“When our connection to our parents is impaired in some way, the life force available to us can feel limited. We may feel blocked and constricted, or feel outside the flow of life, as if we’re swimming upstream against the current. Ultimately, we suffer and don’t know why.” Mark Wolyn, It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle
I don’t even know where to begin. So much has happened in a short period of time, and I don’t even know how to get the words out onto the page. Maybe this will make sense and flow. Maybe it’ll just be a bunch a random thoughts on a page. I don’t have a set goal in mind. I just know that I have to write.
There is a picture in my mind of my biological mother. She was so extremly happy to have me in her life again. There hadn’t been a day that had gone by that she hadn’t thought about me, she said. I didn’t want her to feel guilty for giving me up for adoption. I wanted her to know that I was ok. I believed her when she said giving me up for adoption was her only choice at the time. The last thing I ever wanted her to feel was guilty for giving me up. I can’t imagine how hard it was for her to hold me in her arms and take care of me for a few days. I don’t have any doubt that as a child my heart was torn apart when I was separated from this beautiful woman who gave me life.
Because I was a curious child who found my Christmas presents almost every year, it wasn’t a surprise when I ran across my original adoption papers in my parent’s bedroom. The only information my adopted parents had given me about my mother was that she was young and wanted me to have a better life than she was able to give me so she placed me up for adoption. When I unfolded the papers, I was shocked to see there was a different name than the one I had been given. I discovered I was born Dawn Marie. I could not believe that no one had ever given me this important piece of information about myself. I felt betrayed and decided at that time that I would find out more. A couple of years passed, and I became an adult. Life at home with my parents had always felt heavy. I didn’t understand all the reasons why, I just knew I wanted relief. My boyfriend, now my husband, agreed to help me find out more about my biological parents. He drove me to the public records office on or somewhere around my 19th birthday, because that was the age I had to be when the state would allow me to take a look at my birth records.
The whole day was so surreal. In a New York minute everything can change, the lyrics from a Don Henley song played on an endless cycle inside my head. I scribbled down the only information the clerk gave me, a name and an address where my biological mother had lived 19 years before. I will go ahead and say I am impatient and determined, and I’m figuring out I have many ancestors to thank for that, so it wasn’t surprising at all to my boyfriend that I wanted to drive immediately to the address. I knew it was a shot in the dark that she would still be there, but we pulled out the map anyway and found our way there.
I am discovering that there are few coincidences in life. Everything feels like one big tapestry that is woven together to create something beautiful eventually. There just happened to be this precious blonde girl walking down the street directly in front of where my biological mother lived when she gave me up for adoption. We stopped, rolled down the window, and asked her if she knew my biological mother. When this little girl cried out, “That’s my aunt!” I knew I was only moments away from seeing the woman I’d wondered about my whole life. She gave us her address, and as we pulled away I was shocked by the realization that that little girl was my cousin! I’m happy to say that she’s just as precious and kind today as she was back then. Who needs biological brothers and sisters when you have cousins as awesome as mine!
My biological mother’s house was only a short distance away. When we knocked at her door, I had no idea what to expect. When I told her who I was, I thought she would faint. She managed to hold herself together and invite us in. In our brains, sometimes strange things happen when we get overwhelmed. I wish now that I could remember more about that day, but it is all a blur. What I do remember feeling was that my mother wanted me.
There’s so much pain around our story. My heart feels crushed everytime I remember our last phone conversation. She wanted me to meet her family at Christmas. I told her I was scared, because my adopted father would be upset if he knew I had connected with her again. She got upset. I got so distraught I hung up on her. I still remember how much I screamed and cried that day.
No truer words have ever been spoken than hurt people hurt people. It wasn’t what either of us set out to do. We were doing the best that we knew how with all of the conflicting emotions going on inside our heads. I never saw her or spoke to her again after that day. And it broke my heart. So much so that the only way I could deal with her memory was try to push her out of my mind. But she never, ever left my heart.
When I went on Ancestry.com I typed in her name. I discovered that she still had brothers and sisters and looked them up. It was through one of her sister’s pages that I learned that she had passed away last December in her sleep. It took me a long time to find the courage to read about her life through her sibling’s pages. My mind went to worst case scenario, as it often does, and I assumed that they must hate me for making the decision not to have a relationship with her.
I don’t know know what thought actually made me order the DNA kit off Ancestry.com. As I spat large amounts of saliva in the test tube, I wondered what the hell was wrong with me. Hadn’t I learned what opening up cans of worms could do? I almost took the kit out of the mailbox, but I decided since I’d paid a hundred dollars for it that I would leave it alone. I also contemplated leaving my profile private where no one could find me. Ultimately, I made up my mind if I got any hate mail that I’d cut off all contact. I know that all sounds so irrational, but when someone has experienced tremendous losses, there is nothing more frightening than hope, so it’s easier to expect the worst that way at least we won’t be surprised.
The DNA results didn’t come back for another couple of weeks. I was shocked to discover as I clicked on the ancestry map showing the results that I had cousins everywhere some as close as 20 miles away. And these were just the people who had done a DNA test. It is indeed a small world! I narrowed down the search to closer cousins and discovered that there were only three with public profiles on the map. The first one I clicked on was a cousin from Canada. When I saw his face, it’s hard to explain what I felt. Familiar is the closest word to describing it. But still I didn’t reach out even though I felt an urge to.
I have been afraid my whole life of connection. Its always just felt safer to take care of myself. When my parents screamed at one another, I pulled out my notebooks and wrote myself away to somewhere else. I worked hard to stuff my emotions in an effort to keep everyone else happy. I’ve learned quite a bit over the course of my lifetime about hiding from everyone else what has really been going on inside. It’s not surprising that I hid it from myself, too.
I know today that it was being separated from my biological parents that caused me to get down on my knees beside a toxic pastor and ask for a hug, because I was so desperate to feel a connection with someone. I had no idea what was missing in my life. And that’s a very vulnerable and dangerous place to be.
It took every bit of courage I had to start to open up to another man about the pain I felt inside, but this kind hearted cousin in another country let me know he had big shoulders to carry whatever I needed help with. I realized the more I messaged him how lonely I had been for my biological family. It scared me to death. I wondered if I was in another toxic relationship. I wondered what his motives were. But he just kept showing up telling me wild stories about my ancestors and his own life. It is only because he reached out to me that I now know what I was missing out on. And it was only because he was safe, that I allowed myself to trust someone again.
When we make the choice to trust others, we are really making the choice to trust ourselves. Abuse taught me that everything was my fault. It felt safer to lock myself away where I couldn’t hurt anyone else or myself again. I know today that my mother and I have way more in common than I wanted to admit. I was frightened of her because ultimately it was like looking into a mirror.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. I Corinthians 13:12
Love is the only thing that gives us the grace to look into the mirror and see ourselves as we truly are. After communicating with three aunts and one uncle and the same cousin who directed me to my biological mother that day so long ago, I was able to finally look in the mirror and see myself. And somewhere in my face, I can see my beautiful biological mother smiling back at me.
Rest in peace, Dear Mother. All is well.
If you are an adopted child and are struggling with some of the same things, this video was particularly helpful for me: https://youtu.be/jL4lnvQ1wVU