Dreading Birthdays III: Descent Into Despair, Restarting The Search

It’s that time of year again… my own personal descent into despair. I’ve written before about adoption depression and birthdays:

I didn’t really start dreading birthdays until I started asking questions about my adoption, questions that were misdirected or answered with (as I later discovered) outright lies. Before that I just had this vague unease that got worse as the calendar crept toward January. I wonder if my birth mother suffers like I do, from what the shrinkwrappers call “seasonal affected disorder” but I believe is simply part of the human experience. One of the most shocking moments during my brief contact with my birth mother was her revelation that depression runs in our family, in fact one of my uncles suffers severely from it. Don’t ask me what that means because it’s all I’ve got. To be given that tidbit and then left in the dark makes me feel like spring will never come. Maybe depression was imprinted on me in the womb. It’s in my blood, an unknown poison.

I don’t tell casual acquaintances about my birthday. People always want to know, put it in their calendar, send you an e-card or invite you to a little office celebration with stale cake. But adoptee birthdays invoke too many well-intentioned questions that are conversational for others and heartbreaking for us, like”Where were you born?” (some of us don’t know) and “Are you celebrating with your family?” (which one?) In short, birthdays are stark reminders of what may be our most traumatic experience: losing our mothers, our blood relatives, our cultures, our heritage. I don’t mind sharing with people who know my adopted status and understand that trauma. What I don’t like is the automatic dismissal of the uninitiated: “Oh, you’re adopted! You must feel so lucky.” And I’ll admit, I’m no fun. When people ask me straight out I give them a straight out answer: that I’m adopted, that my birthday is traumatic, that it brings up a lot of feelings of loss and I don’t really like talking about it. Talk about putting a damper on the party.

I didn’t even write a birthday entry last year, I was so fed up with it. This year feels… different. Still depressed. Still descending into despair, and I’m not going to say there’s hope at the bottom. It’s more of an icy determination.
I’m starting up the search again, trying to find not only my origins but the details of my adoption. So many lies and misdirections, so many half-truths and hunches, I don’t even know what’s real anymore. So I’m laying it all out, trying to discern fact from fiction. By Illinois law I am forbidden from contacting my mother – a total joke, as I have next to nothing about her yet she has my complete contact information due to the Illinois CI program’s screw-up. But I’ll be damned if anybody tries to tell me I’m not allowed to piece together my own past within the confines of the strictures placed upon me.
The holidays were harder for me this year than January is now, which is odd. Maybe it’s the weather. There’s been very little snow and with temps in the 30s it feels more like November. I can handle November. My pansies are still blooming and there’s lettuce in the cold frames in the veggie garden. But there’s always that awful feeling in the back of my mind that the hammer will fall, that November will become December will become January and the world will lock into ice and cold and loneliness.
Among the adoption paperwork (that is, the paperwork my adoptive father deemed acceptable for me to see, as opposed to the papers he lied about/destroyed/concealed) is a yellow sheet of legal paper. It’s a transcript my adoptive father (aka the lawyer who sealed my file) took of a phone call he had with his old college pal (aka the delivery doctor). I feel sick just looking at it. I decided to post this because it’s a little piece of BSE (Baby Scoop Era) history.

(Sorry if Blogger is sucky about embiggen. You can find it full-size here.)
Words jump out at me. “Nov Dec Jan,” reflecting the personal countdown to hell I still experience every year. “Girl very reasonable.” Of course she was, she had no resources or support! “How could it be done in Illinois?” That is the man I once called Father, concealing my origins.
Note carefully what is going on in this transcript (which has been edited by me for my own privacy). My adoptive father was told they had to go with a private adoption, presumably because they’d been rejected by all the agencies they approached. Private adoption was legal in Illinois, but that they couldn’t adopt me there because it was limited to Illinois residents. So they found a loophole by finalizing the adoption in Ohio, their state of residence. My adoptive father was an attorney licensed to practice in Ohio and arranged matters there himself. Because of this, he ended up controlling the process of my adoption as well as the contents of my adoption file, including my original Illinois birth certificate. I am told this would never be allowed today due to conflict of interest. Later, he became the person to whom I had to apply for non-identifying information, according to revised Ohio state law regarding private adoptions. You can imagine how well that went.
The sickest line, to me, is this: ““Have to arrange to have mother take child w/her & physically turn child over to us & take to Ohio.” To my understanding, my mother was forced to walk me out of the hospital (to fulfill laws saying only she could do so) and turn me over to the delivery doctor, who kept me for the first week of my life then turned me over to my adoptive parents. Elsewhere there is a notation about having to hold off on finalizing the adoption because of the waiting period for my mother to change her mind. It’s all so reprehensible: the careful application of law contrary to its supposedly intended purpose of giving a mother the chance to make an informed choice.
My adoption is gray market, legal as far as I know. But no one could look at the above scenario and consider it objective or ethical. This is the heart of the Baby Scoop Era: legal and illegal separation of children and parents. Except it never ended, because the same tactics continue to be employed today. They get you coming and going, both when the child is first adopted and later when the now-adult adoptee attempts to reclaim his or her birthright.
Icy determination and anger; that, to me, will always be January. This year I’m depressed but I’m also refocused. Adoption will not stop me. Depression will not stop me. Discrimination and stereotypes of adoptees will not stop me. Deformer laws, apathetic reporters and disdainful politicians will not stop me.
All adoptees deserve the same equal, unfettered access to their original birth certficates as the non-adopted. Nothing less is acceptable. Nor is our society’s prejudicial treatment of adoptees acceptable. I have had it with people speaking for adult adoptees and first mothers, putting words in our mouths, refusing to listen to our voices even though we are STANDING RIGHT HERE, blogging and tweeting and making ourselves heard.
Be Sociable, Share!

Comments

  1. I wish I could see the document – it interests me. My daughter’s adoption was done under the auspices of social services. They claimed they were doing a severance (nothing on that was ever filed in the court that they told the judge it was happening in) when they had a relinquishment – which tells me that much more happened than I am even aware of.

    I wish you luck and hope you find the answers you are looking for.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I can tell you, as an adoptee who HAS found her birth family I still feel the same. I am turning 29 tomorrow- I couldn’t explain why I felt this way for my entire life, especially now when i have answers to many of the questions that ran through my mind this time of year, every year for my entire life. Thank you so much for sharing your feelings and thoughts on this topic.

Speak Your Mind

*