Tag Archives: biological families

Adoptee Rejection — It Hurts Like Hell

I cringe every time I hear about an adoptee who is rejected by her biological family.

For all the happy Hollywood-worthy reunions, there are many sad stories of adoptees who get the cold shoulder from their bio families. This comes after many spend months, even years, looking for relatives. I don’t know how frequently it happens but anecdotally, I hear the depressing stories on a fairly regular basis.

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

It’s a shame. How can people be so cavalier toward their own flesh and blood? We are not black sheep. Many adoptees just want to fill in the missing pieces in our history. We want names, faces and a few anecdotes. We are not looking to turn somebody else’s life upside down.

Fellow blogger Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy attempts to explain why birth mothers in particular turn away their long lost children. I imagine for a birth mother it must be like opening an old wound.

Adoptees are outsiders. We didn’t grow up with our biological families. Without that experience, we approach our kin as strangers. We are at a disadvantage. Relatives may associate us with a dirty secret from the past, the child who was given up for adoption, the child who was not supposed to re-appear ever again.

Of course, that’s baloney in the 21st century. Anyone with Internet access can dig up facts and faces from their past. It’s hard to hide in today’s world.

Personally, I don’t need a warm and fuzzy reunion filled with hugs, kisses and tears. My yet-to-be-found paternal relatives don’t have to welcome me with open arms or even send me a card at Christmas. Just answer my questions, please.

Adoptees go through life with questions about identity, relationships, family history,  medical history….so many questions and so little information.

Being adopted can be a challenge. In families with biological and adopted children, the adoptees sometimes are treated like second-class citizens. Fortunately, my parents bent over backwards to treat Melissa and me, their adopted girls, the same.

Some adoptees struggle with depression and low self-esteem. Given all these challenges, adopted adults don’t need to be treated like garbage by their newly found blood relatives.

I am fortunate. Since I began searching for family this year, I have not encountered any jerks among my kin. I’ve had friendly phone conversations with my half sister, Sissy, and her daughter, my niece (or half-niece), Chrissy.  They’ve answered my questions and shared stories about my birth mother, Lillian. They’ve welcomed me. We have even found things to laugh about, not easy to do considering all the pain in our family.

But knowing how common rejection is gives me pause. I hesitate to pursue my bio dad’s family too aggressively. I don’t want the door to be slammed in my face and I don’t want to go where I don’t belong. Now I understand why adoptees don’t bother to search for their kin.

I’ve made a promise. If some adoptee searching for family calls me out of the blue, I will take the call, be nice and answer questions as best as I can. After all, I’ve made those calls and know how difficult they are to make.

Who the hell needs rejection anyway? What purpose does it serve?

Parallel Lives

For adoptees, it’s hard to resist family comparisons. I can’t help but compare my sheltered childhood on the southwest side of Chicago to what I know of my biological family’s life in the suburbs north of the city.

My family’s bungalow on South Sacramento Avenue and my birth mother Lillian’s home on Alice Drive are only 35 miles apart, but the two families might as well have lived on separate planets. That’s how different they were.

My mother, Claire, and father, Bob, didn’t work outside the home. Dad was a retired linotype operator and Mom was a homemaker. They were in their 50s when they adopted me days after I was born. A year later, they adopted my newborn sister, Melissa. This was in the 1960s. Mom and Dad were unlikely parents to two little school girls who never knew they were adopted. Were they our grandparents? Claire and Bob bristled every time they heard that question.

They had plenty of time to supervise Melissa and me. They were helicopter parents before anyone used that expression to describe annoying moms and dads who hover constantly over their kids. Claire and Bob were ahead of their time.

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My adoptive mother, Claire, center, with her sisters, El, left, and Marie

We didn’t get away with anything because our parents watched us like hawks. Dad drove us to and from school every day. We were not allowed to play with the kids across the street because Claire thought they were too “street-y.” Melissa and I were goody-goodies not because we wanted to be but because we didn’t have a choice. I read a lot of books because there was nothing better to do. In the summers, I rode my bike around Marquette Park over and over again. I went to the library for more books. I counted the days until school started. Time passed very slowly on South Sacramento. I dreamed about moving out of that boring prison and getting a taste of the real world.

On Alice Drive, my sister and her three brothers had fun and freedom. They went on family outings and played with little supervision. Their parents, Lillian and Dick, both worked and were not around enough to watch the kids closely. Sometimes my siblings got into mischief.

 

Lillian when she graduated bigger
My birth mother, Lillian, in 1953

Lillian’s pregnancy with me may have been the last straw for the marriage. I was not Dick’s child. She and Dick divorced not long after I was born. Their breakup hurt the family. My sister’s grades dropped. There was more pain for the children when Lillian got angry and lashed out at them. As teenagers, my brothers and sister got into drugs and sex and no doubt rock and roll. One of my brothers, a brainy boy who got good grades, took his life. Lillian was never the same after her boy died.

That’s one thing Lillian and Claire had in common. My adoptive parents had a biological son, Bobby, who also died young – of a kidney ailment. Claire and Bob were devastated. They withdrew from their family and the world. They never left the house, not even to buy food. They had somebody deliver the groceries. Adopting me and Melissa brought my parents back to diapers, baby food and the real world. It helped them heal.

I resented having parents who smothered me but maybe having a child die is what made Mom and Dad so protective of their daughters.

I didn’t have any boyfriends in high school and didn’t have a drink until my senior year. Melissa and I graduated and went to college. We never got to go away to school – Mom and Dad wouldn’t allow that – but we graduated from college, something neither of our parents had done. Claire and Bob were proud.

My life never intersected with Lillian’s. She was only 48 when she died in 1983. Not long after her death, another one of her sons died after a long struggle with injuries he suffered in an auto accident.

I wonder how different my life would have been if I had grown up with Lillian and her family. Would I be the person I am today with different parents and siblings?

All I know for sure is I am grateful to Lillian for giving me life and extremely grateful to Claire and Bob for adopting me. Maybe their overly protective but loving style of parenting was just what I needed.

 

Finding Biological Family on Facebook

In the Huffington Post, Courtney Hardy recalled accidentally finding out she was adopted as a teenager. As a young adult, she used official sources and Facebook to track down her birth parents and other biological relatives.

Hardy’s journey to find family took her to San Diego, Seattle, Phoenix, Ireland and England. Luckily, she got a warm welcome from everyone she met along the way. It’s an interesting story that apparently had a happy ending for the adoptive and biological families and especially for Hardy.

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Photo courtesy of Keoni Cabral

“Meeting my relatives has given me perspective on how profoundly lucky I am to have such wonderful and supportive parents, as well as an extended birth family in my life,” Hardy wrote in the Huffington Post. “In a way, through getting to know them, I feel like I’ve finally gotten to know myself.”

A growing number of adults who were adopted are using Facebook to find family members who share their DNA, according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, which conducted a comprehensive study on the Internet’s profound impact on adoption. The Adoption Institute believes the laws that make it difficult for people to access important information about adoption, including statutes that prevent adopted people from obtaining their original birth certificates, should be repealed.

According to the Adoption Institute, the Internet obviates the rationale for the laws, which was to keep the affected parties from learning about and finding each other. Makes sense to me.