Because of the events of my own reunion, I feel the need to advise anyone who is doing any type of adoption search, whether child or birth parent, to prepare yourself as much as possible for any outcome. What you learn may be filled with joy. It may be painful. It may be both. It may tear your world apart or stitch it back together.
But whatever happens, if your search is successful, you will know and you will grow. It may not be the outcome you desired, but in many ways, it will be either a beginning, an end, or possibly both. It will be your story and, in the end, a story of healing. This is a story of love and pain, adoption and reunion, joy and unimaginable, soul-crushing grief.
It’s my story, and I share it with the hope that it may help someone who has lived with the life-giving, soul-changing event we call adoption.
Adoptions come about in many different ways. Sometimes it’s because of a love for a child we cannot keep. Sometimes because we are too young or unable to care for the child. Sometimes adoptions take place because a child is an orphan or was neglected or abused. And sometimes adoptions happen through the abuse of power.
About 25 years ago, when I was 18 I made the incredibly painful decision to place my two sons into temporary foster care because I had just left a group home and had neither the means nor the know-how to take care of us. It was not known at the time that I had severe ADHD and was living with the effects of a brain injury. I was not taught money skills or how to live on my own, and I had no idea where to go for help when the shelter I was placed in informed me they would no longer provide the prescription formula my eldest son required to supplement his allergy-induced limited diet.
I was assured that this would be temporary by the woman who had been my caseworker since I had been in foster care. I trusted her and I believed her. What I did not know was that my sons would be assigned a different caseworker, one who would place obstacle after obstacle in my path and eventually succeed in placing my sons for adoption.
I lived my life after that with a severe distrust of any governmental agency that had anything to do with children. I was left with scars that will never heal and memories that are painful and haunting. But I never gave up hope that I would find my sons or at least learn that they were happy and well.
In 2006 I opened a profile here on Adoption.com with the info for my eldest son and a note about his younger brother. I did it that way because at the time I believed they had been adopted by the same family, and I wanted their names linked in case either one of them searched for me.
In July of 2011, I was in town running errands when my phone sounded an alert. I received a message from a young man on Facebook who was looking for his birth mother and thought I may be her. I can still feel my body shaking with all those mixed up emotions when I remember that day almost 9 months ago. I couldn’t help thinking that this was some cruel joke or a scam. I asked him some questions and when he answered them with the answers that only me, the courts in the state he was born in, and his adoptive parents could know, I knew. It was my youngest son.
I sent him a message with my phone number and then waited anxiously for another message or a phone call. When he called the next day I was in a kind of shock. Everything came flooding back. All the emotions I had hidden deep down in my soul for all those years slammed into me like a giant bull. It felt like my feelings were much larger than I was and would not fit into my body like I was a balloon being overfilled and on the verge of exploding. We talked for hours, with him asking me questions, me asking him questions, and both of us happy and crying.
He told me that it had been his lifelong dream to find me and his older brother. He also said he didn’t know what happened to his brother. He said they had never been together, and I kept insisting that they had. Knowing that something wasn’t right I sent him pictures of the both of them playing in a park, pictures that had been sent to me back when I was trying to get them back. He said he would ask his mother about them and call me back.
I did not expect him to call back the same night, but he did. when he did call back, something had changed and I could feel it. He told me he had talked to his mother. She had told him that he and his brother had never been together and he told her about the pics I sent him of them playing together in the park. She was confused and talked to her husband. It turns out that they really were never together. The pics I had were from a playdate that had been arranged by the state to take those pictures and send them to me.
All those years before, I had been led to believe my sons were kept together. It was the last request I made to their caseworker in the interest of my sons before they were adopted. So once again, I knew I had been lied to. My son was talking like he was in a great deal of pain by this time. I knew that something was coming but I could never have imagined what he would tell me next.
The bomb was getting ready to explode and when it did, my heart and soul and everything that I am was blown into tiny little jagged shards of unbearable pain.
He told me his adoptive mother had found out some years ago that his brother had died. He had hung himself with a cellmate in a youth prison whose guards inflicted unimaginable physical and emotional pain on their wards. She had kept this from him to protect his own emotional state at the time and never got around to telling him until now.
Shock is not a strong enough word to describe the state I was in after learning this. After our call ended I spent the rest of the night and the next couple of weeks online, reading about what happened to my eldest son. Images flooded the mind of my son suffering and I was filled with despair knowing that he had felt utterly alone and unwanted. I had to send my then 9-year-old daughter to my mother’s house for a few days because I was in so much turmoil and could not function.
I was obsessed with it. All I could do was cry and search for more information. I didn’t eat or sleep for days, and when I finally was able to sleep, it was only for short periods of time. For months I couldn’t carry on a normal conversation or sing in church without crying, biting my upper lip, and holding my breath to stop the flood of tears I could feel rising in my body.
The pain and anger I feel over what happened to my eldest son seems too much for me to deal with at times. I’m able to function now. I can sing in church, talk to people, take care of my youngest daughter, and go about the things I need to do. But there is a part of me that I cannot describe: the part that feels defeated and alone.
Something precious and vital was taken from me that can never be given back or replaced. A part of me is missing, and there is nothing I can do about it but grieve and remember. In one day I found one son and learned I had lost the other. In one day I found both unimaginable joy and gut-wrenching pain. In one day a new part of me was born and another part died.
I’m not sorry I searched for my sons. The outcome is not what I had expected, but then I’d rather know the truth than not know anything or believe a lie. I now know what happened to both of my sons. I’m grateful for that, and though I will always have to live with the pain of knowing one of them has died, I still have parts of him with me. Pictures of his beautiful smile, of his first steps, and his first birthday. I have pictures during the period he was with me as well as pictures I was sent while he was in foster care. And I have my memories.
I am thankful that I no longer have to go through my life wondering what happened to them. To both of my sons: I love you with all that I am. You will forever be in my heart!