Chapter 18. Ulterior Motives – Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 18.

Ulterior Motives

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.

“Hi, Pam,

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.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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Chapter 3. Corn Fields for Days – Finding Purpose In The Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 3.

Corn Fields for Days by Pamela A. Karanova

Trigger Warning // Childhood Sexual Abuse

It was Friday at 5PM, it was time to head to Dunkerton, where Thomas and Laura lived, along with Mark, Max, and Mike. It was an hour each way from Patricia’s house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They lived in a house in the country, literally smack dab in the middle of cornfields that surrounded our small cul-de-sac with a few other houses.

Thomas worked at John Deere’s, and my interactions with him were pleasant most of the time. He was a hard worker and was dedicated to taking care of his family and doing what he had to do to put food on the table. At times, his commute to and from work was an hour each way, and even in the cold, brutal Iowa winters, he did what he had to do to provide for his family.

He took pride in taking us on summer vacations and loading us up in the big blue van with the pop-up camper. We went to Disney Land, The Grand Canyon, The Petrified Forest, Wisconsin Dells, and The Queen Mary. In addition, we frequented many campgrounds around the USA. My favorite was always Jelly Stone Park.

The big blue van with the pop-up camper.

Before she met Thomas, Laura worked part-time at a local gas station and had the three boys with different dads. Once they married, Thomas raised my three stepbrothers as his own. Laura worked off and on over the years. We never talked about God or prayed before meals, but on Sundays, Laura and Thomas would sometimes drop us off at the local catholic church but would never stay themselves.

Laura had an aura about herself where I never felt a “motherly” love from her; instead, I felt like she was cold as ice towards me. There was nothing warm and fuzzy about her, not as far as I was concerned anyway. We were never close or connected, and she was always around, which stood in the way of me ever having any one-on-one time with Thomas. I don’t ever remember us having 5 minutes of father/daughter time together in all my life. And to be completely honest, I don’t know much about Thomas because he wasn’t a talker.

Melanie and I didn’t have chores at Thomas’s house because our visits were only a weekend in length, creating what felt like a free pass. The visits with them were much different than our home life with Patricia. Thomas and Laura’s house was usually kept clean, dinner was always ready around 5 PM, and I didn’t have to sneak outside and play. There was a structure here, which I knew nothing about at Patricia’s. Most of the time, chaos was at a bare minimum, but I wasn’t around much either. I heard some stories about Thomas being tough on the boys and calling them sissies for wanting to play sports. This never made me feel good that they were treated this way, actually the opposite.

The Brown House in Dunkerton, Iowa

The boys each had their own rooms in the unfinished basement, and Melanie and I shared a room for a long time. Believe it or not, Melanie and I rarely fought at Thomas and Laura’s like we did at Patricia’s. The ring leader and middle man spinning the drama were nonexistent, so things were pleasant.

At one point, as a way to separate Melanie and me as we got older, they created a small “room” for me, which was a closet that fit my twin bed and dresser in it. They hung up sheets from the ceiling to block off the area to create privacy. It was tiny; however, it was the first time in my life I had a space I could call my own. Because of this, I didn’t think twice about it being in a closet.

At Thomas’s house, I could ask to go outside, and most of the time, they said the most prized words that I longed to hear at Patricia’s house, “Have fun!” or “BYE!” I would take off flying out the door and enjoy the freedom every child should have without the sneak effect hanging over my head.

Mike was a year older than me, he enjoyed wrestling in school, and he loved the Dungeons and Dragons game. He was a fun kid and always enjoyed our company when we visited from Cedar Rapids for the weekend. We have some great childhood memories together.

Max was always the favorite of Thomas and Laura. He was three years older than me. He loved Motley Crew, Ozzy Osborne, and Guns N Roses. He was popular in school and seemed to receive favor everywhere he went. However, he was a rebel and seemed to get in trouble more than any of us. He was arrested first and wrecked a car first, but he was still everyone’s favorite.

Mark was five years older than me, so when I was 5, he was 10. There were always some peculiar things about him, like the fantasies he created in his mind about creating another world and his own government named after him. He had a strange personality, and I always felt it from him. He was also in and out of psychiatric hospitals his entire juvenile and early adult life. It ended up being that he came out of the closet as gay, and I am sure that was a difficult journey for him to navigate.

