My Adoption Story, Part III: The Reunion

This is the third in a multi-part series of posts sharing my personal adoption story. If you haven’t already, read My Adoption Story, Part I: My Adoption and My Adoption Story, Part II: The Search before reading the post below. 

I stated “My name is Minnie. I was born October 12, 1973 and I was given up for adoption.” I paused and she practically screamed “Oh my God! I always knew this day would come!”

So there I was… speaking to my BIOLOGICAL grandmother! It was a life defining moment for me! She shared that my biological mother had 2 other children who didn’t know about me, so she suggested that she be the one to call her and that she would put her in touch with me.

That evening she called my biological mother every 1/2 hour to see if she was home yet (remember, verge of the internet here, almost NO ONE had cell phones at the time). My biological half brother kept answering the phone and was alarmed at the number of times his grandmother was calling. He thought for sure that something had happened to his grandfather. When my biological mother finally got home, she returned the phone call and was stunned to learn of my call reaching out to find her. As soon as she hung up, both of her children stared at her, waiting for an explanation.

In an ironic twist of fate, my biological mother had been thinking a lot about me the weekend prior (the very weekend that *I* was searching for her) and had decided to tell her children about me. My biological brother did not answer her page, but my biological sister had sat down with her and listened to the whole story from start to finish. As my mother explained the reason for their grandmother’s call, my biological brother was IRATE that this was the first he was hearing of this. She explained to him how she had been 19 and had made the choice to give me up for adoption. My biological brother’s first reaction was that of anger as he yelled “Does she have the same father as me??????” She replied “No, her father is Baloo Bear!” This did not impress my biological brother and he called her a whore.

My biological mother called me the next afternoon. I don’t remember a lot of the details of the conversation. I do remember that we talked long enough that I was late picking up my oldest daughter from kindergarten, though. We made plans to meet the next week at a chinese restaurant in a town central to both of us (we were living 11 miles part at the time I located her). I asked her to bring pictures of what she looked like at the time I was born figuring it would be like looking in a mirror.

Last that week, I called her. I hadn’t been able to get her out of my mind. She said she felt the same way and we agreed to move up our meeting date.

I remember being nervous when I drove to meet her. Would our conversations come naturally, like 2 people separated at birth? Time has dulled my memory of that day, almost 15 years ago now. I remember sitting with her at a table in the very busy Chinese restaurant. I remember her asking me if anyone at a nearby table was related to me and thinking that was an odd question. She explained that she had considered bringing someone to the restaurant in case I tried to kill her. Uhhhhh, really? Is there an epidemic on adult adoptees killing their birth parents that I dont know about? It was at this table that she shared the story of how I had been conceived on New Year’s Eve. She had been dating my biological father until that fall, but they had separated. She was babysitting that New Year’s Eve and had invited him over. Clearly one thing led to another and she ended up pregnant. She said she didn’t tell anyone and the first that anyone learned of her pregnancy was at 7 months along when her mother found a letter she had written to try to secure an abortion. She shared that my biological father had never known of the pregnancy and that she would not share his information with me because she believed he would kill her and me both if he found out. I also remember her showing me pictures of her trip to Hawaii, taken just 2 weeks after I was born. She shared details about her life and her children and asked me very little about mine.  It was during this very first meeting that I knew my suspicions about her had always been correct. She hadn’t given me  for adoption because she cared about MY life, but because she cared about not “ruining” her life.

I went back to her house that night and met her husband and my biological half sister. The minute I walked in the door, her husband exclaimed “My God! She does look just like Mary Sue”! (I later learned that Mary Sue was my biological aunt on my father’s side of the family.)

The next few weeks we continued to have a strained but amicable relationship. We occasionally got together for visits and talked on the phone. For my 24th birthday, she baked a cake and used those sugar letters from the supermarket to spell out “Happy Birthday Birth Name” and she bought me an opal ring (my birthstone). The thing I remember most about that day was having a terrible migraine and just wanting her to leave so I could try to sleep through the pain.

