Note: This is a continuation of my story in a series of post I wrote beginning with “Out of Sight, Out of Mind“, “It’s Not Denial, Technically“, “The Miracle Worker“, and “A Miracle“. Sometimes getting it all out, just takes time. Thanks for reading. Shadow the Adoptee
It happened so long ago, I can’t remember the exact time frame. It was all so simple for me. I called the agency, told them why, and what I wanted to know, and it wasn’t long until I found myself sitting in an agency workers office, looking at a very nice lady, who held a file in her hands. I was nervous. I was anxious. I was apprehensive, and scared. What was going on? What was I doing? What was I going to find out, and did I really want to know? Whatever I felt at the time, all I knew was that this was something I had to do.
Though a family medical history may have been the reasoning behind why I was doing this, when it came right down to it, when I walked into Hope Cottage that day, a family medical history was the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted to know what was in my file. I wanted to know about my origins. I wanted to know why I was placed for adoption. I wanted to know everything that I didn’t know about myself. I wanted to know, and I didn’t even know, really, that I wanted to know.
There I was, sitting in the red brick building, that housed Hope Cottage, the agency where my parents had come over 20 years earlier, with a set of clothes to change me into and then take me home with them as their new daughter. It seemed so odd as I walked through the door of the place, where my identity would be forever changed, from a baby girl, who had come into the world with no name, born to parents, whose identities would forever be hidden, given the name Rhea, by an agency worker, and then two and a half months later, given a whole new identity with a new name, and new parents, thus sealing away, forever, the first two and a half months of my life just as if I, and it, had never existed. It was a bit surreal to say the least, even if I hadn’t totally realized the magnitude of the situation at the time. Carol, the agency worker handling my case, came out, and greeted me. I walked in her office, sat down, and was totally unprepared for the path my life was about to take, the feelings that would arise, not to mention, feelings I could not possibly understand, or the effect it all would have on me for years to come.
We chatted a bit, as she opened the file she held in her hand, and began to tell me about Hope Cottage, and its history. As a person, who is, for the most part, straight forward, blunt, and likes to get down to business, with no time for BS, I could have cared less about the history of Hope cottage, though I was polite. I wanted to know what was in my file. I had spent the previous years of my life thinking I could never know anything in that file, and here I was. It was time to get down to business. I was tense and on the edge of the chair, trying to be patient and polite, willing her to cut the crap, and get to the point, when she finally held up a report she had typed; a condensed version of my non-identifying information.
I sat there, in a numb, somewhat incoherent state, as she began to read. She was giving me the details of my birth, my stay at the hospital, my move to two foster families, and then she began with information on my families of origin. It was really all just too much for me to absorb all at once. I, for the most part, as she read felt nothing. I was in some sort of disassociated state that would not allow me to absorb what I was hearing. I was there, but I wasn’t there. I was somewhere deep, deep, down inside myself; a safe place where whatever it was that I seemed to be so afraid of couldn’t touch me. I had no idea what was going on inside me at the time. I simply didn’t have the emotional maturity to process it, and back then, there was little information about the loss, grief, and other issues adoptees may feel. I just did what I had always done, have always done, what I had to do to survive, I stopped feeling, and I had no idea why, or what was causing this (Warning: ugly adoption word to follow) trauma inside me.
Disassociation was something I was adept at. I had learned early in life to separate my feelings, not let them show, and not feel them, at least not until I was alone, and safe. I listened, but I didn’t hear, much less, process what I was hearing. I was a bit in awe, as she talked about the day I was born. I had never known what non adopted people have the opportunity to know about the day they were born. For the first time in my life, that I could recall, I felt something stir inside me in regards to that day. I didn’t understand that feeling. I’m still not sure of how, exactly, to describe it. It was thrilling, and yet it made me so uncomfortable. I sure didn’t understand what I was feeling, or why I felt it. I just felt it; this thing deep inside. That feeling stayed with me as Carol continued reading her report.
