Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I'm trying to do normal things - cook and clean, laundry, vacuuming - but it's not enough to keep my mind from thinking about Friday.
Here's an example of my thought processes:
I need to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer. I wonder what I should wear on Friday? It's likely to be cold and involve a wait outside. Augusta's always windy. I wonder how many people will be there? I've got to turn the TV on. Maybe it will keep me occupied. What if the media shows up on Friday? There's been a fair amount of news coverage. That changes my whole wardrobe idea. I've got to talk to someone, but I don't have anything to say, really, so how can I call anyone? Let me put these dishes away. Maybe I should check to make sure all my papers are in the folder. I better check the list in my email again to make sure I have everything I need. And what time did they say we could arrive? Should I put the folder in the car so that I don't forget it?
And on, and on, and on.
I wonder if this is what it's like to be crazy. And not in a good, Wild & Crazy, way.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Symptoms: Stomach pain, headache, insomnia and general pissiness.
Treatment: Read blog comments; laugh and cry; repeat as necessary.
I really have nothing new to say today, except that your comments to me yesterday were exactly what I needed. It was like a Hallmark channel movie - I laughed, I cried. I was moved beyond words.
If anyone needs a laugh, go check out the fabulous advice given to me in yesterday's comment section. Or, if anyone needs proof that the people in blogland are the kindest, most supportive bunch of people in the world, check out the comments.
I think I just may take some of the advice (booze and/or chocolate are the frontrunners, as far as I'm concerned) and will definitely soak up the support. Knowing people will be there, whatever Friday holds, is extremely comforting.
Fortunately, I'm teaching a workshop today, so I'll be distracted for several hours. When I get home, I'll fix myself a stiff drink or a mug of hot chocolate and blog-surf. That ought to get me through one more day.
Only three days left.
Monday, December 29, 2008
I'm not entirely sure why. It could be the after-Christmas letdown. Or the fact that I haven't been sleeping for the last several days. Or my menapausal hormones. Or the headaches and stomach aches I seem to get every single day.
BUT, there's a good chance it has something to do with Friday. It's only 4 days away now, and for some reason, I'm an emotional wreck.
When I'm with people, all I can think is "I need to be alone," and when I'm alone, all I can think is "I wish I had someone to distract me." I'm irritated by every little thing (the guy who's driving too slow in front of me, or the one driving too fast behind me). I can't stand my hair. I think the newscasters are more ridiculous than usual. I hate my refrigerator, my wardrobe and the way the cat keeps making a nest out of my favorite fleece jacket.
I have got to snap out of it, and soon, before these things start coming out of my mouth instead of staying safely inside my brain.
Ah, who am I kidding? It's almost here - the day I feel like I've been waiting for all my life - and there's no chance I'm going to get any less emotional between now and then. I'm going to continue to alternate between excitement and dread. Everything around me is going to continue to get on my last nerve. My stomach will continue to ache. Until sometime Friday morning, when I finally get my turn, and they hand me that magic piece of paper.
Then I'll probably throw up.
Friday, December 26, 2008
I’m still recovering from the chaos of Christmas at my house. I am alone in the house now, so, as soon as I have a cup of coffee (decaf!) or twelve, I will tackle the cleaning up. I don’t fuss about mess on Christmas – I just enjoy my family and let the boxes and dishes fall where they may. My dishwasher decided to give up the ghost on Christmas Eve, so I’m back to washing by hand, which I hate more than anything. I may try to call a repairman today – maybe if I explain that it’s an emergency??
I’ll try to post a holiday picture or two, as soon as I get Hallie to explain how to get pictures off my phone again.
In the meantime, a couple of questions have been asked in my comment section, and I think other people are wondering, too, so, I’m going to take a moment to answer.
The law that has changed the access to my birth certificate works this way: Currently, in my state, if you were adopted after August 9, 1953, generally you do not have the legal right to your original birth certificate (OBC). There are some adoptees who have always had access to their OBC (those adopted through the foster care system, international adoptees, and others). Also, if you were adopted in a county where the Judge of Probate was amenable, you may have been able to get your adoption records opened, which would include your original birth certificate. I didn’t fall into this category. The new law essentially gives EVERY adult the right to a copy of his/her original birth certificate, whether adopted or not.
As part of this law, birth parents have the opportunity to submit a Contact Preference Form, indicating whether or not they would like to be contacted by the child, now an adult, that they surrendered for adoption. If they submit a ‘do not contact me’ form, they are asked to complete an extensive medical history form, so that the adoptee may have this vital information.
This law will only give me a copy of my original birth certificate with the name of my birth mother, and if I’m lucky, my birth father (fathers were not required to be listed back in those days). It will not tell me where she is, or if she’s alive. It will not help me track her down. It won’t tell me if I have siblings. It will, however, reveal my original surname.
The concept of privacy for the birth parents is a very complicated one, and I won’t pretend I have it all figured out. Read my post about me insisting that I’m not a stalker, and you’ll learn a bit more about what I’m expecting to do with the information. In the end, there are a few things that I have come to believe:
- I have a right to know my original last name, for a bunch of good reasons, including preventing marriage to related persons (hey – this is a small state!)
- Parents do not inherently have the right to protection from their children, including those given up for adoption.
- I have a right to as much medical history as I can possibly get, and this information could possibly save my life, or the lives of my children.
- My birth certificate belongs to me. Not to my parents. ME.
- I’m an adult, and can be trusted with this information. Nobody knows better than I do how adoption affects people. The emotions I have had to deal with make me especially sensitive to how it might affect my birth parents.
- Nothing dire has come to pass in the states that have already passed this law; or in the states that never sealed the records in the first place.
I’m going to have to work the rest of it out as I go along. All I know is that ONE WEEK FROM TODAY, I’ll have the piece of paper in my hand. What happens after that is anybody’s guess. Hope you'll be around to help me figure it out!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I also got some great news. Catherine, one of the women who helps run the organization (OBCforME) who fought so hard and long to get the law changed so that adult adoptees could have access to their original birth certificates commented on my blog yesterday. I have no idea how she found it, but I'm so grateful to her. Her comment was:
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
One week from Friday is the day. Ten days from now. I can hardly even get my head around that idea. It's hard to believe that one part of this journey is almost over, yet, when it is, the next part is likely to be even more crazy and emotional. I hope I'm prepared for it all. Sometimes I think I can't stand to wait even one more minute.
Luckily, I have lots to do between now and then. And Jesus' birthday to celebrate. And I have some terrific people to help distract me. One of the best distractors I know is my oldest son, who's 21 and currently on break from college, so he's around a bit more than usual. He's got such a quirky sense of humor that you can't help laugh when you're around him. I don't know if I've ever known someone better at finding humor in every little thing than he does. Witness this conversation we had a couple of days ago:
ME: You know, with me being unemployed, Christmas presents are not going to be what they have been in other years.
B: (mock horrified tone, clutching chest) We're not getting Christmas presents?? Then what are all these things under the tree??
ME: They ARE presents, but they may not be as extravagant as you might expect.
B: We don't expect extravagant presents. We don't even LIKE extravagant presents. Wait - what does extravagant mean, anyway?
ME: Very funny, but I'm serious.
