Once upon a time …

even if your voice shakes

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.

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Who would it be?


My younger birth brother, Joe :).

Only 10 months after my birth, our mother learned she was pregnant with her fifth child. Married with three older children, I am thinking it would be fair to say she found herself in an unintended situation for the second time in a very short period of time. Both my younger birth brother and I were placed for adoption in separate homes after our births. Although my birth brother chooses not to meet me, I have a story I would love to share with him. I don’t think it could be just an hour conversation though, but perhaps an on-going one that lasts the rest of our lives.

When I was first searching for my birth father, the same person’s name kept coming up as a possibility. They identified him as a person who had been the Mayor of the small mining town where our mother, her miner husband, and our siblings had lived. By all accounts, the Mayor had been well-respected and those I spoke with said they had truly felt sorry for him. His wife had been the town drunk and often humiliated him.

Since my birth brother and I are close in age, I never gave it any thought we would have different fathers. I don’t know if it would be that I was naive or just that I can’t wrap my mind around things like that.

Well, years ago, I had the opportunity to talk with one of the late Mayor’s close friends on the phone. I must say that many of the individuals I’ve met in searching for answers in my adoption journey have been kind and receptive in talking with me. Few had the mindset that I didn’t deserve answers.

The older woman explained to me that over the years the Mayor talked about his birth son by name that had been placed for adoption. Although he had apparently never met my little brother or didn’t try to make contact, the Mayor knew of his whereabouts. I got teary-eyed myself when she then shared with me, “Oh, my, he was so proud of his son’s accomplishments with his high-profile career.”

The last thing the Mayor’s close friend said before hanging up is, “I am sorry Sweetheart. He never mentioned anything about having a daughter … only a son.”

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Joy in the Moment

little girl 2

The sound of other kids playing in the room seemed distant, as I attentively watched the beaming 3-year-old twin finding joy in the moment. A few minutes before, I had suggested to him that he could wear the colorful, dinosaur-print underwear, if he would like, but the little guy shook his head stating firmly, “No, I like these.” Holding his hands on his hips, he paraded around in his brand-new white underwear announcing proudly, “My daddy bought this for me.”

Sitting there with tears in my eyes, I knew from my own painful life experiences, why a small gift from a father could be such a big thing to a child.

Let me tell you, helping potty train twin boys is not an easy task. This is not my first set of twins either, but actually my third that I have taken care of in my home over the past 22 years.

I have loved being a part of children’s lives and seeing firsthand their unique personalities blossom as they grow into successful young people. And unexpectedly along the way, I’ve learned a lot about myself, too. For me, it has been healing to finally be able to put into words what I needed from those who were supposed to be my parents.

You know, it’s almost embarrassing to say that technically I’ve had four fathers, but I can only ever remember throughout my life a couple of gifts that were given to me by any father figure. My biological father was never a part of my life. The courts have tried to convince me that the man’s name listed on my original birth certificate (my birth’s mother’s husband at the time of my conception) was legally another absent father. And then there was my first adoptive father — an alcoholic, and lastly, my step dad that my adoptive mother married after her divorce.

Life should never be this complicated and confusing for any person, much less a little girl. I can’t say that I truly had even one father step up to the plate and steadfastly call me his very own with his unconditional love.

I missed out on experiencing that joy in the moment. To all fathers, regardless if your daughters or sons are small or all grown up, I hope that my story will in some way touch your hearts. It’s never too late to share with your child a small, significant gift just from you that they can treasure always out of your genuine love for them. Truly, I believe it is a big thing when it comes from their daddy, like my precious little friend parading around proudly in his brand-new white underwear.

It’s hard to believe that the twin I wrote about in my post from a number of years ago is now in the third grade.

Recently, I received a card in the mail from my close friend’s father thanking me for helping him find his birth family. It dawned on me as I was reading his thoughtful words, I never even received a card from either of my fathers who at different times had been a part of my life. Make it one of those random Hallmark moments today … go down and purchase a meaningful card specifically for your daughter or son and sign it Love, Dad.

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He loved me … he loved me not?


Above are the only two pictures that I can call my very own of my first adoptive father. I wish I could say it was when life was simpler, but that would not be the truth.

Not too many months ago, I learned that my adoptive father was married before. I contacted his first wife’s grandson. He was cordial and said his late grandmother was not married before. It wasn’t important to me to push the issue. I knew I had the right person. Maybe down the road when a relative is doing their genealogy, they will say, hey, that woman was right :).

Sounds awkward; both my adoptive father’s wives worked together at the same small hospital for many years as RN’s. His first wife and my adoptive father divorced one week before marrying my adoptive mother.

