. 

Last year, around this time, beginning my winter vacation, I got the call that I was losing my bio brother whom I had only recently met. The loss came as a shock. After the funeral I met my bio nieces for the first time ever. They read my book about searching for my birth family. One asked me about my ex husband. The one who was so very troubled with an addiction that made life unbearable for both of us. Is he still alive?, she asked. Yes, I answered. The question surprised me. So did my answer. How had he survived this long?

This year, same vacation. Same place. Different phone call. My daughter, at 6:45 a.m. tells me her dad passed. He is in a better place, she said. I just happened to be visiting my son at the time. I was the one to tell him his dad passed away. 

While married to this man I was constantly planning a funeral. Every time he didn’t come home I pictured him dead in a car accident. I wondered who I should call. What I would do. But he kept going. I’d lose sleep while he was passed out. But he survived.  

Even after the divorce I still worried. Even though it’s not my job to worry. I do. I worry for my kids. But I have to also realize that he is in a better place. To be an addict is to live a life of pain. I always wished I could fix it for him. I can’t. 

People ask if I would have changed anything in my life. Yes.  Many things. But at this time I must stop to appreciate that he was the reason I have my beautiful children. 

Rest In Peace, T.J. 

 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. 

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?

The U.S. Census and Adoption

I don’t want to dwell on being adopted. It really shouldn’t affect my life. I got the family I was meant to have. I believe it. However, I’m surprised how I’m constantly reminded I’m an adoptee.
I got a form from the census bureau in the mail today. I was instructed to go online and answer some questions. One in particular really surprised me. They wanted the relationship of children living in the house. They listed the usual: son, daughter, parents, etc. then they added step children and adopted children. What does being adopted have to do with the census? I thought, by the process of adoption, one became the “real” child. Why make this distinction?
Then, they wanted to know my ethnicity in detail. The country of my origin. What about adoptees who don’t know their background? They don’t have a check mark for “don’t know.”
Really.
This morning on The View, actor Jay Thomas announced how he recently reunited with his son. And they were so much alike. What about the non-celebrities who can’t find their birth families?
My favorite. I just received test results warning me that I am pre-diabetic. After cutting out almost all sugar from my diet and adding exercise, my numbers are getting worse. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I have recently learned this condition, for me, is genetic. My two bio half-sibs had, have diabetes. One passed away very young.
Like it or not, an adoptee rarely forgets they are adopted.
I know I don’t.

What reminds you about your adoption?

My memoir. How I found my bio family.

My memoir about how I found my bio family.

Happy Father’s Day – Adoptive and Bio Dad

Happy Father’s Day – adoptive and bio dad.

I was one of the lucky ones. But I didn’t know it. It wasn’t until six years after he passed away that I learned my adoptive dad was actually my bio dad.
How often does that happen? So many times I read that the dad was denied rights to his biological child. The birthmother relinquished her child, either without telling the dad she was pregnant or giving him no choice in the matter.
I read about fathers trying to reclaim their children every day. To no avail. It breaks my heart.
My situation was different. I was told I was adopted. I believed I was adopted by both of my parents. Who wouldn’t think that?
Years later, after uncovering a photo of my dad’s high school graduation, and placing it next to my son’s graduation picture, I realized the two were identical. Almost as if they were twins separated at birth. Unbelievable.
I wanted to know a story.
Why did my son look like my adoptive dad? Why did I, in retrospect, look so much like my adoptive dad?
It took years to figure it out. And to figure out why my mom seemed to hate me.
Writing my story in Call Me Ella was very cathartic. But it doesn’t change the fact that my dad never got to tell me he was my bio dad.
I know it’s a little late but I want to take this moment, this Father’s Day, to say I love you dad. Although you couldn’t tell me the truth, you were always my real dad. In every way that counts.

Adoption – It’s Not Just My Story

I selfishly thought my adoption was about me. Just about me. I had asked my mom so many times about my birthmother. What happened to her? How did she die? (Mom always insisted she had died in childbirth but I learned years later she hadn’t died at all. They lied to me.) Did Mom know anything about this woman who “sacrificed” her life for me to be born? About the woman who gave my parents the ultimate gift? Me.

Yes, my questions were all about me. Questions my parents apparently didn’t have the answers to. I didn’t even know what time of day I was born. I never cared about those genealogy exercises in school because I didn’t have any blood relatives. I didn’t worry about my health since my father’s heart problems and my mom’s cancer weren’t inheritable, because I was adopted. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters. No one understood how I felt. Alone. No one looked like me. I cried when my aunt said I looked like I should be her daughter since I was short and fat like her, not tall like my mom. Why did she feel it was necessary to point out my weight in the same sentence that she reminded me that I was adopted? I was different. I didn’t belong.

I felt inadequate when I’d go to the doctor since I couldn’t provide the medical history they requested. Me, me, me. When I learned my birthmother hadn’t died in childbirth like I was told, I was more determined than ever to find this woman. To find out who she was, what she looked like, and why she gave me up. Since I learned she hadn’t died, I needed to know a reason. And I wanted to know why they lied to me.

Once I found out who my birthmother was, and I must say it took some amazing of detective work on my part, the focus was no longer just about me. It became about my birth mother. My first mother. Who was she? And why didn’t she, or couldn’t she, keep me?

After finding my adoption papers after both of my adoptive parents passed away, armed with only a last name, I wrote and mailed out letters. I included a picture of me and a short bio. I received a response from a woman, Elaine, who was the family historian. Yes, my birth family was so cool they have a historian. She and I set out to find out who I was. Where I came from. And why.

It took years. Twenty-four years for the two of us to piece together the puzzle to the point where we were certain who my birth mother was. Unfortunately, this woman had passed away about the same time I started looking for her.

This family historian, Laney, as I now called her, and cuz, as she called me, was so excited about the book I wrote about finding my birthmother. She told all her friends and family about my story. After one of her friends read my book, Call Me Ella, they posted this status on Laney’s Facebook page: “I loved the book,” she said to my cuz. “It’s about you!” I smiled. Yes, my new cuz Laney is the true hero of my book. Thank you for your help, your encouragement and your love! Without your help I would never have learned how I came to be!

Adoption is not just about the adoptee. It’s about the whole family. It’s about the adoptive family. It’s also about the birth family. When a child is put up for adoption, there are so many people involved. Potential siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins. The sad part is most of the time, the majority of people who are affected by adoption don’t even know an adoption took place. They have no idea there is a person in this world who is feeling alone. Different. Perhaps unwanted. No matter how much they might be loved by their adoptive family, there is still the underlying truth that at some point, they were separated from their blood. What can we do to help? The first step is honesty. Everyone deserves a story. Their own birth story. My adoption might have been the right option. Perhaps the only option. But growing up believing a woman had died who hadn’t? That’s the part that hurts the most. I learned about the lies after my adoptive parents, after my birth mother had passed away. It’s sad. There are so many things I may never know. So many unanswered questions.

January 1, 2017 is the day that I am expecting to be able to request my original New Jersey birth certificate for the first time. I wonder what it will say. Will I learn anything that I haven’t figured out already? If nothing else, perhaps I will learn what time of day I was born. That would be nice.

What do you hope to find when you finally get to see your original birth certificate?

Call Me Ella - An Adoption Reunion Memoir

Call Me Ella – An Adoption Reunion Memoir