B: I'm serious too, but don't call me Shirley. (If you need this one explained, rent Airplane!)
ME: You can joke, but I don't want you to be disappointed if you open a gift and it's really really small.
B: Give me an example. We'll practice!
ME: Okay. Let's say you open a package and it has one sock in it. What would you say?
B: Whoo-Hoo! A new sock! Let me try it on!
ME: What if the next one has the other sock?
B: Phew! Now I don't have to let my feet take turns.
ME: What if it is just a pair of boxer shorts?
B: Whoo-Hoo! Underpants! (Shouting and gesturing that he is putting the underpants on his head like a hat). How do I look? (posing)
With a guy like that around, how can you be anything but happy? And don't worry - he's getting stuff much better than socks and underwear (although I am seriously considering wrapping up some socks, one per package, and putting them in his stocking.)
Monday, December 22, 2008
It's actually hard to tell how much snow we got because I live at the top of a very large hill (or a very small mountain) and the wind BLOWS here like you wouldn't believe. So instead of a nice, even 20 inches, we have spots with 3-4 inches and other spots with 4 foot drifts. My car is usually lucky enough to be in the 4 foot drift.
I'm not looking forward to getting out there to shovel my way back into civilization, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my Plow Guy (that's his official title, by the way) comes by before he goes to work, and not after. After he gets the driveways plowed, we have the deck, front steps, back steps, mailbox, dog yard and the path to clear. And, I hate to say it so early in the year, but I think we'd better get the roof shoveled off, too. I have no idea how to shovel without using my right arm, so we'll see how that goes. My oldest son is the only other one here right now, so he may be doing it all by himself. I think I'll let him sleep a bit longer before I break the news!
I can remember when I was a kid, I loved these giant, snowed-in for days storms. The idea of nobody being able to go anywhere, and snuggling all day in pajamas with books and games was a delight. These days, my first thought is, "I hope we don't lose power" followed almost immediately by, "I hope we don't lose our internet connection." Brandon and I did catch up on our Netflix DVD's (we're watching the first season of House) and had tea and hot chocolate, but I couldn't stop thinking about how much work it will be to dig out. I guess that's what growing up is all about. Note to self: put 'growing up' on my HATE IT list.
My only big goal for the day is to get the application forms for my birth certificate notarized somewhere, and find out whether I have to send them to the state now, or if I can just bring them with me on January 2nd. If I can, I'll snap some pictures of the pretty white stuff, and the digging out process, and post them here for you. I hope you all are safe and warm, and if you are in one of those states where it is 70 degrees, try not to gloat.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Speaking of Hallie - thanks for guest-blogging for me! You're a true friend, but rest assured that I will do everything in my power NEVER to need your help in the powder room.
Thank you all for your well-wishes. You have no idea how much I appreciate you.
After some experimentation, I have found that, if I rest my arms carefully on the desk, and keep them in the correct position on the keyboard, that I can type with very little pain. Mousing, on the other hand, is a tad trickier. I tried to switch over to my left hand, but it turns out that I am so right-handed as to make any attempt at working a mouse left-handed absolutely laughable. At one point I had 15 windows open and I couldn't close any of them.
The good news is that after two days of AS-MUCH-INACTIVITY-AS-I-COULD-MANAGE, my arm is a teeny bit better. I think. So, to follow my doctor's train of thought, it might get better without further intervention. The bad news is I have to rest it some more, and all the stuff around here that needs to get done requires a right arm. Oh well, I'll figure it out. Time marches on, and I can deal with pain. I'm a W-O-M-A-N (sing it with me!)
UPDATE: The application forms for adult adoptees to request a copy of their original birth certificates finally came out yesterday (only a week after the ABSOLUTELY NO LATER THAN date that was promised!). They were posted to the State's website about 2:30 and all of a sudden it seemed like everybody was emailing everybody. I printed off the forms, and was surprised to find out that they need to be notarized. It also looks like they might have to be received at the State Office of Vital Records prior to January 2nd.
If that's true, I don't have a lot of time to mess around. Because of the holidays, there aren't many business days left between now and the second of January. I might drive them up there myself, or pay (how I hate to) for overnight mail. If I can find a notary public. I used to know several of them, but I can't think of one nearby. Maybe a bank. Wouldn't a bank need to have notaries on staff?
The whole thing is suddenly making me giggle. All.The.Time. I'm probably losing my mind, but it seems so funny to me. I spent years harassing the adoption agency, and petitioning the courts. Then, I spent years helping to fight for the laws to change. Then, after the law was finally passed, we waited a year and a half for it to take effect. Now, all of a sudden, I barely have time to get everything done by the deadline. Am I the only one who thinks that's hysterical?
Thursday, December 18, 2008
What I DO know is that something funky occurred with the inside tendon area of her elbow and she's in a shit load of pain. And has now been advised to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING FOR 2 SOLID DAYS. Which apparently includes blogging. (Sucks for the blogging world, huh?)
Knowing M.E. like I do, I seriously doubt that she'll be able to do NOTHING. After all, she's a gal that doesn't sit still easily. (Not to mention, she will STILL have to tend to her "needs" in the powder room - doesn't toilet paper usage count as something?)
But she DID ask me to do today's blog so she IS apparently trying to follow orders. (Kind of happy all she asked of me was to help on her blog and NOT in the powder room. Of course, I WOULD help there if needed but let's hope I'm never needed!)
Not sure when she will be back to typing her blog but rest assured, she WILL be reading yours. And thoroughly enjoying them as she always does. She may NOT be able to leave a comment for a few days but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don't hold that against her. She's simply following doctor's orders.
For now, feel free to leave her get well wishes and continue to send her positive JANUARY 2nd mojo. Can you believe there's only 15 days left? Only 15 more days until she HOPEFULLY gets the information she's wanted her whole adult life?
Signing off but NOT before leaving you to watch the above video.
Figure M.E. could use a chuckle to help ease the pain.
It's been scientifically proven that a MUPPET video per day keeps the crankies away!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I visited LL Bean yesterday to get THE BIG GIFT for my kids. I can't say what it is, but they will be very happy. Finding parking at LL Bean in downtown Freeport 10 days before Christmas was just as much fun as you might think. I was a tad cranky after I jogged 16 miles from my car to the store, but when I got there, I was greeted by the largest gingerbread structure I had ever seen. This display was HUGE, and I took a picture with my cell phone so I could share it with you. Thanks to Hallie, for helping me get the picture off my phone and into my blog. Someday, perhaps you could share the secrets of the mysteriouscellphone with me. You can even call me grasshopper if you want. You might be too young to get that joke, though. Sigh.
Isn't this amazing? The lighthouse was maybe 6 feet tall. I was quite impressed and walked away wondering how many calories there would be in a behemoth gingerbread structure.
You have to love that company. Not only did they have the resources to build this magnificent, edible masterpiece, they also had plenty of time to completely rearrange the store so that every single department was in a different place than it was last time I was there. That made it even more exciting to shop. I love holiday adventures.
Monday, December 15, 2008
It was a very nice time, and we were incredibly fortunate to have in our midst a high school music teacher, who sat down at the piano and played Christmas carols for us to sing along to - I was in heaven! Christmas sing-alongs are probably one of my favorite activities ever. Yes, I know it's kind of cliche, but who cares? I LOVED IT and added the harmony to everyone else's melody for over an hour.
