WORD OF WARNING: Don’t go with me to find the perfect card!
If I ask one of my daughters or my husband if they want to go shopping, they always want clarification first.
“You don’t need to find a card, right?”
Let the truth be known — Hallmark and I have a strong bond. I can spend literally hours reading through the different sentiments to see which one fits any of my family or friends to a tee. No wonder my husband has no problem renewing my online greeting card subscriptions. Having the opportunity to write stanzas for cards is on my bucket list.
Trying to breeze through Mother’s Day is a giant leap of faith for me. Someday, I know that the complicated loss of my adoptive mother, and learning my birth mother passed away when I was a little girl, won’t hurt quite as much. But as of yet, the card stores and I are not on the best of terms during this time of the year. At any cost, I will avoid all Mother’s Day commercialism.
When I was growing up, I would pick out for my adoptive mother what I thought was the most perfect, beautiful card. With hopeful anticipation, I would watch as she opened it. Invariably she would say, “That’s nice. But you don’t really mean it do you?” Then I would see only her biological child’s card sitting out on display with mine nowhere to be found.
I have come a long way in my journey and knowing my truth. But, yes, at times, I do still feel this indescribable sadness and disappointment in my heart. No child should have to continually try to make a parent love them. I missed out on what real love feels like from a mother.
When I can write my feelings of loss in one last perfect card for my late adoptive mother, I know I will have finally found forgiveness and closure.
And all this nonsense started because my parents would only say my birth certificate was “missing.”
For over 30 years, I begged someone to please tell me the truth to the many lies and secrets involving my so-called adoption. From having spoken to so many people: the doctor who delivered me and to whom I was discharged to late in the evening; my pediatrician whose name is on my birth records and was my doctor until the age of 6; the Courts (including judges and supervisors); Child Welfare Services; Vital Statistics; lawyers; Saint Mary’s Hospital; Catholic Charities who refuted the doctor’s claim that he took babies home for their agency (they had an incomplete adoption application for my parents still on file); and the Roman Catholic Diocese; I deserved honest explanations. But for the most part, it seemed like everybody I spoke with was more worried that they might let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, if they were to help me. Instead they continued to keep giving me sketchy court documents that made no sense at all, or they would tell me that their agency files for me as a helpless newborn were alarmingly empty.
When I read these disturbing public records after all these years, what makes me the angriest I believe is how many people had to know that some adoptions that took place during the time I was born were done fraudulently. Sadly, they had little regard for the best interests of the child or even that of the mother placing the child for adoption.
For me personally, it raises an ethical issue. As a child who was once supposed to have been placed for adoption at birth, and where obviously, something went terribly wrong, didn’t I deserve the courts to explain all the discrepancies in my adoption records without it costing me so much emotionally and financially? How could the facts be confidential, when the deception had nothing to do with revealing the names of ones’ birth parents? When my affluent parents refused to tell me the truth, where could I have turned for help?
The hospital where I was born freely gave me a copy of my disturbing-looking birth records, where it noted that as a newborn I had been discharged late in the evening to the doctor who delivered me. The judges in two different states granted the court’s permission to give me copies of my incomplete adoption records (from birth and as an adult). Vital Statistics helped me search for my birth certificate that my parents would only say was “missing.” Vital Statistics gave me a copy of my only birth certificate on record – my original birth certificate which had never been amended. DCFS, who was supposed to be protecting my best interests as a child, stated my file at birth was empty, except for a one-of-a-kind waiver signed by the judge stating not to check the home that I was being placed in. Catholic Charities stated that that they still had an incomplete adoption application sitting in their old records for my mother and her first husband who raised me (my father for the first 6 years of my life). Apparently, at that time, the agency had sent them a follow-up letter that they never answered. It spelled out that to be considered for adopting a baby through Catholic Charities that they must come back in and finish filling out the application.
There is absolutely no way, from the judges to the many clerks, that they could have missed all the irregularities and glaring discrepancies in the sparse court documents they kept handing me – with no possible explanation or resolution to the emptiness that I was feeling. The many chapters from my life journey were not only frustrating, but my self-worth as a once-innocent newborn to an adult clearly got lost in all the mind-boggling deception.
