Part 4: My adoption…18 years ago.
I did go to the meeting, with a good friend by my side. I tried to be strong. However, I failed. The women introduced herself, talked to me for about 10 minutes and asked about my relationship over the years with my adoptive parents. I believe she was trying to get to know as much about me as possible before she gave me my adoption papers. I do not feel she got a great impression of me. One of the first things she said to me was that I was the youngest person she had ever had an appointment with to claim their birth records. She told me most people come when they are in their forties and then they usually only come for medical background knowledge because of health problems. By this point, being 5 minutes into the appointment, I knew she was thinking differently of me for being 'so young'. I tried to explain that I wanted some form of self identity and that curiosity got the better of me and that I wanted to know more. I feel maybe she had trouble understanding where I was coming from.
She stressed the importance of telling my parents. She seemed to think it was for the best. I was trying to tell her I did not know what I was going to do in the future with regards to telling my adoptive parents and/or tracing my birth parents. She wanted answers and I was not able to tell her what I wanted from the appointment yet. She then left to give me my records, most of which I had already seen. She knew that I already knew a lot of the background. However, I found out a couple of things that were new to me. I got emotional at one point and there was no sense of sensitivity as far as I was concerned. She had a very nervous laugh which she used a lot. It put me on edge and it did not make it easy. It sounds like such a trivial thing but it really did not help. In fact it started to grate on me.
She then went on to tell me that she was not going to give me all of my records. She said she did not know what I was going to do with them and she did not feel I could cope with them. This frustrated me. She wanted me to be honest, so I was, and this led to her not releasing the papers to me. The papers that I have waited over four months in total for. Not to mention the 18 years I have spent wondering. I was on the waiting list for quite a while and now she was refusing me what was now, finally, legally, mine. She patronised me throughout the appointment and it angered me. Then she took back some of the papers she gave me telling me she did not want to release them yet. She angered me so much. She wanted so many answers and because I couldn't give them to her she presumed I was too young and naive to understand. She then went on to say that she felt like I had a lot of resentment towards my mother even though it was a hard time for her and that it was not easy to give me up. She was trying to justify my birth mother’s actions after assuming how I felt toward her. She told me I shouldn't judge them and she felt I was. I was shocked. I told her that I could not do anything other than judge because all I know is what is written on a few bits of paper, some of which you won’t even give me.
She stressed great importance also of the fact that I did not know what I wanted to do. She suggested I write a letter if I wanted to trace. The system they have is that the adopted party writes a letter and the adoption agency try and trace. If they are successful, then they get in touch and, if they want contact, the letter is passed on to the birth relative. She then went on to give me a 'guideline' of how to write the letter. They go no other way about tracing other than this. I was so shocked. I was expected to write a letter to someone I have no idea who they are, by following a guideline of what not to do or write, what not to say, how to sign it and how to date it, what to mention and what not to talk about. I said I would not be able to do that. I was half expecting a word limit to be given.
The woman spent the whole time trying to sugar-coat adoption, as everyone does. Everyone sees it as an easy way out for people getting pregnant, not believing in contraception or abortion. It may be easy or it may be hard. I know my birth mother found it hard. I know this. However, there was so much emphasis based on this that my feelings weren't being taken into account. We were not on the same wave length throughout the appointment and she made her own preconceptions about me before she gave me a chance.
Sugar-coating it all does not help me in the way I was feeling. No counselling was offered and no support I felt was given. She may be good at her job, but she does not know how to cope with a young adult in search for some answers. I am trying to live my life through a side of me which I do not know and she did not help me live my life for me. I found no sense of identity, I merely felt guilty for wanting, or should I say, needing to know the truth. The appointment ended with me walking out of the room and not returning. Today, she sent me an email. It read "Dear * I am sorry you got so upset at the appointment, receiving your birth records can be hard, I know. I hope you get in touch for a further appointment."
The funny thing was, the name she wrote in the title is not even my name. It is not my adoptive name or my birth name. I was infuriated. The woman cannot even remember my name. What a sense of identity I have claimed. The day after my appointment I discovered my adoptive father, my dad, has skin cancer. He will be okay. I know he will. I love him so much. I feel so guilty for even going to this appointment. I wish it had never happened. It hurts so much and now my own dad is unwell. He was ill while I was finding out my true roots. I know my true roots, and they are at home with my family. I just do not know a personal me…yet.
Editor’s note: Thanks for keeping us up to date with your story. I’m really sorry that you have felt so misunderstood by the woman you saw, especially as it was such a difficult decision to go. It sounds as if the woman wasn’t really very competent in helping you as a young person struggling with your identity and needing more support. To have got your name wrong in the email must have been the final straw. There must be a healthier way for you to walk this journey of discovery.
I’m really glad to hear how positive you are about your adoptive parents. It seems they are quite an anchor in your life. But I also sense your need for knowing where you came from and why you were placed for adoption. The truth may not be a happy one, but the key is how you relate to it. You do not have to have your life lived by the fact that your mother couldn’t or didn’t or maybe wasn’t allowed to keep you. You are so much more than that.