' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Megan's story: An adoptee fills in the pieces

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Megan's story: An adoptee fills in the pieces

Megan and Jane at the old Courthouse in Bloomington, Ill 2018
For adoptees in closed adoptions like my daughter Megan, life is a puzzle. "Where did I come from? How did I land here? In a recent blog post, Megan, referred to in FMF posts as Rebecca the name I gave her when she was born, tells of assembling the pieces of her origins. These pieces constitute the borders, the frame for our relationship. We're still filling in the middle.

After searching for over ten years, she connected with me in 1997 when she was 31. Despite an ecstatic beginning, our relationship like so many others--including Lorraine's with her daughter--has been rocky at times. Like other first mothers newly in reunion, I asked myself over and over "Where do I fit in? What does she want." "Not a new family," I was assured. She told me she needed "to know" but surely I told myself it had to be more than that.

After lots of anxiety and anger on both our parts, our relationship has become positive for both of us. I saw Megan last month in Bloomington, Illinois near her home. She joined me and my two sisters for lunch and a few days later we met for dinner with her husband and son. Our relationship is not exactly a mother/daughter relationship -- she calls me "Jane," not "Mom" but she calls me on Mother's Day. I'm sharing her essay in part because I hope it provides helpful insights to other mothers in reunion. I also share it because I am proud of my daughter.--jane


This week's prompt for the #52stories Project: "What do you know about the day you were born?"

I've always been sucked in by jigsaw puzzles. Lay out the pieces on the table, and I'll come back to them again and again until I've made the picture on the box. I just can't leave a puzzle alone. Incompleteness isn't right. The pieces in front of you can and ought to become the picture

As a child of a closed adoption I couldn't leave my life puzzle alone, though I had been warned many times to do just that. There wasn't a picture to guide me, and I didn't know where pieces were. But I kept coming back. Incompleteness isn't right.

What did 5 year-old me know about the day I was born?
Well, neither my dad or my mom were there the day I was born, so they couldn't tell me anything. Except this: the woman whose body I came out of, sternly referred to to as my "natural mother," couldn't take care of me because she was not married. But she was brave. She loved me enough to put me up for adoption, to give me to someone else to raise. She was a vessel for me to come to earth, and I was a Chosen Child. I felt special being the Chosen Child, apart from other children.

What did 15 year-old me know about the day I was born?
The first time I saw my birth certificate was in the spring of my Sophomore school year, when I needed it to apply for a driver's permit. I read every line of that thing several times, looking to learn more about the day I was born. A legal Birth Certificate should be a record about your birth. According to the document, I was born on November 17, 1966 at 12:38am at San Francisco General Hospital on 22nd and Potrero Avenue. William P. Young, MD attended the birth and signed the birth certificate. It was a single birth.

12:38 am. Thirty Eight. Specific down to the minute.

SF General Hospital on Portrero and 22nd. Specific street address. Documenting simply Mission District, or even San Francisco might have been good enough, but the certificate reports location with exactness. It was comforting not to find out that I flopped into a gas station toilet.

William P. Young, MD. Middle initial P, a Doctor of Medicine, was in the room.

Single birth. So, it was only me and my placenta in the womb, no evil twin. Good to know. Or was single birth referring to my natural mother's marital status?

But THEN... there are the names of my adoptive parents. Aberrations, because neither of them were around that fall day. The Birth Certificate became an irritant. I did not question that my adoptive parents were really my parents, but the document put them in a time and place where they weren't. The State of California demanded that the rest of the birth certificate be accurate. Then why fudge on the names of the mother and father who were involved with my birth? This document is a fraud.

Were a Certificate of Legal Parentage to exist, I'd have no problem having my adoptive parents' names on it. But a Certificate of Live Birth is supposed to be a record about your birth. Mine is a deception, a lie I am compelled to perpetuate if I am to drive, work, pay taxes, and travel overseas. It wasn't even created until I was almost 2 years old.

And why does William P. Young get his name on my birth certificate, but the woman who actually gave birth to me does not? Huh?

