March 5, 2017
[img][/img] A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work for a local radio station as a movie critic/part time radio personality. Every week, I would attend a particular movie, discuss it on air with my co-worker, and write up a small op-ed piece to publish on the station's web page. (You can see an example of it, just for fun, here: That fun little part time gig is now in the past, and it's been quite awhile since I've written a movie review, although that isn't really the purpose of this post. Recently, I had the opportunity to see the film "Lion", about a young boy named Saroo, who becomes lost and separated from his family in India, and is eventually adopted by an Australian couple. In the past, movies about adoption were crossed off my list immediately, because I found them too upsetting....especially if there was a "happy reunion" at the end, reminding me of my own inability to find my missing pieces. But due to the developments of the past year, I finally felt emotionally prepared to see this film that was garnering a lot of critical acclaim. Truth be told, I'm not sure anyone could actually be prepared for the feelings this movie stirs up, and as an adoptee, I found myself staring at the screen in wonder, shocked that someone had been able to so accurately portray the emotions I have felt for most of my adult life. To clarify, my life has certainly not been anything close to what this child endured. The differences in our stories are profound: He had a close loving relationship with his mother and siblings for the first few years of his life, and then was, in effect, ripped from them as a small child. He was homeless, hungry and scared. He was subjected to people who had no sense of humanity, and it was only through his eventual adoption that he was able to feel safe again. Being adopted at birth, I obviously had no previous memory of my birth family, no "strings of attachment", and I certainly never experienced any of the horrific things that Saroo did---at the age of 5, when he was sleeping on a piece of cardboard in the streets, I was living in the warm, safe and loving home of my adoptive family. But the similarities in our stories are also numerous, and that is what prompted me to write this particular post. As much as the sadness of his earlier life broke my heart, it was watching him in his search for his identity that spoke to my soul. Certain things would 'trigger' him to think about his family, starting with an Indian dessert that is served at a party he is attending. The feelings are so strong that it almost debilitates him. I thought of the times when I would experience that same moment of helplessness, as someone would point out that my sister looked so much like my mother, and that I didn't seem to resemble either of my parents....and I would get lost in the thoughts of "Yes, I look like someone, but I don't know who they are". When Saroo began his search, there was a feeling of overwhelming impossibility. He really has no idea where to start, no solid leads or names to help him, and ----let's face it----India is not a small place. As he starts plotting the possibilities up on his wall, it took me back to the countless hours I spent entering my name and information into literally hundreds of "adoption reunion" databases. I had no names to work with, and no idea of where exactly they might be, so I had no way to look for anyone in particular.....all I could do was enter my information, and pray that someone was looking for ME. I followed every single lead I could think of over the years, no matter how far fetched it was, because the pull to know was just too great to stop. Saroo portrayed that as well, basically becoming so fixated on finding information that his family and girlfriend were almost completely alienated from his life. At one point, he expresses that he just wants to be able to find his mother and comfort her....let her know that he is alright. He knows that she has grieved his loss and it torments him. When I became a mother for the first time, I started to grasp the possibility that my own birthmother was carrying a burden of missing me as well, and it became so important to me to be able to reassure her that I was fine. Even though I eventually learned that she was not particularly worried about me, it was a blessing to ME to be able to let her know. Eventually Saroo reaches a point where there seems to be no more leads and his girlfriend says "well, what if you NEVER find them? Then what??" This is a common response from many who are NOT adoptees and have a difficult time understanding the pull that many of us feel to get answers. Saroo's parents loved him and he had enjoyed a significantly "better" life with them, than he could have ever experienced in India. Why couldn't he just be grateful for that and let it go? For some adoptees, there seems to be no real "need" to search for their birth families, and they are content with the information they have. For others, it's as if they have a piece of their identity missing, and they feel utterly lost until they find it. I've likened it before to a "Non adoptee" being told they could never know the names of their grandparents or history of their ancestors, simply because a law wouldn't allow it. All of a sudden it makes no sense that this law actually exists for anyone. And what many people fail to understand, is that searching for your roots does NOT mean that you love or appreciate your adoptive family any less. I have personally found in my searching that locating my birth family has just strengthened the love I have for my parents and sister, while enlarging my family circle and allowing me to love even MORE people. One of my favorite quotes from the movie is when Saroo tells his adoptive mother, after he finds his family in India, "Finding her doesn't change who you are to me". And finally, in the scene where he embraces his family again (spoiler alert---he DOES find them), the emotions are so overwhelming that even my big tough guy husband sitting next to me was tearing up. I found this scene so beautiful for many reasons but mostly because of the fact that he no longer speaks the same language as his mother and siblings, but they are still able to express their love for each other. Although I can't specifically relate to embracing my birthmother---she remains somewhat elusive to ALL her children it seems----I HAVE had the amazing opportunity of hugging my half sister and speaking by phone with both half brothers. And although our lives have been significantly different----in effect, we sort of "speak a different language"-- it's been an amazing thing to me that you can be apart from people for decades, and if you are family, there is no distance. If you are a person who can't quite understand the importance of allowing adoptees access to their birth records (even though that was not the exact issue that Saroo faced), this can help you more fully grasp the struggles that many of us face in needing all the information we can get to help us in our search. I don't very often recommend a movie based on adoption merits, but because this film is based on a true story AND truly nails the emotions that many adoptees experience, I can't say enough about it. Thank you Hollywood, for making a film that puts adoption in the spotlight and allows people to see the good that comes from adoptees getting answers.

