I hope listeners enjoyed it, and I hope my story can in some way help others better understand adoptees' desire to search and the process of doing so. In addition to sharing my story, we talked about how to begin a search and prepare for reunion. You can watch the video of my reunion with my birth father here and read the full story behind my conception here.
Here are a few of the resources mentioned during the show. Please don't hesitate to email me for helpful search tip, advice on search and reunion and general support.
1. If born in Louisiana, register with Louisiana's Department of Children and Family Services. You can submit an application, and if both parties apply to meet they will be matched. Each party is required to take 1 hour of counselling before contact can be made.
State Reunion Registry
Louisiana Voluntary Adoption Registry
P.O. Box 3318
Baton Rouge, LA 70821
Toll Free: (800) 259-2456
World Wide Web: http://www.dss.state.la.us/offocs/html/registry.html
Louisiana Voluntary Adoption Registry
P.O. Box 3318
Baton Rouge, LA 70821
Toll Free: (800) 259-2456
World Wide Web: http://www.dss.state.la.us/offocs/html/registry.html
Adoption Connection of LA
7301 W. Judge Perez, #311
Arabi, LA 70032
Adoption Connection of Louisiana
Adoptees Birthright Committee
P.O. Box 6921
Metairie, LA 70010
Adoption Search Organization
8154 Longwood Drive
Denhan Springs, LA 70726
Lost and Found
18343 Weatherwood Drive
Baton Rouge, LA 70817
2. Start by writing down everything you know with as much detail as possible. If you know the city, county, parish and/or date of your birth, you can use birth indexes to narrow down a list of names of women listed as giving birth in that place on that day - look for babies with no name given paired with no father listed.
4. Send your DNA to FamilyTreeDNA.com. This site is an autosomal DNA test that automatically finds your relatives within several generations. If they are on the site you can connect with them, and that can open a lot of doors and lead to reunion fairly quickly.
6. Recruit a Search Angel for help. Contact me for references - many of the best Angel's don't charge for their services.
7. Consider posting a plea for help on social media and Facebook.
Good luck and please don't hesitate to contact me.
Ayear ago today, thanks to my birth mother Lana's search for the truth and the man connected to it (and her sharing that information with me), I learned my birth father's name is Jerry Knight. I learned one year ago, on this day, that he was alive and very much wanted to meet me. Within a few days I wrote him a letter and took the second step on my adoption journey.
With my first courageous step into reunion I had found my birth mother, and maternal family members, including my grandmother, aunts and cousins, and my dear half-brother Bill. With the second step I would return to facing the great fear of what might be found on the other side of reunion, but this time with my birth father.
Would he want too much? Not enough? Would he like me? Would his family embrace me? Would he be gentle and embracing, or callous and dismissive. Would I like him, respect his choices in life, be able to fit him and his people into my world? Would they want or be able to fit me in theirs? The first reunion taught me this is no walk in the park. I was vastly more scared the second time around.
Yet I dared to believe, and in doing so I found a tremendous amount of love, acceptance, and an additional amazing and loving family; Susan Nance Knight (and all her Peeps), my half-brother Bart Knight, his wife Marlane Maisel Knight, his son Morgan Knight, Laura Kato Knight and Cailey (who I better meet soon), my Aunt Patricia and her kids, my cousins Heather Ammons, and Kelly and Ken and their families; and so many new wonderful friends, Sandy and Dana and Becky and their husbands, and many many more dear people.
I also found in this wonderful man, a person so much like myself, physically, mentally, personality-wise. Hardheadedness and stubborn yet loyal and determined - it was all there and all so much like me. We bonded instantaneously; and family, while at times scratching their heads about the eerie Twilight Zone feel of the whole thing, accepted our closeness and the way it made us different yet better people because of it.
These are not blessings just for me but for my daughter Victoria, as well as many others. Through this reunion, my birth father had another reunion of his own. Recently, this past Father's Day Weekend, he and I went to Lubbock so he could reunite with his sister, my aunt Patricia (after 30 years of disconnect). There we celebrated her 80th birthday. There I also met my cousins, who ironically are also adopted like me.
As to the miracle of my reunion journey coming full circle on this day well, I must say it would have made my mother and father so tremendously happy to know we have this beautiful new canopy of leaves on our family tree. We even learned my daughter's father's family is related to Susan's family. So Victoria and Susan are related through their royal English blood.
