Family Tree

Daily prompt for day 8 of bloganuary:

How far back in your family tree can you go?

A family tree gives a sense of belonging. There are people who you are connected with. A family tree provides a family history through time, where you family started and what places your family has been. These shape the family traditions and heritage forming a part of your identity. You can relate to and be a part of something more eternal than just yourself.

More important for today, a family tree brings forth medical knowledge of possible diseases and illnesses that run in families, such as heart problems, diabetes, cancer and others.

How far back can I go in my family tree? – Me, Myself and I.

I was born in the early 1960’s. Before birth control was available to those who were not married, and without a doctor’s prescription, and legal in all states. I was born before abortion was legalized with Roe vs. Wade. A time after the sexual revolution had begun. Yet, society was harsh on unwed mothers and mothers who had to work to help support a family.

I am adopted.

I was born in a hospital owned by doctors. Those doctors also operated an unwed mothers home. On my original birth certificate, the address for the hospital, and where my mother resided at the time of my birth are the same.

For a doctor, there was not much money in delivering a baby, but money could be made in adopting out those babies. During the time of my birth an adoption would cost a couple more than the price of a new automobile – $5,000.00. Society expected that married couples were to have families. A couple without children was looked as carrying a plague and did not fit into what society thought was right and proper. A couple not having a family, would affect the man’s employment opportunities. There was no fertility treatments that we have today. Research was just starting to develop fertility treatments for childless couples at the time of my birth.

My adoptive parents borrowed money to adopt. Adopted first was my younger sister, as a premature infant. Her mother was a teenager. My adopted grandmother was present at her birth. The doctor who delivered younger sister, delivered my adoptive mother, and all her siblings. The doctor was their family doctor, familiar with the situation of my adoptive parents not being able to have children after five years of marriage.

There are infant picture of my sister at my Aunt’s june wedding. My sister was born in May. There is an old home movie showing she was so small she could fit in a quart size Mason canning jar. The baby clothes my adoptive mother kept, were doll clothes, tiny in size.

The same doctor delivered me. My adoptive dad was instrumental in my adoption. I was the child of a friend at work, who had gotten his girlfriend pregnant. My adoptive dad fought with my adoptive mother over adopting me. I was adopted after I was a year old. The earliest pictures of me is an old home movie of my adoptive dad putting me on the back of a horse. I could walk, as I walked up to him as he held the horse. All the early pictures of me I am a toddler, walking around. There are pictures of my sister and I together, I am standing and she is in a walker.

Our adoptive parents never told us we were adopted. Everyone in the family, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and our spouses were told we were adopted. They were sworn to secrecy, an honor they kept until the last year. I was informed by the doctor delivering my babies, the my sister or I had to be adopted. Siblings can not medically or scientifically be nineteen weeks apart. My sister and I are nineteen weeks apart in birth, I am the oldest.

I was treated with disdain by my adoptive mother and the favoritism she gave to my sister. So having medical facts stating one of us was adopted, I was not shocked I was the adopted daughter.

My sister was informed by the doctors delivery her children, that one of us had to be adopted. She had heard rumors I was adopted and assumed the adopted girl in the family was me.

At the age of 48 years, after I had received my original birth certificate from the state I was born. While talking to a cousin I set up the conversation to try and hear the truth. Finally a family member told me I was adopted. But told me my sister was adopted first. I spoke with the few family members who would speak, about the events around and concerning our adoption. There was not much information, but enough of the same story to form a small story line as to the origins of my adoption.

My sister, was 58 years of age when she learned she was adopted. The shock of information hit my sister from one of my blog posts. I did not know she was reading my blog posts. My sister and I do not talk often, only when things change in the family, such as death. To have the phone ring with her number, was a surprise. After her call to me she spoke with other family members gaining about the same amount of information I had, not much.

Life is different when you are adopted and not told. When you learn, all the medical history you have written down is obsolete. There is no medical history for those who are adopted before the 1980’s. Medical history for my children is incomplete, especially concerning births and pregnancies.

