What If…

Visions of what my life would have been like had I not been adopted.

Rebecca Tillou January 12, 2015
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I have spent some time wondering what my life would be like if I had not been placed for adoption by Joan Chanowski. I let my mind wander to bits and pieces from my life, the way it was, the way it is. I wonder where and how it would be different.

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Me as a little girl

Take me as a newborn. With my parents, I was in a warm house where I was fed, rocked, changed, and held often. My cries of sadness, my cries of hunger were answered within moments. I was soothed by my parents when needed to be. If I had been with Joan, I may have had a mother’s arms holding me and rocking me, but they would probably be shaking from needing a drink, or limp from too much drinking. I would probably not have been changed or fed timely. I don’t think I would’ve felt the warmth and safety I felt with my adoptive family.

I grew up in the suburbs, and attended a very affluent school system. My life consisted of dependable routine. I got up at the same time every day, I ate breakfast and went to school. I would come home from school, start my homework and play with my friends at their houses. I would eat dinner with my entire family most nights of the week, finish my homework and then head to bed. I never worried about not eating, about not having time or a place to do my homework. Joan worked at a bar seven days a week. It is all she knew. She would sit from dawn until dusk, drinking and working. She would become a customer at the end of the night. What would that look like for me, had I stayed with her? As an infant, I would probably sit in my infant seat on the bar, while Joan worked. I would be passed around by strangers all day, fed by multiple different people smelling of cigarettes and liquor. As I got older and became school aged, I envision sitting at the bar with a coke, asking the regular drink customer what 2 + 5 equals. I imagine late nights, no strict bedtime, and when I did go to bed, I would be alone in the apartment above the bar where Joan resided. She would remain downstairs, drinking as a customer, but still serving drinks like a waitress.

I graduated high school with a 3.7 GPA. I went to college at SUNY Geneseo and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Communicative Disorders and Sciences (Speech Therapy). I was well disciplined in college and knew how to study successfully. If I had grown up with Joan, I am hoping I would’ve graduated high school. I don’t think I would have gone to college, and there is NOTHING wrong with that. I think I would’ve been working at the bar since high school at that point, and would continue to do so. Again, there is nothing wrong with not attending college. I just think I was lucky to have been given the experience to attend college. I was given the opportunity to see what there is outside my hometown world. I thank my adoptive parents for that.

My vision if I had not been adopted is one of a lonely life. A life that mirrors what Joan’s appeared to be. I think I would have had the sweet, innocent, helpful nature I possess now, and I would want to fix Joan. I think I would take her situation upon myself to make better, because she was my mom, but also because it is what I do, or try to do. That life would not be healthy. I think I would become and enabler to her addiction of alcohol. I think maybe she would become dependent on me to take care of her when she was too drunk to take care of herself.

Through each of these visions I have occasionally, I always end up with the same impression. I have two parents who love me unconditionally. Although we have our spats and don’t always see eye to eye, I am their daughter. I always have been, and I always will be. They do not see me as their adopted daughter but their daughter. . . period. I am married to a wonderful man who does not hesitate to stand up for me. We have two wonderful little boys who are my every breath. I met my husband at college. Had I never been adopted, I would have never met him, and my life as I know it today would just be a distant spec in the sky.

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My two beautiful children

Life turns into something, no matter what. It is ever changing. I am happy I am where I am, and I am excited to see where I will go.

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Rebecca Tillou

Rebecca was adopted as an infant. She found her birth family in May of 2013 and continues to keep in touch with them. Sadly, her birth mother passed away in 1999. She and her husband live in New York and are the parents of two beautiful little boys, Dominic and Nicolas. They also have a German Shepherd mix named Chester. She was recently diagnosed with FASD at 34 years of age. She is currently working with nofas.org and thearg.org to get the word out that there is hope, and that you are never too old to better yourself.


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