The rest of the time, everyone mingled and conversed in little groups. At one point, I was chatting with three other ladies, and the subject of my birth certificate quest came up - though not because I brought it up.
One of the other women said to me, "what difference could it make to have it? It's just a piece of paper. It doesn't mean anything."
Wow. I had no answer for her. How could I possibly explain what it would mean to me? That piece of paper will have the name of the person who gave birth to me on it. My blood-related mother. If you didn't know your mother's name, what would it mean to you to finally get the piece of paper that would tell you?
Even though I was so very fortunate to have had a wonderful, loving family, there still is this thing inside me. This thing that makes me a little bit different than almost everybody else. Most of the time, it doesn't matter to me at all, but one thing does bother me. I want to KNOW.
They say knowledge is power. For me, it's not about power. It's about finding out something I think I have a right to know. It's about finally knowing where I came from. It's a lot more than just a piece of paper.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
So, since I've decided my weekend posts will be shorter and more fun, I present to you my nomination for FAVORITE CHRISTMAS SONG to NEVER GET ANY AIRPLAY:
This song makes me smile. Gotta love Barenaked Ladies. And ya gotta love a Christmas CD called Barenaked for the Holidays. Hope you have a great Saturday!
Friday, December 12, 2008
When I'm talking about my parents and grandparents, it's easy to wax poetic. They were absolutely the best family I could have ever wanted. Now that they are hanging out in heaven, I miss them and tend to only remember every perfect thing (although I did spill my mom's Minute Rice secret shame!) When I talk about wanting to know my origins, that, too, comes from my heart and soul.
HOWEVER, most of the time I live in the real world, and Holy Cow, has it been all too real lately! In order to survive what life keeps throwing at me, I may have developed a slightly sarcastic tone. (Hallie, be quiet.) Actually, sarcasm has been my friend for a long, long time.
So, I present to you the real me. The one who alternately loves and hates the holiday season for the following reasons.
I love Christmas. I love the presents and the lights and Christmas carols and cookies and trees and all the love that is spread around this time of year. I especially love the parts where we celebrate the actual reason for Christmas.
BUT, there are some things I do NOT like about this time of year, and I've put them into a list.
1. I don't like the weather. More specifically, I don't like that the weather gets to mess up any plans I have on any random day. Snow/sleet/freezing rain gets to decide if I can go shopping, or to a Christmas concert or a party or even church. I hate weather.
2. I don't like hearing the same seasonal songs over and over and over again. Why, when there are 40 billion Christmas songs, do we have to hear the 12 crappy versions of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas every 15 minutes? And why, for that matter, does every famous singer think that they should record a Christmas album and, to make it 'different,' screw around with the timing, rhythm and notes of the song so as to make it completely unrecognizable and un-sing-along-able? I could do a better job with my CD collection than either of the all-holiday radio stations. Heck, I could sing a better version of Have Yourself...oh, never mind.
3. Why can't you find chocolate-covered cordial cherries in dark chocolate? I love these things. It is a HUGE part of Christmas for me (my grandparents again) and I like them in DARK CHOCOLATE. But you can only find them in milk chocolate unless you want to pay five gazillion dollars to get the really fancy kind smuggled in from Europe or some such nonsense. I went online and found out that the Queen Anne kind (sold at Walmart and Walgreens) only carry milk chocolate, and that the dark is only sold at two stores I've never heard of...what is wrong with America?
4. Why do people get so crazy this time of year? I mean, really? I remember working for LL Bean (I did this as a second job each year, just for 2-3 months leading up to Christmas for a little extra cash and the fab discount) and being told at least 3 or 4 times each year that I had "RUINED CHRISTMAS!" This was always because, when they called on December 22 to order that shirt that was on the cover of EVERY SINGLE CATALOG that went to 250 million homes for the last three months, it was sold out. Let me tell you, sister: if your Christmas is completely dependent on whether or not you can get that navy plaid chambray shirt for cousin Bob, you had better be calling in September. And then call for some professional help, 'cause you have bigger issues than us being out of stock.
5. Why is Happy Holidays all of a sudden a bad thing to say? I know the whole controversy about being forced to be politically correct, but this is my take on it: My parents used to send and receive Christmas cards that said "Happy Holidays." I always assumed they referred to Christmas and New Year's (inside the card was usually printed something like have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year). Now, if I accidently say Happy Holidays, I get a lecture about how the anti-Christmas movement is ruining this country. People, get over yourself. If somebody says Happy Hanukkah to me, I'm not going to get all crazy on them. I'll smile and say "Thanks, same to you!" Isn't there a little room for tolerance here in this most blessed of seasons?
Okay, there it is. The real me. I hope you'll stick around anyway, because I think you all rock.
Only 21 days left!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
My mom was not a domestic goddess. She was not domestic at all, in fact. She had a career - she was a teacher - and wasn't all that into housework or cooking. Mom was the queen of packaged food. We had dinner every night - meat, potatoes, vegetables, but they were likely to be instant potatoes and frozen veggies. She loved anything instant - I remember eating a lot of Minute Rice. She played the piano and organ, and knitted like nobody's business, but that was about the extent of the domestic arts for her.
My grandmother, on the other hand, was the very definition of domesticity. She had never worked at a job in her whole life. She cooked the most amazing things, all from scratch. She did calligraphy, sewed all her own clothes and tatted lace (something I used to know how to do.)
I ended up somewhere in the middle. I love to cook (baking is my specialty!) and like a clean house, but I'm not psychotic over it. I know how to sew, but I don't do it that much anymore. I knit, but it's socks and scarves and afghans more than intricate sweaters. I make cards, and often think how much Grandma would have loved rubber stamping.
I think the best thing you can do is expose your children to a lot of different things, and see which ones develop. I was certainly lucky to have extra adults in my household to expose me to things I might not have known about otherwise.
Mom - thanks for teaching me that a woman with a career can be a terrific role model. Thank you for my love of music, and every time I snuggle up under that beautiful Aztec Sun afghan you made and pick up my own needles, I think of you.
Dad - thanks for showing me that a strong man can still be gentle. And thanks for the twisted sense of humor. I couldn't get by without it.
Grandma - thanks for all the time you spent with me teaching me how to cook and sew. I learned more than just those skills from you - I learned that those things were important and they could be used to show love for your family.
Gramps - thanks for all the gardening lessons. I can still remember helping you plant, and then weed and water the huge garden, and I learned to be proud of the hard work and the payoff at harvest time. And thanks for showing me how hands, rough from working the land, could still cuddle a little girl while you read me the funnies.
I haven't had much luck teaching my sons the domestic arts, but I haven't given up hope yet. I expect it might skip a generation, and I might have some grandchildren someday.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
If you live in a northern, snowy and cold climate, you know what it's like. If you live in a southern, warm and sunny climate...you suck. Oh, no - I mean, you are so lucky! I needed to find my sense of humor about winter. After I got home, I went online to check on all my bloggy friends, and I found a post that made me laugh. Laugh so hard. Laugh until I was crying. And it was exactly what I needed.