All three of my stepbrothers detasseled corn in the summertime, and that was a tough job. They would remove the immature pollen-producing tassels from the top of the corn, laying them on the ground on by one. They would get up at the crack of dawn and go to the pick-up site to head out to the cornfields for the day. When they returned home, they were bright red from the sun beating on them each day. One thing was for sure, detasseling corn wasn’t for sissies!

I will never forget Mike screaming frantically one evening while running through the woods shouting, “A wild bore is chasing me! Hurry! Run fast!” The reality was that it was dinner time, and he was trying to round us up to get inside! We would play hide and seek in the cornfields or the woods. In Wintertime, we would create igloos and play king of the mountain with the heavy snowfall we received in Iowa.

At some point around the age of five, Mark started to groom me to do sexual favors for him. He was a kid at ten years old; however, I have memories of these interactions up to me being 10-11 years old, where he would have been 15 to 16 years old and old enough to know better! So while things with Laura and Thomas seemed to be better than with Patricia, I lived with this childhood sexual abuse keeping it to myself until I ended up in therapy again at 18 years old, and this was the first time it all came out.

Until then, my lips were sealed because Mark told me not to share it with anyone or else! By the time I reached 12 years old, I had stopped wanting to visit Thomas and Laura because of these activities. When they asked why I didn’t want to come anymore, I didn’t give a definite reason. I kept that secret from all, just like Mark instructed me to do.

L-R Melanie, Max, Pamela, Mark, Mike – In the photo, look how far away I am from Mark, look at his hand, and look at my face. This was only the beginning!

At times, someone in the house did something wrong, and Thomas and Laura would punish us all. For example, we were told to get down on our hands and knees on the basement floor, and while we all five lined up, they beat our asses with a belt one by one. This was terrifying and painful.

We returned home, and Patricia saw that we had marks on our bodies from the belt. She let Thomas and Laura know that we would never return until they agreed to never use a belt on us again. They finally agreed, and after a pause in visits, our visits to Dunkerton would resume.

Thomas and Laura never spoke negatively about Patricia in front of us girls. On the contrary, I always appreciated this because that was the opposite of what Patricia did. It was almost as if she wanted to sow seeds of discord. She did an excellent job at it; however, I would ultimately lose respect for her because she continuously attempted to put a wedge between Thomas and us girls. I put him on a pedestal because he always showed up to pick us up and he took us on vacations and to fun places.

I would run off to frolic in the cornfields, which seemed never-ending. We also had the woods not far where I would have the freedom to run wild until dinner time. No one knew that my escape into nature would be a healing place for me. I was free from Mark and Patricia’s toxicity, and I could pretend the forest was my home. My imagination would run wild by being able to run amongst the forest and the trees. I never wanted to leave.

Freedom always reigned for me outside amongst the trees. We had one substantial gigantic tree outside our house across the street. I climbed to the top and would reach up and touch the sky, and in my mind, I was touching the only close thing I had to my birth mother. I knew she was under the same sky I was, and I longed to be closer to her. So I would hang out at the top, dreaming of her. It was like the sky was my baby blanket growing up, and it made me feel closer to my birth mother, when the reality was I had no idea who she was or where she was. Was she looking for me? Was she thinking of me? I knew it was a matter of time before she returned for me.

I never spoke to Thomas or Laura about knowing I was adopted; however, I know my three stepbrothers knew. I know this because they would get upset with Melanie or me for something; they would shout, “You aren’t our REAL family” or “Blood is thicker than water!.” They would also make fun of us because our city smelled nasty, so they would hurl insults at us from time to time. “They were kids!” shouts the world. Yes, this is true, but it was mean-spirited, and it stuck, especially being adopted.

Little Pammy on the basement steps at the brown house in Dunkerton.

I loved being able to escape into nature and consider that piece of my childhood an essential aspect of why I am the person I am today. Mother Nature was always there even when my earthly mothers didn’t hold up to the expectations I deserved! As early as I can remember, I felt more connected to the trees and the woods than I did any of the people in my life, especially running around barefoot with no shoes on. That was my jam. I loved to get dirty and wet and play in the mud and rain. I had little fear!