And so I will conclude this tribute to this special day with a bit of advice to adoptees on that paralyzing edge of beginning search: Never be afraid of discovering your truth, it is the most loving, nurturing thing an adoptee can ever do for themselves. It does not always come with as much bounty and blessing as this family has been fortunate to find, and with growth does come pain and loss, sometimes profound pain and loss even, but to know your full story and fully own your past, present and future - that is truly priceless.
this blog is about adoption, it seems natural for me to wish my Birth Mother Lana a Happy Mother's Day. So with this post I have a Letter and a Mother's Day rant. But first here is a little slide show I put together in honor of Lana on Mother's Day. Note: if you wish to see my comments on the pics, just click on the picture to be taken to my flicker page where you can read descriptions of each photo.
Here is my Letter: My Mother's Day Letter for Lana
Here is wishing you a Very Special Mother's day Lana! I hope it is a good day of peace for you. I thank you for your choice to give me life, and I so much appreciate that you opened the door to me in reunion. It means so much to me that despite the tremendously difficult road our reunion took that you never gave up, that you did not close that door again after I initially rejected you; that you act as the mother you are and love me like a mother, you stay committed to us working things out. As a mother would never give up on her child, you never give up on us, and you give me time to process my adopted life and work through my many mixed and difficult emotions.
It is not to say that all rough spots are behind us - but I can promise you I no longer expect you to be that perfect mom of my adopted child fantasies. I understand that you are human as I am, and that while we might look a lot alike - we don't have to be alike to accept each other. I won't push you away again to test if you will come back for me. I won't fear rejection so much that I fail to be honest about things I think you won't like. I can promise I won't do those things again. That is my Mother's Day Promise to You! Love, Pam
So with the close of my letter, here is my RANT:
I speak for myself when I say I can only assume that Mother's Day for many birth mothers is not necessarily a happy day, or a day one feels like celebrating. Much like birthdays for adoptees, this day can be a reminder of loss. It feels almost surreal that I can sit down and write this and know Lana, my birth mother will read this. That we are in contact and I know who and where she is.
So many Mother's Days before I would buy my adoptive mother a card, make her a meal, thank her for being a great mom, but somewhere in the back of my mind I thought of her - that mystery woman whose belly held me and fed me, the womb of my very creation. Somewhere there was a woman walking around with a belly I had once resided in. That seemed so very bizarre to me. As I got older I of course thought of her in more sentimental less childish ways, and when I became a mom, my heart began to ache with the thought of her on Mother's Day.
It always occurred to me that it was highly likely that if she was alive - well this day was the one day of them all on which she would be thinking of me - even if she tried her hardest not to.
"I am here. I am okay. I hope you are well and not too sad today. Thinking of you too, sending my love. Let's find each other one day okay?" And then that was that.
Today I go to the store and look for a good card to send - but they don't make cards for birth mothers (although I did learn this year a little too late that you can buy them online these days). I poke through the selection at the grocery store, "Thank you for kissing all those skinned knees Mom," or "Sorry I never cleaned my room Mom," or "You were there for me no matter what Mom."
Where are the cards that say "Thank you for giving me life Mom! - Thank you for not aborting me Mom - Thank you for suffering your whole life with a big gigantic hole in your heart Mom - Sorry for the lost years between us Mom - Sorry it took me so long to find you Mom - Wow Mom you must have super human emotions to be have been able to endure all these years between us - I bet you would have been an Awesome Mom, Mom if you have only been given a chance - Mom, We may have lost many years, but we have the rest of our lives to make up for it. - Or - I am sorry I was unprepared for reunion and rejected you Mom, so thanks for sticking with me - Or - I am sorry we are not as close as we'd like but at least we are reunited Mom."
No I don't see these cards. I also don't see any for foster moms or step-moms, or like-a-moms. And for sure none for birth-father's either! There are so many many forms of parenting and it makes me so sad to stand at the card rack and see only what "the buyers" think will sell. I am temped to create my own line just like those smart folks I linked to up there.
So that is my wish and my rant - Happy Mother's Day to all the Mom's in every shape and form everywhere!
A special shout out to MY SPECIAL MOMS!
Jacqueline McIntyre Meyer - My amazing mother who raised me well and taught me all the important stuff, like how to be an awesome mom, how to love your kids, how to be a proper bitch when necessary and/or sometimes just for fun, how to drink responsibly and play poker with wild abandon (or was it drink with wild abandon and play poker responsibly hmmm?)
Susan Nance Knight - My newest mom, my mother's long lost twin sister, who is teaching me so much about how to roll with the flow that life sends you (what a lady to welcome me in and adopt me as she has), she has been wonderful in every way; and she is a generally awesome blast of a lady that I hope to be like when I grow up.