One of my friends is a writer, a blogger and one of the wittiest people I know. You may recognize his name from his clever comments on mine and Hallie's blogs. If you have some time (and you'll need it...this post is NOT short), click the link below. I promise it will be well worth it. As you're reading, keep in mind that however bad things get, you can always laugh (or at least get your friends to laugh at you!)
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Saturday I attended a meeting put on for people who want access to original birth certificates - either their own, or a loved one's. It was very informative, and clearly laid out all the steps (I called them 'hoops' yesterday) one must complete to make it happen. The great news is that if I complete all the steps in time, I should be able to go to Augusta - our state's capital - on January 2nd, and collect something that I should have been able to have all along - my birth certificate.
I was able to contact the Office of Vital Records yesterday and announced my intent to request the information (step ONE). Today I will drive to Biddeford (the city I was born in) to get a copy of my AMENDED birth certificate - the one with my adopted parents' names on it - which I need to present on January 2nd (step TWO).
Friday I am supposed to be able to download the forms I will have to submit to the state asking for my birth certificate (step THREE). And then, on January 2nd, I will get in line with all the others and hopefully they will hand me the document(soon I'll be walking cross the floor!)
Being at the meeting was a strange experience. As I listened to the others speak, it was as if a lot of them were telling my story. There were so many there who have had the same experiences as I have had - St. Andre's Home, great adoptive parents, less than helpful agency staff, repeated frustration in the search for information. Some of them were looking for medical information, some for siblings or parents, some even for clues to their own identity, but the desire for the most basic facts, the facts about how we came to be here, was overwhelming.
There were some people there who have already completed a successful search, and I was riveted by their stories. A few had found their birth parents; some had discovered they were no longer living; quite a few had located some siblings. As I've been told to expect, there were many ups and downs along the way. Not all blood relations welcome newcomers with open arms. We were warned about the emotional roller coaster ride on which we are embarking.
But NOBODY SAID THEY WERE SORRY THEY LOOKED.
Only 24 days more.
Monday, December 8, 2008
This means that, while I am scurrying around and making phone calls and driving to this-that-and-the-other place, I don't have much time for blogging today. Tomorrow, I will tell you all about it, and I hope to be sharing some really good news! Or not.
In the meantime, I got tagged for one of those MEME things. This is my first one, and I don't have time to tag a bunch of you (you're saved!), but I will perform my bloggy duties as follows:
Kim, over at Kim and Co., who is funny and often asks some very thought-provoking questions (go visit her) tagged me to list 10 random things about myself, so here goes.
1. I'm short - er, vertically challenged. Five feet, one inch, and too old to be comfortable with heels above 3" anymore. Sigh.
2. I love fire. Not in a bad pyromaniac way, but really really love it. Fireplaces, wood stoves, bonfires, fire pits, chimneas, candles. I could stare at fire for hours. I even kind of like gas grills.
3. I am a girly girl. I like girl things. Clean things. Pretty things. I do not like dirty things, or bugs, or mud or anything else that might get under my nails or on my clothes. It's kind of swimming upstream in this house, but I've learned to deal.
4. I can't bear to watch movies in which animals or children are hurt/killed/tortured. I think they should add another moving rating to the current system: WA (for Wuss Alert) that would let me know in advance so I can avoid them.
5. Adoption Reunions make me cry. Every time. I've stopped watching any of the shows that have them, including Oprah. It messes me up for a long time afterward.
6. I make all my own Christmas cards and gift tags. And birthday cards and thank you cards and thinking of you cards and get well cards. Sometimes even gift wrap. Rubber stamping rocks.
7. I play the piano. Well, I used to play a lot. Now I mostly play the upper part of Heart and Soul while my younger son plays the lower part.
8. I sang with the Sweet Adelines (women's barbershop style chorus) for 7 years and loved it. I'm taking a few years off because my life is a little hectic, but I hope to grow old and gray singing at the top of my lungs.
9. I love snowmen. LOVE LOVE LOVE them. Real ones, and pretend ones. They just make me happy.
10. I adore all you bloggy people. You have been universally the most welcoming people I think I have ever met. I admire your willingness to share your lives and am astounded that anyone takes time out of their day to share mine. You guys are awesome.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
What day, you ask? Well, the day when, instead of trying to come up with something interesting to say, I will instead try to figure out how to insert pictures in my little blog. I have no idea if I can make it work, but, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
These are my boys. Brandon, age 21, is on the left, and Alex, age 16, on the right. This was taken last summer at one of the beautiful beaches on the coast of Maine.
Yes, they are both long-haired freaks. I don't know why they both want to grow their hair so long. I certainly didn't start out preferring it, but I vowed a long time ago never to fight the hair battle with them. I have a firm rule about tatoos and piercings, but hair is temporary. And, if they get their hair genetics from their father's side, it's REALLY temporary, so they should enjoy it while they can. After I while I got so used to it that I actually think I like it. Go figure.
This is Brandon, racing his team of dogs. Oh, did I forget to mention that we have a whole kennel full of racing sled dogs? 40 of them. Seriously. Both the kids have been racing since they were about 3 or 4. Brandon was Maine State Open Class Champion for the last several years. He is in college, but lives at home to be near his precious dogs (and because he's no dummy and has figured out how good he has it!)
And this is Alex, racing his slightly smaller team (6 dogs). Both of these photos were taken last winter - with all the snow we had last year, they went racing just about every weekend. Alex is a junior in high school.
I've promised the kids that this blog will not be about them, but they are a huge part of my life, and I thought that you might like to see what they look like. This way, if I ever complain that they are driving me crazy, you can picture them.
Friday, December 5, 2008
He is my only brother, and I love him, but it just seemed that after my parents died, we didn't have anything in common, and not much to say to each other. Kim D asked about how long my parents have been gone. My dad died 10 years ago, and my mother passed away 2 years later, after a long struggle with multiple health issues. They had a wonderful bond, and I picture them hanging out in heaven, just happy to be together again.
I remember someone telling me that when your parents die, it's like someone says to you "Go to the head of the line" and it's not a line in which you want to be at the front. I think this is the point where siblings can be the most comforting, and that just isn't how it was for me and my brother. I don't blame him for that - it's just how things are. In raising my two boys, I have put an inordinate amount of effort into building their relationship. I want them to always have each other, even when I'm gone, and luckily, even though they're 5 and a half years apart in age, they love each other and get along great.
Still, that leaves me with a longing that I've had since I was little - a longing for a sister. I admit that in my deepest darkest heart, I'm hoping that when I get my birth certificate and search out my birth family that there might be a sister out there for me.
My birth parents may well have had other children. Heck, my bio father was Catholic and married back in 1960 - back then the Catholics had truckloads of kids! There's a chance that there are several half-siblings out there, and I might be able to find and know them.
Now, I know there is no guarantee. I might never be able to find them. Who knows what roadblocks lay ahead in my search path? I know that there is a good chance that they will not be pleased to find out about me, or might not want a relationship or even to meet me. The whole idea of another rejection is always on my mind.