I never cared for Laura much and didn’t feel close to her. She was deceptive multiple times and lied to Thomas and us about being a smoker. Even though she let us see her smoke, she wanted us to lie for her to Thomas. She also stepped outside the marriage with Thomas. As a result, I lost respect for her and had little love for her, and felt the coldness in her aura towards me. She also favored Max, and because of this, all the rest of us felt like red-headed stepchildren. And in my case, the adopted red-headed stepchild. Favoring kids destroys kids.

It was Sunday in the blink of an eye, and it was time to go back to Patricia’s house. We wouldn’t see or hear from Thomas or Laura for two weeks. We never kept in touch between the visits or spoke on the phone. They never knew how school was going or what we were up to sports-wise, or activities we completed like dance recitals or plays. I never remember conversations on life lessons at all. They just showed up for the court-ordered visits, every other holiday, and a vacation in the summer.

Thomas was always far away, and because of this, sadly, I don’t feel like I ever had a close relationship with him or a relationship at all. He wasn’t around when Patricia was amid her meltdowns, and world war three was happening inside Patricia’s home. I was dying to know details about the divorce from his perspective. How do you marry someone, adopt two daughters, get divorced a year later and move to another city, and re-marry a year later? Did he know how emotionally unstable Patricia was? If he did, why did he leave us with her?

It would be years before I would get up enough nerve to ask Thomas to get to the bottom of this. But eventually, I would learn the truth from his perspective, and it was a hard pill to swallow. After reality set in, sadly, the pedestal I put him on my whole life changed to a different reality. One that I wasn’t expecting to learn. But ultimately, even when it hurts, it’s the truth that sets us free.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

Don’t forget that I’m streaming my articles on several audio platforms for your listening convenience! 👇🏼

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*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

Adoptees Are Not Gifts and Possessions – An Adoptee’s Perspective

“All children are a gift from God,” – Says the world. 

I believe this is part of the reason our adoptive parents refer to us as gifts; however, to refer to each adopted individual as a gift would insinuate that children are owned by someone who then bestows the gift upon a receiver and that this person is now the owner of the property being gifted. 

I think people likely mean well; however, sometimes, they don’t understand the layers and depths of their words when explaining and exploring the different dynamics of the adoption and adoptee experience. Sometimes people can say things that are well intended, but the reality is that they can be hurtful to adoptees. On the other hand, sometimes, a little enlightenment on a topic can go a long way.

Let me get straight to the point. Children are free individuals, and no one possesses them in a way that they would be in a position to “give one” to someone else as a gift. Being your parent’s responsibility is entirely different from being their property. 

Having my own experience with adoption and hearing the experiences of my fellow adoptees for over a decade, many of us feel as if we are referred to as a monetary possession when hearing from our adoptive parents and others. This comes off as a reflection of “ownership” to many of us. 

However, when most of us are paid for with a cash price, is when the reality of our feelings gets magnified even more considerably. Not to mention the lifelong reminders we get from those around us and the families we grow up in. 

The feelings of being referred to as a gift imply ownership, entitlement, and possession are many ways adopted people feel in our experiences with our adoptive parents and others. I now consider this line of thinking linked to adoptive parent parental narcissism.

Nevertheless, as if feeling this was not enough, many adoptees are expected to celebrate “Gotcha Day” or “Adoption Day” and referred to as a “Gift” as if the loss we experience before we are adopted does not count for anything. I will be writing about this soon. 

We are expected to feel thankful and grateful that our adoptive parents took us in when our biological families did not want us. Assuming that an adopted child or adult should be more grateful and thankful than a biological child can be an epic failure in acknowledging and recognizing what that person had to experience to be adopted, to begin with. Expecting us to be more thankful or grateful than another person on earth is an unrealistic expectation placed on us. 

Our biological connections matter to us and presuming that their loss doesn’t exist causes tremendous grief and pain for the adopted person, on top of the loss we already experience, and it’s not helpful. 

