Posts Tagged ‘late-discovery adoptee’

h1

This is why we protest.

November 4, 2015

It’s Your Life

By Jeff Hancock

I was not always an adoptee rights activist. Prior to my adoption discovery as a 41-year-old man I was quite happy as just another member of the human race. It was not until I learned that I was adopted that I also discovered that I am a victim of discrimination. Like millions of other adult adoptees, I am denied access to my Original Birth Certificate (OBC). The following essay is intended to reveal why the Adoptee Rights cause is important and why state governments need to restore our access to our Original Birth Certificates.

The concept is quite simple: We seek only to own what the non-adopted people have. We want to own our identities. We want to be just like everyone else.

Some people want their OBC’s so they can find and reunite with their birth families. Other adoptees want to discover their heritage, ancestry, or faith. Adoptees hope to learn our medical history. Others just simply want to own it. These are all good things, but none are the basis for what we fight for. The foundation of our cause is our quest to be equal to non-adopted citizens. Without our OBC’s we are not equal.

American culture places a great amount of shame upon adopted people. Also shamed are the mother’s who gave birth to us. Our society fears us. They fear what might happen should we be provided the sheet of paper that holds our name as it was recorded the day we were born. Based on false beliefs and outdated myths of the 1930’s, the people elected to represent us choose to deny us instead.

This is why we protest. Just as our OBC’s are shrouded from us the facts are shrouded away from state law makers. The fundamental difference is that while we are denied even a glance of our OBC’s, far too many lawmakers have full access to the facts of restored access and choose to look another direction. The purpose of the Adoptee Rights movement is to educate these lawmakers.

One cannot blame lawmakers for what they have been conditioned into accepting as the truth about sealed OBC’s. it is our intent to work with them through education. We teach them right from wrong while stipulating that sealed OBC’s is WRONG!

Advertisements
h1

Always the Last to Know.

November 4, 2015

Last year I had the honor of being asked to contribute a chapter to my friend Lynn’s book, a compilation on adoptee topics. Her book is titled “The Adoptee Survival Guide” and is available through Amazon.

Always the Last to Know.

Have you ever wondered why,

Families keep secrets until they die?

This completely takes over who you are,

Carving within you an unbearable scar.

They day I learned that my parents had lied,

The soul within me stopped living; and died.

I felt as though I had just lost my very best friend,

Who was I now? Was I at my start, or at my end?

 

I found a quote soon after I learned that I was adopted. It reads, “The worst thing about being lied to is knowing you weren’t worth the truth.” This quote became my motto as I embarked on my new life as an adoptee. My story is quite complicated at times; it has been just over 7-years since my discovery though it still stings as though it were yesterday. The purpose of this essay is for me to reveal how I have faced the task of being a late-discovery-adoptee, though I am still far from the end of my journey.

All my life I felt a strange absence in my life. It was a feeling of loneliness and loss. I never could quite find the right words to explain these feelings; I always just figured I was an outcast due to being so much younger than the other kids in our family. I had no idea that I could be an adoptee until I began school in 1970. It was on the bus that kids bullied me by calling me “foster kid.” I brushed it off at first because as a 5-year-old kid I had no idea what it meant.

As I grew older I began to take notice of how my family regarded me. I had learned what a “Foster Kid” was, and I began to wonder if at anytime someone would tell me I was only a guest and that another family was coming to take me away? Evidence began to surface. I was not included in my paternal grandmother’s family bible. That same grandmother never provided me with a hand sewn quilt as she had for each of her other grandchildren. Then there was the photograph. It was a Polaroid of me when I was about 2-years-old. On the back of it was written, “Jeff our foster son.”

By the time I was 21-years-old I could not tolerate my internal struggle over my identity any longer. Having grown tired of pussy-footing around the topic with my parents, I threw my cards onto the table, called my parents, and asked, “Am I adopted?”

It could not have gone any worse. Dad yelled, mom cried. Both told me that I was wrong for questioning my relationship to them. Both lied to me and told me I was theirs.

