Empty Cereal Box

Views From Inside an Adoptee

April 02, 2006

My story, Part 1-Before Birth

It was very gratifying to find comments on my first post yesterday. I feel very lucky. What happened was that yesterday I felt so depressed that I could hardly get out of bed. So I did what I've always done. I picked up my journal and wrote my heart out. Eventually I got to a place where I sent out a plea to the universe for help and understanding, for tools, focus, and direction. Otherwise, I wrote, there's nothing for me here.

Despite the love and support of my husband sometimes I can't see my way out of this darkness. No matter how grateful I am about the wonderful elements in my present life, I can't wipe away the missing part of me that began the day I was taken from my biological mother.

So the universe answered as I discovered blogs by adoptees yesterday. And the Chosen Babies list sys admin added me to the list. Thank you! I can't ask for more than that right now. So along with the blogging community, there is a whole world of new friends to share with on this list. Thank you, thank you. I plan to read as many blogs as I can and comment on their posts as well as to keep up with the list. Years ago I was on Jeff Hartung's wonderful (long-defunct) list, adoptees@ucsd.edu. After it folded, there was another huge hole in my life, and I gave up looking for other lists as heavily trafficked as that one.

The first book my mother read to me was The Chosen Baby. I think I was around three or four years old. Even at such an early age little red flags went up. I sensed a dishonesty, a hidden agenda, but of course I couldn't express them as such then. I got my first taste of distrust toward my adoptive parents and toward the world. I find it interesting that most of the reviews of the book on Amazon of this 1940s book are positive. Only one reviewer is in accord with my own feelings about the glaring absences of this sentimental story that supports the need of adopters to feel good about what they have done with support from the adoption industry.

I don't mean to be bitter. I certainly don't want to cling to negativity. Each of us has our own story. I know that some adoptees say they are completely happy with their adoptive parents. Other adoptees say that the happy ones are in denial about their true feelings. I can't prove any of it. All I know is my own experience. The saddest stories of all are adoptees who were/are neglected and/or abused. I believe that even if adoptive parents are models of love and kindness, the adoption system has historically been a form of abuse. But before I jump up on my soapbox, I'll begin telling my own story as piecedtogether slowly over my lifetime. Some of the pieces only came to light in 2004 when my CI (confidential intermediary) found my birth aunt. But now I've hit another dead end, which I'll cover in the course of my story. There are (and will always be)huge holes in the story. So, like adoptees tend to do, I make up stories in my head to fill the holes. I don't mean to make them up. It's just that I want so much to feel whole and human for once in my life. I'll try to stick to the "facts" as were told to me here, though.

I was born in California in 1949 when closed adoptions were the norm for the growing population of us post-war babies, the nefarious baby boomers. So, there are many of us who remain shackled by this cruel system. My birth aunt told me that my mother, from Buffalo, New York, had been unhappily married to an unfaithful man. They had a baby girl and continued their marriage. For whatever reason, my mother had her own affair and got pregnant. She was the rebel of the family. One of her lover's friends told her he knew about a doctor in Bakersfield, California who had connections to couples who wanted to adopt.

So my pregnant mother (then 24 years old) scribbled the doctor's phone number on a scrap of paper, spent all of her money on a bus ticket and took my half-sister, by that time five years old, to California. When she arrived in Bakersfield, she found a pay phone and told her little girl to kiss the nickel for luck, because it was the last of their money, that if the phone number was bad or got disconnected, they would be homeless and on the streets.

Luckily, she got through and someone came to pick them up. She rented the converted garage behind the doctor's house and got various jobs as grocery store clerk, aircraft assembler, and nightclub singer to support herself and her little girl while waiting for connections to adopters and for my birth. After she had made enough money, she bought a car and drove back to Buffalo when her father, my grandfather, died. While she was there, she persuaded her mother and brother (my grandmother and uncle) to move to Bakersfield with her. My aunt stubbornly refused to go. They got into a row and Yvonne pushed my mother down a flight of stairs and stomped on her glasses. My aunt had quite a temper (like I have). But eventually she had to give in. Majority rules. So my mother, half sister, grandmother, aunt (begrudgingly), and uncle all left Buffalo and drove to California to move into the converted garage. My aunt also found work in a department store while my grandmother watched my sister and uncle, who was thirteen at the time.

So that ends Part 1 of my story. Part 2 gets written tomorrow.

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