Adoptea – Dishing out authentic, bonafide adoptee realitea one click, article, comment, and post at a time, adding uncensored and unfiltered rants and raves with an occasional impromptu cup of hot tea & virtual chat time with fellow adoptees & subscribers.
Moxie – Moxie describes someone with a fighting spirit. If you’ve got moxie, you’ve got confidence, grit, determination, and nerve. If you’ve got moxie, you have a growth mindset, which means you can’t be stopped by an emotional response to a challenging situation and, ultimately, not by anything. Moxie is a word that means: strength of character. It means courage and spunk.
For over a decade, I have been curating adoptee-centric writings with a focus on difficult and challenging topics about adoption on my website www.pamelakaranova.com. As a result, I have exceeded over 200,000 views and hundreds of articles to elevate the adoptee’s voice and lived experiences. In addition, I am the recipient of The Angel in Adoption Award and several awards for the best adoptee website. I have spent countless hours creating adoptee-centric resources for the adoptee community and built lifelong relationships with adoptees and those in the adoption constellation worldwide.
What is The Real Adoptea Moxie?
One newsletter will drop every week & another will drop monthly!
On Substack, I will focus on sharing new and unique pieces of my writings about topics related to the adoptee experience from being in the fog, coming out of the fog, search, reunion, grief, loss, trauma, anger, rage, healing, and all the layers that can come with the adoptee experience. Over the last decade, I have navigated continuous areas in my healing journey. I am enthusiastic about sharing some of the knowledge I have gained with you on the Substack platform. I share one piece of extended writing here for free each month, but I also offer a 5 dollars a month paid subscriber option.
Around the first of each month, all subscribers receive an “Ask Me Anything” newsletter — which will answer one or two adoptee-related questions from paid subscribers. Think: What adoptee healing tools have been the most valuable to you? How have you navigated the grief and loss process? What made you want to search for your biological family? How was your reunion once you searched? Do you regret searching?
Each week paid subscribers get the “The Real Adoptea Moxie Insider TEA” newsletter, which includes sections like:
In My Adoptee Opinion — I sound off about adoption topics based on my experience being an adult adoptee. Example: what it’s like growing up adopted, how specific layers of the adoptee experience have impacted me short term and long term about grief, loss, abandonment, rejection, anger, rage, substance use disorder, raising kids, relationships, cutting ties, setting boundaries and much more!
Smash that Lie— I share popular myths, secrets, and lies many adoptees are told and set the record straight. I will also link stories/resources from other adoptees who touch on this topic.
I Highly Recommend— An overview of recommended resources I have used personally and why I recommend them for adoptees or others in the adoption constellation.
Helping Hands & Healing — A advice section that helps a subscriber deal with a current adoptee problem. I suggest adoptee healing tools that have helped me along my journey and share healing tools with fellow adoptees.
The paid plan is $5 per month or a discounted $55 annually.
Plus, the occasional waterfall or hiking photo — like this one of me basking in a waterfall!
This is Cummins Falls State Resort Park in Cookeville, Tennessee. The hike through the gorge is 2.4 miles in and out and runs into a 75 feet high waterfall you see in this photo.
Anyone who wants to learn more about adoption! I’ll cover various topics, from the basics of living as an adult adoptee to deep heartfelt topics about what it feels like to be adopted and navigate the adoptee journey with the goal of healing. (And you don’t have to be a fellow adoptee to subscribe. Anyone can subscribe!)
Mostly, I’m excited to establish a supportive community for those who are a part of the adoption constellation and non-adopted individuals who have the willingness to learn by offering the 5 dollar a month subscription option.
While most of us have adventures with social media, at times, it’s more challenging to go deeper into our conversations and connections with one another. The Real Adoptea Moxie will be a community built on support for one another’s growth and to gain understanding and validation regarding our adoptee experiences. It’s a place of dishing the adoptTEA in bold honesty, truth-seeking, truth-telling, and uncensored experiences, thoughts, and fierce transparency about adoption from an adoptee’s perspective.
I am committing to spend some time each week in the comment sections of the writings that will be open for subscribers to spark conversations with one another. I will also host an occasional impromptu Adoptea Time by way of a virtual chat space for paid subscribers!
No matter where you are in your adoption/adoptee journey, I’m confident this newsletter will be entertaining, fun, and informative. Whether you’re a free or paid subscriber, I’m excited to have you as part of The Real Adoptea Moxie Community. For my website followers, feel free to follow me over to Substack! I will still be writing on my website, but most publications will be shared at Substack in advance. I would love your support so please consider downloading the Substack app and subscribing today.
Thank you for being so supportive, and I look forward to connecting with you more profoundly through The Real Adoptea Moxie Substack Platform!
The Real Adoptea Moxie is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
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Here are some of the writing pieces I’m the proudest of:
The Essence of My Biological Parents and My Adoptive Parents Being Deceased – An Adoptees Perspective by Pamela A. Karanova
For years now, I have had strained or missing relationships with all of my adoptive parents and my biological parents. But, in the last twelve years, they have all passed away one by one—four people with whom I had four unusual or missing relationships.
Two of them passed away in the last six months.
As a result, my obsession with trolling for obituaries on Google has concluded. I won’t miss it because, like closed adoption, it’s torture and agonizing.
How would you feel if the only way you might learn of your parent’s or family members passing was by conducting Google searches weekly or sometimes daily looking for obituaries? What if this went on for years or even a lifetime?
How many of my fellow adoptees have found themselves doing this?
How does it make you feel?
I always knew this day would come when my biological parents and adoptive parents, aka my parents on paper, would all be gone. Thankfully, I did gain notification of each of the deaths by way of social media or direct contact but that doesn’t change the reality that Google has been my #1 search engine in hopes of learning about the deaths of all of my parents.
But unfortunately, I recently learned my adoptive dad passed away on 1/3/23, and I struggle to find the emotions I should have about his passing. We hadn’t communicated in several years. The sadness I feel doesn’t feel new, I have felt this loss every day. Yet, I haven’t shared his passing with anyone but very few people. So let me also share that my biological father also passed away a little less than six months ago on 6/21/22. I still have yet to scratch the surface on processing his passing away. I have enormous feelings about the obituaries for each of these people, but I will save them for another article.
One of these men took a small part in raising me, and the other took every part in creating me. Equally, from the world’s description, they should have been my fathers, but the description of strangers is more true-to-life.
So how do I have a chance at two fathers yet feel like they are essential strangers? Welcome to the torture of adoption, the one that splits family trees apart and separates and divides. The one that creates lifelong consequential emotional and mental torment for the adopted child that grows up.
I have the same experience with both of my mothers. One took part in raising and traumatizing me; the other took part in creating me and her choice for my life and being separated from her traumatized me at the very beginning of my life.
I describe my adoptive parents as my parents on paper or my paper parents. Here’s why. They signed the adoption paperwork, and I did not. My life was estranged from both of them before they passed away for many reasons I will not discuss in this article but what I will say is that I feel like I was forced to make a choice.
With that choice, I picked myself. Unfortunately, I have been put in a situation because of the split adoption creates where I had to make this conclusion, and I regret it enormously. Most non-adoptees don’t comprehend what I even mean.
Well, let me be frank – when I was born in the adoption paradox at no choice of my own, I have always felt this internal tug-of-war being tugged in a million different directions. It’s felt like a split in the core of my being, and then from those two splits, there are more splits and more and more, and the splits go on forever, yet I can’t fully claim any side as mine.
Some may see it as a larger-than-life, full-of-love family tree. But I see it as a tree with no growing roots, replaced by severed roots that are chopped up all over the ground and left for dead.
I am the dead roots, trying to come alive, all alone. Still, because of all the emotions and deep-rooted feelings that resurface over and over, it’s almost impossible to feel planted or to grow with all these different people and families from all over the place.
Two sets, maternal and paternal, represent a DNA connection, and the other two, my adoptive parents, represent shared history. They are equally part of me, but I am forced to keep them separate. I fucking hate it because it always feels like I’m hiding half of myself to protect the other side. I have to watch what I say, and I have to watch what I do. And I damn sure can never share MY STORY because of the fear of pissing both sides off.
I have always felt like tremendous missing links have created a wedge between all my parents and me, and I genuinely believe ADOPTION is the root cause. I have no shared history with my biological parents and no shared DNA with my adoptive aka paper parents. I have always felt ripped into a million pieces between these two worlds. I have never felt like I belong in either of them.
Because of 45+ years of trying to shake this reality off, the sooner I acknowledged my adoptee pain was here to stay, the sooner things got more manageable for me. But in this self-reflection process, I also acknowledged I had to walk away from everyone to save myself.
This is something only a very minimal number of adoptees can do. Taking the first step towards freedom took strength and courage, but it didn’t come without a cost.
It was the hardest thing I ever did.
It cost me everything to choose myself.
But at least now I have myself, even if I feel like I am in shambles half the time.
When others lose a parent, I see people grieving, crying on social media about the loss, and having loved ones surround them with care and concern. I see meal trains and flowers delivered. I see people take off work to grieve the life-changing loss and to take suitable time to grieve the loss. I see the world have compassion for someone when they lose a parent, not to mention losing two parents in a short period.
I don’t see the same thing for adopted people, especially when we mention we had no relationship or estranged relationships with our adopters or biological parents. It’s almost as if the world shrugs its shoulders and says to itself, “Well, you didn’t know them, so what’s the big deal?” or better yet, “You chose not to have a relationship with them,” so it’s your fault. It’s a miracle if we are contacted at all.
No matter how hard we try or what we do, we’re always outsiders looking in – especially to the immediate adoptive or biological relatives because, let’s never forget, blood is always thicker than water. In my case, and many other adoptees, blood will also toss you to the wolves in the name of “Brave Love.” Even more so if you have no shared history.
In reality, the loss of these individuals hurts and hurts profoundly. However, as an adoptee, I can share that my grief for each person is not due to what was but rather what wasn’t. Every day of my life, I have cried inside at the loss of my biological mother and the loss of the woman I wished my adoptive mom was.
I have also cried inside at losing the connection with my biological father and the relationship I always wished I had with my adoptive dad. But unfortunately, these deep relationships never existed, so I have cried every day as if each of these people died daily because, essentially, I felt like they did.
But, instead of shedding external tears of sadness for what was lost with each of them, I have shed internal tears that ebb and flow as life passes me by every day of my life.
This isn’t new; it’s been a lifelong journey.
The two biological parents I sincerely spent a lifetime desiring to find, meet and get to know slammed the door in my face once located. I have yet to experience any more tremendous pain in this lifetime than the pain of this disappointment followed by grief, loss, abandonment, and rejection that will never entirely go away.
Unfortunately, the two who paid a cash price in exchange for being parents, who signed the dotted line, weren’t capable of being parents. My adoptive dad knew my adoptive mother was mentally unstable, yet he adopted two daughters and abandoned us a year later, divorced her, and left. He moved over an hour away, remarried, and raised her three sons as his own.
I get it.
He chose to save himself as I did.
I can’t tell you one lesson my adoptive dad taught me over my lifetime. He was always far away, and it impacted any relationship we might have had. I remember him saying, “If you’re happy, I’m happy,” which has been the extent of anything I have retained that could be a “lesson” he taught me. I don’t know anything about him other than he worked at John Deere, where he retired. While I am waiting patiently on his obituary to be published, I am confident I will find out more about him in his obituary than what I knew in my 48 years of him being my parent on paper.
I almost got up enough nerve about 8-9 years ago to reach out to him and ask him if he could come to Kentucky for a weekend, so I could get to know him while we planned a father/daughter visit. I was hoping that one time in my life, I could spend even one hour with him alone to get to know him one-on-one. This is something I have never experienced nor do I have any father/daughter memories to hang onto. But then, one day, I woke up and reevaluated all my relationships and acknowledged the reality that I have visited Iowa dozens of times over the years. As a result, I accepted that my adoptive dad had visited Kentucky 3 times in over 30 years.
I have never spent one hour with my adoptive dad, just him and me ever, in my whole life. So it’s hard for me to look at him like a father. I can see why the other people in his life have that experience with him; however, I don’t. Because of his choice to leave me with my adoptive mom, my childhood was robbed and stolen. Here’s an article on what it was like growing up with her. – The Narcissistic Adoptive Mom.
Not long after I turned 17, my adoptive mom moved me across the country, away from everyone. I never got along with my adoptive mom. We were like oil and vinegar. Because of this, I have felt entirely alone in the family area my whole life until I had my kids, who are all adults now.
So many memories with my biological family have been robbed because of adoption, and so much time has been lost, never to return. Reminiscing upon my life story, one of the most valuable things to me is time and what I can do with it. I hold high importance on making memories with those I love with the time I have left on this earth.
Adoption is a coverup for the most tremendous loss of someone’s life. It glosses over the loss before an adoption takes place with a shiny, sparkly coat that shines for all to see. But the reality is adoption is the ring leader of counterfeit and forged connections and not every adoptee benefits from it or bonds with their adopters.
I thank adoption because it’s the gift that keeps on giving; to me, it feels like death all by itself. It’s the queen of separation and the king of the division of families. It’s the ruler of grief, loss, anger, rage, abandonment, and rejection. It’s the monarch of a lifetime of pain that never goes away, rooted in secrecy, lies, and half-truths.
While I have stepped into a space of acknowledging that all my parents are gone because of the separation and division that adoption causes, I have never felt like they were here to begin with. This isn’t new because they have all left the earth; it’s been this way since the beginning.
I think my grief is heightened because this is it. Any small glimmer of hope something will change or be different is dead and gone with all the people with whom I should have the closest relationships.
“You chose to walk away from everyone,” says the world.
Yes, yes, I did.
But I should have never felt like I had to make that decision, to begin with. Unless you are adopted and forced to walk this tightrope, you have no idea how it feels. The split is too painful for me, and I give up on it.
But make no mistake, giving up still comes with a lifetime of anguish about what should have been, could have been, and what was robbed because of adoption and relinquishment.
My adoptive and biological parents are all deceased; however, adoption’s revolting and heartbreaking consequences are still felt for generations. I have no idea where to start processing my pain, but writing this article is a first step for me.
For my fellow adoptees, does this article resonate with you at all?
How do you think adoption has impacted your relationships with your adoptive parents and biological parents?
If they have passed away, how have you processed the loss?
Don’t forget this article, along with all my other articles, are available in audio for your convenience; look up Pamela A. Karanova Podcast on Google Podcasts, iTunes, and Spotify. And Amazon Music. Interested in treating me to a coffee to add fuel to my fire? Click here. Many thanks in advance to my supporters!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova. While it is Pamela’s hope that you find the information in her website useful and informative please note- the information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. The information is provided by Pamela A. Karanova with the goal of having the information up-to-date and correct; she makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the resources list on the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the resources listed on her website. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. Through this website you are able to link to other websites which are not under the control of Pamela A. Karanova. She has no control over the nature, content and availability of those sites. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them.
I genuinely believe the topic of newborn bonding isn’t brought to light enough in the adoption arena, so I decided to share my adoptee feelings about it based on my lived experience.
Just because someone adopts a child doesn’t mean the adoptee will bond or attach to the adoptive mother or father. It’s also essential to note that not all adoptive parents can form an attachment or bond with their adopted child. This is not guaranteed, yet it’s almost always dismissed as if it isn’t a real possibility.
When we assume the newborn infant will bond with the adopters, it has damaging impacts that can affect the adoptee for a lifetime. Unfortunately, this is real and has issues that will cause severe anguish throughout the adoptee’s life, at no fault of their own. The difference between adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents are that adoptees didn’t make this choice; it was made for us. Expectations to bond with a foreigner were placed upon us at no agreement of our own.
Let’s also put on the table that we know that anytime a biological mother and a child are separated for whatever reason, a trauma occurs. We know that the separation from our biological mothers can leave a broken bond that sets the tone for all the future relationships we will have. We know that our relationship to maternal attachment impacts how we parent our children and practically every area of our lives.
If we research bonding and attachment theory, we know that the maternal bond with our biological mothers is the most critical bond we will ever have. Attachment to our biological mothers is the cornerstone of infant development and is the sounding board on how we bond and connect with the world around us.
When we know this, we have to assume that when the maternal bond is disrupted for whatever reason, it can harm the child. If you do the research, you will find that neurology, psychiatry, biology, genetics, and psychology hold valuable scientific findings to infant prenatal and perinatal development.
“Human babies are born very dependent on their parents. They undergo huge brain development, growth, and neuron pruning in the first two years of life. The brain development of infants (as well as their social, emotional, and cognitive development) depends on a loving bond or attachment relationship with a primary caregiver, usually a parent. Infancy is a crucial time for brain development. It is vital that babies and their parents are supported during this time to promote attachment. Without a good initial bond, children are less likely to grow up to become happy, independent, and resilient adults.” – Robert Winston & Rebecca Chicot.
Let’s also recognize that contrary to popular opinion, mothers aren’t interchangeable. Not one woman on this planet could replicate the connection and bond I should have had with my biological mother, but they can try, but it will never be the same.
But, often, substitute maternal figures can benefit an individual, provide love, and sometimes form a long-lasting bond and connection with a child. However, we can’t assume that all adopted people form a bond with their adopters, particularly their maternal figure, the adoptive mother. Sadly, the ability to not bond with our adopters is valid for many adoptees.
Let’s focus on the adoptees who don’t bond with their maternal figure since it’s presumed that most adoptees automatically bond with their primary caregiver, whether it’s their biological mother or not. No one is talking about the side of the coin on what it might feel like from an adoptee’s lens to be forced to bond with foreigners you are incapable of bonding with. DNA matters, and our maternal bond with our biological mother matters.
“Not everyone bonds with their biological parents, adopted or not!” – says the non-adoptee community.
You are correct; however, here in this article, we are talking about adoptees! Of course, bonding isn’t guaranteed, and I am entirely aware that not all individuals form everlasting and substantial bonds with their biological mothers or parents.
Nevertheless, let’s spotlight that being born to and raised with your biological mother compared to an essential stranger carries a tremendous difference. One is a foreigner, and one we share DNA with.
I am an adoptee who didn’t form a bond with my adoptive mother.
I am also an adoptee who was forced to TRY.
It felt like I was put in a room with a stranger, and she started hugging me, touching me, and being obsessed with me, but she never left. She was always around, dominating and controlling every aspect of my life. It was traumatic, and it made my skin crawl. I still feel fragments of it when I think about it.
To add to this complexity, I was coerced to live an illusion, a fantasy, to appease my adoptive parents’ wants, needs, and desires. Adoption is rooted in a delusion that was agreed upon by my adoptive parents and my biological mother as co-conspirators in a legalized plan to hijack my true identity, better known as Adoption.
I was coerced to accept my new identity as truth, while my Authentic identity was kept captive, secretly hidden away, never to be discovered. I was lied to, told I should be grateful, and love is the reason my biological passed me over to genetically foreign strangers.
I was stalled from finding my biological father by being told he was dead, which was an absolute untruth. I said, “I want to stand over his grave then, and until I do that, I will never believe he’s dead!” And guess what? My tenacity persisted, and I found, met, and laid eyes on my birth father. He was very much alive, and they lied.
While everyone in the transaction gets what they want, I am the one left to sift through the rubble once the entire orchestration blows up and the pieces are shattered all over the ground. One by one, I have fought the world to find my truth year after year. They got what they wanted in some regard, but I have never been the compliant and grateful adoptee they signed up for.
Instead, I’ve conducted my life as quite the opposite. I was pissing people off the minute I entered the world, and I have no plans on stopping now.
How do you think this assumed UNNATURAL bonding has negatively impacted my life? Or the lifetime of lies my entire existence was built on? I don’t like it when people fucking touch me or look at me. I don’t trust people and struggle significantly with allowing them to get close to me. The forced pretending has carried over to my adult life. I constantly have to correct myself and work on operating from a place of TRUTH AND TRANSPARENCY, even when everyone in the adoption industry (even my adopters) pushed secrecy, lies, and half-truths.
Being pushed or coerced to bond with a foreigner is a special kind of mental mind f*ck. So let’s bring the real deal to the table. It’s brutal, and it isn’t pleasant. It gives me the creeps. It’s caused me C-PTSD, extreme grief, sadness, and a loss that can not be measured. A counterfeit mother figure couldn’t substitute my real biological mother, but because of Adoption, she tried and failed miserably. Kudos to her for trying at my expense!