For the first year after my discovery I walked the Earth in “Zombie Mode.” While I was mostly aware of the goings-on around me, I was detached from it all. I took no pleasure doing things that before had brought me great joy. I had no idea who I was; I felt betrayed, rejected, unwanted, and unworthy of anyone’s love. I sought solutions to my emptiness and pain. There were none.

The first time I turned on the radio in my car following discovery I heard a song that I had not before experienced. It was “Mother” written by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. This new-to-me version was sung by Sinead O’Connor. I instantly became engrossed in it. I immediately bought the album. I played this song repeatedly everyday for the next 5-and-a-half years.

It was one line from the lyrics of “Mother” that has ran through my mind over and over again since my discovery. “Mama’s gonna keep you right here under her wing, she won’t let you fly but she might let you sing” became my theme song. With each passing day I grew more and more resentful of my adoptive parents. I also grew angry with my other mom; the one who gave me away.

While I began my search for family the very same day as my discovery, by 2009 I had no more information than I had the day I begun. I realized that if I were to ever find my family I would need to have access to my Original Birth Certificate first. I fell into the ranks of the Adoptee Rights movement.

My first protest was in Philadelphia during July of 2009. It became one of my favorite life experiences. Like how Moses must have felt delivering the Jews to the Promised Land, I too felt I had finally landed right where I belonged. As we each met each other in and around the hotel over those 4-days I realized that although we each had different jobs and came from different kinds of families, we were all exactly the same within our souls. We each were denied our souls.

When asked, “How to Survive” regarding Late-Discovery-Adoption I drew a complete blank. I wondered, “Have I survived?” At least in the eyes of my fellow adoptees, and the moms who gave birth to us, I appear to be a survivor. Within my mind I have reservations. I am not convinced that adoption is survivable; it affects each of us for our entire life. Perhaps I can best offer some suggestions at how to cope with being a Late-Discovery-Adoptee.

Find a theme song. It seems every LDA has one. For me it was Sinead O’Connor’s “Mother.” For one of my friends it was “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan. While I listened to this song daily, I found it meant the most to me when I was in a long hot bath alone with my thoughts and a few candles.

Be sure to share your story. Revealing yourself to others in the Late-Discovery community is a daunting task. It was the first time in my life that I felt genuine fear. I felt unworthy of having friendships with other adoptees. I was new to the scene while they had known all of their lives. Surprisingly I was immediately embraced not only by fellow LDA’s but likewise from the entire adoption community.

I took a vow the day I found out my truth. I pledged to live my adopted life with 100% transparency. My adoption experience is something I decided was not to be my shame, but rather my triumph. I have met fellow adoptees as well as our moms and dads who accepted me for who I am. They have become my family over these years. When I found my birth families, my community through adoption welcomed them included as well.

While our lives as LDA’s were shrouded in secrecy and lies, our stories belong to us. We need to reveal ourselves to others in our world. Perhaps one day there will be enough awareness of our pain and our plight that lies within adoption will finally grind to a halt. Until that time comes, we must always support each other and freely share ourselves.

h1

Continued tales from the LDA.

November 4, 2015

Grief continues to engulf me. I grieve for the woman I never met; the one who gave birth to me. I think about her every day.

Being a late-discovery-adoptee has taken a toll on me over these past 8-years. While I am now reunited with both sides of my birth families, there is a hole in my heart as deep as a well. I miss my mom, even though we never got to meet. I miss a lot of people, yet I cannot grieve for those who betrayed my trust and led me away from the truth of my very existence for most of my lifetime.

I have managed to pull together a basic medical history. However, I fear it is too late to be of much help to me. Had I known in my youth that diabetes runs in my family, I could have been more careful. I was in my 40’s when I was tested and discovered I have a problem. Now I have macular degeneration of the retinas because treatments for my elevated blood sugar were too little too late. My retina specialist described my condition as being like an old house with rusty pipes that leak. My blood vessels are the leaky pipes. My eyeballs are the playing ground for a disease that will eventually blind me. Lack of medical history sucks if you are adopted. I’ve realized that the blow back from being lied to for so long effects more than just my psyche; it has taken over my entire body.