March 4, 2017
A research study at Temple University is investigating connections between language and memory in individuals who experienced a change from their native to another language. If you were adopted from a Russian-speaking country after the age of 6, you are invited to participate in this research study where you will be asked to describe events. Your participation will contribute to the body of knowledge and help international adoptees worldwide. You do not need to speak Russian in order to participate. Your time will be compensated $20 per session (total of $40 for 2 sessions). Must be between 18-30 years of age in order to participate. On-line interviews are available, so no travel is required. Please fill out this brief questionnaire in order for us to determine your eligibility.

February 28, 2017
Life was warm like blood today. I carried my inner daze like a weight as I quietly tried to fill up my tank with gas without feeling the pressure. Shivering at the pump, her necklace hung from my neck, a symbol of this grand design. I wandered on toward Atlanta with my sister in the passenger seat and without any knowledge what to feel. With my 23 years of anticipation all about me, I parked my imperfection at the house where she would soon arrive. I hadn’t ever imagined my life continuing after meeting my biological mother, this day had always been the one I was waiting for, but by tomorrow I would be breathing in an unimagined day. Inside the house I sat trying to find an answer to the question I had just been asked, “So, how do you want this to go?” The answer, in my head, was “perfectly” but an answer so obvious felt more like no answer at all. “We could sit me at the end of a long table with a cigar and sunglasses. After she enters I could say, ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’” My response was just an attempt to lighten the mood and stall until I had my actual answer. My mother laughed and chipped in, “we could have you sitting in a chair where she only see’s the back of your head, and once she walks in you could spin around in the chair and be holding a cat.” I laughed, mostly not for the joke, even though I found it funny, but for the emotional relief that the laughter itself brought me. We walked from the kitchen to the front door of the house, while my father, sister, aunt and uncle all continued to talk in the kitchen. I stared at the brick steps outside, still damp from the cloudiness and rain. I noticed the Plexiglas door in front of the true, wooden front door, and the entrance to the neighborhood which could be seen from the steps, as the paralysis of having to choose the scenario for our meeting began to set in. It would be strange for me to answer the door with the Plexiglas still between us. It seemed to me that such a moment, spent being so close to each other but separated by the clear barrier, should be avoided. Once I saw her I was going to hug her, without hesitation, and I wanted nothing to complicate that priority. So considering the plexiglass… me answering the door was out. I stared back into the house, lit with the day’s cloudy natural light running through the doorway. Perhaps my parents could answer the door and I could step up to met her after them. The entrance from the front door was greeted by a staircase wrapped in Christmas wreaths. To pass the staircase on the right would enter a hallway. Passing a small Christmas village assembled ceremoniously against the right wall. The hallway pushed to the family room, which also had Christmas decorations, where we could sit and talk just the four of us. Even with such a warm welcome from my aunt’s house and its decor, I felt no inspiration from this second option. Why would I have been anywhere else but right by the door after 23 years waiting for this moment? Wouldn’t it feel like I designated my parents to open the door if this was the option I chose? It wasn’t natural, it wasn’t sincere, and I wanted to see her first. My stare returned through the Plexi to the red-weathered steps before the front door, and I knew how I wanted it to go, “I’m going to wait outside.” Slightly surprised, my mother brought the news back to the kitchen where my father, sister, aunt and uncle could be heard catching up like family do. I walked through the clear barrier to find my seat on the steps, where I would wait at the edge of our encounter. I wore a sky blue, collared long sleeve and my favorite pair of jeans. Her necklace still swung trustingly as I landed on the top level of the entrance steps. Looking straight ahead my eyes passed the winter-tanned lawn and the street, darkened by the rain, toward the entrance of the neighborhood. I wouldn’t recognize her car so why was I looking? A car passed in front of the house and I was startled, thinking that it may be her. Since this was the first time I would see her in person, I didn’t want to see her from her car. I wanted to see her closer. My emotions were a fog as I closed my eyes with a promise not to open them until she was in front of me. These were the last moments of my life having never known her. She had told me a story, in a letter she wrote me at the age of 17, about the importance of my eyes to her after my delivery. She described her desire to see me open my eyes in the delivery room and how I showed no sign of opening them. She had let my adoptive mother, Jeanne, be the first to hold me. She described my adoptive and biological family filling the delivery room to pray, and the whole time Erin just watched my eyes, but they remained closed. She had asked for one hour with me alone before I would be taken back with my adoptive family. She said that then, finally, I opened my eyes. I began to realize that as I sat on those steps, I was dedicating this moment to that moment. Tears began to form in my eyes as I realized the next thing I would see would be her. After 23 years, this moment would be my way of honoring the story she had shared with me at 17, and this time I would have it as a memory. My eyes closed tighter against the suspense of another car passing. The darkness settled in softly like the fog, and I shifted my arms across my knees trying to find the best position. A prayer left me, there in the dark, as a smooth presence entered in all around me. It was a familiar warmth, something I had felt since I can remember. It was an embrace of the love I had felt from her all my life, and it was amplified. Tears increased, and I fell deeper into the cradle of a present peace. Her love was with me now, and the warmth of its atmosphere completely overtook the daze I had carried. The answer to my prayer had come, it kissed me with a warmth and love beyond all understanding, and all my emotional fog was lifted for a sweet safety. It was rich, it was home, it was like silk. I felt such strong emotion and validation in this presence, as if everything around me in the darkness was telling me that