Midnight Mass

Though I don’t consider myself a Christian, and I don’t even know where I  stand on whether or not a god exists – I lean to not existing, I love Catholic Mass, especially Midnight Mass on Christmas Day. I don’t remember it at all, but I grew up in the Catholic church until I was about seven. Then we moved to being Southern Baptist, but that’s a different story. When I got older, and we used to come  back to Texas to visit relatives, my agrandma, who is still Catholic, would take me with her to Midnight Mass. I love the ritual, the candles, the incense, and, on Christmas especially, the music of the church. I love the symbolism and the history, the connection to antiquity. The Church doesn’t change much, and if it does, it takes it centuries. So some of these rituals are things that have been done for over a thousand years.

So I went to Midnight Mass. The church was really old. I looked it up later, and it had been (re)built around 1400. The service was interesting. I could tell I was in Britain and not America when the vicar used the word sex several times in his sermon. …I don’t think they call it a sermon in Catholic churches, but whatever. Unfortunately, the service was different from the ones I’ve been to in the States, and the differences were just enough that it was disconcerting and I found it not nearly as comforting as usual. Every Catholic Mass I’ve been to in recent years has reduced me to tears. Not this time, though, not even when they sung Silent Night, because the words of the song were different than the ones I knew and it threw me off. (For the record: My aMom used to sing me that song every night when I was a kid. It made it hard to hear after she died.) The minor, nagging difference made the service a bit uncomfortable, as they made me feel like I didn’t know what would happen. If there’s one thing I really love about the Catholic church, it’s the predictability and routine of it. You’re supposed to be able to go anywhere in the world and experience basically exactly the same service. And if masses were still in Latin, it’d be the same language, too. But this was different. Not stable or secure.

Excepting that and the trigger-time when one of the official church people (possibly a priest, but I have no idea) used the word adoption to describe how people get into God’s family [uhm…no. You’re (re)BORN into God’s family. And you’re even made in his image, so no genetic mirroring issues there, either!], it was pretty nice. I enjoyed it.

When I got home, I talked to my husband about it, and he informed me that I’d gone to the Church of England church. I looked it up, and sure enough, I had. Oops. The Catholic church and the Church of England church are right next door to each other, and I accidentally went to the CoE’s service. I’m assuming (hoping) that’s where all the differences came from. (Sidenote: They spell Noel as Nowell. O.o Had never seen that before in my life.) I wish I’d realised beforehand, because going to the wrong service also meant I missed all the carols. The music is at least half of the reason, if not more, I like to go.

So by the time midnight mass was out, obviously it was past midnight and officially Christmas Day. In the afternoon, Dom and I went over to his parents’ house for Christmas dinner and presents. I had a great time. I’ve been wanting to learn how to knit, since I can’t afford to buy a sewing machine, and Dom got me some yarn and a book entitled The Ultimate Book of Baby Knits by Debbie Bliss. My father-in-law joked around saying, “Now you’ve got to knit us a grandchild.” He and my husband also got me The Knitting Book by Cath Kidston. It’s a beginner’s knitting kit, including a how-to-knit booklet, instructions to make a scarf, needles, and yarn for said scarf. I haven’t tried yet, but I will soon. Maybe it will be my reward for getting my coursework done…

Later that night, I tried to call my Mom, but she didn’t answer. I left a voicemessage, though. In the next few days, I got the best present ever. In the mail came two cards, one which was from my Mom. She wrote my (original/real/current) name and a nice little note and signed it “Mom”. 😀 I was so happy she called herself Mom in relation to me, instead of by her first name. (Also, I love her handwriting. Is that weird?)

I normally try to call once a week on Saturday afternoons, but the next time I called was just after it turned to 2012 here. She didn’t pick up then, either, and I didn’t get the voicemail this time. I think I might have not dialed correctly, supposed to press the # key after pressing the number, but I don’t think I did. So I’m torn on whether or not to try to call again or let it wait until my usual time, and then, if I do call again and talk to her, would that mean I can’t/shouldn’t call at the weekend? *sigh* Reunion is complex.