I’ve gone into therapy for PTSD. I never was in a real life shooting, fighting, guts-n-grit combat situation. My trauma centers around my loss of identity, disappointments, joblessness, and various forms of abuse. I have learned that dealing with PTSD is like herding cats. It’s tougher than you’d guess. My therapist told me I need to look for at least one positive memory or experience for each bad thing, each trauma, I have encountered during my lifetime. There are good memories: I have two half-sisters, nephews, nieces, a birth dad, grandparents, and a shitload of cousins all of whom have warmly welcomed me.I have amassed some amazing friends through the adoption community. I’ve traveled to speak at adoption conferences, I’ve met state legislators, lobbied at conventions, and been in newspapers and on television all in support of adoptee rights. I’ve found my tribe.

At the same time, I don’t fit in like I thought I would. It’s my fault. I can’t figure out my role. Maybe enough time has not yet come to pass? I’m still learning my family dynamics. This might take a while to sort out.

 

h1

Adopted Me: My Life as a Late-Discovery-Adoptee

September 1, 2011

Adopted Me: My Life as a Late-Discovery-Adoptee

By Jeff Hancock

I learned the truth just before I turned 42 years old: I was adopted. Over the years prior to my discovery, I had suspicions about being adopted. From my earliest memories as a young child, I had an instinctual feeling that I didn’t belong where I had somehow found myself to be. As a child, several times over the years I would purposefully open the door for my parents to break the news to me. However suspicious I felt, they were always very quick to deflect my inquiries toward another topic.

By the time I was to begin my senior year in college, I still felt the presence of that large white elephant always trailing behind me whenever I was in the company of my family. Sometimes it was a feeling of rejection or non-acceptance. There were times I felt ashamed to be around my extended family, as I never once felt as though I fit in with any of them. This feeling I have had throughout my entire life is defined as “the primal wound” [Verrier, 1993].

In her book by the same title, Nancy Verrier defines the primal wound asthe trauma each adoptee is burdened with that begins as a newborn infant, and continues throughout our lives. Every child who is separated from his or her biological mother will experience abandonment and loss.”  By the summer before my senior year in college, I was ready to shed away my white elephant, and directly find out once and for all if I were indeed adopted.

There was a lifetime of evidence to support my adoption conspiracy theory:  the kids at school, on the bus, and at church who teased, bullied, and called me “foster child”; the lack of a quilt from my paternal grandmother (she hand made one for each of her grandchildren except me); my exclusion from the Hancock family bible (a book over 200 years old with detailed names and relations); and finally, a faded Polaroid snapshot that said, Jeff, our foster child on the back.

Though it occurred during the summer of 1986, I remember it as though it were last week. I called home and I asked my mother directly, “Am I adopted?” Optimistically, I was expecting to hear a simple “yes” or “no” response. I was quite stunned at her reply, “Why, of course you’re our son!” Then Dad took the phone. He told me that I should speak to a pastor or a shrink because I had “gone off the deep end.” Both parents made it clear to me that I was their son and that I never should bring this up again as I had hurt them very much by questioning our relationship.

I immediately felt guilty for bringing up the matter. I hated myself for having upset them, especially Dad. He had a long history of heart disease, and I grew up with the daily reminder from my parents and sister that he “could die at any moment.” At the same time I was hurting from their criticisms. No part of this conversation made sense to me. I still felt adopted and even more rejected, unwanted, and unworthy than before.

Dad passed away from leukemia in 1990. He wanted for me to never know I was adopted. He told my family that he never wanted me to feel rejected for having been adopted.  (Knowing Dad, I now believe that he feared I would reject him as my father.) I remember being annoyed with my mom when she refused an autopsy following his death. My wife was six months pregnant with our first child, and I was scared that there might be something genetic in association with my father’s leukemia. I kept explaining to her why I needed to know the exact cause. Mom kept brushing it off. Now I understand why it didn’t matter.

