Tag Archives: love

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. 

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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.

What’s in Your Closet? Coming Out in 2015

Bruce Jenner came out of the closet. At sixty-five, he’d been there for a long, long time. (I’m using the pronoun “he” because, although he identifies as a woman, he told Diane Sawyer to continue referring to “him” as “he”. I assume “he” will become a “she” after the upcoming documentary.

Cristela Alonzo came out today on The View. She came out as having grown up as a poor child.

What does a “closet” hold? A lot of baggage. Stuff we don’t want anyone to know. Stuff we are ashamed of. What’s wrong with being poor? Why would anyone have to hide that? Why would a child feel shame that their parents don’t have money, you might ask? It’s not the child’s responsibility to earn a living. To provide for their family. But put yourself in that child’s shoes. Literally. Imagine for a moment how the “poor” child feels looking down at their own hand-me-down shoes with the worn-out soles glancing down at the new Converse/Vans/Sperry-clad feet of her classmates. I said classmates, not friends, because the cool kids are friends with other kids in their same socio-economic-sports-click class. Yes, kids, like adults, are snobs.

Our closets are chock full of shit.

OK, my closet it chock full of shit. My issues that I had to deal with myself as well as others issues, have been locked away, in my closet.

Relating closely to Bruce Jenner is my newest. No, I am not transgender. At least I don’t feel I am even though most of my thought processes are what society deems as male. I’m good at math. If you tell me a problem, I want to find a solution, not just offer comfort. And if asked what I see myself in, I most likely would tell you about a cool car rather than a fancy dress or piece of jewelry.

Society is weird. If Bruce Jenner wears a dress, he must be trans/gay/cross-dressing. If I wear pants, I’m comfortable. But I digress.

Coming out of the closet means you are ready to tell someone something they don’t know about you. Something you feel they might judge you about. Something that might make them not like you. Something you fear will change your life.

In the past I came out as a binge eater. Embarrassed to eat my  favorite foods in front of others, I literally hid food in my closet, my drawers, to eat while alone. So no one would know. I found comfort in Weight Watchers where there were other people like me. Others who could relate to my problem. Others who would not judge me, but accept me as I was; a person struggling day-to-day with an eating disorder. In turn, I spent years counseling others with their food addictions. Helping others helped me. I still have an eating disorder, but it no longer controls my life. I can accept that I have good days and bad days. Coming out of the closet made a tremendous difference in my life.

Sometimes your closet is full of other people’s issues. What is, or should our role be in coming out for someone else? Bruce Jenner felt tremendous relief coming out as transgender. No longer having to hide, he is now able to live his life as a woman. Dressing as a woman. Wearing makeup. More importantly, not having to hide from his family and the public. But what about his family? They must be relieved as well. The whole world suspected Bruce was transitioning. We saw the changes in facial features. The long hair. The nails. We speculated. So did his family. But it wasn’t their story to tell. They had to keep quiet. They had to keep his secret. Now they don’t. I imagine that would give them a tremendous sense of relief.

I don’t just imagine this. I know it.

For years I kept secrets that tore me up every day. Married to an alcoholic, I didn’t want anyone to know about the dui’s, the job losses, the car accidents. I couldn’t tell the few friends I had for fear I’d lose their friendship. And I definitely couldn’t tell my parents. They would have insisted I leave him. Since I was confident I could fix him, I led a secret life, struggling in the background, hiding money and emptying bottles. His addiction was not my story to tell. Until Al-Anon. There I could open up. There I could be myself. Share my struggles. Get advice from people who understood my problem. People who had been-there/done-that. Al-Anon members told me it wasn’t my job to fix the alcoholic. That I couldn’t even if I wanted to. They helped me break free. Eventually I realized that I could no longer subject my children to the life of living with an active alcoholic, so I ended the marriage. I was finally free to rid my closet of another large piece of baggage.

However, LGBT is different. So many people are still in the closet because of fear they will be judged. Bruce Jenner hopes his coming out will make a difference. I pray Bruce Jenner’s coming out will make a difference.

