Thursday, December 23, 2010

Life Support

I am preparing to return to work after being on medical leave for nine months. I am excited and nervous, worried that I've forgotten too much, that I will be even worse at placing IVs, and that the crush of responsibility will wear me down in a matter of weeks. Being an RN means that I am the eyes and ears of the MD or midwife when they're out of the patient's room. I have to make quick judgment calls, ask for appropriate meds, and be alert and vigilant for 8 hours straight. I work in a high volume, high risk, high stress unit. Never a dull moment, which is both good in terms of learning and bad in terms of feeling like I am drowning. In my first month on the job I had a patient hemorrhage with an inverted uterus, a neonatal code, several fetal demises, and more than one emergency c-section. I am fortunate that I work with a team of exceptional nurses who support me; I am not completely alone, although there are shifts when we're understaffed and I might as well be. One such time there was no Advanced Life Support RN for the baby, and no resource RN at delivery. I had to dry off and assess the baby, do APGARs, and simultaneously get everything that the MD wanted for the patient (hang new IV bag, get sutures and lidocaine, etc.). THAT made me into a huge stress monkey. Too bad I don't have 10 arms.

Because my job often takes me to the OR, I have to be certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), which is a fancy way of saying that I need to be prepared to run a code when someone goes into cardiac arrest. I have to recognize ECG rhythms, know which ones are shockable, which drugs to use when in what amounts, and how to delegate and check in with team members to make sure that my orders are being carried out as directed. It is pretty complicated, although there are algorithms to simplify things. I spent the better part of five days trying to remember heart medications and proper treatment for myocardial infarctions and stroke. I spent one day in a classroom going over the algorithms and being coached, and then on the second day, I had my big test, called a megacode.

I am a nervous person at the best of times. Polite people call me vigilant; less polite people call me jumpy. I am a perfectionist with a low startle threshold. I can forget to breathe. You can imagine what being in charge of a megacode did to me.

The tester usually began by asking where the team leader worked and what kind of job they did before coming up with a scenario. I was hoping that I would be asked, so that he could come up with some OB scenario in the OR or labor room involving bleeding out. That I can handle. But I wasn't asked, and my "patient" was a 38-year-old IV drug user, coming into the ER with heart palpitations and dehydration. I had my team put my patient on the heart monitor, checked the rhythm, and ordered an IV start and labs to check blood count, electrolytes, kidney function, liver function, and drug toxicology. The tester informed me that my RN was unable to start an IV, so I had to order an intraosseus (within the bone marrow) line. Then the tester asked me where I worked, and the paramedics and ER nurses chuckled because I had forgotten that toxicology screens have to be checked from urine. Oops. I didn't order a Foley catheter. Then I forgot to shock the patient immediately when he went into ventricular fibrillation. I guess I looked frazzled, because the instructor said, "It's okay. You're doing fine. Remember your algorithms."

I got back on track and passed. It was nerve-wracking, but having been in real codes that were less well handled, I feel as though I can contribute more meaningfully. I hope. Practice and faith in oneself really does matter. And in a real-life situation in the OR or labor room, I would NOT be running the code. Hooray for having three MDs in the OR and a code team to call!

Then I got to thinking about the algorithms. If you follow the boxes and answer questions, things are simplified. You know what to do when, if you constantly reassess the patient and make decisions based on that information. Very few people actually survive codes, but there is a best practice to be followed. That is reassuring.

It made me wish that there were some algorithm to follow when trying to sift through the complicated, clotted emotions that come along with adoption. There are theories (such as the primal wound, and modified Eriksonian crises), and there are examples (such as the interviews that B.J. Lifton published in her books) of other people's searches and reunions. But no adoptions are alike, no adoptees are exactly alike, no first mothers are the same. There is no algorithm for coping: we do the best we can, muddle through, and hope for the best. Sometimes I feel like I am performing CPR on myself, pounding on a chest in which the heart has stopped beating for lack of an emotional home. Sometimes I wish I could give myself epinephrine to give myself a better chance to reset my heart's nonperfusing rhythm.

Over the past few years, I've been given a lot of advice. "Say this, say that, never say that, don't contact, contact now, demand that, ask politely, give more time, show up on her doorstep," and so on. Problem is, there is no script to follow that works for everyone. We all have to write our own as we go. I remember someone telling me not to tell my fmom in a letter that I wanted anything less than her love, and that she had mine. Well, turns out that my fmom isn't the loving kind of person who wanted to hear such words. As she put it, "I feel nothing for you as a child of mine, but you are nice, and if I met you in the line at the grocery store we could have a nice talk. Let's work on a friendship like that." So I am a stranger--that's a given--of no more importance than someone met incidentally while running errands. I will take it, although it wasn't the reception I had hoped for. One step at a time, one step at a time.

Then I sink back into this terrible sense of feeling alone. I have an amazing family, loving friends, and I belong in many ways. I don't belong in my nfamily, at least not yet, and probably never in the way I'd like. How is it that I slipped down a rabbit hole and ended up here, where I can't enjoy what I do have?

Although I become annoyed by people who are so scientific that they cannot begin to understand or process human emotions, I do wish I could pull a card out of my pocket with an algorithm that outlined life support for me in more concrete terms than taking antidepressants, thinking happy thoughts, doing things that bring me joy, and surrounding myself with loved ones. It's these things, oddly, that often reinforce how alone I feel.

In ACLS, there are some rhythms that are shockable, and some that aren't. Can't shock dead, they say. They may shock a flat line on TV, but it doesn't restart the heart. There has to be the right combination of electrical activity, oxygen, circulation, and chemicals for that heart to pump.

Right now, I am not in a shockable rhythm.

ABC. Airway, Breathing, Circulation. Airway, Breathing, Circulation. It can keep you alive, but to what end? What is life vs. quality of life? Oh yeah, there's no algorithm for that one, either.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I had the wonderful experience this week of having lunch with someone I greatly admire and whom I hadn't seen in 14 years. We were in grad school together back in the dark ages, and she always made me smile, even though we were in a bloody shark tank. She is brilliant--one of the smartest people I know, but like me, she is often loath to bring attention to it.

As we sat together and talked about the time we spent together from 1992 to 1996, we discovered even more things we had in common. Academic faux pas we had made, how we often felt we had nothing to contribute to conversations when we were around certain people, how the cliquishness and back-biting were beyond belief in the magnitude of their cruelty. I walked into the department sight-unseen, coming from an undergraduate college where students were always encouraged to think independently and develop their own interests, rather than groomed to be clones of professors. My friend had been an undergraduate in the department and decided to stay to pursue an M.A./Ph.D. Graduate school is murderously feudal: basically it's indentured servitude, with your adviser controlling your finances and future. If you are unlucky in your choice of adviser, you are pretty much screwed. Especially when your adviser is not the strongest player in the department or field at large. The 10 years I spent suffering there was definitely not the best time of my life, although meeting a certain handful of people and having unfettered time to read and research came closest to making me feel at peace with myself.

I remember writing my M.A. thesis, on a topic that I really loved, and getting wonderful feedback from this friend of mine. Her field was ancient art, which had been my focus for my B.A. Classical scholars tend to be very focused, with photographic recall of thousands of ancient texts. I definitely do not have the same access, nor did my friend. We were quite green together, and having her with me in seminars and lectures was lovely.

She is also 10 years older than I am, and I appreciated her maturity at a time when I was all over the map with myself. My 20's were definitely a lost period in which my adoption baggage was compounded by self-hatred from feeling all at sea in graduate school. The unwanted adoptee advisee.

When my friend and I were talking on Friday, she said that she sees me as more mature (one would hope) but very much the same in terms of my interests, openness, and sunny personality. When I told her that the personality was a mask, she was stunned. She listened to everything that's been going on with such love and support. It felt comforting on many levels, and I do hope it won't be 14 years before we see each other again.

Some comments she made about me being the same have fueled introspection. I've been trying to figure out what parts of myself are molded by my aparents, and which are genetic, from my nparents. Then I realized I forgot a something big, something I often forget: there is also the variable of ME. Some things are just me. I am not a clone of them, just as I had a bad time in graduate school because I refused to be a clone of anyone.

When I was talking to C about the curious way I stand with my right leg out at an angle, it makes sense that I got that from her. She agreed. She didn't agree that she passed along her facility for languages to me. She doesn't believe in genetics for things such as interests and talents. I told her that my aparents aren't into languages the same way that she and I are. She pointed out that her parents weren't either. While I disagree with her about the genetic component of language skills, I do see her point about reading too much into genetics. After all I am a intellectual, latte drinking left-winger who lives in the Bay Area. My nfamily is Republican and conservative, dyed-in-the-wool.

My amom was an English teacher and a stickler for good grammar. Rightly so. I write well in part because of what she taught me, partly because I do so intuitively, and partly because I have done quite an apprenticeship in thinking and writing over the years: from daily writing assignments at my high school that had to be corrected and corrected and corrected, to crafting my Ph.D. thesis in painful increments over five years.

Surrounding myself with smart, witty people was probably also a helpful act. People who love me, warts and all, and who know me inside out. It never stops amazing me that I have such compassionate friends who let me know how much I mean to them. I understand that most all people deserve love, but I just can't get over the hurdle of accepting that *I* am worthy of people's love. I seem to keep reaching for those green figs on the tree that are out of reach rather than enjoying the rich bounty of what I have. Regret and self-doubt are terrible, destructive vices.

