I learned of my adoption at an early age. My parents handled my closed adoption in exactly the way all of the professionals back then prescribed. I can actually recall two different conversations in which it was revealed to me that I was in fact adopted.
I was born January 7, 1971. For the first year of my life my legal name was “Baby Boy Robinson.” I wouldn’t actually know this much detail until I was 30 years old. Mine was a closed adoption. My biological mother was told she was not to ever look for me or interfere in any way. She was not told this, but if she changed her mind within the 1st year of my life she could have had me back. She was intentionally not made aware of this.
When my parents told me the first time, I don’t think it quite sunk in. We were driving to vacation somewhere and I remember my parents explaining it to me in the best way I could understand, and I remember them reassuring me (to an extreme) about how they love me just the same as my older brother who was not adopted. My parents went to great lengths to make sure we were treated exactly the same.
My parents did not believe in spoiling us, and they maintained a fairly healthy lifestyle when it came to food. This probably comes from the fact that they both grew up in very modest apartments where food was not a luxury. That is to say that when the ice cream man would come around, it was very rare that we were afforded the opportunity to partake. We did, however, get allowances and it was clear early on that my brother was a saver and I was not. I remember bursting out the door one day with my allowance in hand at the sound of the ice cream truck. When I returned with an orange ice in hand, my mother immediately took my brother over there to buy him something. It was that important that he and I were treated equal. I don’t think his ice cream came out of his allowance though.
As I got older, I heard stories of how adopted kids would be furious with their parents when they found out. I didn’t understand this. Does it really matter? Clearly your parents have been taking good care of you. They obviously love you. I guess these kids felt like they had been told a big lie.
I was more inclined to be mad at my biological parents (if anything) but my parents also did an excellent job of assuring me that while they were not made aware of the specific circumstances, usually it was because the biological parents were not able to take care of a baby at that time. They further assured me that this couldn’t possibly have been an easy decision. All in all I was ok with it.
I did still wonder. What REALLY were the circumstances surrounding my adoption? Why COULDN’T they take care of me? Was I that much of a burden? I would fantasize that they were actually incredibly wealthy people who got pregnant out of wedlock and they would eventually come and give me millions of dollars. A child’s grandiose imagination to be sure – I still carry much of that with me, but I use it very differently today.
Into High School I had a hard time fitting in. By the time I graduated I was voted most unique. I like this now. I embraced the idea that I was different. Was it because I really didn’t care what other people thought or did I love the attention that got me?
I had many more questions about my adoption by the time I was 30. About 2 years clean from drugs and alcohol, I wondered if that was something that was in my biological family. It certainly wasn’t in my adoptive family. What WAS my biological nationality? What about other health concerns? My parents assured me when I was young that any relevant medical information was or would have been shared, but in 30 years a great deal more can be revealed. Who was I? Where did I come from? What was I doing on this planet? Looking back, I realized as a kid that I never really felt like I belonged anywhere. I looked different with my platinum blonde hair which grew darker as I got older just in time for me to begin to appreciate it. I was a lost soul and apparently an old soul according to my older and wiser peers. Was I lost because that was my DNA or was it because I was adopted?
At 2 years sober, my sponsor told me it was time to find my biological family. I resisted. “What for?” I queried. I made it 30 years without knowing. They didn’t want me, what need did I have in finding them now? I chose my sponsor well. He knew how to hit me over the head with the purest logic, and he knew that would appeal to me. Zachary explained simply to me that there would come a day when it would be too late to get questions answered and then whether I wanted to or not, I couldn’t. Zach further pointed out that it could only help, and that for all I knew they were hoping all these years just to know that I was ok. That I did in fact wind up with a very good family.
Zachary was right. He usually is, and I love and hate that about him. I did find my biological mother that year. She was still living in Tucson, AZ where I was born, and I flew out to see her. How I did it, well that’s probably the subject of another blog post, but let’s just say the internet made it easier while it was not without struggles and extreme persistence on my part. I suppose that’s the addict in me – once I make a decision to do something, nothing is going to stop me.
As soon as I saw my biological mom, a ton of questions were answered before we even said hello. I could see my face in hers. At the same time, it was awkward. Should I hug her? On one hand she’s my biological mother and on the other at 30 years old and having never known her, she was a complete stranger to me. Fortunately, feelings and sensitivity have always been one of my strong points (although at times I thought they were weaknesses). I gave her a hug and spent the weekend getting questions answered.
Biologically I am German and Irish. My biological father barely wanted to acknowledge me. By the time Barbara learned she was pregnant with me, he had gone off to war. It was 1971, so that makes it Vietnam. She had written him but he never responded. If he had been MIA, she would have gotten a letter back to that effect. She didn’t. About 5 years later, she ran into him and he showed no interest according to her. At this point I felt no need to pursue him. Being in the military, he would probably be easy to find, but what for? I got my questions answered, and it doesn’t sound like he wanted anything to do with me. Oh well. His loss.