Being gay, identifying as a gender other than the one you were assigned at birth, is not a choice. It is who you are. The way you were born. There should be no more shame in being gay than there is in having blue eyes or red hair. Or yes, being chubbier than the Hollywood ideal.

The statistic that forty-one percent of transgender people attempt suicide is a percentage I can’t wrap my brain around. That figure is “attempting” suicide. Not “thinking” about suicide. This has got to change!

Why is gender so important in this society? We are all people. We are part of the human race. Get over it. People are people. Accept it.

You don’t have to be LGBT yourself to come out. When someone in your life announces they are part of the LGBT community, you wind up being part of their story. For instance, if your brother has a boyfriend, when talking about your brother’s boyfriend, you are essentially telling the world your brother is gay. The way you present that information, the way you convey someone else’s “story” tells a lot about you. Not about them. Be proud. Just as you would telling about a girlfriend your brother might have. If you don’t make a big deal out of it, others won’t. (This is positive thinking. I’m not naïve enough to believe everyone will be accepting. But I can hope.)

As I said, I am not Lesbian or transgender. However, I now feel I am part of the LGBT community. I used to have to most beautiful, talented, intelligent granddaughter in the world. Now, after a lot of reading, and with the help of outspoken celebrities like Laverne Cox and Bruce Jenner, I’m now starting to understand a little more about what it feels like to be transgender. To identify as a different gender than the one in which you were assigned at birth. It’s not my position to “out” anyone. I just want to share that I am now the proud grandmother of the most handsome, talented, intelligent grandson in the world. And he identifies as transgender.

If you or a loved one has issues that are stuck in a closet, find help. There are many support groups  online and in person that are there for you. Reach out.

The Face of Transgender is Beautiful

The face of transgender…

The face of depression…

The face of despair…

The face I’m looking at is the same beautiful face I remember as a baby.

The larger than life eyes stare into my sole asking why am I in so much pain?

I wish I had an answer. I wish I had an answer for all the teens who struggle on a day-to-day basis just to figure out who they are. Why they should keep on going when sometimes it seems like it would be so much easier to let go.

I must remember that the faces I’m looking at today are the lucky ones. The ones who are getting help. The ones who had someone to go to when they needed to be heard.

When our teens cry out for help, how many of us have the strength to listen?

How many of us have the courage to take their feelings seriously?

I wish I could do more. Right now, I’m comforted to know he is getting help.

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.

Who Does an Adoptee Meet in Heaven?

Proof! According to Hollywood movies, recent bestsellers and tabloids, we have proof, from recorded near-death experiences, that not only is there a heaven, but your loved ones, even those you have never met, will greet you upon arrival. Do you believe in an afterlife? I don’t know if I believe or not, but it makes me wonder. I wonder who would greet me when I arrive.

 

When I think of mom and dad, I think of the parents who raised me. I didn’t think of them as my “adoptive” parents. To me, they were my parents. However, I did spend a lot of time thinking about the woman who gave me life. I wondered if she was pretty. I wondered if she had been happy as a child. I wondered if she had been in love with the man who helped create me. I wondered if he had died as well, and that’s why he couldn’t keep me. Sometimes I wondered if my parents wouldn’t tell me anything about my birthmom because they were afraid I would get hurt. Maybe the secret they were keeping from me was that I was a product of rape.

 

Since I always thought my birthmother died in childbirth, something that made me feel guilty my entire life, I never spent any time thinking about if she ever thought about me. She was gone. That question was off the table. Until my last birthday. Now that I know who my birthmother was, and why she put me up for adoption, and the fact that she had actually died around the year that I started looking for her, now I have questions. Now I wonder, did she think about me? This year on my birthday, for the first time, I wondered if she ever thought about me on my birthday. I wondered if she ever regretted giving me up. If she was anything like I am, she must have. I have an obsessive personality, still thinking about things that happened twenty, thirty years ago, wondering if I could have done something different that would have changed the trajectory of my life.