I can be proud of how emotional I am. I shifted my arms and cried again. What a gift it was to feel loved for exactly who I was, and to feel such a peace for her arrival. A car passed and my breath was caught in my lungs. Each passing car seemed to take hours as the wheel’s hissed through the puddles of rain water. I began to notice less as I felt myself in new ways. It was as if all the space around me was saying, “you are made well." I wept in awe of a moment beyond my control. It was an experience I couldn’t have made myself, so full of anticipation and belonging. I spent 23 years running into the most beautiful darkness I have ever known. Her love denied me my worry, still filling every empty part of me with peace and joy until I was overflowing. As the curtain of my worry vanished, it revealed that this love was not her doing, but instead being done through her. With my eyes closed, my gaze shifted, and I felt as if the earth was about to quake as I shook my head in awe within my hands. She was the window into the love I had always known, and I gave thanks on those steps realizing this presence, the peace I was swimming in, was not dependent on her, but reaching me through her. A cold wind came from my right, but failed to gain the moment. I was raptured into a safer space. The smell of rainwater on the cement didn’t carry its normal potency as I rested my head on my crossed arms. My tears no longer ran down my face, but fell from my eyelashes, as I sat for uncounted minutes on those wonderful brick stairs. The moment was an eternity and my eyes were faithfully closed, still waiting to open once she and I were alone. I no longer felt uneasiness for her arrival because I was safe in the love I was afraid I’d lose in meeting her. I was suspended 10 feet high; embraced in identity and purpose. My gaze was on love and it ran over me like honey. Suddenly, there was the soft click of shoes on the sidewalk in front of me, and I opened my eyes to discover that these hadn’t been my last moments having never known her, these moments were the proof I had known her all my life.

February 27, 2017
[img][/img] It was only a two hour drive, but it felt like it took days. My adoptive sister and I hopped in her car and headed down the road, on our way to meet Ava, my biological sister. And I was nervous. My sister Terri is almost 10 years my senior. Our mom struggled with healthy pregnancies, and my sister was born prematurely. A few years later, our sister Bunny arrived, but much too early, and she didn't survive. The doctor warned mom that any future pregnancies might result in her death as well. And that's where my story with this family began. My sister was 9 years and 9 months old when they brought me home. Because of our age difference, Terri has been somewhat of a "second mother" to me. We were never close enough in age to have any sibling rivalry--no fights over toys, or clothes. By the time I was 8 years old, she had moved out and started her own life. But for the huge age gap, we have always been the very best of friends. In my teenage years, when I felt unable to talk with our parents about problems and concerns, my sister was only a phone call away, and sometimes, because we only lived a few hours from each other, I would hop in my car and spend the weekend with her. She had been cautiously excited for me when I found my birthmother, and was heartbroken with me when Mary chose to stop all communication. She watched helplessly as I struggled to understand how a mother could actually want nothing to do with her child. And when my new journey began this year to locate my half siblings, I suspect that her heart ached with worry that I might be facing another huge disappointment. But as the process began, she started searching with me, and it was actually her that located the very first photo of my birthmother. She was lovingly supportive, and so, it only made sense to me to bring her with me to meet Ava for the first time. The irony is that, during all of these years of wondering where my siblings were, my two sisters---adoptive and biological---only lived two hours from each other. As we drove, we filled the time with funny stories----trying to keep my mind calmed. I was nervous about meeting Ava, but probably less than I would have been if she and I had not been communicating through email for the previous months. Part of me felt like I already knew her, but I worried what she might think of me when she saw me in person. I suspect she was worrying about the same thing. When we finally pulled up in front of her house, I walked towards her front door and saw her standing on her porch. I was going to be very casual, but I found myself walking towards her quickly with my arms open to hug her. And as we embraced, I was embarrassed to find myself crying, saying "Hi Ava" and just squeezing her. The feeling seemed to be mutual as she looked a little teared up as well. I didn't know it at the time, but Terri had lagged behind and had taken photos of our first moments together. Pictures I will treasure forever. Ava invited us into her home and showed us the improvements she was working on----she's extremely industrious and puts me to shame in the "do it yourself" department. She also introduced us to her chickens---something a city girl like me finds hilarious. Then we went to lunch and spent the afternoon visiting and laughing. The entire time, I kept thinking how amazing it was that a year previously, I didn't even know her name....and now, I had a new sister that I loved. Her life has been a hard one, but she is a strong woman and has made the best of her circumstances. Our mother only lives about 20 minutes away from her, but they haven't spoken in over 15 years. I don't know all the details, but it's clear to me, from what ALL the siblings have said, that Mary isn't a particularly "motherly" type of individual. And that's when it came together for me. My life, the one I had "inherited" through my adoption, was a bigger blessing that I had ever realized before. Yes, I had grown up in a home where there was an abundance of material items, and I had never experienced anything close to poverty. I had had opportunities for guitar lessons, piano lessons, and travel, and undoubtedly many other things that Mary would not have been able to offer me. But it was clear that the most important thing I gained was a loving relationship with a mother. A woman who is one of my very best friends. I find myself wondering what my life might have been like if Mary had made the decision to keep me all those years ago. I suspect I would be estranged from her as my siblings are.....and it makes me sad. I feel such a sense of gratitude that I have been given the chance to find Don, Ron and have these new family members and enlarge that circle in my life. And through this experience, I've been able to recognize the biggest blessing that has been in front of me all along.

