What A Difference A Year Makes!

In my world, this past year has been filled with major changes and accomplishments.  While my late discovery has often felt like the worst thing that could have ever happened to me, it has also proved to be quite the rebirth. Like a nudge to move forward, a poke, or even a kick in the pants- I’ve been guided to new directions.  Like a birth, it has been bloody and painful!  Sometimes it’s been a quiet voice, no go this way, other times a freight train dragging me along the right track. Whether one calls it luck, serendipity, or God’s plan; I’ve been blessed and I appreciate it all, the good, the bad, the great, the sad.  Possibly, this folab blog needs to be changed to rebirth on a roller-coaster?

One year ago:

The book I had been working on felt like it was becoming out of reach and I considered the fact it may not get published.  At least not the way I had hoped and planned.  The publisher, Daniel & Daniel, moved Late Discoveries, my baby, my blood sweat and tears (overly dramatic?) under the Fithian Press umbrella. Which was something they could legally do according to the fine print, and in hindsight has been no issue.  Next problem- the book cover design; horrible southwestern art with colors of the earth and cacti. Sounds like a beautiful landscape vision, but no… it was not, and I don’t even like the desert.  After a few other changes, and then the design, I was ready to pull the plug.

An added rub; I wasn’t completely happy in my volunteer positions, not enough here and too much there.  Things fit and then they didn’t, blisters of confusion grew.  Did I need to resign from one group and do more in another?  Was there too much “adoption” in my life?  Who really had my back?  Overall, feeling like you don’t fit in, well it’s the worst!  Enough said!

My girls, daughter Ashleigh and wife Teri, had two little foster kiddos last year.  I don’t think I’ve ever known them to be so sick, so often, and well, vomitous.  New word; meaning to vomit a lot, having vomiting occur in your home often.  To say the placement was a challenge, for many reasons, is a gross understatement.  To be the mom, only helping on occasion because of our distance, killed me!  So, of course I advised too much, and offered, “If it were me…” suggestions, and well… it was just damn hard!  With many CPS problems, hurting babies, challenging parents and caseworker- it was a miracle that all thrived.  Emerging from the chaos, two amazing women who took on challenges that most adults will not go near, my girls. Such incredible young foster moms, who didn’t give up.

And finally, Hayden,  he was graduating from ASU, getting his degree in Film and Media Production.  His future a bright Los Angeles blank slate, or maybe a NYC crowded-life-slate… either way, it was open. Wide open to hopes of a job in production on a series, or if need be- a job in production of cocktails, aka bar tender, while waiting.  With a great resume of film and photo, he was prepared.  He was open to whatever…  I was open to worrying about all of it.  He had the world at his feet, but also his feet (and the rest of him) vulnerable to the world.  As I’m sure all the parents of adult kids will agree, we worry as much now as we did when they graduated from kindergarten.

I’m omitting the details of my husband, Mike for many mortgage related reasons.  Plus, he’s not even adopted, who’d be interested to hear about his changes? Lol… Actually he’s the cheerleader behind all of us.

In comes 2012! BANG!

My girls said goodbye to their kiddos as they returned home to their mother.  At the same time, after many attempts they announced that Teri is pregnant!  Much to our delight, our granddaughter will be coming into the world in late August.

In addition, they started a company, One Little Starfish.  They design, hand craft, and sell amazing things.  This organization was created to support best practices for adopted/fostered children by granting companies who promote ethics in adoption and foster care.  

They have a unique STAR which has been added to necklaces, pins, key chains, ornaments, and bookmarks.


Hayden
 achieved working in production for the ABC series, “Cougar Town”, and then the show ended early.  Blessing in disguise, for sure!  From Culver City, CA back to Arizona with work on reality TV, the “Ice Loves Coco” show, in between.  My Documentary Filmmaker-at-heart is now a Mortgage Banker, licensed in eight states and federally, and rocking the mortgage world.  My words, not his of course.  Whatever he does, whatever he “produces,” be it movies or loans, maybe a family in the future, my goal is his happiness.  The same is true for my girls.  Just want happy campers!  I did so much for too long that wasn’t for my happiness, so my kids hear it… all the time.

And for me, my book, Late Discoveries is out, being bought up in stores, online, and electronically.  It has lovely cover art taken/edited by my son, Hayden. Whew!  However, the biggest accomplishment has been interacting with other LDA’s, adopted kids and adults, mothers who lost their children to adoption (much like mine did), and learning from each and every one. While I hope my book helps someone, I must say,  I’ve been helped beyond belief.  (Pictured with me are clockwise from the top left corner; Mary, Lin, Kathy, and below me is Sue, Colleen and Martha.) I am looking forward to new adventures and branching out to help fostered/adopted youth learn and grow from their experiences.  This is where “openness”  is leading me, back to foster kids, but in a different way this time.  My program (in the works) I’m calling, Letters To Heal, is part art therapy, interactive workshop, and a new way of working through the complex issues of being fostered/adopted, and all while trying to be a kid.

