Confusion and Anxiety

I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Books, blogs, articles, websites. That’s what I do, I’m an information-gatherer. But now as I move past basic research I am toe-dipping into the world of activists for adoptee rights and legislation and I find it all rather terrifying. I am not sure how I feel about birth parent right to privacy, but when I learned in Illinois that they could redact their information from the OBC I felt that in and of itself would be an important piece of information. Surely in my case, at least, if someone went to the bother of redacting their information nearly 50 years after the fact (since the right to request an OBC and/or redact information from it only became law in 2011), that would be a pretty clear indication that they did not want to be contacted. I am not sure how I will feel if mine comes in that way.

Having read through the materials on the website for the Confidential Intermediary, I was feeling content that that was a good way to go about my search and contact. Now I am not so sure. I have come across a number of blogs that describe truly horrible experiences. However I have not been able to find anything recent. I think the latest one was from 2013, and in Illinois the CI program only became free in January 2015. Some of the discontent with the program was the cost and the restrictiveness of it, but the main point of the commentary reads to me like the authors resenting needing to have an intermediary at all, feeling that adults should have the right to manage their own affairs. I am pretty sure that there were ‘search angels’ and other resources available to these people, and that entering into the CI program was voluntary, so I’m not sure why they felt so encumbered by it. There were assertions that, contrary to the website’s statements, the CI did not have free access to anything and everything, and even if they did, they were bound by confidentiality rules not to share them with you… which begs the question, why bother with them at all? At least one of these people also had an attorney and there were additional complications, including the fact that they were born in Illinois but adopted in Ohio. I think the takeaway here is that there are probably as many different permutations of this situation as there are people, and it’s so hard to know which might be applicable to me. I suppose I’ll have to just do what feels right as information unfolds (or doesn’t) and hope for the best.

Not feeling so steady today.


Unsurprisingly, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the ideas of families and secrets. I have decided that there is little to be gained by making an issue to my adoptive family that I have learned the truth – whether they knew it already or not. If they knew the truth and kept it from me, I can’t imagine that any of them would have been motivated by anything but love for me and loyalty to my adoptive parents. To confront them with it now would only make them feel bad, especially if I communicated that I am glad to know and disappointed that I wasn’t told earlier. If they didn’t know the truth, it doesn’t seem of any particular consequence to bring it up.

I wonder if my birth mother has kept me a secret from some or all of her family. If she has, I wonder if she will choose to keep it that way. I have decided that I will take advantage of Illinois’ Confidential Intermediary service, so that a professional who is trained to handle these situations can manage the initial outreach. That seems the most fair to both of us. I had a moment of trying to put myself in her shoes (or the shoes of any birth family I manage to uncover) and imagine someone showing up on my doorstep like that, or an email out of the blue, or a letter. It feels like an invasion of privacy – almost stalkerish – that I’m hoping a CI will be skilled at navigating in a much more safe-feeling way. And from my own standpoint, I would just die a thousand deaths after I hit ‘send’ or put the envelope in the mail, if I did not receive a response almost immediately.

I can see my mailbox from my office window. I know it will be weeks before I can even hope to receive my OBC or the Adoption Registry confirmation and potential matches, yet every day when the postman drives up I get a little thrill in my belly. And I know there are lots of people who have been searching for years so I feel like I don’t have any right to complain, but the waiting really IS the hardest part.


True things

Today, ironically, two things arrived together via UPS. The driver took my signature and handed me the deliveries: a cardboard shipping envelope containing the long form (altered) birth certificate I ordered and the small box containing the DNA kit from Ancestry. I knew well enough what the birth certificate would look like. I could not put my hands on one last Tuesday so in my initial frantic stew ordered a new one, but I remembered the salient details: December 27, 1965, and my (adoptive) parents’ names. I had remembered the hospital being listed as “Illinois Research Hospital” but the long form states “Research and Education” without the word ‘Hospital’. Reading that produced a small giggle that is both a defense against and an acknowledgement of the greater awkwardness that is my current state of mind. Who gets born in a research hospital? When I tried to find information about it, it seems to have been a part of the greater University of Illinois (Chicago Campus) medical program. I should get better details on it. I don’t think the hospital is a fact that commonly if ever got changed in the alteration process. The parents and sometimes the birth date were the likely edits. So this is most likely where I was, in fact, born.  It’s probably insignificant – only chosen for proximity and financial considerations, I would imagine. Still, it’s weird enough to be a valid addition to the scrapbook of weird that I am amassing.