February 24, 2017
I have been struggling with open adoption for a long time. My son was taken from me at the age of 18, my then ex gf was using drugs and couldnt keep her self out of trouble and I had an unstable living envrioment due to my adopted parents and I always fighting. I refused to sign over my rights, but I was eventually told I had to, or they would be taken from me. After I lost my son in court I thought that was it. Somehow though my adopted parents still kept on seeing my son. It pissed me off to say the least. They told me that they had obtained sometype of rights through the open adoption to see him. So for years they went and saw him once a month , talked to him on the phone, put his pictures everywhere killed me. It wasnt until my son was about 7 that my now wife contacted Amom to try and establish some type of contact. She was prepared for the answer of no, ,but to our surprise she started to write to us about how my son was doing, she sent us pictures and two years later after consistant contact we set up a time for me , my wife , my mom and my son to spend the weekend alone together. It was awesome. It truly was and I am eternally greatful. After the visit though, my mom got kinda jealous that we were sharing contact with my son and told the Amom some not so flattering things about me that landed us with no emails , no contact period for about two years. My mom had lied to me and told me that my son had stopped calling her all together as well, but i found out she had been lying. It was a very hurtful situation. I was angry that my emails were no longer being answered, that i felt like I had just gotten back into my sons life and now it was taken away from me AGAIN. when my son was 12 I got back into contact with him. He got a cell phone of his own and his Amom was okay with me calling and texting him freely. I was able to send him cards and gifts, have unlimited contact over the phone etc etc. It wasnt until my mom passed away when my son was 13 that I was allowed to go down to visit him and have a whole weekend with him unsupervised. I get annoyed sometimes with Amom when I dont hear how he is doing. Now that my son is a teenager, hes moody and sometimes unresponsive to my texts... so i get upset because i try to talk to amom about it and she shrugs it off. Dont get me wrong , I AM eternally greatful that Amom has let me and my wife have contact, pictures, unsupervised visits etc etc. for that I am eternally thankful. But sometimes there is a shadow of a doubt, that maybe i will say something wrong unintentionally and she will cut off contact, or she will say something about me to my son and he wont like me anymore. It keeps me up at night. I am just thankful I am in in his life and scared at the same time. Everytime we lost contact, its like im in court again being forced to give up my rights.

February 19, 2017
[img][/img] I told myself I wasn't going to reach out to them. As I looked at their names, I reminded myself that the whole point of getting my original birth certificate was to learn my identity and do some genealogy. Now that I had names, I could figure out my ethnicity and have a lot of questions answered. It didn't make sense to reach out to these people who---most likely---wouldn't want a relationship with me. But something Mary----my birthmother---had said in a letter to me all those years ago, kept echoing in my head: "My middle son is very excited to meet you someday". She explained that she didn't have much contact with her other two children, but that this particular son knew about me and apparently was at least somewhat pleased about my existence. It took me about 2 weeks of thinking it through, and wondering if I could cope emotionally with being told again that I was not welcome in someone's life. When I finally decided to take my chances, I sat down and wrote a letter to my brother---Don. I must have written about 7 different drafts, showing each one to my ever supportive husband, who finally deemed the last one "not overly emotional or rambling". With the support of a dear girlfriend who had been cheering me on through this journey, I finally worked up the courage to put the letter in the outgoing mail, and prepared myself for a less than positive response. It was almost a week later, while I was I on vacation with friends, that I received one of the best emails I've ever read: "I'm so happy you found us...we have so much catching up to do.....can I call you?" Within days, I had spoken with both of my brothers, Don and Ron, on the phone, and had exchanged emails with big sister Ava. I don't mind telling you that I was thrilled to learn all three have a wonderful sense of humor, and of course, most amazing of all.....they have welcomed me with open arms. It's as if my appearance has been completely natural to them. I honestly have been so touched by their kindness that it has more than made up for the sadness I felt so many years ago when 'our' mother chose to stop contact with me. The outcome has been better than I could have ever hoped for. Mary is not yet aware that we are in touch with each other......Because her contact with her kids is infrequent, I am leaving it up to their discretion if or when they want to share that information with her. In the meantime, I have spent the past few months feeling more "whole" in my heart than I ever have in my life. Pieces that were missing are finally being put in place. And as wonderful as its been, something else amazing is about to happen...... I'm meeting Ava face to face this weekend.