In November, I attended a football game that my biological half sister was cheering at. My birth mother introduced me to various people by my birth name. My kids found this incredible confusing that I was being called by another name. Hell, *I* found this confusing when people would call that name out. Why would I look? That’s NOT my name.

In December, we were still in communication and got together a few days before Christmas to exchange gifts. This was the first time I ever connected with my biological half brother. He was 19, but somehow managed to bring a bottle of Jose Cuervo tequila as my gift. The fact he even brought something was miraculous because he had been very resistant to establishing any relationship with me.

In January, my biological brother came over and stayed the night before a skiing trip we were taking together. I remember that night in 1998 very clearly. As he & I sat watching the Winter Olympics, we began discussing the day he had first learned I exist. He shared his story with me and about the fact he hadn’t seen his own birth father since he was 4. He commented that he didn’t even know where to find his birth father. As you might remember from Part II, I had found the marriage license for my birth mom’s 1st marriage and I had called the number I found matching that name… ultimately my biological brother’s birth father! I shared the story with him and gave him the number. I commented to him that I our birth mother would not give me the name of MY birth father. He looked shocked and said “I know who he is!”… he went on to share that the story of the day he first learned I existed and how he had asked if we had shared the same father and was told “No, her father is Baloo Bear!” So there we sat, a brother and a sister each able to pass on the name of our biological fathers. It was a surreal moment and we did not know it at the time, but it signified the beginning of the end.

My biological brother called his birth father during that next week. His birth father was thrilled to hear with him and they decided to meet. My biological brother packed some things in the car and make the long drive to see him in Florida. They had an amazing reunion and both were thrilled to connect after 15 years of being apart. Saying my birth mom was livid would not even begin to describe her anger. I can still clearly remember her high pitched screaming saying how I had ruined everyone’s lives, telling me that just because *I* was ready to search for my roots did not mean her 19 year old son was ready for such things.

Over the course of the next 2 months, things went from bad to worse. My birth mother was completely irrational and would often call screaming if she believed her son was with my family. At one point, she showed up waving photos of my brother and I telling my husband that the pictures confirmed we were having some sort of inappropriate relationship (we were cheek to cheek in the photos). Mickey laughed at her… he had TAKEN the photos himself and knew that she was completely losing her mind. We had to call the police that night to have her and her new husband removed from our home.

She ultimately made my biological brother choose between us. He (understandably) chose her and I have not spoken to him in the more than 14 years that have passed. I did use social media to check in on him over the years and learned he is married with 2 sons. I am happy for him and I hope he continues to do well.

As for my birth mother, I did try to contact her again about 2 years after this falling out. We had a nasty conversation on the phone where she denied knowing who I was, stating that she had only 2 children and I was NOT one of them. In fact, she went so far as to go to the police to try to get a restraining order. The very best part of that was the fact that it was through FAMILY court and she was required to list our relationship on the paperwork. I felt vindicated that she could NOT deny my history. I hadn’t planned to fight the restraining order because I didn’t plan to have any further contact, but a friend of mine who is a lawyer recommended that I not allow it saying that it would reflect poorly on me. We went to court and she didn’t show up, so the restraining order was dropped.

I have occasionally thought about her over the years, mostly with disgust. As I shared in Part I, I had always believed in my heart that she was a selfish woman. Meeting her confirmed that. I am glad I had the opportunity to know my siblings, if only for a short time, and I am glad that I pursued meeting her despite the painful outcome.

Continue reading My Adoption Story in this post: My Adoption Story, Part IV: My Biological Dad

The Story Before The Story

Mickey and I first talked about foster parenting in 1996. We actually attended an open house at the agency that we later decided to be come licensed with. At that time, we had been married less than a year and had 3 young children. The agency discouraged us from fostering, saying we would be better suited when our biological kids were a little older. We were disappointed but agreed to shelve the idea. During the throws of parenting 5 children, we had our hands full but the topic did come up sporadically.

