Late Discovery Adoptee: My Story

Me in front of FJ

My story

I am a Late Discovery Adoptee. I found out I was adopted when I was 42 years old.

I was adopted at birth.

My mother never had the chance to touch me (‘they’ told her I died).

I never knew consciously. My origins were kept a secret from me. However, my body knew. My soul. My unconscious. My cells. My muscles. My marrow. My blood. My dna.

The relinquishment orchestrated my life as a phantom conductor might.

That tear, that loss, that irrevocable rupture reverberated. On every level.

So that when I found out, much became clear. The undiagnosed chronic psychological pain. The childhood depression. Marginalisation. Insecurity. Constant anxiety etc…sometimes there are no words to describe the tearing…(see what A for Adoption has to say about her poignant birth experience)

I was very grateful to find out, to be given the chance to understand what has been wrong all these years.

Very grateful.

To know.

To have a chance to consciously grieve instead of that grief leaching out inexplicably into all areas of my life across the silent years. To express what my body had to keep imprisoned (and still, to some extent, does). To heal. To integrate. To hold myself. To embrace my truth.

I have written my story in a fictionalised memoir (the names changed) that I hope will be published soon.

So what happened to me as a child, adolescent, young woman and adult, and how I found out, what happened next… I will leave hanging for now…

In the meantime there are a few themes that I would like to highlight and discuss on this website regarding Late Discovery Adoptees and Relinquishment/Adoption in general.

Themes such as:

The Rights of the baby/child/adult to know…

This is very much an issue these days with laws still banning the release of birth records, donor inseminations, surrogacy, and wombs for hire etc. So it is still a topic to be compassionately understood, and I would argue, from the baby’s perspective. So I will state my bias upfront: I believe every child has the right to know who their parents are (and to contact). I believe their rights supersede the rights of the adults involved. I am not against adoption. But the child must be told and then nurtured through the loss. The adoptive parents also have to know what it means to lose your mother at the very moment you are coming into Being. To lose your Universe. Your Self. Their love cannot replace the lost mother’s love because at birth the baby and the mother are one in ways that can never be replicated. This is where the ‘primal wound’ is given. It is a wound that can never be healed (those lost moments, hours, days, weeks, months, years can never be replaced as they were and might have been). The wound can only be understood. Embraced. Integrated. Nurtured. Seen. Witnessed. Allowed. Made Legitimate. Only then can the wound become some kind of reconstituted nesting place where we can re-womb and give birth to ourselves within our truth, not as marginalised, liminal human beings, not as objects of personal and societal and cultural shame. Only then can we render adoption ethical.

So I write and paint the last (and lasting) memories of my mother.

I photograph the liminal spaces, wherein I find her and, therefore, myself.

I sing – unbeknownst until I was 42 – with her voice. Her echoes. Her reverberations.

That timbre my own.

17 responses to “Late Discovery Adoptee: My Story

  1. Yes, this is beautiful and poignant and true. The secrets that families hold and the truths they never reveal … and we spend our whole lives wondering where to find the missing bits. Thank you for this Kim … so resonant with those of us who haven’t had your experience and can still ‘see’ what you feel.

  2. Again, thank you so much for your beautiful response to my post. Thank you for ‘seeing’ and for your unfailing generosity. Yes, as you say, secrets and silences, psychological quick sand…in whatever form it takes.

  3. Pingback: Late Discovery Adoptee: Kim’s Story | LARA/TRACE (author)

  4. I always felt that there was something wrong with me, when I found out near 40 that I was adopted it became clear to me why I felt so strange. It destabilised my life however and 20 years later I still feel the pain. Hard to describe in just one sentence. Thank you for your web page.

  5. Murray, I am so sorry I missed your post till now. My sincere apologies. Thank you so much for your comment. I truly appreciate your thoughts and presence here. As a fellow LDA my heart goes out to you in understanding of the pain that still haunts. You are right, it is so hard to describe and to pin down. The trauma of relinquishment happens before words and it is hard to fit it in to language after the fact, especially when you are denied the ability to grieve until you are an adult. Thanks again for stopping by. The kindest regards to you and the very best, Kim

  6. Somewhere in time, the human rights of a child at birth will be defined in federal and state laws. This includes keeping their family name even if adopted. For certain, the Baby Scoope Era taught us the inhumanity of hiding the truth to adoptees

  7. At 47 I have discovered that my Dad is not my biological father. That was 15 crazy months ago. My parents are both deceased so I can’t ask them however it seems so many people knew. I have been asking questions, trying to understand what happened, searching for information. I thought I was just finding out about my Dad however as time went on it seemed that possibly my mother wasn’t my biological mother either. I am waiting on a DNA result that will tell me one way or the other about my mum. I am not sure if it is only my Dad that wasn’t my biological father whether I still qualify as a late discovery adoptee but I sure feel like one.
    Everything I read written by people who have gone through this feels like it is my emotions being expressed. The feelings of loss, of just not belonging anywhere are overwhelming. I have always felt like I didn’t fit in my family and suspected I might be adopted. Pure instinct, no one ever said anything or gave me any indication. But suspecting I was adopted and facing the reality are two very different things. I never asked my parents, it always seemed like a ridiculous thing to ask, I now wish I had of.
    My birth family, at least on my fathers side, I know well. They are family friends. The fact that they choose not to include me as a member of their family just breaks my heart, I don’t understand how they could know I was part of their family and not include me. Some of them are furious at me for continuing to ask questions, they say I am just making trouble and should ‘get over it’, but I can’t. Every time I ask questions I get different answers and I am sure they are still withholding information. My guess is that both my birth parents are from the same family.
    When I started querying whether my mother gave birth to me I went looking for my birth records only to be told by the hospital that I wasn’t born there.
    The story is so complicated and crazy what I have written is just the very simplified version.
    I am finding this all so difficult to deal with, I just don’t know what to do or how to have any peace. Any help any one can offer –books to read, support groups…….., anything would be greatly appreciated.