February 19, 2017
I want to share a real life glimpse into the world of adoption with you for just a second. Something as seemingly innocent and sweet as a Disney movie can have much larger implications for the family impacted by adoption. As my son and I were watching Tangled for the 101th time this morning, he asks me: “Mom, who’s she?” (in reference to mother Gothel) Me, choosing my words very carefully, replied: “She’s the lady who stole baby Rapunzel from her birthparents and acted as Rapunzel’s mother growing up” Because I believe it is central to my child’s healthy development to talk to him openly about his adoption and for him to be able to make the distinction between what Mother Gothel unlawfully did in this situation and what birth parents do when an adoption plan is made, I explained to him that mine and his birth mothers chose to not parent us because they were not able to take care of us and that no one “stole” us from our birthparents. My son’s immediate response was: “WERE WE BAD?” “No son. We were not bad.” Fellow friends, this is the inside mind of a 4 year old adoptee. Raw and unfiltered. This is the side of adoption that doesn’t get talked about. Doesn’t get published. Doesn’t get glamorized. Adoptive parents; Families affected by adoption in any shape, form or capacity- this is my call to you… Please, Please, Please, don’t pretend that your child’s adoption story is all roses and rainbows, and that your existence in their lives somehow negates a previous core loss. Their story matters to them, and they need to hear it throughout their lives. It is central to their identity and who they are. Yes it is hard for them to process, and yes you have to watch them endure sad and painful emotions. But you spare them no pain by ignoring this inevitable part about them throughout their childhood and then leaving them to grapple with it as teenagers and adults on their own. If you cannot handle these realities, then you are not prepared for the selfless sacrifices adoption requires on your part for your child. This made the difference for me in my life and I plan to pass it on.

February 15, 2017
Imagine for a moment that you are not allowed to know the name of your grandparents, your ethnicity, or stories of how your ancestors arrived in America. Pretend that you have a very distinguishable physical feature, but no idea where it came from. And every single time during your life that you go to a doctor's appointment, and they ask "Do you have any family history of (fill in the blank)?", your answer is an obligatory "I have absolutely no idea". For hundreds of thousands of people, this is a reality. Due simply to the circumstances of their birth, they are not allowed by law to know names of blood relatives, and in many cases, any pertinent medical information. For some, this poses only a slight inconvenience. But for many, many more, it feels as though their birth is considered shameful, and that they are being expected to "pretend" that they arrived in their adoptive families by an actual stork. January 1, 2016, the laws in Colorado---along with many other states---stated that all adoptees were not allowed to have access to their Original Birth Certificate (OBC). Colorado's laws were even more detailed, only allowing adoptees born during certain years to access their information. If you were born during the years 1949-1951 OR 1967-1999, you were completely out of luck. No real reasoning. Apparently only people that were born during those intervening years were better equipped to handle the truth. Fortunately some legislator recognized the utter nonsense of the law and it was finally amended to allow ALL Colorado adoptees to receive their OBC. On January 2nd, 2016, I mailed my notarized form and payment off, and waited anxiously for the information I had been searching for. And on January 30, 2016, I received a thick envelope that included a blurry copy of my OBC, and the name of the woman who I had once exchanged "anonymous" letters with. I cried for 30 minutes after staring at it. My birthmother's name is Mary. It's a very simple piece of information, but with that name, my entire world opened up more than I ever dreamed it would. I spent the next few weeks scouring the internet for pictures, names, and anything else I could find. I stayed up late at night filling out family trees. I learned information about my bloodlines that was previously a complete dead end to me. I didn't know it at that moment, but my family was getting ready to expand.