My parents were blind to how other family members never accepted me. My mother and other family members continued to allow me to live the lie until late March, 2007.

In late 2006 there was much talk in Western New York State regarding an upcoming requirement that all US citizens travelling to Ontario, Canada would need to provide a US Passport. Entering Canada was a common practice for us. We have several college friends along the Niagara Peninsula, and we visited many times a year. I wanted to be the first to obtain my passport.

Quickly, I began asking my mother to supply me with my birth certificate, a document I’d never had in my possession. Each time I asked her to dig it out and send it to me, I was met with various excuses as to why she couldn’t find it. After several weeks I grew weary of asking her until I delivered my only other recourse: to pay New York State for a new copy. Once Mom realized that one way or another I was going to own my birth certificate, she was very quick to spill the beans and provide me with all the adoption related paperwork she had in her possession.

What Mom gave me wasn’t a birth certificate at all; it was a Certificate of Live Birth, otherwise known as an Amended Birth Certificate. Amended birth certificates vary in information they contain. The information on mine was sparse. An Original Birth Certificate (sometimes referred to as an “OBC”) contains a wealth of knowledge in comparison. This information may include the person’s weight and length at birth, parents’ names, hospital, physician, time of birth, a hand or finger print of the infant, religious faith, ethnicity, and in some cases the birth place of the parents.

In stark contrast, the amended birth certificate typically states the person’s adopted name, date of birth, the names of the adoptive parents, city and state of birth, and a raised state seal. The purpose of an original birth certificate is to certify that you were born into a specific family, faith, heritage, and ethnicity. The amended birth certificate is the only version that adoptees in New York State have a legal right to.  It states only that a person was born, and it lists the adopted parents as though they are in fact the person’s biological parents.

Ironically, had I simply gone beyond requesting my mother’s paperwork, and applied directly to the New York State Department of Vital Records, I’d have received an amended birth certificate with my adopted family listed as my birth family. Never would I have discovered my adoption.

After my discovery, and obtaining my state-censored birth certificate, I began my US passport application process. I was shocked at what I went on to learn. Passport requirements include submitting a certified birth certificate as proof of American citizenship. This birth certificate has to have been filed within a year of the person’s birth.   But my birth certificate – the amended version that the state will give me – was not filed until I was four years old.  Why?  Read on.

Before my parents adopted me, I was in their care as a foster child. Though I was born on April 18th, 1965, the only birth certificate I have access to (the amended version) was not filed until after my adoption on February 27th, 1969. Because the only acceptable birth certificate for passport application had to have been filed within a year of my birth, my application was rejected; my birth certificate was filed four years after my birth, when my adoption was finalized.

It is worth noting that In New York State, a foster child could forever remain in foster care until he or she becomes an adult at the age of 18. During those 18 years the original birth certificate is never sealed. However, once a child is adopted from foster care, whether that age is six weeks, six months, or sixteen years, the original birth certificate becomes sealed forever, with legal access only to the amended version.

Please try to imagine my frustration.  First my family denied me of the truth for nearly 42 years. Following this, I learned that my country is denying me issuance of a US passport. Finally, my lifelong state of residence, New York, continues to deny me access to the one and only item that stewards my very identity.

Beyond the aforementioned denials, I am also denied my non-identifying information as well.  “Non-ID,” as it is commonly called, is information that a social worker culls from adoption records to provide the adult adoptee information on his or her background, circumstances of birth, and so on, but stripped of any details that could allow that person to identify his parentage.

Through the New York State Department of Vital Records I was informed that the agency responsible for my foster care placement would furnish me with a report of my non-identifying personal information within four to six weeks. After many years of hoping for my information, I have recently given up of ever receiving it. Several times I have spoken with the current director of the Cattaraugus County Department of Social Services, and each time I receive a sympathetic explanation from her.