New Year’s

Happy New Year’s, everyone! I hope 2012 brings some joy and happiness to you all. In the spirit of the season, I’m going to post my New Year’s resolutions. I have never ever finished all of them before. Maybe I should make that one of my resolutions. But this year, the list is less idealistic, so I think I may have a chance of doing them all!

My 2012 New Year Resolutions

  • exercise once a week
  • write diary once a day

My maternal great-grandmother who died recently (never got to meet her) apparently kept a daily journal for several decades, just a page a day. I believe she started when she was 17… They’re now all in the custody of my great-aunt who told me about them. I thought it sounded like a wonderful idea, so I want to get in the habit of doing it, too. I love personal historical records like that. Maybe that’s why I love facebook and blogs. I love mundane details about people’s lives.

  • get hair cut again
  • find a job
  • graduate
  • go to school every (or almost every) day
  • learn to knit

I’ve been really wanting to learn to knit, so I can make clothes and blankets and things. I can sew, on a basic level and make basic things by following a pattern, but that requires a sewing machine. Knitting only needs yarn and needles, so I thought it’d have less initial investment. For Christmas, my husband got me a book of knits for baby and some yarn, and my husband and father-in-law got me a beginner’s knitting kit that has needles, yarn, a how-to-knit booklet, and instructions on making a scarf. So I’m all set to start learning! 😀

  • win 3rd nanowrimo
  • self-publish mind the gap
  • do christmas cards on time

I did Christmas cards this year. But apparently the mailing date was the 9th of December. And then I ran out of motivation/money. So they’re all still sitting around my house, waiting to be mailed, which probably won’t happen until February. So, this year, I’ll know to start doing them in November. Lesson learned.

  • get British driver’s licence
  • change name on birth certificate

I changed my name back to my true name by court order six months ago. Apparently I can use that to change the name on my birth certificate, which I didn’t realise you could do. But when I sent it in the first time, or rather NC’s Dept of Vital Statistics sent it, the TX Dept of Vital Statistics returned the copy of the court order to me saying it wasn’t valid – despite having a raised seal – and also noting that I’d forgotten the money. So, in February, I’m going to send it again, with the same court order, with a note stating that the pink slip is valid because it has a raised seal and signatures. So get over it being pink, take my money, and change my falsified records.

That’s most of my resolutions. If any of y’all do resolutions, good luck!

My (Public) Adoption Story, As I Know It

Since I just joined an adoptee social network, and they asked for a story, I figured I’d modify my password protected one to make a version I don’t mind being totally public. It’s practically the same as the private version.

WARNING:  I’m not certain how much of it’s true. Parts are what have been told to me by my Mom, parts are what have been told to me by my Dad, parts are what have been told to me by my aparents, and we all know how much they lie, or more to the point, how much the agencies lie to them. So I really don’t know if I can trust what they’ve told me. I trust what my Mom and Dad have told me more. But, either way, I don’t have the full story. I really want to ask my Dad questions, but I just don’t feel like I can, even though he’d probably talk to me about it. It’s awkward and complicated.

Anyways. On my lovely boards that I never post on, there are support categories for closed adoption adoptees and open adoption adoptees. They forgot the semi-open/semi-closed adoption category, which is what I generally consider mine to have been. 1987 was in the transition period of moving adoptions from being closed to being “open”, and I think semi-open was relatively standard. As established by the wonderful countries who don’t really do adoption, the vast majority of mothers don’t actually not want their kids, so why in the world would they voluntarily choose to have no contact or knowledge of how their child is doing? Now that we’re not strapping mothers down and drugging them and stealing their children from the moment they’re born, the agencies had to do something to keep supply up, leading them to the concept of “open” adoption.