February 14, 2017
I waited nine months to meet my daughter for the first time, and forty four years and nine months to see her again. On February 19, 1970, in the state of confusion, er, New Jersey, I gave birth to a girl. Though unmarried and unable to care for her, I actually wasn’t confused at all. I knew from the beginning that the only option for me was to give her to others to raise in a way I couldn’t at the time. Had I said ‘state of depression’, well, that would have been closer to the mark. Although I did what I felt I had to do, I lived with the consequences, day after year after decade. My heart was with her every day. I wished her happy birthday every year – I prayed she be happy and healthy. When she turned 18, I stopped thinking of her literally every day. I registered with the state and every organization I could find so that in the event she wanted to find me, the means were there. In 2004 I found and registered with, a website offering a host of services, including a forum for adoptees and birth families to reach out and connect. Every year that passed brought a decreasing sense of conviction that I would hold my daughter once more before my final breath. Then on July 4th, 2014, I received an email from another member of the forum who said, “Your birth daughter is looking for you but she is having trouble with her post. Please contact her . . . ” I logged onto right away, found her post and replied. She wrote back, “I think I’m your daughter – if you’re my other mother, please contact me. If not, just wish me luck . . .” She left an email address along with her phone numbers. As much as I wanted to grab the phone and call, I didn’t want to do so at a bad time so I emailed her first. Then came the phone call. We connected, and shared, and over four hours later, we ended the call. To paraphrase Kahlil Gibran, the gates of my heart were flung open and my heart flew. I even asked Rick if it was really happening. He said it was. But I thought, it feels so surreal. So unreal. Dreamlike. Like it’s happening to someone else. Like I’m not even in my body anymore. But it was real. We will meet, face-to-face, for the first time in forty four years and nine months, on Thanksgiving Day at my sister Laurie’s in St. Louis. Wish us well, and may the healing continue. (To be updated in December . . .) THE REST OF THE STORY (Added in December 2014) A message board friend wrote, “. . . I am happy to see you made it back safely from your once-in-a-life-time Thanksgiving trip.” I had just returned from St. Louis where I met my daughter for the first time since surrendering her for adoption over 44 years ago, and the term kept bouncing around in my head . . . “once-in-a-lifetime”. In the preceding weeks I couldn’t imagine what would happen when we would meet at last. What did happen in that magical (for me) moment? (Pregnant pause for effect) I took hold of Sandi and began to sob, holding my precious daughter and releasing years of fears and tears. We spent the next few days asking and revealing, listening and learning. Part of me was awed by this remarkably strong, compassionate woman and although I felt proud, I had no right to be. Her life and accomplishments are testimonials to the two loving spirits who nurtured and guided her, her mom and dad. Any doubts I’d harbored that I’d made the best decision for Sandi those many years ago, evaporated as she spoke. And then, I was amazed by what we had in common. We’d both been married four times, our third husbands being the really problematic ones. We both: – had a daughter, followed by two sons – enjoy rural life – have a strong dislike of shopping – don’t wear make up – like to travel and will go anywhere at the drop of a hat. Sandi has already realized two of my bucket-list dreams by visiting Ireland and Machu Picchu. Maybe I’ll follow in my daughter’s footsteps – had a son become an Eagle Scout – are strong proponents of organic gardening and are avidly against genetically altered foods – were hospice volunteers We’re both “wordies”, which I define as taking delight in the use of words; we are writers, pleased to share our published pieces. Even though Sandi is a Registered Nurse and my highest level was a Certified Nursing Assistant and Medical Aide, we have common fields/interests that have included in-home care, pediatrics, work with developmentally disabled and rehabilitation of those suffering from brain trauma. The old question of nature verses nurture arises and it would seem that we do possess a natural inclination toward some things, physical traits being only the tip of the iceberg. As far as nurture, well, I think it trumps nature and it turns out that my concern for Sandi’s well-being in the home in which she was placed was unnecessary. Her parents are two incredibly awesome individuals who did a magnificent job in raising Sandi. They have my eternal gratitude for the loving, supportive environment they provided for her. Special thanks to my sister Laurie for opening her heart and home to Sandi, me, Sandi’s husband John, and their friend Pat, who helped with the driving. We’re grateful for Laurie’s overwhelming hospitality. Well, we just wanted to share the rest of our story, our once-in-a-lifetime meeting and hopefully help bring together others in similar situations. Our message to you . . . When all seems lost, when something appears impossible, when there is no hope left, don’t give up!

February 10, 2017
[img][/img] Adopted at birth by two wonderfully loving and supportive parents, I didn't give a lot of thought to searching for my birthmother---even though my adoptive parents had always offered their support of my doing so----until I had a child of my own, and the need to tell this faceless person that I was alright, that she had made the right decision, was overwhelming to me. I couldn't imagine never seeing my child again, and I suddenly became very concerned about the woman who had given me life. I could only suspect that her worry and anguish were unbearable. The media does an amazing job of portraying "adoption reunion" stories with fairy tale endings, where all the parties involved are blissfully complete, now that they have found each other. They are most oftentimes warm and touching portrayals of a lifechanging event, and although I don't doubt the authenticity of those occurances, I learned for myself in a very real and personal way that there are exceptions to these happy reunions.......there was no way for me to prepare for what I experienced, and given the abundance of evidence on these "feel good" reunion shows, it's no surprise that I was blindsided and heartbroken by what came to be. Starting my Search in Earnest When I finally made the decision to begin searching for my birthmother, I didn't have a lot of options open to me: My husband and I were newlyweds and living on a full time student income---very little---while I stayed home to take care of our new baby. We didn't have much access to a computer so I researched what I could about registries to join where