Unfortunately, society at large and most of our adoptive parents have not left room for us to share our feelings because they assume we should be thankful and grateful. While many adoptees have not come to a place of sharing their true feelings, many of us are blazing the trailways and sharing how adoption has impacted us and made us feel. 

I remember as a teen, I would have new friends or a new boyfriend, and my adoptive mom would suddenly act as if she had new friends and a new boyfriend. She would ask questions and want me to tell her everything about them and my life. She rarely had friends of her own, and she never had a boyfriend as she and my adoptive dad divorced when I was one year old. She did not have her own life and lived through me and mine. 

I would constantly tell my adoptive mom to “Stay out of my business” when it seemed like she was constantly overstepping. Being a teenager, I thought she was just a nosey parent; however, when this carried over into my adult life is when I knew something was not right. 

One of the phrases I heard throughout my childhood and adult life from my adoptive mom was, “Your life is my life, and everything that has to do with you is my business!” Anytime she would say this to me, it would strike a chord profoundly. Unfortunately, I had no healthy examples in my life of what a mother and daughter were supposed to be like, so I grew up thinking this was normal. 

As I grew into my teen and adult years, I would still hear, “Your life is my life, and everything that has to do with you is my business.” 

In my childhood, I also remember hearing “you were my greatest gift,” like a broken record about my biological mother giving me up for adoption and my adoptive mom sharing her elated feelings about this decision. Ultimately, my birth mother chose not to parent, which allowed my adoptive mom’s dreams to come true to be a mother. 

But, while she celebrated, I suffered in silence as many adoptees do. As soon as her feelings of happiness came into the conversation, there was no room for my sadness about this woman who was gone, to whom I was very much connected. So while I believe she had no idea how damaging this would be, I am here to share that it was indeed damaging.

An adopted person is usually paid for with a cash price, so our sentiments being referred to as a gift will likely be different than a biological child or a child that wasn’t paid for with monetary value. It makes us feel like a monetary possession. Yet, too often than not, we’re expected to be glad that someone on this earth cared enough about us that they created GoFundMe and received loans from family and friends to purchase us as if that wouldn’t impact us at some point in life. 

I completed a poll on the How Does it Feel to Be Adopted? Page in 2015 asking adoptees if they were okay with being referred to as a gift. I had 378 adopted people respond, with 88% saying that “NO” they aren’t okay with being referred to as a gift. Can we consider this when we speak about adopted children and adults moving forward? 

I would like to think that it counts for something significant that 88% of adoptees are not okay with being referred to as a gift, which implies ownership of a whole human being. Can we at least be sensitive that this is a problem and have the willingness to consider changing our language in adoption?

When I think of the children I brought into the world, they are my children, but they are also their own individual people. While I didn’t pay for them with a $45,000.00 cash price, I still do not refer to them as a gift because of the weight of ownership this implies. 

One of the most amazing things I have received was from a friend, Frank Ligtvoet. He shared the song “On Children” by Sweet Honey In The Rock, and I wanted to share it. I think this song is powerful in so many ways. I would like to think it could be applied to the lives of those who wish to accept, acknowledge and appreciate that none of us own our kids. They are sons and daughters of the universe and the world itself. Adopted or not, this is a powerful reminder that no one has ownership over another, and no human being is a GIFT of monetary possession. Can we acknowledge that things ring differently for adopted people? Even with well-intended circumstances, adopted people are not okay with feeling like they are possessions and gifts. 

It’s time our language and thoughts match up with this reality. 

Take a listen below!

For my fellow adoptees, have you been referred to as a gift or felt as if you were a possession? If so, how did that make you feel?

Thanks for reading and listening!

Pamela A. Karanova

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*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

Adoptees, Why Did Your Adoptive Parents Adopt You?  

I write about the difficult dynamics in adoption, the ones no one wants to talk about. As I have emerged from the fog of adoption, I’ve learned that not all adoptees are adopted for the reasons most people think they are. So what was the reason your adoptive parents adopted you? What were you told, and did it align with the truth?

Society paints a picture that adoptees are taken in when their biological families don’t want them. Their adoptive parents have taken on this responsibility to parent another person’s child to provide a safe and loving home for the child. The adoptive parents are then seen as heroes and often take on the superior attitude of saving an unwanted child from a life of despair. White savior complex sits front and center on many occasions regarding adoptions today. There is an underbelly to these false realities.

