Monday, August 24, 2009

Thinking They Could Make a Difference

There are few things in this world that effect me so deeply and personally that I actually react physiologically. Today, one of those few times occurred.

As I read through an AP's post I began to feel my breathing become more heavy, my body begin shaking, and my heart start beating practically out of my chest. The room began spinning as my brain tried to wrap itself around what I was reading.

The words that hit me like a ton of bricks.....7 years old, little hope of returning home, nothing more the professionals can do, residential treatment, more than anyone or any organization can handle.

Is this true? How can this be? What trauma must this poor child have suffered to have reached the end of the line? The end of all possible hope? Just those words....just those thoughts bring tears to my eyes.

I understand parents doing all within their power for their children and that some situations just require more than any one family can provide. And at the risk of sounding judgmental of those families who call it quits maybe sooner than even they imagined, I wonder at what point is it really OK to throw in the towel and say this is it...nothing more can be done?

I ask these questions knowing full-well the ramifications of living with a troubled child. I know the ramifications because I lived it as the SISTER to one of these children. For 7 years I lived with an older brother who did everything possible to get himself kicked out of our family. No sense waiting around for the inevitable to happen when lying, cheating, stealing, getting kicked out of school, running away, and abusing me helped achieve that outcome faster. In the end the same thing happened that he expected to happen. He knew he was a failure. He knew he was broken. Worst of all, he knew he was unlovable. And sure...our parents least as much as we could recognize "trying" through our eyes as children. They disciplined him, pounded into him their expectations and the consequences of breaking those expectations, and I'm sure loved him as much as their hearts were able. But in the end the love they showed him was not enough to break through the shell of a child who considered himself unlovable. The many trips to the juvenile delinquent center proved to him what he already knew. They gave up on him...he gave up on himself.

So, when was enough really enough? Should it have been sooner than 7 years? Later? Was sending him to Juvenile Hall considered "tough love" or was it "giving up?" As the sister who suffered at HIS hands, I wish more had been done. Perhaps at the time I breathed a sigh of relief when we waved goodbye to him for a final time. But now, today, THIS day I wish they fought a little harder, tried a little longer, did for him the UNEXPECTED through keeping him home and insisting that all was NOT lost and that they would not, COULD NOT, be broken by a child who had already been broken more times than they could count.

I will be honest and say that I believe our parents adopted my brother thinking that somehow THEY could save him...THEY would defy the odds and break through where all others failed. I think all AP's (including my parents) need to go into ANY adoption, whether with a troubled child or not, with the expectation that lives are not perfect and that children experience all different situations when in the homes of other people, whether with their Natural Parents, Foster Parents, or in an orphanage and regardless of how long they spent elsewhere. All children are different, all homes are different, all situations are different. There is no telling how a child will respond when thrown into a new family and home. AP's need to be prepared for all the possible outcomes that might arise when they welcome a new child into the family. They need to take the time necessary to prove to their child that they DO love them and that they will not, CAN NOT, give up on them as their child expects, almost WANTS, them to do.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

He Replied!!!!

Well, probably just within minutes of my earlier post, Daddy sent a reply to my e-mail! I totally lost it as I cried and shook for several minutes before even opening the darn thing! When I did I couldn't even read it. I had to forward it to myself on my other computer so I could send DH an IM letting him know! Only then did I take a minute to read through his response! AND IT WAS GOOD (I had to convince C that Mommy was crying happy tears and there was no need for her to get upset).

First, he was very supportive in his response, letting me know that he would do all he can to help me search. He apologized that he doesn't have much information, and probably what he does have won't help, but just the fact that he took the time to get back to me and provide me with some small clues about where to begin means the world to me!!!!