I am stumbling around trying to deal with the fragments of myself I've been collecting. I feel like I have discovered increasing numbers of these fragments, sometimes in unexpected places. My current task is to try to reassemble them in a way that is meaningful and helps me feel less anxious and depressed. I know I will never feel complete, and the cracks will always be there, but sometimes imperfection has its own beauty.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


Trust is a precarious thing. I like to believe that I see the good in people until they prove me wrong, protecting myself as much as I can in the meantime. But still, there are people who beg for second chances and trust, but who don't deserve them. They may be wonderful people--with others, but not with me.

Of course, being adopted makes my trust baggage even worse, but there comes a time when enough is enough.

That's all I have. I can only take care of myself, and for now, that's taking as much energy as I can muster.

I think I feel betrayal all the more keenly because I try--although I am not always successful--not to betray others. I can think of some pretty awful things I did to people as I was swimming blindly in my late teens and early twenties, just trying to find myself but not knowing how. Knowing that I wasn't getting enough out of a relationship, or even the right thing. Letting others abuse me, but being passive-aggressive and hurting them back.

I think one healthy thing is that I have at last discovered my bottom line. There are friends of mine who aren't there for me always when I need them, but I know they love and care for me. I trust in their friendship. Then there are those who say they want to be there, but only do so to use me. And they think I don't notice. Well, I do.

I wish it didn't burn as badly as it does. It hurts, but it does feel better in the end to cut people out than to question their commitment to standing by me as a friend, no matter what.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


I am not one usually to run out of words. I have been known to be quiet and withdrawn, but the events of the past two days have truly knocked me sideways.

I have been deeply depressed. This is not news. I have been fighting my health problems and feeling suicidal for over six months. I have been suicidal before, but I usually stuffed my feelings down and made it through by making myself numb. I have lived most of my life appearing cheerful, but feeling like a zombie inside.

On Monday night, I finally decided that if I was going to die, I should tell my brother how very angry I was with him. So I sent him a text that basically said that I was sorry I was born and caused such misery to everyone in my nfamily, but that I had expected more from him. Thanks, but no thanks. He won no prizes for being a gentleman.

Shortly after I sent my text, his wife called me. She had refused to answer an e-mail I had sent her last September, and she had left me high and dry after my visit with her in April, after she moved in with my nmother. I picked up, and she asked if I was okay. I said no, I wasn't. She then said that A (my brother) would call me when he could get out of the lab. I said fine, and then told her that I had been horrendously betrayed, that I didn't trust her, and that basically there was nothing left to say. I hung up.

A called a bit later. He asked if I was okay. I said no. I also told him that I was really angry that he hadn't answered my e-mail in October, or bothered to tell me that he had made it home safely from his tour. He said that he was tired of being in the middle (as if *I* put him there!) and that no one in the family was going to have a relationship with me until C and I worked it out. He had told my cousin to stop communicating with me; I had suspected as much when my cousin stopped responding to my texts and messages. The straightjacket of such an arrangement insisting on complete family harmony made no sense to me on multiple levels: I wasn't doing any of the obstructing, and why can't adults have relationships with other adults without the blessing of everyone on the planet? I brought up how honoring thy father and mother doesn't mean committing murder; where do you draw the line? He asked for some time to think, then said he'd call me back. I answered very sarcastically, "When? Six months? A year from now?" He told me he'd call me the next day, and call our mother that night.

I felt sad beyond measure yet again. I really had done nothing but be born into this family of people I couldn't begin to understand. I wasn't asking for anything more than friendship and respect. I cried, lay in the fetal position, felt more alone than ever, and wondered what in the hell I had done to deserve such treatment. And sadly, this kind of thing is not foreign to me, in love relationships, friendships, and otherwise. You'd think I could find a pattern in myself and fix it, and I've tried, but there is no way I could have created this situation with my nfamily. If anything, my problem is being stubborn and not letting go, but I think I hold onto things for a reason.

So I got the kids ready for bed, took a Xanax to help me sleep, and woke up at midnight with my body and emotions in a knot. I checked my phone and noticed that C had called me. Great, I thought. I am going to get reamed again for contacting someone or upsetting A.

The next morning, I was getting the kids ready for school and saw that C had called again. I couldn't pick up because I was too busy tracking down shoes and jackets and homework and trying to get Tobey to brush his hair. I had an appointment right after I dropped off the kids, and hashed it over on the phone with a friend who is trying to get over a breakup. He advised me to do as he is trying to do, simply to walk away. But I couldn't, I just couldn't.

I got home, arranged myself with Kleenex, a warm blanket, the dog, and the phone, and then called C. She picked up immediately and began to ask what was wrong, why I felt so bad, and what could be done to change it. I told her that I'd been unhappy pretty much all of my life, stumbling through it, never valuing myself. I asked her the three questions I'd forgotten to ask last time: Did she hold me? No. Did she name me? No. Did she listen to Edith Piaf while pregnant with me? No. We talked about how she was drugged for my delivery and doesn't remember anything of it. She was horrified to learn that I'd been in the NICU without a primary caretaker for six weeks; she'd been promised I'd go home with a family right away. She was angry to learn that the agency had lied to my parents about her prenatal care and about my father. She told me about hiding her pregnancy so successfully that she did her whole semester of student teaching and no one noticed. She told me about the day she screwed up the courage to tell her parents that she was pregnant with me.

Our conversation flowed for over an hour. She wanted to know about my parents, my childhood, my experiences. We joked about how we both suck at housework and would rather read books. How we're stubborn and good liars. We compared medications for depression, she asked about my boys, and we talked about how marriage is really hard. I told her that I'd left flowers for her father, and she was happy that I had done so. I asked why he had no flowers while the other family members in the cemetery did, and she said that she kept meaning to do it on her visits, but never got around to it.

At one point she said, "This is a nice conversation. Look, we can talk without yelling at each other!" I agreed. She said that she didn't feel like my mom, but that she would be interested in pursuing a friendship. She encouraged me to call her if I felt sad. I really *want* to talk to her. We do have a lot in common. It was so odd but wonderful to have shoved all the garbage off the table and to be able to interact just as people.

She told me that she had told A that she had no problems with our relationship, but that he insisted on this whole family reconciliation thing. She told me that she'd call him to clarify, and she told me to text my cousin saying that I'd spoken with Aunt C and that she was absolutely fine with him getting to know me. My cousin texted back and said, "Thank God! What a load off." C explained that my aunt and uncle want to approach me, but aren't quite ready yet. I think it's a relief for C now that everyone in the family knows. We can move ahead, take things slowly, and be friends--I hope. I never thought I would be able to say that. It feels wonderful.

A and I are figuring things out. I was so angry, angrier than I had originally thought I was. All those months I fretted about having him back in my life and wondering what I'd done--while knowing I had done nothing except exist. The enormity of his betrayal ripped me to shreds. It will take a long time for me to be able to trust him again, although I really want to get there. I asked him if he'd come visit me so that we can spend time together and reestablish our footing. He agreed, and will hopefully get up this way the weekend after next. My boys are thrilled: Callum said, "I think Uncle A owes me an apology, but then I want to hug him." Tobey just said, "I can't wait to meet him and show him all my Lego. And thank him for Alfie [the Elf on the Shelf A gave the kids last year]."

A assured me that he feels terrible for what he did, and that all of what happened was because of the situation, not because of me. Sound familiar? Oh yes, the situation that *is* me and for which I get punished, over and over and over and over....

But mostly I can't wait to hug him and cry and be happy that he's home safe and sound from Afghanistan. I also told him that he's too Southern and military and has to stop saying, "Yes, ma'am," to me unless he's teasing me as my little brother. I am too young to be "Ma'am."

So things are better, I guess, although I can't decide if this is actually my life or I woke up as someone else yesterday.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Que reste-t-il

I am sitting in my room, surrounded by papers and books and newspapers and magazines. Old tickets, pictures, letters. In some ways they say something about my life; in others, they only provide the slightest of clues. Detritus of a life. A collage of memories and emotions, good and painful.

The emotional impact of going through things that have sentimental meaning is powerful. Take, for example, a letter written to me by a long-ago lover, a charming Englishman who was working on his Ph.D. at Cambridge when we met and shared weekend trysts in London. Coming from different parts of the country, we would always find each in British Museum, in the gallery with the Neo-Assyrian wall reliefs, and usually in front of my dear, dying lioness.

In any case, Andrew's words can still conjure up feelings of great happiness in me:


It was so sad to leave you in such an unceremonious way today. There was something deeply inappropriate about your just having to step off a Tube and disappear after after such a beautiful happy (for my part, at least) two days. Thanks for everything, baby; for fixing up the den of trysting, for being  so beautiful and so much fun, for sharing in such a delicious adventure.

I'm really sorry for marring this by a couple of pillocky outbursts. What I want is what we've got--it fulfills all my dreams just now, and I've not reason to construct straw men. I do trust you and believe you, my love, and I want us to enjoy just being together in our friendship--nothing must spoil it. I start behaving like a rational man from NOW.

I smile when I think of the 22-year-old I was, making my way around England and Ireland, learning, reading, and writing poetry. Absorbing the landscape and searching for myself, although I didn't know it at the time. Thinking about his courageous knowledge of self and acceptance of criticism, and a love for me that meant a willingness to change. Haven't seen that in anyone for quite a while.

One of my favorite songs about nostalgia is Charles Trenet's "Que reste-t-il de nos amours" as he asks what is left at the end of a life: une photo, vieille photo, de ma jeunesse, Que reste-t-il des billets doux, des mois d'avril, des rendezvous, un souvenir qui me poursuit sans cesse.