I remember from a very young age being repulsed by her. From around four to five years old, I remember her forcing me to do things I didn’t want to, like massaging her entire body with lotion. She made me put on makeup on her and brush her hair. I had to run her bathwater, keep her room clean and take care of her when she was manic, depressive, sick, and suicidal. I was forced to do other awful things no child should have to do, but I cannot convey them currently.
For some wild reason, I have this intuitive sense that she tried to breastfeed me when I was a newborn, which is unnatural to me when it’s not from my biological mother. When she touched me, I would become nauseated from a very early age. This notion completely repulses me, and I am 100% against any adoptive mothers breastfeeding their adopted children. This is a whole article by itself; stay tuned.
While I have no experience of what it feels like to have a healthy connection or a bond with any mother, I can share without a shadow of a doubt that the experience of NOT having this has been heartbreaking, grievous, and painful. Therefore, to be coerced into conformation with the notion of love being enough to suffice all lost because of Adoption is corrupt, offensive, and heartless!
It’s tough to describe how being forced to bond with someone I cannot bond with has felt my whole life. For starters, I am positive that “the way my adoptive mother was” had a profound impact on the capabilities of forming a bond with her. But, of course, not all adoptive moms are like her. I will never get another chance in the mother department; quite frankly, striking it out three times in this area is enough for me. So, we have my biological mother, adoptive mother, and stepmother, and I feel no bond or connection with any of them.
I wonder if my biological mother knew this would be a reality if she would still choose Adoption.
Giving a baby up for Adoption or adopting a baby and assuming they will form a bond with their adoptive maternal figure is like playing Russian roulette and taking a chance that could have life or death consequences. When adoptive parents don’t form the bonds they expect when they adopt a child, they sometimes rehome the child, passing them over to someone else to raise. Once again, they decided to take this chance, and at no fault, the adoptee is the one who never made this choice, yet we have to pay for the consequences for life.
Not only is the adoptee severed from the biological mother, but this automatic notion that they will permanently, automatically, or in time, assuming that they will bond with the adoptive parents, must be put to rest.
SOMETIMES IT’S IMPOSSIBLE FOR AN ADOPTEE TO ATTACH OR BOND TO ANYONE WHEN THE ORIGINAL BOND TO OUR BIOLOGICAL MOTHERS IS BROKEN! THIS IS OUR REALITY.
We need everyone in the adoption constellation to acknowledge that this is a reality for many adoptees. When this expectation is placed on us, and we don’t have the capabilities to meet the expected requirements, it can and will impact every area of our lives. Not just our lives but the lives of anyone that knows and loves the adoptee. It will impact our children and their children.
I can’t speak for all adoptees, but I have always struggled to bond and connect with people. I have carried this deep internal dialog with myself that is one of defeat, where I feel defective and broken. In my healing journey, mapping out all areas of my life, I have recognized that because the original bond with my birth mother was broken, it has impacted me negatively my entire life. It takes me a supplementary amount of work to experience what most people take for granted, and that’s bonding with anyone. All the time, I have worked to “fix myself” because what Adoption has broken has robbed me of a meaningful life. For 48 years, I am still attempting to fix what Adoption stole, broke, and robbed me of, and I often think about what I would have made of myself and become if I had an everyday life. One where I wasn’t dying on the inside every day just because I needed to see the face of the woman that gave me life only to be rejected by her once I found her.
So much for “she loved you so much!” The biggest lie ever told in Adoption.
This struggle is rooted in the broken and missing bond from the loss of our biological mothers. This is one more expectation that’s been placed upon me and so many adoptees that reflects a decision others made for us.
“How do you think your adoptive mom felt when you didn’t bond with her? Do you think this was her choice? How do you think she felt not bonding with you? I’m sure it wrecked her, and she felt it too!” – Says the world.
To be completely honest, I don’t care. She autographed the paperwork and signed up for this; I did not. But, let me be evident in defense of all the adoptive parents and birth parents out there who are considering Adoption; the adoption agencies, adoption attorneys, and advocates are not going to tell you the depth and layers of this reality! They might touch on it, but they will devise coercive ways to convince you that there are “so many ways” to bond with your adoptive baby. No one can guarantee this maternal bond to be acquired with an artificial mother, just like they can’t guarantee a “better life” in Adoption, only a different one.
This is why it’s essential to listen to adult adoptees!
Well, BONDING WITH YOUR ADOPTIVE BABY IS NOT GUARANTEED! So better yet, maybe ask yourself before you choose Adoption for your baby or to start a family, “How would I navigate an adopted child who couldn’t bond with me? Or “What if I couldn’t bond with them? Would I try to force it? Should I choose not to parent instead of playing Russian roulette with a child’s life?”
If you get on YouTube and find “Soft White Underbelly” and hear the stories of all the individuals interviewed on this show, the majority of them express early wounds of the missing mother and the mother wound that go back to their childhoods. Of course, some were abandoned, and family or other people took some in; however, the common theme in many stories is the broken bonds and relationships with the maternal mother figures in their lives.
Considering adoptees are 4x more likely to attempt suicide than non-adopted people, and they are over-represented in prisons, jails, treatment, and mental health facilities, I think its time the adoption constellation steps out of denial and acknowledges that we have a real problem here.
For my fellow adoptees, how well did you bond or not bond with your adoptive parents?
Have you been able to connect the dots on this impacting other area of your lives?
If so, how do you feel it’s impacted you the most?
Don’t forget this article, along with all my other articles, are available in audio for your convenience; look up Pamela A. Karanova Podcast on Google Podcasts, iTunes, and Spotify. And Amazon Music. Interested in treating me to a coffee to add fuel to my fire? Click here. Many thanks in advance to my supporters!
*The views and opinions expressed in this article and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova
This website has saved me so many times from releasing my burdensome thoughts to those I am close to. Over the last decade, being able to share my big adoptee sentiments here on my website has likely saved my life many times over!
Thank you for being here and allowing me to communicate my inner adoptee thoughts and struggles. We all need a space like this, and if you are an adoptee and don’t have it, I inspire you to get it!
While 2022 is winding up, the year will soon be behind us. But, as we step into 2023, I can’t help but acknowledge all the changes and growth that’s transpired in 2022 in my personal life. So much greatness has happened that I will be eternally grateful for.
Yet, I’ve also experienced many significant things that have created a layer of sadness that I’m unsure what to do with. Holidays are challenging in general and even more so for adoptees. While everyone is arranging holiday get-togethers with family and celebrating life and the marvelous things it brings, I am drowning in my sadness.
Welcome to adoption.
Anytime I’m feeling “some type of way” in my journey, I try to get with myself and self-reflect because I know I am the only one who can figure out what’s going on. So I look inward and identify the areas that might bother me so I can work on them. Sometimes, I can identify what’s happening and make some changes. But right now, I feel stuck, so I am attempting to see if writing about it helps me. One of the realities in being adopted is that I was denied a voice. This is why writing has always been easier for me to share feelings because I seem to be able to write about my thoughts, but allowing them to come out of my mouth is another story.
Lately, I am struggling with constantly feeling like I am an inconvenience to those around me, so I spend every waking moment trying to ensure I am not that! Unfortunately, I do it a lot of the time automatically, not even realizing I’m doing it.
This battle has been a lifetime; however, it’s highlighted more now than before. Sharing it here in this safe space may help since I cannot share it with anyone close to me because of the burden factor.
“Many adoptees spend their entire lives searching. It’s exhausting mentally, emotionally, and physically. I never thought I would have to experience this again. For me, searching is extreme mental anguish. I don’t even know how to describe it. It triggers me back to my childhood and earlier life, searching for my birth mother. Now I’m searching for a sister. Before the sister, it was my birth father, and another brother and another sister. It’s the unknown, and that’s not a good place for me.”
I have promised myself that I will always be true to myself, but sometimes my adoptee feelings are so big they scare me. I am 100% confident that if I share them with anyone close to me, they will scare them also. At least, this is my fear anyway.
Unfortunately, this is the only place I can share them. Still, I am baring my soul for the world to help myself by releasing them and opening the possibility that my transparency might help another adoptee out there. There is a lot of power in “letting things out” and sharing them with at least one other person. Sometimes that all by itself helps me, and I can regroup, recenter and move forward.
Of course, sharing such personal pieces of my life publicly doesn’t come without a risk of those who love me finding out about my struggles and kicking me to the curb. This would be the easiest solution, and I wouldn’t blame them. Hell, a lot of the time, I want to kick myself to the curb, too.
But, if they knew I was only trying to spare them from my BIG ADOPTEE FEELINGS, maybe they would understand better. The truth is, I have always been a deep thinker and a deep processor, which is a blessing and a curse. So what I write about here isn’t always rainbows and unicorns but real-life struggles from an adult adoptee’s perspective. Adoption always has been and always will be the gift that keeps giving.
It seems that no matter how much healing I do or how hard I work towards feeling “good,” my adoptee reality will always knock me back down. That’s a significant struggle all by itself. I’ve been riding the waves for 48 years now. Sometimes it’s hard to get back up. Sometimes I can’t see the light. Sometimes it takes my breath away. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. Sometimes it’s so much that I want to die. Sometimes it lasts a few hours, and sometimes days and weeks. Sometimes the highs are high, and the lows are low. As I write this article, I am sitting knee-deep in one of the lows that I am having difficulty shaking.
I’m an expert at smiling for the world, always putting my best foot forward to make others feel good, cheerful, or loved, which takes the focus off me and what I might be genuinely dealing with underneath it all. Us adoptees are great at being chameleons and pretending. It’s survival, and we learned it very young!
I genuinely feel this adaption is rooted in adoption and the reality of being placed in a situation where everyone’s feelings matter more than mine. To my adoptive parents, my feelings have never mattered. I was the prize (a gift, if you will) that was paid for with a hefty cash price, and in return, they became parents. The misplaced link is that I would be expected to be forever praising and indebted to a lifetime of caring for them while sacrificing my wants and needs.
Sadly, I had to walk away from everyone to choose myself. I would do it again if I had to; however, I struggle with being put into a situation at no fault of my own that made me feel like I had to choose between my adoptive family and biological family and MYSELF. I struggle HARD to navigate the tightrope of being somewhere between all these families. So walking away from them ALL is the only solution I have.
I don’t have the tools to manage all the emotions that come between existing between two worlds, never belonging to either of them. THIS IS PAINFUL AND HARD FOR ME, AND IT ALWAYS HAS BEEN. I don’t have a shared history with my biological family, which makes things incredibly uncomfortable and challenging. I don’t share DNA with my adoptive family, who are genetic strangers to me! I do not feel connected to them and never bonded with my adoptive mom, but I was forced to TRY.
Somehow I am expected to keep everything between them separated. It fucking hurts to be placed into a situation where I constantly have to leave pieces of my life separate. I didn’t sign up for this bullshit, so I am not playing the game.
One of the significant healing dynamics I came to years ago is accepting that the pain from adoption was here to stay and that some of the wounds caused by relinquishment trauma and adoption trauma can’t heal! Fuck Adoption!
This was a KEY DYNAMIC to accepting what has been done and sabotaged, at no choice of my own. It might sound depressing to some, but please understand I didn’t come to this conclusion without spending a lifetime trying to heal the wounds that cannot be fully healed! God couldn’t fully heal my wounds; praying couldn’t fully heal my wounds; nothing has fully healed these wounds. The sooner I could accept they were here to stay and learned to sit with them, the sooner I started to heal!
I feel like a living, breathing inconvenience and a burden. I can acknowledge and recognize this feeling is rooted in my beginnings (being born a burden), which has nothing to do with NOW; however, it has dramatically shaped how I feel and live my life.
I can grasp a lousy day or a bad few days, but what do I do when the heaviness doesn’t leave and I can’t shake it? I’ve been wrestling with this for a while now, and I haven’t told anyone I’m on the struggle bus.
Because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone, and I don’t want to be a burden. Of course, it’s easy for someone to say, “You aren’t a burden!” but no matter how much they say it, that’s not how I feel. So I beat myself up for feeling that way, as if feeling like a burden and inconvenience isn’t enough all by itself.
So what is my effing problem as of late?
I am genuinely struggling because my being adopted by no choice of my own directly harms my kids in many ways. The thought of them feeling even a little of how I feel is enough to take my breath away. I feel this tremendous feeling of GUILT that is suffocating me! It makes me feel defective, and I carry a huge burden that I can’t put into words.
How can I ever forgive myself for bringing my kids into a world where they have to pay the price for their mom being adopted and all the heavy layers that come with it? They deserve more, much more. I wish I could take this pain and direct it to something positive; however, I am not there yet. I don’t know what to do with it, especially when it’s impacted my kids the way it has.
There I said it.
Well, half of it.
I am also struggling with the reality that I would likely DIE before I burden anyone with my feelings, problems, or issues about all of this or situations that arise in my life that isn’t optimistic, positive, or uplifting. I always want to show up with a smile and cheer for everyone around me. I hold myself to a high standard when it comes to this, so when I go through some things that I can’t bring myself to share, I become overcome with complex emotions and feel like I’m drowning. Most of the time I can’t even put my feelings into words.
I feel inadequate on top of feeling flawed. It’s no one’s problem but my own for feeling this way, and I am the only person who can put it on the table and work on it. I don’t think many non-adoptees will ever comprehend the layers of the adoptee experience and how it runs so deep and lasts a lifetime. However, I can’t believe I am the only adoptee struggling with this.
Recently, I had a scary SVT episode that was awful. My resting heart rate was stuck at 154 BPM for several hours. I should have gone to the ER, but I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. The only way I can describe this is to imagine Mike Tyson hitting his punching bag as fast as he could for several hours, nonstop. Put my heart in the place of the punching bag. It’s a really dreadful feeling that has a recovery process of days for me.
It’s invisible, just like I want it to be most of the time. I was super thankful to have two friends who drove me home and were very compassionate. However, I didn’t contact one person in my immediate life to notify them this was happening, and I crawled into my bed after taking a heart pill and slept for the next 13 hours, which is entirely out of my nature. But, again, I didn’t want to inconvenience or burden anyone.
I am at fault for being groomed this way because of adoption, always putting other people’s feelings, wants, and needs ahead of my own. I have been alone with my kids and me for a long time, moving across the country away from everyone to find ME and be FREE, finally. Being a single parent of 3 kids makes for a strong woman. I had no one to depend on, but myself and the family dynamic was nonexistent, so there hasn’t been a family cushion to fall back on for a long time.
A variety of these things makes me feel stuck in a paradox between wanting to be true to myself yet never wanting to depend on anyone for anything; even if I needed a little help that could be lifesaving, I would never ask! I will die first! This is an expansive war I struggle with within myself.
Well, the reality is that this impacts those I love who also love me. This can cause problems, so my first step is acknowledging it’s a thing for me. Have any of my fellow adoptees struggled with this dynamic?
It was a stretch to ask my friends to help me get home because I sat there pondering how to ask or get home without inconveniencing anyone. I was considering taking a Uber or a Lyft. Once they offered, I accepted, but I felt terrible the whole way for upsetting our plans and inconveniencing anyone, on top of having a significant heart issue. They were so kind and understanding, but I felt like I was about to have a heart attack and was also feeling guilty for getting a ride home. Then once I got home, I quietly went to my room, not to come back out for 13 hours, suffering all alone without anyone knowing what was happening. I did end up telling my significant other and my oldest daughter, after the fact for the sake of them knowing for health reasons. They wished I would have told them at the time, but I let them know I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone.
The moral of the story is, why be a burden? I was born a burden; I don’t want to die one. I even planned my funeral because it’s important to me to die better than I came into the world. These are some fucked up thoughts, and it’s a lot to carry at times. One thing I can share is that I already feel a release by reaching this paragraph in my writing about these issues. Some of my heaviness has lifted. I want to get to a place in life where I don’t have to “do anything” but process through my adoptee struggles all on my own, but I am not there yet. Quite frankly, I am not sure I will ever be. Keeping things bottled up inside isn’t always effective.
I gave up on therapy because, being adopted, I have always had to therapy the therapist. I’m dead ass tired of therapy. I am in charge of healing myself. I genuinely feel all the tools I need are already inside of me. Writing has been exceptionally cathartic and therapeutic. When I can’t find the courage to talk about things, I can usually write about them.
Adoptees, Do you write?
How does it help you navigate your healing journey?
What helps you when you can’t see the light?
Today, I remind myself, and I can share without a shadow of a doubt, that even when I feel defective, like a burden and a total inconvenience, I know deep down that ADOPTION IS WHAT’S F*CKED UP. I am not f*cked up. Adoption is. Adoption has caused these issues, which are a constant, lifelong struggle. No matter what I do, this sh!t keeps resurfacing, and it’s here to stay. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can learn to sit with it when it comes and walk through it. We have to feel it to heal it. Sharing it helps too!
I know I’m not alone in feeling the way I do, and I remind myself sometimes daily that the way I feel is normal for a not-normal situation. Nothing is normal about being separated from your biological families at the beginning of life and having your very existence built on a bed of lies.
While I conclude this article, one thing I would like to highlight that’s a positive spin is that today is Winter Solstice – 2022! I get comfort in knowing a shift is on the horizon and our days will start getting longer.
If you are an adoptee struggling, please know you are not alone!
*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova
Pamela Karanova’s website, where she documents her journey over years of her life, uncovering the truth of who she is and where she came from. Her audible memoir can be found here titled, “Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptee’s Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing.”
Start writing, journaling, and documenting your adoptee journey. WordPress is our recommended platform that is free to use. Healing through writing is a wonderful healing outlet, and we highly recommend it.
If you have any recommended resources we can add to this list, please leave them below, and we will consider adding them to our database.
Crisis Hotline Numbers
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
The Trevor Project – LGBTQ Community.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Sexual Assault Hotline
Call: 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673)
National Hopeline Network
Call: 1-800-442-4673 General Crisis Support by Text
Crisis Text Line: Text Support to 741-741 (24/7) Trained counselors can discuss anything that’s on your mind. Free 24/7, confidential. crisistextline.org
This article compiled by Pamela A. Karanova. Don’t forget this article, along with all my other articles, are available in audio for your convenience; look up Pamela A. Karanova Podcast on Google Podcasts, iTunes, and Spotify. And Amazon Music. Interested in treating me to a coffee to add fuel to my fire? Click here. Many thanks in advance to my supporters!
You have come to the right place if you are looking for the best adoption quotes from the transracial adoptee’s perspective. This article shares 100 Heartfelt Transracial Adoptee Quotes that Honor’s the Truth of Adoption from the transracial adult adoptee perspective.
As we end 2022, I decided to call my fellow adoptees to help collaborate and share quotes from the heart, reflecting the voices almost always overlooked in the adoption constellation. So, 100 transracial adoptees came together to capture some of the feelings and experiences that transracial adoptees go through during their lifetimes.
While you read these quotes, we ask you to remain with an open heart and mind and enter the possibility that we all have a lot to learn from one another. We must recognize that adopted children grow up, reach adulthood, and consume the rollercoaster journey that adoption brings. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, cousins, doctors, nurses, teachers, public speakers, advocates, writers, authors, D.J’s, lawyers, homemakers, students, etc. As transracial adoptees grow up, they host lifelong experiences, and every experience holds value to their lives and stories.
By sharing 100 Transracial Adoptee Quotes with the world, we hope that a new level of awareness will arise that there is so much more to transracial adoption than what society recognizes. Maybe perhaps love isn’t enough or a house full of stuff? Perhaps we should start talking about relinquishment trauma as soon as possible? Maybe adoption hurts more than we would ever know?
Again, we ask for open hearts and open minds.
Thank you to each transracial adoptee who shared their heart here. While you read this article, you will receive validation that you are not alone. We’re in this together, and our voices are valuable and worthy.
We are stronger together.