As she continued with information about my family of origin, I couldn’t focus on anything she was saying. All I wanted was for Carol to hand me that file, so I could get the hell out of there, go home, and, well, do what, I don’t know. Just as when I had found that little green sheet of paper as a young girl (See: Post “It’s Nothing an Everything to an Adoptee”), I felt like I was doing something wrong sitting there listening to information about my family of origin. I hadn’t told anyone in my adoptive family about this. I didn’t want them to know. I don’t know why. I just didn’t want them to know. I sat there as Carol finished reading, waiting for her to hand me the folder with her report in it, and all I wanted to do was get out of there, and take my little treasure home, to my apartment, where it and I would be safe.
After all those years of believing I could never know anything, then having it all thrown at me at once, and so fast, it was too much for me to absorb at the time. With no time to process any of this information, and no knowledge that processing was something I would need to do, I had, for the most part shut down emotionally. It barely registered in my mind when Carol told me that she was going to do a search for my birthmother. When she then asked, “If I find her and she agrees to contact, would you agree to contact too?” I didn’t know what to think. “What the hell did she just say?” was the thought that ran through my mind.
As Carol continued talking about search and reunion, and how she had reunited with her birthmother, how wonderful it had been, etc., I just sat there in a stunned daze. I could hear her talking, hear what she was saying, but I couldn’t believe it. Was she really talking about reunion with my birthmother? Was it possible?
When she asked again about agreeing to contact, I heard the words come out of my mouth, but no thought was given to them. I don’t even know where they came from. It was about as spontaneous, and about as out of my control as it could, possibly, be. My answer came from somewhere so deep inside, so, yes, I’m going to say it, primal, I couldn’t have stopped myself if I wanted. I simply said, “Yes.” I heard the word come out of my mouth, but I had no idea what I had just agreed to. I don’t think I really believed her.
Should I have taken a minute, an hour, a day, or week to give it some thought? Frankly, there was no thought in my mind to give, no reason to give it, and whatever was going on deep inside me was so natural, so strong, giving whatever it was a thought really wasn’t necessary, at least, as far as I was, and am, concerned. It was something I didn’t know I wanted, didn’t know I needed, until I knew I could know. I grabbed the opportunity, without a thought, because I had to, even if I didn’t know why this was suddenly something I wanted, needed to do.
After all the proper paperwork was completed, Carol handed me her condensed version of what was in my file, and I went home to ponder how I had gone from having never given much thought to my family of origin, to needing a family medical history, to forgetting all about my hereditary eye disease, to the thrill of gaining access to my non-identifying information, to now, the possibility of reuniting with my birthmother? How did that happen? Oh, yeah, I was diagnosed with a rare, hereditary eye disease, and needed a family medical history, or so I thought.
I had never really allowed myself to admit how much I really wanted to know about my family of origin. Why would I? I thought it an impossibility, so why allow myself to go to a place so incomprehensible, so possibly threatening, and so difficult to understand as an adult, much less as a child, when it had been ingrained in me that I would just never know? I never allowed myself to go there, because I never thought there would be a chance of knowing. I kept it shoved down, and blocked it from my mind. I didn’t want to know, until I knew I could know. Once the door was opened, I didn’t just want to know, I had to know. There were so many questions that I didn’t even know I had. Now, all I could do was to wait.
Back then, with the internet still in its infancy, there were no websites filled with information, support forums, and help. Carol had mentioned some support groups, but there was no need for me to attend. I didn’t need help, or support. I was fine, and without anyone to tell me otherwise, fine worked, well, just fine for me. The thought that my birthmother might reject me, not want to meet, well, it never crossed my mind.
Actually, not much crossed my mind back then, when it came to thoughts about adoption. I wouldn’t let it. Not thinking about it had been working for me for the past 20 some odd years, so why change my mode of operation now? I was still in shock that this whole thing was even happening. I didn’t tell anyone. I just got on with my life, and waited for Carol’s call. What else could I do? One simple little diagnosis of a hereditary eye disease and a person can find out they wanted to know all kinds of things they didn’t even know they really wanted to know. I guess, you just never know, until you can know?