Looking at me in person and reading my stories online, you probably would never know that at one point in my life I was considered “special needs.” My life’s story involves a unique adoption that shaped me into the person I am today. Let’s start with the day the adoption became final.
I was seven years old, standing in a large room with wooden paneling and I was wearing a scratchy dress. In front me was a big brown desk with a man sitting behind it. This man wore black and was shuffling papers while speaking to my foster parents. I recall the changing of middle names. My younger sister’s middle name was changed and so were the middle names of both my younger brothers. When the judge asked about my middle name, my foster parents said that it was going to stay the same.
Why did the others get new middle names and I didn’t?
That moment created a great sense of separation and ostracism for me that would linger for many years. It wasn’t until about a decade later that I learned to appreciate and embrace the fact that my middle name remained unchanged. Yvonne is the same middle name my biological mother gave me, which was also her middle name. If I couldn’t be in the company of my biological mom, at least I could be close to her through my name.
The four of us natural biological siblings were adopted together. For this, I have been truly blessed. I did not grow up wondering where my siblings were, who they were, if they ever thought of me, or if they were even aware I existed like so many other foster kids experience. I had the privilege of growing up with the three of them.
Age wise, the next oldest after me was one of my brothers, followed by my sister, and then our youngest brother. Both myself and the brother that proceeded me in chronology were considered “special needs” by the State. We were both in a foster care sibling group and we were both at or over the age of five at the time of the adoption. I recall both the middle siblings having to undergo speech and physical therapy, so this may have increased the degree of neediness for us a foster sibling group.
After we were adopted, we were allowed two visits with our biological parents a year, though in actuality we only saw them every couple of years. Visits were sheer torture for me. I can’t really put into words what joy and sorrow it brought to me simultaneously. When my biological mother would visit, I was overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation. Even though we would only get to see her for a few hours it meant the world to me. She always told us she loved us and she gave me hugs and kisses that I did not get from my foster/adoptive parents.
She emitted warmth and radiated this beauty I only experienced when I was in her presence – to me she was a Queen, a Goddess, a mother other kids would envy! Her voice was calm and soothing but full of soul. She would bring us gifts, nothing fancy, but it was still very special to us. My biological mother was everything I ever imagined a loving mom to be like: beautiful, kind, understanding, and full of hugs and warm embraces.
It tore my heart to see her leave each time, so much that I cried myself to sleep each night after a visit. I began to associate a sort of bitterness with these visits in my mid-teenage years, as I knew the old wounds of rejection and unworthiness would be ripped open with no one to help emotionally heal them. It almost felt cruel.
We did see our biological father, though fewer times than we saw our biological mother. We were told he had other kids with another woman. It made me sad to think those kids weren’t in foster care or adopted, that they were with their mother. Why was it different for us? It didn’t seem fair.
As a young adult, I located my biological father after several years of searching and we arranged for a meet-up. I was so nervous before our meet-up that I couldn’t eat for a couple days. I was excited to talk to him without constraint, get to know him, get long awaited answers to lingering questions, and meet his sister that would be joining him. The other side of me was worried – what if all the horrible things my adoptive mother told me about my biological father were right? What if he was going to hurt me? What if he wanted to steal from me? Was I putting myself and my (at the time) fiance in a potentially dangerous situation?
When we finally reunited, it was nothing like I imagined. It was a crazy feeling sitting at a table with my biological aunt and dad. It felt familiar. We talked about my siblings, I asked him my questions, and he asked me his. He spoke about what happened before we were put in foster care. He asked more questions about our adoptive parents, and then he started crying and apologized to me. My dad said he was told my siblings and I would be treated much differently, and he had been under the impression we would be living with a wealthy family that was going to provide for us – and not just financially.
My relationship with my biological father progressed, and one day my (now) husband and I were invited over to his home. Turns out, he was only about an hour and a half from us. Again, I was a little nervous the first time we visited his home, but as soon as I walked in my worries melted away.
He had several photos of me and my younger siblings adorning his living room. This answered one of my oldest, pressing, and unspoken question: How often did he think of me? If you stand in that room for longer than a couple minutes, you’ll notice the pictures. If you are watching t.v., you’ll see the photographs next to it. My dad saw my face daily, and he remembered and thought of me on a frequent basis. I was overcome with emotion and fought back the tears welling up.
Contact had ended with my adoptive parents about a year prior to this, and now, I felt like I had a dad again. We spent that first Christmas together, and I never imagined what holidays with my biological parents might have been like, so it was an extra special experience.
The relationship between my dad and myself continued to develop. We had a big family bbq (with all of his siblings and their kids), I got to meet a half sister of mine (a very bizarre but one-of-a-kind experience), attended car shows he would enter his cars into, we went fishing together, antique shopping, he helped me find a decedent car to buy, and we even went on a weekend trip together to Branson.
My siblings weren’t ready to meet him. I’m so incredibly glad I pushed past the fears and lies, searched for him tirelessly, and did finally get to know him. We’re a lot alike in many ways, my father and I, and not surprisingly, we don’t talk very often these days. We both got our closure, and an opening to a new chapter without dark secrets casting shadows. He knows I forgive him, and I know he is extremely proud of me. That’s all I can ask for.
Before re-uniting with my dad, I also had the blessing of re-connecting with my biological mother. Meeting my biological mother again after several years of not seeing her was a high, a rush, a feeling I will never forget. To summarize my brother’s and my experience living with her: it was a party. She lived her life to the fullest, never denying herself what she wanted.
Her partying life was a short-lived but rather fun shock for me and my brother after coming from a very strict and rigid environment. My biological mom would curl my hair, give me tips on which different cosmetics worked best for our skin type, and other stuff that I oddly enjoyed. It was surreal to experience what a mother and daughter might typically do and talk about.
Roughly three years after re-uniting with my her, our biological mother was dead at 37. I asked her sister what the death certificate said, and it said the cause was “undetermined.” We speculate it was a result of her weakened heart from her Hashimoto’s disease.
I remember the news hitting me like freight train. I sunk to the floor and cried so hard I began hyperventilating. My mom had called me just 20 hours before, but I ignored her call. I figured, I’ll just call her later. Later never came. This is another feeling I will never forget. She had left me, I had left her, and now she had left me permanently.
I’m among the small percentage of adoptees that have successfully re-united with both biological parents. I had an advantage knowing their names and having met them in person as a kid, but I still had to play sleuth to locate them as a young adult.
There were times I thought it was a hopeless pursuit and would give up my efforts for short periods, until I would become inspired to jump back into the search. Re-connecting with my biological parents was nothing I dreamed it would be like, but it did answer some very important questions about who I am and where I came from.
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