100 Transracial Adoptee Quotes
“My fundamental outlook on human relationships is: if the person who brought me into this world can abandon me, anyone can. I have inadvertently become an island, trusting no one, grounded by no significant human connections. The word ‘love’ is meaningless to me because it was conflated with abandonment and abuse. I should not know these feelings.” – B. Birch
“The way I see it, transracial adoption is human trafficking and the theft of children from the people the world sees as unworthy of raising their own children. I was not adopted, I was stolen.“ – Elli Mariyama Manneh
“As a transracial adoptee, your experiences with racism, self-identity, grief, etc., are all unique to yourself, which creates an immense sense of loneliness. Parents of transracial adoptees must know that their child will go through many obstacles they will NOT understand. But it is important to recognize this and always support the best you can!” – Miguel Jones
“I used to pray every night that I’d wake up and be white so I looked like I belonged with the family I was with.” – C.C.
“As a TRA, it feels like I culturally appropriate my very own culture whenever I wear or use original clothes, jewelry, accessories, and products from my people. I feel like a total fraud, an imposter that doesn’t belong anywhere.” — Jennifer Elise Teer, IG @PiecieLove
“I am a Korean adoptee, brought to Oklahoma in 1982. Becoming a mother changed everything for me. I am convinced, now more than ever, that regardless of the circumstances surrounding my relinquishment, my birth mother still thinks of me from time to time after all these years. There’s no way she does not find herself wondering about the woman I’ve become.” – Jennifer H-P
“Dear Adopters, The only reason you were able to adopt me is because society failed my mother and forced her to make a decision she shouldn’t have had to make in the first place. Not yours truly.” – Kris
“Being a transracial adoptee feels like I was set on fire, and everyone around me was ok with the fire because it kept them warm. They all got what they wanted while they watched me burn. The worst part is they expect me to be grateful for burning.” – Amanda B.
“I grew up thinking I was white.” – Omaira Avila
“Mirrors are a strange companion when no one else reflects you. People and family make it clear, so all you can do is look back at yourself.” – Nikolay Arthur
“Learning in my late 40’s about my Peruvian ancestry, I have referred to myself as a ‘reluctant latina.’ I honestly have no idea what an ‘authentic Latina feels like, nor have I ever experienced the culture of my father’s people.” – Lynn Grubb
“Growing up, I wondered who my birth parents were for many reasons. I wanted to know where my physical features came from but also what kind of people they were. I believed if they were good, loving, and smart, that would mean I was. I didn’t believe I could identify who I was until I knew where I came from.” – Jen Capeless
“Love is colorblind, or so they said! Adoption into a colour not your own is beautiful…on the surface for the White Saviour who rescues you. When you find your biology, you truly understand being Black on the outside yet white on the inside. As a transracial adoptee, it’s like straddling two cultures yet fitting wholly in neither.” – blacksheep1969
“It’s illegal to change the identifiable information on your car. Individuals can be fined $10,000 or jailed for up to 5 years for changing the VIN, and nobody bats an eye when the name and date of birth is changed on a birth certificate for an adoptee.”
“For every highlighted war hero, there are a thousand more that suffer in silence with the traumas of war. PTSD is the hidden scars of war. Adoption is very similar to the military, where only the positive narratives are highlighted as many more suffer from guilt (being adopted as others are not), suffer from shame (unable to share their abuse), and fear (as they deal with separation anxiety).”
“It’s incomprehensible to me how it’s illegal to sell human organs for profit, but the wholesale of the entire person through adoption is justified by our society.”
“If adoption were a drug, then the evidence of its efficacy would have pulled it off the shelf many decades ago.”
“Adoptions vary like the weather. For every sunny outcome, there is an equal negative, destructive tornado of an outcome that has destroyed either a child, biological mother and/or adoptive family. Therefore, we need to honor all adoption narratives, both positive and bad.”
“It’s estimated that nearly 60,000 intercountry adoptees reside in America without citizenship, and roughly 60-70% of domestic adoptions have open records. Adoption laws have made great strides in recent years but so much more needs to be done for every adoptee to have the same rights as a non-adoptee. Of the nearly Seven million adoptions in the United States, it affects almost 1/3 or 100 million Americans face adoption in their immediate family (includes adopting, placing a child for adoption or being adopted.” – Jayme K. Hansen
“As a transracial adoptee, I lost my first family, my first culture, my first language—all gone before I even knew I had it. The journey to reclaim them has been long and arduous, and I might never get the answers I want or need. But I will carry on, both for myself and this community.” – Patrick Armstrong
“Having to justify my experiences and realities to the most familiar strangers, fighting to be seen and heard, to two different worlds that I seamlessly exist in, is the most exhausting experience to navigate.” – Vanessa Pacheco
“My parents did an amazing job for the ’80s, and I was always connected with my bio family. I had a healthy racial identity as black, but you still miss out on some aspects of your culture. However, you learn that no matter how aware your adoptive family is with transracial adoption, they simply can’t grasp living firsthand with racism. At times, they can even use microaggressions without being aware – being an overall positive experience doesn’t negate the challenges. When it comes to transracial adoption, you’re at the mercy of people around you. “Where’d you get them colored kids?” Being “othered” in a space that’s still your own family, it’s a weird complexity. Hair insecurity, trying to find a seat at a table, I’m tolerated but not actually included.” – Silver
“I grew up thinking that if I denied my culture and sounded white, people would accept me more.” – Marta Aranda
“Being nonwhite, raised by a white family in a white community, has given me a near pervasive feeling of triblessness. It is communicated in various ways that you are not white but also that you are not of our racial background, especially if you are from a relatively segregated place. Identity is a constant question. One of the advantages though is that we get to create our own identities and stories, which is both a privilege and burden that few except us can know.” – Andrew Glynn
“The truth of the matter is that my parents were told that my race was not a factor in how I was to be raised, but race does matter when you are one of the only people of color in your community. Race does matter when you get racially profiled at a store, when someone at work is micro-aggressive, and when kids at school tell you that your skin is ugly and dirty and that you matter less because of it. I struggle to claim my identity as a Latinx person to this day, and I never learned the tools of how to cope with my racially based hate from my family. I used unhealthy coping mechanisms to “stay alive” barely, but luckily, thanks to the online adoptee community, sobriety, and therapy, I am learning how to love myself, brown skin and all.” – Joe Toolan
“Being adopted into a transracial family did not protect me from racism or micro-aggression or being fetishized. I’ve learned that Adoptees might get to experience their birth culture, but they will always experience people’s perceptions of their race and culture.” – Cosette Eisenhauer
“It has taken me years to allow myself to feel angry about my experience as a transracial adoptee raised by a white parent. I want to tell my younger self that my feelings are valid and my circumstances are nuanced. I encourage them (my younger self) to seek those who will provide space to be your full self. You are not too much.” – Anica Falcone – Juengert
“I never feel as invisible as when someone asks me “Do YOU experience racism here?” – Hasina Helena, A transracial adoptee who is from India but resides in Sweden.
“As an International Adoptee, my journey is not exactly the same as that of Transracial Adoptees; however, there are a few intersections. It is from that perspective that I share this feedback. As an Afro-German child growing up in a family that was rife with racial microaggressions was difficult. Clearly, the only way for me to be comfortable in the midst of these conversations was to consistently deny my bio mom’s ethnicity and the European part of my own. There was absolutely no inclusion, exposure, or discussion of German culture. There were 25 years between the year that I learned I was adopted and the year that I finally met relatives that looked just like me. Having no familial mirror was very difficult for me. I was expected to sink or swim prior to that moment. Upon my reunion with my first family, my adoptive parents admitted that they knew my biological family all along. WTF!? It changed everything for me and my connection to them. However unconscionable, it was also the defining moment that made me choose to be the one to not spoon-feed generational trauma to my own children.” – Jacquelin Taybron
“In my experience as a TRA, I was often shamed for wanting to know more about my birth family. When I did ask about them, I was told I was selfish, and I was dismissed about wanting to learn more about my culture. I was once told that I can be black but not too black.” – IG @thespeckledadoptee
“Being a transracial adoptee, it’s living with the fear your physical features could condition the way others will treat you.” – Maria Daozheng
“We, as the transracial, as the mixed, as the adopted, exist beyond the outer bounds of language, where your words have no meaning, where we laugh at your categories and borders and contradictions. Beyond the safety of your understanding, beyond the limits of your imagination. What power we must hold, then, as to exist beyond this imagination is to know that a better world beyond this one exists, not only in the future but here and now. And that what we create, becomes.” – Yohanyy Torres | Andrew Drinkwater
“Being a transracial adoptee makes us a double minority – both racially and biologically. The world is seen through a lens that is very different than most people. Patience, a sense of empathy, and listening from people who understand we think differently are essential to an adoptee’s ability to thrive. We need this to embrace that we matter; that different is good and that we deserve to be heard, even though we know most cannot and will not ever truly understand from our perspective.” – Maria Gatz
“Adoptees don’t always know exactly what they’re going through. They not only need patience from others but also with themselves. If you are close with an adoptee, be patient with them and learn from them. You never know what is adoption-related trauma and what is part of being human.” – Zoe Seymore
“Adoption did give me a very different life for which I am extremely grateful. In retrospect, there was still a good deal missing. Discovering the transracial element of my pre-adoption life has added immensely to the richness of my life. It’s really unfortunate in so many ways that it had to be kept secret. I just wish I had found out sooner.” – Jack Rocco
“I’ve never felt as a TRA that there was a space for me since I knew my birth parents, but I felt so much of the distance from them that I might as well have not. Maybe there is so much vastness and space and language that is not yet created by us and for us as adoptees to claim for ourselves since so many decisions were made for us. After all, our experiences are our own.” – Oumou Cisse
“My parents say that they just see me as ‘their kid’ while still letting friends of the family and/or relatives say some pretty racist stuff to me when I was growing up. I’m 26 now, and I just realize how not okay that all was.” – Grace R.
“I constantly felt like I was sticking out among family & friends, I forgot how comforting it can be to have friends that look like you. Being a transracial adoptee is such a unique experience, so unique that at times it feels almost isolating.” – Julie M.
“Growing up Asian in predominantly white communities, I didn’t understand the importance of representation until I saw myself being represented. With that comes questions, confusion, and pain surrounding racial and cultural belonging.” – Phoebe M.
“I feel like I don’t fit. Anywhere. Not in my current family…they’re too white. Not in my first family…they’re a world away. I’ve accepted that I’ll never fit. Anywhere.” – Sara G.
“Alienation. Wherever I turned, I was constantly reminded that I did not fit the society around me. I am a Latina, but I have no connection to that culture. I grew up white, but I absolutely do not look like it. Alienation wherever I looked.” – Carmen C.
“For me, trans-racial adoption feels like a constant journey through an identity crisis- a never-ending cycle of grieving, shedding, discovering, losing, gaining, analyzing, & understanding.” – Lauren Castillo
“Being a transracial adoptee means living a life of being misunderstood while also being surrounded by assumptions made by others of your own life. It also means never fitting in anywhere, except for maybe the home you make yourself.” – Alexis Bartlett
“My white adoptive mom once told me that she believed in nurture over nature until I started exploring my black identity and “acting culturally black.” I still live with the fact that my mom adopted me with the belief that she could love the black out of me. It continues to break my heart, more than thirty years later.” – Dr. Abby Hasberry
“You are stronger than your shadows. Sure there has been major upheaval in our life. I was 26 when I was half told I was even trafficked or adopted. All a bit shady, but I know who I am because I spent my life being me and built myself up one day at a time. Hard days? Yes. Gamut of terrible feelings? Of course, racist attacks, obviously from within my family and not, BUT only if you allow externalities define you does it transform you. Do it yourself, you’ll be happier and less upset. Ciao. Iranian adoptee to an Italian family, raised in Canada.” – Flavia Nasrin Testa
“I grew up thinking I was a fraud. Not enough of anything, but always too much. I was told I was no different, so what I was feeling could not be true. There is a hollowness to my sense of self that will always be there.” – I Used to Be Sam
“As a transracial adoptee adult, who was raised with the “colorblind” worldview, I was dangerously unprepared for college, city life, and the world. Leaving for college, I vividly remember being convinced racism was not real. As an adult, navigating Blackness, Whiteness, racism, and discrimination for the first time without the “cloak of (white) privilege” life was devastating and demoralizing for me. I felt bamboozled in college, after college, and in many instances in life still to this day.” – Molly E. McLaurin
“I felt Swedish, I breathed Swedish, and I lived Swedish – everything I did growing up other white Swedes did as well – but of course, as soon as anything negative happened in school as a kid or teen, it was all blamed on me, and my sister – the psychiatry got involved as is the practice here and only the two adopted kids got labeled, after which we got our rights removed as young adults – the practice is such that whenever an adopted kid/teen is involved in any trouble the psychiatry will label you, we’re sacrificed as scapegoats by the psychiatry and they don’t give a fuck about context, we’re treated like foreigners – not like citizens by them – the statistics tell of adopted kids being four times more common in the psychiatry, and in the suicides for a reason.” – Victor Fernando Nygren
“Growing up, my white adoptive parents forced me to believe they were my only family. Because of this, I’m unable to connect with my Indian culture. To the point where I don’t feel Indian. Sometimes it even feels like an Indian woman didn’t give birth to me.” – Winnie
“I always felt as though I wasn’t “Latina enough” or fitted in anywhere being a Transracial Adoptee. And being torn from my ethnic culture was not my choice as a child. However, reclaiming my roots and my power as an adult on my terms has been my choice, and I am grateful for it because now I realize that HOME has been inside of me all this time.” – Sarita Buer, Latina TRA – @saritawellness
“Being a TRA has wreaked havoc on my mental and emotional health. Referring to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, my sense of security, belonging, and esteem was neglected when I had no racial mirrors during the formative first 19 years of my life. At the age of 55, I still have no sense of belonging, my self-esteem is in the trash, and I struggle forming lasting intimate relationships. I wouldn’t wish this internal battle on anyone.” – Karen Elliott
“I think people often think that being adopted is a glamorous experience and a fairytale ending, and I’m here to say that yes, it was an experience I had, but the fairytale ending does not exist. I have been navigating the intersections of my identity as a transracial international adoptee from South America, growing up in a predominantly white community, along with several other adopted siblings. These experiences, while unique to my story, are very common, and I have realized how much of my mental health has been impacted by these many layers of my identity. I hope people understand that being an adoptee is complicated and not as easy or wonderful as some people may think.” – Ana Felicia, Colombian Transracial International Adoptee
“This is what no one told me about being adopted…No one told me that I would find out that I was out of the loop when the most crucial moments in my life were set in motion. No one told me how misplaced I would feel — how I would grow up knowing that I am different, with my origins erased. That I would struggle with buried trauma, racial identity as never-ending grief, because I’ve lost something that I can neither recover nor just “get over.” – Eun Kyung Chee
“Biological connection means nothing and everything at the same time. You’re told blood doesn’t make a family, and love is a choice. But if love is a choice, then why is it so hard to choose to love yourself? Not knowing your true roots and being reminded of that harsh reality every time you look in the mirror, at your adoptive family’s faces, or at everyone around you who doesn’t resemble you at all makes self-love difficult. And being adopted, being biologically different certainly wasn’t my choice.” – Kelly Hrank
“Growing up, my experiences as a transracial transnational adoptee had been narrated and carefully curated by my white adoptive parents. As a child, the only feelings I was allowed to access were gratitude and happiness, and my own adoption story didn’t even belong to me. Coming out of the Fog freed me to embrace the anger, loss, and grief I had also been feeling my entire life. And to eventually meet a worldwide community of adoptees and witness others who felt exactly or similarly to me was validating and necessary for my adoption trauma healing.” – Maze Felix (They/Them)
“Being a multiracial transracial adoptee is a constant search for identity. It is a constant navigation between belonging and not. I feel roots that I don’t know how to access and, at times, explore without feeling like an imposter. It is a constant practice of coming back to myself in acknowledgment that I am enough by just existing.” – Tisa A.
“For me, my adoption is the “fairy tale” version, the one people think they’d be getting out of the whole experience. But just because the princess is happy now doesn’t mean her trauma is gone or no longer hurts her. She’s stuck in an endless loop of ‘what if it didn’t happen’ or ‘who was I supposed to be’ and feeling like an imposter at all times because she’s been playing a part she didn’t ask for. Yet, she wouldn’t change a thing because she loves herself for her strength and understanding adoption has given her.” – Supposed to be Selena
“My closed transracial adoption was full of lies and deception regarding my ethnicity. This led to a lifetime of confusion, searching for clues to my racial identity. I never fit in and had no “tribe” or culture to claim as my own.” – Signed, T. Adams
“Here’s an inside scoop to understanding an Adoptee’s Grief: No matter the explanation for why they were given away, babies do not understand logic and babies do not understand politics, but instead, all they know is that they were abandoned. Babies, instead, should feel safe, secure, wanted, and loved, but that is all lost in the process of relinquishment and adoption. Their baby self has learned the message that they are unwanted and unloved, and so the only way for Adoptees to heal is through self-love.” – Haley Hudler, Chinese American Adoptee, adopted in 1997.
“Who I was before the fog was a version of me wearing a mask which was chosen for me. An identity handpicked. Now, here I am after the fog. Maskless. Identity reclaimed anew.” – Harley Place, Indian Adoptee
“I know what it feels like to hold a piece of myself that will never have a true sense of belonging to one culture or family, and that piece of me will always feel lost and stranded. I know what it feels like to grow up being racially isolated and wishing I were white, wishing I looked like my parents. I know what it feels like to be loved by my parents and to have the knowledge that their first preference was to have a biological child.” – Amanda Fallon, Korean American Adoptee, Adopted in 1982.
