April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This is the second guest post I have featured from a survivor of sexual assault. In this woman’s story, she bravely sheds light on a terrible truth within the world of sexual abuse: older children are sometimes the ones who hurt younger children. This story is also a painful adoption story, showing that not every adoptee finds a happy home. This is the first time the author has ever shared her story with anyone besides her husband.
By Michele Bolich
I was adopted when I was about three days old. As far back as I can remember, my Mother would introduce the three kids as…”This is my son Mark, and this is my son Danny, and this is our adopted daughter Michele.” Every introduction was the same for thirty years of my life. I am not sure whether it was a good thing –as if I were better than the others– or a bad thing, kept separate from them. It never felt nice.
I learned a few years ago that the laws governing adoption in the seventies were pretty relaxed. I was sold for about $370 to a family with some major emotional issues. Well, maybe not the whole family, but definitely my mother. I learned quickly to stay out of her way and never ask a question more than once. I have scars to prove that sometimes I wasn’t as fast a learner as I had thought. There was physical abuse, but it didn’t outweigh the emotional abuse.
My Mother believed that buying anything and everything for a child was how to show me that she loved me. I would have traded it all for hugs and kisses like normal kids. But then again, I wouldn’t be who I am now if things were different.
My Mother’s son Danny was from her first marriage. He didn’t always live with us. He would visit on holidays and summers. My earliest memory of him was Christmas 1975. I was four. He was eleven. I remember this night like it happened yesterday. It is a nightmare that I relive more often than not.
That was the first night I remember him touching me. He told me that he could make Santa come or he could make him stay away. Depended on what I let him do to me. I won’t bore you with the details of that night. I actually don’t know if I could write them down. It’s hard enough just thinking about it all. Santa did end up coming that year, because I was a good girl.
I remember Danny hurting me, throughout the years, until I was twelve. That was the last time he touched me inappropriately. I started my period and that scared him away from molesting me. Unfortunately he progressed to hitting me.
I have always hated the summertime and all holidays. It’s very difficult to get through a holiday without anger, resentment, and depression, because I associate those times with him. When I was ten, Danny came to live with us permanently. It seems he had been molesting his stepsisters, and his father didn’t want him there anymore.
I remember trying to tell my mom about all of this, but she wouldn’t listen, and I was afraid Danny would hurt me even more. As I got older, I gained a lot of weight and became sexually active. I allowed myself to be used and tossed aside like common trash. The more it hurt, the more I did it. Punishing myself.
I got pregnant at sixteen and kept my pregnancy a secret for five months. Bought baggy clothes and hid in my room as much as possible. My mother would comment how fat I was getting, how I waddled like a duck when I walked, how I needed more than ever to go on a diet. She had said these things before, and I would just smile and walk away. I was very scared of my mom, but I knew I had to tell her soon. When I did tell her, I was five-and-a-half months along. She took me to a doctor who was willing to abort the baby. It’s funny — after stressing so much about being pregnant and now being offered an abortion, I couldn’t do it.
That night my mother called everyone in her phone book and told them I got myself pregnant. Then she made me speak to each of them. I sat through phone call after phone call apologizing to friends, relatives. I was berated, demeaned, talked down too as if I were only three yrs old. I was told to not talk about it. I wasn’t allowed to share the normal ‘happy’ moments that normal pregnant women go thru.
Most of my friends were no longer allowed near me. Pregnancy is contagious. I had a disease and I was treated as such.
My mother was a drug addict, a hospital addict. When her drug cabinet started to deplete, she blamed me for sneaking and taking her pills. I was 9 the first time she accused me. When the booze started to deplete, she accused me. No one seemed to remember that Danny was around, until they found him passed out from his first overdose. I was eleven. I came home from school and had to use the bathroom. He was in there and didn’t hear me. He walked out and I startled him, so he grabbed me by the throat and began slamming me against the wall. I kicked him in the balls as hard as I could. He fell to the floor and I ran out of the house.
That was the first time I had fought back. I knew when he caught me, he would hurt me badly. I stayed away for awhile, then headed home when I thought my dad would be there. When I walked into the house Danny was on the floor and barely breathing. I saw pills on the floor and he looked really bad. But instead of calling an ambulance or my mom, I stepped over his body, went to my room, turned on my stereo and started my homework. I left him laying there in hopes he would die. My mom came home. They saved Danny that day, and doomed me to more pain when he was finally released from the hospital.