The absence of information about my life is due to a decades-old lack of structure to their archive storage practice. None of their foster care or adoption files are in any specific order. To complicate matters even further, the caseworker responsible for our records in the 1960s never noted dates, locations, employment information of the families, or any sibling information.

To carry things to the next step, that caseworker also assigned aliases to each child, and possibly to some foster/adoptive families. Though there are thousands of files in the archives, it is virtually impossible for today’s caseworkers to find a paper trail to follow to the information they are seeking for me now.

The only other source of potential non-identifying information lies within the vaults of the Cattaraugus County Family Court system. While New York State has kindly provided forms that enable adult adoptees to petition their prior Family Court for a copy of their “Original Order of Adoption” to my awareness not a single Family Court Judge has honored a single request. In my own experience, I continually petition regardless of each previous denial. There are only two family Court judges in Cattaraugus County; neither is willing to grant my request.

In a letter included with a recently denied petition, Hon. Michael Nenno suggested that if I really must know my personal information, I should consider hiring a private investigator. Beyond my familiar feelings of rejection, this incident angered me. Why should I have to spend a minimum of $2,500.00 to hire someone to gather information for me that my state and county governments can easily give to me, should they choose to do so? In my most recent petition to Justice Nenno’s court, I suggested that he and his staff do what other family court justices do, and that is to simply photocopy the files, and white-out any identifying information. Many months have now passed with no reply.  Next time I petition I will offer to pay the standard 15-cent-per-page photocopy fee. Perhaps that will finally sway him.

Not knowing the information on my birth certificate is like reading a book that has chapter one ripped out of it.  For much of my life I thought I had chapter one, but now I have to read my life all over again, but starting with the second chapter.  I want my first chapter,  just like everyone else.

It is for these very principles that in 2008 I became involved in the Adoptee Rights Movement. As a Late-Discovery Adoptee, I believe that my story is unique. Sadly, it is also representative of a bureaucratic sector of our society that fails to serve the very people it was meant to support.

Since discovery I have had a million thoughts battle in my head. Sometimes I feel grief, as if someone has died, yet I don’t know who. It’s like attending a funeral for my own sense of self, an identity that never was. I get angry sometimes; other times I’m depressed. Part of me wishes I’d been adopted by someone else. Some days I wish I’d been aborted. I don’t feel I know who I am anymore. I am so different from everyone else in my family. I’m always wondering if there is anyone on earth who may be like me.

Everyone in my small hometown, my parents’ church, my family, and my school knew of my adoption except me. I feel betrayed and taken for granted. I’m a very different person post-discovery. I was happy with the person I was before my mom’s revelation. I have no explainable way to describe who I am sitting here now.

So many things make sense to me now; countless odd little experiences over the years that suddenly now appear crystal clear. One such memory from when I was ten years old. My sister had married an emotionally and physically abusive man. On more than one occasion while they were living with us in our parents’ home, he referred to me as “the living abortion.” Even this sorry excuse of a human being was privy to my personal adoption story – 30 years before that story was shared with me.

As time continues to pass, I occasionally remember more details from my childhood. I now understand comments made to me by bullies at school and on the bus so many years ago. The many remarks, innuendos, and peculiar things spoken to me, or overheard at church, family picnics, and around town seemed odd then. Today I see why I was never accepted or included in family plans, invited to join clubs or groups at school, and avoided at church.

Because of my late discovery, I now fully understand the phrase “life-changing event.” I haven’t been able to describe just *who* I am anymore. I have only two known blood relatives: our sons. I fear for their futures not having the privilege of knowing half of their heritage or family medical history.

The most positive experience that I’ve had since my discovery has been knowing the countless other adoptees and first-families I have met through the Adoptee Rights Protest, the NYS lobby team, adoptee Facebook users, first-family members and adoptees who attend my monthly support group meetings, and several members of various state legislatures who agree with our cause and who labor to restore our right to access our original birth certificates.