Years later I learned that another Birth Certificate exists for me, my Original Birth Certificate or OBC. It is locked away in a vault in Sacramento, a vault more secure than the one that holds the recipe for Coca-Cola. I guess I really was a Chosen Child, apart from other children.

What did 25 year-old me know about the day I was born? By the time I was 25 I'd learned the names of my first parents even without accessing my Original Birth Certificate. I'd just kept coming back to the puzzle until I found that piece. Though I hadn't been able to meet either parent yet, I did have a single correspondence with my first father, and he revealed to me that my first mother had held me the day I was born. That knowledge alone comforted me. I felt less like a Chosen Child, and more like a normal person.

Shortly after finding my first parents' names I had read a story in the San Francisco Chronicle about the '67 Summer of Love. 100,000 idealists, mostly young adults, had descended on the Haight-Ashbury District, ushering in the 1960's counter culture. I was born mere months before the Summer of Love in the very same city. Whoa. Maybe the Summer of Love was a piece of my adoption puzzle. My birth mother was probably a radical hippie. Why else would she be in San Francisco? Maybe she was wearing love beads when she gave birth to me. Maybe she was high on pot when she signed the adoption papers relinquishing all rights to me. This all made sense.

The thought of a bead-wearing, Aquarius-seeking, flower-powered birth mother was appealing to me. It changed what I thought I was. Or more exactly, it surfaced what I felt down deep but didn't think about, because it was so, so apart from what I had been raised to be.

What did 35 year-old me know about the day I was born?
I had met my birth mother by the time I was 35. Her name is Jane. She told me everything about it. She was living alone in the seedy Tenderloin District of San Francisco. She had no family support. They didn't know she was pregnant. A Peruvian man who befriended her drove her to the hospital. It was rainy. The doctor, William P. Young, M.D. was a young medical resident. Everything detail was mine for the asking, much to the dismay of my adoptive mother Roberta.

I learned that my first mother was not a flower-powered hippie, not really. Jane was a Duke University graduate student. She'd come to San Francisco, a strange city, for my birth because of the liberal political climate. But though she was idealistic, she did not feel very brave. She wasn't high on marijuana when she signed the adoption papers, just depressed and alone. Her family didn't even know she was pregnant.

Puzzle pieces rained from heaven for me when I met Jane. I knew the facts. My puzzle would soon be complete. But no... I keep coming back to the puzzle, finding more pieces.

After our reunion Jane came to her understanding that she should have raised me herself. She needed me to also understand this, but I disappointed her. I felt really angry that Jane needed this of me, it was so unfair.

I also began to see how false the adoption narrative told to me by Roberta had been, and I resented being deceived. The world where birth mothers are courageous, adoptive parents are saviors, and God has one (and only one) plan for my family life never existed.

Each of my two mothers needed me to feel a certain way in order to validate herself. I wasn't free to feel what I felt, because no matter what I felt one of my mothers was quick to shame me. And I allowed her to do it.

Not feeling at all is easier. Feeling anger is hard. Feeling shame is even harder. When the anger became too much for my sanity I chose instead not to feel anything. I hung out in numbness for a while, but this, especially this, did not complete the puzzle.

Sorrow seems to be the puzzle piece that has been most elusive for me.

Only recently have I opened myself up to feeling sadness for Jane's and Roberta's ordeals. Giving birth alone in San Francisco, sacrificing your first-born to societal expectations - the sadness is vast, easily the size of the Grand Canyon. I've also felt for the mother who struggled with infertility but desperately wanted a life that others would see as normal.

Even more recently, and perhaps more remarkably, I've felt sadness for the newborn girl. She may have been a Chosen Child, but she certainly was not a Child Who Could Choose. Acknowledging that I'm not in control and never have been since the beginning is an expression of self compassion, my internal peace offering.