Since Danny was listed as attempted suicide with pills, they put him through counseling. The whole family had to go. We sat in a circle and Danny got to tell everyone how much we had hurt him, How much he was neglected and how I was spoiled and keeping attention away from him. We, in turn, got to stand up and say how sorry we were for ruining his life. Unbelievable.
Years passed, I had the baby, married my high school sweetheart, and had two more babies. I had found some happiness until my Dad became increasingly ill. My husband and I bought a house and moved Mom and Dad in with us. It was difficult, because Mom was always criticizing Patrick and me. And it was hard on the kids to watch my Father slowly slip away. Finally we moved mom and dad into an apartment a block away. That way mom was out of our house and I could easily and quickly get to their house to help out with dad. It might sound harsh moving them out of our home. I had to do it for two reasons. One, my dad being so ill and progressing was really hard for our young kids. (L was nine or ten, A was almost 2, and our other A was 4 at this point). And two, my mom was still abusive, only now she was expanding her viciousness to A and A.
By this time, my dad had been suffering with cancer spread throughout his body for almost six years. And instead of him giving up, he continued to fight. He knew that after he died, there would be no one to take care of mom. She had burned all her bridges and made so many enemies.
When hospice came in he began slipping away. On the day before he died, I walked up to his bed and I yelled at him. I said ‘DAD…Dad listen to me” He responded with ‘what’. I told him that I loved him, and he said he loved me too. He said he couldn’t die yet. No one would care for mom. And that’s when I did it. I promised no matter what, I would care for her. He slipped deeper into the coma. The next morning he passed away.
I don’t cry in front of others. No matter what. But that day I had a few tears in my eyes as they took my Father away. At the funeral someone said to me…”why are you sad Michele, it’s not like he was your real father”. I felt even more alone than ever.
That night my mom packed all her stuff and moved back in with us. She said she couldn’t live alone and I did promise dad to care for her. Then her cycle of hospital visits and need for pills began again. She said she had fallen at her apartment and decided she needed to be cared for. Most of my life she was in and out of hospitals for unknown reasons. Doctors could never find anything wrong with her, but they prescribed lots of pills to help her through whatever ailed her. And if a doctor would not give her pain meds, then she would just go to another doctor. She was very good at crying wolf.
When she moved in with us, she took up the couch in the family room and wouldn’t get up. We had to wait on her, food, drinks. And as miserable as she was towards my husband Patrick, he still helped her with anything. I will always admire him for that. She treated him so horribly.
One day nearly a year later, my daughter A came to me and asked how to commit suicide. I was working 50 hr weeks as was Patrick, so my mom sort of watched the kids after school. I took A into the bedroom and asked her why she wanted to know. She said my mom had told her how we never really wanted her and didn’t love her, so she felt it best if she killed herself. My mom told her so many horrible lies, and A — being so trusting — accepted them all. It was the last straw. We immediately put A into counseling and moved my mother out. I know I promised my dad I would care for her, but I just couldn’t do it anymore.
When I was in my late twenties, I decided to look for my birth parents. I found out the doctor that ran the hospital where I was born also had a side job of selling babies. His nurse was married to a guy that worked with my dad. At a New Year’s Eve party, my Mom and Dad were seated with the nurse and her husband. During the conversation, my Mom said how she would love to adopt a baby girl. So the nurse told the doctor the next day, and eight months later, the doctor called my mom to offer me up. He arranged for my birth mom to deliver me at a hospital that didn’t deliver babies. He hid me in a linen closet until Mom and Dad could get there to see if I was adoptable. The doc played golf with an adoption lawyer and a judge. It was all nicely packaged for a cheap quick sale. That was all it took.
Because I never made it to an orphanage, no legal papers were written before the adoption. The judge made it as though my Mom had actually given birth to me. They never had to tell me the truth if they didn’t want to. It was a little weird how the paper trail went, but no one questioned any of it. During my search, I found two women that might have been my birth mom. I ended up finding the real daughter of one of the women. And the other….well, let’s just say she and her family were as crazy as the family I already had, so I gave up looking.
All my life, I have only wanted to feel a connection with someone. To know that I am a part of a family. I find myself looking intensely at people I pass on the street. I study their faces. I wonder what it would be like to have a heritage, to know generations of family all connected to me. I wonder where I got my green eyes from. I wonder if my mom or dad had the same dimple as my girls and I have on our right cheek. But mostly, I wonder why I wasn’t worth keeping.
Michele Bolich, born August 1971, is a retired teacher from Florida. She is sharing her story to hopefully reach out to others like herself and help with the healing process.
Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by Carrie Goldman, the author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.
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