my name might be matched in a database with anyone else who was looking for me. After 3 years of no results, my husband came to me with a plan: he would cash in his unused sick time from his new job and we would use that money for me to hire a Confidential Intermediary to contact my birthmother. At that time, hiring a CI cost $475 and that didn't include any extra expenses that might be incurred along the way. I was touched by my husband's unselfishness and, after filling out the required forms, I sent off my payment to Colorado Confidential Intermediary Services....and waited for the rollercoaster ride to begin. The Phone Call I was weeks away from my 30th birthday, when I received the call that would be the beginning of a life changing experience. The intermediary assigned to my case had located my birthmother---up to that point, I don't think I had entertained the idea that she might possibly reject me-----the television shows made it seem unlikely that would ever happen, and I think that somewhere in my mind, I reasoned that since I could never imagine rejecting MY child, it only followed that she would feel similarly. My only real fear was that she might be deceased and that I would have missed out on the chance of getting to know her. As fate would have it, she was still living at the same address as she had been at the time of my birth---and she was anxious to meet me. She informed the CI that she wished to get to know each other first through letters, if I was agreeable with that, with a meeting sometime in the future. The tears came and it became clear to me that I had longed for this outcome even more than I realized.....the relief was overwhelming. Secret Correspondence When I was finally given the green light to start writing to my birthmother, I had no idea the hoops she and I would have to go through in order to maintain a postal relationship. First, we were not allowed to put any sort of "identifying information" in our letters to each other---meaning we could not share our names, our addresses, or anything else that might give the other person a way to locate us. Second, we were not allowed to write directly to each other. All our letters had to be mailed to the home of the intermediary, where she would check to make sure our letters were "appropriate" and then put them in a new envelope, with her address in the sender's place, and mail it off to us. As strange as the arrangement seemed, I was eager for any opportunity to communicate with her, so I followed the rules. The anticipation of receiving my first letter from her was nearly unbearable, and when it finally arrived, I studied every word. I remembering thinking that up until this very moment, this woman had never seemed like a real person to me...she had been a fictional character I had been told about as a child. But now, holding a letter from her hand, she was an actual person. Someone who truly existed and had a name....although I still wasn't allowed to know it. Our letters to each other went back and forth for several months, both of us sharing what we could without being too overly descriptive. I learned that she had been a single mother of three small children when she became pregnant with me. Her husband (her children's father) had committed suicide sometime previously, and MY father (whom she only referred to once as 'the unkind man who produced you') was not part of her life, for reasons she never elaborated on. I learned many things about her that helped clarify why I felt so different from my adoptive family---I had always, always felt loved and accepted by them, to be clear. But there was no denying that my interests, views, and personality differed from theirs in many ways. It was easy to see that I didn't LOOK like any of them, but there were times when it felt like we weren't similar in ANY respect, and it caused me to feel a little "odd". When I finally realized that many of my interests were similar to HERS, it was an enormous comfort to me. I had a million questions I wanted to ask her about her childhood, her other children, her late husband, and family history that I was so curious to learn about. But I didn't want to overwhelm her with questions, and I figured we had all the time in the world to learn about each other, so I kept most of the questions to myself. I had no idea that "all the time in the world" was about to come to an abrupt end. The Mistake About 5 months in to our correspondence, I received a phone call one day from the Intermediary. She seemed to fumble over her words as she spoke to me and finally admitted that she had failed to let my birthmother and I know, at the beginning of this process, that we only had 6 months to write to each other through her. After the allotted 6 months time, we would either need to sign documents allowing her to release our information to each other---and be free to continue our communication at our own leisure---or the case would be closed and we would no longer have access to each other. The news took both of us by surprise, but my birthmother was blindsided and angered by the new "stipulations" and felt like she had been unfairly backed into a corner. I don't know what experiences she had faced in life that caused her to feel like she needed to fight back so fiercely about being given this sort of ultimatum, but in a final letter to me, she explained that she had not stood up for herself other times in her life, and had regretted it. She was not going to let someone dictate to her what the timetable of our relationship was and she was not currently able to reveal her identity to me. She would refuse to sign the papers. The following day, I received another call from the Intermediary, telling me that my birth mom (at this point, I had grown weary of calling her that so I had given her the nickname 'Sue') had asked her if there was a way for her to preserve HER anonymity but to receive MY information, thereby enabling her to write me letters directly and she would just get a PO Box. For a moment I hesitated; I wasn't sure how I felt about giving her all my information and still having NONE of hers, but I knew that if I wanted our communication to continue---and I did---this was the only option. It would be a long time before I would have the money to reopen the case, and from everything she had shared with me, her financial situation was no better. I had been given the opportunity to tell her thank you for giving me such a wonderful chance at life and I could walk away now. But I wanted her to be a part of my life and I wanted to know so much more about her and my heritage still. I made the decision to sign the papers, releasing all my identifying information to her. And then I waited for letters that would never come. Confusion Several months went by as I waited for that first letter to come. Each day I would walk to the mailbox, thinking surely today would be the day I would hear from her. At some point I began to worry, thinking something must have happened to her. Our letters to each other had been