I am trying to find the happy amidst the sad, but it's hard going. Talked to my brother today, which made it all the much harder. Apparently everything depends on C being willing to have a relationship with me, which will be a cold day in hell; I just cannot understand how a family lets her control so much. What a nightmare. More to follow on that when I am not beside myself in tears. Why does it all have to be so hard, so guarded, so awful?

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I have a wonderful friend whom I had the great pleasure to meet through adoption activism. He is creative, supportive, and very intelligent, although he would blush if I said this to his face or mentioned his name here.

He has been working enthusiastically and tirelessly to put together my Newman family tree. I have ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War, and in the Civil War. They have lived in the same area of Indiana for close to 200 years. Talk about stability! I've learned about relatives who have committed suicide in various ways. I have seen some of myself in the stories of various lives of my relatives.

Then last night, my friend sent me a picture he'd found of C, her Senior Picture in 1969 that was taken for her university's yearbook. There she was. Pregnant with me. It was the first time I'd seen a picture of her and thought, "Yes, I do look like her." We have the same face shape, eyes, and eyebrows. I still look a lot more like my grandfather, I think, but there was no denying this time that I come from C.

The pain shot through me like an arrow, leaving burning, poisonous residue in the wound. Yes, I look like her. I already know that I share some of her gestures. What others take for granted, I can't. It's not even just that I can't: she doesn't want me to come near her, or ever to know her.

The more that time goes by, I become convinced that she either didn't tell my brother that she doesn't mind our having a relationship, or that she put a different kind of pressure on him. His silence speaks volumes. I cannot even begin to understand how people can treat family this way. He claims that he's upholding the honor of his parents; I think he's taking the path of least resistance and losing out in the process.

To compound my pain, I read some first parent blogs this week, and I noticed that in more than a few of them, their placed kids are all but absent. It's immensely triggering. How can these parents say that they love their children, and then keep them at arm's length, waffle about setting dates to meet with them, or refuse to tell their families about their placed child at all? How can married people with two kids already think it's a great idea to place kids number three and four in order to do "God's will" and provide children to those who don't already have them? I imagine the placed kids feeling betrayed by their first parents, and the kept kids wondering anxiously if and when they might be placed, as well. None of this makes sense to me. It seems so much like adoption double-speak in which the adoptees, as ever, are damned.

I've also been thinking a great deal lately about the burdens that some adoptees bear (which isn't to say that adoptive parents and first parents don't also have burdens, but my concern here and now is for adoptees). How do we get to such a place that our very foundations begin to corrode? Why are we told again and again that our mothers loved us so much they gave us away? It doesn't make sense in any logical way, and then for those of us who find mothers who really don't love us at all, it's a very cruel joke.

I ask, too, how I have descended to a place where death is preferable to almost all other options. I was reading an essay by Howard Kushner about American attitudes vis a vis suicide in the nineteenth century, "Meriwether Lewis and Abraham Lincoln," and was struck by what he wrote about Freud's conception of melancholia and suicide as ineffective, incomplete mourning for traumatic events. For mourners, the world is empty, but for a transitory period--they learn to cope; for melacholics, the world becomes a painful cypher because they have no ego, and thus their defenses to trauma are limited. They are marginalized because they don't have a stable sense of who they are or a way to filter what happens in the world. The unresolved grief felt by melacholics results in chipping away at the will to live, and increased self-hatred and anger at the deserting love object.

Sounds familiar to me. Here I am, mourning what I've lost, being told that I should be grateful and have nothing to mourn, and having my own mother tell me that she wished I had never existed. I am trying to pick up the pieces of me and put them together in a meaningful way, but it's incredibly difficult to forge new coping mechanisms from the ruins of a self that was thoroughly burned to the ground. It is a wearying task, after a lifetime of being bullied, devalued, called ugly and many other things, to find the strength to stand up to C, and everyone else who has tormented me, and yell, "ENOUGH!"

I am angry that I lacked the strength to stop this travesty long ago, and I don't want to let it continue. But it is a struggle, every day, not to give in and find my own peace. Seriously. I have my medication, friends, support, a loving adoptive family, and one ncousin who sees all that is good in me--but it is a tiring uphill battle in a world that sucks.

I have to keep reminding myself not to ask "Why?" and instead ask "How can I get through this?" One minute at a time. One freaking minute.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I have emotional pain related to all my adoption fun and games, and physical pain, which is tangentially related to my adoption because the source of my problems is hereditary.

I spent most of Thursday in the ER at the hospital at UC San Francisco. It is a friendly, efficient ER; I got into a room within an hour and a half, was seen by an intern and got some much-needed IV pain medication. I was in terrible pain, the kind that makes you want to die if it won't go away. My abdominal pain has been chronic for about two years, with good moments and bad moments, but mostly bad moments since last March. You see, I got a new clot in the vein that feeds blood to the liver from the intestines and stomach. Clot = decreased blood flow = lack of oxygen to tissues = pain. On Wednesday I had taken 80mg of my long-acting narcotic instead of my usual 30mg, along with 80mg of my narcotic for breakthrough pain, and the meds hadn't touched the pain at all. I was lucid and writhing and screaming. I felt my body was like a prison, and I was being tortured.

I didn't want to go to the hospital because I knew what would happen. I would get IV pain meds; the MDs would order labs; I would have either a CT scan or an MRI of my abdomen: and then the MDs would say, "You have two clots, and there's nothing we can do. Stay anticoagulated. Come back if you get a fever and start vomiting." My wonderful primary care physician insisted, however, because she worried that the drastic increase in pain might be an indication that my intestines were not getting enough oxygen and were infarcting. Necrotic bowels are something I'd rather like to avoid, thanks all the same, so I grudgingly agreed to go to the ER.

I had to go alone because Mark was working and my closest friends were wither ill themselves or had small kids to take care of. I ended up not minding being alone too much, though, as I was placed in a quiet corner room and was able to read for most of the day. The IV pain meds (ah, Dilaudid) precluded me from thinking too intensely about anything, although it struck me that once again, I was facing my demons with no help beside me. I was in the hospital because of who I am genetically (a Newman), not because of who I was raised to be (an Olsen). My body is part of a web of attachments from which I have been torn and exiled. It would be nice one day to be able to fill out a family medical history form completely. Well, I can now do my maternal side, which is an improvement on a few years ago, but my paternal side is a big blank, guarded by C's nasty, insistent, "I don't KNOW." Like hell she doesn't know. She just doesn't want ME to know. And if I die as a result, that's my fault, not hers. Sigh.

A very tired intern came in to take my history and do an perfunctory exam. She sat down on my pile of clothes and didn't introduce herself, diving right into questions. My case is pretty complicated, and after about 15 minutes of half-dozing off and backtracking, she threw up her hands and ran to the attending. I didn't mind. I wasn't exactly a dragon, but I wasn't in the mood to play nicely, either. I am sure the intern went home and reread all about hereditary spherocytosis, portal vein thrombosis, and Factor V Leiden. I was a teaching opportunity! I just didn't feel like teaching her myself. She did kindly order the Dilaudid and Zofran before giving up on me, and for that I am thankful.

I have found it rather difficult to be alone with myself over the past few months, but it was a bit better that day I spent in the ER. Was it the addition of Wellbutrin to my anti-depressant cocktail? Was it that I am coming to some preliminary level of acceptance about my health and the lack of support from C and A? Was I finally finding a place within myself that seemed less restrictive and lonely than the island that I occasionally try to escape? I don't know.

So perhaps drugs, friends, and a good book can keep me going. If the clot doesn't do away with me.

And speaking of Harry Potter, I went to the midnight show after I was released from the hospital. One particular line chilled me, although it wasn't in the book. Harry is in the village where his parents lived before they were killed; Hermione asks if he wants to adopt the disguise of Muggles. He says, "This is the village where I was born. I don't want to return as someone else." I have been to the small town where my roots are, and where I was conceived. But I did have to return in disguise as someone else. How very, very sad.                                                                                                                                                          

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Je ne regrette rien

I was listening to Edith Piaf today in the car as my son, dog, and I were driving around and running errands. Many years ago Thomenon gave me CD of Piaf's greatest hits; he is a big fan of French music from the 30's and 40's, probably because his own parents loved it and listened to it during his childhood.

I have always felt drawn to Piaf, although my own parents didn't listen to her. When I would catch snatches of her voice on the radio, on television, or in French classes, she sounded both familiar and comfortable.

Today it hit me that the Little Sparrow is like a body memory within me. She is woven into my cells. I feel quite certain that C listened to Piaf while pregnant with me, and probably still does. I think C cried while listening to "La vie en rose." I think my East Coast educated father seduced her in French and hung her out to dry. I will add that to my list of questions to ask C, if and when I ever speak with her again.

Until then I remain une ombre de la rue.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Adoptees sometimes talk about "coming out of the fog," which I take to mean that there's a sense of dissonance about what we're told and what we feel. Some feel no dissonance. Some of us deny this dissonance all together, some of us keep our mouths shut, and some of us have always decried what isn't true.

It is controversial for adoptees to say, and believe, that it would have been preferable for their nparents to choose abortion. I know there are plenty of people who oppose abortion, and that is their right. I feel, however, that what C said to me, "I wish I'd aborted you!" was her *truth*, and a truth I could live with. No, I wouldn't have existed or had this life or have known my friends or had my children. But I would have also been spared the pain of knowing that the person who brought me into this world regrets every minute of my being here. I truly think C was shocked that I *wasn't* distraught when she said she wished she'd aborted me. I wish I had found an nmom who welcomed me with open arms and was willing to get to know me as a person. And in the absence of that, I wonder why she bothered to carry me to term in the first place. I think she hides behind the shroud of religion: "That is against my religion." She would have had an abortion, I am sure, if she'd had the courage to face her situation sooner and function outside the law. She let the pregnancy ride, had me, and never looked back. Such a Slytherin.