His exact words...he would be happy to help me try to make contact with my birth mother. Not just search mind you...MAKE CONTACT!!!! He informed me that I was adopted through Albany County Department of Social Services. I was in an institution and apparently needed a home fairly quickly. He said they were very secretive and would not even tell them where I was born. The only reason Mommy and Daddy suggested my birth name was Irene was because when they adopted me I arrived with some medication that had the name "Irene" listed on the bottle. However, at this point he is not sure if that was the name given me by my Mom or if it was an alias provided by the orphanage so that my parents and their families would not be able to find me. He has some other paperwork he will look through for information, but doubts any of it will help.

I cannot believe the weight I feel lifted off my shoulders! He KNOWS I want to search! And he's OK!!!!! His response did not come across as anxious or upset or hurt in any way. He is "happy" to help me search!!!!! I have spent my entire afternoon looking through registries, listing my info on registries, googling different orphanages and institutions open in 1976/1977 (I was born in 1974 but not adopted until late 1976/early 1977). As Daddy suggested, our first place to start is by calling Albany County Department of Social Services. I have also started registering with ISRR (International Soundex Reunion Registry) and filling out the form requesting "Non-Identifying Information" from the State of NY (they don't make it easy...I NEED A NOTARY!!!). I'm not sure if I'll ever sleep again! My friends at AAAFC all assured me that this frenzy is normal and that life will pretty much be put on hold while I search! Sorry girls...sorry DH!

I just cannot describe how I feel right now. Give me a couple days to come down off cloud 9. I'm sure many right now would think I was going a little crazy just to have gotten a response from Daddy after letting him know I'm ready to search. But folks...let me tell you...if you knew me in person you would KNOW what a big deal it was that I sent that e-mail on Monday, and, for me, what an even BIGGER deal it is to now know that biggest hurdle is behind me!!!!! I'M FREE!!!!!!

Sinking In

The gravity of what I did on Monday is finally sinking in. The numerous possible outcomes plague my heart and soul every waking AND sleeping moment of my day.

Will Daddy even see my e-mail? He checks his e-mail so infrequently...what if he never sees it? And how will I know if he does? Will he respond immediately upon reading it? Will he wait to gather his thoughts before replying? Will he simply put together all the information he has and just quietly ship it to me with no warning?

And to that...what information DOES he have? He MUST know the agency or organization through which he adopted me! But what information, if any, does he have about my Mom? Supposedly she sent my parents a letter a year after I was adopted. Does he still have that or was it thrown away and forgotten as an insignificant piece of MY history?! More importantly than any bit of information he has, does he know her NAME? All I really want...all I've ever her name! WHO IS SHE????? Why, on God's green earth, do I not know the name of the woman who gave birth to me? WHY????

All these questions got me thinking about the world of adoption as I know it (here is where all the AP's who read my blog need to start paying attention). So many times I read and hear AP's discuss how open they are with their children about their adoption. They talk about this openness thing in the same breath they utter THE phrase. You know the one. The one that means they are open to discussing adoption with their children. Yeah...I know you know. THAT phrase. The "our children will always know that when they are ready to talk about their adoption and ask questions we will be here for them. All they need to do is ask" UH-HUH! THAT PHRASE!!!!! "ALL THEY NEED TO DO IS ASK!"

Well, guess what Moms and Dads. It's WAY easier for YOU to say than it is for us "children" to do! My parents used that phrase. They had 1, maybe 2, real, "honest", "lengthy" conversations with me about my adoption. They ended the conversation(s) with "if you ever want to search or ever want to know more about you Mom all you have to do is ask. We can help you with anything you need." Aaaahhhh yes. Sure. Do you know how old I am? That phrase was used on me when I was 16 years old. I am now 35 years old and still know nothing about my adoption OR my natural family! And what's worse? I feel AWFUL for having asked! It took every ounce of courage in my being to send the e-mail I sent on Monday! I am 35 years old and still worry about hurting my Daddy by asking about my adoption. Why? Why should I be so scared? After all, I'M 35 YEARS OLD!!!!