I currently volunteer as an activist for restoring adoptees’ access to our original birth certificates statewide with New York’s Unsealed Initiative Project and nationally with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Also, I am a volunteer facilitator of monthly support group meetings with the Hillside Agency’s Adoption Resource Network in Rochester, New York.

Like most Americans, I had no idea that we adoptees are denied our equal rights until after my story unfolded. We each deserve to know who we are, just as each non-adopted adult is allowed to know.

Work Cited

Verrier, Nancy (April 1993). The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child. 1st Ed. Nancy Verrier Publisher.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State [online].

http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html  Retreived:August 21, 2011.

h1

My Life, So far, as a Late-Discovery Adoptee.

April 25, 2009

In late 2006 it all started simply enough, as I requested my birth certificate from my mother. I bugged her for weeks to send it to me. She kept saying she’d look for it, and that she was not sure she had it anymore. In reality, she knew where it was; locked securely in my sister’s safe! I was 41 years old then, and needed my birth certificate for a US Passport application. I have a close friend, my college buddy Kevin, who lives in Canada. I visit him as often as I can. However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security planned new passport requirements at that time that were to take effect by 2008. Either I get the required paperwork; or Ontario, Canada would no longer be my personal retreat.

Eventually, after weeks of requesting my paperwork, Mom called Mary Anne (my wife) at work. It was in spring 2007, a few days before my 42nd birthday. Mom is in tears, and spills her guts about my adoption story to my wife over the phone. Mary Anne comes home from work early to tell me. As it turns out, Mom did a lot of calling before she told Mary Anne. Mom called my Aunt Ethel, my in-laws, my sister Cindy, and my brother Denny for advice. Aunt Ethel, who was the best aunt in the world, told her that, “Jeff’s a lot smarter then you’ve ever given him credit for, and surely Jeff probably figured it out long before now.”

I had, sort of, but was denied the truth when I asked. Time to time from my teen years through college I’d occasionally suggest it to them, or joke about how “I must be adopted because….” Finally, when I confronted them seriously, my dad blew up at me, and my mom was speechless. This occurred during the summer of 1986. I was away at college at the time. Both parents denied it, dad told me I should speak to a pastor or a counselor because obviously I “had gone off the deep end”. They made it very clear to me that I was their son and that I never should bring this up again. Mom also made it clear that I had hurt them very much by questioning our relationship. I felt very guilty for bringing up the matter on that serious of a level. I hated myself at that time for having upset them; especially my dad. He had a long history of heart disease, and I grew up knowing he could die at any moment.

However, there was a lifetime of evidence to support my belief: Kids at school, on the bus, and at church who teased and bullied me and called me “Foster child”, lack of a quilt from my paternal grandmother (she handmade one for each of her grandchildren *except* me), the exclusion of my name from the Hancock family bible (a bible over 200 years old with detailed names and relation), and finally a faded Polaroid snapshot that said “Jeff, our foster child” on the back. When I mentioned the photograph, mom was quick to defend it by saying, “it says ‘faster’ because you grew so much faster than Cindy or Denny.” Dad separately offered the explanation, “That’s Karen’s handwriting, and she probably meant it because you liked hanging around her when you were a toddler.” Karen was my brother’s first wife who died in 1981. In all honesty, I didn’t know her that well. I doubt I hung around her at all, as my brother and his family were overseas at the time that picture of me, a Polaroid, was taken.

I had no choice but take my folks at their word. Dad died in 1990 of cancer. He took the secret to his grave. He wanted for me to never know. It was his way of protecting me. He never wanted for me to feel not-a-part of his life or family, even though other family members never fully have accepted me. Ironically, I remember being rather annoyed with my mom when she flat out refused to allow an autopsy following dad’s death. At the time my wife was 6 months pregnant with our first child. I was very scared that there may be something genetic in association with dad’s leukemia. I kept trying to explain to her why I felt I needed to know the exact cause. Now I understand why it didn’t matter.