I think it would have been easier on both C and me if she had aborted me. Well, she didn't abort me, so here I am. I don't have to be grateful to be here.

In another case a fellow blogger asked, hypothetically, if it would have been easier for me to search and find out that C was dead. I think it would have been less catastrophic for me on several levels. First, she couldn't have interfered with my relationship with my brother. Second, I would have missed out on speaking with her and knowing exactly how she felt about me--but in my particular case, ignorance would have been bliss. This isn't to say that I hate C or wish her dead. Just that the end of my journey left me with a stinging rejection, and continued rejection, that I wouldn't wish on most people.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Being adopted for me has meant living on the outside. My relationship with my nfamily is fractured because of the trauma surrounding my birth and placement; there are dynamics way beyond my control, and it hurts. Yet in some ways, I can brush it off and say, "Well, they don't know me. It's about them, not me." I don't have history with them, which saddens me, but again, that was beyond my control.

Adoptees hear over and over and over that "All families have problems," and "We all have our crosses to bear." These are true statements, but it is highly annoying that people automatically assume that adoptees don't know this. When we talk about our problems, they're dismissed as being irritating and "less than" because we should shut up and be happy; any other narrative is disturbing, and why don't we know our place? My friend Joy wrote a brilliant rebuttal of this insanity in a blog post here.

To demonstrate that I am aware of other people's problems, I want to share something that my husband is going through. I hate seeing him suffer, and it sickens me that his family feels free to treat him as cavalierly as most of my nfamily treats me. Mark was born in 1970 to German parents who were then living in New York City; he is a dual citizen. His father worked for the Deutsche Bundesbahn [German railroad] and managed its ticket sales office in Manhattan for six years. When Mark was an infant, his family moved back to Hamburg. He comes from a very small, highly buergerlich [bourgeois is a close translation, but not quite spot on] Prussian family to whom appearances mean everything. Clothing, manners, language, social functions, house, garden, everything is tightly managed (if you've read anything by Thomas Mann, that's the culture). Mark says that there's a word for this properness, Spiessigkeit, that is difficult to translate into English, but combines elements of complacency, smugness, and arrogance. The only thing Mark's mom liked about me was that I had a Ph.D., because that is a title. Buergerlich people are way big on titles. But then my being foreign canceled it out, and I was back to zero. 

Although I am slagging off Germans here, there are regional differences that have everything to do with culture. The Northerners (Prussians) are cold, cold, cold. I have heard from many different people that they have hated Hamburg because of the demeanor of the people. Bavarians are different, and my friend Dirk is from Saxony, which has a great history and, I must say, friendlier people than I encountered in Hamburg. Mark says Saxony is Russian, but he's a Prussian and we're back to square one with the regional snootiness. When I say, "Deine Leute," or "YOUR people," to Mark, I generally mean Prussians.

Mark chafed under the strictures of his village's Aryan culture, wore torn jeans, asked his mother not to iron his underwear, tee shirts, and jeans, and had yearly arguments with her about how terrible it was that he wasn't working in a job that required a suit. He hates suits. Always has, always will. And yet the arguments ensued, without fail. I witnessed one of these arguments a couple of years into our marriage, and had to hide my face in a pillow to avoid her seeing that I was laughing when she called him schlampig, which translates both as messy/sloppy and slutty in English.

Anyway, at a point in his 20's, Mark decided to emigrate and move to the United States. In retrospect he feels this is because he wanted to escape the strictures of his family. Since he left, he has been nearly completely ostracized. He is as much an outsider from his family of origin as I am from my nfamily. It's terribly sad. I mentioned in an earlier post that his family boycotted our wedding in California, and other than a visit from his father after his mother died, we have seen nothing of them on this side of the Atlantic. Mark has to do all the work, make all the phone calls, do all the bridging and traveling. And when he's there, they treat him badly. It's wrong. It infuriates me to see someone I love demeaned this way. It's about *them* and not about him and his needs. Hmm, have I heard this before? Is it so hard to support someone in following their heart and dreams? I guess it is, for some people. He is basically alone, except for me, my parents, and our children.

His mother has two sisters, one of whom passed away in 2002, and one of whom is still living. His elder aunt was someone I adored. She was the only person in the family to welcome me with open arms, even though her English was minimal and my German is pretty rotten. She enjoyed that I was different, in as much as Mark's mother didn't. I loved her, and when she died, I lost my only ally. She would take Mark's mother on and call her out on all the garbage she said to me, which is, sadly, more than I can say for Mark. [An aside about that: when I was newly engaged to Mark, his mother made me a calendar with pictures of Mark. Some of those pictures involved him kissing an ex of his whom his mother *wished* he had married. I was horrified to open this object of torture gift and be slapped in the face by her disapproval. At the time, and for some 11 years later, Mark said that there was no malintent. Q.E.D. Germans are sadists. Seriously, I can laugh now, but it was terrible to have her do this and to have my husband say that she loved me. It's almost as bad as "Your mother loved you so much she gave you up for adoption." Really?] [Another aside--how I am on asides today--Thomenon hadn't heard about this rainbow-farting nonsense, and when I told him about it yesterday, he said, "No one actually believes that bullshit, do they?"]

So back to my story. Mark's younger aunt is a widow now, and Mark has always loved her very much. Since the death of his own mother in 2007, he has drawn closer to her and they speak far more. But twice recently she has been hospitalized and his family *completely* neglected to tell him. Twice. Once with a stroke and once with a hip replacement. He doesn't exist to them because he left the Heimat [homeland].

I would argue that the only difference between us is how we got to our place of exile: he chose to leave, and I was involuntarily sent away. Either way, it sucks. Yes, I know, other people have problems with their biological families. And I can love them and support them.

Monday, November 15, 2010


I found a great new magazine in a store when I was visiting my friend this weekend in Santa Cruz. It's called "Whore!: Fast, Feminist, and Feminine." I love this on so many levels I cannot even begin to explain. It had quite a few thoughtful essays, and is definitely worth a read.

What caught my eye immediately, however, was a quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I tend not to like my husband's people all that much, with notable exceptions, of course. Goethe being an important one of those, along with a lovely group of German friends--all of whom except three live in the US or the UK. Enough said. Goethe wrote, "There is no art in turning a goddess into a witch, a virgin into a whore, but the opposite operation, to give dignity to what has been scorned, to make the degraded desirable, that calls for art or character." That's what's lacking in so much of adoption communication. Dignity and respect. There is not enough love, too much judgment, way too much sniping, and not enough acknowledgment of pain. I was thinking that so little has changed since Goethe wrote this, and it's shameful. Truly shameful.

My time with my friend Thomenon this weekend was wonderful. It is such a relief to be with someone who has known me inside out for 18 years. Who has been with me through thick and thin, who is loyal as hell, and who would take anyone on for me. Who speaks the same academic language that I do, and to whom I don't have to explain all my references. To laugh about our uplifting New Year's Eve in 2000 in which we watched both "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." He thinks I am Maggie the cat, which I take as a compliment. She suffered with dignity. He gave me a knowing nod, and said, "Yep, you're still driven by the literary," when he saw that I keep my subscription to the Times Literary Supplement current. We are both nerds and very proud of it. He prefers the term "intellectual," but I am happy with "nerd."

When I told him about how I have felt therapy wasn't helping me, and that I left each session feeling slightly discouraged, he gave a brilliant excursis on the limitations of empiricism in dealing with trauma, drawing both on Descartes and Stuart Smalley. You can't will yourself to feel differently inside. You learn to accept how you feel and integrate that into your life. Not that it's easy to do, by any means. He also pointed out that all my denial that I want the love of C is self-protection: I may say that all I need and want is my brother, but Thomenon is right. I *do* wish that C loved me. It's a huge wound to have your mother deny you and hate you. And yet that's my reality. I cannot change it. What I can do is try other routes and take care of myself as best I can. Although it's hellish right now, I feel more whole knowing about who I was born to be. While I argue with my brother's statement, "It just wasn't meant to be," because it's a choice, not destiny, I can't argue with how my brother and mother feel toward me. It simply is.

Thomenon and I also had a thoughtful discussion about therapy and how it can create a skewed power dynamic. The therapist is trained, has credentials, and should be there to guide the client through things, but too often they can abuse their position as a pulpit, offer useless advice, or just don't listen. I have friends who I know are great therapists, but there are plenty of them I've seen who became therapists to deal with their own issues, and are driven by insecurity.

I don't dislike my therapist, but I have left nearly every session wondering why I was there. I have seen seven or eight therapists in my life, and the "talking cure" hasn't worked for me at any juncture. I think my problem is that I need to have enough money to see a psychiatrist who is smarter than I am, but I can't afford such a luminary. So I am opting for peer therapy, medication, and retail therapy right now. Not necessarily in that order.

I did feel free to give feedback when I "broke up" with my therapist today, most of which was taken in good spirit. The only thing that truly annoyed me was that my therapist, although I corrected him numerous times over the months, persisted in calling me "Kare-ah." That is not how I pronounce my name, although I recognize that it's the more common pronunciation. I have stopped correcting people who mean nothing to me, because there is no point. When I am polite and redirect people, the majority don't take it in and compute it. It usually comes down to my friends fighting the battle for me, especially in classrooms, because they care more about defending my identity in public than I do. But in a therapist-client relationship, it should be about respect. Seriously. His excuse for messing up, week after week, was that he has a daughter whose name is pronounced "Lare-ah." Umm, okay. But that's not my problem. I recognize that humans make mistakes, but if you have a relationship with me and say my name incorrectly, I will note it if you don't take my correction and apply it. It means you don't give a shit. Yep. I notice, really notice. I used to want to jettison my name, not that I think it's terrible or anything--I like that my father chose it for me--in favor of my middle name, "Jane," which is hard to screw up. And yet I wonder if "Jane" were my given name, would people still eff it up? Probably. I have that vibe.