Will I find more pieces? I don't know. Incompleteness isn't wrong. But I will love myself and all of my parents. Perhaps the puzzle piece of LOVE is the grace to finally accept things as they are. Incompleteness isn't wrong.
The Day I Was Born

Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA

Marcia L. Gorman

I loved this book. Unlike the author who was adopted, I just found out that my mother lied to me all my life about who my father was. I'm 66 yrs old! So needless to say, finding out this late in life was a mind blower. His story has inspired me simply because he was so tenacious about finding out who his birth parents were. The ebook also includes an addendum which explains all about DNA tests, how they work, and which one to use. I personally went with Ancestry.com, and I really like their new website. I have been able to figure out which family I came from, but like the author, I'm still trying to figure out which of the three brothers was the culprit! It's been a very valuable tool. The author's story is well written and a great drama. I think you'll enjoy it.


  1. Deeply moving and powerful. I can see why you are so proud of your daughter, Jane. I wish your relationship continues to grow and enrich both your lives.

  2. I used to feel sad for the child who was adopted also. It took a long time for me to admit that she, was me.

    I guess disassociation helps us to survive.

    I'm glad you have had the time to help heal some of your pain. I think reunion takes many years, and some of us search too late, and never have that.

  3. This is so well written. I appreciate the raw honesty. Thank you Megan for helping the world understand more about adoption and how you feel as an adoptee.

  4. "Each of my two mothers needed me to feel a certain way in order to validate herself. I wasn't free to feel what I felt, because no matter what I felt one of my mothers was quick to shame me. And I allowed her to do it."

    I try SO hard not to do this with my daughter who is adopted. It's good to be reminded of how damaging it can be to a child and that I have to constantly be self aware of what I say and how I say it. I try to validate her feelings, but there is always room to do better and be better and hold myself to a high standard.

    Thanks so much for sharing your daughter's words and perspectives, Jane, and thank you so much to her for being willing to be open.

    1. Tiffany. My adoptive mom was a perfectionist. "there is always room to do better and be better and hold myself to a high standard" was how she approached most things, including her parenting. She tried sooo hard at many things. This led to feelings of devastation when she couldn't meet her own high standards. Hence the need for validation from her children. If we weren't perfect then neither was she. We were her mirror.I believe developing a stronger sense of herself may have made her less demanding of her children.

    2. Tiffany, also remembered that hypervigilance is exhausting and leaves you less emotionally available to your child.

    3. Megan, I so appreciate what you are saying. It was not my intent to sound like I approach parenting with a perfectionist attitude towards my children. I'm really more of a hippie parent, and although admittedly I'm type A, my parenting philosophy truly isn't. I know you can't know because you don't know me :) so I do appreciate your words.

      I only meant that this is a good reminder to always be looking at things from the perspective of the adoptee, and that I can always use this reminder even though I try to be aware. And self righteousness is never a good look on anyone, so hence the remark about how I could always do better, too.

      I had parents who expected perfection of me, and it created a lot of problems for me. I'm very aware of how it can impact kids. I went through a lot of therapy to work on myself.

      But enough rambling. I appreciate you taking time to point out your concerns with my words and offering some advice. You are correct that hyoervigilance is not healthy and neither is obsession with perfection.

  5. Hello, I read your blog from time to time, and I thought of you recently while watching this British show about large families - it's not really related to this current post, but if you haven't seen it before I think it would interest you. https://youtu.be/8_w0xnkZPxA?t=2026 is the part where this woman with twelve children currently talks about how she never recovered from the loss of the daughter she was talked into giving up, and how it changed the course of her life (the man speaking in this scene is her husband).

  6. I found Megan's words very powerful and enlightening.

  7. After 53 years of wondering where she was and how she was doing and if she was safe and healthy, my daughter and I found each other through ancestry. We are having a good relationship because we are exactly alike in so many ways. We have fun together and I make sure I respect her mother. It's true you walk a tightrope of wondering what she expects, etc...but relax, tell the truth and hope for the best.

  8. Thank you for sharing Jane & Megan. These are insights I wish I could share with my sons but alas, we aren't able to discuss things. I'm not sure if it's a guy thing or just the strangeness of reunion with your own birth mother.

  9. Jane and Megan, i love the picture. Fantastic. I wish you both the best. Thanks for sharing.

  10. the physical similarity between you two is uncanny.



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