Following the settling of Dad’s funeral, items dad wished to be split between my “siblings” and my self were to be distributed. It was fairly slim pickings compared to most as my family was always very poor in wealth. Still, dad’s final wishes were for all three of his children to receive personal items that he cherished. Long story short, my brother blessed himself with what few items he was entitled to as well as the one or two things dad wanted me to have. I was really hurt and very disappointed in my family when I took a daytrip down to mom’s to retrieve my possessions and found empty spaces where those possession were supposed to be. Mom assured me that because my brother is a pastor he would never knowingly steal from me. Yeah, right! My sister got dad’s car; she has never even had a driver’s license. My brother received dad’s guns, fishing equipment, table saw, roto-tiller, and hand-tools. I felt very ill that day. Mary Anne was with me, and reveled to me later that afternoon, “Jeff, I never believed everything you always said about your family not including you or respecting you. Now I have really seen it. You’ve been right all along!”

Forward back to spring 2007; mom was very upset upon having to reveal this deeply buried family secret. We drove for 2 hours for a visit so that she could give me my birth certificate and adoption paperwork. Also, she had several plumbing issues, so I spent Good Friday 2007 crawling around under her sink replacing several yucky pipes. As we walked in the house I could tell how upset mom was. I was still in a state of shock myself. I couldn’t talk about it all with her then. I still cannot speak to her about my adoption even now. I did make an honest attempt to communicate with my mom through a letter following that Good Friday. I sought only to sooth her for being upset over finally revealing my adoption. Before I knew it the entire family was at my throat. At a time when I had a grave need for the understanding and support of my adoptive family, and at a time when I felt my mother needed to hear that things were okay, they put me in my place for being a bad son.

In my letter I simply explained that I felt as though I never fit in, and that I was nothing like either sibling. I mentioned Cindy’s alcohol abuse and Denny’s extreme Christian fundamentalism (he’s an Evangelical pastor). I mentioned how I’ve never felt a desire or need for alcohol, nor have I ever felt comfortable in such an extremely evangelical environment as my brother is a pastor within. I mentioned how our family has two sides; those who immerse themselves in substance and alcohol abuse and those who immerse themselves in religion. Both life choices run rampant on either side of my family; there is no halfway measure between these two extremes. Bear in mind I in no way criticized either of my siblings, I only mentioned I have always felt different from everyone in our family; a feeling that I never really belonged.

My sister opened up the letter before Mom could, and read its contents. Both she and mom immediately became infuriated with me. The letter was taken completely out of context, and thrown back into my face. My sister was convinced I wrote it to get back at them for the decades of lies or for the hardships her drinking brought upon our family. She in turn convinced mom that was my intent. They stopped speaking to me for weeks. I went from having one family, to learning I have two, but ending up with none. 2007 sucked.

Everyone else I shared the letter with thought it was beautiful and should have made mom realize how much she is loved by me. Surprisingly, my brother stepped up to the plate, and told them they were wrong. Although he didn’t read the letter, he felt it was wrong for our sister to have and that clearly I was only attempting to nurture. He also admitted to never taking any steps to have a relationship with me due to the 20-year age difference between us, and that now he feels a bit guilty. Not guilty enough to ever call or send a birthday card, but at least he knows through Mom that I’m still alive.

It wasn’t until Christmas 2007 that my sister spoke to me again. Before Mom’s revelation Cindy used to call us two or three times a week just to talk. Since discovery I have had a million thoughts race through my head. Sometimes I feel grief, as if someone died, yet I don’t know who. I get angry sometimes, other times I’m depressed. Part of me wishes I’d been adopted by someone else, even though I miss my dad, and appreciate at least having a home as a child.

I don’t feel as though I know who I am anymore. I am so different from everyone else in my family. I’m always wondering if there is anyone out there anywhere who may be anything at all like me. I fear my birth family won’t want to know me, or they may be dead, or I may be a product of incest or rape. Sometimes I feel like a total idiot. Everyone in my home town knew of my adoption except me. I feel betrayed, lied to, and taken for granted. I’m a very different person post-discovery. I was happy with the person I was before mom’s revelation. I have no legitimate way to describe who I am sitting here all this time later.

