Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences and perspectives.
My Adoption Story 5 Years Later: A Part of Me Has Found Some Peace
By Michele Beard
I have learned so much about my birth family, about myself, and even about how I feel about the word Adoption. That word, Adoption. I used to cringe when someone would say it out loud. So many bad memories.
All of which I blamed on my Adoption. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, being shown off like a trophy my adopted mother had won. I always knew I wasn’t “really family” with my adopted family. I was always “Our adopted daughter, Michele.” It hurt. More deeply than I knew.
When I wrote my first adoption story for Portrait of an Adoption five years ago, I explained how some adoptions aren’t all wonderful. There is a dark side. I lived it. What I have learned though, is that adoption isn’t what caused my abuse. Adoption didn’t single me out. It’s a word. A process. It is something that is put in place to help children find families. I understand that now, more than ever.
What happened to me was more about the people in my life that didn’t choose to put my safety first. It was people that were wrong and had wronged me. Bad choices, bad people. Not Adoption.
I had exhausted so many outlets trying to find my birth family. I petitioned the court, I joined every search site. I wrote letters to my state capital begging for information. I found the lawyer involved in my case. It was twenty years later, but I called his office anyway. “There was a fire,” the receptionist said. “Files were all destroyed,” she said.
So I found the judge who processed the adoption, but he didn’t return my letters. I found the state worker, who had since retired. I called her at home. She was nice, but couldn’t give me any information. She “had done too many to remember me.”
I called the hospital and “There had been a fire, no records from the 70’s were left.” I was starting to see a pattern. So I found the doctor who was in charge of the hospital at the time of my birth. I called him at home. He argued that no babies were born in that hospital after 1969. I was there in 1971. He went on to say that I was obviously lied to and hung up.
I gave up. For years. Then for Christmas of 2016 my daughter bought me a DNA kit. I knew this would be my last hope. But I was so scared. I let the box sit on my dresser for months. I would hold it, read the directions and then set it down again. It took me until February of 2017 to take the test.
Within weeks, I had three connections through my DNA to real family. It was that easy. But I never knew how much harder it would become.
The first connection was to my birth father’s cousin. She had sent her DNA in for her own personal reasons. I wrote to her. After communicating back and forth, multiple times we found that I was her second cousin and she sent me pictures of my father. My son could be his twin. I found him on Facebook. He had passed away from cancer. I had missed him by a year. I cried so much.
Finding him led me to find he had a daughter with his current wife who was just months younger than I. We are both named Michele. She had two “L’s” in her name. I searched Facebook and found her really easily.
It would be the only easy part when it comes to Michelle. She wasn’t happy to find out about me. She said so many horrible things. She broke my heart. Though she accepted my friend request, she had asked me to leave her alone. She said for me to not use the word sister when talking to her. And though I have known of her for two years now, we do not speak. Not that I do not try. She just doesn’t want to be a part of my life.
This made it very hard to continue my search. I was so afraid of being unaccepted by any other family, that I was ready to give up. Adoption, the ultimate feeling of being not wanted. Then finding your sister and it happens all over again.
I didn’t give up. My cousin told me that my father had been married before and had a son. My brother. I nervously searched and found him on Facebook as well. What a wonderful site for finding people.
I wrote to him. I was direct. Told him about me and that I was his sister. He was so happy. We talked and a few months later he came to see me. Let me tell you how scared I was. Even though he was the nicest man I had ever spoken to, I was still afraid that when he met me, he would turn around and walk away. He didn’t.
He walked right up to me and hugged me so tight. So close that I could feel his heart beat. All my fear, just faded away. His arms around me felt like I was home. I was wanted, accepted, and loved.
It was the best hug I had ever had. We spent weeks together. We talked and shared so much. We found out that we went to the same high school, four years a part. That he had married my best friend from Girl Scouts. And that he lived just minutes from me my whole life.
I learned that our father had left him too. He also shared some of the sadness that I felt. He is everything I needed for my heart and soul to start healing. And he looked just like our Dad.
I decided to continue my search. I wrote to the other two matches. One turned out to be my birth mother’s sister. She wrote back and told me she was my aunt, but that she didn’t really know much more than I did. She explained there was a lot of abuse growing up in her home. That my mother had hidden her pregnancy until the end.
She explained that I was born in the hospital that didn’t deliver babies after 1969, but that I was hidden in a closet where the nurses took care of me. She also told me that my mother would not talk about my birth. That something traumatic happened and she couldn’t bring herself to say anything. I researched more and found my mother’s name. My aunt would not tell me, but did admit I was correct.
So I searched for an address and found out my mother lived 3 miles from where I grew up. I wrote to her. I didn’t come out and say that I was her daughter, for fear of upsetting her family if they read the mail. I wrote to her many times. I told her my birthday, that I was adopted, what hospital I was born at. Facts that would let her know who I was. I begged her to write back.
She never responded. Not once. But I know her name. I know more than I did. I searched some more and found that she has a daughter and a son. I wrote to her daughter through the DNA site. I explained that we are a match and would like to find out more information. I didn’t mention that I was her sister. I was still trying to not upset my birth mother. I thought if it played out slowly, maybe my little sister and I would “figure it out together”. But she wouldn’t write back either. Maybe she already knows?
Either way, I now have two sisters and two brothers. I know their names. Only one has accepted me, and it has changed my world.
I am trying to come to terms with knowing, but not being able to communicate with my birth family. I have a great big brother who loves me. I have realized that I am a lot stronger than I thought. I have accepted my past more, not completely. It’s a work in progress.
But a part of me has found some peace. Not giving up was very hard, especially with all the heart break and feelings of abandonment. All of it was worth the tears. Even if the others never accept me, I still have more knowledge and understanding.
And I still have my big brother.
Michele Bolich, born August 1971, is a retired teacher from Florida. She has four grown children, whom she loves with all her heart. She spends most of her time with her grandson, exploring the outdoors in Maine.
* * * *
Carrie Goldman is the host of Portrait of an Adoption. She is an award-winning author, speaker, and bullying prevention educator. Follow Carrie’s blog Portrait of an Adoption on Facebook and Twitter