I always knew I was adopted. It wasn’t sprung upon me in my teenage years causing to question my upbringing, nor did I find some conclusive sheet of paper which would turn my life upside down. It simply was a subject that was open for discussion at any point in time. I was 18 months old and had bounced around the foster care system since birth, and by the time I arrived at my parent’s home, not only was I emotionally and physically scarred but I was also aware that this was yet another family who might get rid of me like the rest had. I know I did not understand the word adoption, or perhaps even the concept, but I knew it felt different.
My mom was up front with me from day one in explaining that I had a birth mom, but that I was chosen by them to be a part of their family. As I grew older she let me know that she would help me look for my birth parents if that was something I was interested in and over the years, curiosity popped in and out of my head…who did I look like? Who had the blue eyes? Who was responsible for my pudgy little fingers? While those questions were always at the back of my mind they never became much of a priority, unlike the constant nagging of the “why” question. All I knew at the time was my birth mother was young and unable to take care of me and given that none of my foster homes opted to keep me, there must have been something wrong with me, and the fear of being “given back” was a constant shadow in my mind.
Growing up, there was not a lot of time or emotional space to think about finding my birth parents, as the domestic abuse in my home started when I was five and ended when I was 13. My sexual abuse, which occurred outside the home also started at five and ended at 14 and my mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was 13 and lost her battle after six long years. I was 19 when my mom passed away and although over the years, the curiosity of my origins had grown bigger, the guilt about doing it after my mom died was overwhelming and once again I pushed the issue to the back of my mind.
In my early 20’s, I was given some information about an Ontario adoption registry that allowed both adopted children and their birth parents to register on a computer program which would then search for a match. I filled out the form, forgot about it and continued on with my life. Out of the blue, when I was 24 I received a big unmarked brown envelope which I proceeded to hand to my girlfriend at the time, told her to open it, thinking it may be a book from a college I had looked into, and ran in to get us coffee. Upon my return to the car, I find her in tears with the envelope in her hand saying “it’s your past”. To be honest I had forgotten completely about it and the shock set in as I started to read the first of the pages.
My birth mother was half black, half Irish and because she had died that year in a fire I was given her identifying information, her name and birthdate etc. She had indeed been a young mother with a history of addiction and mental health problems. My birth father was of Italian descent with blue eyes and darker skin and there was very little other information about him. My birth mothers mom was still alive, and I was also informed I had two half-sisters, and with my permission and a few exchanges of letters, a meeting was set up. It is a very strange feeling to be handed family and expected to have some sort of instant connection simply because we share some DNA, especially considering that blood relations had never been a part of my life.
As the meeting approached, I anticipated the many scenarios that could occur, and although I can say honestly that I wished for a close knit family, I went in with as few expectations as possible. It was odd to finally look at someone who has some sort of resemblance to me. My birth mothers mom was a kind, elderly lady who was just thrilled to meet her grandchildren, and like many people of that generation, was not willing to divulge much information about the past. My middle sister had actually lived with our birth mother on and off for five of six years, however following numerous suicide attempts, she was permanently removed and placed into foster care. My youngest sister has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) complete with minor facial and hand deformities and is mentally challenged but was thrilled to meet her sisters for the first time. All in all, the meeting went well, and with the promise to remain in contact, we all went our separate ways.
I noticed within the following weeks a sense of resentment and anger building up towards my birth mother. I get she could make a mistake and not have the ability or support to quit her addictions, and therefore would lose custody of me, but the fact is, she was given six months of after my birth to clean up and prove herself as a worthy parent. She was given supervised visitation rights which she repeatedly showed up high, or still drunk from the night before, and as the weeks passed, the visits lessened until one day, she just never came back. It started to eat at me, what type of woman could prioritize alcohol and drugs over her children, not just once, but three times. Why could she not have at least tried to get me back, not just wash her hands clean and get back to her routine, free from the burden of a screaming baby? How could the cycle just continue to repeat itself with no intervention until a child has to be born with mental deficiencies and physical deformities? Were there more than just the three of us? Perhaps someone who didn’t register, or did she finally figure out that birth control was not as rare a diamond?
As I aged and became more aware of mental illness and addiction and the effects they can have on someone’s life, I began to be able to make a sense of peace with the anger I was feeling. Yes, I will always feel abandoned, but in this case, perhaps it really was the best scenario. My birth Grandmother passed away within a year of the meeting, and I would love to say I have two sisters who I am super close with, but despite my numerous efforts to reach out, the reality has become Christmas or Birthday text, usually initiated by me, and often lacking a response. I have made peace with that as well. I have no expectations of either of them, and as I said, you can’t just put three strangers in a room and because of one common factor, a birth mother, expect a bond to form instantly, or in this case, at all. I care about them of course, but do I love them? Hard to love someone you don’t know.
A blood bond means nothing to me. A chosen bond means the world.