My Lack of a Blood Bond

 

broken-family-blog

 

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.

 

A Few Things to Remind “Little Me

 

 

  • writing girl

 

I started out wanting to write a letter to my inner child; a letter to the frightened and traumatized little girl I was. I planned to write it in a tone that I would speak to a young child, when it suddenly donned on me that my inner child is more like an inner mini-adult. My trauma started as an infant, and I truly feel I have never fully felt that sense of innocence that is the marvel of childhood. I have watched my best friend’s son grow from an infant to now, being seven, and the wonder, innocence and excitement in his very being as he discovered the world was not only a delight to see but an awakening of sorts for me. Through his eyes the sights, scents and sounds were all so innocent and full of awe and adventure. How refreshing it was to see the discovery of life with a fresh, unbiased view. For me, the sights were a bit darker, the scents not so fresh and the sounds a bit more frightening. Imagine it as if you were always wearing sunglasses; you can see the light but it can’t quite reach you.

I haven’t ever given great thought to speaking to this inner child of mine and I really don’t know what I would say. Would I take the practical view and point out the obvious things like tell someone this time or don’t even try to trust adults; would I point out that spending that much time with older kids could be dangerous? That spending that amount of time hanging out in the park or on the street could lead to violations?

Would I be angry? Would I yell at my inner child for not doing something to make things stop; from my dad hitting my Mom to the boys and young men who violated me? Would I be mad that I never told my Mom as not to burden her because of what she was dealing with, or that no one noticed the behavioral changes? Would I tell myself to not let that anger internalize and to try and get it out in any way possible, because keeping it in will lead to a destruction of sense of self which may never be recovered?

Perhaps I would blame my little self; believing somehow that my silence just attracted more predators; that it must have been something I wore or the way I acted that allowed the abuse. Blame myself for not being brave or bold, or for seeking attention in the wrong manner from the wrong people. Blame myself for not having a sense of confidence or a voice to speak up with. Would I tell l tell myself to direct the blame where it is deserved; not only the perpetrators but all the people who failed to see the signs, or would I blame myself for not giving the right signs, or  perhaps not enough signs.

I wonder if I would tell her it’s ok to have fun or that it’s ok not to be on guard every moment of every day; That it is ok to be a kid and laugh and play and not take on adult responsibilities or that it is safe to trust some people and that not everyone would hurt me; That it was ok to believe that Santa was real without a sense of skepticism, or that what was happening to me was not happening to all the other children and that it was not normal. Would I say how important it is to remember the details of the good times because the darkness will eventually take over, losing not only memories but chunks of time.

After all these maybes and “would-bes”, I think I finally know what I would say:

Dear Little Me

Your life is going to have more curves than straight lines. It is going to be a rollercoaster ride that you will want to, and will repeatedly attempt to jump off. Know that the failures when jumping were meant to work out as they did. You are going to see and experience things no living being should have to and you are going to be scared, but I need you to stay strong. I need you to do exactly what you did, because those actions were what got me… from you to me. I need you to be brave and valiant and not let them completely destroy your mind and remember your body is just a vessel for your soul. That no matter what happens or what anyone says, none of it, absolutely none of it is your fault, and it never will be. What you will go through will make you stronger than you thought possible and that will eventually lead to you having a voice…a voice for all the children like you that can’t speak. It is said that you are only given the life tests you can handle, so hang in there little one, because despite what may seem like insurmountable odds, above all, you are a survivor.