My True Love
I am a 50-year-old birth father who reunited with my children after twenty-four years of separation in a closed adoption. My love for them was typical of any good father, but our adoption was not typical. I had custody of our 4-year-old boy and 3-year-old girl, and their mother had no part in the arrangements for the adoption. People have written a lot about adoption, but almost nothing addresses our situation. Rather than be impatient as I wait for someone to speak for us, I try to tell my story often.
I Still Can’t Afford to Be Impatient
Our reunion has sometimes been a difficult time, emotionally, with many trips back to a period in my life that was extremely trying.
At the time of the adoption, my children were living with my sister. I arranged this after I found my children residing in an unsuitable environment with my ex-wife. Even though I recognized that she was unable to care for them properly, I couldn’t do any better myself. I was recovering from a physical and mental breakdown that had left me totally disabled. Caring for myself was difficult enough to manage.
My elder sister had always been the rock of our family. I hoped that the children might stay with her indefinitley. That was not to be. An officer of our church counseled her that the children needed a permanent home. She said she had found a couple in the congregation who were willing to adopt both children. My sister had always been quite close to the church, so advice from the hierarchy was not something she could take lightly.
She Suggested Adoption
When my sister presented this idea to me, I believed it was the best thing for the children. I had been declared permanently disabled and there was no indication that I would ever be well enough to care for them, even though my love for them was firmly intact. I had spent my youth in this church and was always impressed by the warm, happy families I’d known there. They were a stark contrast to the chaotic conditions of alcoholism and mental illness in my own childhood home.
The clean-cut, professional couple who volunteered to adopt my children seemed perfect. I felt they would love my children like their own. Legal people drew up the papers, and my ex-wife flew in to sign them.
That was that.
Parenting Ended and Pain Began
I can’t remember much else from that day. There is a lot from that time that I can’t remember clearly. What I can remember I’d rather forget.
I thought that was the end of it, and I was sadly mistaken. The pain began almost right away. My children were no longer legally mine, and all I had of those two babies whom I loved so much were a couple of pictures and my memories.
Reaching the Road to Recovery
One of the sadder parts of this tale is that my recovery began within a year of signing the adoption papers. I made a couple of significant breakthroughs in my condition. With help from the state vocational rehabilitation office, I enrolled in school again. While in school, I met a woman whom I later married. She believed in me before I even believed in myself and was invaluable to my recovery. Things were definitely improving in my life. But, by then I felt it was too late because my children were gone. On a happy note, I later adopted my wife’s two sons, but they couldn’t replace the child I placed for adoption.
Over the years, I have heard from other birth parents. It seems there is a special sort of hell we share that has so many points in common. I would see a child of a certain age and wonder about my own children. Watching for children their age and study them became a habit. I would wake up at night and look at pictures of them. Their pictures stayed in my wallet for years but had to be put away when they began to crumble. I don’t know how many nights I laid awake staring at the ceiling, wondering if they were well and wanting to love them in person again.
Seeking the Close of a Closed Adoption
I promised the adoptive parents that I would never contact the children. As they approached their age of maturity, however, I knew I had to search. The pain became more intense and more frequent, and nothing would ease it except the act of searching. I had some information about them from my sister who knew the adoptive aunt, but the aunt, at the request of the adoptive parents, kept the information very general.
I registered with a surname database, searched the phone books of the cities where I’d heard they’d lived, and scanned professional registries that their adoptive father might have belonged to. After placing an ad in the paper of a town they’d moved to soon after the adoption, I went there for a weekend. The hope was that they, or someone who’d known them, would contact me there. I was searching the Internet before it became the Web, but I never found a shred of useful information.
I was contacted by my sister who said that my son was having some problems, and there was a possibility we could meet. But after meeting with the aunt who lived near my sister, nothing came of it except that my pain got worse.
Nothing Could Outweigh the Ache
My life was just about perfect except for this one obsession. My wife and I had been married nearly 20 years. We had raised two boys and welcomed a grandchild to the family. I had a career that was going well in addition to my church and family life. In spite of all this, my happiness was shadowed by my loss. I knew that I could never be truly happy until I had the chance to know that all my children were well and happy. They needed to know I had loved and wanted them.
Thoughts of the children were always with me. Sometimes the pain worsened and I would spend days searching for them. I was now randomly searching adoption pages on the Internet. As I wandered from page to page, my search engine said that there were over nine hundred people registered, including their names and birth dates. The search almost seemed pointless.
This went on for several years until a few days before Thanksgiving 1997. During a quiet shift at work, I was surfing adoption pages when I had a match! My daughter’s name and birth date came up on a registry. Tears were streaming down my face, and my hands were shaking. I could barely type as I sent in my inquiry.
The next morning I had confirmation of the match. Within the hour, I was talking with my daughter on the phone. Tears come to my eyes as I think of how absolutely beautiful her voice sounded. She had been searching for me for two years. My son was living nearby, and soon I was talking to him too. My search was over.
Filling Our Relationship with Love
I have been in contact with my son and daughter for over a year now, and our relationship is still growing. They live eight hundred miles away so I don’t see them often, but we’ve had four visits. I met my two biological grandchildren, whom I love and adore. As we get to know each other I am still “John” to them, until we get relationships sorted out.
Not everything has been perfect in our reunion. We’ve faced some boundary and relationship issues. I’ve sensed an edge to our meetings that could be unspoken anger, but I can’t be sure. Understandably, there is grief over a missed life together, which is always between us. But we forge on, working together to build something we all seem to want. We might not know exactly what it will turn out to be, but that’s okay. Sometimes I fear that I will lose them again, but two things give me comfort.
I Have Lived My Dream
One is that I have lived my dream. I found my babies alive and well. I have had the chance to hold them and tell them I still love them. My prayers have been answered. Anything else that may come will be an extra blessing to be savored, but not clutched and hoarded.
They Know I Love Them
The other comfort is that now they will always know that I love them. If my worst fear comes true, and one or both of my children leave again, I can wait for them with a calm heart. I heard a saying recently that I like a lot: True love is never impatient. And this I know: This blessing is to be savored.