so pleasant and she had mentioned how she thought I was a really wonderful human being. She had even told me that all her children knew I had come back into her life, and that her middle son in particular was excited to meet me someday. I had grown up without any brothers, so this information had been especially touching to me. Finally, I contacted the Intermediary, hoping she would remember our case and be able to give me some sort of clues as to what was happening. I was disappointed to learn that she barely remembered anything about our case, and could only offer speculation as to why I hadn't heard from her yet. She suggested that, in order to help me get over my loss, I write one last letter to "Sue" and mail it off to her. She cautioned that she wouldn't be able to pass it along since the case was now closed, but maybe it would help me to be able to move forward. And in a moment of sadness and frustration, I did. I wrote a letter asking the woman who had given me life how she could be so devoid of feelings for her own child that she could not even allow me the privilege of knowing her first name, when I had been willing to allow her every last bit of information about myself. I sent the letter, and hoped healing would come Unforeseen Endings I wish I could tell you that a letter finally arrived or a phone call came, and I was able to have the reunion I longed for, but things didn't turn out that way. Ten years later, in a strange twist of events, CCIS was made aware of the Intermediary's error of not informing my birthmother and myself of the 6 month time limit from the very beginning, and ruled that it was partially to blame for the unfortunate outcome of our contact. In an effort to rectify the situation, they allowed me to reopen the case at a very reduced rate with a different Intermediary. I felt euphoric, knowing I would soon be in touch with my birthmother again, this time both of us knowing what the timetable would be. My only fear was that, because so much time had passed without hearing from her, that she had possibly passed away, so I prepared myself for that possibility. But nothing could have prepared me for what I learned the day my CI called me. She had easily located "Sue" and briefly explained why the case was being reopened. Given the Intermediary's understanding of the events, I'm sure even SHE was surprised at my birthmother's response. According to the CI, 'Sue' expressed her disbelief at being contacted. She said that she thought she had been quite clear about not wanting to pursue a relationship with me, and when questioned about the PO box, she denied she ever offered to get one and write to me, although she did admit to having all my information and knew that she could contact me if she chose to. She also said that she felt I had not understood or respected her wishes, given this intrusion in her life as well as the final letter I wrote her---the one where I poured out my feelings in the hopes it would help me "heal". The letter that I was told would never be sent to her. The CI waited quietly on the other end of the line as I struggled to speak through the sobs that were escaping. I couldn't explain why I was so upset. My whole purpose in finding my birthmother had been to thank her and reassure her that my life had turned out well. My adoptive family was the only family I knew and loved, and I certainly wasn't looking for this woman to replace them. I had only hoped that she and I could continue to be part of each other's lives in a way that was agreeable to both of us. I had never asked her to be a grandparent to my children, or to even meet face to face. I had assured her in one of my letters that if we NEVER met, it was okay with me, because I was just enjoying the opportunity to learn more about her through our letters. So why was I so distraught that she seemed to be rejecting me...again? Maybe I was disappointed to think I might never meet the "big brothers" I now knew I had. Certainly I was saddened to know that I might never have the chance to ask all the questions I had for her. But mostly, I was hurt to think that the woman who had given me life could now seem to be so cold. The mother who had raised me had been such an amazing example of a loving and nurturing human being, that I could only assume that ALL mothers felt that way for their children. The fact that "Sue" was turning me away was something I didn't know how to process. Saying Goodbye In order for the CI to close the case, she gave both of us an opportunity to pass along a final message to each other. My birthmother's message to me was brief and unemotional. She apologized for any misunderstanding but stated it had never been her intention to have a relationship with me. That was basically it. To say I felt devastated by the lack of warmth or concern for me would be an understatement, and I'm ashamed to say that my first impulse was to tell the CI that I had nothing to say back to her. But I knew this would most likely be my last words to her in this life, and the fact remained that her decision to put me up for adoption had indeed put me in a family that loved me and given me opportunities I would not otherwise have had. Clearly, if I had stayed with her, my experience with motherhood would have been vastly different. So I chose to look at the positives and decided that, if nothing else came from this experience, I wanted her to still know and understand that I would forever be grateful for her decision to place me for adoption and I would never regret the time I spent searching for her. It's been 7 years since I wrote my final goodbye to her for the CI to read, and although I have been able to work through most of the heartbreak I felt at that time, recognizing that all things have a purpose in our lives and that I am blessed beyond measure to have a family that loves and supports me, I still admit that a piece of me hopes to find a letter in my mailbox one day, saying: "I've had a change of heart--I'd like to be part of your life again". If that never comes to be, I take comfort knowing that I was able to thank her for giving me life and leave her with the knowledge that I care deeply about the woman who remains nameless. "I just want to express to you how truly sorry I am for making this unwanted reappearance in your life--- please know and understand that it was due to misinformation that was given to me by the first CI, and my obvious inability to read between the lines. I feel so terribly foolish. I find it sadly ironic that in my attempt to reach out to you, I have somehow managed to cause the very thing I was afraid of. For me, this had never been about burdening you with additional family or only hope was to have a comfortable relationship between just the two of us, and to someday learn more about my heritage and roots. Although I am saddened by your decision, I continue to treasure the letters you wrote, and feel blessed at having had a moment in time to know love and appreciation for you continue, and my door remains open."