I digress. According to both parties, my adoption was supposed to have been closed. A Catholic agency handled my adoption. I know that my parents saw me in the hospital and even held me, as I have a picture, but I have no idea how long I was there. For all I know, it was only the day of my birth. After that, I went to a foster family and was there until I was 19 days old. I have no idea if my Mom knows that I was going to go to foster care.

So at 19 days, I went to my future adoptive parents. Unsurprisingly, my Mom went a little insane after I was born and relinquished. At the time, my grandma attended a grief support group at her (Catholic) church. According to my Mom, the nun was supposed to have put me with a family in a different city. The more I think about that, the more I think they just told her that and never really meant it. By stroke of luck and that nun’s “mistake”, my eventual adoptive grandma also attended this support group. What must’ve happened is that my eventual aparents got me, eventual agrandma shared with the church, and my grandma put the pieces together and told my Mom.

Cue mother going mental because she went against millions of years of human instinct. Yes, she did track down my eventual aparents. She drove past their house and peeked in windows to see if she could see I was alright. Yes, my aparents went kind of classic adoptoraptor and were terrified of “the birthmom” and how she “might want me back”. Oh, the horror. The mother of a child might want their child back where they belong. They should have given me back. I wonder if she even knew she could get me back. I wonder if she could, I don’t know when relinquishment became final back then. It’s still my fantasy that she snuck through the window and stole me back. But anyways. They were actually considering moving to another city because of this.

They didn’t. They contacted the agency. The agency contacted my Mom and told her to cut down on the stalking (though I don’t consider finding your own child stalking). Through the agency, they agreed to open the adoption a little with letterbox contact, which made it a semi-open adoption. My eventual aparents sent letters/pictures/what have you to the agency, the agency passed them on to my Mom, and vice versa, and the agency cut out anything they considered identifying. So I’ve got letters with pages and words missing.

I think this went on for a few years. For the longest time, she always addressed her letters to me with my real name, the one she gave me at birth. I wish she hadn’t stopped. More to the point, my adoptive parents had no right to change my name, and I resent that they did. Not even three years later, she had another kid, my first half-brother. My half-brother went to live with just his father’s family, and she had my half-sister.

It was after my sister was born that it moved to sort of an “open” adoption. I don’t know when we first met in person, but I think it was the time I also first met my sister, when I was about six or so. I don’t remember it. If we had any other visits, I don’t remember them. I do remember fantasising heavily about her and my unknown father. All I knew about him was his name, and I would stare at my one picture of me, my Mom, and him when I was a newborn all the time.

For my thirteenth birthday, I went back to my hometown and spent a nice day with my Mom. She took me to her house and I met my then-youngest half-brother, we had lunch, and she bought me a present. Not too long after that, I was told by my aparents that she didn’t want to have any contact with me anymore. My Mom says that’s true. She doesn’t want her in-laws to find out about me or my oldest half-brother.

So my thirteen year old response to her rejection was “well if you don’t want me, I don’t want you!” Totally false, but that was my coping strategy. I turned my energies to my nDad. I’d been wanting to find him, and when I told my Mom that on my 13th birthday, she gave me his first and middle name. Still not sure why she didn’t give his last name… I didn’t really do much about my desire to search until after 9/11. After that, I scoured the passenger lists for his name. I had to find him. Eventually, I found a little letter than had my paternal grandma’s first and last name on it. Her maiden name is Smith. Luckily for me, she’s a little hippy and changed it to something totally unique. I’d been warned not to contact her, but she was my only lead. It was easy to find her, and she talked to me on the phone and told me how to find my paternal grandfather and through him my nDad. She was really nice, even said she loved me on the first call.

By design, she hadn’t known about me until the day I was born, after my nDad came home from visiting me and my Mom at the hospital. He’d been abused by her when he was little, and he was afraid that she’d try to get custody of me. Given her mental state back then, it’s entirely possible that could’ve gone wrong. So I think her unstable abusiveness was part of the reason I was put up for adoption. Not entirely sure why my nDad didn’t step up to the plate, though…

So, I called the paternal grandpa. I think I first talked to my…to be honest I don’t remember who I talked to first, haha. All I know was that he wasn’t there the first time I called. He worked at sea and was currently…at work. So I had to call back when he came back, which I did, and I know I was playing Journey’s “Open Arms” when I called to talk to him. I couldn’t verbalise it then, but I wanted him to love me and not reject me, and he didn’t.