“I may have been adopted from India by white people, but that doesn’t give me white privilege. Ever since 9/11, I receive far more uncomfortable looks from people at the airport.” – Nandeeta Ramsey
“Adoption is my roaring broken heart beneath the expectations of love-starved strangers. It is the daring, lonely, and unending pursuit of finding doors and the skeletons they hide. The idea itself of embracing arms, of belonging, is the only home I’ll ever know.” – “Amanda” Wild
“Like many transracial adoptees, I’ve always felt like a part of many worlds but more like a visiting tourist. My twist is that my adoptive mom was Mexican, and I’m white, so I grew up around relatives speaking Spanish and eating tamales at holidays, but since my mom didn’t make an effort to raise me as bilingual, I’m unable to access her/our full community. Now I send my little white kids to Spanish immersion school to [re]connect with our Mexican roots (that don’t actually feel rooted to my whole identity), which also gives me cultural appropriation vibes, but it truly was and is a big chunk of my multi-layered culture. So I’m in yet another space where I feel like I don’t belong- transracial adoptee communities that are seemingly all people of color.” – Mari Triplett
“My proximity to Whiteness as a result of being raised in a White household didn’t shield me from experiencing racism. It deprived me of learning how to exist as a POC and instead taught me how to erase my sense of identity, culture, and self.” – Dong Mee
“As a Chinese transracial adoptee who was raised by my Jewish mother in a predominantly white area, I experienced a lot of confusion surrounding my cultural, ethnic, and racial identity. I spent a lot of time feeling like I wasn’t Asian enough or Jewish enough, no matter how much I tried to fit into those two labels. Since finding the adoptee community, I finally feel like I’ve found a place where I truly belong and can just be my authentic self.” – Shelley Rottenberg | IG: @shelleyrottenberg
“I feel impostor syndrome follows me throughout all of the cultures I’ve grown to be a part of, especially my own. I feel an openness to other races that is not reciprocated by anyone I know, as I don’t know any other trans-racially adopted people. I feel proud to be celebrating my culture as I learn it, whereas others who have grown up with this culture may leave it behind or take it for granted.” – Soni
“I feel blessed that a family wanted me because upon finding my birth mother, she didn’t want anything to do with me after our first initial meet-up. When I think of transracial adoption. I realize the blessing lies in being able to identify with more than one ethnicity, and this trait allows my future work as a social worker to be impacted positively when it comes to the skill of tuning into the client, intellectually and effectively!” – IG @stay_driven05
“I never know which culture I belong to. My Bulgarian Romani or my American that I was adopted into. I feel like I don’t belong in either, and when I do, I feel like an imposter.” – Maria
“I never felt like I fit in, I lost my roots and my culture. I remember never knowing what I was ethnically when I was asked and telling my white friends they should be in my family photos instead because they looked more like everyone else.” – Chelle Cook
“In grade school, I was one of the only Asian people in my predominantly white community and was heavily bullied for it. I didn’t even understand that I was being bullied at the time, so I never told anyone about the constant racist comments from my classmates. This, combined with having a white adoptive family, ultimately led to a big identity crisis, and it’s taken me a long time to start healing. Surrounding myself with people who accept me and exploring the adoptee community has helped me so much in my healing journey, and I hope other adoptees struggling can find loving communities just as I have!” – Kaeli Walker
“The system of adoption has hurt both my adoptive parents and me and simultaneously makes it impossible for us to heal together. It has pitted us against each other, but we are not adversaries. We share collective pain.” – Julie Emra
“Anytime I experienced racism or someone questioning my race or ethnicity my adoptive mom would always answer, “but you’re Italian too. Did you tell them that? I found out later I’m not even Italian.” – Rhiannon
“Transracial adoption feels like having a house but never a home. Knowing that something/someone is missing, but not knowing how to fill that void. Perpetually isolated even when surrounded by your circle of love.” – B
“Strangers constantly pointed at me, asking my parents, “Is THAT your daughter?” My parents tried to pass me off as some exotic European, so I learned my true ethnicity by way of a schoolmate’s racial slur. My mom said I looked like a racially derogatory term when I braided my hair. I stood no chance of forming a healthy sense of self and will forever feel alien and disconnected.” – L. Calder
“My mental picture of myself was so whitewashed that I couldn’t even recognize my own reflection. How do I reconcile my brownness with a culture that was taken from me?” – A. Kumari
“I wasn’t adopted to take a pill. When I act out, I’m heartbroken, not mentally ill.” – Tinabtinari
“My birth mother did not write that my father was Puerto Rican on the birth certificate, fearing I would be adopted by a Spanish family. I spent my whole life thinking I was Irish and English. My adoptive family was in total disbelief that I am half Hispanic.” – Terri
“As a transracial adoptee in a white country: “Family-seems to always end up being something I have to prove myself belonging to and worthy of” – Hasina
“As a community, we often connect over our trauma and pain. What would it mean to build radical joy, love, and abundance? I have found that joy outside of the adoptee community by connecting with other movements where I can share new perspectives as an adopted person. What would it mean for our adoptee community to join broader movements for social change and add our voices to them?” – m. Seol
“I am a queer, trans, non-binary, neurodivergent, autistic, ADHD, PTSD, Asian-Chinese transracial + transnational (self-estranged) adoptee, survivor, artist, and human. I feel like I was just an object that was purchased and sold overseas as a ‘simple’ solution to a privileged white, cis, het couple’s infertility struggles, to fulfill their dream of having a baby and raising a family, except that each time that I strayed further from their idea of who I should be/who they wanted me to be for them, I got into trouble and made things worse for myself by exploring and expressing who I was. The greatest disservice of my transracial/transnational adoption experience was growing up and being treated like just another white member of the white family I was sold to because there were never conversations about race, I had to figure out on my own how to deal with racism and racist remarks directed towards me or in media, I never developed any early sense of comfortability with being Asian-Chinese, and they never allowed me to go outside of the child they wanted me to be, even when me trying to meet their unrealistic expectations almost killed me and lead me to several mental health struggles and life-long trauma. I AM NOT A SOLUTION, I AM A HUMAN/AN INDIVIDUAL, AND IT IS A DISSERVICE TO TRANSRACIAL ADOPTEES for adoptive parents to NOT embrace the child(ren)’s culture, language, food, history, and everything there is to know for the rest of their lives because THIS IS ABOUT SUPPORTING THE ADOPTEE AND THEIR LIFE; ADOPTION IS TRAUMA.” — IG: @ohheyyits_aj (they/them)
“Adoption has brought me the most pain, privilege, loss, and love I could have ever imagined. I want people to know that the act of adoption is traumatic; losing your biological family, heritage, culture, language, and much more is trauma. I want people to know that I don’t think all adoption is bad, but I DO think people who consider adoption should heavily do their research. And lastly, I want people to know that I am enough, I am Asian enough, and I belong in both Asian and American spaces.” – Lori Scoby
“There has been a great struggle in my life to fit in. Like trying to make a square peg fit a round hole. So, it felt like being forced to whittle pieces of myself away even though I could never truly be like everyone around me. White.” – Hanna Lee
“Being a transracial adoptee has always made me feel alone, unworthy and unwanted because I was “different.” “Didn’t have real parents who loved me” and never fit in with the ‘cool kids.’ Recently though, I learned that family is not always blood and true friends never judge you and love you for who you truly are. Being labeled as ‘adopted’ can be challenging to accept, but I’m learning to be proud of my label instead of embarrassed or ashamed. Because I’m adopted, I’ve found a loving and supportive community online and in real life, and I’m extremely grateful for my growth and who I’m becoming.” – Allyson Ware
“I have had to fight my entire life to get back a fraction of what was taken from me, my language, my people, my country, my culture, my roots. I have fought so hard only to feel at times like it’s still not enough. I should never have had to fight for something that was my birthright.” – Marcella Moslow
“There’s a difference between having a home and feeling at home. As a transracial adoptee, I’ve never experienced the latter, even though I grew up in a supportive, loving home. I currently live in a home and have built a life that’s overflowing with love, support, and empathy. Yet there remains a deep, innate void that permeates my soul, and I believe it will only be fulfilled when I return home to Korea.” – Tory Bae
“My parents raised me with the “color blind” mentality that I was no different to anyone in the sea of white people I grew up around while simultaneously using my Asianness as a virtue signal in their saviorist narrative for adopting me. Since I was the first Asian person many people met, I was treated like I was the purveyor of all Asian culture & knowledge even though I was a child. I wish more people become aware of how patronizing it is to live with the belief that white people/the West are deemed better suited to adopt than the people of the same race/ethnicity of the children.” – Katie L.
“Abused, neglected, orphan adopted changes for families and nations to their delight, yet then is 4x more likely to suicide. Thank you for shifting the way you think and act about adoption to change that STAT.” – Kristina Lisa
“As a transcultural adoptee, I struggled for a long time to define my identity and what true belonging means to me￼—Until I discovered the concept of the third space. Here, I can liberate myself from external expectations and labels￼ and be firm yet fluid in my self-understanding.￼ I am Korean, I am German, and I am everything in between and beyond—I am simply Sun Mee.” – SUN MEE MARTIN
“While my feelings about being adopted and being Korean-American are complicated, and they change often, I’m beyond thankful for adoption and the family it’s given me – my family is one of the clearest pictures of God’s goodness in my life. But it’s also really hard – being adopted is hard, and being Korean-American is hard, so having both of those experiences intersect can be confusing and painful at times. For me, having the safe space to process both my grief and gratitude has been so sweet. I’m thankful for the friends and family I have who have shown me Jesus through asking questions, listening to me ramble and reflect, and just being present for me in my pain and doubts this year.” – Kim G Instagram/Twitter – @kg_hyunmee
“Quantum Leap Living, where life situations suddenly move me from one continent or situation to another- shedding and acquiring cultures, language, and even my own new/old names, has left me struggling my entire life with realizing I deserve a choice and say in my life. I’ve had to learn this through many emotionally and physically abusive relationships- I simply did not realize I had a choice. I thought “things” and people just happened to me, and I learned to endure.” – IG – @lalasunmi
“My recent journey has been to recover/reclaim my Colombian culture and to reconnect it to my identity. All this with the hopes of integrating these aspects of myself that were lost to adoption. It’s also about remembering who we are behind all the social programming of family and society expects of us” – Elena Di Giovanna Serrato
“Just because an adoptee is a certain race or was adopted from another country does not mean they have an obligation to learn the language, be interested in the culture, etc., of their birthplace. While there are many who wish for this, there are many who do not. This is part of an adoptee story. It shows the range and depth of our interpretations of personal experiences and should be validated.” – Emily IG – @languagetraveladoptee
“Sometimes there’s a small feeling of envy for seeing others and families where the kids look like their parents. It’s not necessarily skin color but specific features. As a transracial adoptee, we sometimes feel more connected to others who are from the country we are born in and, as an extension of the culture. But really, we are culturally never going to be them, and our features will remain uniquely ours in families that brought us here, and that’s one thing not to envy.” – Tara S.
“Being an adoptee is like being an elephant in a family of lambs. The environment that the elephant grows up in will affect its mind and heart. Don’t think it won’t, you’d be lying to yourself.” – Megha
“Being a Chinese adoptee in America has had its ups and downs. I have struggled with feeling like I don’t always fit in and like I’m not good enough. Growing up, it was a constant battle trying to figure out and accept my identity. But even through the struggles I’ve faced, being a transracial adoptee has made me the strong woman I am today, and now I can proudly say I am a Chinese Adoptee.” – Olivia L.
“Though I am a Haitian raised by a non-BIPOC mother, I am not “transracial.” Trans means to erase, transition or transfer. There was nothing left behind, nor did I forget any part of myself. I only had to awaken to this truth: Nothing was left behind, and even my ancestors came with me.” –Lanise Antoine Shelley
“Adoption took not only my identity but my existence itself. Rootless, I felt the string that tied me to this world was broken. Faceless. Bodyless. Like if I didn’t exist until I found where I come from and who I am. How could I exist if there was no beginning? Now, I know.” – Andrea Maldonado
“Culture that runs through the blood but doesn’t reach past the tongue.” – Savannah Quinn
“Parents of transracial adoptees need to step in and advocate for them when they experience racism. It’s hard to self-advocate as a kid when you barely understand you’re a target of racism. The love of family is not a force field for racism-you need to be a vocal activist too.” – Sara W.
“The lines you created were an illusion. I know this because I crossed every one of them. When I didn’t fit into your box, you got scared. I got abandoned.” – Shaka Firefly IG – @shakafirefly
“My biological mother didn’t know or didn’t care to identify my biological father. She went so far as to have the wrong man sign away parental rights to me. I later learned she did know who my true father was and hid a huge part of my identity in the process. I was raised my whole life to believe I was white until I found and reunited with my Puerto Rican biological father.” – Luna Ashley IG: @thelunaashley
“I have always known I was adopted and that I was Chinese. My adoptive mom made sure of that. That piece of my identity is why I am here, at the University of Minnesota, studying social work with dreams of working with transracial adoptees like me. I was privileged to grow up being proud of my race and ethnicity. I’m here because I want others to have the experience I did and not live in shame or sadness for not being White.” – Ariana Meidan
“Hearing a deep sense of calling from your unconscious ancestral being within but unable to unlock the secrets or hear its song.” – Jade
“I’m so curious how come adoption has yet to solve the historic – current problem of leaving behind young – elder person, place, thing blamed, shamed, scapegoated, trashed that I began seeking and sharing solutions.” – River Riika IG: @witchtotake
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read quotes from 100 transracial adoptees. Please share this article in your online communities. Our hope is that we raise a brighter light around adoptee voices and bring the truth to light, one story, quote, and click at a time.
If you are an adoptee, what quotes spoke to you the most? Could you relate to any of your fellow transracial adoptee’s quotes?
Maybe you are an adoptee and missed the call to be included in this 100, we still want to hear from you! If you are an transracial adoptee who has a quote to share, please drop them in the comment section below.
If you are not an adoptee, but you have been impacted by this article in some way, we would love to hear your thoughts as well.
Once again, a special thank you to all 100 transracial adoptees who took the time to share your quote with me, and in return collaborated with one of the most important articles we can share. 100 transracial adoptees coming TOGETHER to share your truth is a powerful initiative.
Don’t forget this article along with all my other articles are available in audio for your convenience, just look up Pamela A. Karanova Podcast on Google Podcasts, iTunes , Spotify. and Amazon Music. Interested in treating me with a coffee, to add fuel to my fire? Click here. Many thanks in advance to my supporters!
Adoptee Remembrance Day: October 30th, 2022, has recently passed, and the collective echoes of adoptee voices can be reflected worldwide. To learn more about this day, click here.
It’s no surprise at the outpouring of support the adoption community has received about this special day of remembrance for adopted people worldwide. No doubt about it, it was a difficult day, but every day, being an adopted individual, comes with its own struggles. Yet, we must consider that adoptees have never had the support they need to navigate such a lifelong, complex, and emotional journey.
One of the core components of Adoptee Remembrance Day is to create one day before National Adoption Awareness Month which is in November and National Adoption Day, November 19th, where adopted individuals can share from the deepest parts of their hearts the reality of how adoption makes them feel. Unfortunately, the Pro-Adoption narrative has always dominated the narrative, but adoptees are dying, and we can’t afford to stay silent.
Adoptees are overrepresented in prisons, jails, treatment, and mental health facilities, and we are 4x more likely to attempt suicide. Thankfully, the tides are turning, things are changing for the future generations of adoptees, and adoptee-centric resources are starting to surface more than ever before. But unfortunately, even with some resources surfacing for adult adoptees, our cries for help have been ignored for far too long. This is one of the many reasons Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th was created.
With our collective efforts, we’ve picked October 30th annually to share our hearts, and adoptees from all over the world showed up for this day, and they showed out. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this community. The adoptee experience is unique to each of us, yet we all share the ultimate loss of our beginnings, which can impact every area of our lives.
Nikki’s Tribute, “Don’t let the feeling that I’m all alone deceive me. Among the many reasons for this day, Adoptee Remembrance Day is to raise awareness about crimes committed against adoptees by adoptive parents, as well as suicide, and different kinds of loss that are experienced by everyone who is impacted by adoption.”
While the internet is overflowing with tributes from adoptees worldwide, we wanted to share a message of gratitude for everyone who participated, adopted or not. Your voice was loud, and we appreciate everyone who took the time to share something on Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th.
As the Adoptee Movement for Adoptee Remembrance Day continues to expand and grow annually around the world, more non-adoptees will learn that there is so much more to adoption than what they have come to know. Between now and then, Adoptees will continue to do outstanding work in the adoption community by raising their voices and sharing the truth about adoption. I commend each of you and appreciate you!
We are so sorry to all the adoptees who didn’t make it because their pain was too great. We will never stop exposing the hidden side of adoption, and we love you. For the adoptees who are hurting and can’t see past their pain. Don’t give up! You are not alone. To everyone who participated, THANK YOU! WE LOVE YOU! Sending you massive hugs of support and embracing you with love and encouragement to press forward in your cause.
Below are some online tributes for Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th, 2022.
Lisa Wool-Rim Sjoblom’s Tribute: “Today, October 30th, is Adoptee Remembrance Day. Today we mourn all the adoptees we’ve lost. Those who were murdered by their adoptive parents and other family members, and those who died due to neglect and abuse. Those we lost to suicide. Today we acknowledge all the adoptees suffering in their adoptive homes and whose please for help no one hears or believes. We recognize all adoptees struggling with depression, addiction, poverty, homelessness, abusive relationships and loneliness. We acknowledge those who have been re-homed – some multiple times, those without citizenship, those who have been deported and those who are incarcerated. We recognize all adoptees searching for their first families, all who are not allowed to reunite and all who are trying to get access to their birth certificates and other documents they’ve been denied for far too long. We recognize all adoptees who will never find their families and will never learn where they came from. We recognize that for many of us, adoption is a wound that will never heal, a grief that will never diminish and a trauma we will carry for the rest of our lives.”
Korean Adoptee Community in Germany‘sTribute: “We are proud of this collage! It shows cohesion, understanding, love and trust. We are an international community and nobody has to be lone! Special thanks to our friends around the world.”
Sanjay’s Tribute:” Thinking of all of us who haven’t been able to grieve the losses to our community because we’re supposed to be grateful/thankful. Or even how close I’ve come to that edge because the pain felt is overwhelming and I couldn’t imagine another way forward. For all adoptees today, I see you, I love you, and your lives matter!”
Carmen’s Tribute: “Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th. This day holds a special place in my heart. It’s one in which we reflect upon the hardships that are within being adopted. As well as remembering and honoring those in the adoptee community we have lost too soon. I light a candle to remember how far I have come in this adoption journey of mine. Had you known me as a child, even two years ago I never would have expected me to be speaking at my own candlelight vigil. Sharing with others my adoption journey has led me to a whole new world of healing.”
Valerie’s Tribute: Adoptee Remembrance Day is October 30th, 2022. Adoptees are four times more likely to commit suicide than non-adopted people. Here is a bowl of yellow flowers from my garden for all my co-adoptees out there. Adoptees Matter, We Matter. So much love to all the lives we lost, those who have attempted, and for those who are still struggling.”
ADOPTEE’S & SUPPORTERS ON TiKTok
Reflections on Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th, 2022.
To our fellow adoptees, keep sharing and keep shining. We need you; you matter, and your voice is critical to the community that has been marginalized for a lifetime. Please take care of yourself and practice a healthy balance between self-care and pouring into the adoptee community.
What do I mean by “For all the people in the back?” It’s saying “SAY IT LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK” aka for the people on the sidelines, in the shadows and/or for the people who refuse to acknowledge the sentiments in this article. It’s been used over the years to put an emphasis on an important topic, but specifically to those who turn a blind eye, or refuse to listen or acknowledge something. In other words, I don’t need to say it louder for some as they are actively involved for the cause, but I’m saying it LOUDER for the people in the back who continue to turn a blind eye. This is my meaning behind it.
Soon we will be honoring our 3rd annual Adoptee Remembrance Day – on October 30th around the globe. This is a day to reflect on the side of adoption that’s almost always ignored. I would love to ask for the support of all who care to take the time to listen and learn that there is more to the adoptee and adoption experience than what society portrays.
If you have an open heart and an open mind, please proceed with the willingness to listen and learn from a well-versed adult adoptee with some essential things to share that could be life-saving for adoptees worldwide. Thank you in advance.
First things first, before any adoption takes place, every adopted person experiences a life-altering loss first. This loss is so profound that it can and does impact every area of our lives. If you can evoke empathy for another human being, I am asking you to briefly place yourself in the shoes of an adopted person so I can take you on a journey of what our experiences can be like. Let’s put the “adoption” piece on the shelf and rewind how our lives unfold before we’re ever adopted.
No matter why adopted people are separated from their biological mothers, families, cultures, and beginnings, we all have a [His]-Story and a [Her]-Story. Yet, a lot of the time, our beginnings are swept under the rug as if our beginnings don’t exist. The reality of this being a traumatic experience is ignored by all, and adoption is viewed as a win, win for all in the adoption constellation.
The agony that many adoptees face, not knowing who we are or where we come from, is an agony that some adoptees can’t survive. Sometimes our pain is too great. As an adoptee suicide attempt survivor, I take this cause to heart in a very significant way.
Not only did I try to end my life when I was a teenager, but I have also struggled with suicidal ideation throughout my life. I almost ended my life again in 2017 due to many adoptee-related situations and issues happening all around the same time that almost took me out. However, I found enough strength to turn things around and take a lifetime of pain, and I found purpose in it. Not all adoptees can find this strength. They are the reason I share my story and voice.
The separation from our biological mothers is a preverbal trauma tucked away in our subconscious memory that, for many of us, has a way of visiting us throughout our lives. Some adoptees struggle significantly in life, and some don’t struggle as much. I am sharing my voice for those who struggle because my heart can feel their pain because I am one of those adoptees.
Building relationships with adoptees worldwide for over a decade, dedicating countless hours to hearing their stories, I can say that every single adoptee I have had contact with has struggled with being adopted, EVERY SINGLE ONE. Even the ones with the “picture perfect” adoption story still have had difficulties with it to some degree. To ignore this reality would be a travesty to adoptees everywhere. When they hurt, I hurt. When they cry, I cry. I feel their pain because I have carried the same pain.
When separation trauma is swept under the rug and never acknowledged by the adults in our lives, it hurts the adoptee. Adoptees can’t find the language to articulate how they feel in our childhoods, and we can’t heal from secrecy, lies, and half-truths. However, when the adults in our lives acknowledge this reality, it helps us heal when we have the adults in our lives facilitate helping us find the language to process our complex emotions. It also helps at great lengths when they help us find our truths and support us along the way.
The sooner we can start this process, the better and I recommend an adoptee-competent therapist on deck to help facilitate this process at age-appropriate times. This is a lot of work; however, when anyone wants to adopt a child or newborn, they should automatically take this into account because the complexities from relinquishment trauma compacted by adoption trauma run deep.