However, this is the opposite contrast of what many adoptees feel while we navigate life on the other side of the coin. For many of us, over years of our lives, we learn the truth about why we were adopted, and it opens up a level of understanding for each of us. We’re told we were chosen, and most of the time, we believe it. It’s a cushion to soften the blow of the realities about adoption. The chosen baby theory makes people feel better, even when it’s not true.

I am here to share the truth that most of the time, when a baby is adopted, the reasons they were separated from their biological mothers isn’t usually a pretty story. We must share this reality to stop setting adoptees up for the life-altering disappointment when they discover the truth. The separation trauma is traumatic enough, and we don’t have to add more lies and secrecy to it by using the chosen baby theory. I will be writing more about the chosen baby theory soon.

It’s rare for someone to choose to take on the responsibility of parenting another person’s child, with it being the first option. People generally want to have their own biological children FIRST, before adoption is ever spoken of. This means adoption is likely the LAST option vs. the chosen one. If you think your adoptive parent’s hand-picked you out of a line of babies, I can guarantee you this is a false narrative spun by the adoption industry. It’s part of the propaganda they sell to dress adoption up and hide what it truthfully is. The truth is, they took the next baby in line.

My adoptive mom was infertile. She couldn’t have kids of her own. So instead of healing from this significant loss and accepting those were the cards she was dealt, she adopted! I carried the load of her struggles with infertility my entire life. Somehow I remember saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” more than anything. She never healed from the divorce or her infertility struggles. I was the prime target of her emotional and mental outbursts and my adopted sister. Our adoptive father divorced her, left us, and moved away even when he knew she couldn’t take care of us. It was no secret that she was mentally ill. From an early age, I was her caretaker. I rubbed her back, put lotion all over her body, cleaned her room, changed her bedding. I ran her bath water, brushed her hair, cut coupons for her, cleaned the whole house, and the list could go on.

I started to learn in my early teens that my adoptive mother had a fear of going to a nursing home in her older age. She talked about this in my childhood many times, and by my teen years, it was very apparent to me that she had significant issues with going to a nursing home. As I started to connect the dots on this, and I experienced a life of hell in this home, it is evident that she adopted 1. Because she couldn’t have offspring of her own. 2. She didn’t want to go to a nursing home in her old days. These reasons are far-fetched from wanting to provide a loving and caring home to a child in need.

Another highlight about this reality is that our relationship was very strained my whole life, especially as I grew into my adulthood. She tried to convince me to be her power of attorney when I was 38 years old. When I was 38 years old, I was the single parent of a new 18-year-old high school graduate. I also had twins that were in 9th grade. I had my hands full to take on this responsibility, and I declined. If we had a healthy relationship and if she wasn’t abusive my whole life, I might have considered it. However, she went straight for my fresh out of high school 18-year-old daughter when I declined.

My daughter was barely out of high school, yet when she asked her and pursued her to be her POA. She was applying to colleges and ready to start her life as an adult. So why would she want to dig her claws in my daughter in this way? Because her plan with me backfired. I cared for her and catered to her my entire life until I finally broke free in 2005. I packed up a UHaul, all my belongings, my kids and moved across the country to escape her. It was the hardest thing I ever did because when you are adopted, you then step into a space of having no family and, in this case, no mother. I didn’t have one anyway, but we started our life over. I had no place to live, no job, no money, no car, and no keys TO ANYTHING.

I did this not only for my kids to have a better life but also for myself. So I could start the healing process from all my adoption experience has caused. I have come to life little by little, and today I’m thriving. However, this doesn’t mean that I haven’t been hurt by the reality of why my adoptive mom adopted me, to begin with. I see right through her intentions. It would be easier to believe the fairytale narrative; however, my life’s experiences won’t allow me to believe this.

I am not saying that some adoptees aren’t adopted for pure reasons, but I know I am not the only one who has figured out I was adopted to fill the void a biological child would have brought to my adoptive mom and her adopting for her wants and needs. It’s almost like I feel like a pawn in a game I never agreed to play. Unfortunately, because of this and all the abuse and lies she inflicted on me my entire life, we were estranged for several years before she passed away.