A few years ago, a good friend of ours decided to pursue adoption. She initially looked at adopting internationally, but ended up adopting a foster child who was a student in her first grade class that year (I will call the child Flik to make the story telling easier.) The little girl’s story was sad. She was placed in a foster family with her younger sister (I’ll call her Dot.). The family had decided to adopt Dot but felt that they did not have an attachment to Flik. The foster parents happened to mention this to my friend at a parent-teacher conference and to make a long story short, my friend adopted Flik against all odds (being a single parent and a breast cancer survivor).

Fast forward to 2010. My friend had kept in touch with Flik’s former foster family… after all, they still had Dot. One day while the two of them were talking, the former foster parent told my friend that she had been wrong about having an attachment to Dot. She said that Dot had Reactive Attachment Disorder and asked if my friend would like to adopt Dot since she had already adopted Dot’s sister, Flik. When my friend relayed the story to me, I was stunned. My friend took this “offer” to heart- she did a lot of soul searching and consulted with others that could help her decide if this would be a good choice for her daughter, Flik. Ultimately, she decided that it was not in Flik’s best interest to have Dot live with them. Due to some medical issues, she was dealing with a lot and Flik’s therapist felt that it was important that Flik remain “special” in her mother’s eyes because of the previous disruption that resulted in her sister being adopted.

The former foster parent had some brief talks with her state and learned that if she were to “give Dot back” that the state would consider taking her biological child as well. The state told her that returning an adoptive child was no different than giving up a biological child and she would likely be charged with neglect. Whether or not this is true in her state, I don’t know. I thought so at the time, but now I wonder if that was just a scare tactic to get her to keep the child she adopted.

One day during the summer while my friend and I were talking about the situation, we dared to dream… we wondered aloud if this woman would consider US to be Dot’s family. This would allow Dot and Flik to continue to have a close relationship while still remaining separate and able to be the center of each of our worlds. My friend worked hard over the next few months to build a closer relationship with this former foster mom. At the beginning of the next year, she even took Dot for a weekend visit and stopped here on her way back from their getaway. I remember it like it was yesterday. (We still have pictures from the visit hanging in our home!) Our biological kids were not only on board with the idea, but excited when they finally got to meet this beautiful little girl they hoped would become their younger sister.

Shortly after this visit, the former foster mom stopped returning my friend’s calls and the dream began to slowly fade away. We began to discuss the possibility that maybe there was another child out there who needed us. In fact, maybe there was even a sibling group who would benefit by being able to remain together in our care! We had seen first hand what had happened with Flik and Dot and didn’t want that to happen to any other children. We knew we couldn’t “save the world”, but believed we could handle a sibling group of 2-3 children and make a difference in their lives.

Just 5 months after the only visit we had with Dot, I made the call to the agency we had visited so many years ago and scheduled Mickey and myself for the very next open house- the first step to begin the foster adoption process!

As a follow up, at he beginning of the next year, my friend finally connected with the former foster mom who had stopped returning phone calls shortly after that weekend getaway. The former foster mom said that Dot was too upset when she would see her biological sister, Flik, and that she would cry for days after about missing her, so she had made the decision to sever their relationship permanently. My hearts breaks for both of these little girls. I wish there was more I could do. Dot lives with adoptive parents who do not have any attachment to her and who don’t want to keep her and now, through no fault of her own, she no longer has a relationship with her sister, either. It’s sad.

Living what we have over the past nine months has taught me not to judge another’s situation. I am trying my best to believe that the former foster mom is working diligently with Dot to establish an attachment and not keeping her (and emotionally neglecting her ) simply to be able to keep her biological children. I pray that the former foster mom really did have Dot’s best interest at heart when she decided to terminate the sibling visits. My gut tells me I am wrong, though, and that Dot will be forever damaged at the hand of her adoptive mother.

The irony of the fact we purposely sought a sibling group that ultimately ended in disruption for one of the siblings is not lost on me. It’s something that I struggle with almost every day. I believe in my heart, though, that this is in both Donald & Daffy’s best interest. Daffy deserves a home where she can be protected from her brother’s brutal attacks and Donald deserves a home where he can focus on healing himself from a life filled with abuse and trauma and where he can learn to have a safe and appropriate relationship with his sister. In a perfect world, we would be adopting both of these beautiful children…. but, then again, in a perfect world, they wouldn’t have been abused and neglected in the first place.