When we are adopted and our separation trauma is ignored, it can set the adoptee up for a lifetime of abandonment, rejection, grief, loss, anger, rage, and addictions. The list could go on forever. When we know that separation trauma is different than adoption trauma or the adoption experience, we can acknowledge the different feelings each adoptee might have about their own lived experience.
It’s totally okay that we feel different feelings, and we all seem to have different degrees of struggles. No two adoptee story is the same. We can have fantastic and loving adoptive parents and also feel deep grief, loss, sadness, and sorrow for all that was lost before the adoption took place. Adoptee Remembrance Day is a day we would love others to acknowledge the loss that every adoptee experiences before they are adopted.
Adoptee Remembrance Day is a day to step outside our level of understanding and into the lens of adopted people worldwide, with the willingness to listen and learn from their experiences. It’s a day to acknowledge that separation trauma and adoption trauma come with unique layers that need understanding.
We are urging everyone to get involved because the reality is that adoptees are DYING, and we can’t afford to stay silent or turn a blind eye. You don’t have to be adopted to participate. Maybe you know and love an adoptee or had a wonderful adoption experience, but you know many of your fellow adoptees did not. Whatever your role is inside or outside the adoption constellation, you have a much-needed voice within Adoptee Remembrance Day – October 30th.
How can you get involved?
Listen to adoptees! Visit the Adoptee Remembrance Day Info tab and learn more about how to put your hand on this critically important day in the adoptee community. Below are valuable articles and videos about Adoptee Remembrance Day and the adoption experience. I encourage you to tap into each resource, share them on October 30th and add your thoughts based on what you have learned.
You will find acknowledgments and thoughts from individuals and organizations worldwide who have something to say about Adoptee Remembrance Day. Please read and share these resources on your social media platforms. A little willingness goes a long way, and you could be saving an adoptee’s life!
Thank you to all the adoptees, relinquishees, non-adoptees, organizations, and supporters near and far. A collaboration of our voices coming together for this critical cause is a powerful message to send to the world! People are finally starting to listen! Thank you for your time reading; your support means everything to me and adopted people worldwide!
November 11th, 2010, was a game changer for me. After learning my birth father’s name and receiving confirmation of his location from multiple sources, I made a decision. I could leave my birth mother’s funeral and drive back to Kentucky on a ten-hour trip home, or I could drive to Leon, Iowa, and show up at my birth father’s door and introduce myself! Unfortunately, the latter would put me way out of touch with getting home to Kentucky at a decent hour, adding over six hours to my driving time.
After doing some digging, I was able to find the name and phone number of the biological cousin that my aunt Nan mentioned, whose name was Brian. I called him, and he acknowledged who Jack Jennings was and confirmed where he lived in Leon, Iowa. I told him I was Eileen’s biological daughter, and I had been told Jack was my father. He concluded that Jack was a pall barrier at my grandfather’s funeral, and he was a close family friend.
He shared that the Jennings brothers were all very close, and they all lived within a mile radius from one another, in the sticks of the little town called Leon just a little north of the Missouri and Iowa border. He said they always lived off the land, and even when gaming laws were in play, the Jennings brothers made their own rules and hunted year-round to feed their families. So gaming wasn’t only a hobby for them; it was survival.
He shared Jack’s wife’s name, Lanette, so I decided to look her up online, and I took a plunge and gave her a call. After two short rings, a soft woman’s voice answered the phone. “Hello” is all that was said.
“Hi, my name is Pamela, and I hope this call finds you well. I am calling to speak about Jack. I live in Kentucky but have returned to Iowa for my biological mother’s funeral. At the funeral, I learned from several sources that Jack is my biological father. I am on my way to Leon now. I don’t want anything from him, only to see his face and meet him at least once. Is he home today?” – I said.
“Oh, honey, I believe everyone deserves to know who their biological parents are. However, I must share that Jack is a raging alcoholic who stopped drinking a few weeks ago. The last few weeks are the nicest he’s been to me in over 20 years of our marriage. If there ever was a time to come, it’s right now. I am going into town today to play bingo with a friend. He will be home all day watching football. Once you hit our long gravel road, you will see our mailbox on the right about half a mile up the long gravel driveway. You will likely lose your cell signal, so write this down. You might have wild dogs chase you up the driveway, but call inside before you get out of your car and ask Jack to come out. He will scare them off. Our house number is 1-319-555-1212. Good luck, honey. I won’t say we spoke.” – Said Lanette.
Wow, I remember being shocked at how kind and understanding she was. It felt like she gave me her blessing, so I was all in and taking it. The few hours to get to Leon, IA, from Waterloo, IA, seemed like an eternity. The closer I got, the more nervous I got. What if he thought I was an intruder? Or what if he turned me away? What if it went south? Well, all the scenarios were on the table, but one thing was sure, I was not going to die without seeing his face at least once, so I was more determined than I had ever been to do what I had to do to see him.
He lived in the country off the land, with wild dogs on his property, and was a gamer and hunter. He had a gun shed and a slaughterhouse. He could have lit my ass on fire when I showed up, but my desire to see his face one time was more significant than any fears most would have had. I didn’t think twice about putting myself in harm’s way. I was willing to die to see his face one time.
Non-adopted people can’t fathom why this would be so important to an adoptee. Sometimes I think it’s because they don’t know what it’s like to grow up and spend your entire life not mirroring anyone. It impacts adoptees, and it impacts us profoundly. I feel that to grow and prosper in life, we have to have roots, and when we don’t have our roots, we become stagnant and can’t grow.
When we see others who share similarities, characteristics, and genetic mirroring, it changes things. But unfortunately, most non-adopted people have this privilege and know no different, so they can unknowingly take it for granted. Well, I am here to tell you that seeing the faces of our biological parents is a massive piece of our journeys, and if an adopted person has that desire, it’s essential they are supported.
My anticipation rose as miles brought me closer to Jack Jennings’s doorstep. This was where the rubber met the road. I was finally going to see his face, a dream come true. Yet, part of me always questioned if seeing his face was enough. What if we could pull together a relationship from all the years apart? I was dying inside, not knowing who my biological parents were, so this was life or death.
I was open to all scenarios, but seeing his face one time was the priority of this decision. I wanted to feel real like I had roots somewhere. No matter how it would turn out, I would soon be faced with the reality that had always been hidden from me. Was my birth mother right? Did he know nothing about me, and would he NOT want to know? I was about to experience this myself. Indeed, no matter what anyone told me, I had to see it myself. Adoptees need to see it for themselves no matter who wants to protect them.
Most of the time, when an adoption happens, the pre-story isn’t usually a pretty story. While our adoptive parents and society dress it up, the reality is that it always begins with loss. Loss of our cultures, ethnicity, genetic history, medical history, lost relationships, knowledge of our ancestry, and so much more. Only when everyone in the adoption constellation acknowledges this reality will adoptees have a fighting chance at a life of wholeness and happiness, and even then, it’s no guarantee.
I turned right down a long gravel road, literally in the middle of nowhere outside Leon, Iowa, with a population of approximately 1800 residents. I remember Lanette telling me how to find the mailbox that led down another long gravel road that would lead to Jack Jennings’s doorstep.
It was around 11:30 AM on a Sunday, and the sun was shining, but it was a cool crisp morning in November in Leon. The leaves were starting to fall, and the vibes were majestic. Country fields surrounded Jack’s house for miles. As I pulled slowly up Jack’s long gravel driveway, I noticed a pond to the right of his property. It was breathtaking, and the land where he lived was enchanting.
The closer I got to his house, the more determined I became. Finally, I took Lanette’s advice and called into the house to see if I could get Jack on the phone to alert him of my arrival. Getting out of the car alone, with wild dogs approaching my car, wasn’t in the cards. After two short rings into Jack’s landline phone, I hear a “Hello” on the other end of the line.
I said, “Hi Jack, I’m Pamela, and I’m outside your house. I have been told you are my biological father, and I would love a chance to meet you and say hello for a few minutes. Would it be okay if I came in to say hello?”
He said, “Come on in. I will open the door!”
Once he came to the door, the wild dogs scattered off, so I was able to get out of my car safely. Then, as I walked up the rest of his gravel driveway, I approached his front door; he opened his screen door and said, “Come on in!”
I could glance at his face when he turned around; he looked at me and said, “Who’s your mother?!” I am sure this was the million-dollar question, but I said, “My mother is Eileen Ward from Waterloo, Iowa. Her father was Garrett Burchett. From what I have been told, you were a pall barrier and a family friend at this funeral?”
He walked me into his living room area, I followed him, and he invited me to sit on the sofa. I noticed he had Iowa Football on the television. It seemed he was spending the day in the little slice of paradise he had created for himself.
He said, “I remember her; she was the only woman I ever danced with that I didn’t have to bend to dance with her because she was so tall! But she didn’t tell me anything about you!”
“That’s the story I was also told,” I said. So I let him know that Eileen gave me up for adoption on August 13th, 1974, and it was apparent it was without his consent because he knew nothing about me.
He started to ask me a few questions, and he asked me if I had ever had a chance to meet my biological grandmother on my maternal side. I said, “No, sir, she passed away long ago, and I never got to meet her.”
“She was crazier than a box of rocks!” he said. I told him I heard a few stories about her, but that was the extent of my knowledge about her.” This sparked my interest in wondering if any of his parents were still alive.
I told him I was in Iowa because Eileen had passed away, and I was there for her funeral, where I received confirmation about who he was. I also shared I drove to Leon instead of home to Kentucky at a chance to meet him. I had a 13-hour drive ahead of me, so I wasn’t staying long.
He started to tell me a little about his life and job, and in that piece of our conversation, he was using the graphic term for a black person, which let me know he was a racist. I was taken back a bit, but I also acknowledged that he was from a different era and time than me, so I just listened. He shared that my great- grandmother was part Cheyenne Indian and shared this with pride.
Jack said he attended college at the University of Nebraska, where he played football. He also served in the United States Army, where he served from 1961 to 1963. He was an outdoorsman and loved hunting and fishing. He also was a sports fan. He loved the Green Bay Packers and New York Yankees. He also enjoyed the University of Nebraska and University of Iowa teams. He liked to read Louis L’Amour novels, watched westerns and Clint Eastwood movies, played the card game 500, and had a great recall memory.
Jack worked at John Deere’s and retired from there several years earlier. One of the strange things is that my adopted dad worked at John Deere’s and retired from there, and so did Eileen’s most recent husband, Keith. The one that told me Jack Jenning’s was deceased! Such a wild paradox if you think about it. I wondered if they knew each other.
Jack asked me about the names of my adoptive parents, which I told him, but he seemed like their names didn’t ring a bell. I told him I had been living in Kentucky since I was seventeen, but I always wondered who my biological parents were. We talked for about 45 minutes.
I had another question for Jack. “Do I have any siblings?” I asked.
He hesitated and said, “Grant Blackcloud might be my son, but there is more to that story, and I’m not 100% sure he’s mine.”
I said, “Can you tell me where Grant lives?”
“He is from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.” He said.
I thanked him for the information, and I asked him if any of his parents were alive, and he said, “Yes, My mother is alive, and she lives independently in town and has an apartment. I check on her daily. She’s 82 years old.”
I knew I might not like the answer he gave me, but I expressed an interest in meeting her one day because I had never met a biological grandparent. Because she was still living independently, I had hoped he would allow this meeting to be facilitated, but I wasn’t holding my breath.
However, when I suggested the idea, he said, “Maybe you can come back in the spring, and I can set up a meeting between you two?” I was elated at the idea. I was also surprised that he was interested in us meeting again in the future.
Even when I knew this could be the last and only time I ever saw him in this lifetime, I knew I had to get on the road for the long ride home across the country. After about 45 minutes of a visit, I told Jack it was nice to meet him, but I had to leave. I took one more leap and asked him if I could take his photo, and he didn’t seem thrilled with the idea, but he allowed it. In the first picture, he looked angry; I decided to ask him to smile. I got a half grin, snapped my camera again, and my time with Jack Jennings was over.
He walked me to the door and stepped outside to say a few more words. “I made that lake over there and that house over there; that’s where my brother lives. My other brother lives over the hill, about a mile away.”
I remember being awe-struck at the beauty of Mother Nature that surrounded me. Jack Jennings was wrapped in nature’s most delicate, and it seemed like it would be a dream to live out in the country as he did. The rolling hills and fields spoke to me, and it was apparent that I was standing in a space where my roots lay for the first time in my life. Part of me felt at home, but I knew it wasn’t my home because of adoption. I was once again an outsider looking in.
I gave Jack my business card so he would have my contact information and told him I was already looking forward to the visit in the Spring. No hugs or warm fuzzies were happening. I shook Jack’s hand, got in my car, and headed back to my old Kentucky home.
I’m pretty sure I was in shock for the next several hours, days, and weeks. My brain was overloaded trying to process the interactions and emotions over the last few days. Then, I called my kids, who were 16 years old, and the twins were 12 years old at the time to share the news. Of course, they don’t fully grasp the experience and how important it was to me to meet my birth father finally, but they understand more than your average person.
After my final destination home, I think I stared at the photo of my birth father for hours and even days. Finally, I printed it and tacked it to the wall beside my bed. It’s one of my very few most prized possessions. I showed all my close friends and could hardly believe I had met the man who had brought me into the world. Jack and I departed with a penciled-in plan that I come back in the Spring, and at that time, he was going to take me to meet his mother, my biological grandmother. This would be a dream come true.
Then, finally, I felt like a genuine and authentic person and that I came from somewhere. I didn’t drop out of the sky by way of a spaceship as an alien intruder to a world I didn’t belong in. Even when I felt this way my whole life, I now felt like I had roots planted somewhere. These were my people. This was the land that they lived on. Even when adoption separated us at no choice of my own, the authentic reality was that I was home.
Jack and I had some of the same facial features and skin complexion. Our faces were shaped similarly. Knowing this truth and seeing it for myself profoundly changed things for me. After feeling like a fraud my whole life, I felt REAL; I finally felt fucking real. This experience was a game-changer for me.
Non-adoptees can’t grasp what it feels like not to have the first pages of your book of life. To have the beginning pages ripped out, so to speak, really impacts the adoptee and not in a positive light. 2010 was the first time in my whole life that I didn’t look at myself in the mirror and hated what was looking back at me. Instead, although very scarred, I felt whole like I never had before, but I still had questions, and now my new search was about to begin.
It was time to put my investigator hat back on and begin the search for my possible half-brother, Grant Blackcloud. I was going to get to the bottom of that piece of the puzzle if my life depended on it. I was never going to give up until I found all my people.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova
While my kids stayed in Kentucky with the twins grandma, I hit the road in November of 2010 and arrived in Waterloo, Iowa, on the day of Eileen’s funeral. I was entirely out of my element, being the adoptee outsider feeling invisible. Yet, I knew I was born at St. Frances Hospital in Waterloo, where my birth mother was. Waterloo always gave me an eerie feeling, one I have difficulty describing in words.
I have had dreams my whole life off and on about Saint Frances Hospital. I was five years old in the dream when I discovered I was adopted. I’m at St. Francis Hospital on the maternity ward where I was born and the last place I was with my birth mother before we were separated for life. I’m a little girl in the dream, wearing nothing but a small hospital gown with bare feet.
Everything was white, crisp, and had a paranormal feeling about it. It was the feeling of being misplaced, as if you are a little kid at the fair and you turn around, and your parents are gone. Like they left, never to return, a feeling of terror and panic comes over you. That’s how I feel every time I have this dream. I was frantic, searching for HER.
I take off running down the maternity ward hallways in search of her! The hallways never ended, and I ran in and out of every room, going on forever and ever. As I ran, I saw a giant clock, and time was running out. I kept running forever, but I never found her! I would wake up from these dreams in complete dire straights, completely inconsolable. Please believe me when I tell you that adoption is torture, and it’s a mental mind fuck for adoptees.
I had no idea how my trip to Eileen’s funeral would go down, but one of my main reasons for going was to learn more about her and possibly my birth father. It wasn’t long ago that I was told he was deceased, which never sat well with my spirit. I felt in my heart of hearts that was always one more lie, and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. First, I wanted to stand over his grave and see if he was deceased. Second, I wanted DNA to connect me to his family tree. I was never giving up until I found all of my people!
I will never forget reading Eileen’s obituary online and feeling a knife stab me straight in the heart when I saw I wasn’t listed in her obituary. This is another time I have difficulty finding the words to explain how this blow made me feel. I am thankful I was sitting in my car; otherwise, I think I would have collapsed. Logic would say, “Duh, of course, you weren’t listed; she gave you away!” However, the little girl in me couldn’t acknowledge that at all.
I could feel my heart ripped into shreds, and it took my breath away that I didn’t account for shit. I didn’t even exist or matter even a little bit. I was non-existent, invisible, still, hallow, and empty inside—a walking dead woman. So while reality seemed like the more straightforward solution, I was deeply hurt that I was not listed in Eileen’s obituary. It cut like a knife.
However, I needed to put on a smile to show up for her funeral service to be surrounded by people I didn’t know and search for more of my adoptee truth. One more example of me being vulnerable and putting myself “out there” to gain a glimpse of my birth mother’s life and learn more about her.
I was dying to talk to her closest friends and meet biological family I had never been allowed to meet in this lifetime. Would someone be able to share who my birth father was? Soon, I would discover more than I ever had about my birth mother and her life, but much of what I learned rocked me to my core.
I remember seeing my birth sister for the first time in over a decade with her children and husband. She gave me a card with sisterly sentiments in it, which was nice. She talked about wanting to pick back up where we left off and apologizing for disappearing. Even when sad circumstances brought us back together, I was happy to see her again. I was elated to move forward and open the door back up at a chance at a relationship with her.
We met before the funeral service and rode together to the funeral home. We walked in, and Eileen was lying in a casket dressed in a denim button-up shirt with a Christmas print on it. I thought that was odd because it was November; however, they said she loved Christmas, so she wore that shirt year round. She looked frail, wrinkled, and old, yet she was one month before her 63rd birthday. Lifelong alcohol, COPD, and cigarette consumption did a number on her.
As I got closer to the casket, I thought my emotions might take over me, but I felt disconnected and hallow, which I wasn’t expecting. We stood over Eileen’s casket for a moment, and I knew this was it. This was the last time I would ever see her in my lifetime.
I went to sit down with my birth sister and her kids and husband. I was handed a funeral program, and the service for Eileen started. It seems her funeral was planned down to every little detail, which I thought was interesting. She had the funeral home paid for, and her service was simple and short. After the service, she was cremated, and her urn was buried.
But, first, someone shared a short eulogy of her life, sharing she worked at Engineered Products for 16 years and was a NASCAR fan, especially Jeff Gordon. Then, they shared about her surviving one and only daughter, Joanna, and her only grandkids as Joanna’s three kids. While I had already read the obituary online, this still stung extensively. My emotions started to work on me.
After they shared a few short words about Eileen and her life, they played a song she picked out and requested to play at her memorial service. As the song began to play, this is when my tears started to flow. The words to the song struck a chord, and the reality that it was her last song somehow connected me to her at that moment.
Frank Sinatra – My Way
“And now the end is here And so I face that final curtain My friend, I’ll make it clear I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain I’ve lived a life that’s full I traveled each and every highway And more, much more I did it, I did it my way
Regrets, I’ve had a few But then again too few to mention I did what I had to do I saw it through without exemption I planned each charted course Each careful step along the byway And more, much, much more I did it, I did it my way
Yes, there were times I’m sure you knew When I bit off more than I could chew But through it all, when there was doubt I ate it up and spit it out I faced it all, and I stood tall and did it my way.
For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught Not to say the things that he truly feels And not the words of someone who kneels Let the record show; I took all the blows and did it my way.”
She did what she had to do, stood tall, and did it her way. Back to her learning, she was pregnant with me, in 1973, out of wedlock, with a married man who was a family friend. This song will always remind me of her; it has touched my heart profoundly. Not in a heartwarming way, in a sorrowful way. While I started to cry, listening to the words and incorporating her choosing to give me up for adoption, my emotions got the best of me.
I was sobbing, and just an arm’s length away, so was Joanna. While we both cried tears, we didn’t carry the same pain. I would learn in a few conversations that her pain was from a lifetime of loss of the mother she deserved. Eileen was an alcoholic who wasn’t present to support Joanna growing up. She had scars from her childhood and life and said it was challenging growing up as an only child with an alcoholic mother. I had great sympathy for her then, and I still do.