I’m curious about the experiences of my fellow adoptees? Do you feel like your adoptive parents adopted for “the right reasons?” whatever that looks like to you? Or do you feel there was another reason or even several? How has this made you feel?

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 PodcastsiTunes , Spotify. and Amazon Music.

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Thanks for reading and listening,

Love, Love.

*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.

The Raw Resentment I Have Carried for Most Adoptive Parents and What Changed – An Adoptees Perspective

Yep, I’m going there. I write about the difficult dynamics in adoption, the ones no one wants to talk about.

But before I do, I’m not here to throw my adoptive parents under the bus for what they did or didn’t do wrong. At this point, that’s water under the bridge for me.

I’ve said for many years that Adoptive Parents aren’t my gift. They aren’t in my arena of life, and I have purposely set things up to keep most of them out of my space for mental health and self-care reasons.

I seem to clash with them, and I have carried great fury toward them over the years. Adoptive parents have been the hardest for me to manage out of all the people in the adoption constellation.

Why?

My experiences with most adoptive parents have been primarily online, and they haven’t been positive experiences. 99.9% of the time, they don’t have the willingness to want to learn or listen to what adoption feels like from an adult adoptee’s perspective. Online I’ve found them to be damaging, dismissive and emotionally abusive.

Anytime I have tried to share, they end up making it about them and why they adopted, to begin with, their infertility issues, and all they have sacrificed to adopt the child they have. So it’s always about them, and this saddens me.

If I’m being transparent, it MADDENS ME.

They don’t have to listen to me for me, but I think of all their adopted kids who could experience the pain I once did and that so many adoptees experience growing up. Unfortunately, the adoption agencies, adoption attorneys, and adoption officials aren’t telling them the truth. So if there were any way I could help the adoptive parents understand the adoptee’s experience more profoundly, I would be happy to do that when time permits.

I believe adopted adults hold the keys to understanding all the heartache and heartbreak adoptees experience after separation from their biological mother. We also understand life as the adoptee experience. A group of 10 adoptive parents can gather to talk about their adopted kids, but they will never understand the layers and complexities that an adult adoptee can share. We understand the grief, loss, and trauma because we’ve sat in it. We live it each day.

I need to be transparent. My motivation is more for the adoptee because they are the community I pour my heart and soul into. So with that, if networking with the adoptive parents will bring some healing and clarity, I will try, but only if they are willing to listen and learn.

I learned a hard lesson in 2015, about five years after coming out of the fog. When adoptive parents didn’t want to receive the message, I would insert my views, experiences, and words into conversations with adoptive parents online. Then, they would shut me down and silence me, and I would become worked up. I can’t even begin to describe the anguish and emotional triggering I put myself through because interactions online like this happened repeatedly. It seems easy, but it was excruciating when I put myself in these situations!

Until one day, I woke up. Then, I realized I had the power to excuse these frustrating interactions from my life altogether. I learned that the only way my message would be received was if the person was willing to receive the message I wanted to share! Wow, this was a game-changer for me. But, to be completely honest, this isn’t only in the adoption arena.

This is with every area of life.

Once I learned that a small number of adoptive parents wanted to hear from the adult adoptee’s perspective to understand their adoptive child better, things started to shift for me. The small number of adoptive parents I have had significant positive interactions with have given me the hope that some adoptive parents out there have the willingness in them to listen and learn. They genuinely want to try. Thank you for your willingness. I’m sure there are plenty of adoptive parents who want to listen and learn, I just haven’t met them. I actually wrote an article about this one time in 2014 called, Just Listen, That is All.

I realized I was selling myself short when communicating and speaking to adoptive parents. However, the small number of interactions I have had, mostly in real life, have been positive, meaningful, and life-changing. In addition, I have had 1 to 2 positive experiences online with adoptive parents who have reached out to me about advice that have been positive interactions.

While the positive experiences are far and few between, I have chosen to put my mental health first and no longer insert my opinion or experience to adoptive parents online unless they seek me out first. When they come with open hearts and minds, I will consider engaging. I wrote an article about this one time.

