Welcome, Kristin! Could you start by telling us a little about yourself and your background?
I was born in California in 1968 (the “Baby Scoop Era”). My adoptive parents were in Utah and had received a call from their attorney that a baby was being relinquished for adoption. They flew to California and picked me up from the hospital at 3 days old. I currently live in Utah and am a Clinical Mental Health Counselor with a full-time private practice. I also teach yoga.
Do you work with other adoptees?
I see kids, adolescents and adults. Currently about 30% of my client population are adoptees!
That’s a pretty decent percentage! How would you describe your own experiences growing up as an adoptee?
I’ve known I was adopted for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I would fantasize about who my mom might be – Linda Carter (Wonder Woman), Jacquelyn Smith (Kelly on Charlie’s Angels) etc – surely someone famous since I was born in California!). I don’t remember asking my parents a lot of questions about adoption though. I was sensitive to the idea that it might hurt their feelings, especially my adoptive mom. At some point as an adolescent, she told me she thought she knew my biological mother’s name because she had seen some paperwork in the hospital that she wasn’t supposed to see. So, from the time I was a teen, I knew a name that might be my first mother’s name.
Did you ever end up searching as you got older?
Yes. Throughout adulthood, every once in a while, I would look for people with the name my adoptive mom had given me. Then, eight years ago, my adoptive dad said he was cleaning out files and found paperwork from the hospital where I was born. On it was listed the name of both my biological parents as well as an address for my biological mom. My husband and I started looking at online records for high schools they may have attended based on her address. We found her in a high school yearbook. It was the first time I saw her picture and I knew right away she was my mother. A few days later we found my birth father in the yearbook of a neighboring high school.
I found likely addresses and sent letters out to both. My biological father was open to DNA testing and my mother sent a letter confirming I was her child and requesting I have no contact with her or her family.
I’m sure that was extraordinarily impactful on you, I’m so sorry.
Thank you. I thought I was prepared for anything and it ended up being way harder than I expected. Since then, I have come to understand that she probably carries so much of her own pain and trauma. Reading “The Girls Who Went Away” by Ann Fessler helped me a lot. It’s hard because we carry our trauma and it can be difficult to see beyond it. For a long time, I believed that if we could just have a relationship, it would help both of us heal. Now I see that even people in “positive reunion” relationships struggle.
That’s true- it’s definitely a very difficult relationship to navigate & forge altogether. Would you say that’s been your biggest struggle in adulthood with regard to your adoption?
Yes, absolutely. And I still hold a lot of hope that she will someday change her mind. Thankfully, it is not as hard as it was initially. I think I’m getting better at navigating the pain.
If you had to use one word to describe this journey, what would it be?
Oh gosh! One word?! ….Illuminating. It is through this journey, especially search and reunion (such as it is), that I have found myself. I see my strengths and my vulnerabilities more clearly.
What do you wish more people knew about the adoptee experience? What do you wish more adoptive parents knew?
I wish people recognized that separating a child from their mother is always trauma. It may manifest differently in each of us – some not so visible, but it is still a trauma. It’s so interesting to me that most people fully acknowledge that it’s trauma to take a child away from their mother but once we give that separation the label of “adoption”, it’s suddenly a beautiful thing. I want adoptive parents to understand that their love is not enough – it’s necessary, but their children need so much more.
That was so beautifully articulated. At what point did you decide you wanted to start connecting with other adoptees?
I have been reading adoptee blogs for many years. And those blogs helped me feel not so alone in my experience. Then it snowballed and I started listening to the “Adoptees On” podcast (http://www.adopteeson.com). However, the biggest turning point for me came from attending the first “Beyond Adoption: You” retreat and being in a room only with other adoptees. I returned from that retreat knowing I wanted to connect with adoptees locally and eventually started an “Adoptees Connect” group here in Utah.
What a fantastic snowball effect! And how has Adoptees Connect, in particular, impacted your experience?
The benefit with Adoptees Connect is that it’s an ongoing, local, safe space to connect with other adoptees.
A scarce resource…
Yes, I don’t know of anything else like it in my state.
Nor in mine! I’m very grateful.
Lee Rolandi – Adoptees Connect, Inc. Writer/Editor/Publisher