Written By: Marni Denenberg, an Adult Adoptee and Adoption Professional
Life as a teenager is often described as “the best of times,” but also confusing times. For the teen who was adopted, it may seem even more confusing. I was there, I know. I was adopted at birth. All I knew about my adoption: it was a private adoption through a local lawyer and the hospital where I was born. As you can see, not much information was shared with me. My parents explained that it was a closed adoption and no identifying information about my birth parents was even available.
I vividly recall putting on my makeup in the mirror and thinking … “Who do I look like?” Keep in mind that I grew up in a loving family, with two parents, two sisters a dog, cat and fish. Regardless, I still had my questions. If I was unhappy or in a bad mood, I would daydream about my birth parents — what did they look like and where they were from? When I was angry with my parents, I would imagine a loud banging at the front door. It would be my birth parents coming to “rescue” me. Off we would go to live in a castle far away. All of my teenage worries and concerns would melt away and life would be “perfect.” Arguments with my parents would usually end with me demanding: “I want my ‘real parents’!” At other times, I would dump all of my possessions in a mound outside my bedroom door and sulk. I felt alone.
I searched for my birth parents as a grown up. I was not looking to replace my parents, but still wanted answers. I needed to fill that emptiness I had been carrying through my life.
The phone rang. I was at work and expecting a call on a project. When the woman introduced herself from the adoption registry, my mouth dropped and I felt queasy. “Do you want the good new, or the bad news?” she asked. The good news – they had found my birth mother. The bad news – she had passed away. No! I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Tears welled up in my eyes as I listened to the information about Brigitte, my birth mother. Two weeks later my birth father was located. This too was a disappointment. While he was alive and living in the same state, he had a family of his own and feared telling them about me. We met for lunch. We talked, looked at some old photographs and compared hands. He was full of personality: a shark fishing, scuba diving, airplane flying, and successful businessman. He was short, stocky and Italian. He had a wife and three children, who he referred to as my brothers and sister (they were really half-siblings, but whatever). At the end of lunch, we time is right.”
It has been over ten years since that lunch and I remain a family secret. We speak and email on occasion and I feel happy to know him. But being a family secret is painful. It is.
As you can see, finding my birth parents did not work out how I had imagined. All of my longing and daydreaming was just that … a daydream. The waves have come and washed away the sand castles of my youth. And who is standing there, who remains? My parents, waiting to walk me home.