We had a very up and down relationship after that, staying in touch via very sporadic e-mail. My search and reunion with my nDad didn’t sit well with either of my aparents, particularly my adad, and he mostly stopped talking to me. Which by that point was fine with me.

Fast forwarding, lots of stuff happened in the next couple years. We met in person once and did the classic staring at each other thing. I was a stupid, idiotic teenager and wore my pro-life shirt that I’d had since I was 2 (ugh). I definitely had the mindset of “Adoption, not abortion!” when I was still brainwashed by society. Then in 2004 I went out to stay with him for a week. During that week, we drove up North to go to the big family gathering. I don’t think I could possibly describe how overwhelming and utterly amazing it was to be in a house filled with people who looked like me, acted like me, and had similar interests and talents. It was incredible, and I’d dearly love to repeat the experience.

Within days of going to stay with him, he offered to allow me to move in with him. I accepted the offer. I was sixteen. I moved in with him, started college, and lived with him until early 2008.

I moved out, and he continued being terrible. In addition to that, my amom was dying of breast cancer. She died at the end of June, and my nDad got back in touch with my Mom and told her and gave her my contact info. She called and left me a message about how she’d be there for me. I ignored her, because she didn’t want me back then, so I didn’t want her now. That’s what I tried to tell myself.

It wasn’t until 2010 that I started looking at adoption issues and everything else, and that’s when I got back in touch with my Mom and found my siblings on facebook. We started to talk, and then I must’ve said too much about adoption or something, and she didn’t want me anymore. Now I’m trying to figure out how I can open the lines of communication between the two of us. As for my nDad, I’m cautiously testing the waters to see what kind of person he is now. I’d like to start over with him and build up a new father-daughter relationship, and I think that’s possible for us. I hope so. It’s just getting past everything… I don’t know how to do that.

My Siblings

I haven’t talked about my siblings much, but they’ve been on my mind a lot recently. As has my family in general. I’m facebook friends with a good portion of my natural family on my Dad’s side, mostly cousins and aunts, and it sure seems like the majority of their birthdays are in December. Barely a day’s gone by that I haven’t had a reminder on facebook telling me it’s one of my relatives’ birthdays. September, with two family/very close friend birthdays, used to be my busiest month. Not anymore.

Thinking about birthdays led me to think about my siblings. My sister’s birthday is in mid-December. I am the oldest of the five of us. She is the third. My birthday is in late November, then there’s my sister’s birthday almost a month to the day after, then my oldest half-brother, TJ’s, birthday in mid/late January. When I talked to my Mom a couple of days ago, I asked her about my other two half-brother’s birthdays, curious to know if we were all in a line.

We’re not. We almost are, just one birthday throwing us off. It would’ve been funny. Casper’s is in October, then mine almost exactly a month later, then Noel’s exactly two months after Casper’s, then TJ’s almost exactly a month later. Only Ash’s birthday is off. His is in May.

As for our ages, I’m twenty-four, TJ will be twenty-two next month, Noel just turned nineteen, Casper just turned thirteen, and I think Ash will be four or five next year. I’ve never met Ash, and he was born during the long ten year period my Mom shut off contact.

I’ve also never met TJ , though I really want to. I think we probably have the most in common. We’re the closest in age, which helps, he was also abandoned by our Mom, and we’re both her dirty little secret. I don’t know the full story, but I’m fairly certain our Mom didn’t have a hand in his upbringing from the time he was 2. I believe he grew up outside of Texas with his father and other family. I wish we’d known more about each other and his Dad’s family had got in contact with my adoptive parents. When we became facebook friends two years ago, I found out from his profile that, at one point, he’d lived less than half an hour from us.