Joan McDonald - My mother-in-law who gave birth to my husband and is Ganny to my step-son. She reminds me how important a mother's love is and how important unconditional love is. Her stories have taught me to fight for what you know is right in your heart. She raised my Jim and I get to reap the benefits of a job well done.
Christine, Donica, Brienne, Tracy, Alison, Julie G., Sharon, Crystal, Tweeter, Trish, Kathy, Marolyn, Marlane, Dawn, Robin, so many of the AKA moms I have met and a few Mommies-to-be I know - You all are/will be the best MOM's on the planet. I am serious ladies, you rock the Mommy Bus BIG TIME!
LOVE YOU ALL AND HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY
This past weekend was a big weekend. Jerry my birth father finally met my family. In the last seven months since our reunion, he had met his grand daughter Victoria, my husband and step son, a few of my closest girl friends, even Jack, Victoria's father, but he had yet to meet a single solitary person who had raised me; those who had been related to my parents, who could tell my stories; paint a picture of the world in which I was raised; portray a sense of the people who instilled their values, morals and delightful humor in me - those who made me who I am today.
Since both my parents had passed away before my reunions, this monumental task of representing my dearly deceased parents fell to my father's sister Louise, who I call Tweeter, and her six grown kids, my cousins. This kin shared the task with those on my mother's side, the Potters, my mother's first cousins and their kids (my second and third cousins). Combined these were the people who had created and could share the memories of my family - the many many ties that bind us with my newly found birth parents.
Both in prior experience and in my studies on adoption, I was especially aware entering into an adoption-based family reunion, that it's very important that people are not made to feel put on display, that all parties meet when they believe they are ready and comfortable, and to take things slow and steady.
I believe for many adoptees the idea of introducing the birth parents to the adoptive family is not to show the newly-found biological parent off or to have the adoptive family meet them, but exactly the reverse. And this is a critical distinction. It is not like "here look who I have found" it's more "here check out these awesome people who raised me." While I know not all adoptive children feel this great symbiosis in their adoptive family, this was at least how it was for me. I loved my family and never felt "adopted."
I am proud of my family, these are the people I love and who love me, who never made a distinction about my not being of their flesh and blood, nor who ever treated me differently because of it. I wanted my birth parents to meet these people, so that they could see how lucky we all were, what wonderful people I had in my childhood, how much love we all shared and continue to share.
During my prior reunion with my birth mother Lana, I made just about every mistake in the book. One of which was to throw a very large Memorial Day barbecue where everyone under the sun was invited; her family and nieces and nephews and my family on both sides, as well as friends and distant relatives. I even invited my grade school teacher. In sum without recounting every grizzly detail of the whole hot mess, Lana and I, both used to being the one in charge, butted heads on every little detail from selecting and serving the food, to alcohol being served, to where to seat people. Having only met that January, she and I had barely had time to get to know each other, let alone start planning parties together.
In short we had the reunion at Lana's house, and although I warned her I had a ton of family and despite her saying "oh the more the merrier," well there were too many people. Lana and I were on our feet the whole time playing hostess. We were unable to visit and make proper introductions and basically most of my family stayed in the yard and most of her family stayed on the porch.
Additionally, mistakes were made that immediately set people at unease. At one point Lana stated, "Look at the beautiful, smart daughter I made," which pained my adoptive family member's ears, ringing a bit disrespectful to the memory of my parents and the role the whole family played in making me who I am. Additionally a cake was ordered in honor of the reunion with a picture of Lana and me and my half-brother, but which did not include my daughter, the new-found grandchild, who was there at the party and of course a big part of the reunited family." These are examples of the small faux pas which can carry broad and lasting consequences when placed in the high emotional atmosphere of reunion.
By the time it was over we were all exhausted, had spent too much money and met and mingled with too few people to make it worthwhile. And amid all this, the coup d'état was that the neighboring yards had numerous pens full of dogs that resulted in so many swarms of flies that you could not even pick up your fork without five flies landing on your plate, and while you were swatting the flies off your plate, more were landing in your drink. It was miserable and thanks to the flies, as though the reunion standards gods have some kind of sick twisted sense of humor, I came home with a horrible case of food poisoning that kept me in bed for a week; plenty of time to lay there and think about all the things that went oh so wrong.