Zachary was right again. Barbara was told she could never go looking for me but she always just wanted to know that I was ok – that she had made the right decision. Turns out it wasn’t her decision really. She was 21 and living at home with her parents who had her and several others to raise. Barbara couldn’t afford to raise me, and her father already had his hands full. It was my biological grandfather who insisted that I be put up for adoption.
I met a good portion of my biological family. Apparently I was the spitting image of one of my would-be uncles. It made my 1st cousin cry when she first saw me.
I hit the jackpot. Everyone was right in the end. My biological mother did the right thing. She gave me up so that I could have a better life. My parents were right to explain it to me several times as I was growing up. They took care and went to incredible lengths to make sure that my brother and I knew we were loved. They were also strict. They raised us with good values.
Would it have been better if my biological mother were allowed to be involved in my life? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I can see where it would be awkward. Would I have been more or less inclined as a kid to view my biological mom or my adoptive parents as my parents? Could I as a kid get used to the idea that they are ALL my parents? Possibly. I know it is done more and more often this way these days. At the same time, I have no concept of how that works. When I did find my biological mom I think it may have made my mom feel a little awkward. I made sure to do for her what she had done for me. I reassured her that I love her very, very much and that I needed to get some questions answered.
It has now been more than a few years since I spoke with my biological mom. We stayed in touch for a while on the phone and eventually drifted apart. She knows I am ok. I heard more from the other family members for a while. They mentioned she had a habit of being reclusive and only came out for holidays and such. Without a strong foundation, it can be hard to maintain an on-going relationship. I know she gave birth to me, and that’s important, but 30 years without knowing a thing about her, it’s like meeting someone for the first time. It really was meeting her for the first time. Maybe even after meeting and getting to know me a bit she is still honoring the agreement she made, not to intervene.
This is beautiful, sad & happy all at the same time. In a world full of snippets of information with one or two lines of communication becoming the norm, & with most people only posting pictures & stories that create an unrealistic view of a perfect life, I greatly appreciate your sharing this very personal part of your journey. I was feeling lonely & disconnected this morning until I read your story. One person’s brave & selfless act of honesty is another person’s salvation. Thank you. ~MH
Awesome, Martha. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. It’s always my hope, by asking people to share their stories, or sharing my own, to touch even one person and make a difference in some small way. I know it wasn’t easy for Seth to publicly share his story. I’m glad to hear it had an impact on you. And I’m sure there is a much larger community that has felt the way you do.
Hi Martha! Thank you so much. One thing that I love to remember is the we’re never alone. Sometimes all it takes is reading something that we can relate to. Other times it means picking up that 100lbs brick of a phone and reaching out to someone. Especially if we reach out to help someone. It sounds counter intuitive but it works. We get out of ourselves and our problems are diminished. Then we realize that most of our problems are much less serious than we think.
Writing this blog is sort of an example of that. I do it hoping (and knowing) it will help others. No one ever should feel alone, but I know that we often do. I sure do at times. Writing this is a great way to help others and me. The writing part itself is extremely therapeutic, but then the comments from people on Facebook and everywhere else reminds me once again of the most important thing.
We’re never alone.
So true, Seth, so true! Beautiful words, once again.
As I sat in the Dr.’s office I decided to read Baby Boy Robinson as I knew I has some time. The woman next to me changed seats as I talked to myself, cried, and laughed as I enjoyed this real life story of Seth whom I went to High School with. I vaguely remember knowing that Seth was adopted, but what a journey for him in all aspects of his life that was put on paper so wonderfully, most of which I did not know. What a good read!
Too funny, Rita! I love it when I’m reading something that makes me react out loud. So glad you enjoyed this one – especially knowing Seth personally. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Thanks Rita! It’s hard to imagine that it was so long ago when we were growing up together. Sometimes it feels like yesterday and other times it feels like it was another lifetime – like I’m not even sure if it was real. Thanks for reminding me that it was! It means a lot to me to still have friends from my childhood. As much as I hate to admit it, I suppose we have Facebook to thank for that!
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Seth! My husband was also given up for adoption at birth, although raised as an only child by older parents. His birth mother sent a letter to him at work shortly after we had our first child, and I was appalled to learn that he returned it unopened!! His birth mother was related to his adoptive mother. I believe she was the daughter of one of my MIL’s brothers or uncles, I’m not too sure. She was 16 when she had him, and as far as I know, never had any further contact. My husband wasn’t at all interested in meeting her, as he felt that would be disrespectful of his adoptive parents, who were the ones who sat up nights with him when he was sick. They were sure clueless as to how to handle his OCD tendencies. I’ve done a LITTLE searching, since I know her name, but have no idea whether she’s even still living, and haven’t pursued it, since my husband really isn’t interested, even though his adoptive parents have been gone for several years. We all have a story, don’t we??
I have always loved you do much and ha e always been so proud of you. Reading your blog brought back so many memories. I’m so glad that you are in such a good place. Stay well