I have also been thinking about how, inevitably, when people are going through their shit, they tend to make proclamations about what everyone else should/shouldn't do in light of their shit; in other words, they are masking their own shit in pretty demeaning rhetoric. I read blogs and can tell what kind of crises people are having by their blanket proclamations. "Adoptees feel no trauma," yep, you got some. "Adoptees shouldn't say they love their aparents to fparents," umm, does your kid not love you the way you want to be loved? In competition with their aparents, much? "People shouldn't self-diagnose with PTSD, and if they are truly mentally ill, they are 'prohibited' from hurting others." Did someone tell you to move on, so everyone else has to?

That's why I admire people who live their lives with dignity, don't put their baggage on others, and support people where they are, without offering prescriptions or proscriptions. My friend Thomenon is one. My friend Lori is another. She has always taken responsibility for her actions, told everyone about the son who was *taken* from her, wanted him back with a vengeance, and has built a wonderful relationship with him. She told any man she dated that he had another son out there, and they came as a package. THAT is dignity. No excuses, lots of love.

Can't wait to see Harry Potter 7 at 12:02 Friday morning.

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's like I never existed.

I had a great conversation with my friend Joy today. She is a wise, generous soul. She listens and having walked in my shoes, she provides wonderful support.

She was reminding me that when humans are in the middle of pain, there seems like little else we can trust. It's familiar. We've been rejected before. Some adoptees have a visceral reaction to being rejected because of what happened to us as babies. I know what this pain is, but it is overcoming me right now. I can rationalize it away with consummate rhetorical skill, but it doesn't change the way it possesses the innermost part of me. I was thinking about what David told me to do: to write it until I mean it, but right now it seems like one of the punishments meted out by Dolores Umbridge, in which writing on the paper cuts the message into the skin.

I know many people who love me and need me. I love and need people, too. Problem is, the people I love the most fiercely usually don't love me back. And what's even shittier is that these people don't reject me in kind ways, using words. They turn their backs and walk away as though I never existed to them. We never sat together and talked, never touched, never connected. WTF?

Whether these people in my life don't have the courage to speak to me, or they don't value me, I can't say. There are many more possibilities, I am sure. But their leaving without a trace, and showing me such immense lack of respect, triggers me in a monumental way. Joy pointed out that when I said, "It's like I never existed," I could have been talking about the me that was left behind in the hospital--along with all the rest of C's sparse love and emotional baggage--41 years ago. It's like I am trying to speak to people but have no voice; my words are lost in the wind; I cry and no one hears. I am alone and defenseless, no matter what anyone says to me. I know it's my job to take care of myself, to pick up that baby and love her unconditionally, but I don't have the strength to do it right now.

Being in that place leaves me on the edge of madness, both of anger and insanity.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I am going through a very difficult time. My pain links back to my being adopted more than it would seem at first glance. In all honesty, I have been plagued by suicidal ideation for about a year, and I unsuccessfully tried to take my life two and a half weeks ago. I am able to be darkly humorous about it now and acknowledge that my first mother's iron-clad liver saved me, despite everything. I am in intensive therapy and on more medication than I wish I were. A good friend doing genealogy for me discovered that a second cousin of mine committed suicide in 1970, a year after I was born. From what I know of my first family, it seems very likely that there is a pretty involved family history of depression.

There are emotional and behavioral triggers that push me over the edge, and have done so in the past. As I mentioned in my last post, being invalidated or ignored is a huge trigger. I become extremely anxious and pretty much lose my hard-won ability to stand up for myself. Case in point: last week I wanted to make an appointment to see my primary care physician about a headache I've had for three weeks. The call center scheduled me with a nurse practitioner who works with my MD. I called back, asking for an appointment with my physician because I feared giving all the backstory for my complicated illnesses in 15 minutes or less. I was told it was the NP or nothing. While I have the utmost respect for NPs, I was also concerned that she wouldn't have the time to review my case and see what factors might have contributed to my headache. I know that providers are busy, and she would probably only read the last note my MD had written, not the entire, knotted, complicated stack of information that has been gathered when mistake after mistake was made with my care. I worried that the NP wouldn't listen to me, and would fob me off with meds for a migraine. I got to my doctor's office, checked in, and was taken to the NP's exam room. I then proceeded to have a panic attack, with my blood pressure through the roof. The intake RN was rightly freaked out and told me to take deep breaths. My BP was so high she was concerned I was going to stroke out. I knew, though, it was transient panic. Thankfully, my MD switched patients with the NP and was able to see me. I felt enormous relief to be with a physician who knows me well, believes me, and who doesn't have to study up on my messy case. She and I came up with a plan for the future to avoid a repeat of what happened. In retrospect, I realized that I was petrified that I wouldn't be heard or believed. That is a HUGE trigger for me. She is concerned that I have a slow bleed in my brain from the Lovenox I am taking to avoid more clots. What a nightmare my blood is proving to be.

Then today, I had an interesting, raw session in therapy. My therapist is Dr. David Brodzinsky, who has done research, written, and specialized in adoption for his entire career. He was a powerful eminence at Rutgers, but thankfully retired to a town very close to where I live. While I don't like that he uses Positive Adoption Language, he really does get what adoptees go through and is patient and kind. I respect him, and I feel that respect is reciprocated. He has allowed me to be angry with him when I felt dismissed, and to redirect conversations when I felt he was off-track. In my short, unhappy life, I have seen a stable of really insecure therapists who, when I criticized them, oddly took it personally, rather than as part of a business relationship, and attacked back. David doesn't do that. It is a heartening revelation to know that there are therapists out there who do act like professionals.

Anyway, today I described how I am at a very low point and was talking about how I feel that I am, in my core, a good person. I care about others and give as much to relationships as I am able. And yet I am used as a whipping girl by many people for reasons that escape me. I wish that I could be strong like my friends Linda and Joy, and avoid letting other people's garbage poison me. I wish I could call people out on their nastiness; I am slowly improving at this, but it is a very slow work in progress. David suggested today that I am unable to value myself because I care so deeply about being rejected by C. He pointed out that my beloved cousin told me that it's really C, not me, and that she isn't warm and loving with ANYONE. But it still sucks to know that she hated me when I was in utero, that she starved herself and didn't care about taking care of me even prenatally, and that she could so easily shut the door and never look back. That she treated me as an unwelcome intruder without right to know who I was born to be, and that she doesn't care enough to help me find out medical history that could improve my quality of life. That she poisoned my brother against me. I just don't matter to her. I am a threat she cannot handle. And if another first mom makes excuses for C, I will be triggered again, and probably not very nice. There is no excuse for cruelty. None.

My parents love me. My family loves me. My friends love me. There are many people out there to whom I've made a difference. And yet I feel that people only value me for what I can do for them, not because I am a person worth loving. People give me what they're able, but I am generally abandoned or left behind. I don't matter enough. I don't want to stay alive to avoid hurting others. I don't want to stay alive because I feel I deserve it. I know that I do. I seem, however, to be doomed to suffer in this life. I can love myself until the cows come home, but it's not enough. I always end up getting the shaft. I live on an island that C put me on. I try to get off the island, but the boat sinks, or the help offered never comes. I guess I can accept that this island is my home for whatever life I have left, but it isn't all that positive to live feeling so alone.

My triggers are so close to the surface that I have pulled away from people because I can't risk hurting any more than I do right now. My resources are spare; I have nothing left to give to others or to myself.

Where I stand right now, I feel like cursing C. She avoided acknowledging her pregnancy with me because she couldn't deal with it. She told me that she wished she'd aborted me, but it appears she didn't have the courage. In a sick way, I want to write a suicide note that says, "Dear C, Do I have to do everything myself?"

David told me to write about my sadness and anger and to engage with the cognitive aspect of my knowledge that I am a person with value, despite my first mother wanting me dead. He claims the emotional acceptance will come later. I do see that I have value, despite all the horrendous people I have had the misfortune to cross paths with. I am smart and loving. But I have never been happy, despite my excellent acting skills. 41 years is a long time never to have been happy, settling for crumbs, being kicked around. I see things that I can change, but unfortunately the most comforting bits involve homicide. Just kidding. Sort of.

I can't imagine living another 40 years that are like the first 41. I just can't. I can't live in this cage, rejected over and over and over. Shakyamuni Buddha was right: Life is suffering.

Monday, November 08, 2010


I don't particularly think of myself as courageous. I live in uneasy relationships with both fear and anxiety. I have learned to denigrate myself and be silent, often to my own detriment.

I have been experimenting in therapy and real life with the idea that my thoughts, concerns, and feelings are valid and worthy of expression. This might seem obvious to most people, but for me, and other adoptees I know, it's not quite that simple.

In the past when I dared speak my mind about my feelings, I was cut off ("Oh, but look at your wonderful parents/life/brain/experiences...!") or even worse, ignored. A lifetime of silence and lack of validation did a number on me. I internalized not being important, and not having worthwhile thoughts, except in the realm of academia, although I suffered even there from an adviser who sabotaged my career.

