I Wish I had Known Then

20 Oct

Continuing my story, you can read my last post here title Just Simple Curiosity.  Hope you enjoy, Shadow Adoptee.

I sat there holding the phone to my ear, listening, as Carol excitedly, explained to me the steps she had gone through, which led her to my birthmother, with little interest. I hadn’t contacted Carol because I wanted to search for my family of origin. I had simply done what the doctors had asked me to do, request medical information. I hadn’t even known I could do such a thing, much less, get it. A search for my birth family hadn’t even crossed my mind. I didn’t care how she had found my birthmother. I was still trying to absorb what was happening. How I had gone from a diagnosis of Retinitus Pigmentosa, to a possible reunion with my birthmother, was a bit more than my brain was willing to process, especially in such a short time. I was, simply, not emotionally mature enough to understand the dynamics of what this all would mean, had meant, to me.

Carol had reached my birthmother, via phone, they had talked, and, my birthmother had agreed to exchange letters for now. The letters were to contain no identifying information, such as last names, addresses, etc., and would be exchanged through the agency, or more aptly, Carol was going to be our intermediary. I was to write the first letter, send it to Carol, and she would forward it to E.

As an adoptee, who had never really asked questions about my biological parents, believed I’d never know anything about them because my records were sealed, and had never really given much thought to the situation, I felt I should maybe, listen to Carol’s advice as she told me there was no rush, to take my time, and give it some thought. O.k., I could do that, because, after all, it was just simple curiosity, and, certainly, not important enough for me to share what was going on with anyone else in my life.

When I thought about it, I had to admit, this was kind of exciting. I don’t recall ever fantasizing about finding my family of origin, like some adoptees do. I don’t recall ever, even, wondering where they were, or what they were like. There was that one time, when I was young and found the brief descriptions on a piece of paper my parents had, but, no, not really wondered, at least, not consciously? Searching, reuniting, or even knowing anymore was not possible, would never be possible, at least in my mind. Maybe, thinking about it, thinking about them, wasn’t something I could afford to do emotionally, so I just didn’t. As a child, with the emotional maturity of a child, and capability, why would anyone expect me to react differently, or why would some excuse my lack of outward expression of grief, or interest in my birth family, while a child and teen, as proof that being adopted had no effect on me? Why did I tell myself that for all those years? Why does it surprise people now, when I say that it all did? Why am I still surprised at just how deeply it does affect me?

Now here I was, about to write a letter to the woman, who had carried me for 9 months, and given birth to me. Her name was E. What would I say to her? What should I write? Giving it some thought was good advice, and something I should have done had I known then, what I know now, 20 years later, I suppose, I gave it as much thought as I could at that age, under those circumstances, considering my simple, natural curiosity of an adoptee. I had the letter written and off to Carol within a couple of days.

Yes, it was just the normal, simple curiosity of an adoptee, nothing more. Were it more than that, I’m sure I would have taken a bit more time, agonized over what to say to her, and, possibly, remembered what I had written in that letter. I don’t remember, not one single thing. Maybe it is because it was so long ago, but I remember so many other things about that time. It surprises me that I can’t think of anything I wrote to her in that letter and I wonder, now, what I might have said to her. I can imagine how different that letter would be were I writing it now, in my mid-forties, as compared to my mid-twenties.

As I was writing this post, it began to bother me that I didn’t remember what I had written in that letter. I had considered asking E, if I could see it. I am fairly certain she still has it. It would be interesting to read it after over 20 years. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to know. Reading that letter now, could give me so much insight to not only myself, but E, and her reaction to it. Maybe it could help explain so much about both of us, and why we have struggled so in our relationship. Maybe it could make it not hurt so much if I am honest, is what I really want it to do. I just cannot bring myself to ask, not willing to stir up those old memories, feelings, and thinking; I’d rather wonder and let sleeping dogs lie. Once again, just as I did back then, I find that I am telling myself it doesn’t really matter, and I am just curious, as I sit here wondering what I would have written to her 20 years ago. The truth is that there are just things about being adopted that hurt, and changing that is not possible. I know that now, and telling myself it doesn’t matter only helps ease the hurt until I can once again accept it for what it is, grieve it, and let it go until the next time something triggers those feelings.

It makes me sad to think that all I have to do is just ask E for it. I could just pick up the phone. It’s really that simple. All I have to do is just ask. It makes me sad to know that I won’t ask her; will never ask her. I’m not willing to risk the emotions it might dredge up for her, and me. It makes me sad that I’m just too afraid of those emotions to ask for one simple little letter. Wen I look back and see just what it had all meant to me, how important it was, how I denied what it meant, and what I was feeling, I’m still surprised. I suppose, I just didn’t know how to cope, and there was no internet to turn to. I was on my own, as was E. It makes me sad to think of how it all hurt, not just me, but E, too. I wish I had known then, what I know now.

Once again, I’ve started a post, trying to tell my story, headed in a specific direction, and ending up somewhere I never intended to go. I followed my emotions because it is not my story I want to tell, so much as, what it feels like to be an adoptee. I followed my emotions, because, after over 20 years of having my birthmother in my life, it surprises me that it can still hurt like it sometimes does. I hope by sharing, others will see they are not alone, and parents will take a closer look at their own children, will understand, we don’t always talk about it. Sometimes we don’t know how, and sometimes, we just can’t.


Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Adoption, adoptive parents


Tags: , , , , ,

3 responses to “I Wish I had Known Then

  1. The adopted ones

    October 20, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    We are all so unique and it just shows you can’t just apply a label or assume that what someone feels at 5, 10, 25, 35 or 50 will be the same each time.

    I have vivid memories of when I was little wanting to know, hurt feelings, rejection feelings, fantasies and all that go with it. At the same time I accepted I would never know while still checking the personal section of the paper on my birthday each year – hoping against hope. I did let mom and dad know I needed questions answered and they got some answered for me. I was fine and not fine but accepting the reality.

    We all just do the best we can and go on with life – doesn’t change what we wanted or didn’t want – you have to life life anyway. That’s why my mind is always blow away that people use the good experience vs bad experience to label us.

    You should write more often…


  2. shadowtheadoptee

    October 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Yes, when I hear people wanting to label an adoptee’s experience, I have to wonder why they feel that need. As adoptees, our grief, our curiosity, is ours, and has nothing to do with our APs. That’s what APs don’t seem to understand. they can’t stop us from grieving. All they can do is help us get through it; deal with it.

    When I hear an AP talk about how their child/children don’t have any adoption related issues, usually said dismissin a comment of all adoptees having issues, I can’t help but think of my own childhood. That is exactly what my parents would have said, and exactly the opposite of what was. The topic of adoption was common in my home. My parents brought it up from time to time, made it a “normal” thing for us. It wasn’t their denial. It was mine. I just never wanted to talk about adoption. I didn’t like to talk about it; didn’t want to talk about it. It made me feel sad, and I diidn’t understand that, or why. Mostly, I didn’t know how to express it to them, so I avoided it.

    When I hear APs say their children have no issues, I have to wonder if their child is a bit like I, and hope the AP looks deeper than the surface for what their child may not be able to say, instead of assuming all is well with the world and adoption. Sometimes, children just aren’t emotionally capable of expressing what they feel inside.


    • The adopted ones

      October 21, 2011 at 9:18 pm

      I don’t think I have ever asked you this question and feel free not to answer, answer via new post, or here. With hindsight do you think you would have searched unprompted as you matured or would you have stayed in the world of I hate to say denial that you have another family out there.



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