Tag Archives: reunion

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

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An Adoptee Asks, Who Do I Look Like?

I always knew I was adopted. Therefore, I never compared my looks to my parents. My mom had thick, curly hair. I didn’t. My dad had a receding hairline. Since I was a girl, still am, I never compared myself to him. I would look at other families. I would look at the boy and see if he resembled his dad. Lots of times he resembled both his mom and his dad. I thought that was interesting. How someone could look like two very different people. I also found it interesting how a girl, a very pretty girl, could look like her dad. But they do. Genetics is funny that way.

I read that people who live together for a long time, such as married couples, begin to resemble each other. Since they tend to laugh at the same things, share the same experiences, they start forming similar smile lines and frown lines on their faces. Mom and I rarely agreed on anything. Perhaps that’s why I never looked at all like her.

Since I was told my birth mother had died in childbirth, I never looked through the crowds, hoping to spot a woman who looked like me, only older. But I was often told that I looked just like so-and-so. Some friend of theirs, or someone they had just seen in a store. At first, when I would hear comments like that, I just ignored them. Everyone has a doppelganger. We see celebrity look-alikes all the time. When I moved to Ohio, my doppelgangers seem to take on a new meaning. Strangers weren’t just saying, “You look just like…,” they were being more specific. They thought they knew me.

One day I decided to stop in 84 Lumber, a local hardware store. I asked the clerk where I could find a particular product. His response, “You’re in here every week. You know where it is,” surprised me. He didn’t say I looked just like someone. He thought I was someone else. Could I have a twin? I seriously wondered if there was another person out there who not only looked like me, but could actually have been my twin. Maybe we were separated at birth. I was sent to one family and my twin was sent to another family.

A few weeks later, after giving a presentation to a group of eighty Weight Watchers members, I was approached by a woman. A very angry woman. She seemed furious that I didn’t recognize her. I had never seen her before in my life. Was she talking about the same woman who seemed to be a regular at 84 Lumber? Now I was seriously wondering if I had a twin. And if that twin lived in Ohio. Coincidences happen all the time. That would surely make a great story on the talk shows if I found a twin, or triplet, and we were separated at birth.

I started searching my birthdate online. Who knows? Maybe a famous person has their bio listed, with their birthday. I found a match! Yes! A lesser known actor, who appears in many movies, had my exact birthday. Day, month and year. I looked him up. Yes, I know. Since this is a man, people would hardly confuse us for the same person. However it intrigued me. I read his bio. Nothing in it mentioned adoption. I stared at his photo, wondering if there was any resemblance. I imagined there was, even though he was listed as being born in New York when I’m from New Jersey. I knew this was silly. Many people have the same birthday. But I think of that whenever I see him on TV.

We obsess about the unknown. I wish I had been given more information about my birthmother when I was growing up. I didn’t learn the real story until twenty-four years after my parents passed away. And you know what I never expected to find? I did have a relative in Ohio. My bio brother lived only two hours away from me for twenty years and I never found him until I moved to Maryland. It is a small world.

Never give up. Never stop searching.

Call Me Ella explains my search and my unexpected findings.

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The Adoption Reunion

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I must say, it feels good to see my book, Call Me Ella, in print now as well as Kindle, iBooks and Nook. This search took twenty-four years. Was it worth all the work to find out who I am? Yes, a million times over.

When I started searching, the Internet was in its infancy. Throughout the years, clues gradually popped up. In the end, it all made sense. I made sense. I feel a great sense of relief and accomplishment. I feel whole.

My search most likely would have been much easier if I had my original birth certificate. Hopefully, someday soon adoptees will have their birth certificates unsealed. In the meantime, you too can be your own detective. Never give up!

The paperback version: Call Me Ella -adoption. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1494713993/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1388730568&sr=8-1&pi=SY200_QL40

Call Me Ella – An Adoption Memoir

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More than just one woman’s search for information about the biological mother she believed had died in childbirth, this book, available now on Kindle, explores the mind and feelings of an adopted child. Call Me Ella is a heartwarming and uplifting story about a young girl who considered her adoptive parents her “real parents,” yet wanted to know more. She wanted to know her roots. Her heritage. With a burning desire to have someone who “looked like her,” she couldn’t wait to marry and have children of her own. She had no idea that her twenty-four year search, which did not begin until after both of her parents had passed away, would involve Sopranos-like tales of organized crime, gambling, and infidelity.

When her friend gushed over how much her son’s graduation picture looked like her dad’s portrait, Joanie smiled. Her friend did not know she was adopted. Then she took another look at the two photos, sitting side by side on her mantel, almost identical. Could her adoptive father have been her birth father? Now, a year after Joanie’s mom had passed away, she set out to discover the truth behind her adoption.

Joanie grew up thinking she killed her mother. As a child, when her adoptive mom answered her question, “Where did I come from?” by saying her birth mother died in childbirth, she believed in her heart she killed the woman who gave her life. She kept asking her mom the same question, hoping to get a different answer. Maybe she’d learn her birth mother had been ill, that it wasn’t her fault she died. When Joanie finally got old enough to figure out it took two people, a man and a woman, to have a child, she asked a new question: “What happened to my birth father? Did he die too?” That’s when her mom shot her foot through the kitchen wall screaming, “Don’t ever ask me that again.” It took her years to realize why that question hit a nerve.

In New Jersey, when a baby is adopted, their original birth certificate is sealed, making it seem as if the child did not exist before the adoption. Joanie never even knew her birth mother’s last name until she discovered her adoption papers a week before her mom passed away. Unfortunately, when her mom died with her secrets intact, she thought she’d never learn about her ethnic background or medical history. She wasn’t ready to give up. She needed to know more. She needed to know the big secret that kept her mom from answering her questions.  With determination and the unexpected help from a self-proclaimed “romantic” stranger, she set out to find her roots.

Call Me Ella is a memoir of love, family, loss and perseverance. It shows how we can work to achieve our happy endings.

Cover Design by Amy Kaufman

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