She mentioned multiple times that she wished she was the one given up for adoption. But, of course, this implies that an adoptee has a chance at a “better life,” although the reality is that it only provides a “different life.” In her mind, I had a better life, but the reality was that she didn’t know my life. So her conclusions were made on assumptions.
While the song “My Way” finished, there was a close to the service, and tears began to dry up. Now it was time to mingle and dig as deep as possible into every conversation possible, to learn more about my birth mother and find more information about my birth father and where he was.
Joanna took me around to meet everyone and introduced me repeatedly, “This is Pam, my sister that mom gave up for adoption.” Ouch, this stung in a wild ass way, but it was the reality of the situation. So over and over, I was introduced as “Eileen’s daughter that was given up for adoption.” I didn’t know how to feel, so I just tried not to feel.
I spoke to one of Eileen’s long-time neighbors, who shared that Eileen was disconnected from everyone around her when she passed away. She shared that they tried to bring her cookies and check on her in the winter months, and she wouldn’t answer the door. They reached out to her various times, and she became semi-hateful toward people trying to help her, even telling them to “go away,” so they eventually left her alone.
Joanna also let me know that several years before Eileen passed away, she and her kids and husband packed up and drove to Iowa from another state to see Eileen at Christmas time, and she refused to answer the door. So while Joanna and her husband and kids were stuck outside at Christmas, this was essentially the end of their relationship until she learned of her passing away. I am confident this was extremely hard for Joanna.
I was introduced to one of Eileen’s best friends named Janet, and we had a few moments of a one-on-one conversation. She let me know that she remembered when Eileen was pregnant with me. They both grew up together and had their daughters together around the same time. Then Eileen became pregnant with me.
Janet told me that Eileen worked up until she had me and returned to work the next day. She said she was never seen without a drink in her hand, despite her pregnancies. She said she had flowers delivered to the hospital the day I was born, but they were returned because Eileen used an alias when she gave birth to me.
I asked Janet if she knew if Eileen held me or named me? She said, “Honey, I don’t know if you had a name or if she held you. Maybe she named you in her heart if she did name you?”
I asked her if she knew anything about my birth father, and she said he was a pall barrier at my grandfather’s funeral and was a close friend of the family. Taken back by this, I started to ask more questions.
“Do you know where he lives or his name?” – I said
“She said his name is Jack Jennings, and he was from Leon, Iowa.” So I proceeded to ask more about him.
“Do you know if he had any other kids?” I said.
Janet said, “I’m not sure; he was much older than Eileen. He was married when you were conceived, and he knew nothing about the pregnancy with you. Eileen kept it to herself due to the nature of the circumstances.”
While I was eternally grateful for the information, I was only in a position to retain this information. Processing it all would come at a later time. So I kept digging, asking as many people as many questions as I could. Every little clue counts.
Eileen had planned a small funeral service to a tee, and she had paid to take everyone to a restaurant to have a meal together. This allowed me to sit close to her best friend, Barb. I met Barb 16 years earlier because she was at Eileen’s house during our first and final in-person meeting in 1995. She was a familiar face to me, and I was happy to sit next to someone I felt like I knew a bit.
Barb started to open up and let me know she was glad I returned for the funeral. She said, “You know, it never sat well with me how Eileen treated you after you all met in 1995. But I do know she had her reasons. One of them was that she was distraught when you met in person, and she found out your adoptive parents divorced a year after adopting you. She was also sad about all you went through in your life. She said if she knew that was going to happen, she would have kept you. But instead, she wanted you to be raised in a two-parent household and have a better life, so this hurt her and hurt her deeply. But I was still not okay with her cutting you off like she did.”
It was nice to finally have someone acknowledge that Eileen cutting me off and the way she did it wasn’t okay. When I learned Eileen had issues with how things turned out, it made me feel like she cared a little bit in her way, which comforted me and helped my healing. Still, I was taken back by the information regarding Eileen being troubled about my adoptive parents divorcing when I was one.
However, every little clue allowed me an opportunity to put myself in her shoes and try to feel what she felt. This helped me understand why things were the way they were. I imagine she would be upset that the dream she was promised, the “better life” I was supposed to have, wasn’t better at all. I would be more than upset. I would be heartbroken.
After the luncheon and the funeral, I asked Joanna if there was any way we could drive by Eileen’s house, so I could see a glimpse of what her life was like before she left the earth. She hesitated and said, “I don’t think you want to go, Pam. It’s not a pretty scene; it’s the opposite. It’s awful.”
I assured her I wanted to go, and nothing would be too much for me to grasp. So off we went on the drive to Eileen’s house, where she was found dead just a few days earlier. She was still an everyday alcohol drinker, a full-time smoker, and had severe COPD when she died. Whatever I was about to see, I had hoped it would bring me more understanding of why things were the way they were, but I was not fully prepared for what I was about to walk into.
Joanna opened the door, and we walked into a dark and gloomy environment that loomed with sadness and despair like a scene from the 1970s. It’s almost as if things were dead, and there was no life in the surroundings.
I noticed several windows had newspaper taped to them, with duct tape to cover holes in the windows—one on the front door and several on the exterior windows throughout the house. Curtains were drawn closed, and like the pattern on her old couch, the curtains appeared to be old floral patterns from decades ago, the kind they don’t even make anymore.
She had dust so thick that it had been collecting for years, and her empty oxygen tanks lined up along one of the walls in the dining room area. The water appeared to be turned off in the house, and empty alcohol bottles were scattered on the kitchen counter and table tops.
We went upstairs, taking each step and listening to the stairs creak. It was an eerie vibe, and darkness still loomed as we turned the corner to enter Eileen’s bedroom. She had a Garfield clock on the wall, and a box of Christmas decorations sat in the corner scattered all over the wood floor. All the curtains were drawn shut, and no outside light made its way inside.
We walked back down the stairs, grazed past the coffee table, and headed back outside. I saw a 2-inch by 2-inch green glass paperweight that looked like it might be an elephant shape. I took a chance and asked Joanna if I could have it, and she said, “Sure!.” As of this day, it’s the only tangible thing I had to hang onto that was a piece of Eileen’s. A small paperweight that might have a $5.00 value means the world to me, just because it was hers.
It would take me ample time to process this life-changing experience. However, during my healing process over the last decade, I read “The Girls That Went Away,” which was a pivotal read for me. I recommend it to any adoptees who might be tuning in. I learned that our birth mothers’ world often stops, and time stands still. They never recover from the separation; for many of them, life does not go on as usual.
I learned that life for them is never the same. In my situation with Eileen, seeing the surroundings of how she lived her life, it appeared to me that she was stuck in 1974 when we were separated, lost from one another essentially forever.
While Joanna was right, her home was not in good shape; I am eternally grateful to have been allowed to see this for myself. I will always be thankful Joanna included me in this life-changing event. It looked for any signs of life in Eileen’s home, but I couldn’t recognize any. Darkness loomed, and this was an eye awakening experience because it allowed me to see what the last days of her life were like. And likely, these weren’t only the last days of her life; this was her life.
Our next stop was to my Aunt Nan’s house, who I had also met in 1995. She was sick and couldn’t leave her home for the funeral, so we stopped to see her. She welcomed us again and allowed us to sit by her on the couch to ask how the funeral services went.
During our conversation, I decided it was now or never and tried one last time to get some information about my birth father. Aunt Nan confirmed what Janet had shared about my birth father being Jack Jennings in Leon, Iowa. I didn’t press too hard, but she shared that he had several brothers who all lived off the land in Leon. She gave me the name and number of a male cousin who was close to the Jennings brothers and encouraged me to give him a call.
Aunt Nan was a pleasant person, and I felt drawn to her. I have always been thankful that she was willing to share the truth with me, and I feel that she could sense it was essential. Unfortunately, not long after this meeting, within months, sadly, my Aunt Nan passed away.
As this trip to my birth mother’s funeral ended, a whole new adventure was about to begin. Now that I had the confirmed name of my biological father, I was determined to find him, but how? So I put Leon, Iowa, in my GPS and hit the road. I was fearless and determined to see his face at least one time. It was now or never, and one thing was for sure, no one would do it for me. My life would be rocked in a new way in the next few hours.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova
My first task after arriving in Lexington was to find a job and a new place to live. Of course, with no car, that wouldn’t be an easy task; however, I knew I could do whatever I set my mind to do. Thankfully, I could transfer my housing assistance voucher back to Kentucky, which would help me escalate finding a place to live. I was so thankful for this resource; otherwise, I don’t know what I would have done.
Waking up in a new place with new circumstances was scary, but my detachment from Patricia gave me a zest for life that I had never experienced before. I was finally free, but now what? I knew deep down I had so much to recover from, 31 years of traumatic experiences, to be exact. But I put being a mom first and foremost, and my self-repair work seemed to be on the backburner.
The reality was that I changed my surroundings, but deep down, I still had my deep-rooted adoptee trauma brewing below the surface. Being a mom with so many responsibilities on my shoulders created an escape from dwelling on my adoptee/relinquishee trauma as much as I had in the past. However, it was always brewing. I was still a drinker, and alcohol was still my escape from not feeling.
While I started drinking daily around twelve years old, my drinking career was a non-stop part of my life except for my pregnancies with my kids. It was a habit, a way of life. The world celebrates everything with alcohol, and I was for the ride. But, even with new beginnings in Kentucky, old habits die hard. I was able to connect with old friends and make some new ones. The party life was still prominent in my life.
After a month and a half of being back in Kentucky, we found a new place to live, a three-bedroom duplex on Whispering Hills Drive. We moved in just enough time for the twins to start 1st grade at Southern Elementary school, and Keila started 5th grade at Southern Middle school. We lived about two blocks from both schools, which was an excellent setup for a single mom with no car.
A grocery store and Walmart were less than a mile away, and a city bus stop. So I learned how to take the bus around Lexington and took the bus from time to time when the kids had doctor’s appointments. I got a job at a local grocery store, but I wouldn’t say I liked the job, but it did help with expenses I had coming in.
In October of 2005, just three months after making the most challenging decision of my life, I was offered a position in the home health field caring for an elderly stroke patient who needed a home health caregiver. So I quit the grocery store, worked in the home health field weekly, and made more money than I ever had. This was nothing I had done before in a career, but being Patricia’s caretaker for 31 years and a mom to my kids, I had all the skills to easily step into this new role.
This position was within walking distance from our duplex, a lifesaver! I was able to get Medicaid for myself and the kids. We established care with new doctors for each of us and settled into our new life. The kids all started to make new friends at school and in the neighborhood, and our house would soon become a kid-friendly home and a safe place for kids to gather after school and on the weekends.
I never had any friends come over during my childhood, so this piece was essential to me so that my kids could have friends to stay with all night and spend as much time with as they wanted. I loved making my house kid-friendly and hosting get-togethers with my friends and my kid’s friends. We cooked out, had game nights, had big birthday celebrations for the kids, had Sunday dinners, and slowly our lives became fuller and more normal than they ever had.
The kids could experience sports in elementary school and in private leagues affordable for young, single moms, which is something Salt Lake City didn’t offer. So Damond started playing football, and Damia started to cheer and dance. Keila was in volleyball, and we were busy!
Around five months after arriving back in Kentucky, I saved up enough money to buy a car, and finally, I had transportation of my own, so I didn’t have to ask anyone for rides or take the bus. This was lifesaving because taking the bus in the winter with the kids was not a fun task.
I was amazed that I could never gain this type of momentum in my life with Patricia close to me, but within six months of choosing to move across the country without her, everything changed for the better. Finally, I was following my path instead of her path. I was paving my way instead of following her way.
Patricia and I spoke a few times on the telephone and occasionally shared an email, but our daily interactions were non-existent, which is exactly how I wanted it. I needed to detox from all interactions with her, and for the most part, that’s what I was doing until she started pressing me about coming to Kentucky to visit. This started happening about six months into our move, and of course, she said her primary intent was to see the kids; however, I learned otherwise.
I have always been thankful that my kids didn’t have to experience the full extent of Patricia as I did when I was growing up. However, this has been a challenging experience to navigate because they don’t fully understand the depths of why I made the decision I did to move away. They know bits and pieces but will never fully feel what I have felt my whole life due to my experiences with Patricia, and I am glad. But part of me wishes they could feel what I have felt for just five minutes, and then they would understand my decision better.
I am happy that they each have happy memories with her and will always have those happy memories to remember. My trauma with her is so significant that it overpowers any of the positives I experienced with her. However, I can take certain things about my childhood and use them for good, like my love for plants. Patricia had plants, and I think I started to care for them at a young age, and I now love plants. I was her caretaker for 31 years and am now a caregiver by career. But there is a big difference between a caretaker and a caregiver. I feel I was a caretaker to Patricia because I had to be, but now I am a caregiver by career because I want to be.
I want my kids to have good memories of her, so after about two years back in Kentucky, I agreed to let Patricia come to visit. I prolonged the visit as long as possible so we could get settled. I hoped she was somehow more normal and healthy than she had been when we departed, so in 2007 she flew to Kentucky for the first visit together since we left.
She arrived, and we picked her up. I hoped that she would be different and our relationship would be different. I was proud that she could see I could survive without her and that I was doing better than ever. I wanted her to see how happy I was and the kids were, but she never once acted or seemed happy that we were doing so well. She didn’t celebrate any of my independence because the reality was that my independence was leaving her narcissistic supply tank empty. Instead of getting better, she did the opposite and got worse.
I hoped she had found happiness in her personal life and put some effort into becoming happy and healthy without the co-dependent relationship between myself and my kids, which kept her alive.
So many hopes and wishes for something to change with Patricia, but she arrived, and reality set in quickly. First, of course, she showed up with all her pills which I hated, making me feel like she was dependent on them all. What was she even taking at this point? I had no idea, but I hated my kids seeing her taking all these pills and seeing her pills scattered all over my house! Then, she stayed up late and slept the day away, even visiting for less than a week. Couldn’t she pretend to be healthy for five days so my kids could see a happy, healthy grandma? That’s all I cared about at this point.
My lens on how I viewed her visit, different from how my kids viewed her visit, was apparent. While I am confident they enjoyed having a visit with her, I had a hard time navigating her presence in my life, even for a short visit. I once again felt like she had an ulterior motive, but I wasn’t sure what it was.
After two days of Patricia visiting, she wanted to have a conversation with me. She wanted me to know she was having heart issues and to ask me again if I would be her POA. She also set an idea on the table about moving back to Kentucky to be closer to the kids and me. I will be completely transparent, and I almost fell over.
By this time, her health issues were something I wholeheartedly feel she used to manipulate everyone around her. I am not saying she didn’t have health issues, but I never saw her put in work to make her health better; but back in my childhood, her health issues made me feel terrible! Like somehow, I was responsible for them. I had to disconnect from her neverending health problems long ago because I saw how she used them to make people feel sorry for her.
In 2007, it was a new day. I had to disconnect myself emotionally and mentally from all things to do with Patricia so I could survive. I had to put myself before her emotional, mental, and health issues and be her POA.
These conversations with her gave me great anxiety and fear. I hadn’t even started working on my deep-rooted issues yet because being a mom was my main priority, and here she is, wanting me to take on HER as a responsibility once again? I was nauseous and frozen, thinking about the possibility. After everything I had gone through to get away from her, and now this?
Patricia even went to the extent of asking me to drive her around to look for rental properties, and I refused. However, she was talking about places she could work, and it was apparent she was planning this in her mind.
Patricia started telling me how she and Melanie weren’t getting along, and Melanie mistreated and was mean to her. Once again, trying to stir the pot with Melanie and me even when I hadn’t talked to Melanie in years. She was trying to gain sympathy that she was being mistreated in Salt Lake City, which was why she wanted to move back to Kentucky. She was carefully building her case and wanted me to take the bait. She tried to be on her best behavior because she presented me with her plan to move back to Kentucky.
What I suspect happened is that Melanie was forced to play the caretaker role for once in her life as I did for 31 years, and she got a glimpse of how unhealthy and toxic Patricia was, and she started to set some boundaries with her. I am sure this created waves in both of their lives. Sadly, I knew what Melanie was going through because I was the only responsible party for Patricia for 31 years, but finally, I had to set some boundaries for myself. Now it was Melanie’s time to do the same.
There was again no way I was going to support Patricia moving back to Kentucky, and I told her so. But she came into town with all these motives that made me nauseous. Allowing her to visit was a long shot; anything else was out of the question. So my wall was up thoroughly when it came to letting Patricia back in my life.
I let her see the kids, but now that I learned she had an ulterior motive, my guard was 100% up with her. I was clear and to the point, and I let her know that she is NOT moving back to Kentucky, and if she tried, I would not support it at all, and likely I would move farther away with my kids.
Looking back, I think she was so obsessed with my kids and me because there were four of us, and she had four humans to work through to see who would be kind enough to keep her out of a nursing home in her old age. So I think that was always why she targeted my kids and me, and I saw right through it all.
Her greatest fear was going to a nursing home, but I had news for her. Suppose she made her way to Kentucky and tried to ruin the rest of my life; that’s precisely where she would find herself. It would be an escalated version of her nursing home stay. The more she showed me she was unhealthy and sick, the more I thought she needed to be at a nursing home.
I thought that if she made her way back to Kentucky and something happened to me, my kids would all be responsible for caretaking for her, and they would be sucked in in a way they couldn’t escape. I was mortified at the thought.
My hope that something would shift and change with her and me having a mother-daughter relationship was down the drain. She would never change; the sooner I accepted it, the better. Instead, I had to start grieving the loss of this false hope. I should have known better, but once again, I stick myself out there only to be let down as usual. I tried, but it would take me some time to heal from yet another encounter with Patricia.
I wanted her to be on her way back to Utah, and now my greatest fear was that she would somehow be stuck in Kentucky and be my responsibility again, which frightened me on every level.
The sooner she departed, the better! She had a chance to show up and be the healthy and happy mom I always hoped she would be, but she couldn’t do that. Instead, she had to show up with an ulterior motive that was selfishly centered around herself. Of course, she led everyone to believe she was coming to see her grandkids, but I knew otherwise. I couldn’t fathom that this was her main point in coming to Kentucky, to try again to convince me to be her POA.
Was this normal? At 33 years old at the time, I had never even thought about where I would be at the end of my life! I always feel that if my kids are in a position to care for me, the circle of life will organically circle back around. It will naturally happen. However, I have never had any expectation that they care for me in my old age, nor would I try to push this expectation on them as Patricia has me!
This was even more reason I wanted my kids to see a happy and healthy mom and one that was more “normal” than I had. While moving away, I wanted to believe that Patricia would get her own life and make friends. I hoped she would have more time to focus on finding herself and even starting new hobbies she loved now that she wasn’t babysitting my kids and had more free time.
The thought of Patricia making her way back to Kentucky to live made me completely panic. The fear of my kids having to experience what I did growing up and the older they got, they would be on the front line of Patricia’s emotional, mental, and physical outbursts and issues only convinced me more that I had to set more boundaries with Patricia.
But first, I had to get her back on Utah soil because as well as I knew her, I was waiting for her to throw herself into dire straights and end up in the hospital in Kentucky, and then I would be stuck with her. I could not let that happen, so I played my part until she left Kentucky.
This visit was such an emotional paradox for me. The kids didn’t know what I knew and didn’t experience what I did, so they were protected. That’s all I wanted was to protect my kids from all I had to experience with Patricia. Having Patricia back in Kentucky temporarily was eye awakening. I learned that no matter how badly I wanted a happy, healthy relationship with her as my “mom,” I would never get it.
I tried opening this door for a visit, but as soon as she left, I shut the door back and continued with my life. It would be a long time before I ever let her visit again.
Around 2008, I learned that Patricia was headed to Iowa to help care for her youngest sister, my Aunt Jeanette, who had recently learned she had breast cancer. She left all her belongings in Utah and was in Iowa City, Iowa, for several months. Based on our few conversations, she was unhappy in Utah, and she and Melanie weren’t getting along. I am positive Melanie confronted her on many of her unhealthy habits and toxic ways. Patricia knew she wouldn’t be able to manipulate Melanie into taking care of her when she was older and being her POA. At the time, she didn’t have kids to use as pawns for Patricia’s manipulation and games. Good for Melanie. I wish I could have set that in stone when I was growing up, but by this time, my life was likely half over, and I was stuck.
