The Adoption Experience; You Never Outgrow It

new baby

Last Saturday, I went to the monthly meeting of Adoptees MN. I’ve been meaning to attend a meeting for the past six months but something always came up. The meetings last ninety minutes, plus an hour driving time. That seemed like more personal time than I could afford to give up.

But every day I’ve been running to the mailbox to see if I have a response from the court about my request for my original birth certificate (OBC). And every day that I don’t receive an answer, I get more and more frustrated and pissed off. At this point in my life, it seems insane that I have to go through this wait to get a record of MY birth.

During the course of my OBC effort, I noticed that my post adoption birth certificate was issued one year, four months and one week after I was born. What the ?! That probably doesn’t mean much to anyone else, but it’s damn freaky to me.

child on a rocking horse

Back to the Adoptees MN meeting… I decided I kind of needed to go.

Only four other people showed up, which they said was unusual, but was possibly because a lot of high school students were having their graduation parties so people were busy.  It was actually best for me that there were so few people there as it was less overwhelming, and there was more time to get to know just a few individuals and ask questions.

It was so good to talk to people who could relate to my experience and were able to confirm that what I’m going through and feeling is “normal.”

I’m amazed I’m still affected by something that happened over sixty years ago, but I am. My emotions around adoption are more on the surface right now. That’s probably because of the birth certificate challenge and discovering that my book is more about being adopted than I thought it was going to be.

child on bouncy horse

Being adopted was supposed to only be part of the backstory. Instead, separation from my birth parents, the secrets surrounding adoption, and the screwed up sense of identity that results seem to be the main theme.

Conversations with a friend have helped me better understand the experience of birth mothers. I knew it had to be a traumatic experience but didn’t understand that the effects are just as complex and ongoing for the birth mom as the effects that I’ve been carrying around.

The following points aren’t true for all birth mothers, but they are true for way too many, especially before open adoption became more common:

  • There’s the loss of a child that the mother has carried for nine months and given birth to.
  • There’s the expectation that the woman who has lost her baby will carry on as if the whole pregnancy and birth never happened, even though her body is still in “baby mode.”
  • There’s the abuse of the system that handles the adoption.
  • There’s the effect the pregnancy and adoption has on the mother’s relationship with her family.
  • There’s the weight of “the secret” that everyone involved in the adoption carries.
  • There’s how the adoption continues to affect how a woman feels about herself and the people and world around her. She will live the rest of her life based on lessons she’s learned about trust, betrayal, the lack of say or control she had in the decision, and the experience of suffering a loss that no one wants to talk about or, perhaps. even allow her to grieve.

While talking to my friend, she said, we don’t even allow people to adopt kittens or puppies until they’ve at least been weaned. And yet we remove babies soon after birth and put them into the care of a foster home or children’s home until an adoptive family is found and approved.

I had never thought about that before, but I sure think about it now…

female portrait

I met my birth mom but never really got to know her very well. I struggle to communicate with people even when they are good conversationalists and are carrying most of the conversation load. If I’m trying to talk to someone who is hard of hearing, nervously flitting around, unable to sit still, and who seems so fragile, both physically and mentally, that I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing, you might as well forget it.

And yet I did observe who she was every once in a while. The woman who loved to sing and dance and who told the most unbelievable stories about herself (who knows how much was true).

female portrait

But I also saw the woman who could fly into rages, seemingly from out of the blue.

I don’t know if the knowledge I have now would have made any difference in our relationship. I would still have been up against the huge wall of fear both of us carried and that stood between us.

my mother and me

It won’t make much sense to anyone else, but I feel that getting my real birth certificate will somehow help. I’ll be able to see and hold a piece of that beginning with my birth parents.

I expect that the grief I have felt over losing them at the start and then again when they died will rise up in me again. But I think that will be a good thing. Because I’m now at a point in my life where  I have given myself permission to feel what I feel even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else.

horseback riding

*You can hover over the photos to bring up captions.




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  1. I’ve never understand the thing with the birth certificate in the States, and it seems even more complicated in adoption. I wonder why that is? Why can’t anybody just get the birth certificate at birth (resp. the parents or adoptive parents) as it is done in other countries? In Germany we have a “family book” where all these certificates get into – birth, baptism (if any), marriage, death. It’s utterly weird to me that one has to fight for their birth certificate. Is it a control thing? A power thing? I simply don’t understand.

    You also brought good points up about the birth mother who gave up her child and her process of grief. Another taboo area? I can imagine that it is a certain place of hurt that will stay with the birth mother through her entire life – and she probably doesn’t have many people she can talk about it and thus process it. How incredibly sad and cruel.

    1. Carola, people get their official birth certificate soon after birth normally. My son has his. And if you lose it, you can get a copy. And I believe adoptions carried out after 1975 can also get their original birth certificates at age 18 or 21 (I need to learn more facts about those laws). And some states are starting to allow all adoptees after a certain age to get their original birth certificate.

      In this day of DNA testing and Facebook, you can sort of track down your parents regardless, so there’s really no one that can truly have a “closed” adoption any more. So what’s the point?

  2. So moving! I understand how hard it is. My own mother died when I was 8. Grief never goes away completely no matter what age the separation happens. Adoption is currently a huge issue here. The Catholic Church in particular made such an appalling mess of things. You are great to keep pursuing it!! The horses saved you Maery Rose xx

    1. Yes, the horses did save me through so many things. The dogs too. I read the book “An Affair with My Mother: A Story of Adoption, Secrecy and Love” that addressed some of the terrible things that occurred in Ireland. You’re right; they made a terrible mess of things and abused those women so badly.

      It must have been so hard to lose your mother so young. I can’t imagine what that would have been like. Even now, I sometimes imagine calling my mother to tell her about something. Maybe she hears my imaginary conversations.

  3. What an impactful posting. Thank you for sharing your feelings. I’ll try to make a long story short. My sister’s daughter attempted suicide multiple times after giving birth to her son. The boy went immediately into the foster care system. My sister was finally was able to get custody, but after six months she realized she just couldn’t raise this child at 67 years old. The fortunate part here was he was able to return to his foster parents. Again fast forward (I’ll spare you all the drama) the foster parents are working towards adoption. It will be interesting how all of this will impact this child…I guess only the future will tell. Keep sharing your story.

    1. Robin, as I talk about my adoption, I’m discovering more and more people who have been effected by adoption in some way. And yet it’s so rarely talked about. I hope things turn out well for your sister’s son. It sounds like he won’t end up in multiple foster homes, which is so hard on kids. I think if a child is given the freedom to ask questions and talk about how they feel openly, it makes all the difference in the world. It’s the “secrets” that cause difficulties for children.

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