This post is important to me because I think EVERYONE should be aware of the results of the laws as they stand for adoptees from closed record states. Is your son or daughter one of them? Is your niece or nephew? Your husband or wife? Chances are you know someone affected. If nothing else please read it to become socially aware.
Contact Denial. It seems to be a recurring theme for me these days. Have you ever noticed that the issues you need to work on (issues you may be ignoring) seem to visit you over and over in different ways until you have no choice but to pay attention? Tap tap tap….like being pecked to death by a duck.
OK, OK, I give. Contact denial. Here goes. But I have to do this a little differently. This has to be about searching to truly grasp how contact denial grips an adoptee.
When you decide to search you think of little else. Often times it becomes a full blown obsession. I am talking about active searching, not passive searching. There are plenty of people (myself included) who started out as passive searchers just wanting to “get some medical info.”, to say “thank you for giving me life”. ….blah blah blah…..these are key phrases to spot a passive searcher a mile away. It’s when you come to peace with the decision to search, and decide to actively pursue it that you dare to allow the possibility of more to enter your thoughts. This takes the ability to let go of the guilt for searching which is really hard to do. Only other adoptees can truly grasp how deeply this guilt for searching thing can affect you. The reasons for the misplaced guilt are too numerous to mention here but I will say it is mostly a condition which has been embedded deeply into the fiber of our society by the false beliefs about what adoption is and what it is not.
So you work through all of that (which can take years) and you begin to actively pursue your identity. The prospect of finally being able to recognize the face in the mirror becomes exciting! You are a flower watered, fed and nurtured by your adoptive parents (if you’re lucky) but you can only grow so much because you have no roots tethering you to the Earth. You’re just sort of stuck in the ground feeling like the slightest breeze could knock you clean over. You need your roots to grow properly. Period.
You eat, breathe, sleep searching. You try every avenue you can find and if they fail you try them again. I searched passively for several years, actively for several more and finally used the Colorado Confidential Intermediary Service because I got nowhere on my own.
Everyone not in our position should know what we are up against instead of being one of those “what problem, being adopted makes you special” kind of people. Oh, we’re special alright. This is how it goes down if you are an adoptee from a closed record state. A closed state, like most are, will “allow” you to pay them hundreds of dollars for the honor of having a complete stranger open YOUR file with YOUR name on it and view YOUR identity. If that isn’t humiliating enough you THEN get the distinct honor of asking PERMISSION from the judge (like a criminal….or a child) if this STRANGER can contact your MOTHER. You have no idea how degrading and humiliating and entirely frustrating this is. NO idea.
Regardless of whether you have to go through the state or through an agency the fate of your identity remains in the hands of someone who’s life will not be affected one way or the other by the outcome. Someone who can walk right down to that courthouse and get a copy of THEIR identity for a mere 15.00. You may luck out and get appointed a case worker who is good at what they do, sympathetic to your cause. OR you may get someone who is wet behind the ears or power tripping, rude or diplomatically challenged (meaning an assh#%*). Either way….you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. Right? Right. Because we are CHILDREN and children are to be seen and not heard.
You are still obsessing and completely excited by the way but unlike searching on your own now you are without ANY control. There is no word invented to describe this cluster—- of emotions so I am not even going to try.
If you are lucky enough to have a competent person holding your file they may actually find your mother. (Please note: I say mother because most people search for mother first and then if they still have any sanity left they search for their father. Not always, but it has been my experience that this is most often the case.) Once your mother has been located they either call her or send her a letter. When they do this, the method they use and what they say is entirely left to their discretion. You have absolutely no say in the matter. So, if you have a “diplomatically challenged” case worker you are out of luck if they decide to make a brash call out of the blue to an unsuspecting first mother. If your mother is completely FREAKED OUT by this call and hangs up…..guess what? Too bad for you. Case closed. Sorry about your luck, mom doesn’t want to meet you. They may or may not leave your file on their desk for a time. They may or may not try again. They are fully under the guidelines of the law if they decide to stick your file back in what I like to call the Vault of Shame and call it a day. Leaving you scratching your head saying “what just happened here?!”. That’s IT? That can’t be it I still don’t know who the hell I am!
Guess what? My intermediary was outstanding. I mention the above because for countless adoptees this is exactly how it goes down. MY intermediary was the best, the cream of the crop, they broke the mold good. She was compassionate, completely knowledgeable and as fair and just as she could be without breaking the rules. The day she retired adoptees everywhere lost a true friend. Still, the method in which contact had to be made remains the same. The emotions involved remain the same. The lack of control over one’s own identity remain the same whether you have a good case worker or a bad one.
And this is just the formal search process. This doesn’t even touch upon the countless hours of futile searching one may do on their own. It’s exhausting and it is beyond frustrating to know that it is only necessary because of the completely UNNECESSARY restrictions placed upon our person as adoptees. Every single adoptive parent, every single birthparent out there should be banned together in a unified front to fight the injustice served upon your children. A lot of time is spent disagreeing and in the meantime adoptees are DYING because they don’t have the right to know who they are. Medically speaking it is a no brainer but don’t kid yourself, we are emotionally dying inside too by being outcasts in a world which vastly believes we are unworthy of knowing our own identity, of knowing ourselves. Instead we are forced to use strangers to handle something we would probably handle FAR better on our own.
Now please, really try to put yourself in our shoes for a moment while I sum this up. We fight with ourselves to even get to a place emotionally where we CAN search. We face frustration after frustration in the process of searching. We are humiliated, discriminated against and chastised. We are often left to our own defenses by those we love most simply because they can’t deal with their own issues of self-worth. We face ignorant opinions like “why would you want to do that to your parents?” forced upon us by complete strangers or worse…..by friends. We forge ahead because we must. For many of us it is at the expense of the love of our own parents whom we thought would love us unconditionally. We realize that at a time when we can use comfort the most we have been emotionally abandoned by the people we count on for that kind of support. It seems at times that everyone is against us, leaving us to question our decision. Perhaps our real identity should remain a dirty secret. Perhaps it is (I am) ugly and should remain locked away in the bell tower, because nobody really wants to look at it’s ugly face…..because it scares them. No, no. It is WORTH FIGHTING FOR! I am worth fighting for. All of that sadness and frustration of searching for this CRUCIAL missing piece of our identity. Multiply it by months or in my case years of futile searching. Combine all of that with the belief, hope and promise that one MUST hold on to while searching. Grasp the perfect comparison in the widely used term; rollercoaster ride.
Feel my excitement. Feel my joy. Feel my frustration. Feel my pain. Feel my desire. Feel my longing. Feel my emptiness. Feel my hope.
Then, slam the door in my face and LOCK IT and you might begin to understand what contact denial feels like.