Could you give me a little background about yourself?
I am originally from St. Louis, Missouri and was adopted at six weeks old. I lived there for 30 years before finding my mom’s side in Roseburg, Oregon and have been there ever since! I have always worked in restaurants and hotel customer service but am currently studying Clinical Psychology in the hopes of working specifically with adoptees. I’ve got about a year and a half left!
What was your experience growing up adopted?
Growing up, my adoptive mother was abusive. She ended up having an affair with a fellow doctor and divorced my adoptive father when I was about 10 years old. I grew up in Catholic schools until I was a teenager and the main takeaway was that I could never do anything right!
I remember my adoptive mother standing over me as a little girl and telling me I was a detriment to her. She was told she couldn’t have children but after she adopted me, she ended up having a natural child. He was treated like absolute gold. That wasn’t easy to endure either.
I didn’t really have a very happy childhood when it came to her. And my adoptive father tried to spend time with me and tried to have a relationship but she wouldn’t let him. I suspect that this was because it was the only time I was somewhat happy.
What happened as you got older?
Well, at around 13 years old, she started losing control of me. It seemed like if I even breathed wrong, I was sent to juvenile detention so I was constantly running away to get away from her. I always wished I could just disappear. I did try to commit suicide several times in my early teens and was in several children’s homes until I got pregnant at 16 and 17. My adoptive father signed the papers so that I could marry the father who was in the Army at the time. He ended up getting kicked out and I was left single. By 26, I had 4 more children for a total of 6.
When my adoptive father died on May 16th, 2016, I was told by another adoptive family member that someone in our parish was aware that my adoptive mother had abused me all those years. They admitted that they never stepped up and instead just let it just happen.
I just want to go ahead and say thank you for being so open
I mean, why hide anymore right?
So what started your journey to discover your biological family?
Well, as a little girl I wanted to know who my biological family was since my adoptive mother seemed to hate me so much. I was constantly afraid of messing up so I did dream about them.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I acquired some non-identifying information- the initials JLB. I also knew I was born in St Louis City Hospital so I took a chance! It I don’t remember the exact date but some time in 1996, I ended up running an ad in the St Louis Post Dispatch! –
“I think my birth initials could be JLB. I was born in St Louis City Hospital on December 15th, 1964. From my non-identifying info, I have siblings. I am searching for my birth family.”
Did it work?
One of my biological sisters found the ad. She called me, asked a few questions, and we both had no doubt it was the right family. At that point, our mom was already dead. I missed her by six months.
I found out that my biological mother lived in the Pruitt-Igoe projects of St. Louis. The story is that the nuns from Catholic Charities came one day to get me and I just never came back. My siblings say they were terrified our biological mother would give them away too- she had 10 biological children in total and had already abandoned her eldest 5 in California and had 4 remaining at home by the time I was taken away.
The siblings she abandoned in California found out about me and flew me to Washington state to meet them. About 6 of them were there. A lot of my siblings have emotional, mental, and addiction issues. My biological mother was very abusive as well. It’s pretty touch and go with them. They want me one minute and not the next.
Do you have any addiction issues of your own?
No, thankfully. I dabbled as a teen but nothing in adulthood. Just major anxiety problems and a little depression.
Do you think your anxiety & depression stems directly from having been adopted?
Oh absolutely. No doubt.
Would you say that’s been your biggest struggle in adulthood with regard to your adoptee journey?
Yes. I have anxiety about everything. I am ultra-sensitive to how others feel about me or how they even look at me. I am always worried about people being mad at me or fitting in. And I am always critical about myself.
What have been your primary emotions behind your adoptee journey?
Flawed and awkward! My life has always been a struggle. I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone. Even though I found my biological mother’s side, I still feel unwanted and lost.
What’s one thing you want non-adoptees to know about the adoption experience?
Listen to adoptees. We have lived it, we know. There is always trauma- no matter how good or how bad you think we have it. We have a right to know who we are because the “not knowing” is pure hell for most of us. If a child can’t be with their biological families, make adoptive parents learn about trauma. I also think it’s our responsibility to keep children connected to their biological roots even if there was no choice but to place them up for adoption. The first choice should always be to keep children with their families.
What inspired you to start connecting with other adoptees?
Years ago I started looking on Facebook for an adoptee group and started finding more and more information. Presently, I have tons of adoptees on my page! I run an Adoptees Connect group as well as an adoptees-only page on Facebook. All of that is what inspired me to go back to school-I want to pay it forward. I want to use my experiences to help others like me.
What kind of impact has Adoptees Connect had on you?
I just started with AC a year ago. It’s been slow going because I live in a rural area but it has been a blessing to meet the few that we do have! Thank god for Pamela Karanova for starting this!
Before we finish, is there anything else you want to add? A message to the community?
Adoption IS trauma. And adopted voices matter! I will always stress this!
Lee Rolandi – Adoptees Connect, Inc. Writer/Editor/Publisher