The DNA kit had its own level of weird. I knew from reading comments on a blog that you spit into the container but after trying to force my dry mouth to produce more spit after the first couple of awkward spits failed to fill the vial to the proscribed level my earlier ironic giggle ripened into something closer to a slightly maniacal cackle. I didn’t count how many awkward times I spit but I did recall that old Tootsie Pop commercial adapted by my dry sense of humor to my circumstances: “How many spits does it take to fill the DNA vial? A-One. A-Two. A-Three. *hocker* Three.”

I have become terribly impatient so I boxed up my spit and took it right to the post office, where I realized that it was a federal holiday so I might as well have just stuck it in my mailbox. I rationalized that it would get processed FIRST!!! in the morning and that was a good thing. The weird thing about that impatience is that I don’t have any expectations about the DNA test except for curiosity. I think it’s a long shot at best that it might help me in my search. I think the urgency is just that I feel like I must do everything that is available to do as expediently as possible. What I really want is my OBC, but there’s nothing I can do about that but wait.

Still, I thought about the two things. The DNA test will produce true information that may or may not provide me any significant help in my search for Me, while the Birth Certificate is not only not true but is an active truth impostor, with its state sanction, official seals and statements of authenticity. I suppose it was a shield, protecting me from the censure that befell bastard children in the 60s and 70s, who were by default largely assumed to be defective spawn of defective mothers. Still it lies there, almost mocking me now that I know that despite its costume it is only a clever lie, and I hate it as paper proxy for the stupidity that has driven our society.

I am LDA

October 11, 2015

I learned last Tuesday that I am adopted. I will be 50 in December. These two facts place me solidly in a category of adoptees known as Late Discovery Adoptee (LDA). I learned this fact as I careened around the internet in my shock and disbelief. I found forums, I found books. I found out that I am not alone. I created this website to be a repository for data, to create a safe space for me to explore and vent, and to set up a sheltered email. If someone is reading this and needs those things too, please feel free to contact me. It’s been less than a week since my discovery but already I am beginning to see that there can be many common landmines and needs particular to the LDA that really deserve specific focus. Perhaps this will become a resource for other LDAs. If nothing else, apart from my own selfish needs, perhaps someone can be comforted if they see their own situation in mine.

Are you my mother?

I am that little bird now, trying to establish a basic fact. But I am a grown woman, not a helpless baby trying to find the one that will care for me. I had a good and mostly happy childhood with my adoptive parents, my adoptive mother particularly. I was nurtured and loved.

If there was a disconnect it was by virtue of the gulf of societal changes that occurred in the years that separated us. I think that particular span was more significant than possibly any span before or since, even for the same number of years. My mother was born in 1923 and I in 1965. There were many times in my teen and young adult years when I am sure I just befuddled her. I remember her being completely horrified that I called a boy on the phone. ‘Only sluts do that!’ she informed me, and my mother almost never used language like that. I wasn’t even calling a boy I was romantically interested in – I was probably about 11 or so at the time. I remember saying ‘Mom, nobody thinks that, that doesn’t make any sense.’ I think she believed me, or tried to, but it was one of the first times I realized that as far as navigating the society I was born into, I was on my own.

Looking back on my upbringing it’s amazing that I am the firm feminist I am. Or possibly it’s not at all surprising, because I was presented every day of my life with vivid proof that feminism is absolutely necessary. At least for me, holding firm to feminist ideals (even before I put that name to my way of thinking) was how I could avoid becoming like my mother, at least as regards how she was treated as a housewife. My father was king of the castle. My mother the dutiful wife, who endured his irrational demands and rages placidly. We children generally tried to be obedient and unobtrusive. Mom was the kind of amazing mother that always packed our lunches and who would produce full meals for us and our unannounced friends at virtually any time. She scrubbed floors on her hands and knees and always ironed the clothes. I think she did these things very willingly, and I never felt like she resented not having a career. To her, that was just how things were done, and both of my parents subtly and unsubtly tried to fit me into that mold, too. But I just wasn’t going there.

Now in my new reality I wonder about my birth mother. If I could identify one trait that seemed wholly out of place in my family, it was my sense of independence. I wonder, did I inherit that from her? It must be a very strong trait indeed to completely thwart all of my adoptive parents’ efforts to make me in their image. I never even thought about it as rebellion and I don’t think they viewed it as such. It wasn’t a fight, it was simply how it was for me. I was not going to be a man’s doormat/helpmeet, full stop.

It’s still so early. Not even a week has passed since discovery. But I put my form for my OBC in the mail the very day I discovered. I need to find her. I hope she is alive. I fear finding out she is not. I want to know her story, if she was one of the hundreds of thousands of young women who were bullied and shamed and coerced into maternity homes and giving up their “illegitimate” babies, never being presented with options or even the faint possibility that keeping them was something to consider. It seems rather likely that she was. I think, too, that at least some of those women signed documents promising never to go looking for their babies and were made to fear doing so. If that is her case, and if she is also like the extremely high percentage of those women that wished for contact, I hope that she hasn’t decided that since I did not come looking for her, I did not want that contact. I want her to know that I would have come looking for her immediately as I have done. Fifty years ago she gave birth to me. I have daughters of my own, and there is simply no way she does not remember or think of it.