 

Now that I’m thinking about the past, I’m wondering, if there really is a heaven, and we do see our “family,” our loved ones, who I will see in heaven. Will my parents, the ones who raised me, greet me at the gates, with open arms and tears in their eyes, and hug me, trying to make up for all those years apart? Or will my birth mother be there? Will she push my adoptive parents out of the way, finally getting to be with the daughter she never knew? Or did she know me? Had she been watching me from afar? From heaven? Guiding me along, helping me find her. It took me twenty-four years to confirm who my birthmother was. Perhaps it was she who was leaving clues along the way, helping me find her.

 

I still have so many questions about my birth. I’m sure I was an accident. But was I also part of a love story? A one night stand? Why did everyone keep the story of my birth from me? After death, then, would everyone finally reveal all the secrets that they held for so many years?

 

Adoptees have so many questions. Who do you think you would meet in heaven and what are some of the questions you would ask them?

Call Me Ella - An Adoption Reunion Memoir

Click on picture for free sample or to purchase book.

Why are There So Many Adoption Secrets?

As most adoptees, I wanted to know how I came to be. “We chose you,” did not answer any of my questions. I wanted a story. My birth story. Hell, I never even knew what time of day I was born so I could do an astrological chart. Why did my adoptive parents keep the story of my birth a secret? Why are there so many secrets associated with adoption?

Times have changed. Mila Kunis is pregnant with Ashton Kutcher’s baby. They are not married. Olivia Wilde is pregnant with Jason Sudeikis’ baby. Not married. Jessica Simpson, Snookie, and the famous Kardashians had children without ever getting married. Savannah Guthrie announced at her wedding that she was pregnant. Women have always gotten pregnant with or without benefit of marriage. However, in the old days, shotgun weddings were common. Not so much today.

In the olden days, and, unfortunately, for many families today, getting pregnant without being married was considered a sin. It confirmed sex took place. And that was bad. Of course, the only difference between girls and unmarried women who get pregnant and those who don’t, are those who don’t are better at using birth control. So why is there such secrecy in adoption? Why are there so many birthmothers searching for the babies they gave up and why are so many adoptees searching for their birth parents? Why has the system made it so difficult to find each other? To find an answer, we need to understand why babies are put up for adoption. Why are so many girls coerced into relinquishing a child. Is it shame? Greed? Love? I’m trying to understand how a child can be taken from its mother against her will. Here are some possible scenarios.

I get it. A sixteen-year-old girl gets pregnant. She doesn’t want anyone to know. She’s embarrassed. Maybe she was fooling around with a boy. Any boy. Maybe it was a one night stand. Maybe they were at a party. Maybe she had too much to drink. Maybe it was her boyfriend. She’s afraid he won’t like her anymore if he finds out she’s pregnant. Maybe he is planning on going to college, and if he figures out that she’s going to have a baby, he’ll want to do the right thing and stay home and get a job. But that would ruin his life. He’d never get a chance to become that doctor, lawyer, president that he could have been if he didn’t have to cut his schooling short to stay home and help raise a child. Maybe she puts her baby up for adoption to protect him. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. She tries to move on with her life. Can she?

Or, this sixteen-year-old girl can’t tell her mom. Her mom goes to church each week. Her mom goes to confession, attends pot-luck dinners. She sells her cupcakes at the church fundraisers. What would her mom say if she knew her daughter got knocked-up? Her mom would be embarrassed.

Okay, this sixteen-year-old girl, when she can no longer hide her growing belly under her oversized sweatshirts, even in the summer, finally gets the nerve to tell her mom the secret she’s been hiding, gets whisked away to her aunt’s house in Iowa to have the baby in secret, so no one will know and ruin her reputation. I mean, ruin her mother’s reputation. Her family’s reputation. This girl doesn’t want to give away her baby. She is coerced into doing it so she won’t bring shame on the family.