The only reason I contacted the grandson in the first place was to see if he knew the answer to my question, “Do you by chance know why your grandmother divorced my adoptive father?” If everyone else knew my adoptive father had a serious drinking problem, which resulted in his premature death from alcoholism, “Why would anybody in their right mind help my adoptive parents adopt under false pretenses not one newborn, but two newborns a few months apart in age?” His first wife must have known her ex-husband was adopting children; one was born at the same hospital where she and my adoptive mother worked.

When I look at my first adoptive father’s picture I don’t see a bad man, I see a broken man, a human being who didn’t for whatever reason get the help he needed to conquer his disease. I truly don’t ever remember him loving me. Actually, what I recall is a man who didn’t like his little girl all that much. Do I blame him? Obviously, he didn’t need the added stresses of helping raise and support two more children, along with one older biological son from his marriage with my adoptive mother. If I would have had the opportunity to talk with him as a grown-up, these are the questions I would have asked him:

  • Why did mom forge your name on my incomplete adoption records in the courts?
  • Why all the deception if there was nothing to hide?
  • At that time, would your alcohol problem have been the reason for you not even telling your relatives back East about me, until long after the fact?
  • Was adopting children one last attempt to try and save yours and mom’s failing marriage?
  • Who in heaven’s name wanted me?

No one could possibly understand what I had been searching for all these years. I needed one person to say out loud, “I knew what the doctor who delivered you, the prominent judge, your adoptive mother, and all the other mysterious players involved in putting a child in harm’s way was wrong. I tried to voice my objections to someone who could have possibly made a difference in the outcome. I want you to know I cared about you, the innocent child.”

Instead, I have felt like so many adults let me down as a child.

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Where we find forgiveness

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-girl-fishing-image11926774I was thinking about my late birth father tonight … he was a very intelligent man. As a geologist doing both on-loan and contract work, he had something like 45-plus newspaper articles written about him. There were no pictures of my father. A lot of the clippings announced where he would be heading for his next out of town/state project. Back then they sure liked to have newspaper-worthy parties when he returned back to his family.

It was interesting to me how you could almost see the handwriting on the wall that his marriage with his wife wasn’t going to last. He was seldom home. That is how I was conceived.

But I have to give him some credit for being able to turn his life around. Apparently, his first marriage to his childhood sweetheart was annulled by both sets of parents. Well, towards the end of his life he was given an ultimatum—if he stopped drinking, womanizing, and started going to church, the love of his life from when he was a young man would agree to marry him again. And impressively, that is just what he did until the end of their lives.

As his daughter, we never met, 🙂 but I think I’ve figured him out. My birth father always loved his childhood sweetheart and after he lost her the first time he didn’t care who he ultimately hurt by his poor choices in life.

I have been able to find forgiveness in my own way.

What I would have asked him if he was still alive:

• If you had your life to do over again, what would you have done differently?

• I heard you always wanted a daughter, “How could I have made you proud?”

• If you could have written a letter to my adoptive mother, my first adoptive father, and my stepfather, what would you have said after hearing my life story?

• Do you have words of wisdom from your own life experiences that might have helped me to finally let go of the sadness and disappointments?

• Is there something I could have said to you as your daughter that would have made you want to be a better husband, father, and human being?

• And last, but most importantly, “Would you take me fishing?” ♥

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My Four Fathers

Sometimes I believe we find forgiveness in the only way we know how.

Bill and Jo

To my siblings’ father whose name is on my birth certificate—I am a spitting image of my birth mother that you obviously cared for deeply, even through her relentless unfaithfulness.

When you signed on the dotted line to place me for adoption as my “father” because of infidelity, I imagine you would have never guessed that years later your relatives wouldn’t be entirely sure that I wasn’t your child. I could have passed as your flesh and blood. But an expensive blood test with living family members proved otherwise.

I didn’t know birth certificates lied. The exposed truth hurt. It meant I had another absent father out there that hadn’t been a part of my life.

After having met your wonderful sister and brother, I know that if you had still been alive you would have shared openly and honestly with me the good attributes as well as the shortcomings of the love of your life…my late mother.

Were you the one who drove her over 145-miles away from your home to where she gave birth to me?

I wish I could have given you a hug and said I was sorry for your heartaches.


To my first adoptive father—I know more about life than I did when I was a child and you left and I never saw you again. I had no adult explaining to me that alcoholism is a disease. That it didn’t mean you loved me any more or less or were necessarily a bad person.

While you were still alive, I wish you could have seen me one more time all grown up and not as an annoying little girl. The questions I would have asked you in hopes that you might have told me the truth were, “Who was so desperate to get a baby girl that you would do it illegally, under such false pretenses? Was I supposed to have saved your marriage?”

The one last thing I would have said before we parted ways is, “I forgive you.”

My late stepfather— I’ve always said in the past, I loved you more than anything in this world. It has been a slow process, but I am beginning to understand that little girl in me better. I needed a daddy at any cost. To be continued…soul-searching in progress.

Love, JoAnne

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