What I’ve learned this year more than anything else; you get back so much when you give.  Life is a “one day at a time” event, a process where we are given all we need once we are open to it.  Be sure to visit my new blog over at Blogher where I was chosen as a spotlight blogger.  Often times, its not what we wanted but what we needed, in order to grow and to learn.  We are, after all, continually fine tuning ourselves to be the happiest most productive people we can be.  What a difference a year makes, and I can only imagine what a difference a granddaughter will make!  I can hardly wait!

I’m WINNING!

She’s still here; I still hear her voice in my head.  She’s with me sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.  It’s like the mother/daughter marriage that does not end with, “Until death do us part.”

Hayden

Hayden M. Bennett, graduate

When Hayden graduated from ASU, “Go get’em Hayden,” my mother’s voice merrily skipped through my mind.  She really loved him, and hoped to see him graduate.

Her ultimate goal was to see my kids get married, but that wasn’t meant to be.

At times I’m chased by her words  or advice, like an anvil falling on me; I feel flat as Wile E. Coyote.  She spent significant time spreading thick layers of doubt about what I couldn’t be, how I should look, and how early I should wake in the morning.   It was clear she wanted me to be like her, and I could not have been more opposite as a child or an adult.  I always thought there was something wrong with me.

However, rounding out the memories of Mother is the clear message she gave to me within a dream over a year ago.  It was like a precious gift.   She was the very best version of herself, happy and carefree with her mom and gramps by her side.  That would be her ideal eternity.

In my dream she wasn’t angry or rude in any way.  No signs of controlling things or being passive aggressive. All the bad behaviors must have been left here on earth.  Maybe in her belongings encircling a ring, or folded into a pocket-book.  She was as clear and warm as Arizona in early June.  I’m not gonna lie, the dream was the turning point for me.  Whether it was created in my mind, sent from my mother, or God – it was the single most important moment for me since my mother passed away.

It’s been over two years that she’s been gone.  Some may feel like that’s a lot of time passed and others who have lost a loved one believe it’s still early in the healing process.  I can say that remnants remain from years of my mother plastering me with negativity and doubt.  I recognize what she did (and why), but still there are times where I roll along like an unbalanced wheel on my car.  I go through the motions with an odd jiggle or shimmy.  Usually, it’s only a big issue when I try to go too fast.  If I’m taking things slow, there’s a tiny shift, slight bump in the road (so to speak) on occasion – that’s it.  But it’s there.

Now is the time I find it necessary to proclaim to the world that I am WINNING.

I'M STILL WINNING!

No, not like Charlie Sheen,

I’M WINNING!!! GIVE ME MY TIGER BLOOD…

(bleh)

Rather more like a qualifying round for the LDA Survival Trials at the next Olympics.  My parents did what they did, for whatever reason… right?  Right.  My mother treated me many different ways for a host of reasons, and it’s in the past, Right?  Right.

I’m thankful for all I learned, the things I understand better, and knowing I am still somewhat unbalanced.  I own my jiggle or shimmy.  And that’s okay.  It has all shaped me.  Yeah, it would have been a bit simpler to start out with a better shape, but… what can I say?  Only, onward and that’s winning.

It is difficult to hold dear only certain things, the good things about my mom.  I can report that I try recalling only the best, as  I am never without my “Rosy’s.”  (You know… my favorite glasses.)  Even if I have to put mom away for a while, aka out of my head, I choose to be happy.

This HAPPEIGH reminder hangs in my office.

Do I feel different about family now?  YOU BET.   It is uber-complicated to explain?  I didn’t think so initially, but alas… it is.  To the non adopted crowd, please don’t react coldly to what is an emotional issue.  Really, for any circumstance, not just adoption.  Take a moment and think what it feels like to be in an adoptees shoes.  Or a mother who lost a child to adoption, what difficulty she must have moving forward.   Do I want to know things, like who my dad is?  YEP, SURE DO.   And finally, the big question:  Why can’t I be happy with the family I knew and focus on that?  Well, because you can’t be lied to for 43 years about who you are and your beginning and not be affected.   Whether you’re unbalanced, off the charts pissed, accepting, or have “those” days lying down with a tear soaked pillow, being a late discovery adoptee is being twisted at your core.  Think wet towel… rotate it in opposite directions until all the moisture has dripped off.  And then freeze that center twisted part.  Now your twisted core remains that way and you move forward with the uncomfortableness inside.  That’s how it feels.  At least how I describe it.

I believe many of us grab hold of the things that are near and dear in order to survive.  For me, faith is the core and I hold on to what I’ve been given.

What's your life saving ring?

In addition to Mike, my white knuckle grip is on my kids.  They are my only blood relatives, and while I know family means all sorts of things to many and comes in all forms, my two kids are golden.  It means something to me that I have this special connection to them, in addition and over and above the rest of my non blood family.  They will never be strangers who blow me off, they will fight to understand and care for me, no matter what.  What I have with them is priceless.

