Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mystery of Adoption, the Dilemma of Birth Parent Searches, and all that jazz :o

Christmas... a time for family and friends, a time to be thankful and generous, a time to reflect on the year past and hope for the year ahead.

Maybe that's why I'm obsessing about the current drama in my life...

Here's a brief overview:
I was adopted as a baby. I've always known this, in fact, my Mom used to tell me stories about how she picked me out specially from a room full of babies because I was special and shiny (well, maybe not shiny...) and it made me feel CHOSEN. I loved it. And I have a great mom and an amazing sister and grew up very happy.

But. But, but, but... the curiosity. It was there. Always. So when I was in my twenties I managed to get some information about my birth mother. It was non-identifying, so no names or places were mentioned, just general medical stuff, what my birth-mom and birth-dad were interested in, and the circumstances of my birth.

I tried, thru the Children's Aid Society of Canada - who holds all the ultra-secret documents, to make contact with my birth-mom but sadly she didn't feel the same. Apparently her family was never aware of my existence and she wanted to keep it that way.
Fine, I respect that.

Earlier this year, the province of Ontario opened up the adoption records so I applied for and received my original birth certificate, hoping that my birth father would be listed. Alas, birth-mom didn't include his name on the form. But I know my name, and her name, and where she used to live.
Small coincidence - my initials are W.K. yes? My birth-name initials are K.W. *shivers*

This is where it gets twilight-zone weird...

I was born and raised in a place called Thunder Bay, which is a long way away - 1600 kilometers - from the Toronto area, where I currently reside. My birth-mom was in university in Thunder Bay so I always assumed that she was from some small town in Northern Ontario.
Her listed address from 40ish years ago is town that happens to be just down the road from where I live now. HOW BIZARRE IS THAT?!

If you're guessing that I went there - to that old address - just to see where my birth mom grew up, you're correct.
I recruited a friend, stuffed my pockets with tissues (in case of hysterical breakdown) and off I went. Sat in front of the house for many minutes, wondering... Do my grandparents still live there? The grandparents that don't know I exist? The grandparents who don't know that they've got two gorgeous great-grandsons??
They still live there.
I know this because damned if they didn't have their name on a plaque next to the garage.

What next? I keep reminding myself that this isn't a made-for-television movie, that I can't go knocking on the door and tearfully spill my story and have these elderly people embrace me. Not sure I'd even want that. But, but, but, but... the curiosity. It's there.

What should I do, people of the blogworld? WHAT SHOULD I DO???



Susan Helene Gottfried said...

You need an intermediary who'll approach the grandparents and see if they'd meet you and let things evolve. And feel the situation out; if they're horrible people, you're better off knowing that before you knock on that door.

Hang in there. I'm here if you need me.

Wylie Kinson said...

Hey SHG! Ah... yes, nice idea, but I couldn't do it without letting birth-mom's secret out. There in lies the problem. If only I could figure out how to meet them without telling they WHY I want to meet them - LOL
Thanks for being there if I need you :)

M. said...

Wow, Wylie. Emotional overload. Any thoughts I have are of course in the way of having no clue what it feels like for you, so feel free to disregard everything I say, but here goes.

I believe in the link-in-a-chain school of thought on families rather than the individual-islands-in-a-sea school of thought - meaning, the movement of one influences the movement of everyone in the chain, like it or not. OK, so your birth mom made a choice who knows how many years ago not to pursue contact, and not to make it easy for you to pursue contact. Does that eclipse the rights of your birth dad/ grandparents/ children? I don't know. You don't know. But maybe there is some way to try and find out a bit more information before shocking them with the info? Leaving your contact information in their mailbox and leaving it up to them to pursue if they so choose? Maybe trying to figure out more information about them - have you googled their names to see if anything about other kids or professions comes up?

It's a tough call. One of the questions I tend to ask myself in those sorts of situations is: when I'm old and grey and looking back, will I regret taking X opportunity, or will I regret not taking it.

What does you hubby say?

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is a Lifetime movie. I don't know what I'd do. I'd want to know but I'd also be afraid of rejection or finding out I don't like them and that my birth mother had a good reason to hide me from them. Then again, that last part might be good to know. I'd also have to take into consideration their age. How would they take the news if I showed up on their door step? There is so much to consider, but I know I'd want to know eventually. I also think due to the importance of knowing your family health history it's sort of your right. Is there a way you can find out more about them other than the obvious - stalking them? So much to consider, but since this is real life and not a Lifetime movie I won't advise. Just take your time and decide what you need. Take care.

Anonymous said...

P.S. The years could have changed your birth Mom's mind also. She might feel differently now.

Julia Smith said...

Wylie, this is a very big wow.

I have several friends who gave up their babies for adoption when they were young, and who joined a support group for people in their situation later in life. One of the women went on to have children with her husband, but was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder last year and is now separated from her family. But she's receiving treatment and is putting her life back together, although one of her brothers took his own life 7 years ago.

The other woman is divorced, has no other children and is reclaiming her family, as her mother apparently also gave up a child for adoption. This was news to my friend, who only reunited with her brother (I guess her half-brother) last year. She's very keen on getting in touch with lost people, and has placed her desire to meet with her child in the records, but has not received a response so far.

I also know someone who was adopted into a family that had natural children of their own. He became a very focused, generous person who helped me out so much while I was making films in university. He knew about his birth parents, a young woman from Halifax and a sailor. Obviously, he inherited the good looks and charm of one or the other of this couple! But their circumstances made it obvious as to why he'd been placed for adoption, and he was very easy-going about his origins and very solid with his family.

I'm telling you these three stories, because the varied backgrounds and responses of the people I know in your situation make advice really tough for those of us who'd love to know what to say. It's easy to say don't explode the world which the older couple knows as reality, yet my friend's reunion with her brother has meant the world to her. It's easy to say let sleeping dogs lie when I think of the turmoil my other friend has lived with, and her family history of mental illness which led her to indulge in risky behaviour in the first place and its resulting pregnancy. It's very heartening when I see how my other friend looks at his origins with eyes wide open, while holding his actual family as close as I hold mine.

Maybe stalking is a good way to see what they're like without bursting lives open or setting yourself up for extreme distress if your birth mother has major issues.

Maya said...

Wylie, find out if you have siblings. If you do, meet them in a neutral place, and explain your situation: you want to protect your original mother from stress, and don't want to shock your grandparents. However, you have a burning desire to know at least your medical history, and if at all possible, the identity of your father. Offer to take a DNA test, and enlist them as your allies- you all want to protect mom, but you have a right to your own history.


Kate R said...

I have no idea what you should do but, wow, what a story. Good luck with your decision. . . keep us informed.

Thomma Lyn said...

(((((((Wylie))))))) -- my goodness, what a heart-rending situation. I think Maya has excellent advice about finding out whether you have siblings. If you do, they'd be a good place to start. I have a brother whom I love dearly, and I know that I speak for him as well when I say that if he and I had a sibling we didn't know about, we would DEFINITELY want to get to know our hitherto unknown sibling and help him/her out in absolutely any way we could.

My heart and thoughts are with you, my friend.

Wylie Kinson said...

I'm posting this as a blog entry, as some of you may not come back to read comments:
In case you were wondering - hey, where'd she go -- I just gotta say, after I wrote this post, I needed some emotional distance. I really had no idea how deep this issue would affect me. I've always sort of taken my adoption in stride, never wallowed in the "omg - I was rejected as a baby" crap, but WOW -- I'm a bit of a mess over this.

That said, I really appreciate all your hugs and advice, your stories (thanks Julia), your wisdom and caring. All made such good points and if/when I decide to take a next step, I'll keep you posted :)