Daddy Moments

While riding in the boat this weekend, I noticed that Daffy seemed sullen. I am not sure what was on her mind, but she was very quiet and withdrawn. Mickey  must have noticed the same thing. I heard him call to her and considered looking back to see if she was getting in some sort of trouble, but decided I was enjoying myself on the front of the boat too much to engage in whatever Mickey was clearly able to handle on his own.

A few moments later, I heard him gently giving Daffy instructions on how to drive the boat. I whipped my head around to find that Mickey had called Daffy up to the controls! My heart swelled! Over the past 9 months, Daffy has not gotten nearly as close with Mickey as she has with me. I think, in part, it’s because of the domestic violence she witnessed in her birth home at the hand of her birth father and, in part, because of having lived in a group home run by women for the 2.5 years prior to living with us. In any case, witnessing the two of them sharing this moment was incredible!

Mickey explained to Daffy how to find a fixed point on the horizon and steer the boat in that direction. When she overcompensated because the boat didn’t react to her slight movements, he was patient in guiding her to turn the wheel back. Even at moments when I was sure we were headed for collision with another boat head on, he didn’t become alarmed. He calmly explained to her how to right the boat and waited patiently as she corrected it.

Throughout, Daffy was glowing. The excitement shown in her eyes and I saw a closeness between the two of them that I have never seen before. I was overwhelmed with emotion, tears in my eyes, seeing Mickey’s perseverance. He has faced greater challenges than I have in this journey to become the parents of such a beautiful little girl. He has fought against the odds to win Daffy over, and in that moment, I was sure he finally had.

Meeting Daffy & Donald’s Birth Mom

Ahhhhhh, well this post is now 5 days over due. I could kick myself for waiting so long to blog, but you all know there is never enough time in the life of a busy biological/foster/adoptive Mom!

Last week we met Daffy & Donald’s birth Mom. I had been really excited about meeting her, but the day we were to meet, she sent an email saying she didn’t “support” waiting until after Daffy’s adoption to see her. Ummmmm, well, okay then…. clearly we should go against everything that Daffy’s therapist is recommending to let you see her ahead of the adoption? On what grounds? Oh yeah….. the fact you had your rights terminated because you were abusive and neglectful to your children. Grrrrrrrrr… I know I shouldn’t be so bitchy, but her email really put me into a bad mood that day. Maybe it’s wrong to feel like I was the “good guy” for supporting her having a relationship with the kids, but I had been feeling like I was a saint for my going above and beyond my own limits to support this and her email made me feel used.

So, fast forward to the actual visit…. we arrived right on time and saw that the Birth Mom and the Adoption Specialist were already waiting outside the diner where we had agreed to meet.  My stomach was in knots. We parked and Mickey and I walked over and were introduced. Birth Mom stuck out her hand quickly so there was no weird indecisiveness about whether or not we should hug. (I have to admit, though, there was a little part of me that hoped that we would both be so overcome with emotion that we would embrace. I am such a dreamer….)

Shortly after we arrived, the clinician and the case worker both arrived. It was too difficult to get a table so the 6 of us decided to order take out and eat outside at a picnic table. In retrospect, I wish I had done more planning with the team about a list of topics to discuss. Things felt very strained as the birth mom and I tried to avoid eye contact yet both act jovial as I updated her as to how her own biological child has been doing for the past 6 months. I can’t express the level of weird that this reached.