Thus it's no wonder that it took me seven months to work up the courage to plan a time for Pop to meet my family. I called my Aunt Tweeter and assured her this one would be much more pleasant. We would take baby steps, just a few cousins at a time. Knowing how close my cousins were to my adoptive parents, their Aunt Juice and Uncle Bub, I asked my Aunt to please call the two who lived near her in Houston and to ask them if they were ready to meet Pop. They said they were and a small dinner in a public restaurant was arranged, hopefully small enough and public enough that no one would be put out, and we could just sit back and relax and get to know each other.
Additionally I sent a separate email to my mother's side of the family asking them who might like to meet my Pop while we were in town. From my mother's side I received an email saying that several of my mother's cousins were excited, and that they wanted to have a get together at one of their houses and bring snack food etc. and family photos. Knowing intuitively that these were my mother's people, and that if meeting Pop was going to stir emotions it would be on my Dad's side, I was not worried about having a larger number. I told Pop, "The Potters will talk your ears off, force feed you and take lots of pictures." And that is pretty much what happened and we both enjoyed it very much.
Pop was relived by the easy Potter welcome, as the prior night meeting my Dad's family had been a bit more nerve wracking for him. He knew how attached my cousins were to their Uncle Bub and Aunt Juice, he knew my cousins were as close as I could get to my own siblings, and he knew that at the table sat his two toughest critics, those who were very very close to me and protective of me as well. So really, no pressure right?
Victoria, my daughter, had come in for the event and before the dinner the three of us, Pop, Vikki and I, had spent the day visiting my father's grave, as well as the grave of his father, my grandfather, and the graves of my grandparents and aunt on my mother's side. We had then toured the beachfront home in Galveston where I spent my teens and twenties; the house Victoria was brought home to and the house where my Daddy had died.
If ever Pop's absence in my life had been underlined and highlighted it was on this day. The day he would meet the family, stand on the grave and visit the home and place of death of the man who loved and raised me, the man who I call my Daddy, the man who stood in the shoes Pop was denied by fate to ever even consider wearing. This was a big day for Pop and he shined, both absorbing the significance of this day's journeys and paying his respects.
At the end of the dinner he graciously and bravely asked my Daddy's sister and my cousins to welcome him into our family - to find a way to make room for him in their hearts. I was proud. The night included a moving moment as we toasted my Mommy and Daddy paying tribute to them; and I was again touched as my daughter Victoria spoke of her grand father Baba and how special he was to her, while also expressing to the family the joy and love Pop and his wife Susan have brought into our lives.
And as I had anticipated, as is the nature of adoption reunions, emotions swelled and exposed the tenuous mixed feelings that are part and parcel with healing the past and blending families. As one of my cousins become overcome with tears, the other helped me understand how all this adoption change and self-discovery feels to my adoptive family. It can be hard for adoptive family members to realize that there was some missing piece inside you that they could not fill. I assured them that in my experience growing up I never felt like I was broken or missing anything, or that they or my parents were not enough. I explained that, just as they recall my saying many times, I was only curious. I always just wanted to meet them. The compassionate side of me just wanted my birth mother to know I was ok.
I explained that both the pre-reunited adoptee and post reunited adoptee versions of myself still agree that adoption was a gift, that I was extra special and loved and that I could have no better parents in the world than my adoptive parents, that my family is and will always be my family and that I still would not have changed a thing. I noted that what reunion does do, is lift a curtain and reveal the stage upon which the story of your life has long been being written. You suddenly see things fully. It's like not knowing something was broken until it's been fixed.
Once reunited the adoptee begins to learn that his or her fairy-tale story with the happy ending had a darker side too; you were born, relinquished to strangers, separated from your biological ties, your history and genetic lineage, those things do matter to a person and they need to be processed.
Most importantly, when you can at last bring everything full circle, it may mean that people in your adoptive family, just like you had to, will eventually realize that the reality of adoption is not all happy endings; that it also includes for many adoptees latent feeling of abandonment, poor self-esteem, difficulty in relationships and intimacy, early pregnancies, and a longing for completeness. As your family watches you learn and heal or hears stories of what being adopted has meant to you, they may feel some type of guilt or sorrow for not knowing or understanding the challenges associated with being adopted.
It's important to assure them that THIS was not anyone's fault, that even you really did not understand it then, that most no one did and no one is to blame. You must assure your family that they are not being replaced, that no one can take their place. That processing the impact of adoption on your life today and spending inordinate amounts of time bonding with your birth family, is just a part of healing; and that the way they can continue to support you and love you is by listening to you and sharing their feelings, asking questions and opening their hearts. But most importantly it's by trusting in the family connections you have created across decades, by assimilation, by welcoming in your new family birth members as their own, just as they did for you so many many years before.
