Not All Adoptees Find a Happy Home

In honor of November being National Adoption Month, Portrait of an Adoption is running a special series called 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days.  Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by adoptees, birthparents, adoptive parents, waiting adoptive parents, and foster parents-turned-adoptive parents.  Painful and beautiful, these stories will bring you a deeper understanding of what adoption looks like, allowing you to appreciate the many brushstrokes that comprise a family portrait.

Not All Adoptees Find a Happy Home

By “Rachel”

I am a 32-year-old woman adopted at birth.

My biological mother found herself pregnant at sixteen years old.  Her boyfriend would not have anything to do with her once he found out she was pregnant, and her parents were not supportive so she chose adoption.

My adoptive parents had been trying to conceive for years with no success.

At a doctor’s appointment, the family doctor told my adoptive parents that he might have a solution/opportunity for all involved and arranged the adoption between my biological mother and my adoptive parents.  Fast forward through birth, attorneys, paperwork etc and there I am.  Transferred from one woman’s womb to another’s arms without so much as a glimpse or touch from the one who gave me life.

I ended up being one of three children from my adoptive parents’ marriage.  As a young child, I had a hard time with the idea of being adopted.  I looked so different from the rest of my family, with my platinum hair and blue eyes next to all of their dark hair and skin.  It was hard to have school projects dealing with family heritage and not be able to tell anyone where I came from.  I did not feel that I could say I knew who I was.

It did not help that my parents were miraculously able to conceive immediately after finalizing my adoption.  My brother is ten months younger than me, and he has never let me forget for one second that I am not blood; I am not real.  Of course, my parents reprimanded him, but the words still cut deep.  To this day, I do not have a good relationship with my brother.

I always wondered about my biological family.  Did I have brothers and sisters?  Why had they given me up?  How would my life have been different?

My adoptive parents divorced when I was two and my dad moved to Alaska.  I would not see him again until I was 13.

Throughout my childhood, I never felt close to my adoptive mother.  I felt that she was cold.  I hated the days I had to ride the school bus home to our house instead of waiting for my babysitter to pick us (my brother and I) up in her old blue van.  As I got older, the feelings got more intense.  Not only did I not feel close to her, I hated her.

I have never since then felt such intense emotion toward a person as I did toward her.  Now I do not have such intense feelings, but then – I had a horrible sense of not belonging.  There was some abuse that took place, emotional and physical.  She was very focused on men.  She was married several times, with countless men in between the relationships.

I remember when I was ten or eleven waking up with my mother gone at work and her creepy boyfriend still sleeping off his hangover in her room.  I cleaned up his vomit after he got up and was sick in the hall.  I remember times when she would tell me and my brother to choose which guy she should date next and I remember how hurt I was every time she broke up with someone who was very kind to me.

When I was young – maybe eight or nine, my mother took me to a salon and dyed my eyelashes and eyebrows because I refused to wear makeup and my hair was so light you couldn’t see my lashes.  When I was a little older, she told me I needed to starve myself for a couple of weeks before her wedding so I would look good enough.

When I was twelve, she told me she wished I would hurry up and start my period and stop being such a bitch.  When I was fourteen, I refused to make dinner for her current fling and she told me to either go make dinner or leave.

I left.

After a week or so of living on the street / with friends / down by the river, I was picked up by a friend of my mother, Linda, with whom I had always been close.  Linda and her husband were the parents I had always wanted.  I begged them to adopt me.  I lived with them for a couple of years.

When I was 15, Linda brought me a letter from my family doctor.  In the envelope was a letter from my biological mother.  She told me how often she thought about me and how she wondered if she had done the right thing.  She wanted to meet.

At this point, the emotions were overwhelming.  I did not know what to think.  I was angry.  I was not ready for this.  But I agreed.

I met my biological mother when I was sixteen.  Ironically enough, I was living less than a block from her childhood home.  I had trick-or-treated at the home of my biological grandmother.  It was all surreal, and I still was not ready.  My birthmother had come from Tennessee to see her family for Christmas and asked me to come over.

I went to the home of my biological grandmother for a few hours, and I sat in the corner and read a book.  I was so in shock.  People wanted to talk to me, to know about me.  But I couldn’t bring myself to interact with any of them.  My biological mother was angry.  Why was I being so rude? she wanted to know.  Everyone was there to see me.

She acted like she was trying to be my mother – this woman who had abandoned me sixteen years earlier.  I was dealing with so much pent up anger.  Later, we fought.  And then we did not speak again for a few years.

It has been a rough road.  I eventually was able to come to terms with my relationship with my adoptive mother.  It is more like an obligation than a relationship.  My biological mother and I eventually mended our relationship.  We talk, and we are both grateful to be in one another’s lives, but things are still a bit strained.  I never know exactly what to say.