I'm scared because I don't want to hurt him. I'm scared because I don't want him to think I don't love him anymore. I'm scared because I don't want him to relive the pain he and Mommy likely faced before making the decision to adopt. I'm scared because I don't want him to be angry with me for asking. I'm scared because we didn't openly discuss adoption in my family and I don't know if that's because THEY didn't want to talk about it or because I NEVER ASKED!

So please, Please, PLEASE...whatever AP's are reading who want to "get it" and want to "do the right thing" for their children....PLEASE discuss adoption with your children! No matter how hard it is for YOU, just remember how much harder it is for your child! They have the weight of being perfect, of not hurting Mommy and Daddy, on their shoulders. YOU are the adult...allow your child to be a child. Don't place the adult burden of seeking their OWN information on them when they are so young. Talk about it. Allow them to live it. It IS who they IS how they joined the family! PUSH for it to be real...PUSH for it to be discussed!

In these last few years of research,I have never ONCE heard an adoptee express that their parents talked TOO much about adoption. I HAVE, however, heard on more than one occasion, adoptees express pain and sadness that adoption was NOT discussed more openly and honestly in their home.

So, the gravity of what I accomplished on Monday is finally sinking in! At 35 years old I finally said "I have a right to know and I HAVE A RIGHT TO ASK!" If only my parents had made it easier for me........

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hurdle #1 - JUMPED!

Not as gracefully or smoothly as I hoped, but I jumped it nonetheless!

I sent Daddy an e-mail today telling him that I'm ready to start searching for my Mom. There might have been a hint of "asking permission" in my words, but really it was just straightforward with an "I'm ready to do this and am prepared for the hurt" feel to it.

My Daddy is a strong man who shows very little emotion. I know he loves me...he tells me that all the time. And I know he cares for me more than words could ever express. He has always recognized my sensitive side and knows that I can sometimes take things harder than someone else might. For that reason, he has always tried to protect me from as much as he can control. When Mommy was dying of cancer he often minimized the severity of her disease and the pain she was feeling as it ravaged her body. Even the night she died he never suggested that the end was only hours away. When he had his own heart attack, 2 years after Mommy's death, he waited to call me until he was in the hospital, just hours from open heart surgery. He never asked that I come be with him, knowing how much I fear sickness, pain, and even death. Admittedly, it took his assistant pastor to call and encourage me to come before either he or I recognized the NEED for me to be there with him.

Knowing my Daddy, the details surrounding my adoption fall under this same category. He has protected me for as long as possible from the pain that might surface as a result of searching for my Mom. But I have reached a point in my life where I am ready to face that potential pain. I'm also ready to embrace that potential joy and freedom! And for that reason, I finally shared with him that whether it brings tears of joy or tears of sadness, I am now ready to know more about my Mom and her family!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Drum Roll Please.......

That big conversation I was planning to have with never materialized. Partially cuz I'm a wimp...partially because I saw him maybe a total of 10 hours the whole time we were together, and only 2 1/2 of those hours were we alone! I got up a tiny bit of courage when we were driving to and from the grocery store together but before I could work up the nerve to start he began asking me about DH's job concerns and that was that...nerve just plain sucked right out of me. I could have also brought something up the 1/2 hour we were together in the car on our way to and from dinner Friday but that was our last evening together and I just couldn't bring myself to spring it on him with no other time to sit alone and talk after the fact.

Oh, I'm sure I could have forced a way to have the conversation. I probably could have just crawled up on his bed one afternoon and just poured out my heart. And we sure did enough talking about his girlfriend this past week that I'm sure it would have been a relief for him to talk about somthing ELSE. But, once again, I chickened out! It's all such a big, silly, cyclical mess! I won't really actively start searching until I talk to him about it but I won't talk to him about it because I'm either too nervous to break the news to him or I'm actually more anxious about searching and this is a passive-aggressive way to continue putting it off!

UGH!!! Why can't this be simple?! Why does being adopted have to be so stinking hard sometimes? It's situations like this that just make me HATE adoption! Natural kids don't have these issues...WHY DO I????????