Anyway, probably the biggest thing to come out of the visit was the birth mom stating that she needed to see Daffy before the adoption to find out if she “really wanted to be adopted.”  She said that she could not stop fighting for her until she knew that adoption is what Daffy wanted. She went on to say that she had met with a lawyer about fighting to stop the adoption and fighting to get Daffy back. We all sat in stunned silence as we listened to her talk. My thoughts were racing a mile a minute. I knew that if I was in her shoes, I would want to know the same thing. I wouldn’t want my kids to think that I ever gave up on them for even a minute. That said, I also felt it was a really “ballsy” move on her part to try to get us to agree to let her see Daffy before the adoption (which Daffy’s therapist has advised against on multiple occasions). I felt that it would be asking A LOT too much of Daffy to ask her to sit in front of both of her families and ask her to choose, especially when there is no “choice” to be made. Daffy is nine. She doesn’t get to decide what is in her best interest. The state makes those choices (at least until we adopt her in October.)

Somehow we managed to get through that part of the conversation without it coming to blows and finished our visit about an hour and a half after it started. As we were parting ways, I asked if it would be okay for me to get a picture taken with the birth mom. I have scrapbooking in my blood, and this was a HUGE moment, I couldn’t let it pass by without a photo. I later learned that the birth mom was “really touched” that I asked to have my picture taken with her. That was probably the moment I realized how little she knows me.

How would I feel if my children were taken from me? How would I feel when, 4 years after TPR, being asked to come back onto the team to help one child while the other was in the process of being adopted? Would I trust that the state who had mishandled the case so badly to have finally chosen a family that could love my daughter like I had? Could ANYONE love my child like I had? I have a ton of empathy for this woman, this woman who birthed my child, this woman who has never for a single moment stopped loving my child. I honestly can’t say that I would ever stop fighting either.

As we left the visit, I received a text message from the caseworker asking me to call her. That was weird in and of itself, because caseworkers here dont give out their cell phone numbers. Anyway, I called her back and she was mortified at what the birth mom had said about considering trying to stop the adoption and reassured me numerous times that this was not possible.  She shared that the plan is set and the plan is final… we WILL be adopting Daffy. I told her that we hadn’t been all that stressed about it, figuring the time line was too close for things to change anyway, but thanked her for her support. (I feel like this caseworker is the person that has almost single handedly saved Daffy from her fate of displaced adoptive homes and her brother’s ongoing abuse. Her text /call is just one of a million reasons I have to thank her….)

Fast forward to today. I received the first email from the birth mom since we met last week. I can’t put into words how intense these email communications are for me. She is so raw, so honest. She apologized for coming off hard and seeming threatening to the adoption. She shared that she had talked with friends, family and even another foster parent and that she had come to realize that asking Daffy to make a choice is something she should never have to do. She went on to say that all she wanted to know is that Daffy is “happy ,safe,  loved  and well taken care of” and that she knows she has those things with Mickey and me. What more could we possibly ask of this woman?

I am impressed time and time again with her. I don’t mean to minimize her role in having the kids taken away in the first place- she made some very bad choices- but in the past few months, she has gone above and beyond the expectations of what the team has had for her. She has made herself available for every requested meeting and visit (all while dealing with her own issues with a new husband and stepdaughter at home- something I will not be sharing on this blog). She has acted appropriately and said all the right things to both kids, despite her own feelings of loss and turmoil. And most of all, she has done this without being in therapy herself. I honestly feel like she is the super hero of birth moms! She has put the needs of the kids above herself and there is nothing I respect more.

I wrote her back today thanking her for her honesty and reassuring her of my plan for her to  have continued contact with Daffy. There was a little part of me that wondered if I should mention “if appropriate”, but I left that part out. If she has been this incredible this early on in the process, I believe I can only expect good things from her to come! 🙂

On a side note, she also wrote to Daffy again this morning. I forwarded her email to Daffy and then  required Daffy to check her email. Daffy logged in, read one of the 2 birth mom emails that was waiting, checked and replied to several other emails, read the second email from her birth mom and then signed out. I asked if she was planning to reply and she stated that she wasn’t in a “typing mood”….. UGH. I KNOW that her birth mom must be assuming that I am saying something negative about her (or at at the very least, not encouraging her to reply), but that is completely not true. I considered MAKING her reply, but a her therapist’s voice in the back of my head reminded me I need to let her do this at her own pace and in her own way, even though I might look like the bad guy stuck in the middle. *sigh*