Mom, if you’re out there, I’m looking for you. I will find you. I want you to know that I don’t feel rejected by you because you gave me up, and that I want to know you now. I want you to know me, and your granddaughters. I want to know if I have siblings or half siblings. I want to do a new family tree and climb up its branches as I have with my adoptive family. If it turns out that I am a secret you prefer be kept that way I will honor that too, but I hope you’ll let me know you and let you know me.

Perhaps this is a Pollyanna phase that I will come to scorn but the way I am looking at this today is that my adoptive family, my childhood, all of what made me who I am is still there. I just discovered that there’s a whole lot more to know, too. And I want that, so very much.

Baby Steps

A moment of gratitude here for the Internet. I think people in my situation prior to the Internet that were trying to discover their truth, to connect with others walking the same path, and to learn had such limited opportunity as to make this staggeringly huge project virtually impossible or at least much too overwhelming to embark upon. If I had discovered my truth back in those times I wonder what I would have done?

Within minutes of discovery I was scouring the Internet for resources and information. I learned almost immediately about the Original Birth Certificate (commonly referred to as OBC) – this would have my birth mother’s and possibly my birth father’s name on it . I also learned that the laws vary from state to state as to whether or not an adoptee has the right to obtain this critical document, and there are ongoing legal battles to release them. Fortunately for me I am in a state that does, and so I contacted my public health department, downloaded the necessary form and sent it off. That was mailed on 10/7, so we’ll see how long it takes.  I also downloaded forms for the Adoptee Registry and for sharing medical information. There is also a form to redact your information. I haven’t read the statute too closely but it seems that after the redacting party is deceased you can get the unredacted information.

I’ll have more to say about the OBC thing later, but I must say it compounded my sense of betrayal to think that not only were many family members and friends of the family conspiring to keep me ignorant of basic facts about myself, but so was the state! I understand about the times and the stigmas attached to the birth mothers and the bastard children, so I have not yet come to anything like a conclusion about the practice, but my knee jerk reaction was incredulity. You’re not supposed to falsify official documentation, period. Isn’t that a felony or something? Yeesh.

I joined a forum and a facebook group and got such warm supportive responses to my initial posts that it really helped steady and encourage me. One of them suggested I do the DNA test from Ancestry and another the mtDNA test, so I have ordered both. Ironically I have spent the past several years constructing a vast family tree. I have traced my adoptive father’s family back to the 900s, and found many interesting facts about members of the tree. I look at that work now and just feel numb. It’s still interesting, it’s still technically my family, but there’s a disconnect for me now. I wonder why that should be? I read somewhere that we are all related by a surprisingly small number of genetic steps, so perhaps someday I will embark on a discovery to link myself back to that tree somehow. Probably no time soon though.

I still feel like a stranger in a strange land, groping my way about and pretty sure that I don’t want to be here in the first place. But the natives have been very kind and I will try in turn to be kind to those that find themselves here after me.


My cousin told me I was adopted. She was tormented by indecision. My adoptive father was a very harsh man and those that knew were sworn to secrecy, or threatened to it. She is older than me so she has known this fact all of my life. She was inspired to tell me because we had been discussing the story of another cousin who was adopted, who had somewhat recently found her biological mother and has since developed a relationship with her and her half siblings. I told her that I thought that was very nice, and also rather tragic that it took so long – how many years wasted that they could have known one another! It was that sentiment that inspired her, and even that took her several weeks of agonizing before she finally broke down and told me.

I was, predictably, in shock and denial at first. My ramblings about the internet since have led me to many, many adoptee stories. Not as many LDAs, but a few. I have yet to come across one that was as wholly blindsided as myself. Honestly, it makes me feel a little dumb. Everybody seems to have had feelings about it or suspicions. I reached out to the adopted cousin (who, as it turned out, also knew my truth) and she told me that a lot of little questionable things that I dismissed in the past will start coming to mind as I walk this path. None have, as yet. My adoptive mother at 42 was old to be having a baby in 1965 but I was satisfied with her explanation that they had found a doctor who helped her carry after having had difficulties. My middle brother who is also adopted and I look nothing alike, but even that never engendered any real suspicion – even about him specifically, since I at least bear some faint resemblance to our parents but he does not. Our birth certificates, altered as I now have learned, bear our adoptive parents’ names. I was just truly not at all suspicious that I was adopted.

I contacted a cousin on the other side of the family, who confirmed the truth, so there was nothing for it but to accept this strange new reality.