I intuited a pattern from the repeated denigration: if I am ignored, it must be that I am wrong/unworthy/inconsequential. This conclusion was clearly faulty, but it didn't help that it was set in my youth when I didn't have the acuity to see the big picture, and when I lived in a place of clannish mediocrity where teachers accused me of LYING when I said I'd lived in England and visited Paris. I hoped, but wasn't sure, that there was a world in which I would be welcomed and loved.

In retrospect, I see that the problem wasn't ME, it was the people around me who weren't listening, and who dismissed me due to their own baggage. This may sound narcissistic, and I certainly don't mean it that way, but it is true. The result of my negative experiences was that I developed an intense emotional trigger when I am invalidated or dismissed. When I feel that I am being brushed off, I quickly become madly anxious or rabidly angry; a person can only handle being silenced for so long.

For example, a therapist I was seeing last spring told me that I was making a mountain out of a molehill when my brother ended our relationship via e-mail, because, after all, I'd only met my brother once. I should put it all into perspective and see that it was just like a one-night-stand. When she said that to me, I became livid. Where had she been in all the months previously, when I discussed phone calls and letters and that my brother welcomed me as family? What else did she sleep through? Why was I paying her money to be an idiot? She was taken aback by the intensity of my anger, but to me, it was justified. She had gouged her pointed assumptions into an open wound in my heart, and I had to protect myself with all I had. She apologized, but it took me months to be able even to begin to forgive her.

I don't see myself as strong or courageous, although courage is perhaps exactly what I am drawing on, despite being thickly enmeshed in self-doubt. I do put myself way out on a limb and extend myself to my first family, although the results have been quite painful. And yet I keep trying, with them and other people I love. The alternative--being a skeleton or secret--isn't an option anymore.

Perhaps the most courageous thing I have done in the past two years is to learn to value myself, although that is certainly a work in progress.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Better to know?

Many people have asked me over the past year and a half if I regret searching and finding my first family, especially because of the cold reception and the painful repeated rejections I have suffered.


I cannot regret seeing myself in the faces of others for the first time. Learning about my family's history, where I came from, and getting additional medical history. Seeing that I have gestures just like my first mom's. Hearing her voice for the first time. Meeting my brother and his family. Feeling that the child inside me finally had found her long-lost place of refuge and recognition from the people she was connected to.


I have sunk to some of the darkest depths emotionally that I've ever experienced. I opened myself up to pain and emotional distress in ways I'd never thought possible. I didn't think any living people could hurt me as badly as my first family did, and I've been through some really ugly breakups in my life. The rejections were visceral and bloody, and took me to places inside myself I hope never to see again.

I don't think that anyone should have to go through what I did. I think that people in reunions, even though said reunions might have taken a while to come about, cannot understand how horribly scarring it is to be treated as a personal belonging. There is a pain in being told that your mother wished she'd aborted you that I wish existed only in a Lifetime movie.

And yet I have hope. I am stubborn. I don't give up easily. I want so very much to believe that the goodness in me comes from somewhere in my first mom's family. I don't want always to be the afterthought, the exile, the rejected one.

I kept going, and have formed a new connection with someone else in my first family, who--beyond my wildest dreams--treats me with love and respect. I don't want to jinx anything, but I am impressed and filled with pride to be related to this person. I see the goodness of myself in him. I am cautious and not one to abandon my fear easily, but the past few weeks have shown me that there are people who do not choose to be blind or judgmental.

I am a loyal friend and family member, and I feel in my heart that I have met my match.

I read several blogs of adoptees who are issue free and happy, without reservation, about their life and situations. Sometimes I am envious. I ask myself if I would rather have their certainty and security than my darkness and turmoil. It's tempting sometimes, but I have decided I wouldn't. Part of my pain comes from my intelligence and willingness to probe deeply into myself; in my life, I would have to be pretty superficial to claim that all was well. I wouldn't trade my mental illness and emotional intensity for a life lived in Stepford pastels. Unless I had enough Valium, that is. And even then, probably not. I would always take the red pill of knowledge. I can't imagine being blind. I am not my first mother.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Medical history? Why? You have a loving, adoptive family.

This past week has been incredibly hard. I fell off the edge of sanity, and can't quite say that I've found my way back to firm footing. It is hard to have faith in myself, no matter what anyone says to me. I know that I am a good friend, a good nurse, a good scholar, a good mom. But none of it reaches deep enough to touch that black hole in my heart that wonders why I am never exactly good enough to be loved the way I want to be.

It is Adoption Awareness Month. I have many friends who are blogging daily, and brilliantly so, about issues that plague adoptees (check out Amanda and Linda) . Because of course, most of Adoption Awareness Month is about singing the praises of "giving the gift of a child" to a loving family that wants him or her, and not so much about what adoptees feel and need and want.

What's been haunting me particularly is the issue of medical history. Most of us infant adoptees come with a medical history that was taken at the time of our births. Some histories are skeletal, some are meatier. The information, however, only represents what was known at the time of our births. People get older, things change, new diseases appear in families over time: for example, cancer, cardiomyopathy, Type II diabetes, etc. What was true of my nfamily 40 years ago isn't what's known in 2010 or going forward.

For years and years--actually, until last year--the only thing I could say was that I have a family history of hereditary spherocytosis. When doctors would ask me how this blood disorder had played out in my immediate family, I couldn't answer. I didn't think much of the blank pages, however, until I was older and had kids.

When I gave birth to a son with spherocytosis, all we had to go on was the trajectory my own health had followed. It turned out that my son is affected far more severely than I have been. I felt so frustrated and hamstrung, not being able to offer more than a shrug of my shoulders and "I don't know," when the neonatologist asked for more detailed family medical history.

Everything on family medical history forms other than blood disorders had to be crossed out with a big X and the words, "Don't know, adopted." That doesn't give doctors a lot to go on. From the position of someone who works in the medical arena, I know that it sucks. It's a good thing I didn't have any trouble with my pregnancies because I knew nothing that might have shed light on the situation. I did develop borderline gestational diabetes with my second pregnancy and guess what: when I found my maternal nfamily, it turned out that my maternal grandfather had Type II diabetes. Not surprising, then, that I had gestational diabetes although at the time there were no dots to connect.

All my patients in Labor and Delivery have to fill out an anesthesia questionnaire about family history of all kinds of things, and family reactions to anesthesia. I had to fill out the same questionnaire when I had surgery to remove my spleen, the only treatment available to ameliorate the symptoms of spherocytosis (enlarged spleen and chronic anemia). I had the surgery. All went well. It was my first surgery; I hadn't been hospitalized since my birth. The drains and catheters were a pain in the ass, but all things being equal, I did well and was discharged on the fifth day.

I went home, but the pain never subsided. I was supposed to be tapering down on the Vicodin, but something still wasn't right. I couldn't eat much and vomited much of what I did manage to eat. I had a persistent fever that was masked by the Vicodin. Still, I guessed that what I was going through was normal. It would have helped to have my natural family around to tell me that my recovery from splenectomy was atypical. I soldiered on because I had nursing school to finish.

Then on the first day of the fall semester, I woke up in excruciating pain. My parents had left in the wee hours that morning after helping me for three weeks. My husband drove off with the kids for school and for work, and I lay in bed trying to be strong. I took pain pills, tried to watch movies, and tried to poop, thinking that perhaps the pain was related to constipation from the narcotics. The pain worsened and worsened. I began to sweat. I wanted to die; it would have offered relief. I called the surgeon's office and spoke with the physician's assistant. He advised me to walk around the block to get my bowels moving. All that walking around the block achieved was having my neighbors' gardens decorated with bile. I called the surgeon's office back and was told to go to the ER.

My friend Chris drove me to the hospital, and I sat miserably for eight hours in the ER's waiting room. Abdominal pain is not high on the triage list. I was finally taken back and given merciful doses of morphine. I drank vile cups of radioactive contrast and was rolled back for x-rays and a CT scan. You know when the doctor comes right into the room after the CT scan that the results probably aren't good. It turned out that I had a large clot in my portal vein, which takes the blood from the GI into the liver so that it can be cleaned and sent into the inferior vena cava on its was back to the heart. There was basically little or no blood flow into my liver from the portal vein. My bowels were leaking with backed up blood. I couldn't eat or drink because the pain was mortifying. I had two IVs: one for heparin to thin my blood, and another for IV fluids and antibiotics.

I was given a pump with the pain medication Dilaudid, and I would have to take a hit before I could even choke down a sip of water. I ate and drank basically nothing for a week, and then was put on total parenteral nutrition because my body needed protein and calories. I was fed directly into my bloodstream, but in order not to clog my veins with the liquid food, they had to put in a central line to my heart. For the insertion I asked for an IV anti-anxiety medication and for my friend Chris to hold my hand. I lost consciousness and thankfully don't remember any of it.

The doctors decided that the clot was related to my surgery, during which my spleen had been macerated and had released far too many platelets and the splenic vein, which leads directly to the portal vein, had been severed and tied off. At the time of my admission with the clot, my platelet levels were four times above normal, which is very dangerous. I am lucky in a sense that I didn't get a clot in my brain, heart, or lungs. But it still sucked to have my GI in lockdown.

I was in the hospital for two weeks and lost almost 20 pounds. I went home with oral anticoagulants and was told I should be fine in about six months. 10 days later I was back in the hospital with horrific pain once more, and it turned out that despite my being an extremely compliant patient, my anticoagulant levels were too low. Five more days in the hospital, and I was discharged with TWO anticoagulants: one oral and one daily injection.

It was a nightmare for me to maintain therapeutic anticoagulation; I was taking doses of warfarin that would give an intern a heart attack just to get into the therapeutic zone. My genetic makeup is such that I chew through warfarin, the most commonly prescribed anticoagulant. That would have been nice to know before. As it would have been to know that there is a family history of clotting.