When Adoptive Parents Have the Willingness to Listen,

With this, I have been able to shift little by little regarding my feelings towards adoptive parents, and because of these positive experiences, I hope things are changing for the better, but we still have a long way to go. So today, I set boundaries and refuse to allow much of my time dedicated to APs because it takes time away from my commitment to adoptees. Wasting time with anyone who doesn’t have the willingness to listen and learn is something I will no longer do. So, I took my power back. If this article resonates with you, I encourage you to do the same.

If you are an adoptive parent, do you have the willingness to have hard, yet truthful conversations with adult adoptees? Do you feel they hold a special value to the adoptee experience? If you have had conversations with adult adoptees, what has that experience been like for you?

If you are an adoptee reading this, what has your experience been like with communicating with adoptive parents? Have you had mainly positive experiences, or have they been similar to mine?

Why do you think adoptive parents are so triggering to many adoptees? If they have been triggering to you, as they have me, is there been anything that helps you navigate these experiences?

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!

Thanks for reading,

Love, Love.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article 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 Birthmother was an Alcoholic but I didn’t Love her any Less…

Knowing she was suffering from alcoholism had absolutely no impact on me wanting to meet and know and love my birthmother.

Never for the life of me will I understand why an adoptive parent would share negative things with their adoptive child about their birth families? Why do they do this? From my experience in my journey and hearing other adoptees share their stories it’s almost as if the adoptive parents get some self-satisfaction about sharing some dark points about the biological families in hopes to create a wedge or a negative feelings from the adoptee about their birth families. I find this appalling.
Our birth families are who we are. They are a big part of us and no one can say or do anything to change that. I hear over and over, “But she was addicted to drugs, and she was a prostitute, or she was an alcoholic.” Those things don’t make her our mother any less. I know some adoptees may feel different but for me, I never had a chance to know the woman that gave me life. But after finding her and being reunited with her one time I learned a lot about her. I wish I was given more time to get to know her. I learned from those around and of course my adoptive mom loved to throw it in my face that she was an alcoholic. She would mention this because I was a drinker for 25 years of my life. I drank to escape the pain and heartbreak of my birth mother giving me away. My adopted mom said “You act like she would have given you a better life”.
You know, I really resent that statement to a major degree. Let’s see. Would I have rather had my REAL mother who was an alcoholic OR a FAKE mother that was addicted to prescription pain pills and depressed who battled mental illness my whole life. For me the answer to that is simple. I WOULD HAVE RATHER HAD MY REAL MOTHER! At least she would have been my REAL mother, not some stranger that wanted me for her own selfish reasons. Families have dysfunctions, and families have issues. I fully understand this. But when my adopted mother started speaking negatively about my birth mother it only drew me further away from her. It felt like I had to choose a side. And in the end I was left with nothing. Because it just so happened my birth mother didn’t want me in her life. I struggle with this adoptee battle daily!
I’ve learned to accept these things but it hasn’t been easy. I would like to share that any time an adoptive parent speaks negatively about a birth family member of the child they are raising they are speaking negatively about the child. This has a reflection of the adoptee thinking badly about oneself and starting to feel as if something is wrong with them. Why would any parent want that for their child? If there are traumatic events that happened and they are the reason why the child was separated from their original family there is no reason the child needs to hear that in a demeaning way. They can hear the truth at age appropriate times, but what about speaking love about the first family? Telling that child it’s okay to cry, and grieve because of those reasons. Instead of speaking badly about their very own roots.
It’s not what you say it’s how you say it. Let me make this clear, it was only my adoptive mother that spoke negatively. My adoptive father never said a negative word about anyone. He never talked about it ever.
I will just say I commend all the adoptive parents who have nothing but love for their adoptive child’s first family and don’t speak badly about them or talk down on them. I know there are many out there that don’t do this. For those that do, or for those that are raising adoptive children. I plead with you to please not speak negatively about your child’s first family. This can and will have lasting long term side effects that will damage the child’s inner being and make them feel terrible about themselves. It will not make them feel more grateful they were adopted if those are your intentions. It will only confuse them more.  Take it from an adoptee that’s experience this.

 

Thanks for reading.