So far from life experience, I am healthy and active for my age. I and my children have low blood pressure and a low heart rate, perfect for those wanting to run marathons or cycle long distances. Not so good if you are in the hospital and go to sleep as the buzzers go off and wake you up. I and my children have a sensitivity to pain medications, and if the drug says it can make you drowsy, we will go to sleep. There are multiple births. While I only had singles, my son has had a set of identical twins. My youngest daughter was pregnant with identical twins, and lost them. Then she became with triplets and delivered three healthy boys, and two show a strong possibility of being twins.

The past there is none. The future looks bright.

I am the root to our family tree.

amtolle

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DNA

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Most people know who their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family are. They have stories of how the family traveled to different parts of the country, stories of hardship and triumph. Families know of common illness and if they are prone to twins.

I was adopted. I have none of that type of information about my family, what nationalities run in my family. Common medical conditions are unknown.

Majority of people have a family tree, roots go deep to support future generation. I am the beginning of my family tree, the roots are unknown.

You go to a doctor, or ER as I have, what do you tell them for family medical history..I am adopted. My daughters see a doctor for their pregnancies, they want to know family history, all they have is my history and their father’s family medical history.

All those forms where the request you to mark your nationality. I and my children mark, “other”. We do not really know for a fact what nationality we are.

So I ordered a DNA kit.

What do I expect from this DNA kit?

To learn of my nationalities. I will never know how my ancestors reached this country, or what hardships my relatives faced and overcame. I will learn what nationalities run through my veins.

The DNA tests will inform me of medical conditions I am predisposed to. Does not mean I will get heart disease, but will inform me if I am predisposed to heart disease. Allowing me to take precautions with diet and exercise.

The DNA tests will inform me of genetic medical conditions that are inherited. This can be a little scary. So far in my life, I have good health, no major health problems. Do I really want to know if I carry a genetic medical condition. Not so much for myself, but for my children and grandchildren.

As an adoptee, this is a place to start filling in some of the gaps of a family history. There is a small chance of learning of some DNA relatives. Meeting those relatives would depend on if they choose to meet me.

As an adoptee there are times I feel like I am a cloud, without roots or a place. The DNA information will not change the fact I am adopted, but will provide information to give me a sliver of family history to pass forward.

amtolle

Would You Tell?

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I am a late discovery adoptee. What does it mean to be a late discovery adoptee? Very simple, you learned you were an adopted child after you became an adult. I suppose learning beyond a shadow of doubt at the age of 48 years I was indeed adopted, I would be considered a late discovery adoptee or LAD.

I had strong suspensions I was adopted during various times of my life. Although every time I would ask my adoptive mother if I was adopted, her answer, “Absolutely not! Where do you get such ideas?”

I respond, “From biology class.” when I was in high school.

“My OB says two children can not be naturally born that close together.”

Mom’s reply, “What does he know?”

My mother guarded this secret ferociously. Even as a 48 year old adult and I approached my mother with the adoption, my mother was never going to tell me the truth about my adoption.

When a child is adopted into a family, regardless what age the child is adopted. They become part of a family just like every other family. People with dysfunctions, problems, different personalities and family issues. Adopted children do not automatically get adopted into the “Happily Ever After” family. We are adopted into a family and become family, most of us do anyway.

My mother and I seemed to always have a wall between us. She was not nurturing to me. She considered my problems petty and not worth her time when I was a teenager. If I had a question about boys, she told me, I would figure it out. My dad was the person who told me about becoming a woman, and about boys and about sex.

Why the wall between my mother and I?

Perhaps it was because I am very intelligent my mother and I did not get along. I showed I was a very quick learner from a very young age. I started first grade at age 5, half way through the school year. I was moved up one grade. I graduated high school, five days after I turned seventeen. Not to mention National Honor Society and straight “A’s”. Maybe the questions I asked as a small child intimidate her, as I would one day be more intelligent and knowledgeable than she was. Those reaction have happened with me in other relationships.

