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Am I Adopted?
Considerations in selecting adoption
- Know the types of adoptions and placements allowed in your state
- Assess the risks involved including cost
- Adopt domestically or through an agency that deals with foreign countries
- Use an attorney
- Use adoption facilitators - make sure they are reputable and reliable
- Timing of the adoption; your age, the child's age, etc.
- Older child adoptions
Am I adopted?
Early in my life adoption became an issue. A mean spirited mother of one of my friends once told me I was “just adopted.” When I asked my mother what adopted meant (I was seven at the time) she got upset. She was not just upset, she actually turned white like they do in the movies. She asked who told me and then said not to think about it. Being a seven year old it actually went out of my head until I turned 18. The seed was planted and adoption was something I needed to know more about. Whenever I would see anything about adoption I would read it in efforts to learn more but only about the word, not "my adoption".
When I turned 18 year old, I wanted my birth certificate so I could legally go into bars (18 was the legal drinking age back then.) My parents wouldn't give me my birth certificate so I decided to take things into my own hands. One day when my parents weren't home, I snooped around in their papers file until I found my birth certificate. Not only did I find my birth certificate but I found a surprise as well. It was nothing like anyone else’s. It listed my birth and baptismal dates, it wasn't issued by the state. Strange for sure. But again I was not curious enough to investigate further. I wondered but had other things on my mind and it wasn't important. The word "adoption" was still in my head but not on my mind.
Passing over the next two years brings me to a visit with a friend of my aunt’s. By this time I had married, moved upstate, and had a baby. My aunt’s friend had unofficially appointed herself my guardian because my parents had not yet moved upstate and here I was alone. She became my friend and we spent a lot of time together. She was in her late 60's early 70's and a lot of fun to be around. One day during a conversation she said she was trying to figure out which of my aunt’s brothers was my father. She said one had lost his wife, remarried and adopted a little girl…confirmation. She became visibly upset when she saw the surprise on my face. I told her not to worry she had just confirmed what I had suspected for a very long time. She apologized and nearly cried but we ended our visit on a friendly, happy note. Now I had a lot to seriously think about. Adoptions happen every day but this was the day I was sure it was me. My suspicions were no longer just suspicions but I knew now they were true. At this point in my life there was no more putting it out of my head and forgetting about it. Now I decided I needed to know, not just about the adoption but about a mother I had never seen or knew about. What to do? How to find out without upsetting my parents? I had another aunt who might be able to help. I sat down and wrote her a nice long letter explaining all that had happened. This was during the time people still wrote letters to each other as a way of communicating. You know, before Email. I waited impatiently for a reply and within a week her long, handwritten letter arrived. She lovingly explained all the details that led up to my adoption outlining carefully the great love my parents had for each other and how they had met. It seems both of my parents had prior serious relationships. My mother's prior fiancé had been killed during the war and my father's first wife died of a heart ailment. I cannot put forth all the details for fear of hurting other family members so if I seem vague at times please understand.
Part of me was a little crushed to finally find out I was truly adopted. Part of me was relived to know the truth. My parents were my parents no matter what the circumstances. They were the ones who nursed me through the chicken pocks, they helped me recover from the croup. They were there when I needed someone to teach me how to pray and how to ride a bike. They were the ones who paid for my beautiful wedding. They were the ones who celebrated the birth of my child with me. I loved them and appreciated them no end, they were my parents. But, there was someone else. There was someone who had given birth to me. Who was she? What was she like? Why did she give me away?
As a Post Script to this section, I need to explain. Back in 1947 people did not tell their children they were adopted, it just wasn't done. Years later when I spoke to my parents about it they told me they never wanted me to feel different. From the moment they brought me home they thought of me as their child and that was that. I cannot fault them for that but only appreciate the great love that they showered me with all their lives!
- The concept of adoption was not legally recognized in the United States until the 1850’s, with the inception of the first adoption statutes. While transfers of children to substitute parents had occurred informally since American colonial times, adoption statutes legitimized the informal adoptive arrangements which previously existed. During the early years of American society, no formal procedures existed for recording births or name (www.researchetcinc.com/historyofadoption.html)
- Massachussets passed the first American Adoption Law in 1851
- Following WWI the number of adoptions in the US grew rapidly
Information on My Adoption
Through family connections I was able to obtain information from the agency through which my adoption was finalized. I found out that my natural mother was a young lady from Czechoslovakia. (At this time it had not yet become the Czech Republic.) Further, she had come to this country to be a model and was staying with an aunt in New York City when she became pregnant. The father of the baby decided he didn’t want to be involved and disappeared. Communists were beginning to cause problems in Czechoslovakia so the aunt decided to return. Now this young woman was pregnant and alone in a foreign country at a time when unwed mothers were not acceptable. She needed to earn a living to support herself and decided the best thing for her child was adoption. She was very right. I had a wonderful life with loving parents and a wonderful, loving family from the day I was brought home.
She ceased all contact with the agency once I was officially adopted. She had come to visit daily prior to the adoption, but no one had heard from her since. We were both born in the month of December and I thought it would be a wonderful thing to let her know she did the right thing and I had a good life, I thought of her especially every December. I didn’t want to disrupt her life but I began to search. I used the guise of a family tree, never telling anyone the true reason I was searching. I seemed to come close a few times but always reached a dead end. I even contacted the consulate in Czechoslovakia but had no results. The Internet began to grow in popularity and I began to use it to search and try to find her but as anyone can imagine a single young lady can always get married or change her name. I stopped searching for many years.
About a year or so ago I saw a newspaper article about the agency that placed me and again began to wonder if I could find her. I decided to try Facebook. After all these years at the age of 61 I found someone who knew her. The sad part is she had passed away just two months before my contact. Again, I must leave out some details to avoid hurting any family members but through letters and lawyer contacts I was able to communicate with one of her family members and gain information about her.
She had never had any other children and had married late in life. She had continued her career and was very successful as was her husband. She owned a penthouse apartment in Manhattan. My concern was not her wealth, but her health and history. The relative I was in contact with graciously sent me pictures and filled me in on her health and her family’s health to the best of his ability. He also advised me that one of the letters I had written years ago provided me with his brother’s name but I had never thought to try to contact anyone outside of New York. Sadly no one knows exactly why she did what she did. I had not realized she actually had family in this country at the time. I knew she came here looking for a better life and I'm sure pregnancy was not in her plan. If only I could have spoken to her... What is meant to be will be. For whatever reason the Divine Plan was not for me to meet her. I know much more about her now and hope that she knows she did the right thing.
As a post script, adoption is not for everyone but for the life of me I can't figure out why. There are so many deserving children that want nothing more than a loving family! Adoption Laws vary from state to state although Federal Legislation sets the framework and affects the way many states handle adoption . The Legal Information Institute provides some basic Adoption Law information for all fifty states. There is also a National Center for Adoption Law and Policy Don't rule out adoption, it can make a world of difference in a child's life and yours too, I know, I speak from personal experience.
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I Wished For You: An Adoption Story (Mom's Choice Award Recipient, Book of the Year Award, Creative Child Magazine)
Handbook on Thriving As An Adoptive Family: Real-Life Solutions To Common Challenges