Since neither he nor I grew up with our Mom, we became her secret when she married her latest husband. The in-laws are uber-Catholics, the judgmental, preachy type, the type who would’ve forced their daughter to go to an unmarried mother’s home during the Baby Scoop if they’d had a child old enough for that. Apparently they hate/extremely disapprove of my Mom just for having been married and divorced and having two kids by two different fathers. They have no idea she has another child, also by a different husband, and one she gave up for adoption – one born out of wedlock when she was a teen. I imagine they’d probably have a heart attack upon learning that news. I was the only one of her children born out of wedlock. She was married to the Dads of all the other siblings, though the marriages generally didn’t last long. So while all the kids know about me and TJ, the in-laws don’t, and she wants to keep it that way. I have no idea how she’s managed to keep that secret so far, and I’m fairly certain it’s only a matter of time before it gets out somehow. I’m not looking forward to that day.

I can’t wait to meet TJ. I hope the next time I’m in Texas he’ll be around. He lives in Texas, but he’s in the military so he doesn’t live in Austin. The last times I was in Austin, he wasn’t, though he seems to be there relatively often, visiting Noel.

Noel, I have met, several times, more times than I (or she) remember. We met once when she was about four or five. All I remember from that meeting was that we did gymnastics together, and I was gobsmacked at how alike we looked. She looked like a younger carbon-copy of me, except she had blue eyes. (I’m also the only sibling that didn’t get light/blue eyes. I’m jealous.) Apparently we met at other times, too, but I don’t remember them. When I was in Texas in 2009, I met up with her again. She didn’t remember us meeting when we were younger, so for her, it was essentially the first time. For me, too. It was very awkward, but it was so nice to see her. She doesn’t really look like me anymore. All of the siblings have so far ended up looking more like their fathers. My great aunt (maternal-side) commented on that when I met her earlier this year. However, we’re about the same height, which is nice, especially growing up in a family of tall(er) people, and we’re both very weird, though she is louder and takes the weird-cake. Her father is also very strange. I haven’t met him, but I’ve stalked his facebook.

I’ve met Casper once. He was a baby, like three or so. I met him briefly when I was thirteen. I was in Austin for that birthday, and I spent the day with my Mom. She took me out to eat and to a store to buy me a present, and we talked a lot. Then she took me home and showed me all kinds of pictures she’d kept of me and things from the hospital she’d saved from when I was born. Then, she cut off all contact. So I saw Casper for a moment. But it’s been ten years, and he’s a teenager now. It’d be awesome to get to know him now, but I doubt that’ll happen until he’s older/moves out/has a facebook.

Like I said earlier, Ash wasn’t even a thought at the time my Mom cut contact. He would’ve been born when I was about twenty or twenty-one. I’m not sure how old he is. Of course, I haven’t met him. I’ve seen some pictures, found them somewhere, and I’ve heard his voice in the background when I’ve talked to my Mom on the phone, but that’s it. I wish I could have one sibling relationship that started from when they were younger and evolved naturally, but I don’t think that’ll happen with him, either. Not unless the in-laws die. So, I suppose I’ll have to wait another ten or more years before I can meet him.

It’s weird to have siblings you don’t know. Except for Noel and possibly TJ, I wouldn’t even recognise them in the street if I passed them. I hardly know anything about them, and it’s strange to build a sibling relationship as adults. I don’t even know how to make friends. How in the world do you go about making siblings? I guess we all muddle through and do our best, but I often feel like I’m not doing enough or I’m not doing it right. I usually feel like I’m just messing it up, and they’ll decide it’s not worth the trouble. I mean, we went some twenty-odd years without knowing each other. What’s forty/fifty/whatever more? I don’t want that, and I hope they don’t, either. And maybe one day I can have a picture with all of us together. That would be nice.

Safe Haven

This is a bit of a rant. There are far better critiques of Safe Haven out there. Like the one Fugitivus did here.