    • Karen, my heart goes out to so so much. I know the pain you are feeling is indescribable and enduring. It is beyond comprehension that firstly it has occurred, and then that others knew and never told, as if somehow you would never know or never remember (a baby, child remembers EVERYTHING). And of course, your body remembers, your cells, your muscles – your trauma and grief are all held in your marrow memory. Your ‘pure instinct’ was correct, welling up from a place of truth, the “un-thought known” trying to find expression. The feeling of not belonging is overwhelming, persistent and debilitating. The silence, secrecy, lies, and mis-truths cause such a void of being.
      It is still so fresh for you and the pain and loss acute. You are catching up on 47 years of repressed and silenced grief so be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to grieve, to feel it. Are you able to engage in some therapy with someone who knows about the special needs surrounding the issues of identity betrayal and adoption/relinquishment? Whereabouts are you? One book I think will really help (as it helped me and so many others like us) is “The Primal Wound” by Nancy Verrier. It is the best book I have ever read on adoption trauma. And trauma it is. Many therapists do not understand the issues for those who have been relinquished and lied to until adulthood (in your case, for five decades!) let alone family members who have a vested interest in not addressing your questions or your pain. I have had a similar experience with relatives telling me I should be grateful and to stop asking questions.
      So, allow your heart to express itself, allow your little girl within, that wee innocent babe that has done nothing wrong, to have a voice and to feel. She has been grieving for a long time and your lack of peace is an inevitable outcome of what has been done to you. It will take time. One of the most debilitating aspects of relinquishment/adoption is when the child is not told, when it is not incorporated into their development process. You have no way of integrating the primal grief of losing your mother/father and identity.
      So I do encourage you very much to read “The Primal Wound”. At least start from there. If you can’t get a hold of a copy let me know and I will help you find one. Also, please know you are not alone. And everything you feel is important. Finding out you are not who you were lead to believe you were is the biggest shock/betrayal/cruelty. It is like a death. And it is hard to get over because no one recognises it as such. So please don’t hesitate to contact me anytime if you want to talk things over, or have questions, or need help in any way. I can’t thank you enough for leaving your story on my blog and that I now know you, you will be in my thoughts and heart absolutely. Only all too well do I know the hurt, confusion and feelings of annihilation that come from finding out so late in life. It makes you feel disembodied, worthless, and ashamed and it is imperative that others see this and embrace you in your pain. It’s great you are able to find a voice though and speak about what has happened. If there is anything I can do to help in any way, let me know. Warmest regards and kindest wishes to you Karen…and thank you again…

      • Hi again,
        thank you so much for your comments and I will get hold of the book you recommended. I can’t believe the impact this has had on me. I am so angry and hurt. My biological family knew about me. The whole extended family was friends with my family AND they all knew yet those choose to treat me just like any other family friend, didn’t worry when they lost contact with me and when they came back in my life and told me the news they thought we would all just play happy families. Couldn’t and don’t understand my need to know what happened, why, why they just forgot about me for 30 odd years…… don’t understand why I am angry. Basically their attitude is just get over it. I just don’t know where to start to begin to feel normal again. Karen

      • Hi Karen, My apologies for not getting back sooner!
        It is really hard to deal with the feelings of hurt and anger but it is important to allow yourself to feel the grief and pain. It is such a betrayal to find out that family all knew and that they now expect you to ‘play along’ as you say and pretend nothing happened. The abandonment is overwhelming and cuts so deep, right to the core of who you are. This is something you can’t simply ‘get over’. You angry because of this betrayal, the abandonment, the lies. It is an absolutely appropriate and healthy response.
        A lot of people do not want to deal with the issues surrounding relinquishment, abandonment, and betrayal. It makes them uncomfortable and adoption for many, in all its forms, remains a taboo. That’s why it is important for you to have a voice, to express what you feel, and to have it embraced. It is heart breaking that your family as a whole will not even try to understand your pain. Unfortunately, this often very much the case. Have you thought about finding a therapeutic space in which you could download your feeling – feelings that have been locked away for decades and need a compassionate and caring platform for expression.

        I would very much encourage to find an adoption counsellor wherever you are in the world. Try to find someone who specialises in this work. Nancy Verrier (author of ‘The Primal Wound’) might also be able to help you find the right therapist, if you are in the USA. If you are in OZ, I will try to help you find someone here.
        Let me know if you need any help with this…and my apologies again for the delay in my reply.

  8. Thank you, dear Kim. I am a late discovery adoptee. I accidentally came across some documents about myself being adopted, when I was 17. Only 25 years later I started a therapy. Until then I kept myself busy with everything else.
    The therapy saved me but I doubt very much, the pain will ever go away.

    Thank you for the wonderful blog.

    Irma

  9. Hi Kim,
    Good to read your story again. I’m looking particularly for perspectives of late discovery adoptees like you and me (@ 43) to understand my experience. Just wanted you to know too that I have closed down one of my wordpress sites for the A for adoption piece I wrote is now on my adopteemoi site: if you want to change it on yours.
    🙂
    Di

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