Then there is always the personality differences. But in truth I think she had a hard time with me for being adopted. According to aunts and uncles, my dad had to fight my mom for me to be adopted. Apparently dad really wanted to adopt me and my mom did not. There could be various reasons why my mom did not want to adopt me. But there was definitely a strong conflict concerning the adoption of me.

My sister recently learned at sixtyish, she is adopted. While she was content to believe the whispered rumors I was adopted. It was a shock to learn both of us were adopted.

Our first question: Why did my parents not tell me I was adopted?

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My sister then went on the investigative journey with the family relatives asking questions and not getting any more information than I did with one exception.

The aunts and uncles were angry that we were not told by our parents. Anger is one of the first emotions learning your are adopted when you are an adult. But the family was upset with our parents for not telling us. They did not know why my parents had sworn them to secrecy concerning the adoptions… but each one felt that my parents were wrong in doing so, and upset that we were not told by our parents, but learned through non-family members.

This past week we had dinner with my husband’s brother and his wife. We were discussing my sister just learning of her adoption.

The brother said if he adopted an infant, he would never tell the child they were adopted. “What is the point of telling them, when we would be their family?”

I gave one of my very rare glares, “I would tell. The child has the rights as a person to know the truth about themselves.” But my option is bias by the fact I am adopted and learned as an adult from someone other than family. No explanations or statements of love saying you were chosen to be our family.

If you were to adopt an infant, would you tell them they were adopted? Does an adult person have the right to know?

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Leave your thoughts in the comments.

amtolle

The Beginning of a Novel

The research into the writing of my first book, has helped answer some questions on where I came from. The fact finding has helped to give a beginning to my life.

The emotions and feelings are hard to understand. I am not alone in feeling this way. My sister, she now shares the same feelings as I did and do. She is a little lost at the moment on what to do next, but has filed for her original birth certificate, the one prior to her adoption. She does not know how far she is going to go, if she will seek out her biological parents or not. She will cross that bridge when she gets there.

For me, I do not feel like I am totally alone in knowing there was a secret so sacred no one spoke. Since my sister has contacted every living relative and family friend she can think of to ask questions, the secret is no longer secret.

The girls know they are adopted”

One of the steps in the research is to contact an attorney to learn how to obtain the adoptions statues for the state of New Mexico. I was born in Colorado, but the adoption was in New Mexico. The online sources give current adoption statues, not the statues of the 1960’s when I was adopted. There will probably be a road trip involved.

There is one road trip to Colorado. My oldest daughter and I are going to research the Sister’s of Mercy orphanage history. The Sister’s of Mercy opened a hospital, boarding schools and orphanage in the late 1880’s. The orphanage was still in operation in the 1960’s. Several catholic orphanages were also used as unwed mothers homes in the 1950′ thru 1970’s. The catholic orphanages did not handle the adoptions, that was the responsibility of attorneys or adoption agencies. We are going to look into the not so popular history of Durango, Colorado, the place of my birth and my beginning.

In learning how to write a novel, the book I am reading, “How Fiction Works” by James Wood states to have location and history information correct. And since my life is the spine to this novel, I want the information to be accurate as best as is possible.

This novel will be full of intriguing events such as meetings at the state line to pick up a baby, a coworker’ girlfriend is pregnant, to adopting a half-breed child from white parents. Secrets, lies, and turmoil. Should make a good read. My life seems to be a fiction novel, why not write it down for others to share.

I did not tell to keep things secret, nor did I tell the lies. Those who did are gone, their voices silence. I will let facts expose the deceit and mysteries of my life. One day, I will be free of the cocoon of deceit. A follower told me that would make a good title, Free from the Cocoon of Deceit, for an autobiography, sounds good.

amtolle

Free Me from the Cocoon of Deception

Sounds like a nice book title….? Actually it is a plea. A plea to family members sworn to secrecy for almost 60 years. I know I am adopted, why not tell me the story.

I learned 12 years ago I was adopted beyond any doubt. I was in my late forties. As a “white fleece” I call Vital Statistics to see if they would tell me I was adopted. The kind lady answered she could not, but I could pay the fee and request my adoption records. If there are no records the agency would refund my money. Ok, I played the game, I paid the fee, filled out the information and waited. A couple weeks later I received a large envelope with my original birth certificate, two letters from the attorney to the State requesting the new birth certificate because I had been adopted and a copy of the court stamped and recorded degree saying I was adopted to my parents and my new name.

First response to seeing the information was shock, no emotions and not one thought went through my mind. Just silent shock. Later, a huge array of emotions hit, mostly about the lies, teasing from cousins about being adopted, being called a half-breed, the avoidance of the subject. Anger was the predominate first emotion. Sadness followed wondering why no one could tell me the truth.

( In this post, father and mother refer to those who took care of me and raised me.)

My father was deceased. I would ask my mother, she was still living in the area we grew up in with her sister, my aunt. On a visit, my aunt brought out her wedding album. My aunt was a beautiful bride, had the full wedding common in that time era. I saw pictures of my sister on a pillow in my aunt’s lap at the wedding. I asked where are the pictures of me with my aunt? The photo album was slammed shut, aunt say, “I am tired of looking at these” and put the album away. I brought up the trouble I was having in getting a birth certificate, and that my sister and I were 19 weeks apart.

“Well, the state looses things all the time.” my mother said, staring out the window. “You know your sister was premature.”

“Yeah, but it takes awhile before a woman can get pregnant after having a child.” I responded.

Mom looks at and gives her giggle (the indicator a lie is going to be told), ” Your dad and I were h***y”. Aunt joins in the giggle.

“It is impossible for my sister and I to be as close in age as we are.” I state.

Mom looks at me sternly, “We are not discussing this. What do you know you were just a kid.” And leaves the room with an excuse to freshen up.

I knew I was not going to get anywhere there. And so it is with the rest of my aunts and uncles from my mother’s side of the family.

Feeling frustrated, I put the information on the shelf.

Two years later, while talking and reconnecting with cousin M, I set up the conversation to see if she would change the subject, or tell the truth.

“You know you and your sister are both adopted, right.” stated cousin M.

The tears began to flood down my checks. She continues,” You know right? oh my God, you did not know. I was not supposed to tell you. I was never to say a word about it. I thought you knew. I am so sorry, I should have kept my big mouth shut.”

I gain composure, told her the story of obtaining my adoption records and I knew with no doubt I was adopted.

I had lived with the lie “you are not adopted” for almost 50 years. You get in the habit of living a lie, going along with the status quo. I decided I was old enough to stop.

Shortly after obtaining my adoption records, I got me a female purebred Australian puppy. I named my puppy my original birth name, Bonnie Jo. Each time I had to call my puppy, I had to say my original birth name and remember not to live the lie. My puppy is now twelve years old. I do not live the lie of “not being adopted”.

Bonnie Jo

I have informed every relative I have talked to I am adopted, I have court records showing I am adopted. And yes, some aunts and uncles have asked to see the court records, to verify I am not making up a story.

My sister asked, “Why did you not tell me I was adopted when you found out?”

I will admit, I feel guilty about not telling her ten years ago when relatives told me we both were adopted. But mom was still living. Mom lived a few miles from my sister. If I told my sister she was adopted along with me, my sister would go straight to mom and ask. I know what my mom’s answer would be, as I heard it often enough when I uncovered a truth, “Do be absurd. You know your sister makes up things, or gets things changed around. Your not adopted, and neither is she.”

In a way it is good a non family member told my sister. She can not say it was some story they got from me that is not true.

My sister has called a living aunts and uncles asking questions. She has no more information from them as I did. ” I do not know, but you were so cute and we were so glad to have you in our family. Does it really matter. Besides I can not remember all that went on back then.”

I feel wrapped in a cocoon, tight like the changing caterpillar, only I can not get out, but want to see the light and fly in all my beauty. If my sister and I are going to get any answers, it will have to be from a non family member.

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amtolle