Even though I'm trying to prepare myself for the worst, I can't help but dream just a tiny tiny bit. Maybe, just maybe, my sister is out there waiting for me. If not, then the position remains open, and I might have to appoint someone. I wonder how that help wanted ad would read: Grown woman seeking sister for slumber parties and giggling. Hmm. Better work on that some more.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
We always arrived at Midnight Mass around 10:45. My mom was the organist, and she always played beautiful Christmas carols for folks to enjoy as they arrived. Since she was a big shot, we got the best seats in the house - the balcony. You could see everything and everybody from the front row of the balcony, and I loved it. My dad and brother were usually on the altar (Dad was a lector, doing readings and such, and my brother was an altar boy).
The service was absolutely the most beautiful of the year to me. I was completely enthralled by the story of Jesus' birth, and couldn't take my eyes off the enormous Nativity scene at the front of the church. When, at the appointed moment in the story, one of the altar boys placed the ceramic baby Jesus in the creche, I remember not being able to breathe for joy. I don't ever remember being a tiny bit tired, even though this was hours past my normal bedtime.
If I stop and think, I can still hear the voices of all the parishoners singing Joy to the World and Hark the Herald Angels Sing.
When we arrived home, we (the kids) were allowed to open one gift - a gift PRESELECTED by my mother. It was always the same - pajamas. Nice, new, flannel nightgowns or two-piece pj's, which we would put on and wear to bed while we waited for Santa to do his magic.
When I had my first child, I made sure that I kept up the tradition. Every year my kids are allowed to open one gift (preselected by me!) on Christmas Eve after church. And it's always pj's - or, since they were teenagers, flannel or fleece sleeping pants and long sleeve t-shirts. Same difference, really.
And they groan and grumble about it - just like I used to do. "Let me guess what it is..." they'll say, or "PJ's - who would've guessed that?"
I love it. And when they ask me why I insist on torturing them like this, I tell them they'll figure it out when they have kids of their own.
Because that's when I figured it out. Make sure they look nice for their Christmas morning photos! Thanks, Mom. Works like a charm.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I am finally prepared for the big highlight of my day - a trip to the Post Office. I head out with packages and envelopes piled precariously in my left hand, along with my purse, my Ipod and my keys. In my right hand I carry my freshly-made coffee in my favorite travel cup, my cell phone, and a bag of clothes to donate to the thrift shop. Actually, to be honest, the bag of clothes was headed for the trunk, where it will sit for a really long time until I can't fit something else in there, and THEN it will go to the thrift store.
Anyway, I carefully put all the above mentioned items into my car, turn on the ignition, put on my seatbelt, place my car into reverse, and...
promptly drive out of the driveway with my travel mug on the roof of my car.
You're now either A) laughing at me; B) sympathizing with me; or C) wondering what on earth that has to do with the Nature vs. Nurture debate.
For those in category C, I will explain that, like me, my dad had the same cranial defect that caused him to set things down on his car trunk or roof and then forget all about them. When I was a kid, I stood on the porch of our house and frantically waved, or ran after him down the driveway, shouting STOP! WAIT! DAD! more times than I could name. Once I saw him set his suitcase down behind the car and then back over it. If there are cars in heaven, I bet he's still doing it.
If I had a dime for every Dunkin Donuts coffee I've ever left on my roof, well, I could buy a lot more coffee. I've also lost quite a few mugs, tall glasses, a couple of stuffed animals and some Tupperware. I've also learned a lot about velocity and wind speed related to the various weights of a large, full cup of coffee versus crackers in a small plastic bowl. Also, like my dad, I don't get excited about it. I just try to pick it up carefully, so nobody gets broken glass in their feet or tires, and I move on.
Dad always claimed that he had so many important things on his mind that he would sometimes forget 'the little things.' My mother didn't think it was so little the time he ran over the suitcase (I can still hear her saying, "NOT ONE OF THE MATCHING ONES!").
So, that'll be my story too. I'm always thinking about important things. Just like my dad.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
The person who says something about real parents or children generally is referring to Birth/Biological parents or children. I always know what they meant to say, but it still rankles a bit nonetheless. In my head, I always have this speech prepared: My real parents are also known as my adopted parents and ultimately known as just my parents. Rather than say something, though, I usually respond to whatever the original question was, without correction, and just make sure I carefully say biological or birth parents whenever I get the chance. Most people catch the clue.
Once, when I was pregnant with my first child, I was having a conversation with a person I knew who was also adopted. She didn't have the best relationship with her adopted parents, and always felt - misplaced, I guess, for lack of a better word. She started searching for her bio family when she was still a teenager, and really believed that once reunited with them, she would finally become 'whole.'
She was talking about how the blood connection was so much stronger than anything else, and I was basically disagreeing with her. I believed then, and still believe now, that love is the big connection in any family. Anyway she said to me that, since I was about to have a 'real' child of my own, I'd find out how right she was.
Well, she moved away shortly thereafter, and we lost touch. I never had the chance to tell her that I found out how very wrong she was, although having been pregnant and giving birth to my two precious boys did indeed make the whole thing very clear to me.
I treasured being pregnant, and all the scary yet wonderful feelings that go along with it, but - for me - it had absolutely nothing to do with being a parent. Real parenting is all about what happens afterward. Who is there when they are sick in the middle of the night? Who helps them with their homework? Who teaches them manners and makes them say 'I'm sorry' when they screw up? Who is there to hear about their first broken heart? Who is the one who loves them when they are darn near unlovable? That's a real parent.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Evidently, any adult adoptee that wants his or her original birth certificate must apply for it by filling out some forms, which have not yet been released. Once they turn in the forms to the state, someone at the Bureau of Vital Statistics locates the records and, one assumes, sends them to the person.
Gee, that sounds simple, doesn’t it? Of course, they admit they’re not sure where the records are, and they don’t have the forms ready yet, and they have no idea how long this process will take. I did find out that if we notify someone at BVS that we are going to be applying to get the records, they might start looking for them now, so that it will be quicker to match them to the request after January 2nd. So, that’s another thing I plan to do today.
One of the other things that the state is working on is a form for birth parents to fill out. If they choose, they may file a form saying that they do not wish to be contacted. The good news is that, if they file this form, they are also required to provide a complete medical history form. Get lost, but here’s your medical background.
If I stop and think about this very long, I go nuts. Imagine how it would feel to finally get the names you’ve waited for all your life, and they are accompanied by a note that says, PLEASE STAY AWAY FROM US. Talk about abandonment issues. Geez.
When we were fighting to get this law passed, the opposition often talked about how this would RUIN THE LIVES of so many birth mothers. They painted a picture of a peaceful woman with her peaceful family in their peaceful home SHATTERED by the appearance of the child she gave up for adoption. Maybe she never told them about me. Maybe the shame of it all will kill her. Maybe their oldest child finds out he’s not really the oldest child and ends up hating her. Maybe their happy family will never be the same and it will be all my fault.
Well, this is what I have to say about that: I’m not a stalker. I have absolutely no desire to shatter anyone’s happiness. What I want is some information – information that I think I deserve to have. I want to know where I came from. I want to know what scary diseases might be waiting to get me. I want my children to have all the medical history they can have. I want to know if I have siblings.
Would I like to talk to them? Sure. If my birth parents are still alive, I’d love to get to know them a little bit, but I don’t need parenting. I think one good set of parents is all anybody really needs – and I had a set already, thanks - but I’m not against having some kind of relationship with them. I’d love to get some answers to questions I’ve pondered since I was a child.