And as I have blogged about before, this summer I found out that I have a genetic mutation that makes it even MORE likely that I will clot. I should have had blood thinners during pregnancy and NEVER been on birth control pills. I seem obliged to live, despite omissions of information and errors made along the way.

Knowledge is power. A person should have power over her life, including making the best possible decisions about health. How in the hell can I make an educated decision without enough information? Why did/does my nmom think it appropriate to prevent me from knowing things that might save my life? How can she justify it to herself?

Moreover, how does the state justify protecting the privacy of natural families by sealing records and not collecting updated medical information at regular intervals? Not that it would have made any difference for me, because my nmom was not forthcoming about such things even when asked, but I would like to believe that most people are invested in knowing that their placed children are safe and healthy. Key words being "like to believe." Sadly, contact between adoptees and their natural families is threatening to many adoptive parents and agencies who make money off said adoptive parents. Secrecy is selfish and NOT child centered. It's not about what it should be about. Then again, it's made abundantly clear, day after day, how very little of adoption is really about the children, and their wants, needs, and desires.

The other thing that bothers me about health and adoption is the pervasive idea that babies need to be healthy to be lovable adoptable. What if a baby isn't well? It's not adoptable. Whether it ends up institutionalized or stuck forever in the foster system is another question, but there is, in my mind, nothing intrinsically wrong with an infant who isn't "perfect," and to suggest so is to acknowledge again that ugly truth that adoption often isn't about finding a child a home, but rather fulfilling potential adoptive parents' wishes to find a baby to fit their needs. That's baby shopping, and it's disgusting.

My nonidentifying information says that after I had spent six weeks in the NICU, I was deemed to be "healthy and adoptable." I shudder to think about the path I was spared.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


So here I sit. Emotions thrashed, engaged in discussions about the existence/nonexistence of infant reactions to the loss of their mothers. Why? I need to set it aside for now or risk falling down the rabbit hole of my own anger and sadness.

And yet I have spent much of my life feeling sad and silenced. Asking for help and getting little or none. Being ridiculed and abused, and even worse, being complicit in that ridicule and rejection. How awful is that? I have to return to what my therapist told me last week about my being exceptional at having compassion for others, but being bloody awful at turning that compassion inward.

Writing this blog is helpful, certainly. It feels great to stretch my brain and write for myself. Not an academic paper, not for anyone's approval. Just to write and revel in the pleasure of the words that run to my fingertips as I type. It's like swimming for me, only perhaps even better. I feel at home in the words.

I was speaking with my beloved friend Thomenon yesterday. He has been through more trauma than I can imagine in one lifetime and keeps going; he is first among my cheering section and has a bitchy wit unmatched by anyone I've ever met. He's written brilliantly and poignantly about his experiences under the Khmer Rouge here. I have been honored to be his friend and editor along the way, and to have him mother me when I go astray. He was my maid of honor at my wedding, and in true fashion, I was in my wedding gown trying to get *him* ready for the processional. I digress, but he is a worthy digression.

So yesterday he was telling me that I have a novel in me. "Why do you fight writing so much?" I don't know. Maybe I think I'm not worthy. Maybe I am still buying into the horrible things that people said to me in my youth. Probably. As my brother A, and Mark, and pretty much everyone who's heard my story of reunion (plus prologue and epilogue) has said, it's better than fiction. Certainly seamy enough. Thomenon came up with hilarious chapter titles, sent me off to do some academic reading to ground myself, and told me to have fun.

After all, I may have inherited clots and blood disorders and an insanely powerful liver able to withstand pretty much whatever I throw at it, but maybe I also inherited good writing skills. I can try.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I debated with myself all night about calling C back. My husband said that he probably couldn't. Adopted friends offered to make time over the weekend and hold my hand, to strategize. N called me and encouraged me to come to her house, to forge ahead. I still didn't know if I had the resolve to hear C's rejection delivered from her own voice.

I drove to N's lovely house. We talked, I cried, she held my hand. I dialed C's number what seemed like a thousand times before actually placing the call. I told N that it felt like I was jumping off a cliff. Then I pressed dial, and the phone rang at C's end.

C picked up. I said who I was, and she said she knew. She was angry, that she'd told the agency everything possible, and that she wanted nothing to do with me. I told her that I would gladly leave her alone if she told me who my father was. She told me that she didn't know. I said that there was a name in my file; she responded that she or her mother had made it up. She'd been drunk at a fraternity party and couldn't remember. I became upset and told her that that wasn't good enough. She hung up on me.

Then N, the angel and wonderful friend she is, immediately took the phone from me and redialed C's number. When C picked up, N said, "I am N, one of Kara's friends. We have all watched her suffer while trying to figure out who she is. Can you please give us her father's name, and we will leave you alone?" C responded that her friends found the way I treated her "heartbreaking," that she'd lost 10 pounds and was on anti-anxiety medication since I sent the letter to her last year, that I'd ruined her relationship with A, and that she didn't know who my father was. N told her that I'd almost died thanks to lack of medical information, and that C needed to think again about the party. Who was my father? C said, "Stop making this into a Lifetime movie. I was drunk, and I don't know." C was angry: "I don't know who he is; I can't remember; I feel nothing for you." N asked if she should take a trip to visit Mimi, my grandmother, who might have a better memory. C then screamed, "I wish I'd aborted you!" I couldn't help but agree: "That makes two of us!" Then C hung up.

It was surreal. In a different world, I could have sympathy for C. If she really didn't know who my father was, that was one thing. But it was no excuse for treating me like human garbage. How could a mother talk to and treat her child as such a millstone? To have no sympathy for my illness, to feel no responsibility to help me? I couldn't fathom it. As for ruining her relationship with A, she had accomplished that quite handily, all by herself. She had lied to him and then used coercion to have him end his relationship with me. I was numb and stunned. Where was there to go from here?

N had an appointment shortly thereafter and had to leave. I walked out of her house, got in my car, and called my dear friend Linda for a debrief. I was recounting the conversation when I saw C's number on call waiting. I told Linda I didn't want to pick up, for fear of repeat insults. Linda insisted that I take the call, and I did.

C immediately apologized. "I am calmer now. I do not wish I had aborted you. That is against my religion." I didn't know what to say. I started to cry. I told her that I loved her and that all I ever wanted was for her to be proud of me. She said, "I am proud of you. A told me about all the wonderful things you've done and what a lovely person you are. You all can do what you want." I asked if she meant that A and I could renew our relationship. She assented. I begged her to let him know, and she said that she would when he returned from Afghanistan. I told her that I was very sad not to know who my father was. She said, "I can understand that you are sad. I am ashamed. I wish I could help. I remember nothing. I made up details so that the social worker wouldn't think badly of me." I asked if she could recall anything about his looks. She said she couldn't. She said that my message to my aunt had outed her to her brother, that no one in the family had known about me except my grandparents; she only gained nine pounds during the pregnancy. I wondered to myself if she were relieved to have the secret out. I told her how much I loved A and how much I wished I could have him back. That I was raised an only child, and that he was all I had. She said that she would do what she could, that he was raised an only child too, and that I was his only sibling, but that any relationship would have to be his decision and that her husband "wasn't thrilled" about me. I asked if she had seen pictures of me. She said, "Yes." I then asked if she thought I looked like her father. She replied, "Don't feel bad. I don't even look at pictures of A. I am not a warm and loving person." What a terrible indictment of herself. I was sobbing loudly through all this; she was even toned and sounded numb. I felt that she was trying to take some of the sadness and weight back onto herself at last, to let it be known that none of this was my fault. She left it thus: "I have your number, and you have mine. I will try to open my heart to you. I will try to remember. If I do, I will let you know." And then we hung up.

I still haven't heard from my brother. I doubt that I will. Guilt and shame run deep in my  nfamily. I hope against hope, but I am afraid to open up too much.

Even with all the sadness I feel, my conversation with C has helped me to ground myself in a way that was impossible before. I had spoken to my first mother. I had roots. She had acknowledged me, to me, as her daughter. I wondered what it would be like to meet her; would things be different? Would she be able to feel anything?

I have only one real regret. There are two questions I wish I'd thought to ask her, but that I didn't think of in the heat of the moment. I have always wanted to know if she held me and if she named me. Two innocuous things, perhaps, but two things that are of enormous importance to me in knowing my story. Perhaps someday I'll get the chance.

I cannot tell you the number of times I've replayed that conversation in my head, and how grateful I am that N was with me that day. N is not adopted, and I think that her distance from the triad helped her to push through boundaries that my adopted friends would have considered inviolate. N is the friend I wrote about four years ago when I began this blog, the person I called my long-lost twin when I met her. I couldn't love her more; she is precious to me. She loves me with all she's got, and was there for me in my hour of deepest need.

I dedicate this post, and my heart, to her. She is family.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Only Connect

It was a Wednesday morning in early September. Callum, my elder son, was already back in school. Tobey, the younger, had another week off. We had stopped to visit a friend of his, and at 10 a.m., I found myself at a new dog park in Oakland supervising my dog and two children as they played in mud. I was getting my bearings when the phone rang. It was C's number.

I broke out into a cold sweat. I wasn't sure if it was C, her husband, a friend, or a pastor. I was certain that the message couldn't be good, though, and didn't have the strength to handle it without backup. I didn't want to break down in front of Tobey and his friend. I figured C had to be calling in response to the message I'd sent to M two days previously. I let the call go to voicemail and then immediately rang my beloved friend N, and texted my great adoptee friend Linda for advice. I knew I couldn't listen to the message. I saw it there on my phone, blinking and mocking me. Resourceful N came up with a plan, because I was paralyzed. She told me to come to her house at 2 p.m.; she would listen to the message, relay its contents to me, and then hold my hand as I listened to it.