Welcome to my first blog post on MyAdoptedLife. I thought it would be fitting to begin this blog on the 43rd anniversary of my conception, which occurred on my birth mother's 20th birthday. After reuniting with my birth mother two years ago and my birth father only eight months ago, I learned this past July where and when, right down to the day and place, that I was conceived. For a girl who spent 41 years feeling magically poofed into the world, the first known anniversary of my conception is a big deal.
With this post and with the introductory slideshow above, I recognize both my conception day and my birth mother Lana's birthday, Happy Birthday Lana! And to you my readers I introduce myself and the players upon the many stages of my adopted life.
Act 1: According to the story, having worked up some heat swinging on the dance floor to Credence Clearwater Revival's 1969 hit Proud Mary, the birthday girl and her new beau make a beeline to one family fishing camp, along one Texas river, on one fateful night. Perhaps inspired by the song's calling lyrics "rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river."
Curious to verify my birth parents' poignantly dusty memories, I check out Wikipedia to learn more about this song. This night was the first and last time they would be together, a one-nighter between friends, could they really remember what song they danced to so many years ago? And there, like it knows why I have come, I read, "The song was released as a single from the band's second studio album ...[it] became a hit in the United States, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March, 1969."
You can't get much more likely than that! So of course I search YouTube and find this rocking awesome live 1969 performance of the song. This hip-gyrating foot-tapping listen puts me right there in the car with them, headed to the river, March 24, 1969 - a time of free love, youthful rebellion, fast cars and rock and roll.
"Rollin' rollin' rollin' on the river... People on the river are happy to give," I see the young couple racing through that steamy spring night. She is snuggled up close in the front seat. Radio on, beer cracked and cold. Her new birthday bracelet clinks with each swig of courage she takes. She wonders how this guy ever thought to buy such a nice gift.
In my mind I am there with them. I witness yellow car lights parked against the foggy night, resting across still water. I hear car doors shut and the engine sigh upon a humming riverbank. I watch the glowing tips of two cigarettes bob among the grass like two nervous fireflies. I feel the wet night upon her cold shoulders. I hear his voice, "It's just over this way." I grasp the security of the trailer daring them. I sense the warmth of their bodies drawing them. I feel the urge of their passion compelling them - to create me.
My 26-year-old birth father would not learn he had created a life on this night for 42 more years. At 69, long after the invention of the personal computer and the Internet, he would receive an email from his past. She would eventually tell him about me, about how she thought I had been created by her ex-boyfriend; the man who had raped her two weeks after her birthday. The man who in a heated fit had "taught her a lesson" after learning a not-so-close friend, aka my birth father, had hitched a ride on "his" river boat queen.
Lana is her name. If by chance she thought Proud Mama was speaking to them the night I was conceived she was probably right, but the lyrics are eerily ironic now: "You don't have to worry cause if you got no money people on the river are happy to give," ... your baby a new home.
Jerry is his name. For him, never knowing about me simply meant he "never lost a minute of sleepin' worry about the way things might have been."
Ben was an acquaintance of Jerry, the guy accused of rape and the last man Lana was with before learning she was pregnant with me. Lana says this is why it took her almost two years to give me Jerry's info; that she never considered Jerry to be the father. I have yet to contact Ben and have no way to verify Lana's statements about this. At this point, with DNA tests complete, I am not sure it is necessary to bother Ben for his take on a truth that now seems irrelevant.
When Lana sent me the birthday bracelet for Christmas last year, she insisted she didn't know why she'd held onto it for 40 odd years. I think somewhere deep inside her heart she knew Jerry was the father. Sometimes our brains come to believe the stories we tell ourselves, memories change, fade, morph into what they need to be so we can bear them. I can understand that.
Perhaps the 20-year-old, traumatized by the angry sex forced upon her, found solace in the idea that the baby belonged to a bad man - people would understand, they would not judge, they would pity rather than persecute. If I had to guess which guy was the guy, I can see being drawn to the later account. And during a time with no DNA, when no one could ever really know the truth anyway, wasn't one truth as believable as the other?
Now, thanks to advancements in science and technologies enabling search reunion registries, Facebook and affordable DNA testing, the majority of truth can be sorted out as it has been for us.
Act II: This is where our story begins, mine, Lana's, Jerry's, our extended families. We are not without our challenges. We travel at times on turbulent waters. The past is hard to realign with the present, it can't be reclaimed or rewritten; if not understood, it must at least be respected. Lana and I shared a very rough road at the start that we are still trying to navigate. Still I am excited to pick up 40 years later and begin again, rollin' rollin' rollin' in reunion.