But, I don’t want to cause any trouble. I hate to think that my very existence causes anyone pain, and I don’t appreciate the implication that I would go storming off to ruin my birth mother’s life. I would never do that.
What I would tell her, if I got the chance, is simple:
You did the right thing. Thank you.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
So, first thing this morning I went to retrieve my email. There were several emails letting me know I had comments waiting (thank you!) and a couple of SHOP NOW emails from L.L Bean and WalMart. Then there was a sneaky little email from someone I hadn't heard from in a long time.
Several years ago, I joined a group of people who believed that all adults, including adopted adults, had the right to their original birth certificates. This group, which called itself Access (and then OBC for ME - Original Birth Certificates for Maine) believed that, at the very least, everyone should be able to know their original surname. In this group there were a lot of people who wanted this. Like me, a lot of members wanted access to more medical history. Some people wanted to track down birth family for other reasons, and just about all of us admitted to being unbearably curious.
Since the law in this state has sealed the records since 1953, it wasn't that easy to get them opened. It took years, and at least 2 failed bills before the state Legislature finally passed LD 1084, but it happened. It was signed into state law in June of 2007, and will take effect January 1, 2009. I was told that it was going to take such a long time between passage and implementation because the State was going to have to develop a system, and forms to fill out, and LOCATE THE RECORDS. Evidently, depending on the situation, an adoptee's original birth certificate might be in any of a number of places. Hearing that sure didn't make me feel all warm and secure. What if they can't find it?????
Anyway, this morning I got an email from someone I met through Access who says that we're not just going to be able to show up at our town office (or the state house) on January 2 and pay our $10 and pick up our birth certificates. She said that we have to APPLY to someone at the state - it wasn't clear who exactly - and let them know we are going to want our records. Then, they have to locate them. So, if this is true, it looks like January 2 is not the day.
Why can't everything just work like it's supposed to? I mean, the folks at the state have known this was going to happen since May of 2007. What the heck have they been doing the last 18 months?
I am going to check into all of this, and will be sure to let you know what I find out. I'm a bit cranky about it, but what can I do? I've waited a long time, and if I have to jump through some more hoops, I'll do it.
I'd do anything.
Friday, November 28, 2008
I, for better or worse, am still celebrating. I am lucky enough to be invited to join another family's celebration which - as luck would have it - happens the day AFTER Thanksgiving. Being invited to this party actually accomplishes a bunch of cool stuff:
1. It keeps me from having to decide whether to go Black Friday shopping. I didn't really want to, but sometimes I get caught up in the 'everybody's doing it' frenzy. This way, I don't really have time, so I just won't go. Problem solved.
2. I get to go watch the Bruins game on a huge high definition plasma TV. Which is AWESOME. Until I have to go home and watch the next game on my crappy regular, non-HD TV. Oh well, you can't have everything.
3. The whole time I'm watching the game, somebody ELSE will be cooking me a fabulous meal. And most likely, afterwards, I'll only have to do my share of the clean-up, which might just be carrying my plate to the counter! For sure, it won't be the hours of clean-up I had to do yesterday.
4. The only thing I have to contribute to this feast (other than my sparkling personality) is a couple of desserts. I'm kind of a dessert specialist, and inevitably if I am going somewhere and ask "what can I bring?" they say dessert. The 3 most-requested items are Apple Pie, Flourless Chocolate Cake and Bailey's Irish Cream Cake (ask Hallie about that one!) Anyway, today I'm contributing a couple of apple pies - traditional Thanksgiving fare - and a flourless chocolate cake for the chocoholics in attendance.
So, I hope you all are having a great time shopping, or watching movies, or decorating for Christmas, or just spending time with friends or family. I will be back tomorrow with more of my ramblings of adopted life as I countdown to my birth certificate.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
We've heard thanks being giving for everything from "I passed that algebra test" to "the cat didn't puke on my bedspread this morning." Yes, really. And once in a great while, one of them says something sweet about being thankful for the wonderful meal, and I wish like heck I had it on tape.
I usually say something about being thankful for my family, which I am every day. But this year I will have a few new things to say (even if I only say them to myself - the boys hate it when the gravy gets cold!)
I am thankful for adoption. For adoptive parents who opened their hearts and home to give me a chance at a better life. For biological parents who created me. For extended family who never once treated me as if I were different than their biological children. For the state legislators who finally had the courage to pass the law allowing adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates. For the fact that it is only 37 days until I can hold my birth certificate in my hands.
And I'm thankful for you, my new blog friends, who have been so open and supportive. I hope you all have wonderful things to be thankful for this holiday.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
As I was writing yesterday's post about the non-identifying information I received from the adoption agency, I began to think about something that happened a lot when I was a child.
My mom had lovely eyes. They were light colored, kind of greenish blue, and one of her best features. When I was growing up, people would sometimes remark that I had her eyes. Mine are more truly blue than hers were, but a lot of times people would point out how similar they were to hers.
We didn't tell everyone that I was adopted; close friends and family knew, and it was never kept a secret, but we didn't bring it up to casual acquaintences unless the conversation led there. When someone would say that I had mom's eyes, she and I would share a secret smile. She would say, "yes, she does." In those moments, I could so clearly feel the love between us. It was as if only she and I knew that while I didn't get her eyes genetically, I was so much her daughter that the resemblance was unmistakable just the same.
When I got the report about my biological mother, and I read that her eyes were blue, my first reaction was "just like mine." But then I thought again. No, not just like mine. My eyes are like my mom's. I may have gotten the color from my bio mother, but everything I see is through the eyes of my mom, whose love enabled me to be the person I am.
I love you, mom, and I miss you every day.
Monday, November 24, 2008
But who was I kidding? I couldn’t wait any longer. I felt like I’d been waiting my whole life. I carefully pried the flap open and extracted the single sheet of white paper inside.
As I write this, I have the paper next to me, retrieved from the file where I keep all my adoption search papers. I wanted to be sure to be accurate in this account, but to be honest with you, I’ve got every single word memorized, so it doesn't matter. The paper St. Andre's sent was a form with various categories, and only about two-thirds of it was filled in.
St. Andre’s Home, Inc.
ADOPTEES BACKGROUND INFORMATION
This section contained my date of birth, time, sex, weight, length, place of birth, and date of discharge from hospital, and “birth history,” which basically reported that I was a healthy baby girl.
All of this I already knew.
THE BIOLOGICAL MOTHER
This was the part I’d been dying to see. The paper was shaking (okay, maybe it was me) as I read. It reported that her age at my birth was 24, that she was single, white, had blue eyes (like mine) and fair-colored hair (not like mine). This completed the physical description. There was room for more, but the rest of the categories were blank.
It went on to say that she had a high school education, worked as a clerk (it didn’t say where, or even what industry), and had two sisters. Her nationality was listed as English/Scotch. Nothing was listed in the TALENTS, AMBITIONS OR HOBBIES sections. It said she was Protestant.
I took several minutes to digest this. I had believed all my life that she had been a teenager. I had cultivated a story in my head, which might have been encouraged by my parents, that she was a young girl, probably madly in love with a young boy. When she had gotten pregnant, she had realized that she was unable to give me the home she so wanted for me, and had turned to adoption.
