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Adoption, Family, Parenting

For adoptees, it’s all about connections

As a searching adoptee, I faced a lot of questions from well-meaning people who just didn’t get it.

“Didn’t you have a good childhood?”

“Aren’t your parents your real parents?”

“Shouldn’t you just leave it alone?”

“Why rock the boat?”

As I approach the year anniversary of connecting with Pat, my first mother, many of them still don’t understand. Some have very strong feelings about it, their stoney silence and pursed lips telegraphing disapproval as though I have somehow been disloyal, selfish or “bad” in attempting to be true to myself.

I guess in their minds, my lot in life was to have remained complacent, never questioning, never disturbing the status quo.

The Terri of years of ago would have done just that; here in midlife, I’ve finally learned to stand up for myself.

It is a watershed for me. 

Not that I expect people who are not adopted to understand — they are, after all, innately connected to the people around them and don’t have to give their identities nearly as much thought.

However, I also didn’t expect to find an explanation for all us adoptees on one of the longest running reality shows last night.

Tina, one of the contestants on Survivor, having beaten her daughter, Katie, in a test of will and skill, confided as the host prepared to send Katie home:

“There is something about my relationship to Katie, my daughter, because I’m adopted. And I don’t have those connections in my life, not until I had her had I felt a real connection in my life. It’s a pure, unadulterated, pure love I have for her.”

Although I had just one eye on the show (the other was on the latest Michael Connelly novel), suddenly the screen had my full attention.

“YES!” I yelled at the TV.

Because I completely relate.

Although I had a perfectly wonderful childhood, am loved by my parents and love unconditionally in return, have a loving husband and longtime friends who somehow manage to put up with me, Catherine’s birth nearly 18 years ago marked a similar milestone for me.

Me and Catherine, Feb. 8, 1997.

Me and Catherine, Feb. 8, 1997.

Finally there was someone in my life like me.

A real connection.

I’ve written here before about how upset I would get when people said she looked like Basil, how as she grew I saw more and more of myself in her actions and mindset, and how that propelled me to face my need to search.

I’ve written, too, that as an adoptee, I struggle with connections and relationships, choosing to hide behind a smart-ass sense of humor rather than put myself out there and risk rejection. How I have always felt out of step. And how, with pieces of my life tapestry missing and blurred, I am unmoored, incomplete.

Pat recently asked if I always hold myself apart.

I guess I do. It’s a trait I’ve always ascribed to being adopted, but perhaps it’s how I’m hard-wired.

Now, as I get to know her and the other members of my extended original family, I’m parsing “chicken” and “egg,” but above all else, I’m looking to forge connections — to finally understand who I am and where I fit in.

Isn’t that what everyone, adopted or not, is looking for?

About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and recently reunited adoptee. I'm living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.


20 thoughts on “For adoptees, it’s all about connections

  1. I’m a group member of Touched By Adoption (LinkedIn) and found myself reading this blog. I, too, am adopted. I miraculously found my birth siblings via Facebook Land (long story and quite strange). Anyway, I met my birth parents almost 1 year ago and will see them again in June (yeah!). I love this “all about connections” piece you wrote because I completely relate. Until my now 6 year old son was born, I never knew “true” connection. He had my DNA, we have the same rare blood type too! Everyone said how much he looks like his father. Well, when I met my birth father last summer, I can tell you that my son looks just like his grandfather (Twinsies!). Nothing against my son’s father, but it was awesome to have something to show how much he takes after my genetic background. Non-adoptees take that for granted because they just have to look through pictures to see who their children take after. Anyway, thank you for writing this, it made my day 🙂

    Posted by Dana | March 7, 2014, 1:59 pm
  2. I just found my birth mother on Dec 7th, 2013 after 56 years. We are alike in so many ways. When I first saw a picture of her, I knew right then she was my mom. We look so much alike and like so many of the same things. We have talked every day since we met. I have visited her 2 times since. I have 2 sisters. Everyone in the family has accepted me with open arms. I had a great mom and dad who raised me. My life has been good. But the love I have for my birth mother is hard to explain. I am now complete and so is she.

    Posted by Rose Smith | February 3, 2014, 8:38 pm
  3. Great article. It’s true that non-adopted people have no idea what it’s like to be adopted. It’s a pleasure to read articles from fellow adoptees. We’re all in this together! Lynne

    Posted by Lynne Miller | December 17, 2013, 6:32 pm
  4. Terri, you can’t know what this did for me today. I can so relate to all you have said here…some of it is different but it is all so the same to me. I have prayed and longed for connection as long as I can remember…I got it when I gave birth to our children, when we adopted our daughter, when I reconnected with my mother for the second time and when I met my dad at the age of 46. These people made us…how can we discount that and why should we let others diminish it. I am so lucky that my parents (original) both want a deep connection with me!

    Also interesting to me is the obsession I had with Carole King’s song, Tapestry, throughout my life. I always wondered what she meant in writing it, and now I know what it all means to me.

    Posted by catfishmom | December 17, 2013, 10:39 am
  5. Terri!
    Connection, tapestry, love, and adoption…we share a heart…I am a fellow adoptee and a Life Coach with a Legacy, connection focus! Thanks for sharing your heart…It’s all about the Tapestry…

    Posted by LeAnne | December 16, 2013, 9:27 am
  6. my parents adopted 3 of their 4 children…When I was a teenager mom told me that of all their children I was the one that most reflected back their values… Well no shit…It was absolutely crucial for me to absorb How to Be…so that I would not be given away again…They were my 5th family and second adoption…I was all of 19 months when they got me…Fortunately they had plans for raising their children (strong physically healthy and independent )and that was what saved my life

    Posted by Lesley Earl | December 16, 2013, 9:21 am
  7. Yes ~ connections and the pain of being vulnerable enough to risk…the life of the adoptee. Thank you so much for articulating it so well!

    Posted by samantha568 | December 15, 2013, 9:26 am
  8. I think if I were adopted, I too, would want to know my biological parents & an understanding of what my genetic makeup is. In terms of connections, I do think that there are some traits that are inherited but I also think we mimic what we learn. For example, I am often told I am very much like my grandmother on my father’s side, not so much in appearance but in personality. Is this genetic or is it learned? Honestly, I am not sure. I admire your courage to seek out your biological parents. I don’ think this in any way diminishes the love for your parents, it simply gives you some answers that you have every right to know:)

    Posted by Lynn | December 13, 2013, 5:18 pm
  9. But we love your smart-ass sense of humor…

    On a more serious note, the mother-daughter connection can be an incredible feeling!!

    Posted by Jackie | December 12, 2013, 11:46 pm
  10. WOW!!! Survivor is still on TV? ; )

    Posted by John Pontillo | December 12, 2013, 10:15 am

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