Safe Haven has good intentions but is a more than terrible idea. Anonymity should NEVER be promised or granted, because every child/eventual adult deserves to know who they come from and who their parents are. Now we’re going to have yet another generation of human beings who have no idea where they are from and will likely never know, even with DNA testing. Not only that, but it’s dangerous and negligent to leave them with zero medical history or contact with the other parent or relatives. If a baby is relinquished through Safe Haven, every option should be given to the mother to help her through whatever situation she is facing that is making her so desperate and to help her keep her baby. The fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of mothers want their babies. Some just need help to enable them to be good parents. Barring mother/child preservation, relatives should be found and considered. Stranger placement should be an absolute last resort.

Besides that, how can you actually be certain it’s a parent dropping the child off? Another problem is that two people are involved in the creation of a child. Why is it that only one (if you are assuming it is indeed a parent dropping the kid off) is needed to get rid of it? No parent has the right to relinquish the parental rights of the other, possibly non-consenting, parent.

Safe Haven is nothing but a band-aid. It does nothing to address the actual causes of why people abandon or abuse people, and in its history it can already be proven that the people who dump their child in the river are not the same ones who will surrender to Safe Haven.

And as an aside: No parent is a “birth” anything. They are the child’s parents. They may be terrible ones, but that is who they are. If a child is brought up in substitute care, the kid may end up with one or two (or more) other parents, but that does not change the fact that the people responsible for the child’s conception and birth are, and will always be, his/her parents. To deny that bond and connection is to deny the child’s very existence and invalidates his/her origins and heritage.

Birthday Blues

Post was written on the 23rd

This post was going to be a bit more dour than it is now. I just recently got off the phone with my Mom. 🙂 Since she hadn’t called all day yesterday, I thought she wasn’t going to. Anyways.

Yesterday was my birthday. I’ve never had the typical adoptee problem of hating my birthday, with the exception of my first birthday. Apparently I was miserable all day. I’ve always loved my birthdays and looked forward to them, because I love getting older. When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to be eighteen. Now that I’m over eighteen, my next most exciting birthday is 25, the age when I’m fully legal for everything – car rentals hang on to the age of 25 for full rental privileges. Really, I just find most birthdays exciting, because I still love getting older.

However, this year has been a bit different. This is the first I’ve been fully cognizant of adoption issues, adoption industry issues, and been in full reunion. Needless to say, it was difficult this year, and I resented it being difficult, as I’d previously always unreservedly loved my birthdays.

This year, most of the entire day was difficult. It was hard to sleep. I couldn’t help but think of everything that I now know happened afterwards, and my brain kept catching on what my Mom said, me being “all alone in the nursery”, combined with the information in my lifebook from the foster parents I was with from five to nineteen days old. I don’t know what preemies are supposed to act like after birth, but it was either that or baby depression. Possibly both.

So it struck again this year, and it was miserable. At first, I wanted to just sleep all day, so I wouldn’t have to be awake for most of it. But then chocolate cake called. So at least there was that

It was really difficult to keep the sadness at bay, though, especially as the day wore on with no call from my mother. I wondered if she’d forgotten, I wondered if maybe she was retreating (again). I couldn’t keep my thoughts off of what it was like for me and her back then. I don’t know exactly how she felt, but I can make educated guesses based on talking to her and other family members, as well as just doing research on mothers of loss and talking to other mothers of loss. There’s far more commonality than difference.

All in all, I hope this new development doesn’t hang around. It was fucking miserable, and I don’t really need something new to learn how to cope with. Especially not when it only comes around once a year so might take a while to figure out how to work around it.

Luckily, my mother called as soon as she woke up on the 23rd. Apparently it was just a case of working all day and learning how to dial an international number. She even specifically said she didn’t want me to think she’d forgotten. 🙂 Her call soothed all those annoying adoptee-paranoia whispers in my head. I have a lot of hope for our new relationship. I just wish we could talk in person again. Maybe some day.

Me and My Parents