It was a romantic story, and somehow, it made me feel better. I just knew she had wanted me, but at such a young age, how could she have cared for me?
But now, I realized that she was 24 – not a young girl at all, and she had a job. I know intellectually that I had no way to understand her circumstances, but all of a sudden, emotionally, it felt like she just hadn’t wanted me. My stomach clutched. Tears began to pour down my face. I remember putting one hand on my very-pregnant belly, feeling my child move, wondering. It took me a long time to continue reading.
Finally. What I needed most, I was thrilled to see that this section was filled in. Then I started reading: Rh neg, no family history of: TB, diabetes, allergies, hypertension or multiple births. Biological mother’s mother is deceased of cancer (no details known.)
No details known? Are you kidding me?? What kind of freaking cancer was it? So, instead of answering questions and alleviating fears, this just made everything worse. Was it breast cancer? Cervical cancer? Ovarian cancer? Some other cancer that I could be saved from if I had the heads up to get screened for it? Unbelievable. Now I was mad.
REASON FOR SURRENDER
This was where I might get some answers. Here is the part where she, supposedly in her own words, explained why she was giving up her child. This is what it said, word-for-word:
Biological mother expressed the wish to place her child for adoption from the start of her stay at Group Home. Biological mother wanted her child brought up in the Catholic faith.
Now I was confused. And still mad. First of all, what kind of a reason was that? I wanted to hear that she couldn’t afford a child. Or that she wasn’t emotionally equipped to deal with a baby. Or something. Not that she wanted the child raised as a Catholic. The report said she was Protestant, anyway. Why did she want me raised in a different church? It all made no sense.
Then I turned the page over. Here was the information about the Biological Father, but precious little information it was. He was 27, white, 5’11”, athletic, dark brown hair and eyes. He had a high school education and was a telephone worker. He was Franco American.
And Catholic. And married.
Ahh, there it was. She was a single Protestant woman, and he was a married Catholic man. In a split second, everything I’d always believed – wanted to believe – was shattered. I’ve grown up a lot since that day, and I understand that one can never truly understand other people’s lives. It’s not up to any of us to judge, and you can never know what’s in another’s heart. But in that moment, I was a child again, and so incredibly disappointed.
I sat there for a long time, looking at the paper and reading it over and over through streaming tears. I’d waited so long for answers, but all I had ended up with was more questions.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I was so happy to see you this morning. After so many dark, cloudy days, it was delightful to see your rays and feel your warmth through my window.
However, I must ask you one thing: Why do you feel the need to illuminate all the dust particles floating around my house? And the streaks on the windows I just washed 3 days ago? Nothing in this place looks quite as good when you're around.
And while we're on the subject of not looking good, why do you make me squint? These permanent wrinkles between my eyebrows are so deep I'd need a gallon of botox and probably a bunch of fat to inject in there to get rid of them. Of course, I have fat to spare and taking fat away from somewhere else would be a good thing.
Wait, what was I talking about, again?
Oh, yeah. Nice to see you, Sun. Stop by more often, 'cause you make me happy.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
But, as it turns out, I am incredibly long-winded, and the post turned out way too long. Imagine. Me, long-winded (Hallie, don't say anything). So I stopped. And to my great astonishment, several of you said you couldn't wait to find out the rest. I'm sorry to say that I am not going to continue that part of the story until Monday. It may seem ridiculous, but some of this stuff I've been writing is exhausting. I think I'm getting feelings out that have been sort of buried for a while, and I decided to give myself a break on weekends, at least for now.
I will still post on weekends, but it will be something short, light or funny, or like this one, where I speak directly to you all. I want to tell you how incredibly grateful I am that you are there. The blogging community is full of amazing, supportive people who are so willing to open their hearts. I thank you for coming along with me.
Only 41 more days until January 2nd!
Friday, November 21, 2008
I called St. Andre’s, ironically, while I was pregnant with my younger son, who’s now 16, so this was a while ago. I was having some difficulties with the pregnancy, and my doctor really urged me to see what I could find out about my medical history. I spoke to a very pleasant woman, probably a nun, who told me that she couldn’t tell me anything. Don’t you love it when that happens?
She did, however, connect me to another person, a man, who told me that they did have ‘some post-adoption services.’ He then proceeded to spend several minutes lecturing me about why looking up your birth parents was a bad idea. He concluded with the instruction to “take some time, think about whether this is what you really want, and then, if you still want to, send us a letter asking for the documents you need.” Okay, I will come right out and admit it: he pissed me off. But I kept my cool and told him I would reflect on what he’d said.
However, since I had been ‘reflecting’ on this subject since I was old enough to reflect, I hung up the phone and typed out a letter requesting assistance. Three weeks, and two more phone calls later, I got the precious documents. There were a lot of them. Basically, there was a letter which told me that I must register for the state’s Reunion Registry, which serves to match consenting blood-related adults separated by adoption. I was already registered, so I moved on to the other requirements: completed St. Andre’s release form (notarized), a written request for the desired information, and $25 fee.
So, what would I receive after all that? Non-identifying information. This is the term they used to describe the tiny tidbits of info about my birth mother – facts that would make it impossible for me to identify her. They warned that there might not be much there, as birth moms were allowed to fill out as much or as little of the forms as they chose, and if they didn’t want to name or describe the father, they didn’t have to.
But – there might be. There might be all kinds of pertinent details in there – physical descriptions, medical histories, even stuff like her education, her hobbies and talents. And one other thing: the Reason for Surrender, a statement she was required to write in her own handwriting explaining why she wanted to relinquish her baby. Finally I would know why she gave me up. I can’t describe my feelings other than to say I could hardly breathe just thinking about it. Good thing they warned me not to get my hopes up!
Oh, and they told me that I would have to pay $50 per hour for them to go look for the stuff in my file. This irritated me too. As it turned out, it took them 1.75 hours to access the information, including the correspondence to me, so I got a bill for $87.50, which was a pretty good chunk of change to me back then.
A few months and several reminder phone calls later, the envelope arrived. One thin 9x12 manila envelope that would change my life. I’ll never forget walking back from the mailbox that day. It was hot and humid, and I was almost 8 months pregnant. I kept turning the envelope over and over in my hands, looking at it with emotions somewhere between excitement and terror.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
But, it’s not. I’ve done everything I can think of to do, and everything that’s been suggested to me. I could say that talk shows have nearly unlimited funds and resources to do searches or hire private investigators, and, while that is true, it’s not why they have luck finding people and I don’t.
It’s because they have something else that I don’t have: information. They have something: a birth name, a social security number, the name of a relative. They know that the birth father was in the Army, or the birth mother worked at the library in the next town. The adoption was arranged through the church, and everybody knew who the pregnant teenager was. Or, they were lucky enough to be adopted in a state that didn’t seal the darn records up like the national mint. They had something.
