In pulling together what I want to say in my memoir, I have been wading through reams of documents, papers, photographs, and letters over the past couple of years. Recently I came across this letter that I had written (but not mailed) to Betty Jean Lifton after I read Lost and Found twenty-six years ago. As I reread it yesterday I was struck once more with how the secrecy of closed adoption affected me.
I am blessed to have been adopted and grown up in the family I did, but I am also thankful for the work that has been done by Ms. Lifton and others to shed light on the impact of closed adoption on the adoptee. My hope in writing my memoir, and in sharing this letter, is that the all the doors and windows of secrecy and shame are flung open and the light of truth is allowed to shine.
Dear Mrs. Lifton:
I read your book Lost and Found last night and it was truly like coming home. Never have I been so moved by a book or felt such a kinship to the people in a book. From the very first page I felt that finally I was not so alone – that my feelings were not so strange.
I was adopted at three months old and have never been told anything about my “birth” parents. I was the classic case. I was totally surprised when I read in your book about the “Chosen Baby Story”. Yes, I was told this story – even asked to recite it to friends of my parents while I, myself, was never comfortable with it. Up until last night, I believed that my parents chose me from a room full of babies when I (at three months old?) put my arms out and reached for them.
Although I always knew that I had been adopted, the subject was taboo in our house. My parents were caught up in the game that I belonged to them alone and I learned at a very early age to play along with them. I remember how my parents continually told me how I looked like my adopted mother (and still do). When I was sixteen years old, I was diagnosed as having scoliosis – curvature of the spine. Because this is hereditary my doctor wanted to know if there was any family history of it. I remember sitting there amazed as my parents said that no there was no history of it, never mentioning that I had been adopted.
I have always felt that to talk about being adopted was to betray my adoptive parents who were so caught up in the fantasy. In high school when we were doing our family trees, I told my teacher that I was adopted and had no family tree. I still remember how guilty I felt for telling The Secret. When I was on my own and living in a different city and went to a new doctor – I gave all my family history, dutifully just like my parents had when I was sixteen.
I have always had feelings of isolation, loneliness, and that there was something missing. I’ve always felt different from everyone else and yearned for someone who looked like me who I could identify with. All these feelings have been unexplained to me and I have never been able to understand why I feel this way. Your book has shown me that there is a reason and I’m not so alone after all.
Of course in the back of my mind, I’ve always dreamed of meeting my birth mother. Because of the fantasy my adoptive parents had, I never pursued it. I decided that I would wait and hope that my birth mother would fine me.
I’m now seriously considering making the search – not to find a “mother” but to find out why I was born and who I really am.
I think you so much for your wonderful book. I finally feel that I am really not so different and have found the courage that I needed to begin my own search.