What world is this? This might have been reality thirty, forty, fifty years ago. But today? Now that sixteen-year-old girl is a mom, maybe a grandmother. No one could possibly blame her for anything she could have done as a child. As a teen. She desperately wants to find the baby she gave up for adoption. But she can’t. It’s a secret. That birth certificate, with her name on it, and possibly the father’s name on it, has been sealed for many years. She doesn’t know who adopted her baby. And she doesn’t know where to start looking. She’s hoping, praying that someday, the child she was forced to give up, is looking for her. She posts to Facebook every day, using the same last name she had when she put the baby up for adoption, hoping to be found. Praying for a reunion. Maybe this child was lucky enough to have adoptive parents who will show her her adoption papers. Will help her find the birth mother who let her go. Maybe not because she wanted to, but because she felt she had no other choice. She couldn’t bring shame to her family.

Or, there was another sixteen-year-old girl who got pregnant. She too couldn’t tell her mom fearing her mom might want to make her have an abortion, or might make her have the baby and give it away. She keeps the pregnancy hidden. Too long. By the time her mom finds out, it’s too late for choices. She has to keep the baby. Her baby. She grows to love her baby. Doesn’t want to give it up even though that would bring shame to the family. What does she do? Her mom takes the choice away from her. Her mom decides to raise the baby as her own. The sixteen-year-old girl becomes a “sister.” How can she ever tell anyone later? Besides, who’s going to ask? The baby does look like a family member.

Another sixteen-year-old girl. She finds out she’s pregnant and can’t tell her mom because she was adopted. That meant her mom couldn’t get pregnant. She couldn’t imagine how her mom would possibly react knowing that, more than anything, her mom wanted to have a child, and couldn’t. She can’t tell her mom she got knocked-up when her mom tried for years to get pregnant. She secretly gets an abortion, a choice easier than confronting her mom.

Another sixteen-year-old girl. She finds out she’s pregnant and can’t tell her mom because her mom’s new husband is the father. Rape. The girl runs away. If the police find her they will just try to bring her back home. No. That house is no longer her home. She keeps the baby, but refuses to tell her who the father is. Anyone would understand why this should be a secret. She just tells her child, she doesn’t know who the father is.

An eighteen-year-old girl finds out she’s pregnant. She talks to her mom. She tells her mom she wants to have this baby. The mom goes off the deep end. They just spent $25,000 on her first year of college. This is no time to have a baby, the mom insists. Don’t be a fool. You have plenty of time to have a baby. Now’s the time for you to get your degree. Finish your education. Then, when you have graduated, are married, settled down, then you can start thinking about a baby. Don’t ruin your life. This college freshman, no longer having the courage to ask for her mom’s help, gives in. She gives the baby up for adoption. For a piece of paper. She never stops thinking about that baby. Missing her. Asking herself, was this degree, this piece of paper, worth it? Her answer is always the same. No. She wants to find her baby. Or at least know that her baby is safe. Healthy. Happy. She starts looking. Even after she has more children, each one reminds her of the one she can’t hold in her arms.

A forty-year-old woman finds out she is pregnant. Miracle? Maybe. Surprise? Definitely. Unfortunately, this woman is married. And her husband has been away for months. Many months. She doesn’t know when or if he is coming back. But he’s the father of her other children. They are a family. Should this fling break up her home? She gets the news. Her husband is returning home. Can they try to work things out? He’ll be better. He promises. She tries her best to hide her pregnancy from her children. When the baby is born, she puts the baby up for adoption. Who gets the baby? The baby-daddy. Now, we’ve got the birthmom keeping her pregnancy hidden from her husband, who is returning from God-knows-where. And we’ve got the baby being raised (adopted) by the wife of the man who cheated on her. Obviously, this adoptive mom can’t tell the baby how she came to be since that would be admitting that her husband cheated on her. It would mean divulging a secret that has been buried down deep. All the while, the adoptive mom sees the “other woman” in her baby’s face each and every day. The adoptive daughter truly understands the Cinderella story. She lives it every day.

And this is just the start. Shame. Shame. Shame. Secrets destroy families.

Call Me Ella - An Adoption Memoir

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