I, on the other hand, have nothing at all. My adoption was arranged through a Catholic agency, St. Andre’s Home for Unwed Mothers. This place still exists, although in an unexpected attempt at political correctness, it is now called just St. Andre’s Home. Back in 1960, pregnant women (or girls) went to live at St. Andre’s during their pregnancy, and surrendered them, usually at birth or shortly thereafter. At that point, the child went home with the adoptive parents, and a few months later, the adoption was made final in a judge’s office at the parent’s closest courthouse. The only other person to attend the adoption hearing was usually a nun, the one who had worked with the adoptive parents.
The records from the adoption were then sealed up in the Court of Probate, never to see the light of day again. The Probate Court, and the Adoption Agency both guard this information as if it’s the secret nuclear launch codes. Now, there are several probate courts around the state, and it is legal for a probate judge to open the records. Some of the judges have opened quite a few of the files, usually for what they consider good reason, for example, if an adopted child needed a bone marrow transplant or something like that. SOME of the judges will open the records just because you ask, but not MY probate judge. My judge believes that there is NEVER a good reason to open up adoption records, and has NEVER done so in the 20 years or more he has presided over probate in the county I was adopted into. Sigh.
I’ll tell you about the experience I had when I tried to get information from the adoption agency tomorrow, but for now, you can assume that they were less than helpful. So where does that leave me, with my desperate desire to find out my medical history, my birth family, my origins? It leaves me with the internet. I have signed up for every registry online that I could find. There are quite a number of reunion registry sites, where you can list your birth date and place and say you are searching for birth relatives. Then, if they sign up too, your birth mother or other family can be matched with you. I’ve never had even one hit.
So I wait. I wait for that magical moment on January 2, 2009 when I can at last hold my birth certificate – my REAL birth certificate – in my hands and see my birth mother’s name (and maybe the father’s name). Then I will have the thing that Oprah’s guests have (no, not all the cool gifts!). More valuable to me than gold: Information.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
When I was a child, my parents used to read me this book entitled The Chosen Baby. It was incredibly old-fashioned, which is ironic, since I think the version they read to me was updated in the 50’s to replace the original one from the 30’s. Still, it was outdated in the mid 1960’s, which is when it was first read to me, and seems impossibly so now.
It was a happy little tale about Mr. & Mrs. Brown, who lived so very happily, except that they had no babies of their own. So they adopted – a boy first, and then a few years later, a girl. The Browns loved these babies, and introduced them to their extended family, including grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Mrs. Brown took care of the children (one assumes Mr. Brown was out earning a living) and everyone lived so very happily.
Okay, it sounds lame, I know. Even to me. Still, it was a very important book in my life, and I want to tell you why.
The Chosen Baby was only one of dozens of books in our bookcases at home. We had just about every kind of children’s book suitable for infants on up to the ‘chapter books’ I couldn’t wait to be allowed to read (I was an early reader, and my mother questioned whether Nancy Drew contained too ‘adult’ material for my tender age!). My mom was a teacher, and she would rather spend money on books than food any day.
Anyway, every night my brother or I chose a couple of books from the bookcase and Mom or Dad read to us (more often Mom – Dad liked to ‘rest his eyes’ while she was reading). The Chosen Baby got picked every so often, but so did Peter Rabbit and Thumbelina. No extra emphasis was ever placed on the message in that story. And that’s the important part.
As a child, I never felt that being adopted was weird or bad, or something to be ashamed about. To me, it just was. Like having brown hair and blue eyes. Or being part of a family where one parent was musically gifted and the other one couldn’t carry a tune to save his life. I don’t remember being told I was adopted, or that my brother was. It was always just known – no secrets, but no extra emphasis either. I tell my friends with adopted kids who ask what age their child should be when they tell them: if you have to sit them down and ‘break the news’ you’ve waited too long. It should just be part of your family story, like how your aunt was in labor for 3 days with your cousin, and Uncle Jack was born during a hurricane... or that you were adopted and so was your brother.
We all should be part of the family story that unfolds every day while you’re doing laundry, or playing cards, or driving to school, or reading a bedtime story.
This was a precious gift my parents gave me. Thanks, Mom and Dad.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I’m in my late 40’s and I’m adopted. I was adopted as an infant by a terrific couple who turned out to be the best parents I could have ever wanted. You’ll hear a lot more about them as time goes on because they were both quite the characters, and were completely responsible for the fun-yet-slightly-twisted human being I turned out to be. Unfortunately, both of my folks are dead. I still miss them a lot.
Maybe because I was lucky enough to have such great parents, I was late in getting to that place a lot of adoptees get to – wanting to find out about my birth family. Of course, I had wondered occasionally from the time I was quite small, mostly about my birth mother. What does she look like? Does she ever think about me? And of course the big question: Why did she give me up?
Even though I wondered, I didn’t do anything about it for many, many years. Part of this was because I didn’t want to hurt my mom and dad’s feelings, but part of me just didn’t dare. It’s amazing how complex these feelings can be.
Anyway, when I was in my late 20’s and early 30’s, I was having some problems and suffered a number of miscarriages. My Ob/Gyn at the time said, as every doctor I’d ever seen had said, “I wish we had some medical history on you.” Me, too. Around this time, it seemed like every week scientists were discovering another serious medical condition, disease or cancer that was genetic. If only you knew what scary stuff was in your genes, you could protect yourself, get screened early, take preventative measures. It didn’t seem fair that I couldn’t have that.
So I started looking into it, and found that in the state that I live in, adoption records are sealed. If you were born between 1953 and 1977, they are completely sealed and unobtainable. Your original birth certificate, with your birth parents’ names on it, is removed from the town records where you were born, and it’s like it never existed. The state prints you up a new thing, called a birth registration card, that has your adoptive parents’ names on it, and that’s that. There are several other states with similar restricted access to records by law, some states with recently opened records, and other states that never sealed the records in the first place.
Well, I tried a lot of avenues, which I will talk about as time goes on, but the bottom line is that I couldn’t get any information, no matter what I did, or who I talked to, until recently. A group of people, many of them like me, formed about 5 years ago with the sole purpose of passing legislation granting access for adult adoptees to their original birth certificates. It was a long, hard battle with many starts and stops, but the legislation finally passed in June of 2007, with an effective date of January 1, 2009.
This means that on January 2, 2009 (the first business day after the law takes effect) I will be able to go to the town in which I was born, and request a copy of my original birth certificate. I still get chills just thinking about it. What this will mean to me is hard to put into words, but I think about it all the time. What’s her name? It will be right there, on a piece of paper in my hand. Something I’ve waited my whole life to find out.
I find myself counting the days and weeks until January 2nd. I think about things in terms of before I get my birth certificate or after I get my birth certificate. And then I wonder what it is I’ll do once I have the name. Will I try to find her? What if my birth father’s name isn’t listed? Do I have siblings? There are a lot of things to think about, and talk about, which brings me to the reason for this blog.
I want to talk through this experience. I want to talk about what it was like to grow up adopted and how it has affected me, my personality and my parenting style. I want to tell someone all about this journey I’m on to find out about my birth family.
I’m an extravert, and I like to discuss everything. My friend Hallie over at Wonderful World of Wieners has shown me how therapeutic blogging can be. And how much it can reduce pressure on friends and family who otherwise would have to listen to me. And Hallie, like me, thinks everything you do in life is better with some company! So, I’m inviting you all to be my company. Hang on, it might be a wild ride.