Not to mention my kids are incredible adults!  Take a second to read, you’ll see what I mean.

Ashleigh, Teri, Little A, and her Sweet Baby Brother are a family, for now.  And while this foursome is in place, I know in my heart that Ashleigh (and Teri) do their absolute best for the kids and love them totally.   Ash and Teri have created a very special foster home.  They both spend a significant time planning what would be best for two of “Gods greatest gifts.”  From trying to get pics of the kids parents for the fridge, to services that both little ones need.

I often hear from people whose view-point is that CPS isn’t fair to parents and that children should be kept at home and the family supported.  They feel the money used to support the child in foster care would be better served supporting the family.  To which I say, every circumstance is different and the best thing we could do is advocate for the best child protective service program in every state.   We have a VERY long way to go!  I think the parents who get the shaft is far more infrequent that the hundreds of children who are subjected to a different kind of abuse by CPS.  Whether it’s due to lack of quality case managers, or social workers who simply see this as their first job, or the issue of funding an acceptable number of case managers… they mostly do a disservice to the group of people they are supposed to serve.  Just because a child is now safe does not mean they don’t need anything else.

I can promise that my daughter and I are advocates for one reason, the child who finds themselves in care and become wards of the state.  We’ve both advocated for swifter returns home, when it’s appropriate.  It all comes down to what is in the child’s best interest.  Please, feel free to pose any questions or share your comments and continue this discussion.  Maybe there are things I can learn from you, and you may be able to gain insight from me or Ashleigh.

And next up is Hayden.  Have you ever known anyone to own a dream, one they will never give up?  I really haven’t, until Hayden.  Not only is he smart, committed to his dream, he’s an amazing person who’s filled with a great sense of humor.

He graduated Cum Laud with a Film degree from ASU, Herberger Theater of Fine Arts.  He studied film and media production and made many shorts, music videos, and his final documentary short project, denied.  Along the way he has taken incredible photos and even shot the cover art for my book.  Check out videos, http://www.vimeo.com/user2728819/videos or the rest including photos at, http://www.krop.com/hbennett/portfolio/59507/#/

Hayden loves the entertainment industry and has an understanding of the future in entertainment and what’s possible, where things are going, and how it can change people’s lives.  I’ve met some co-workers and teachers, and they all say the same thing, “He’s going to make a difference in this industry one day.”

I love my family, but I am unconditionally bonded to the greatest treasure in life:  M.A.S.H. (Mike, Ashleigh, Susan, Hayden)  The treasure began with Mike after high school, and then in 1986, and the last addition joined in 1989.  Over the past 25 years I can honestly say that God created something unique in us as a unit.  No matter what the four of us do over the rest of our lives, the blessing of M.A.S.H. will go un-paralleled.   I know my kids have already made a difference in people’s lives, and the best is yet to come.

The MASH unit from a few years ago.

Life’s a process, and the processes in my family are swirling around these days with so much hope and optimism. 

Mike is our rock, our core, a great husband and father who’s career has been… well like this:

For me, I’m a mom, a wife, a friend, a fellow late discovery adoptee and FOLAB, an advocate, and soon to be a published author.  For my kids in their lives and their life’s work, it’s a time of change and sometimes chaos.  Doing your best and letting your actions show what you stand for is not easy and sometimes messy.  It’s called “hard work” for a reason.  They don’t call it, “Whiny baby easy stuff.”  You know?

Having the best possible understanding of my beginnings has increased this special bond with Ashleigh and Hayden.    If I didn’t know the wrong things; the detrimental behaviors, and dream flattening hold from my mother – I couldn’t be who I am today, for me or them.

As Glinda the Good Witch explained to Dorothy, “You always had the power.”  Sometimes it takes a big event in one’s life to see what or who was keeping us from our power.

It's all about fine tuning it!

denied.

That’s the title of a new documentary short about adult adoptees access to their original birth certificate.  denied. Most adoptees in this country are denied access to their certificate of live birth; instead we get an amended one passed on to us from our adoptive parents.  It really should be theirs to keep forever, as it really is more about them than the person born.  The adopted person should be given their “factual” birth certificate upon becoming an adult.  That’s fair, right?  I mean anyone reading this who’s not adopted has theirs, and they know what hospital they were born in, what their mother named them, what time they were born, and their size (weight/length.)  I would like to have my info and my birth certificate.  denied.

I write “denied.” in this manner because that is the title of the film, “denied.”  Just FYI, for those wondering if I’ve lost my mind – or think possibly this is the “real” me writing and the rest has been a ghost writer.  ((LOL))  That was a hefty laugh out loud!

On this fragrant warm spring day, I was filmed reenacting the events of a hot fall afternoon from 2008.  It was a visit to the Vital Statistics office in Phoenix, Arizona.  Today, I had it together.  I knew where to go, what do, and it was simple recalling my then shaky request, “I just found out I was adopted and I would like a copy of my original birth certificate.”  This time there was a camera filming each step, every movement, my request, and the clerk’s response.   I had it all rehearsed in my head and there would be no surprises, this time.

It has been 2 1/2 years since visiting 1818 W. Adams St., and I’m a different person now.  If anyone had witnessed both visits to the office, they would tell of great physical differences.  Wrecked on the inside = wrecked on the out; from posture to clothes to meek anticipation.  I had felt there was a purpose for it all, hoped for the best, but feared a great deal, and then hoped again.

Driving on the 202, and then on I10 and into the dimly lit tunnel, I explained for the camera how I felt and my anticipation while we exited at 7 th Ave.  “It’s for this film, and it’s about a time – but it’s all in the past,” I whispered to my self reassuringly as we pulled into the back of the Vital Statistics office.

It was explained to me that this footage is important and sets the ground work for wanting an OBC access bill.  It also teaches Joe-not-adopted that adoptees have an amended birth certificate with little and false information.  We are to use this “less-than” document, raised seal and all, as proof of our existence.  Glenys Westby did not give birth to Susan, and Susan was the second name given to this person of record.  Who did give birth?  What did the mother name the baby? How much did the baby weigh, and how long was she?  Who knows?  But, I’ll tell you who knows:  The staff in the hospital, my birth mother, the foster home, the adoption agency,  and all the clerical staff who handled my file from the hospital to the clerk who reissued the falsified record of live birth.  They all know, all these strangers had full access to this private transaction and the details of my birth, my beginning.  So secret and sealed away from me, but okay for all these other people to see.  I hope I get to hear from some Joe-nots, and see if they can even believe it?

Obviously, 1818 W. Adams St. is difficult for me, but I know my lines, and am fully aware of what the response will be to my rehearsed question.  Whether or not they will like the tall guy behind me with the big camera is something else.

The room is pretty full – it’s lunch time, and we enter and find the least populated row to make our way to the back, towards the line.  A woman with her two sons enter just after us, but they race up the next row over and get to the end of the line first.  The two teens are intrigued by the camera, glancing back on occasion. They poke and pull at one another, and then check the focus of the lens.

One kid punches the other and bumps their mother.  She reacts and says a few words to the boys, and then very casually turns and asks, “So what are you filming for?”

I share with great enthusiasm and an overly wide smile, “Its a documentary, and it’s an exciting day… I just found out I’m adopted and I’m getting my original birth certificate so I can know who my birth parents were, what hospital I was born in, and my weight/length.”  It’s like practicing for a play, yet the words are not playful to me.

Yes, this is it, exactly how I felt 2 1/2 years ago.

She looks a bit confused, but mirrors my joy, “Oh wow, how cool.  Uhh… I guess it’s our turn.”  The three move up to the window and like all the others before her, she provides proof of identity and gets a ticket so she can sit and wait to be called up to receive her certified copy of her birth certificate.

I stand on a black rubber mat with foot prints.  You are suppose to stand there to wait, and not any closer, as the big red letters tell you to – S T O P !

The word makes me feel 2 1/2 years younger, my head lowers and I can only look down.  I feel odd, confused, and like I want to stop.

“Next in line, next…” My eyes raise, and I’m up.  I hear her through a small hole with slats, the woman behind the glass is talking to me.

Deep breath.  I can do this.  Smile, and just say the lines.

“Hi, I just found out I was adopted and I would like to get my original birth certificate,” I say loud and proud.

“Oh, uhmm well, when you’re adopted your birth certificate is sealed from you and you have to get a judge to issue a court order to allow us to give it to you, ” she explains as if telling me about a fine for an overdue library book, while her piercing in her tongue flicks and flaps hitting her teeth on occasion.

I ask, “Is there a form or something I have to fill out for the judge?

She shifts in her chair and leans up and goes through a stack of forms in a bin.  Pulling out a pamphlet, and sliding it under the window she informs me, “You can also use the confidential intermediary program.”

“So, how do I get to this judge that will grant me MY birth certificate?”

“You have to explain to him why you want it, and then he makes a decision if you can have it,” she clicks and informs with a blank stare. “But the intermediary program will also get you what you want, so look at that information I gave you…”

And then I don’t really remember much.  I asked a few more questions, I think, and she became blurry.  I think I said, “Okay.” And then turned and walked away.  My eyelids tried to hold in the growing pain.  I was instantly back in 2008, and even though I know the law, and I know it’s not the pierced-tongue clerk’s fault, it hurt.  Deeply.  Again.

I dried my face and walked towards the door glancing to my right, to the crowd waiting for their certificates.  All eyes were on me, the men and woman who easily heard my request.  The speedy line-cutter mother had her hand over her mouth in disbelief.  They were shocked, and confused about what had just happened.  Honestly, so was I, but not for the same reason.

I stood at the door, waiting for a lady with a giant stroller to navigate the entrance, and I tried to convince the tears they were unwarranted.  My stomach felt as if I swallowed a shot-put, I grimaced and my feelings were obvious.  I shuffled outside, 2 1/2 years younger and smaller clutching the same confidential intermediary pamphlet, the panacea for all the adoptees in Arizona.  Here’s what she gave me.

WT...? Adoption Party and Records Search Program, Party, really?

They are PROUD of their program.

Apparently, there’s no form or information given regarding the special, “OBC granting Judge.”

Exhale… it’s over, I’m out of that building, keep moving…

I felt the breeze, and smelled citrus blossoms, and I began to crawl out from the place inside where the sun is only a memory.  I had more “lines” and had to step away from the feelings in order to share the pamphlet, as planned.  Even though so much of what I was feeling was unplanned.  This damn grief and reminder of loss, and lies – all too familiar.  It was easy to recall the anger I felt years ago towards my mother for not telling me I was adopted.  Cars drove past as I leaned against a half wall surrounding 1818 W.  Adams St.  A little sparrow flew over head, landing in a nearby bright green tree with its glossy new leaves.  The sweet perfumed-air rushed the hair from my face and neck.

I closed my eyes.  I’m here now, there is a purpose for all of this, and I am okay. I have Hayden with me, and I hope one day we can make a difference and change the laws in Arizona so no adoptee is denied the record of their live birth.

May “denied.” serve to educate communities across this country so they pass legislation allowing adult adopted persons their birth certificate.  And, I hope that my part of the documentary provides awareness so that years from now the term “late discovery adoptee” is only part of history, like an eight track player, an AMC Hornet Hatchback (my first car), or a rotary phone with a party line.

The best enlightened comments of the day came on the way home:

Hayden shared, “I was cataloging the film footage a while ago, and I had to take a break.  It was just too much adoption, and pain.  I couldn’t stand it.  I cannot even imagine being adopted, I’m so sorry Mom.”

That reminded me of my choice to live the kind of life I want, and enjoy all that life offers today, in the moment.  This happened to me, but it’s not who I am.  I choose to enjoy my blessed rosy-colored life, oh and one more very important thing –  do less reenacting.

No longer, “Mother’s Sue!”

You may have noticed, I am semi-retired from the roller coaster, as a choice.  Do I wander sometimes and get back on?  Oh yeah and with a full stomach!   But I also wait and watch, get in line and enjoy it with my hands in the air screaming, “Woo hooo.”  Better balance is finding me.  The deep realization that almost every aspect of my life will be exposed in about seven months is bringing growth.  It’s good, it’s a gift, and it is titled, Late Discoveries.

As I go through childhood pictures looking for the “similar to Kathy” photos, I feel so many things.  Some emotions  tsunami-up and out before I even understand why.  Seeing pictures of my mother made me miss her, and then frustration and confusion set in… the person I knew as my only parental unit since I was 19 refused to get past her choice of keeping my beginning a secret (and everything that goes with that.)  I know this is old news, but bear with me.

She kept me right where she wanted me her whole life, and yet I know she loved me and saw all the good me.  Her governing mind-set was stead fast in cement, even when she was given so many opportunities and time; living to 88 years old.  She is still a lump of confusion that finds its way into the pit of my stomach.  I have tried to dismantle her and understand, but today I realize that it’s okay for me to accept that I did not know her completely.  I can be more still now, staying off the ride to look through photos and see how they can be the same old pictures; yet carry new meaning.  Mother no longer controls anything.

She was simple to me, pre DNA, a lonely person who I felt connected to by love and responsibility.  That really is a great summation.  Many times I played the role of peacemaker between her and my kids, and with her and my brother’s family.  Mother could be so angry and hateful, and manipulative to the point of anguish.  Honestly, I just couldn’t stand it and rather than letting her “own” all of that and leaving her to it, I often spread the scene “Jif” smooth and creamy.  I never realized how exhausting it was – until it wasn’t.

Trying not to stain the pictures, I returned to the task of the moment – finding pictures of me at about one, eight, and fourteen years old.  I have three good childhood photos of Kathy and upon learning of our similarity, the publisher asked for pictures of me to illustrate our likeness.  While I love that I know who she was (to the best extent possible) it means so much to me that I resemble my mother, the woman who loved me first.  And that is apparent in our childhood, more so than any other time.

In her twenties, Kathy looked almost Italian.  The clothes, hair and terrific wide dark eyeliner would make anyone say, “Bella donna.”  We look nothing alike in those photos.  However, the most recent picture I have of Kathy, she was 49 and with her last husband.  There it is, I see me.

Kathy and husband

I see the “aging” face I don’t really care for, but yet I’m trying to care for it the best I can.

I hope when the random total stranger see’s our pictures together in my book, they can know a little bit of the joy I found in our same eyes, nose, cheeks, and lips.  And I hope the confusion is loud and clear when they see the Westby family portrait from 1968, as my mother pinches me with her white-gloved finger tips.  It’s not The Westby’s, it’s The Perfect’s.  For many years, our home was surrounded with bright green grass and a perfectly painted exterior-gloss white picket fence.  I remember the can vividly; my dad would pour some in a pie tin for me to do touch up.  Yes, even I had a part in the white picket fence display.

Many times, it felt like a perfect life, and I found joy in my brother and grandmother.  We all lived together; my grandfather was a grump, Mother worked and was busy, and Dad was basically foreign.  I think he was as uncomfortable with me as I was with him.  My brother is really the only family I have (outside of the one I created), and we are having ongoing challenges.  We’ve done a little “boxing” while both of us claim everything between us is fine and good.  Clearly, fine is deep frustration between his wife and me and good is the difficulty I am having dealing with both of them.  So, yes we are fine and good.  The things we’ve had issues with are just landmarks of a greater problem, but possibly his perception is different.  I think I choose to allow the landmarks to stay because I no longer feel the need to Jif-it over.  We no longer have to do anything on behalf of our mother; we’re all adults with our own perspectives and ultimately, our own choices.  I hope we can find our path and that we keep our connection.

The greatest observation I have is that I know I’ve changed.  Not all in one moment, over about a year or so and I purposely have been upfront and honest with him about who I am.  I embrace the truth about all of me, where I come from, the struggles growing up and always suppressing who I wanted to be.  I’m making up for lost time, and feeding the real person inside – not just covering up “Mother’s Sue.”  I hope he just needs time to see me, because no matter what – differences abounding – I love my brother deeply and will always accept him for who he is.  I know this has been hard on him, too.

His photos were another big emotional piece for me while I was sorting.

My brother, Bob holding me.

As I gazed long at this cute freckled blond boy holding me on what was probably my first day in my new home, my mind easily slips into the pages of the home study.  The social worker commented many times about how much he loved his little sister.  From the time I came into his life until we were all together at the final hearing when the adoption was complete, there’s story after story of his love for me.  There’s a sweetness about these reports, pages that fill my heart and help me to know The Westby’s and The Roderick’s while they were getting a new life added to their household.  Those are all things that were kept secret from me, and I sit taller as I write how much I love having all the treasures pertaining to my life.  There’s satisfaction in getting what is yours.  (“Ha ha, Mother!”)

*Side note:  Getting my original birth certificate is the diamond I am mining.

There are still treasures to be had, and I hope that anyone reading this can see how unfair it is to have all of the stories and events about your life kept hidden.  People who are adopted struggle with their identity, on a soul level because there is such great conflict between the two people who created you and the home in which you were placed.  And then if you’re a late discovery adoptee, you were raised in a swarm of deceit-bees.  A child feels it and has to adapt and find ways to calm the noise.  (Sometimes by making louder noise!)  As an adult, we can get away from the swarm but we know that something is wrong and missing.  An adult adoptee tries to fill the hole and feel right. (LDA or not.)  I’ve tried to fill that hole most of my life and probably always will, but knowing what caused it is half the battle.   I can work to fill it within the frame of what’s best for me, my goals, my life.

Never underestimate the power of writing through your feelings, journaling, or creating art that speaks for you.  Do I stumble (often) and look in the mirror to see “Mother’s Sue?”  Yes.  But, it is less and less and I am enjoying life more and more. “Cheers!”

Good Will Hunting

The thing about being a late discovery adoptee is when you watch certain movies that you’ve seen many times before through the new adoptee eyes, you will see something different.

I just watched Good Will Hunting, first time or this time – what a great movie, right?

Good Will Hunting

Will and Sean

This time, I so loved watching Will and his therapist, Robin Williams, aka “Sean.”  The first time they laugh together when talking about Sean’s wife farting in her sleep was awesome, and the banter they have while Will finds his place in the relationship is inspiring.

While I have been in therapy a few times, I have to admit – there was never any situation as great as Will and Sean’s time together.  However, it is movie magic, right?

What provided some magic for me was that last counseling session, near the end, when Will was told, “It’s not your fault.”  Time and time again, the abuse – all that happened to him, was not his fault.  Obvious, right?  But he kept repeating it, until Will finally broke down.  The first time I saw this, I thought, “How odd… why would he think for a second that all the abuse was his fault?”  The movie guys got it wrong.

This time, at that moment I realized that I had wondered on occasion if my mother not telling me I was adopted was my fault.  Maybe I had behaved in a way that made her believe that my love for her wasn’t real, and upon the “news” I would’ve simply bolted out the door to my first family.   Or as a child, when she should have told me, I would have been unbearable.

When Mother said that I needed to appreciate her more, I did.  Or do more for her, I did.  So it’s not a far stretch to wonder if her controlling me, or the situation, was something I went along with – thus being, “my fault.”

As Robin Williams said, “It’s not your fault.”  It wasn’t my fault either.   While I wasn’t physically abused as Will was in this story, I did suffer from not knowing the truth.   It wasn’t my fault that I was adopted, or that Mother decided to keep my beginning a secret, or that she never told me after all we had been through.  It wasn’t my fault that she didn’t tell me the truth about “me.”

And to other adoptees, it wasn’t your fault.  Most especially my heart goes out to other LDAs, we had something unthinkable done to us and it was never our fault.

I feel sad for her, my mother but I see that all of her decisions are on her, and she took it to her grave.  How very sad.  How un-necessary.  It’s also un-necessary for me to ever even consider the prospect that her actions were, “my fault” – and its crystal clear now.

Thank you, Good Will Hunting.  Sincerely, Good Susan Bennett.


Lets shake things up… is it possible?

Sometimes a unique perspective gives birth to a great idea, a dream for the future.  It takes a calm, smooth-spot on this ride (life) for a dream to grow.  And aren’t really good ideas born from dreams?  While I can see a big hill ahead and not sure what’s on the other side, this is what came out of the calm, smooth-spot.

While adoptive families want to provide a child with a home and a forever family, they should carefully consider how the lie of an altered birth certificate may affect their child one day.  Maybe it’s the day they sign up for a sport, or get their driving permit, there will be confusion about what their birth certificate states to be true.

Adult adoptees want their original birth certificate and currently only 6 states provide a copy upon request.  If states refuse to allow adult adoptees their record of birth, then why not remove the procedure of altering ones birth certificate once they are adopted?   Adoptees deserve one or the other, but mostly they deserve the truth and to be treated just like non adopted people.

This embossed official certificate documents a human birth, the beginning of life in the world, and this should not be copied and altered.  It is about the adoptees birth, plain and simple.  It’s not about what the birth mother was going through, it’s not about abuse a year later, and it’s not about the family who is adopting.  Ideally, this document should never be altered, for any reason.  It’s an archaic practice that only serves as a token reminder that the child is part of the adoptive family. In addition, there have been instances where a clerk upon copying the information on a birth certificate has made mistakes when preparing the new one.

Possibly, an amended birth certificate serves as a catalyst for the adoptive mother to believe that the child was actually born unto her.  Of course the mother knows the adoptive child did not grow inside, nor was he/she created from her egg and her husbands’ sperm.  It may have been a dream of some adoptive mothers to give birth, and it simply was not possible for medical reasons.  However, after the adoption is final she receives in the mail a birth certificate which states that the child was born to her.

Even she knows it’s not true, but the Certificate of Live Birth says otherwise.  Anyone can see how unhealthy this circumstance is and the potential for it to lead to problems.

Sometimes the deceit gets firmly planted and sets in motion a life time of lies.  This is the case for late discovery adoptees, like me, who are lied to about our birth, adoption, and history.

Standard practices after adopting are for the adoptive parents to share openly and honestly, as soon as possible, that the child is in fact adopted.  This is according to The American Academy of Pediatrics.  And this is not new information, it was mentioned to my parents (and written in the home study) back in 1964.  This recommendation comes from years of research which states that openness and honesty is key to the future relationship with your child.  “It is in the child’s best interest to know the truth about their birth.”

Yet all states and countries  amend and falsify the official record of birth to create the appearance that said adoptive parents gave birth to their adoptive child.

Many believe that this document is not only harmful to the child, as it is false, but also provides the opportunity for an adoptive parent to lie – thus keeping important information such as medical family history from the adopted person.  In addition, a host of other traumas exist for the late discovery adoptee because of the length of time and depth of the lies.

No one can control how a child is raised, whether they are told the truth or not, but the states can provide an alternate form documenting the adoption of a child.  A birth certificate should remain a true factual document of the day a baby is born, even if you are adopted.

In 2010, trying to pass legislation in states to allow adult adoptees their OBC is not enough.  The right thing to do is to stop the practice of falsifying an official document.

The question I ask, is this dream possible? Not this year or next, but sometime in the next decade can we move this direction? Why or why not?

Separate question…I wonder if there are any other late discovery adoptees who would like to sue the state in which they were born for being complicit in perpetuating the lie?  You know, for pain, suffering, the cost of therapy, health issues,  family damage, etc. etc. and so on.   If the state did not follow up to ensure that a child knew they were adopted then they are responsible for providing the golden key to the crime (an altered birth certificate.)

I mean if you’re the passenger in a get away car after a bank robbery you will also be arrested for having taken part in a crime, right?  Or maybe an insider trading analogy would be better… not sure, but you see my point.

Anyone know an appropriate lawyer to ask?

Okay, back to the issue;  adoption is part of our society, and always will be, however, we can do it better with more concern for the adoptee (who is only a child for a short portion of their life.)  I also dream that all men are created equal (fist bump – blow it up, Thomas Jefferson) and should be treated equal at birth and upon adoption.

The Declaration of Independence says:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and so on….

Ahh… Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness while having your OBC like everyone else.

What if you couldn’t have your birth certificate?

Or what if you thought you had the “original” but then learned it was not, rather it was altered by the State of Arizona?  Then how would you feel if you learned that new birth certificates are literally copied by a clerk and often times they make mistakes or leave off things?  While zooming around on this roller coaster called life, it seems to be a small issue for some.

Does it change who I am sitting her at the computer? No.  It doesn’t take away Ashleigh or Hayden, change how I view the world (rose colored glasses and all) or what I plan to do tomorrow.

In the quiet spaces, or on occasion when a baby is born, it does however make me wonder if the date/time are right.  Or if my weight/length on the back (in pencil) is correct.

Moreover for me, the birth certificate issue marks the beginning of an enormous deception which has kept my medical history from me.  This copied lie provided a wide comfortable base for my parents to deceive me.  It was the permission slip for adoptive parents around the world to hide the fact that their adopted child was in fact – adopted!

If all of the states in this country were like Kansas, who from the very beginning has provided adult adoptees a copy of their original birth certificate (OBC) upon request, possibly no adoptive parent would keep such a secret.   Like me, many late discovery adoptees report “knowing” deep down inside.  In which case, anytime after we turned 18 we could have requested a copy of our OBC. Found out for sure, so to speak.

This truth, with all of its emotional baggage and identity issues would have at least allowed us to find our biological family and learn our medical history.   It’s not about a romantic dream of a “real” family, replacing anyone, or even finding someone who looks like you.  It is about the basic need to know where you come from and know your own family heath history.  Everyone comes with medical family history, its biology – whether it is shared or not.  Doctors, researchers, the federal government, and geneticists state that knowing both your mother and father’s medical history can save your life.  At the very least it can make you aware of major life threatening genetic diseases that you need to watch out for.

My path on this topic began today because of a story in the paper (and it was also in the Washington Post.)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/09/AR2010110900627.html

I want to do the best I can to have the healthiest life, I don’t know about you?  But because I was adopted, I will most likely never know the medical history of my father and what I know about my mother has come from stories that have been marginally shared.   How would you feel?

Well, this is how I feel:  the following letter was sent to the Washington Post.

Dear Lauran Neergaard,

Your article “Family health history: ‘best kept secret’ in care” appeared in my local newspaper, The Arizona Republic (also online at The Washington Post) and I wanted to encourage you to address the issue of adoptees and their lack of information.  November is National Adoption Awareness month and this is a huge issue for adult adoptees.

Most believe that in the world today you can simply find your biological family via facebook or other internet sources and get your medical history very easy.  This is most often NOT the case.  Only six states allow adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificate (OBC); Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, & Oregon – and if you don’t have your birth mother’s name it is near impossible to find her.  Some states have mutual consent registries where birth mom and adoptee can be matched up, but they are very low tech and it only works if both parties participate using correct information.

There are many organizations, such as American Adoption Congress, trying to encourage states to allow adult adoptees their OBC.  It is just as important for those adopted to have their medical history as it is for non adopted persons.

In my case, because OBCs are altered and a new certificate issued – that piece of paper precipitated the secret of my life, my beginning, and kept my real medical history from me.  I’m what is called a late discovery adoptee, only learning of my parents deception at the end of my mother’s life when I had a DNA test done to resolve this nagging voice in my head.  The results showed that I was not biologically related to my mother.  My birth certificate showed that my mother and father had indeed given birth to me, which is the story they stuck with for all those years.  When in fact, I was born to a young woman who was sent to a nearby town to give birth in secrecy and then was adopted about a month later.

My story is long and involved and filled with great sadness and loss, however it is not unique.  Late discovery adoptees is the largest growing sub group of adoptees in this country and not only do we have to deal with the deception, but suddenly in mid-life we are set on a journey to discover our medical history.  I am 45 years old and everything I’ve shared with my doctor about my medical history is wrong.

During my last visit I told the doctor, “Well, you can delete all of that history – I found out I’m adopted.”

While I have learned some things about my birth mother, I have no information about my birth father.  Sadly my birth mother passed away in 2000 and no one in her family can recall who she was with her senior year of high school.

Please consider doing a follow-up story regarding adoptees and hopefully together we can encourage other states to join those who allow us copies of our OBCs in search of our medical history.   We feel discriminated against, solely because we were adopted and states are slow, often struggling to change antiquated laws.

I can send you research, provide other late discovery adoptees to talk with, and any other kind of information necessary.

Thank you so much for your consideration on this important topic!  Susan

On days like today, it’s as if the brake pads are worn down and stuck on to the rotors making a horrible screeching sound and not allowing forward motion at all.  Some days the coaster feels so great; wind in your hair and your face hurts from smiling so much.  Other days, its noisy and frustrating and you finally have to just take the time and fix the damn breaks and replace the pads!  It’s the right thing to do, follow your heart and try to make people aware of problems in society.  It may not lead to a thing (so I am learning in my rose colored glasses) but I feel better having tried.

Now just to wash away the dirt and debris from the wheels… onward!

Just 20 more days in National Adoption Awareness Month, glad it’s here to spread awareness from an adult adoptees perspective, but I will be emotionally lighter come December 1st!

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