The minutes ticked slowly by. I made my way to N's house. I gave her my phone and went to hide in the bathroom with my hands over my ears. I knew the message would cut me to the core and touch my deepest wounds. N listened thoughtfully and came to get me. She told me that in her estimation, it wasn't a bad message. She felt that C sounded frustrated, but not angry. I couldn't imagine that to be so. I returned to the bathroom so that N could play the message for Mark. It was brutal to know that my phone had captured the voice of the woman who gave birth to me, the same woman who cursed my very existence. It's quite a terrible thing to be hated by your own flesh and blood, for nothing you've done except be born.

N spoke calmly to me and eventually coaxed me to listen. She held my hand and pressed the button. A tired, and yes, frustrated--but also angry--voice articulated the following:

I hope this is Kara [pronounced incorrectly, of course]. I am calling from Mississippi to tell you to PLEASE STOP. I have answered all of your questions. My brother called me to tell me you sent him an e-mail; my mother is elderly and you will give her a heart attack. PLEASE stop. I'm asking you one more time, PLEASE STOP.

I felt for her. I understood how hard it must be to dredge up things long buried. Although most people assume I've never thought about her feelings, and urge me to do so, I've pretty much done nothing else for years. Weighing my needs against her pain, hating to hurt her. But at the same time, I was--and am--her child. Surrendering me did not sever the ties we share in blood. We had never spoken. She had never answered ANY of my questions except for the brief medical history the CI had taken by phone, and that had been incomplete. Willfully so. How had she convinced herself that she owed me nothing, that I mattered so little?

I winced at the disparity in our voices; I was raised north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and she below it. Had she kept me, my accent would have been the same as hers. It hurt to feel that this, the first time she addressed me by name, was in such a sharp, sad way. I wasn't welcomed, wasn't thought of with love. There was no homecoming, no sense of continuity. I was denied the reunion I had dreamed of; I had suffered the loss of C as an infant, and I suffered the loss of the relationship I had hoped for as I began to search.

And yet, for the first time, we had connected. She called me, spoke to me. I hadn't been ignored. She didn't acknowledge my feelings, but she put more of herself out there than she'd ever been willing to do previously. The question was, "What next?"

I paced the floors and spoke with friends. I wished I could have a friend call C for me, pretending to be me. I was frightened that I might be wounded even more harshly if she hung up on me or turned me away. I knew, however, that there was really no other choice than to call her myself, open myself up, and ask for the name of my father. I wanted to do so very soon, as well; I didn't want her to think that she'd succeeded in scaring me off or that I believed that I didn't belong. No way, not this woman. My time for sitting in the background was over. N offered to have me call from her house, while she held my hand, the following morning. There was no way I could sleep that night.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


It's a truism that we are usually our own best advocates. But stepping up and taking that responsibility isn't always easy. In my own case, I am handicapped by guilt, self-doubt, and chipped self-worth. Who am I to think that I deserve to be heard and treated as a human? It's not been my story so far, so why should it be any different now? 

Then again, if I don't advocate for myself, no one else will. I have a very impressive army of people who have my back, but I am the leader, the one who has to call the shots. It's intimidating, and also rather sad that the only thing I believe I am good at is learning and thinking intellectually. I can be a good friend, but I don't deal with conflict with much self-assurance. 

I have spent too many years of my life being bullied, dismissed, and ridiculed. When I asked for help in my youth, I didn't get it. I internalized what my bullies told me: "You're ugly, you're an idiot, you are hopeless, you're a failure." I still struggle against these ghostly messages. The people who said these horrid things to me are no longer in my life, and I don't think that people I have met in the past 10 years would think any of this about me. And yet it's just under the surface of my skin, ready to be triggered. In therapy today, my therapist said that I have immense amounts of compassion for others; could I perhaps consider treating myself with the same compassion? And yet I don't feel worthy of it. I've done all I can do to be a good person and treat people well, and yet the insults and rudeness seem to have an affinity for me. 

On a funny-sad side note, I was looking at my wedding photos with Mark the other night. There was a slew of guests who were downright cruel to me, not to mention judgmental. My Ph.D. thesis adviser, for example. You know what her wedding gift was? A stack of used magazines from her house. Nice. And my husband, messed up in his own way, thought that it was absolutely normal that his entire family boycotted our wedding (he had the audacity to marry a foreigner). How could they possibly travel to the US to celebrate his wedding with him? I should have told them all to fuck off. Well, at least I could do that now. 

How blind, sad, and downtrodden we were. Ugh. I feel pity for the person I was then, and joy that I had friends who were trying very, very hard to wake me up and show me that things didn't have to be the way they were.

Part of my adoption journey has been finding my own voice and place of power. There were all those years when I felt I couldn't overstep C's privacy, and felt that she needed to be supported and protected. Then I came to my senses and realized that while she's a valuable human being in her own right, I am, too. She doesn't have the right to cause me pain or harm. Upholding her secret is not my job, nor is it ethical for her to withhold my father's name from me. I wanted medical information that might help my chronic illness, and I felt my father and I had the same right to choose a relationship, or not. 

At the end of August, I began to sketch out a letter to send to C that would let her know I respected her position but that I thought she was not living up to the moral code she subscribed to as a Christian.

Dear C,

It has been nearly a year since you wrote to me. I am approaching you now in the hope that prayer and time might have led you to change your mind about communicating with me. I am sorry that my contacting you caused you pain and fear. You are the person who gave me life, and for that I love you.  

If you believe that ignoring me negates my existence, that is not the case. While my birth is something you've relegated to a file cabinet in the back of your mind, I cannot do that to myself. That is part of my story, my identity. However much you might wish me to be a figure in history, I am a living, breathing person with feelings. I hurt, I cry, I bleed, I love. 

You ask me to respect you. I do. What I will not do is deny myself, and who I am, to make life easier for you. I know you are a devout Christian, and I ask you to look closely inside yourself and see if you extend me the same respect that you expect in return.

I still care deeply and irrevocably about you, A, T, and W. However much you say that you have your family and I have mine, I am a Newman by birth. Nothing can erase that.

I have been suffering from medical issues for the past two years that have had a great impact on my life; this extends beyond hereditary spherocytosis. Tests have indicated genetic components to problems that could possibly have been avoided had I been able to provide my physicians with a more thorough medical history. Half of my genes are not Newman. I implore you to tell me the name of my father so that I may contact him and possibly help heal myself. 

Just as it is your choice not to have a relationship with me, my father should be able to make his own decision. 

You rely on the unmerited compassion of Christ, and I appeal to you to show that same compassion to me, one of God's creations.

Please pray on it. 

I sat on the letter for a week and polished it. I asked my friend Lori if she would be willing to mail it from Indiana so that C wouldn't recognize the Oakland postmark and simply chuck it in the trash.

I wrote the letter on nice stationery and had it ready to go. Then I was playing around on FB and checked my brother's page. Although he had broken off contact, he hadn't defriended me. It gave me hope that things might change with time. But that night, of all nights, I looked, and I'd been dumped. Sadness and anger welled up again. The wall between us was now up and complete once more. 

Back in May when I had received his cruel e-mail from Afghanistan and when his wife had defriended me on FB, I told myself that once A had drawn the line in the sand, I would begin to consider other approaches to my nfamily. I knew C's brother's wife was on FB, and I decided to send her a message. I was hopeful that someone in this family would be open minded and open hearted, as well as be beyond C's control. 

I had already drafted a letter to send; I tweaked it for a few hours and sent it off. Mark was horrified, as were other friends. I think they were concerned that I was setting myself up for failure and pain again, but I knew in my heart it would hurt more to attempt nothing than to continue to try and live my message: I am not a secret or an object of shame. I am a person with ties to these people, whether they like it or not. I had to advocate for my humanity because no one else would.

Here is what I sent: 

Dear M,

My name is Kara, and I am C's daughter. You may or may not know of my existence. C gave me up for adoption in 1969, at the time of my birth. I have been in contact with her, A, and T over the past year; C has declined to know me, but I met with A and T several times in San Diego.  

While I respect C's decision not to pursue a relationship with me, I believe that it should be the choice of each family member to decide how to proceed, or not, with the information that I am giving you. 

I am well educated, happily married with two young sons, gainfully employed, and at peace except for wanting to know where I came from. I am writing to you in the hope that you might be willing to share with me what you know of the Newman family. There is still so much about my myself and your family that I would like to learn. 

Humans have a genetic heritage that ties them to their families of origin. There are questions about myself that I cannot answer, nor will these questions simply go away. While adoption gave me a wonderful family, it did not erase the parts of me that are Newman: my looks, my intelligence, mannerisms, etc. 

I understand that I am placing you in a difficult position, but we are all adults. I hope that you won't immediately say no. Please take some time to consider what I've said and the immense difference your help would make in filling a dark hole I've been living with every day for 41 years. It's not a hole I can fill by myself. Believe me, I've tried. I am not an object of shame, or a secret: I am a living, feeling human being who happens to be a Newman by birth. 

Please do not hesitate to contact me either here, via e-mail (, or by phone (xxx-xxx-xxxx). Thank you for your time.


This was on a Monday, and then it was back to waiting, waiting, waiting. I felt proud of myself for being my own best advocate, asking politely and within reason to be acknowledged and heard. Unbeknownst to me, something hugely unexpected was about to happen.