I have made contact with two of my biological father’s kids, but have no siblings on my mother’s side.  I feel like I have been robbed of a real mother / daughter relationship.  I do not love my adoptive mother like a daughter should love her mother.  I don’t have the closeness with my biological mother that I feel like I should have.

Children should feel safe, loved and secure. I never felt those things. I felt, and still feel, like something is missing.

By “Rachel”


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  • Thank you for sharing your story. I can honestly say that I related completely with your childhood and lack of a mother/daughter relationship. It even seemed as though we lived through a parallel upbringing. The big difference is that I grew up wishing that I was adopted. How else could my own mother have been so cruel and selfish?
    I feel at peace with my life now, and I hope that if you do not have that, it will come to you too. I am now in control of my life. I am now in control of who I want to be and who in my family that I have close relationships with or without. (Therapy has been helpful with that).
    I am grateful that even as a child, I always knew there would be a time when I would be in charge of the course of my life. With the pain and neglect of my childhood behind me, I am now the adult and the parent that I had always waned.
    I hope for great things for you. Good luck.

  • In reply to saralep:

    You are my heroine for emerging so strong and loving from a childhood of pain and neglect. I have a neighbor who, like you, grew up wanting desperately to be adopted by a loving family. That never happened for her - but to see her now, a smart and poised woman who is a wonderful wife and mother, one would never guess that. She told me her childhood story only recently, and I am still in awe and wonder of the human spirit that can overcome so much.

  • In reply to saralep:

    Sara, I hope someday I will feel at peace. My birth mother seems to be at peace, my adoptive mother is going on to her 8th or 9th marriage and I don't talk to her enough to know if she even gave it thought, and I am still angry at both of them. I think this is the first time I have ever shared my feelings regarding being adopted with anyone, and under anonymity lest I hurt anyone's feelings. Maybe that is the start I needed.

    I agree with you in that I feel more in control now. I'm not forced to live in a hateful home. I have a wonderful relationship with my husband and I feel like I am able to love my own children the way I was not loved. But I still feel sad sometimes to not have a mom to call when I have questions about my body after childbirth or about parenting a 15 year old or when i just need some comfort.

  • Your story stirs up strong feelings and prompts me to make strong statements, such as, "some people don't deserve to have a family," regardless of how that family comes to be (via adoption or by birth). I am so sorry you lacked so much, emotionally, growing up. Here you are now, writing so eloquently, and I wish I could take you back to a different childhood, one where your well-being was more of a priority to the adults around you.

    Do you have a close relationship with your biological father's kids? I hope you are able to create - through friendships, possibly having children of your own, any number of possibilities - the family of your dreams some day.

  • I am married with a 15 year old son and a 6 month old daughter. When I got pregnant at 16 I could not bear the thought of giving him up for adoption and having him grow up feeling unloved. I chose to raise him myself. It has been a very, very rough road for us but the relationship we have now makes it all worth it. I have found healing through my own children.

  • In reply to Rachel:

    Thanks for following up with how you are doing now. I am so glad your children came into your life. Clearly, you have come a long way and have much to be proud of. Best Wishes to you and your family!

  • No person, no child, adopted or not, should ever experience the pain and suffering that you endured. I am so sorry to read of you pain, loss and grief. I believe that you must be a very strong person, to persevere and now be writing about your life journey. I wished you continued strength and many blessings.

  • This was hard to read because children are gifts who deserve love and security. I was adopted at birth. I have a childhood history of neglect. Sure, it made me strong and steely, but who cares. It'd be so nice to have a mom and dad who loved me and supported me, encouraged me.

    I, too, have found healing in raising my own child. He knows everyday that he is cherished. My pregnancy was not intentional. It was a surprise after years of slowly trying to kill my miserable self with drugs and alcohol. I never considered adoption as a choice, too risky I felt. I cleaned myself up, walked away from that lifestyle, and never looked back because children are gifts.

    I wish Peace for you, for me, for the others, adopted or not, who have always deserved more.

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    I was Penny Ann Norton at birth in 1954, my sister and I were removed by welfare in 55-56 and put in a south side foster home. (mary Agnes) was my sister, slightly older than me. I am 6'1" so she is probably also tall. The woman who tried to adopt me was turned down by the courts, so her sister adopted me and then gave' me to her. They had a big fight so my then aunt took me back to hurt her. At 10 hrs. I was told by her that she could never love me, she wanted a petite female like her. I grew up hearing how she was sorry but that she just had no feelings for me. My adopted father took complete control of my care and as I developed she referred to me as his girlfriend. He died when I was 17 and she said I caused his cancer because he was in love with me. When she died she left all monies to her natural son and a notebook diary describing her hate for me and how she regretted taking me, for she felt my fathers love for me destroyed his love for her. I hope to eventually find my sister Mary Agnes, she was adopted in Chicago by a family. With 4 boys, she is a little older than me. People who play games with people's lives are monsters.

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    See earlier reply, filed it wrong

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