Since she couldn’t manipulate Melanie or me any longer, Patricia’s next plan was to transition back to Iowa, and this was precisely what she did. Patricia’s narcissistic supply was running dry, but she was fed just enough in Iowa to stay alive now she had nieces and nephews she could work on. And Iowa was closer to Kentucky than Utah. I knew her ultimate plan was to return to Kentucky; however, I also knew I had to play my cards right with her to stop this from happening.
I was never letting her move back to Kentucky! But soon, I would learn she was conversing with her old Lexington friend about moving back, the friend she had ties with when we moved here in 1991. So once I got wind of Patricia trying to make plans to move back to Kentucky, I reached out directly to her friend and gave her a piece of my mind.
I told her that while her intentions might be good, she needed to plan on being 110% responsible for Patricia in every single way, including being her POA. I told her how sick she was physically, emotionally, and mentally. I let her know I would not support her move, nor would I assist in any way regarding packing, driving, unpacking, etc. I would not be available for anything, and I had already been her caretaker for 31 years of my life. I was done, and she needed to know it.
At this point, I started to feel like Patricia was a little lady who appeared cute and wonderful to those who didn’t know the real her, but behind closed doors, she was a con woman. The history I had with her is what formed these conclusions. Seeing and knowing of all the interactions she not only had with me but with others, she came into contact with reinforced these beliefs. I can’t count how many people she reeled in with her sob stories over the years, only to take advantage of them and use them for her benefit.
While Patricia transitioned to living in Iowa, I kept my boundaries firm and learned to set new boundaries. Not only for myself but for my kids. Eventually, I would let her visit a few more times, but those visits would stop in 2015. I had finally reached the end of my rope.
I had no relationship with Melanie or many people from Iowa. But in November of 2010, I received an inbox message on Facebook from Joanna, my half-biological sister on my maternal side. I hadn’t heard from her in over a decade! I wonder what she wanted? So I opened her message and never expected to read what I did.
I am sorry it’s been so long. I wanted to let you know mom passed away, and I thought you should know. We have her funeral in a week, and I would love you to be there. Can you make it? I don’t think I can do it without you! So please let me know, and I will send you the arrangements soon. Love your sister, Joanna.”
Wow, just wow. I could hardly believe what I was reading. The saddest part for me wasn’t that Eileen died. It was that I lived my life every single day, grieving her as if she was already gone back to my beginnings. Knowing she left the earth sealed the deal for me. I knew I was never going to see her again. This helped me close the door and move on with my life. The open wound could finally heal.
No more hoping, wishing, dreaming that she would come back or change her mind about me. This was a powerful dynamic to my healing journey. This was it, and it was over. The end of all the internal torment I carried because she was alive but would rather die alone than have me in her life.
She’s dead. She’s gone—the end of Eileen, but not the end of my story. I was just getting started, and I was on my way to Waterloo, Iowa, for her funeral on November 9th, 2010. Little did I know that the next 48 hours of my life would change drastically, and my life would never be the same.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova
While I had no biological or adoptive family in Kentucky, my twin’s grandmother lived there. She was always supportive and involved in the twin’s life as much as she could be states away and before we moved to Utah.
On one occasion, she came to Salt Lake City to visit us through Greyhound Bus and spent several days. When contemplating my great escape to move back to Kentucky, she would be a critical lifeline in making this decision. If it weren’t for her, we never would have made it. She agreed to let us stay with her until we got on our feet which was an extension of her kindness and care for my kids and me.
I had to plan expenses on what it would cost to move across the country. I had to rent a 22 Foot U-Haul truck for five days, calculate paying for gas and food along the way, purchase six airplane tickets and come up with a plan on how the move would happen. My best friend volunteered to help me drive the U-Haul across the country, and she also was the only person who showed up with her little brother to help us pack the truck.
In March of 2005, I started conversing with Keila, Damia, and Damond about moving back to Kentucky, so they knew what would happen in the coming months. I broke the news to Patricia and Melanie, who were not supportive of my move or decision. I experienced the opposite from them: discouragement and lack of support. I decided I wouldn’t talk to them anymore about the move details until I had to.
The move date was July 2nd, 2005. I packed, reserved the U-Haul, and purchased six one-way airplane tickets for this move. First, Kelli and I would need two plane tickets to fly back to Salt Lake City after driving all of our belongings across the country to Kentucky. Then, I would need four more airplane tickets for the kids and me to fly back to Kentucky. It was a lot of money and a lot to plan to be all by myself, but I knew I had to get away from Patricia in my heart of hearts.
Because of my fear that Patricia would try to take my kids from me, I printed up a document and made her sign it before I started my trip to Kentucky. It went something like this,
“I, Pamela, am writing this letter to verify that I am temporarily leaving my kids with Patricia until July 6th, 2005, when I will return to pick them up. This is a temporary arrangement, and Patricia is fully aware of this.”
So Patricia signed this form, but she wasn’t happy about it. So I kept it tucked away because I didn’t trust her not to do something to interfere with me moving and taking my three kids. I hoped she would keep her word on it, but I had a lot of fears about this.
Once I started spending large amounts of money on plane tickets, it all started to get real. As the days got closer to July 2nd, my anxiety was through the roof, but my desire to want to get away from Patricia and her unhealthy ways was more significant. Not just for me but for my kids. Don’t get me wrong, I was unhealthy also and had my own issues clearly. However, I would never get better as long as I was in close contact with Patricia, so moving away from her was the first step.
It was possible to have a relationship with Patricia from a distance because I saw other people do it. I contemplated the hope that after some time, this decision to move away would shift a dynamic change in my relationship with Patricia. I hoped she would also want to make some changes for herself in her own life. Maybe she would want to get healthy also? I could only hope.
But finally, at 31 years old, for the first time in my life, I made myself and my happiness a priority. I put myself first and could no longer worry about Patricia or make her my responsibility. She was in charge of her happiness, and I was in charge of mine. It was time for this toxic co-dependent relationship to end and for me to grow up.
July 1st arrived, and it was the day to start loading the 22-Foot-U-Haul. We spent all day July 1st packing all of our belongings up. Keila, Damia, and Damond would stay with Patricia until we returned to Utah after delivering our belongings to the twin’s granny’s house. Kelli and I would fly back to Salt Lake City on July 6th. The kids and I would fly back to Kentucky, all of us together, on July 8th.
Once the truck was filled to the brim, on July 2nd, around 8 am, we drove by Patricia’s so I could explain to my kids one last time how everything was planned. I wanted them to know I promised I would call to talk to them every day, and I promised I would be back to get them in less than one week! I wanted to make sure they knew I was coming back, so I emphasized many times that Kelli and I would be back on July 6th, and we would fly back to Kentucky together. Finally, they understood, and I gave each of them big hugs telling them I loved them, and we parted ways.
This was when shit got real, real. I will never forget driving off in the U-Haul and making our way to Park City, Utah, coming around the mountain and leaving my kids behind. I had so many emotions that came over me it is hard to put into words. I was worried about them thinking I wouldn’t come back for them, and it made me feel conflicted, but I knew I was coming back. But what if Patricia tried to take them from me? That was my biggest worry.
But then, we looked at the map and realized that Lexington, Kentucky was 1655 miles away, and I think reality set in for Kelli also. We had a long, long trip ahead of us. We also had Pookie Brown, Keila’s cat, with us.
When she agreed to help, Kelli had no idea Kentucky was so far away, and as a wonderful best friend, she agreed to help me regardless of the distance! I will always be eternally grateful for her help and friendship all these years. Without her, I would never have been able to make this great escape away from Patricia. We kept one another laughing, and hour by hour, we were closer to Kentucky.
After twelve hours of driving, I called Patricia’s landline phone to speak to the kids. I wanted to talk to each of them to see how they were, give them an update and let them know how the drive was going. I also wanted to remind them that I would be back to get them on July 6th, and we would fly to Kentucky together. I never wanted them to feel for even a second that I was abandoning them or not coming back to get them!
However, Patricia had games to play. So she decided to turn her ringer off so I couldn’t reach her or my kids. I called and called and called. Once I couldn’t reach my kids and knew she turned her ringer off on purpose, I lost my shit. Finally, the sun started to set, and we had made our way to North Platte, Nebraska.
The drive across this state was just awful, but my anxiety about not being able to reach my kids set in, and I had a full-blown panic attack. I started to hyperventilate, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t seem to calm myself down and didn’t know what was happening. I had never experienced this range of emotions before. But, it was true; Patricia was trying to take my kids from me and her not answering my calls was only the beginning.
We were literally in the middle of nowhere, and Kelli found an exit and took me to the emergency room in North Platte. I remember feeling an overwhelming amount of feelings. I kept calling Patricia only to get no answer every single time. If I could have talked to my kids like I promised them I would, none of this would have happened.
Now they would feel abandoned, and now they would wonder why I didn’t keep my promise. I became infuriated at Patricia. The ER gave me some meds to calm me down and an albuterol treatment to help my breathing. Even calling from the emergency room in Nebraska, Patricia still wouldn’t answer her phone. This wasn’t a new thing. She was notorious for turning her ringer off and making Melanie and I worry about her. But this was different. She did this out of spite because she knew I was moving away with my kids, and she saw it was me calling.
Slowly, I started to calm down and was discharged from the ER. We found a cheap motel room in North Platte to stay all night, and I had an idea. I asked Kelli to call Patricia’s landline phone from her cell phone. But, of course, Patricia answered her call on the first ring because it wasn’t my cell number calling. So Kelli handed me the phone, and I went in on Patricia. I was so triggered by her doing this to my kids and me that I went completely off on her! It’s a good thing I was at a distance, or I would have likely ended up in jail, and I don’t say that lightly.
She didn’t have to support me or this move, but she was NOT going to come between my kids and me, and I let her know if she doesn’t answer my calls moving forward so I could speak to my kids EVERY SINGLE DAY, she would be sorry. I was not playing either. This situation made me hate Patricia, and I still have not forgiven her. This only added to the list of reasons I was moving away from her and confirmed I had made the right choice. I was fed up with her emotional and mental mind games and manipulation.
I spoke to my kids several more times during the trip, and this eased my mind that they knew I was coming back for them, and that was always the plan. As we continued our journey across the country, we stayed another night in Kansas City, Missouri. Kelli had a friend there who said we could stay with them, which would save us a night at a hotel. It was a fantastic time to hang out for the evening after we finally arrived. It was blazing hot in the middle of the summer, so there were lots of outdoor happenings going on. We were exhausted, but now things seemed like more of an adventure.
The following day at the crack of dawn, we woke up and had one final day to drive from KC, MO, to Lexington, KY, which was 582 miles until we reached our final destination, the twin’s grandmother’s house. That last eight hours seemed like an eternity, but on The 4th of July 2005, we pulled up in the 22 Foot U-Haul, and after a three-day drive, we had to unpack all of our belongings and store them in the twin’s grannies garage, which took hours.
Thankfully the twin’s dad was present to help, as well as their uncle. So after three days of driving, we took the help. I could see the bedroom that my three kids and I would soon occupy, and while it was going to be a tight fit, we were going to make it work. So I called the kids and spoke to each of them to let them know we made it, and on the 6th, just two short days away, I would be on my way back to Utah with Kelli, and we would be flying back to Kentucky TOGETHER.
Part of me could hardly believe that I had finally come to this place of independence for myself and my kids. It was surreal, but I wouldn’t be able to truly celebrate until I was back on Kentucky soil with all three of my kids, far away from Patricia.
If you might wonder why I would call this move my “great escape,” it’s easy. The burden I carried my whole life as Patricia’s caretaker was a heavy weight to carry. The cards stacked up against me being adopted into an abusive adoptive home was a life of grief, loss, heartache, and heartbreak. In addition, having little self-love at the time or the ability to stand up for myself created a very long and drawn-out process of me being independent that no one in my family supported. So it felt like a great escape in all regards.
Melanie talked trash about me always depending on Patricia, but when I finally decided I wanted to cut the cord and be independent, she didn’t support that either. Same with Patricia. I felt like my life was sucked dry trying to make everyone else happy, but finally, the day had come when I decided I wanted to be happy. So it was time for me to pass the 31-year baton I carried as Patricia’s caretaker over to Melanie. It was her turn.
Moving away from everyone was the hardest thing I ever did in my entire life because I knew I didn’t have any cushion to fall back on in the “family” area. I knew it was just the kids and me, which was a scary thought at times. But one thing is sure about me, I’m a doer, and I was going to do whatever I had to do so that my kids would have a better life than I did.
Kelli and I rested on July 5th and headed to the airport on July 6th as planned. We arrived in Salt Lake City, and I returned to Patricia’s house. We would spend a little over 24-Hours before we made our final destination to the airport on July 8th to ascend to Lexington, Kentucky.
It couldn’t get here quick enough, and I was ready to start a new life. But, to be completely transparent, I was exhausted. The emotional and mental anxiety I felt about the whole move took a toll, and I couldn’t wait to get back to Lexington to our final destination of the twin’s granny’s house.
On July 8th, 2005, we said our final “goodbyes” to Patricia and Melanie and boarded our airplane Kentucky bound. I had all my three kids with me, and we were together. As our airplane lifted in the air and the kids got settled for the fight across the country, the weight I had carried my whole life from caretaking for Patricia started to lift off me. The closer we got to Kentucky, the freer I felt and the lighter life became. The burden of Patricia disappeared into nothingness. I had never felt so free in my entire life.
After 31 years on earth, I could finally work on myself, find myself, and be a better version of myself for my kids and future grandkids. But unfortunately, I could never do this with Patricia in my life.
We landed in Lexington, KY, on July 8th, 2005, and we got a ride from the airport to the twin’s granny’s house. We settled in a small bedroom with twin bunk beds and one twin bed. I slept on the floor in the middle of the beds in a small space just for me. We slowly got used to our new surroundings.
I didn’t have a bank account, a car, keys to anything, our own home, or a job. I only had about $300.00 to my name and some food stamps, but we had each other, and my kids had me. Welcome to Kentucky, where new beginnings are born, and a new chapter is about to begin. I had no idea what was in store, but I knew the next 31 years of my life would be better than the first 31 years.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova
I remember several life-altering experiences during our five years in Salt Lake City. I was drinking my life away, partying while working, and being a single mom. I was in one relationship in the five years I was there. I think my relationships with men always filled the void in my life from relinquishment from my birth mother. Alcohol also filled the void and got me in a heap of trouble on many occasions.
I was invited to a party, desperate to make friends and be social in a city much more extensive than Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Lexington, Kentucky. I drove across the valley to the party and remember leaving entirely intoxicated to find my way home. I ended up at a gas station in Ogden, Utah, about 30 minutes from Salt Lake City. I was going the wrong way; however, I was so trashed I had no idea how to find my way home.
Anything could have happened to me that night. I could have killed myself or killed someone else. I am not proud of any time of my life I chose to get behind the wheel of a car intoxicated. I have only blamed myself and felt deeply regretful for my choices in life. I am sharing these pieces, so you have a glimpse of my relationship with alcohol for 27 years of my life.
I stopped at a gas station and asked some guys getting gas which way is Salt Lake City. They told me to follow them, but when I turned around, I backed into a gas pump that I didn’t see. So I pulled off as if it didn’t happen. I followed the guys to get back on the highway, and then I had no memory of the rest of the night or how I got home. I woke up in bed the following day and was shaken. I acknowledged to myself that I had a drinking problem. There was no denying I made awful choices when drinking alcohol, which also made me very selfish. Alcohol and drug abuse do that to a person.
However, deep down, this experience scared the shit out of me. I am sure I resonated with myself and switched from drinking liquor to beer only on the weekends. I seemed to find ways to try to tame my drinking, yet it never stuck. Finally, the weekend would roll around, and I was back to the old me, forgetting about the changes I had made.
In 2004, I had a few friends over to play cards and have some drinks. The kids were tucked in bed, sleeping soundly. Naturally, I usually drank more than everyone and was the party’s life until the sun rose; however, this night was different. Somehow, suddenly after one drink, I lay my head down on the table, which was entirely out of my character. That was the last of my memories that night.
I remember waking up groggy the following day around 7 am with the guy I invited over sitting on the edge of my bed, he was fully clothed, and I was not. He tried to wake me up and tell me it was time to get my kids up for school. I remember feeling such a heaviness in my eyes, mind, body, and the entirety of my being that I had never experienced before. I could barely open my eyes or function.
I thought to myself, “What the hell happened last night?” But with me having no clothes on, it was obvious what happened, but I didn’t have a single memory of it. I could barely communicate with this guy. Finally, he said he was leaving and knew I had to get my kids up for school. I managed to wake them, get them dressed and send them out to get to school.
I remember going back to sleep, and it had appeared that I overslept, sleeping all day and missing meeting my kids at the bus stop to pick them up after school at 3 pm. This was so out of my character; I still had no clue what had happened to me at that time. I just knew something was deeply wrong with me. I had never felt so out of it, and all over one drink? It wasn’t a hangover, it was much more, but I didn’t understand it.
Trying to understand, I called my girlfriend, because I was playing cards with her boyfriend and the guy I knew, asking her what had happened. She said we were playing cards, and all of a sudden, I laid my head on the table, and they all got me to my bed, put the cards away, and all three of them, even the guy I knew, left together.
She said they locked the doors up, and that was it. When I told her he was there and he woke me up this morning, and that I had no clothes on, and how groggy I was, that is when we put two and two together that he had to have slipped a roofie in my drink. He also unlocked my patio door, which he reentered when my friend and her boyfriend left. I was completely shaken up.
To top things off, I slept for the next 24 hours without feeling like myself again, and I was so traumatized by this situation that it truly changed me. Sadly, my conclusions were validated by the guy gaining access to my banking information and stealing money by draining my bank account. An innocent card game and socialization with friends turned into this reality. And one of the pieces that I have never been able to forgive myself for is that my kids were all home tucked in asleep. I felt awful.
How many times in my life would something like this happen before I finally accept that I have a problem with alcohol and making bad choices? Instead, I internalized this whole experience, and I blamed myself. I should have never invited that guy over, and I should have never drank at all. I never even considered pressing charges because I see what women go through when things like this happen to them.
They get dragged and humiliated, and it wouldn’t even be worth it for me. It would be my word against his, and I locked this secret up and moved on with my life, but it greatly impacted me, and I hadn’t felt so awful and degraded in years. It was clear that I didn’t make very good choices at times, and even when I wanted my kids to have the world, that empty void in my life was prominent and gigantic.
As long as alcohol was in my life, I took the risk of these events happening repeatedly. Sadly, I still couldn’t sit with myself sober. And most days, I couldn’t sit with myself at all. I still had deep-rooted hate for myself. I felt defeated and broken, and it set in the most when I was alone.
One of my greatest fears was always that if something happened to me, what would happen to my kids? Patricia would get them, especially when I had no other family around. This terrified me, and I had dreams about her trying to take my kids from me. As my kids got older, things started to stir inside that I wanted and needed to do better and be better, but how?
Patricia continued to be a deep-rooted trigger to me from all my memories and experiences with her during my life and childhood. She was a big responsibility for me besides being a mother to my three kids. She was still heavily consumed with taking prescription pain pills, and she slept a lot. At this point, Patricia had convinced herself she could no longer work due to health issues.
I don’t think she had a job at all the five years we lived in Salt Lake City, and she was only 54 years old at the time. At this stage of her life, I helped her as much as I could, and she got a lot of attention for being sick and reeled innocent people into her life to “help her” manage everyday tasks. She was always excellent at manipulating churches into feeling sorry for her, so they would donate money to her and help her pay her bills. She also sued two companies to get settlements for various reasons.
She would constantly talk about her health issues, overtake prescription pills, drink back-to-back Pepsis, watch television until late at night, and sleep half the day away. Finally, she convinced everyone around her that her health was deteriorating and that she needed to walk with a cane.
However, I saw through her windows one day, stopping by for a visit, that she was walking around fine without a cane. Yet, when I rang the doorbell to alert her of my presence, she went to grab the cane and started limping on her way to answer the door. I had constant conversations that she should stop drinking so much Pepsi she consumed morning, noon, and night. It was all she drank, and she wondered why her bones were failing her and her health.