At the same time, so many more things make sense to me now. Odd little experiences over the years that now appear crystal clear. From 1975-1982 my sister was married to a horrible and abusive man. He was not only an alcoholic, but he was a mean drunk. On more than one occasion, while living together in our parent’s home, he referred to me as “The Living Abortion.” Even this sorry excuse of a human being was privy to my adoption story.

As time continues to pass, I occasionally remember more details from my years being raised. I can understand comments made to me by the mean children at school and on the bus so many years ago. Comments, questions, and peculiar things they said to me at church, family picnics, and around town. Also, why I was never accepted or included in family plans, or invited to join clubs or groups in school or especially at church; I was raised in a very strict and evangelical faith. I know now why during my childhood and teen years I felt people were always watching me, waiting for me to make some terrible life decision. It was because they really were expecting me to!

Before 2007 I never fully understood the stigma of adopted children in an evangelical culture. My dear friend Lori, an adoptee, explained this to me a few years ago. I felt I knew how she felt growing up, yet I didn’t feel connected to her suffering. Now I see how society enjoys looking upon us as bastards produced through sin. How we’re destined to go the same path as those alleged “sinners” who produced us. I had no reason at the time to suspect anything, as I knew I *wasn’t* adopted because my “parents” said so! At the same time my inner soul did not agree with society, or the Christian preaching on adoptee pre-destiny. Now as an adult, people I long ago left behind in my mom’s church are stunned that I am not a druggie, alcoholic, father to countless unplanned pregnancies, or convicted criminal in spite of a) being adopted, and/or b) abandoning the evangelical/fundamentalist way of worship some 20+years ago.

Beyond my late-discovery, I now fully understand the saying “life changing event”. I haven’t been able to describe just *who* I am anymore. I have only two known blood relative; our two sons. I fear for their futures not having the privilege of knowing their heritage or medical history. Family tree assignments in their classrooms will have many more branchless limbs on my half than their mother’s side.

Before discovery, I was prescribed only seasonal allergy medications. Presently I am now on 11 different medications in addition to allergy prescriptions. I cannot sleep at night; I cannot stay awake during the day. I have anxiety attacks and I have depression. I can’t concentrate on common tasks now. Events I used to love I no longer choose to participate in. My diet and eating patterns are erratic. I take pills for anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and aches and pains that I never felt before. I haven’t had a complete night’s sleep in months. I feel detached from everyone, including my wife and kids.

On that miserable day the family secret was told I began my search within an hour of discovery. Countless months have now passed, and I have no more idea today than I did then as to who I am. My non-id is non-existent; so I’ve been told by those in authority. Many aliases were used to disguise adoptive families, birth/first mothers, and most of all; Bastards. Those aliases coupled with court sealed records make the likelihood of a biological reunion very slim. While my search is stalled, I have put my energies into assisting others search and into advocacy for unsealed records.

Providing adult adoptees access to his or her original birth certificate is the right thing to do. Like most Americans, I had no idea that adoptees are denied this civil liberty until my own story unfolded. This is a violation of our rights. We deserve to know just “who” we are.

Several months have elapsed since my discovery. I am grateful for the friends I can share stories and experiences with on MySpace and Facebook. I am grateful to my wife, her family, and our kids for their understanding. I’m grateful to my support group in Rochester, NY. I’m grateful for my wife and kids. I am also grateful for the many search angels who help us bastards in so many ways. I’m also grateful to that nameless, faceless person who gave me away in 1965, for whatever her reason in signing me away. I think of her everyday. I hope to find her, meet her, and thank her someday face-to-face despite the odds of reunion.

By Jeffrey A. Hancock; Late-Discovery-Adoptee
Born 4-18-1965 somewhere in Buffalo, New York