Since my half-brother on my newly-found birth father’s side of the family recently found me, I’ve had this question that has been tugging at my heart. My birth father’s family was Roman Catholic. He lived with his wife in the same small town where I was born, but not conceived. I always wondered why it said, “NO SHOW BABY” on the top of my hospital birth record and underlined several times. The other man who I thought was my biological father lived with his family far away in a different state. Nobody in my birth mother’s family lived close by either. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but it would have a great deal of significance that my true late birth father might have known about me and asked that I be baptized before leaving the hospital. For me, it represents that someone cared.
October 23, 2012
“Bursting into tears, I remember feeling like we all do at times, “I was just a number again, not a human being.” Downtrodden by her choice of words in such a delicate matter, I just handed the judge’s secretary all my paperwork and muttered something to the effect that it would explain everything. As I quickly went to leave out of embarrassment for crying, the woman reminded me that it would take a few days; the microfiche is in a different building. I remember her asking me if I was going to be okay, and, as usual, my pat answer has always been, “I will be fine; thank you.”
It felt like the death of a loved one when the judge’s secretary called me a couple of days later. The first words out of her mouth were, “JoAnne, I don’t want your heart to break anymore!” In our brief phone conversation, she had been calling to say that my adult adoption with my stepfather that I loved more than anything in this world was considered null and void in the legal system. As it turns out, my (sealed) adult adoption had been a farce too, not much different than my adoption at birth.
Over the years, I’ve had to learn to suck up the pain, but every once and awhile, I must put my life on pause. That was one of those times.”
I still get teary-eyed sometimes when I read over my posts from years past, but putting my thoughts and feelings into words has helped me tremendously to heal. I am proud of how far I’ve come in my search for truth. Thank you for being part of my journey.
What would have made the wrongs feel some better, is if the woman had also then said, “The judge would like to talk with you to see how we can help you to feel like you are a valuable, worthy human being!”
Ever since I was a young girl, I believed I could move mountains that would change the world.
My long-time friend, Cathy, died back in 2008 from a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer. I still remember my emotional conversation with her on my last visit to see her in Sacramento, California. Sitting in my rental car on a dark, dead-end street late at night, I turned to her in the passenger seat and said, “I know why you are refusing any palliative care that might help you live longer. You still love your ex-husband and are just giving up on life.”
Between sobs, I screamed, “I am mad at you. I would have taken out a loan to pay for the medical care it took to keep you with us.”
In all the years we had known each other, I had never even whispered an unkind word to her. Our close friendship was just one thing that was always solid and right. Leaning her frail, gauntly body over, Cathy gently wiped the tears from my eyes and answered, “Oh, Annie Jo, I love you. Nobody has ever said that to me.”
Less than six weeks later, my dear friend passed away from such a brutal disease. At her funeral, I stood silently staring at this huge, beautiful arrangement of flowers sitting on display at the cemetery with a little card that read, “Love from the father of your three children,” signed by her ex-husband. A man that I believe she loved to the ends of this earth but lost him due to divorce.
For a long time, I tried to convince myself her death didn’t hurt anymore. The truth is it doesn’t hurt as much. But recently, when I was talking with a new, good friend, it brought back again all those helpless, unresolved feelings for those I love and care about. My friend explained to me that her husband had been unemployed since 2008. In over four years, she hasn’t even been able get a mammogram because of not having health insurance.
My friend, Cathy, was in-between jobs when she developed breast cancer. She had worked in Radiology for years. From her symptoms, she had an inkling that the prognosis wasn’t good.
Could Cathy’s life have been saved if she would have had health insurance early on to pay for the expensive mammograms? I believe that if she had gone in for her yearly mammogram, it would have helped detect her cancer much sooner before it quickly spread like a raging forest fire to the final stages that took her life prematurely.
Ever since I was a young girl, I believed I could move mountains that would change the world. If one says, “No, that’s not possible,” it makes me just that much more determined to persevere and succeed at reaching my selfless goals.
We all have poignant stories of losing loved ones, but I want to make sure that every woman has the means to get mammograms. It would make some sense out of the loss of my friend that I loved with all my heart and never imagined she would not be a significant part of my life always.
In honor of my late friend’s day of her birth (August 30th), I found something we can all do that doesn’t cost anything. If you go to the Breast Cancer Site (click on the graphic below) and click on Fund Mammograms, Research & Care, sponsors will pay for mammograms. Please feel free to share my post in hopes that we can make a difference. Thanks for the great suggestion Connie Arnold.