It was 2005, and I knew I had to make a significant change for myself and my kids. While I had allowed Patricia to babysit when I needed help, I had no choice. When I visited her with the kids, I began to have flashbacks of my childhood and started seeing my kids treated like I was growing up.
Wherever she lived was messy, and my kids were responsible for all the chores to clean her home. And, of course, I was also. So they started sharing how she had them massage her body, brush her hair, and clean for nickles, dimes, and quarters. But once it was time for them to cash in on their hard-earned chore money, she needed it for bills, and they never got what was owed to them.
It was clear to me that for me to ever be free, I had to get away from Patricia. I wanted to find myself, and being in a toxic co-dependent relationship with her was standing in the way of this happening. She was a huge responsibility, and she had been since I was caretaking for her as a small child. But unfortunately, she never nurtured me or cared about how huge of a burden she was for me to deal with my entire life.
I had never been away from her for even 24 hours, and she had never acknowledged or accepted that MY LIFE IS NOT HER LIFE. She did not own me and could no longer attempt to control and manipulate me. She had no friends of her own, and there was no doubt that my kids and I were feeding her toxic narcissistic supply.
Due to her convincing herself that she was sick with every ailment known to man in her early 50s, she started pressuring me to be her power of attorney. I became increasingly infuriated at the thought of taking on this responsibility of being Patricia’s POA my entire life. I had three kids to take care of, my hands were full, and she kept pressing about this topic. I think in her mind, this would be her way of controlling me because then, I would be in charge legally of many of her health issues and medical decisions eventually.
Considering I have already spent 31 years of my life being the sole caretaker for Patricia, the thought of being her POA almost made me have a heart attack and the idea that anyone would expect me to sign up for this blew me away. I was only 31, and she was just 54. Why was she pressuring me for this? Oh, that’s right. I will never forget all her conversations with me about not wanting to go to a nursing home. That’s really what this was all about, which is why she adopted two daughters, to begin with. I knew there was always an ulterior motive.
Melanie seemed to keep her distance from Patricia’s toxicity and popped in and out on occasion. I rarely saw Melanie when we lived in Salt Lake City, but she did help in ways when I had the fire, which I appreciated. But she threw every bit of help in my face, accusing me of being a user and an awful person. It was no secret we were like night and day. We didn’t have anything in common, and we still had some deep-rooted tension from unresolved childhood wounds. However, I was always more responsible for caretaking for Patricia because she helped me with the kids, so I owed her.
Patricia constantly played Melanie and me against one another, just like pawns from our childhood. She would tell Melanie things about me to turn her against me, and she would tell me things about Melanie to turn me against her. Once again, it was apparent we never stood a chance at being sisters because Patricia’s triangulation tactics constantly stirred the trouble and drama pot. These realities took me to a breaking point in my life and my relationship with Patricia. Yet, when I confronted her, she would deny anything was wrong. Finally, one day I decided that if I didn’t leave and move away with my kids, my likely future would be that of a grave one. It was life and death for me.
I had a small hope that one day Patricia would get better and be a healthy, happy mom and grandma to my kids. But it was clear that no one was getting better when we lived in the same city and had a co-dependent connection. Maybe being at a distance, we might have a chance at a normal mother and daughter relationship? I could only hope.
I sincerely wanted my kids to have a happy, healthy mom, which I never had. I could never achieve this being in such close quarters with Patricia. I was not in a good mental headspace and could not continue my life in this toxic negativity. She was the most significant trigger I had, based on my 31 years with her, and it was time to part ways.
Like everywhere else, Salt Lake City had no resources for adult adoptees. I spent about a year contemplating the idea of moving away, but how would I survive without Patricia? How would I live with three small kids with no family support? Where would we go?
Finally, in January of 2005, I decided that moving back to Kentucky would be the best option for my kids and me. Iowa was out of the question, so I started planning the move. Little did I know that no one in Salt Lake City besides my best friend, Kelli, supported my decision.
I thought long and hard about how this decision would impact my three kids. I knew that they would be impacted due to leaving Patricia and Melanie, but I also knew that I had to save myself. I was never going to prosper in life or find myself as long as I was close to them.
While I acknowledge they each have their own feelings about it, I also feel wholehearted that I made the best decision for us all. I am thankful they will never know the depths of what I have had to carry my whole life due to being adopted into this dynamic, and I never want them to feel what I feel and at the depts that I feel it. Because of this, I know they will never fully understand the layers and complexities of making this decision, not only for me but for them. It was either stay, and I likely end up dead or in prison, or leave and try to find myself and be a better mom for them than I had.
We weren’t saying goodbye forever. I had high hopes that my relationships with Melanie and Patricia would strengthen after some time, and we could visit one another on different terms. I hoped we could all separate and get healthy and reconnect later; maybe things would be different. I needed to grow up and stop depending on Patricia. Patricia needed to find herself and get healthy. In the meantime, Melanie can spend some time catering to Patricia like I have for the last 31 years of my life, all by myself.
Melanie accused me of playing the “Kentucky Card,” and while she set her own boundaries with Patricia, now that I was ready to set my own boundaries for my kids and myself, I was treated like the worst human in the world. But one thing about me. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it. I’m not a talker; I’m a doer. So Patricia and Melanie thought I was full of it and that I wasn’t serious about moving back to Kentucky in 2005. The more they assumed I wasn’t serious, the more I packed what felt like an escape in private planning.
Moving back to Kentucky without family was the hardest decision ever made. But, once again, I knew I was on my own. So I saved up every dime and carefully planned my escape from Patricia. Ultimately, this decision saved my life, and it wasn’t one I made lightly. At times I was physically ill thinking about moving away with my kids all alone, and at other times I was overjoyed at the thought of what life would be like without this enormous weight of caretaking for Patricia hanging over my head. I had never lived one day without feeling like she was my responsibility, but that was about to change.
I longed for a day to focus on myself and my kids without the co-dependent relationship with Patricia that I felt trapped in. I looked forward to the day when I could wake up daily, experience each day in freedom, and in return, find myself. Each day closer to the move across the country felt like another day closer to my great escape.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova
The three-day journey to Utah from Kentucky seemed like an eternity. The twins weren’t even a year old yet, and Keila was close to five years old. I was piled into a car with Patricia and my kids. We stopped every hour or so to tend to the kids and to use the restroom.
One of Patricia’s friends drove the U-Haul 1654 miles across the country, and it wouldn’t go over 60 MPH because we had it so filled with the belongings of two adult households and three kids. It was a grueling three-day trip, but in the summer of 2000, we made it to Salt Lake City.
In all fairness, we all had high hopes for a fresh start. Melanie did a lot of work finding us all a place to live. The plan was that we all move in together, and then in some time, we separate to find our own places to live. We moved into a three-bedroom home, and I shared the biggest bedroom with my kids. Patricia and Melanie each had their own rooms.
Thankfully, I was able to transfer my housing authority voucher to Salt Lake City, so as soon as I found a new place to live and set things up, I would be able to move out. But, even with this setup, it took several months. Living with Patricia and Melanie for those months with my kids was a sacrifice for everyone. We all gave a lot to try to make this work.
The reality was that I chose to have my kids and wanted to take care of them on my own with no help from anyone. But unfortunately, it wasn’t anyone’s job to take care of my kids but me, and after moving to Utah, I felt like I was back at square one with little to no resources available. The difference in Salt Lake City was that they didn’t have resources for young single mothers like in Kentucky.
There were no after-school programs, sports in elementary school, or organizations to help me out, so I felt like I was even worse off than when I lived in Kentucky. But unfortunately, Utah is mormonized, and the available resources are only available if you convert to Mormonism. They were centered around the family unit with a father involved, and the reality that I had my kids outside of the traditional religious sense and out of wedlock as a single mother left me shit out of luck.
Once again, I found myself depending on Patricia to help babysit at times, and I also found a wonderfully babysitter named Ms. Lora, who was a fantastic light for my kids and me. In addition, I was able to get a small amount of help to pay for her daycare services, which was a huge help.
I still had no car, but after getting a part-time job, I saved enough money to buy a $500 cash car. It was beyond a beater, but it was good enough to get me from point A to point B. Salt Lake City had its perks. I met my best friend there, and the city is surrounded by mountains. However, it wasn’t a place where I felt like I fit in with my kids.
I remember being in a city with no friends and how that experience made me feel like arriving in Lexington, KY, with no friends or family besides Patricia and Melanie. But, one thing was sure; I was going to make some new friends because it was in my nature. So, I got a job and started to meet people. Eventually, I found a three-bedroom duplex to move into with my kids, and we began our new life in Salt Lake City.
Keila started Kindergarten, and she started ballet classes. The twins weren’t ready for school yet, and with no pre-school in Salt Lake City, they went to daycare at Ms. Lora’s so I could work. I got a waitress job at Joe’s Crabshack and then Applebee’s. Then, I got part-time jobs at Smith’s grocery store and the state liquor store. I always worked two jobs and never seemed to be able to get ahead. I didn’t blame anyone but myself for my bad choices and carried a lot of guilt because of my decisions.
After we moved out of the home with Patricia and Melanie, we occasionally saw Melanie and her boyfriend, Nasser, having a meal together or having a picnic in the canyons. We saw Patricia much more, and in no time, I started to experience the same unhealthy co-dependent patterns developing in Salt Lake City that I had to deal with in Kentucky. But now, I had kids in the picture impacted by the toxicity.
With all these changes going on and moving even farther away from Iowa, it was obvious that my relationships with Eileen and Joanna were non-existent. However, that didn’t mean I didn’t try to reach out to Joanna in the hope of sparking some dialogue. I wanted her to know that I was no longer in Kentucky, and if she needed me for anything, she could find me in Salt Lake City. But, once again, I am “putting myself out there” only to get crickets. This continued to be a hard pill to swallow, and I would frequently find myself in tears mourning the loss of the family I had dreamed about my whole life.
One day while living in Salt Lake City, I decided I had nothing to lose and I called my birth mother to ask one last time about my birth father. She didn’t answer but her current husband, Keith did. I explained who I was, and was blunt in the reason I was calling.
At the time, Damond was in the hospital for childhood asthma, and I wanted to try to learn some medical history. After Keith shared that Eileen wasn’t available, I asked him if he could share my birth father’s name with me so I could try to gain my medical history; I also expressed that my son was in the hospital and needed this information. I didn’t give a damn about letting the secret out of the bag. They didn’t give a damn about me so why should I? I was concerned for my son’s health.
“I don’t know his name, but I learned several years ago that he was dead; he got shot in a hunting accident. He’s been dead for several years.” Keith said.
That was the first time I had heard anything about my birth father being dead, but my initial instinct was disbelief. This news didn’t sting a bit because I didn’t believe it for a minute. If he was dead, I wanted to stand over his grave and see his death certificate for myself. Keith refused to give me his name, even when my child’s life was on the line. Two words – Fuck em! I will get to the bottom of this, one way or another!
Being a mom now, things moved quicker, and I didn’t have as much time to sit and dwell on my birth family while in Salt Lake City. However, they were never far from my mind. One day, they might change their mind and open the door. So I waited and waited and waited. I was going to find my birth father if my life depended on it; even if I found a grave, I would stand over his grave one day. Until that day, he was very much alive to me.
In the meantime, I found a new circle of friends and continued my party life mixed with the mom life. I think I always made friends well because I was like a chameleon with a lack of identity in my beginnings. This created the ability to blend in with everyone. It’s impossible to know who you are when you don’t know where you came from.
Alcohol continued to numb my reality, and about a year after moving to Salt Lake City, I found myself in a new relationship. It was evident I lacked self-love, among many other things, because my relationship was very harmful and abusive, and I stayed in it for three years.
Those three years were filled with more physical abuse than I had ever experienced, but I kept it all a secret from my family and did everything I could to hide it from my kid. Moving to Salt Lake City was a nice thought, but I was still a walking train wreck. It was no one’s fault but my own for putting up with the abuse for three years, but I continued to make bad choices in the relationship area.
I tried to be kind, and I allowed a friend to stay with the kids and me with her four year old daughter because she had nowhere to go. I got a call at work one night while working at Applebees. The fire department called to let me know my house was on fire. She had left her daughter unattended, and she turned on the broilers of the oven, and it eventually started the fire.
Thankfully, all the kids were with Patricia; however, this was a huge ordeal to experience. I will always say things can be replaced, but our lives can’t if something happens to the kids or me. My friend left the next day with her belongings, and I essentially never heard from her again. I was left to clean up the damage and find somewhere else to stay while the house was remodeled.
One thing is for sure, you can leave everything behind, but all your old habits and patterns are sure to follow until you get to the root of the issues. Still, at that time, I never connected my low self-esteem and internal heartache, and lack of self-love with relinquishment and adoption trauma. Don’t get me wrong; I knew I was sad and heartbroken, but I didn’t understand the depths of everything and how everything was intertwined.
That didn’t happen until I reached my late 30s when I would start researching adoption and relinquishment to learn that it’s all connected. Then, I started uncovering the truth by connecting with other adoptees online. But unfortunately, I had a long way to go before I got to this point.
As I matured into motherhood, my wants, needs, and desires for my kids also changed. Then, finally, I started seeing them experiencing some of the same things I did with Patricia when I was a kid, and this was when I knew I had to make a move. This reality was a deal-breaker.
After spending five years in Salt Lake City, everything shifted. I wanted my kids to have a better life than I did, so I was forced to make one of the most challenging decisions of my life.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova
Life was about to take a whole new turn. I graduated from high school and got my diploma, and I also enrolled in some courses at the local community college.
On May 21, 1998, I gave birth to twins as 29-week preemies. Damia weighed 2lb 5oz, and Damond, who weighed 3lb 1oz. While I welcomed two beautiful babies into the world, Keila was four years old at the time. I was a struggling but strong-willed single mother. There was nothing that was going to come between my kids and me.
Once again, I was forced to depend on Patricia because I had no family in Kentucky, but I also depended on public assistance to help with the bare minimum and keep the lights on. Because the twins were so small, I had to keep them home and out of daycare for the first year. This made it impossible for me to work, so I had no choice but to get food stamps, Medicaid, and housing assistance. We didn’t have a car, but we managed. My deep-rooted skills of taking the city bus as a young kid would learn to pay off.
I did everything I could to keep my babies, all three of them, even when they didn’t have an active father in the picture; I made it happen to the best of my abilities. Finally, I saved up enough money to move out of Patricia’s and got a 3-bedroom apartment, and Patricia was furious when she found out I was approved for based on your income housing.
She didn’t want me to be independent because I wouldn’t need her as much. Instead, she thrived on me depending on her. I had no idea what co-dependency was at that stage of my life, but unraveling the mess all these years, I now know we had a co-dependent relationship that was highly toxic. I felt thoroughly trapped in my relationship with her, especially now that I had three children as a single mother in a state where she was my only family. But, once again, I felt like this was her plan.
When we would get into arguments, she would always say, “Your life is my life, and anything that’s your business is my business!” As a 24-year-old mom of three, I had no idea if this was everyday parenting; however, it felt utterly intrusive and overwhelming.
However, the twins came home from the hospital sharing their bedroom, Keila had her room, and I had my room. We lived in a decent apartment, and we had everything we needed. The first year after bringing the twins home from the hospital, we’re some challenging times in my life. They had off-scheduled sleeping patterns, ear infections, breathing inhaler machines, and seemed to have constant doctor appointments. But we made it work, and we made it through it.
If I can raise a four-year-old and a set of newborn twins as a young single mother, anyone can do it. Of course, nothing was easy about it, but my motto has always been, “We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.” My kids had me, but sadly I was still a very broken person, raising three children.
I made mistakes and, at times, was clueless about how to raise kids when I had the experience I had with my adoptive mother and biological mother. But unfortunately, I didn’t have any examples of a happy and healthy mom or a normal mother-and-daughter relationship.
I was still a partier, most evenings drinking boxed wine. Alcohol seemed to tame my misery regarding the emotional and mental torment I experienced from losing my birth family. Not to mention my experience in my adoptive homes and with Mark, Giovanni, Diego, and Patricia.
Patricia seemed to become an enormous responsibility for me as time passed. Her home was always filthy, just like it was when I was a kid. Even after moving out, it was my responsibility to help her keep her place clean in exchange for helping me with the kids. She seemed to move a lot, and it was my job to pack all her things up, gather my friends to load the truck, and help her get settled in the new place. Let me not forget that it was always my job to go to the old places and clean them to get them up to par to be re-rented so she could get her deposits back.
This was Patricia’s living conditions the last time I saw her in 2015.
My job was to come to the rescue when she found her dead old-English sheepdog dog on her basement floor from neglect. Any random task she needed to be done was always my job. It was all on me if something broke or needed to be put together.
When she had hip replacement surgery, it was my job to caretake her back to health. I bathed her and ensured she got where she needed because she couldn’t drive her car. Patricia was almost more of a responsibility than my three kids. She continued with her habit of staying up all night and sleeping half the day, and her pill addiction increased significantly after she had a hip replacement.
The doctors gave her endless pain pills, and she was completely wrapped up in the treatments of the doctors and the medical industry. Anytime she was in the hospital or ER, I was the sole one for being in charge of caretaking for her before, during, and after she went and was discharged.
While she graduated to get her RN, Nursing degree, she had issues at every job she worked. She was written up for falling asleep while working the night shift. She was fired more times than I can count from various nursing positions, which created a substantial emotional fallout that somehow I was responsible for managing.
One of the many memorable events was when I received a call from her supervisor. They let me know that they had “let Patricia go” as a staff member, and she was currently on the floor crying hysterically in the nursing director’s office. They wanted to contact me because I was her only emergency contact. Little did they know, this wasn’t the first shit show.
At the time, I was exhausted with Patricia, and there was NOTHING I could do about getting her up off the floor of her boss’s office, especially when she was hysterical in the middle of a meltdown. I instructed them to call 911 so the ER could deal with her. This was one of the first times I set a boundary for myself; I didn’t even know what boundaries were at the time. I felt obligated to go to the ER to check on her, but I only stayed a few minutes and left to be with my kids.
Buy this time, I am annoyed and exhausted with my responsibilities to caretake Patricia, which was exhausting. But I owed her for helping me with my kids, and I couldn’t survive raising them without her, and she made sure she let me know continually. So it was a total “You help me, I help you” relationship, but not by my choosing. There was no one in Kentucky helping me take care of Patricia, and at the end of every day, I was entirely indebted for taking care of her and all her wants and needs.
So really, I had four kids, but Patricia was an adult who couldn’t take care of herself. Nothing had changed from my childhood aside from me being the lone ranger and target of 100% of Patricia’s emotional, mental, and physical outbursts and needs.
I was angry, but I had no way out. No one in my life understood how these dynamics made me feel, but I kept pushing forward. But now, I had something to live for; even when I didn’t want to live for myself, I knew that my kids needed me, and I needed them. So, I wanted to live for them. But unfortunately, I was in an unhealthy relationship with the twin’s father, and all of a sudden, things turned another twist when the twins were seven months old.
In June of 1999, Patricia decided she was moving to Salt Lake City, Utah, to be closer to Melanie, who had moved to SLC from Iowa in 1997. I hadn’t had much of a relationship with Melanie since leaving Iowa, but sharing the responsibility of Patricia after all these years didn’t sound like a bad idea. Finally, someone could help me with these responsibilities of caretaking for Patricia.
Melanie and Patricia convinced me that I would have much more help with my kids, and I took the bait. Two family members are better than one? Right? However, it was either that or be in Kentucky alone with no family and three kids as a single mother. I lacked the confidence or strength to believe I could stay in Kentucky and care for my kids as three small children with no family at the time. That was a scary thought, so we started to pack up our things and I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I think Patricia again tried to lure me away from the twin’s father, who lived in Kentucky just like she did with Diego when we left Iowa.
In April of 2000, we packed up a 22FT U-Haul and began a journey across the country. I couldn’t help but hope things would be different than our childhood. Little did I know, the same shit show was present from when I was a kid, but it just relocated to a new destination, and now I had three kids to think about.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article, memoir, and podcast are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova