Chapter 6. Twisted Love – Finding Purpose in The Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 6.

Twisted Love

Trigger Warning // Physical Assault // Violence // Suicide

Now that I was no longer visiting the Rodriguez’s house, I had more free time on my hands most days. At this stage of my life, Patricia was still working the night shift, and when she was home, she slept all day. We rarely saw one another, but when we did, we fought consistently. My feelings of annoyance and unhappiness around her only increased. I was repulsed by her. I continued to ask her when I could find my birth mother, only to get the same response, “We don’t have enough money for an attorney, but when we do, we will try to get the closed records opened.” The less I had to be in Patricia’s presence, the better.

With Patricia working the night shift, I occasionally had friends over to party when she was at work. I would kick everyone out before she was supposed to get off, and sometimes I would leave myself. I was clearly out of control, and at 15 years old, I only had a few things on my mind, finding my birth mother, living up to the expectations of being bad, and partying hard.

I would make copies of Patricia’s car keys, hide them, and when I needed to get somewhere or wanted to joy ride, I would steal her car, sometimes even stealing it from her job in the middle of the night. She would get off work at 7 AM, and her car would be gone from the hospital parking lot. I taught myself how to drive and had endless keys made so I could escape by wheels when I wanted to. I acquired several grand theft auto charges along the way and only added these charges to the wall of shame, adding to the list of reasons for my badness. I definitely won the heathen of the year award every single year.

I was also a liar and a thief, and I didn’t care who I hurt. Did these traits come from my experiences being groomed by the Rodriguez family? Or did they come from the profound reality that my life was built on a bed of lies, normalizing the very concept of lying? Were they rooted in me acting out from separation trauma, compacted by the trauma I witnessed in my adoptive homes? Was I really just an awful and bad person? Could it be a combination of them all? The good adoptee was nowhere in sight; she was dead and gone, never to return.

I was invincible and entirely out of touch with my body, mind, and soul. It’s almost as if I was hollow inside, soulless. Feeling feelings were out of the question. But, on the other hand, I was a runner and always kept it moving. 99.9% of the time, no adult in my life knew where I was or could keep up with me. I wholeheartedly believe that not having a birth story, or roots planted anywhere made me feel like I wasn’t alive, which flipped a switch on the reality that dying was no big deal. It’s impossible to feel alive, when you feel like you were never born.

No birth story can impact adoptees significantly, but the world never listens to us. There were times in my teenage years that I just wanted to die. I wanted someone to kill me, and I would instigate fights in hopes that my heartache and pain would all be gone. Rage continued to build up, and I hated the world and damn near everyone in it.

I remember walking down the street on the S.E. side of town in Cedar Rapids, and at 15 years old, I found the boy’s home, where teenage boys lived who had been removed from their own homes for various reasons. Some broke the law, and some were abandoned by their parents. They would sneak other girls in and out the windows and me occasionally. I always felt connected to them, even if it was just friends. We shared some of the same wounds, specifically the mother wound. It could have been a trauma bond, but we never talked about it. We just knew we were kindred spirits of sorts.

I would also hang out with my friend Shante’, who lived on 5th Avenue on the S.E. Side. She had a fully present and welcoming mom, two sisters, and five brothers who felt like the closest thing to a family I would ever experience. I was drawn to them, especially now I wasn’t going to the Rodriguez home. We could sit on Shante’s front porch and be smack dab in the middle of all drama and the happenings on the S.E. side of Cedar Rapids.

One particular day, I was approached by a girl named Renee, who physically attacked me because she heard Johnson gave me a ride home from the Rodriguez home back when I was being physically attacked. She obviously didn’t understand he helped me and thought it was more. We started fighting, throwing blows tumbling on the ground, and a few minutes into it, she got up and walked away while blood was everywhere.

Where was the blood coming from? I didn’t feel anything, and that’s because she had a razor blade in her hand. She sliced my face, forehead, and my neck. To say blood was gushing everywhere would be an understatement. I didn’t feel anything, but I knew I needed to get to the hospital ASAP. One of the many razor cuts was within a few centimeters from my carotid artery. Shante went with me to the hospital and stayed with me until Patricia arrived. I had over 100 stitches and lacerations everywhere and still have hidden scars to this day. The doctor said I was lucky to be alive.

Unfortunately, the South East side was the wrong side of town, but it was the side of town Metro High School was on, so I would take the city bus, get dropped off, and make an appearance at Metro so I could say I went. Typically, I never stayed for an hour, no one noticed, and I never did a damn bit of work. Instead, I walked through like some celebrity, said “Hi” to my friends, and walked out the back door. After, I would walk the streets until I found someone I knew to hang out with. It didn’t matter what time it was or what day; at 15 years old, I felt like I was born to get the party started.

Soon I would run into a guy named Giovanni Rockwell, aka Big Rocky. Giovanni was just released from Juvenile Jail because he had reached 18 years of age, legally an adult at the time, and he aged out of the system. I had no idea what he did to get locked up in the first place, but I did know we had a spark between us that I had never experienced before. We took a liking to one another and started to spend time together.

After learning more about Big Rocky, I learned his nickname came from his last name, but it was also after the Movie Rocky because, in Cedar Rapids, Big Rocky was well known for never losing a fight. Instead, he was unforgettably known for knocking anyone out who crossed him in any way. No one wanted to be on the wrong side of Big Rocky.

I was young and naïve, and when Big Rocky took an interest in me, I bit on to the attention he gave me, and before long, we were in a relationship. We would meet at his friend’s houses and sneak into our homes, frequent parks, or Lyndale Mall. The more time we spent together, I learned about the jealous streak he had, but at the time, I didn’t recognize it as jealousy. Instead, the 15-year-old me recognized it as LOVE.

The first time Giovonni appeared to be jealous was when we were at the mall, and some other guy looked at me, and Giovanni thought I was looking at him. He insisted we knew each other, and I had no clue who the guy was. It was a random glance because we happened to be in the same place—nothing more, nothing less. He took me outside, pushed me up against a brick wall, pulled my hair, and tried to force me to admit I knew the guy. I promised him I didn’t know him! He let go of my hair and threatened that if I ever looked at another guy again, I was going to get it.

I had no idea what would come of my relationship with Giovanni, but sadly I didn’t need to look at another guy to “get it.” But unfortunately, that was only the beginning of years of emotional, mental, and sexual abuse. Giovanni had anger issues, and I was among the many receivers of his anger and rage. Nevertheless, I was willing to overlook all the usual “red flags” to be loyal to him for loving me.

We spent a lot of time together, and even when we weren’t 21, which was the legal age for drinking alcohol, we could get alcohol and weed, which were always available. So we got tipsy regularly, and the more time I spent in the streets with Giovanni, the more Patricia would stir, wondering where I was. Finally, she couldn’t control me anymore and couldn’t find me even if she tried. I would only go home long enough to shower, change clothes, and leave again.

At times, I had the police or detectives searching for me for fighting or breaking the law, which added a whole new layer to being a runner. I would hide in different friends’ attics and homes until, eventually, the law caught up with me. I woke up in Juvenile Jail more times than I could count, and it never stopped me from being a menace.

Spending so much time with Giovanni, my love and loyalty to him were intense. He was mine, and I was his, and at all costs, we weren’t going to let anyone break us up, but as soon as Patricia caught on that I had a boyfriend, she did everything in her power to try. Her famous words were, “Is he black?” which seemed to be all she cared about. When I expressed that “yes, he’s black,” she would go into the bible saying we aren’t supposed to date outside our race, and if we do, we are going to hell!

This only damaged my inner being more than it was already damaged because now that I knew I was going to hell for dating someone who was a different race than me, my feelings of badness only increased. She made me feel less than, lower than the low. Then, as if my feelings of low self-esteem and self-hate couldn’t get any worse, Patricia repeatedly threw scriptures at me and damned me to hell. I guess I was going to hell then because I wasn’t leaving Giovanni alone for anything.

Sadly, being an adoptee, I have discovered more profound thoughts about this topic. How was I dating someone outside my race when I didn’t even know what my race was? Being adopted, I always had this deep-rooted fear that I would date a biological brother or a cousin, which is something non-adoptees can’t comprehend. This taught me to tap into something that I couldn’t ignore.

I had to mentally look at everyone who looked a little like me as a biological family member because I didn’t know they weren’t! However, to bypass this, I learned that dating someone who looked NOTHING like I did was a safe zone to be in. Dealing with a lifetime beginning with secrecy and lies is much deeper than anyone thinks. It impacts every area of our lives and the choices we make all the way back to the beginning!

The flip side is that Patricia repeatedly pointed the finger at me and told me I was going to hell for dating outside my race, but she forgot she signed on the dotted line that cosigned me, never knowing my ethnicity or race! Talk about a mental mind fuck. It was apparent I was on the opposite side of the tracks from this God character, and no matter what I did, I was not going to be good enough! Ever! This wasn’t the least helpful to me; actually highly damaging. So I might as well pull up my bad bitch shoes even higher, and I decided to wear them proudly and didn’t care who I pissed off or hurt. Sadly, I didn’t even care about myself.

One afternoon in 1989, I decided to go home to take a shower and change clothes. However, Patricia insisted I go to turn myself into Drug and Alcohol Rehab at Mercy Hospital. So, at 15 years old, I went but resisted the entire way. I didn’t need drug or alcohol rehab or help, nor did I want the help, but just like Melanie being removed by the tough love people, now it was my turn. Patricia never once took accountability that her actions could have impacted Melanie and me in a traumatic way, nor did she ever acknowledge her part or the adoption component to my behavior.

I spent 30 days of strict routine by waking up at 5 AM daily, walking across the street to the track at McKinley School to start some laps to get the morning going. Then, for the rest of my time in rehab, I was in a locked facility and couldn’t get out if I wanted to. However, there was a warmness about the structure in rehab. A hot meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, no Patricia or her emotional outbursts, and no Mark to torment me and molest me. I made friends and embraced the 30 days. It was much more peaceful than being around Patricia or her outbursts or being sexually abused by Mark.

Not long after I arrived, I remember them handing me the Alcoholics Anonymous big book, and to get out in 30 days, I had to start reading and applying the 12 Steps to my life. In a nutshell, I had to find God.

“Oh, you mean I had to find the same God who was already sending me to hell for various reasons?” I said to myself. Ah, gotcha. Not one person or trained professional asked about my childhood, adoption, or how it felt to be adopted. No one talked about the childhood trauma of growing up in abusive homes. No one wanted to hear about the childhood sexual abuse I had repressed from Mark. Or the suicide attempts from Patricia. No one asked what it feels like to be lost, searching for clues to your beginnings. No one cared why I used drugs and alcohol; they just wanted me to stop using them, and, like this God character, they shamed me for using them.

The responsibility to “find God” was placed on me, along with forgiving all the people who had hurt me. This told me that my heartache and pain were irrelevant, and it didn’t matter. It told me I didn’t matter. It told me my traumatic experiences weren’t real, and my feelings about being adopted were insignificant.

No options, no choices, Just find God.

My experience with God goes much deeper and more profound than “Just having a bad church experience.” God was responsible for shame, punishment, belittlement, and religious trauma, which began in my childhood before I ever stepped foot inside the doors of a church. And my adoption experience goes much deeper than, “She just had a bad adoption experience.”

Where was God when I was being sexually abused by Mark? Where was God when I was watching Patricia lay in the street to try to kill herself and lock herself in her room trying to kill herself? Where was God when my birth mother decided to hand me over to strangers? Where was God when he knew the agony I felt searching for my birth mother every day of my life? Where was God when I was being physically and sexually abused by Diego and Giovanni?

He must have been sitting back watching the whole thing, which let me know God wasn’t looking out for me, but now I had to put everything I had into him to get out of this shit hole? Fake it till you make it was my new motto, especially if my freedom was involved. Finally, I found God all right, long enough to get out of drug and alcohol rehab to freedom.

I pretended I found God, graduated from the program, was released, and was drinking alcohol and using drugs again within the hour. I reached out to Giovanni, and we got together and made up for lost time from being separated for 30 days. Giovanni showed me love that I didn’t feel anywhere else; sometimes, it was because he showed up consistently. The other part was that he told me he loved me and spent time with me.

When I was growing up, loyalty was everything. I remember thinking, “If my birth mother LOVED ME SO MUCH she handed me to strangers, and leaving was considered LOVE, then Giovanni must love me because he stayed.” This thinking also sparked me to prove my love to him because if love was leaving, I wanted to show Giovanni I loved him by staying.

It didn’t matter how abusive he became; he kept showing up. That was more than I got from my birth mother, who abandoned me and never showed up. Trying to make sense of my biological mother giving me away to strangers because she loved me will forever taint my view of love. This was twisted love at its finest and completely wrecked my ability to view what real true love is. It’s taken a lifetime to unravel the roots of my adoptee experience. Even today, at 47 years old, I’ve accepted love as a topic that isn’t for me.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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Chapter 5. Runaway – Finding Purpose in The Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 5.

Runaway

Trigger Warning // Rape, Sexual Assault, Suicide

This will likely be one of the most challenging chapters I will write for my audible memoir. Some of the experiences I had from 12 to 17 years old are hard to digest, talk about and share with close friends, let alone share publicly. This is a whole new ballgame for me. Yet, I feel they are necessary to share because they directly link to my being adopted and why my mentality was the way it was in my pre-teen and teenage years.

Unfortunately, then, the world labeled me as a troubled teen who acted out as a typical rebellion, only increasing my feelings of badness. Adoption was never acknowledged or talked about as a contributing factor. In return, like most adoptees, I was failed and failed miserably.

Melanie packed up all her belongings and moved to Thomas and Laura’s, and I was left behind to stay with Patricia. Soon after she left, Patricia became obsessed with me and everything about me. She didn’t have a life of her own, friends, or hobbies other than sleeping and watching television. I had no other mother and daughter relationships to compare this one too, so I thought her behavior was normal and would frequently ask myself, “Is this how other mothers are with their daughters?”

At 12 years old, Patricia approached me one afternoon and asked me to sit down and talk to her. She had two printed forms she wanted me to sign. One was a Christian Covenant that I had to sign where I agreed not to drink alcohol or do drugs. The other was a Christian Covenant that I would have to sign that I would not have sex until I was married. Me signing the covenants was a promise to her and God that I wouldn’t do these things. In a nutshell, Patricia’s conversation with me was her letting me know that if I choose to do these things, I would be sinning, and God would be very upset with me. Ultimately, he would also send me to hell.

I went to Franklin Middle School, but I despised every minute. Nevertheless, I skated by and soon made it out of 8th grade. I never liked school, but soon I would be expected to go to 9th grade at Washington High School, only to drop out the same day. I refused to go back because I felt terribly out of place. There were too many people I didn’t know, and I experienced intense anxiety in the social setting of public high school.

While never going back to school again would have been a dream come true for me at that time, Patricia didn’t have it. She nagged me to death that I had to do something, and at 13 years old, she had the idea that I attend Metro High School, which was considered an alternative high school for dropouts kids and the kids who didn’t fit into regular school settings. I gave it a whirl, and I felt like I fit in more than the traditional high school; however, there was one problem.

Attending Metro was a better fit for me, but any of the kids who attended Metro were labeled as “bad,” and my feelings of badness were already planted in the core of my being due to being abandoned by my birth mother. This only magnified it, but I began to embrace being viewed as a bad kid, which influenced my decision to own up to the label! But, unfortunately, they hadn’t seen bad yet!

The best part for me about going to Metro for high school is that no one monitored if I went or not. I could show up once or twice a week, and no one would hound me. It gave me the freedom I wanted and got nagging Patricia off my back. I also could go at my own pace with no specific curriculum. If you showed up sometimes and even did a little work, everyone seemed okay with it. Of course, I would rather run the streets than get an education! I was free. That was my jam.

When I got arrested for the first time, I had to get a job to pay the restitution back for the burglary charge. So I started working at the Cedar Rapids Reds ballpark, but it was across town. I would hop on the city bus and arrive during game nights. This was my first job, and it was so much fun! By then, I was 13 years old, soon to be 14.

I made new friends that I worked with, and my circle got wider. Tosha was my age, a girl with who I immediately connected too. Tosha lived in Springville, Iowa, and was a school dropout. Not long after meeting, we became thicker than thieves and ventured out together outside of work. She was the first close friend I had outside of school acquaintances, and she had an untamed spirit about her, which I loved! We became close, and we’re constantly planning our next adventure!

Soon we met two Hispanic sisters at the ballpark named Isabella and Elena Rodriguez. Isabella was 17, and Elena was 21, so they were several years older than us, but they were the big sister type I was attracted to. They had a nurturing spirit about them, which felt safe. Soon they would invite Tosha and me to come to hang out with them at their house.

We would enter the home of the Rodriguez family on a Friday evening, and Mrs. Rodriguez would be at the stove cooking a wonderful meal for her family. Usually, homemade tamales or quesadillas. Hip-hop music played in the background, and the house smelled of a delicious dinner that I wasn’t used to. Everyone could get as much as they wanted when the food was ready, which was a rare treat.

Isabella and Elena had three other siblings, all older brothers named Diego, Mateo, and Andres. Andres was the oldest, and he wasn’t home much. Diego was 19, and Mateo was 17, and I would soon become acquainted with them and was profoundly drawn to them. Elena had her own apartment, so we would visit her also. In addition, each of the Rodriguez kids had friends who came over, which always felt like a considerable celebration.

The Rodriguez family lived together, hung out together, and seemed close. They seemed to take me under their wing. I don’t think they knew why I was so attracted to being at their house. I was drawn in because this is something I didn’t experience at home. My heart was filled knowing I was welcomed into this home, and I wanted to be there as much as possible. At 14 years old, I finally knew what a family felt like. This kept me going back.

The more I hung out with Isabella and Elena, the less I wanted to be home at Patricia’s or at school. Diego and I spent so much time together we started to develop a relationship, and soon he would become my first boyfriend. Finally, someone that loved me. This was even more reason to keep going back to the Rodriguez home. I felt like I finally had a surrogate family of my own. Patricia had no idea where I was, and I only went home every few days to shower and change my clothes long enough to leave again.

I would have been classified a run-a-way, but by then, Patricia was working the night shift, and with me popping in and out, even with me being on probation, she had no grounds to stand on. Patricia working the night shift with a teenager was one of the worst parenting decisions she could have ever made. She kept no tabs on me whatsoever. I know she didn’t think I would stay home like the compliant adoptee. That was not me. I learned to raise hell on earth from others in my life and from my experiences in the streets.

Little did I know, the Friday and Saturday evening “get-togethers” at the Rodriguez home were the beginning of a downward spiral and one I was not prepared to experience at 14 years old. Alcohol was introduced into the evening atmosphere, and I found myself at weekend parties filled with others who were much older than I was. Mrs. Rodriguez would retire to her bedroom for the evening, not to be seen until the following day.

Drinking alcohol would impair my judgment, and so would my adoption story because I desperately wanted to belong somewhere, and the Rodriguez family made me feel like I was a part of them. I had no filter on what crossed over to be an unsafe and harmful environment, and I had no one advocating in my corner to help me see signs of things that shouldn’t be happening.

Soon I would be hooked up with a family who had normalized terrorizing the city of Cedar Rapids. Before I knew it, I was an accomplice and interrogator to some troubling interactions. Diego and Mateo would load up in their decked-out Chevy Nova and hit the streets of Cedar Rapids, but they weren’t looking for fun, only trouble!

I learned what “ganking” was through them, and they labeled themselves “The C.R. Clique!” They had clothes and hats that had their name on them. This was when they had two Chevy Nova’s full of friends and family, myself included, and they cruse the strip on First Avenue, which was the popular thing to do on Friday and Saturday nights in Cedar Rapids.

They would catch a car at a stop light and block them in with both Novas so they couldn’t drive. Then, the Rodriguez family would get out of the Nova and storm the cars, beating everyone who was inside up and stealing their belongings. Then, they would pull off and find another car a few minutes later and repeat these same encounters for hours until they eventually retired home.

I remember being so influenced by this family I jumped right in to partake in the criminal activities; however, I never received a dime of the benefits if they got belongings or money. Instead, I was being used as an accomplice, and I was naïve enough to participate. I am not proud of my participation and have always been remorseful as I grew up and have come to grips with my part. At the time, Bad welcomed BADDER, and I crossed over into stepping into the shoes of being a part of the The C.R. Clique, and at 14 years old, I embraced my new life proudly. Finally, I belonged.

I would start fighting random people out on the street for no legitimate reason at all, and this deep rage was always brewing that my birth mother never came back for me like I dreamed she would my entire childhood. As a result, I was arrested more times than I can count and on probation repeatedly. As soon as I got off, literally within days, I would get arrested again for fighting or stealing and taken to jail, which resulted in six more months of probation.

You might ask yourself how my mentality and soul could participate in these activities? It was much deeper than that. Due to the root trauma and abandonment from my birth mother, I had a deep enate desire to be a part of a family, to be loved and belong, which was something I didn’t feel with my adoptive parents, Patricia or Thomas. In the Rodriguez family, I would be accepted and do whatever I had to do to FEEL like I belonged, even if horrendous things were happening.

A few short weeks into our relationship, Diego became controlling and abusive. At 14 years old, he would encourage me to drink more and more alcohol, and when I didn’t want to, he pressured me, eventually forcing me by holding me down and pouring it into my mouth. If I closed my mouth, it would spill all over my face. Eventually, he would tie me down on the gravel driveway by sitting on me and slapping my face until I agreed to drink it. If that didn’t work, he would pull my hair and insist, and in some time, it was evident that the only way this was going to go well was if I complied with drinking alcohol when he wanted me to, so I gave in to his demands. Little did I know, this wonderful family I was dying to be a part of had more dark parts that would ultimately impact me for the rest of my life.

One morning after a night of a late-night house party, I woke up foggy and uncertain where I was. Everything was dark and somber, and I didn’t have any clothes on. Then, I saw a glimmer of daylight coming through a crack in the wall, which allowed me a chance to scatter around to try to find my clothes. I was lying on a mattress on the floor in the attic of the Rodriguez home all alone. How the fuck did I get here, I asked myself? Why was I here? What happened up here? I had a sick feeling that something traumatic had happened, but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what. The feelings of panic came over me. I needed to get out of here.

I found my way to the steps and went downstairs. On Sunday, it was early in the morning, and everyone was still asleep. Tasha was on the couch, and I quietly woke her up. I said, “What happened last night? I woke up in the attic, and I have no memories of getting there?”

Tasha said, “They had a house party, don’t you remember? Diego got you wasted and took you up to the attic and let some of his friends come? Do you remember that happening? Everyone was talking about it, but you passed out.”

“No, I don’t remember it. Who were his friends? I can’t believe he would do that to me,” I expressed to Tosha. She said she wasn’t sure who was up in the attic, but she expressed sympathy for what happened. We all knew what had happened. Not a single person stepped up to help me or protect me. Once again, I was no better than a piece of trash thrown away, just like when my birth mother passed me over to strangers and walked away. I was completely traumatized.

I remember going to the bathroom to take a little alone time to myself, and I will never forget having that moment to look at myself in the mirror and disliking what was looking back at me. I despised that girl. I was traumatized at the thought of what happened last night. I felt disconnected from my body and like I wasn’t a real person, yet only a shell of one, hallow and empty inside—a walking dead girl.

Who was I? Where the fuck did I come from? I have two mothers and two fathers in the world, and none of them were there for me to console me through this time of my life. So as a result, I began to hate myself, and the feelings of badness only multiplied.

I never acknowledged that I was raped by several people that night. It didn’t matter to me that I was in a house with almost all adults older than me, and at 14 years old, I had no business being there. Patricia had no clue where I was, and she damn sure couldn’t keep up with me. Coming to terms with what happened was a struggle because I only blamed myself for drinking too much. For years I told myself that it was all my fault.

I went home, showered and changed, and went right back to Diego’s house the same night. Why would I go back after this happened? THIS IS WHY I AM SHARING THIS PART OF MY STORY!

Do you see how significant this is to my adoptee journey? Do you understand my reasoning for sharing this piece of my story? Do you understand that when your biological mother tosses you to be raised by strangers, it creates a profound wound that impacts your self-esteem and how you view the world? I wanted to belong and be loved so deeply that I allowed these people to violate me again and again. Sadly, this wasn’t a one-time thing.

I had a friend named Johnson, who was 22 years old and frequented the Rodriguez home, and he even stayed there on occasion. He came home on a break in the middle of the day and walked into the Rodriguez brothers, holding me down on the kitchen floor, completely naked. After getting me intoxicated, I tried to fight them off while they raped me. I blacked out because Johnson told me what happened, and only after he told me did bits and pieces started to come back to me.

Johnson yelled at them and broke everything up. He then helped me up and helped me find my clothes. He was kind enough to take me home, and he was the first person in my life that went completely off on how they did not love me or care about me for them to be doing those things to me. He stood up for me when I couldn’t stand up for myself.

He went in the whole ride home on them not being my friends and that I should never go back there again. He also let me know that I wasn’t the only young female they did this to. They did it all the time, and I was just one of the victims who was lured in. In my case, because I had never experienced what a loving family was in my life, my desire to experience that was bigger than anything, even being raped and abused.

After Johnson saw what they did to me, knowing they were doing this to other girls, he stopped going to the Rodriguez house, and finally, after a good year of being heavily involved with the Rodriguez family, I was done too. But the damage was done, and there wasn’t one single adult in my life I could share these things with, especially my adoptive parents.

What would Patricia think? I violated both Christian covenants, and that was it. No doubt in my mind I was going to hell now. This whole Christian dynamic of my journey did not help me. On the contrary, it caused me great harm to know that I was disappointing God and upsetting him because of what happened to me. It would be a cold day in hell before I ever confided in Patricia about being raped, and still, to this day, she knows nothing about what happened at the Rodriguez house. Nor does Thomas or Laura. But everyone around wonders why little Pammy has completely lost her shit and rebelled to the most significant extreme.

I still have vivid memories like flashbacks of being involved with the Rodriguez family. I have had to make amends for my actions and deeply struggled with not blaming myself. It wasn’t until my 40’s that I acknowledged that this house was a house of horrors, and this family was filled with criminals.

For so much of my teen life, I just wanted to die. If my birth mother wasn’t coming back to get me, I didn’t want to be here. I left the Rodriguez house still not understanding that they were terrible people and I was just a kid. I internalized the trauma and blamed myself, and even after all these horrors, I still missed the pieces of this family that felt like family to me.

But one thing is for sure; alcohol was my new best friend. It stepped in the gap and helped me not feel the abandonment by my birth mother and the abuse in my adoptive homes. It also helped me not think about the rapes and how I was treated in the Rodriguez home. So I clung to the bottle every chance I could, and soon at 15 years old, I would be introduced to drugs and a whole new boyfriend. A new life was right around the corner.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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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

Chapter 4. Searching for Clues Among Chaos – Finding Purpose in The Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 4.

Searching for Clues Among Chaos By Pamela A. Karanova

“I see…the way you’re always searching. How much you hate anything fake or phony. How you’re older than your years, but still…playful, like a little girl. How you’re always looking into people, or wondering what they see when they look back at you. Your eyes. It’s all in the eyes.” – Claudia Gray

My entire childhood is filled with memories of hitting the highway and going back and forth between Dunkerton and Cedar Rapids every other weekend. It was Sunday at 5 PM, and we were swiftly dropped back off into Patricia’s care. Thomas and Laura never went inside; they just dropped us off and told us they would see us next time, two weeks later.

As soon as we returned to Patricia’s, the three-ring circus began. She had clothes piled up, waiting to be ironed. She taught me how to iron at around seven years old, and it was my job to iron all her clothes. As long as my eyes reached the top of the iron board, I could get the job done. By the time I was nine or ten years old, I was a professional ironer. The chores at Patricia’s were never-ending.

Anytime Patricia turned her back or took a nap, I was secretly busy searching for documents to find out who my birth mother was. Patricia had filing cabinets that were 6FT tall, a desk, and papers everywhere. I just knew there had to be some evidence somewhere. So day after day, for as long as I could remember, I would look everywhere I could think of to find adoption paperwork. Sadly, I never found any clues, and I searched all of her files numerous times.

When my searches continued to come up empty, around nine years old, I decided to be gutsy and ask Patricia, “I want to find my birth mother. How can I find her?”

Patricia’s response was the same each time I asked, and it sounded like a broken record, “Your adoption was closed, so we don’t have any information on your birth mother. When we get enough money for an attorney, we will get the sealed records opened, but right now, we don’t have enough money.”

My hope for a different response was inconsolable, but I never stopped asking the same question about every six months. Only to be given the same response every single time. The truth was, we were never going to have enough money. We still didn’t even have a fucking car! I was deeply conflicted that I didn’t know who my birth mother was.

On a scale of 1 to 10, adoptees with minimal issues with being adopted are at a 1, and adoptees with massive issues with it are at a 10; I was at 10,000. I was so emotionally disrupted by having a missing mother out there that I was physically ill. I remember having stomach issues around five years old and feeling sick a lot, and I ended up in the hospital many times as a child because of stomach problems. I was a thumb sucker, and I also had a baby blanket I was deeply attached to until one day, they threw it in the trash because they decided I didn’t need it anymore. This was traumatic as a child, on top of everything else.

Yet, not one adult in my life would acknowledge that separation from my birth mother and adoption might be the root instigation of these issues. The only diagnosis they could come up with was that I could be suffering from a dairy allergy, and they labeled me lactose intolerant. I have learned in recent years that many adoptees have stomach issues related to childhood anxiety and separation trauma compacted by adoption trauma. If you do the research, you can see for yourself.

What if I was suffering from anxiety deep in my body that I was in the wrong place? What if the separation from my birth mother was a traumatic experience? What if I never bonded with my adoptive mom, but I was forced to bond with her? What if her emotional outbursts and suicide attempts caused me severe PTSD? What if I have experienced severe trauma, and it was making me physically ill? What if the sexual abuse from my adopted stepbrother was taking a toll? What if I was suffering from an emotional response to all the things going on in both of these homes with Patricia, Thomas, and Laura?

But my angst and suffering were always neglected by Patricia and Melanie’s fights, and my feelings would never be acknowledged or discussed. Indeed, not one adult in my life, between my adoptive parents, teachers, school counselors, and regular counselors, would acknowledge a combination between adoption, relinquishment, and my adoptee issues, so I suffered and suffered greatly.

Because I suffered physically, emotionally, and mentally, it significantly impacted my school performance. But unfortunately, no one was paying attention that I had a learning disability, and I wouldn’t discover this until adulthood, on my own. Because of this, it seemed like I barely made it out of each grade and suffered in silence my entire life in grade school, middle school, and high school. As a child, my wants and needs were always swept under the rug, and Patricia’s dramatic emotional and mental outbursts always sat front and center in our daily lives.

After moving to Westover Road, my daily escapes seemed less frequent. Not because I didn’t want to get outside, but Patricia would stand in front of the one door to get in and out of the apartment, and she wouldn’t let me leave to go outside and play. She would cross her arms and shout, “You aren’t going anywhere!” I was trapped daily. How the hell was I going to get out of this house?

I knew if I were ever going to get outside, I would have to escape through the bedroom window and climb down the three levels to get to the ground. This was a more severe type of escape, and if I was going for it, it needed to be for a good reason! So I started to venture farther from home, and I learned all about taking the city bus at around nine years old. My feelings of getting in trouble were non-existent. In my mind, no punishment could be worse than living inside Patricia’s house.

Patricia had a sister named Jeanette, and she had six kids who were my favorite cousins. Melanie and I were close to Olivia, Jeanette’s oldest daughter. I was also significantly close to Jeanette’s sons, Wilder and Forest, who were younger than Olivia, more my age. Being a tomboy, Wilder, Forest, and I ran off to have adventures together. They had the advantage of living right across the street from Ellis Park, a park that ran alongside the Cedar River.

To get to Jeanette’s house, I had to escape out my third-floor bedroom window and take off walking in the direction to get to Ellis Park. I never asked for permission because I knew what the answer would be! It was seven miles away, and at nine years old, I would walk up to first avenue and spend hours walking to Jeanette’s house. But, for sure, every step I took was a step towards freedom. Finally, after so many trips to Jeanette’s, I learned there was a city bus line that would take me straight to Ellis Park! It was on and popping now. Over time, I learned I could take the city bus all over the city! Freedom just entered a whole new level!

By the time I made it to Jeanette’s house, my cousins were waiting for me! Their house was different than Patricia’s house. Things leaned on the messy side, but it was refreshing to arrive somewhere I could be a kid, and Mark and Patricia were nowhere around. I honestly never wanted to leave, and Ellis Park and the golf course across the street were always a great escape for all of us kids.

We would scamper down to the Cedar River in wintertime and skate on the ice regularly. If our parents knew we were doing this, we would have been in big trouble. I will never forget the Ellis Park Golf Course would turn its giant sprinklers on in the summertime, and we would sneak over to play in them at all hours of the night. Then, once we saw the groundskeeper coming over the hill, we would squeal and take off running! We owned Ellis Park and knew every inch of the area as we frequented the park any chance we could. Some of my favorite childhood memories are running free in Ellis Park with my cousins, and I cherish them all.

Eventually, I would have to return to Patricia’s house after what felt like a “day pass” from jail and return to the life I despised the most. When I was younger, I didn’t have a voice and was a good compliant adoptee. But boy, by the time I progressed into my pre-teen identity, the tables got flipped upside down. I started to stand up for myself.

While I feel Melanie began to do this at a much younger age than I did, I am proud that she had the willpower to keep standing up for herself in such a harmful home! Sadly, her standing up for herself backfired on several occasions. Patricia convinced all of her close friends and church group that Melanie was problematic. She was convinced that the “tough love” way was the only way, and she had Melanie physically removed from the home on several occasions. She not only had her physically removed from the home by random strangers, but she also had them drop her off at the locked local psych ward, where she would stay for several weeks on end.

I always felt despair for Melanie when I was a child. I didn’t understand that Patricia was the one who suffered from mental illness, and she was the one that should have been locked in the psyche ward! After those interactions, Melanie must have felt heartbroken, and my heart truly breaks for her. Still, to this day, my heart breaks for all she went through growing up in Melanie’s care. She deserved so much more. We both did.

Anytime Melanie was “away,” I would be the sole focus of Patricia’s interactions, almost like her projecting her toxicity was placed directly on me because Melanie was out of the picture for a short time. Either way, we were both directly impacted by Patricia’s ill mental health, which impacted every area of our lives growing up.

After a few trips to the psych ward and a lifetime of disaster with Patricia, Melanie decided she wanted to go live with Thomas and Laura. I don’t blame her. She was around 13, and I was about 12 years old. Maybe things would improve for everyone because Patricia and Melanie were now separated? Maybe the house would be more peaceful? Maybe Melanie would be happier at Thomas and Laura’s?

Boy, was I mistaken. As soon as Melanie left and moved away, the shit hit the fan with Patricia and me in a whole new way. It was like the flip of a switch, an overnight change where the good adoptee turned herself in, never to return. I now wore the shoes of the bad adoptee, I put on my boxing gloves, and I started to act out because I was the sole beneficiary of Patricia’s wrath, mental illness, and toxicity.

Sunday morning, the summer of 1986, Patricia gets a call from the Springville Police Department. “Hi Patricia, we have your daughter, Pamela, in custody. She’s been arrested with several other kids for burglary. You can come to pick her up, but she will likely be on probation and have to complete restitution. This week, you will hear from her new probation officer on the next steps.” So, Patricia came to pick me up, which was the beginning of my adoptee anger, rage, rebellion, and defiance. Reality began to set in that my birth mother wasn’t coming back to get me, and deep down, I was miserable. Hurt was the root, but it showed up in brutal ways.

Feelings of anger, rage, and self-hate started to internalize deep inside me from a very early age. Soon they took over subconsciously, and I felt abandoned by the woman who should have loved me the most, my birth mother. Just because she didn’t come back for me didn’t mean I wasn’t searching for her. I continued to search for clues to find her everywhere I went. I was tormented every day by not knowing who she was or where I came from.

This was around the time I stopped wanting to visit Thomas and Laura’s house due to the things Mark was doing to me. I was in for a real-life changing experience about how distressing things would get at Patricia’s house. The good adoptee disappeared into nothingness, and I started to have very unfavorable feelings about Patricia. My newfound adoration of escaping out my third-floor bedroom window was a fast track to being a runaway and experiencing a ruthless street life. Unruly was about to become an understatement.

Little did I know, agony hadn’t even begun for me. I was 12 years old, and by the time I was 15 years old, I had already experienced what most people don’t experience in an entire lifetime.

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

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

Chapter 2. Good Adoptee vs. Bad Adoptee – Finding Purpose in The Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 2.

Good Adoptee vs. Bad Adoptee By Pamela A. Karanova

Trigger Warning // Suicide

While my sneak life brought me some fulfillment in my childhood, what was going on inside behind closed doors was something almost no one knew about.

Patricia suffered from untreated manic depressive disorder and what I believe to be schizophrenic episodes. She had manic episodes regularly, and they would be integrated with emotional outbursts that created a very toxic environment. Some days were worse than others, but one thing is for sure, I don’t remember any days where she resembled a happy and healthy mother.

She would get angry with us on a bad day and tie us to the dining room chairs with dish towels. Next, she would tie the towels together to make a longer towel, sometimes several. Finally, she tied them around our waist and our mouths with our hands tied behind our backs. She would leave us there whenever she needed us to be out of her way, sometimes minutes and sometimes hours. No telling what the reason was she did this; it could be because I kept running outside every chance I could to escape or because she needed to take a nap.

She would regularly cry hysterically and complain about how much of a failure she was as a parent. She was sick A LOT! She resented Thomas for leaving her to raise two adopted daughters independently. She was constantly taking prescription medications. She would over-medicate herself as a way to escape her reality. Most of the time, it would make her sleepy, so she was always going to sleep and taking naps, sometimes many times a day. She slept a lot, and throughout my entire childhood, I never remember her having a good day.

I always had this deep-rooted feeling of being flawed because of how sad my mom was all the time. Combining that with the abandonment from my birth mother, my feelings of badness only increased as I grew into my preteen years. “I’m sorry” was something I sometimes said to Patricia a hundred times a day. She and Melanie were constantly fighting about everything, you could imagine. They would get into physical altercations regularly, and it seemed like Melanie was definitely the bad adoptee. Not to my standards, but from how Patricia treated her, She was always the target, and they never got along.

Melanie told me that she and Patricia got in a physical fight in the basement one time. I’m not sure what the argument was about. Melanie said; she ran up the stairs to escape Patricia’s wrath. However, Patricia grabbed a pair of scissors and started chasing Melanie up the stairs while shouting, “Here, kitty, kitty, here kitty, kitty!” I can imagine this scared Melanie significantly, and eventually, she got away from her by running to our bedroom and slamming the door shut.

I was always stuck somewhere in the middle of the blowouts with Patricia and Melanie. My role was to gravitate toward my mother to try to comfort and console her. It’s no doubt that I was the good adoptee in Patricia’s eyes. I remember almost every single fight they had; I was in charge of trying to make Patricia feel better. These are big shoes to fill, and it was all I knew.

She would cry hysterically while sitting on the couch. So I would sit next to her, rub her back, and say, “It’s okay, mommy I’m sorry, mommy.” She would talk about how mean her family was to her growing up and how she had an abortion at a young age, and not long after, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which resulted in a total hysterectomy. She adopted children because she aborted the only child she could have ever had, and she talked about this constantly. She also made it known from a young age that she never wanted to go to a nursing home. She would even go to the lengths of listing the reasons why.

She seemed never to stop crying about these things and, of course, the divorce. She would cry about never knowing who her father was and that she felt like a failure as a mother. The burden of her life and failures felt like they were planted on my shoulders from the time I could walk. This was a reoccurring theme in my childhood that happened almost daily. So now, you might understand why I was always about that sneak life. Fuck this shit; I was out of here on the regular!

It’s not that I didn’t care about Melanie, because I did, but Patricia made everything about her. She was always the victim in every altercation, even when she was the adult in the house. Normal disagreements never get dealt with appropriately; they usually were a big ordeal, and Melanie, the bad adoptee, was always to blame. On the other hand, the good adoptee would always come to the rescue to comfort my crying adoptive mom. It was a full-time job and never-ending.

I remember we started seeing therapists at a very young age, so many I can’t even count. Believe it or not, we never discussed adoption in my childhood with any of the therapists or my adoptive parents. We would all have to build a report with the therapists and have solo sessions and sessions as a family. After several visits, the reoccurring theme was that the therapists would tell Patricia politely that she was acting like a child instead of a parent.

The therapist would offer her suggestions on managing her emotions so the blowups in the house didn’t escalate into volcanos! They would create ways we could de-escalate by all of us agreeing to a time-out. Then, when a blowup was about to happen, we would all go to our bedrooms, close the door, and have a cool-off period. Sounds simple, right?

There was only one problem when we would go to our bedroom to shut the door, Patricia would be outside the door screaming and banging on our door for us to open it up, and we always would. So this idea never worked when we used this tactic. But when Patricia wanted to do it, it was a whole different ball game.

She would get butt hurt that the therapist would direct everything back to her parenting style and her emotional and mental outbursts. Then, finally, they told her she needed to be the one to change because we were just kids. So Patricia would get upset, go home in a rage, and never see that specific therapist again. It was like we were on a neverending merry-go-round of seeing therapists, and this pattern was happening every single time. I’m not sure why Melanie and I didn’t tell the therapists about everything going on in the house. Maybe we were scared? Regardless of the reason, we kept many things from them, or CPS would have been contacted immediately, and they never were.

I didn’t want to be the good adoptee, and I didn’t want Melanie to be the bad adoptee. I felt bad for Melanie all the time. We didn’t ask for this setup; however, it was all we knew for our entire childhoods. Because of this, Melanie and I never had a chance growing up to be close like most sisters are. Instead, we had Patricia spinning the triangulation tactics between all three of us for an entire lifetime.

It was exhausting being in this home around such an unstable and unhappy mother. This pushed me to dream more and more about my birth mother. I thought about her nonstop and dreamed that she would come back and get me one day after realizing that giving me up for adoption was a big mistake. Who would give their baby away to strangers and mean it? It was incomprehensible to me. I was waiting on her to change her mind and come back for me. Indeed, my chances of finding her or her finding me were always bigger if I was out of the house!

I fantasized about how beautiful she was and what the day would be like when she showed back up because, in my mind, if she “loved me so much,” she would eventually show back up. She had to be a better mother than Patricia, and she had to be looking for me like I was looking for her. Everywhere I went growing up, I searched for her face in crowds. I would look for women who had the same skin tone and hair color I did. Are you my mother? I would wonder.

By the time I was ten years old, Patricia had graduated from nursing school as an R.N. I think it’s lovely she had the dream of being a nurse and even raising two kids as a single parent; she made it happen. But how would she be a nurse with such emotional and unstable outbursts?

We lost Title-19, and we moved to an apartment at 4009 Westover Road, Apt #6. It was a 655 Square foot, 3rd-floor apartment, which was a stark difference from the big grey house on 13th street. We moved on an evening during a school night, and I will never forget how tired and hungry we were. Around 10 PM, we asked Patricia if we could have something to eat; however, there was not much to pick from just moving.

Patricia found a Lipton onion soup mix box tucked down in a big ” Kitchen box. She was able to heat it in the microwave, giving us each a cup. But, of course, with this being broth and no real food, we weren’t happy with it.

Melanie and Patricia get into an altercation that escalates into another blowup fight. I think Melanie was brave and confronted Patricia on certain things, whereas I was passive at that time. I did anything to keep the peace.

The next thing we know, Patricia takes off, flying out the apartment door and down the steps. Melanie and I have no idea where she is going, so we decide to look out our 3rd-floor apartment window to find Patricia lying in the street, trying to commit suicide!

Of course, we would have never expected to see that in all our lives. We both began to cry hysterically because we didn’t want our mom to die. We surely didn’t want to see it happen! Terror took over. What the fuck were we supposed to do? I am confident I blacked out or disassociated during this time because it was a very traumatic experience for me to witness.

I am not sure what happened to escalate out of this episode. Did she get up on her own? Did a car come and help her, or someone who maybe saw her? Did Melanie and I run down to get her up? I have no idea, and I will never know. Somehow things went back to “normal,” but my life would never be the same after this incident. Still to this day, I have visions of this situation that revisit like a reoccurring movie theme.

Melanie and I still shared an even smaller bedroom, but we put bunk beds in the middle of the room, which left about 3 feet of space on each side we could call our own. We plastered posters all over our walls to mark which side was ours. I loved Poison, Motley Crew, and Guns N Roses. Melanie loved Boy George!

Patricia and I on Westover Road, In front of the street, she laid in. I was 10 years old in this picture.

With a 700-square-foot apartment, we were all three, literally on top of one another. I had no idea how awful things would become, but I was about to find out. Not long after moving into the apartment on Westover Rd, Melanie and I started to have altercations independently, without Patricia spinning things in the middle each time. I mean she did that also, but at times we didn’t need her help. I remember Melanie would attack me countless times, pin me to the ground, and sit on top of me. She would hold me down by clawing my arms until I started to bleed from her nails digging into my skin. I would beg her to get off of me and stop, but she was stronger than me and overpowered me on the regular. I was still the good adoptee, and now I saw her in the light as the bad adoptee because I felt like she was bullying me. I still believe that Patricia set us up to be against one another from day one. So it’s no wonder we started to tango!

Another day, another outburst from Patricia. But once we moved into the apartment, her outbursts would become so outrageous that she started to threaten suicide regularly. She not only threatened suicide, but she took her shoebox filled with prescription pills to her bedroom; she locked the door and also took the house phone with her so we could never call for help. Her threats of killing herself and locking herself in her room, locking us out, were exceptionally traumatic. She did this a lot!

I remember vividly banging on the bedroom door for hours, begging her not to kill herself, and crying hysterically. Just like her lying in the middle of the road trying to kill herself, I am confident I blacked out or disassociated again because I have no memories of how we escalated out of these episodes, only the hysteria I felt begging my mom not to kill herself. These memories have always plagued my mind, and they dominate anything good that came out of living with Patricia. This was not a safe home, and I did not feel loved. Chaos was a nonstop companion at no choice of my own or Melanie’s.

Soon, I would find another escape plan for myself that opened my life to a whole new world. It was easy to escape from the big grey house because we had three doors that led outside. However, the apartment on the third floor of Westover road only had one. I learned that I could open my bedroom window, and at the time, I could climb down the wooden panels that were like steps to the ground. This turned out to be my number one way to escape the disfunction and constant fighting I lived with within this family. Even climbing down three stories which were exceptionally dangerous for a ten or 11-year-old, I soon became a professional escape artist. Sneak life was back in full effect!

But first, it was time for a weekend visit with Thomas and Laura. So we packed our bags as if we were staying a lifetime, leaving only for the weekend. It was 5 PM on Friday, and we would get to escape Patricia’s wrath for a few days. We would be dropped back off Sunday at 5 PM.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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Chapter 1. Sneak Life – Finding Purpose in The Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Chapter 1.

Sneak Life By Pamela A. Karanova

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” – Anne Lamott.

I grew up in a small town in Iowa called Cedar Rapids otherwise known as “The City of Five Smells.” Burnt corn, stale, rotten garbage, and overcooked oatmeal are combined to make a nasty stench that covers the city. I will never forget that smell! It’s the home of the largest cereal plants in the world, General Mills and Quaker Oats. Cedar Rapids is also known for being the largest corn producing city in the world. I remember wonderful parks where I spent a lot of my childhood.

In the summer of 1979, on a hot and humid morning, my five-year-old self moped down the creaky wooden stairs somberly to the living room in the big grey house on 13th street. My hair was a sandy blonde, messy from just waking up. It was 7 AM on a Saturday, and everyone was still asleep. It was quite and peaceful for a change.

I always went to bed at night before everyone else and seemed to get sleepy earlier than your average kid. This allowed me to get up earlier most of the time while everyone else was sleeping soundly. This was a magnificent thing because I could watch a few minutes of Saturday morning cartoons, which was rare. If I was lucky, I could also sneak outside for a little bit of freedom.  

The living-room coffee table overflowed with papers, pill containers, magazines, and old and half-filled empty Pepsi cola bottles. Old newspapers, mail, coupons that needed cut, and magazines took up half the couch, and clutter surrounded the area allowing for a tiny sitting space—a full cigarette ashtray sat waiting to be emptied. Boston ferns hung in front of the windows, in desperate need of watering.

I walked into the kitchen to find the usual clutter, dirty dishes piled up and old food, and junk covering the countertops. The garbage was overflowing with a stinky odor filtrating the morning air coming through the windows. Full eight packs of Pepsi bottles lined the baseboard along one wall for my mom’s pleasure. On the other side of the wall sat the empty bottles of Pepsi that I would walk up to the 7-11 gas station to trade with a note from my mom. The gas station would return .10 cents for each empty bottle taken back. The note would say, “Please allow my daughter to trade two eight packs of empty Pepsi bottles for one pack of Marlboro Light 100s. Thank you!”  

I will never forget my five-year-old self walking up 13th street carrying two eight-backs of empty Pepsi bottles. They were heavy, and I was alone, but I was brave and didn’t scare easily. I would stop and take breaks when I needed to. It was about a five-block walk. I would get Patricia her pack of cigarettes with the note and walk back home. We didn’t have enough money for a car, so walking or taking the city bus was a regular event. 

To enjoy the rare luxury of watching Saturday morning cartoons, I managed to jump up on the counter to grab a bowl to enjoy some cereal before everyone else woke up. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the good kind with sugar; it was plain cheerios or wheat crisps. But, of course, I had no problems finding the sugar and pouring as much as I wanted into the bowl. 

The big grey house was where some of my first childhood memories were. I lived here with my mom, Patricia, and my sister, Melanie, until approximately 9. Both Patricia and Melanie were night owls, and I was the opposite. I was known as the sleepy head of the family and didn’t appreciate late nights and sleeping half the day away. It was a regular occurrence that dinner not be served until 9 or 10 PM if it was served at all. I got sleepy most of the time and wandered off to bed without eating dinner because it never seemed to be ready at the usual dinner time. It wasn’t odd to me because it was all I knew. This was just the way it was. 

I don’t have any memories of my parents being together, but I believe that’s because they divorced when I was one year old. My sister, Melanie, was 11 months older than me, so we were almost like having twins. I do have one photo of my parents being together before the divorce. When I look at the photo, it’s hard for me to believe that they would divorce less than a year after the photo was taken, and that was the end of their marriage. Why would a marriage only last a year or two?

After the divorce, my dad, Thomas, moved over an hour away to Dunkerton, Iowa. He remarried my stepmom, Laura. Laura had three sons of her own, named Mark, Max, and Mike. We saw them every other weekend, on some holidays, and for a summer vacation. My sister, Melanie, and I stayed with Patricia full time between the visits with our dad. 

Patricia was 33 years old, and she had brown hair and she stood about 5’1 tall. She was going to school to be a Registered Nurse and this was a lifelong dream of hers. She loved soap operas, watching figure skating, and lavender smells, and her favorite color was blue. She enjoyed baking holiday treats and having her family over for festivities. She also loved plants and flowers. She was single as long as I knew her. She would read us bible devotionals and take us to church on occasion. Patricia wanted to be the center of everything, and in all conversations she had with people, she was the dominator so she could be the center of attention. 

She didn’t work the earlier part of my life, but instead, we received public assistance, food stamps, welfare, and child support from my dad to make it by. Things were always tight, and we never had extra money for anything other than the basic needs. 

The house on 13th street was rented to us with Title-19, a program for families to receive assistance with their rent. I’m confident that’s the only way we could afford to live at this house because it was gigantic and it had to be expensive, especially for someone not working. However, even as big as the house was, it only had two bedrooms, so Melanie and I shared a room. 

The Big Grey House on 13th Street, The Porch Roof I Jumped Off Of at 5 years old.

Polk Elementary School was two blocks away. So if we came out of or front or side door and turned left, we walked straight down the alley two blocks and ran into the school playground. I was not too fond of school, and I never did well in it.   

If we came out of our front door and turned right, made another right at the stop sign, and walked about five blocks down, we ran into Helen and Leo’s house. Helen was an 81-year-old lady who used to babysit us while Patricia was in school to get her nursing degree. Leo was 92, and he was Helen’s husband. So we spent a lot of time at Helen and Leo’s. 

Their house was old, musty, and dark. However, the backyard did have a swing set, and we were on it as much as possible. The basement was better known as the “Dog house!” and we spent much time there. What would get us thrown in the dog house? Being rowdy, rambunctious, not listening, or misbehaving in some way. And sometimes, nothing would get us sent to the dog house; we were just ordered to go! 

The doghouse was filled with old books, unfinished rooms, and an old school laundry room, and it felt like doom. The floor was concrete and cold. Leo made a habit of seeing me and kicking me in my ass and shouting, “little bastard!” This was followed by a mumble of “get out of my way!” It was no secret that Leo was grumpy, and we needed to stay out of his way. He would send me straight to the dog house if I didn’t move quick enough or if I crossed his path. Thankfully he was just a mean old man and not a dirty, mean old man. 

Helen was about her business. She wasn’t warm or grandma-like, as you would think. Sometimes she would forget we were down in the dog house, so we would stay for a long time. We better not come out of the dog house without being excused first. And sometimes, Patricia would leave us at Leo and Helen’s overnight or for several days at a time. So Helen would put blankets on the living room floor, where we would sleep until Patricia eventually made the call for Helen to send us to walk home. Patricia was supposed to pay Helen for babysitting us, but she rarely gave her the money she was owed, and she still kept sending us anyway. 

We passed several houses with Dobermann Pinschers chained to the front porch as we walked back and forth. That was the primary way to secure your home and belongings when I was coming up. I will never forget walking the five blocks back home from Helen’s, and one particular day a man called us to his car window. We walked over, and he was sitting naked, masturbating himself. I was with a cousin at the time, and we both screamed and took off running all the way home to the big grey house on 13th street. We told Patricia and the cops were called to the car where the gross man was.

Patricia slept a lot, and she was always taking naps. I didn’t know what depression or mental illness was as a child, but I do now. She was severely depressed due to the divorce, and she felt like a failure as a parent. She would sleep late in the day most days because she stayed up late at night. During school days, I remember waking myself up and getting myself ready for school most days while she slept half of the day away. Anytime she took naps in the day or evening, it was a perfect opportunity for me to sneak off and run wild; it was my way of life!

My Saturday morning cereal and cartoons were an unusual treat in the big grey house. Sometimes I would put clothes on and sneak outside to play until I heard the dreaded yell. Being outside was a great escape for me, and I would try to sneak out as much as possible. I would do wild and crazy things because I was a daredevil. I would climb trees to the top and climb on the rooftops to hang out. I was a tomboy and grew up feeling invincible. 

I have memories of all the neighborhood kids daring me to jump off the roof of the big porch of the grey house and jump down to the ground when Patricia was gone one day. But, of course, I wasn’t scared, and I did it with great pride. I almost felt like I should have won an award for being so brave, but several claps followed by hemming and hawing from all my friends would do. 

Of course, I was not supposed to be outside when Patricia was gone; however, sneaking outside was a full-time job for me from a very early age. I was the queen of sneak. But it was all over as soon as she came back home, and I would hear her shout out the front door, “Pammy, get back in this house!” I knew I would get in trouble, but I didn’t care, so I pretended I didn’t hear her. I continued to sneak anyway, proudly. 

I would hear her yell again a short time later, but I would ride every second of freedom out to the fullest. I didn’t want to go back inside because I knew I would never be allowed to come back outside again. Sneaking was the only option for me. Finally, after hearing Patricia yell for me a second and sometimes a third time, I would mope back inside with a sorrowful aura about myself. The escape to freedom was over. But make no mistakes, I was already planning my next escape adventure!

But for now, onto the constant and never-ending task of catering to and caring for Patricia. “You know better than to go outside without permission!” yelled Patricia. The reality was that I could never go outside, even with permission. This is why I made a run for it any chance I could! Getting in trouble was worth it to get out of the house for a short time. 

I remember walking up to First Avenue to fetch Patricia’s medications from the pharmacy many times as a little girl. As young as six years old, I would cross the busiest street in the city. I guess Patricia’s medications were that important, and it was my job to make sure she didn’t run out of them. One particular day, I was walking home, and my classmate Manuel Gonzales came up to me and asked me what I was doing. I explained that I walked to the pharmacy to pick up my mom’s medication. He asked me to give him one of the pills, and I did. 

He wandered off, and I was stopped by a police car within a few minutes. The officer got out and asked me my name and where I lived. I told him my name was Pamela, and I pointed down the street, and he proceeded to ask me to get in his car so he could take me home. I didn’t understand why; however, Manual ran straight over to the fire department a block down the road and let them know I had given him a pill and that I was walking home with them now. 

We pulled up at the big grey house, and I knew I would get into trouble giving Manual one of Patricia’s pills. The police officer called Patricia to the door and handed her the medication bag. He scolded her for allowing me to cross the busiest street in the city at my age, and he strongly disagreed with her having me pick up her medications at that age. He also said I was carrying the narcotic diazepam, otherwise known as Valiums. The cops gave her a warning, and my ass was grass once they left. That was the last time I ever walked to pick up Patricia’s medications. 

When I didn’t have school, as soon as Patricia was awake for the day, it was time for me to get busy. She created a chore chart the size of a 22×28-inch poster board. Each entry of a chore was a 1/4 of an inch, and the poster board was full of chores. From top to bottom! A few of the tasks were everyday chores most kids can relate to doing, like taking the trash out and making your bed up. Others were strange things like rubbing and massaging Patricia’s back, feet, and legs using lotion, running her bathwater, brushing her hair, and making her bed up. She made me give her enemas while she lay on the bathroom floor, and she would also make me pop all her pimples. Talk about disgusting. Were other kids doing this, I wondered?

In addition, she wanted us to cut coupons for days, file papers in her filing cabinet, and handle other miscellaneous tasks most kids don’t do. We were always in charge of helping her clean piles of clothes and trash off her bedroom floor, changing her bedding, and dusting her bedroom and the whole house. Cleaning and caretaking were embedded in me from a very young age.

The reward was the star sticker system. Each chore was a one-star sticker, and if we got 25 stars, we got a popsicle or a nickel or a dime. The chores were never done, and as soon as we thought we would be close to getting them done, it was a new week and time to start them all over again. Once it was time to give us the little bit of change that was owed to us, we never had the money and bills being due was the reason.

Patricia was a professional at getting people to feel sorry for her, especially churches. As far back as I could remember, we had churches helping us pay our bills and donating us food when we had little to eat. She knew how to turn on the tears at a second’s notice and did a great job telling the story of her husband leaving her for another woman, and she’s a single mother raising two kids with no help or assistance.

The basement was problematic; it was continuously flooded with water, and water bugs were everywhere. We cleaned up all the rotten wood from a failed attempt to create a floor. The wooden floor was created so we could put our toys on it to stay safe from the water, but the water rotted the wood in no time. Our toys were mixed with the mess, so we bagged most of it, hauling them off to the trash. 

If I ever thought my chores were almost done so I could go outside and play, Patricia would insist I entertain her wants and needs. “Pammy, go get me a Pepsi,” and “Pammy, go run my bathwater.” “Pammy, come watch figure skating with me, and you can work on your workbook.” It was never-ending all about her. If getting paid to fetch her Pepsis and massaging her body was a job, I would be a millionaire. 

Spending time with her wasn’t my kind of fun if I had any “fun.” It was her kind of fun. We would watch Lawrence Welk, old-timer television shows, and play Kings Corners. I would help her get her flower beds ready and pull weeds out. She would talk non-stop sharing stories about her life, her family and her childhood. She also spent a lot of time bashing my dad, Thomas and his new wife, Laura. It was clear she held a lot of resentment about the divorce and him and Laura.

I longed to be a regular child who could go outside and play with friends without sneaking and getting in trouble. I would have given anything to be able to have friends over to stay all night, but that was always out of the question. I don’t think I ever had one friend stay all night in all my life, and I can count on one hand the times I stayed at a friend’s house all night. 

One evening when I was five years old, I watched television with Patricia, and we saw a woman giving birth to a baby. “Did I come out of your tummy like that, Mommy?” Her answer would forever change the trajectory of my life. 

She said, “No, honey. You were adopted. That means you came out of another woman’s tummy. She loved you so much, but she couldn’t care for you. She made my dreams come true to be a parent. I will always love her because of her selfless decision.” 

I remember the feelings of total confusion that came over my life. I said, “Who is she, and where is she?” Patricia said, “I don’t know who she is or where she is. The adoption was closed, so all of that information was kept private. I know your birth mother loved you so much, and she wanted you to have a better life.”

After this, I didn’t ask any more questions, but my brain would not stop thinking about my “birth mother.” My thoughts were, “So you mean you aren’t my real parents and my real siblings?” I was blown away at the news of being adopted. I stuffed my feelings out of respect for Patricia’s dreams coming true, but my life would never be the same.

I wish I could share that Melanie and I had a close relationship growing up, but we didn’t. It seemed like Patricia and Melanie were constantly fighting, and with no choice of my own, I was stuck in the middle, left to be the comforter to Patricia. She had constant outbursts that created a living hell in the big grey house. This created an automatic wedge between Melanie and me for as long as I can remember. Things were manageable during the peaceful times in the big grey house, but when all hell broke loose, all hell broke loose. 

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

Acknowledgements – Finding Purpose In The Pain, One Adoptees Journey From Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Acknowledgements By Pamela A. Karanova

“Your children are not your children. They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” – Khalil gibran

My story isn’t only my own; it’s the story of my children, future grandchildren, and the legacy that comes long after I am gone from this earth. I owe the most significant gratitude to my three exceptional adult children, Keila, Damia, and Damond. I am so sorry you have a mom that’s been so significantly impacted by adoption, and in return it has impacted each of you greatly. My heart will always hurt because of this. Without you all, I would have taken myself out of my misery long ago. So many times, I have wanted to give up, but you gave me the courage to keep going because of my love for each of you. You have been my biggest supporters and the core reason I have wanted to be the happy, healthy mom you all deserve. Thank you for cheering me on and not giving up on me!

Four women in my life have stepped into the gap and have been mother figures to me, and without them, I am sure I would not be where I am today. Patsy B., Sharon H., Jan H., and Linda W. – Thank you for the unwavering level of love, encouragement, and support you have provided me. The space you have created to allow me to share my feelings has made me feel safe. You have listened to my story without judging me, and you have offered me guidance and advice when no one else was anywhere in sight. But, thank you isn’t enough!

To Marjorie J. Allen, thank you for teaching me that life is a gift and to be thankful for the little things we take for granted everyday like getting out of bed, and putting our clothes on. Thank you for bringing purpose to my life and for being one of the biggest inspirations I have ever met.

Rebecca Hawkes, Jessenia Arias Parmer, and Deanna Doss Shrodes, the original adoptee tribe who led me out of the adoptee fog over a decade ago; thank you! You will never know how your stories impacted me, and in return, my cacoon days have been replaced by the beautiful butterfly flying high!

To my day ones and ride or dies, Sarah Furnish, Kelly McFall, Lisa & Jamie Kemper, Lynn Grubb, Stephani Harris, Haley Radke, Shantu Ellis, Maria Gatz, Jennifer Fredrickson, Harris Coltrain, and Christina Keifer, because you have held my hand all these years and wiped my tears until they began to dry up; I know the meaning of true, genuine lifelong friendships. I am sure you have all saved me many times with your endless love and support. THANK YOU!

To my fellow adoptee tribe and those I have come to know and love in the adoptee and adoption community, I don’t even know where to start. I have had the honor of getting to know so many of you over the last decade. Each of you holds a special place in my heart. R. Colton Lee, Remember back in 2012 us watching “I’m Having Their Baby” on Oxygen? We both went nuts and talked one another off the ledge? I will never forget it!

Adoptees, when you cry, I cry. When you hurt, I hurt. When you smile, I smile. We are connected in a synchronistic way, yet each of our stories is so different at the same time. This memoir is for you. Thank you for holding my hand and walking me out of the darkness. Every word of encouragement and inspiration has brought me back to life more than you will ever know. Thank you to every one of you. I was going to list each of you, but that would be a whole book. You know who you are.

Lastly, I want to share a special message of hope for all the adoptees who have been done wrong by adoption. That would be every single adoptee on the planet. Never give up hope on finding your truth and your people. You give me the spark to keep sharing. I hope in sharing my story that you learn you are not alone in your thoughts, feelings, and struggles when it comes to being adopted. It’s been the most real shit show on the planet, but healing happens when we share untold feelings and our stories. Not just for ourselves but for those who know and love us, not to mention the generations behind us. We all have so much to learn from one another. So keep sharing and seeking more of your truth because everyone deserves to know who they are and where they come from.

Love,
Pamela A. Karanova

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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

📱 iTunes – https://apple.co/3tKzT5f

🌎 Google – https://bit.ly/3JP6NY0

🎧 Spotify – https://spoti.fi/3Ny6h35

📦 Amazon – https://amzn.to/3JScoga

☕️– Buy Me A Coffee https://bit.ly/3uBD8eI

*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

Introduction – Finding Purpose In The Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

Introduction By Pamela A. Karanova

“We have to walk through all the adoptee layers, to make it to the light, but it won’t come overnight or without a lifelong fight!” – Finding Purpose in the Pain – One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing, An Audible Memoir By Pamela A. Karanova

This is the story of my beginnings of how I was born and grew up, discovered I was adopted, and went on to find my biological family going against the grain of the closed adoption system. This is a story of searching and finding in a time when there was no internet, cell phones, or adoptee-centric connect groups. It’s a story of acceptance, acknowledgment, processing grief, loss, abandonment, rejection, and ultimately healing. It’s a story of never giving up hope that I would find my people and essentially my truth one day.

It’s taken me close to 48 years to finally come to a place where I am ready to share my story via an audible memoir. I have been writing for over a decade on my website, and I have attempted to write my story off and on over the last ten years, but one thing was sure. It wasn’t time yet. Timing is everything.

While most non-adopted people likely can’t relate, the adoptee experience isn’t your typical life experience. While other people were the ones who made this decision for my life, I have been the one to unravel all of the truths and tales to get to the bottom of why I am here and who I am. Like most adoptees, my story is complex, trauma-filled, messy, and ugly at times. But, it’s also an equal combination of triumph, healing, surviving, and overcoming the odds. I’m excited to share my story with you.

It’s only been the last 4 to 5 years that I have arrived at the space of healing where I feel confident in sharing pieces of my story that I have always left in the dark. While I have demanded the universe tell me my truth, I have had to kick, scream, and fight every step of the way to get it. As a result, I have made some mistakes and pissed many people off, and I am confident this audible memoir will piss more people off.

While most stories might start with the typical “beginning of life” theme, that place for me was null and void because it was kept a secret from me due to being adopted in a closed adoption in 1974. The beginning of my life was the state of Iowa’s best-kept secret.

One of the biggest struggles in getting my story out is that I never knew where to start with my life beginning non-traditionally. I thank the unnatural act of adoption for that. Thinking about my life and its complexities, my thoughts would overwhelm me when I started to write my story, and I would shut down in frustration. I would start a chapter and then stop, start another chapter and then stop again.

It’s no secret when someone is adopted; their beginnings aren’t usually a cute story, even when the world tries to cover it up and celebrate adoption in all God’s glory. The truth is, I didn’t know my beginnings, and if I let the world have its way, I would never know who I was or where I came from.

We all have a beginning, but adoptees often don’t know their beginning until the middle of their lives and sometimes the end. Sometimes they don’t know their truth at all. Not that they didn’t want to know it, but there are a million roadblocks that stand in the way. I plan to share some with you as I share my story.

While I share my story with you, I need to share that some names, locations, and minor details have been fictionalized to protect the people’s privacy discussed in this audible memoir. Otherwise, this memoir is true based on experiences that I remember with a few specific areas where I fill in the gaps with creative nonfiction. Some of the things I share are stories and facts that I have heard from other people who were close to my adoptive families and birth families.

This audible memoir should be considered a trigger warning to all who read and listen to it. I discuss suicide, religious trauma, spiritual bypassing, deconstructing from religion, drug and alcohol abuse, recovery, failed therapy attempts, emotional, mental, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. I will share my chapters by uploading them to my platforms one by one and writing them one by one because I find this a more manageable and less stressful load due to having a full-time career and Adoptees Connect, Inc. to manage. Beware, I use curse words to express my feelings, and I consider this an essential part of my healing and recovery process. If you have sensitive ears, do not proceed.

I will also consider the nature of the content I will share as sensitive, and practicing self-care between the chapters will be essential to share my story. Sharing my story is a tremendous labor of love and one that I have to go back in time to revisit. I will be reliving traumatic events from the past and revisiting experiences that scare me slightly. Chapter by chapter, discovering clue by clue, I invite you to join me as I release one chapter at a time and take breaks in between to pause to reflect on all my life has been.

This is a story about breaking out of the boxes that society has built around me and discovering who I am and who I’m not, regardless of my adoption status. It’s a story of constantly evolving to grow, heal and overcome the obstacles I had no choice over that many adoptees face.

Thank you for being on this journey with me, being patient with me, and understanding that I am sure I will make mistakes along the way. This will not be your traditional memoir because I am telling my story in the way that works the best for me. I will do the best I can to articulate events of my life to the best of my abilities. My entire life, I would look in the mirror and ask myself, who am I, and where did I come from? Who’s fingers and toes do I have? Why am I so tall?

Finally, after 48 years, I can be true to myself and share with you what it costs me to discover my truth.

Meet Little Pammy.

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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

📱 iTunes – https://apple.co/3tKzT5f

🌎 Google – https://bit.ly/3JP6NY0

🎧 Spotify – https://spoti.fi/3Ny6h35

📦 Amazon – https://amzn.to/3JScoga

☕️– Buy Me A Coffee https://bit.ly/3uBD8eI

*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 A. Karanova – Finding Purpose In The Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing – An Audible Memoir

Over a decade ago, I named my memoir “Finding Purpose in the Pain, One Adoptees Journey from Heartbreak to Hope and Healing,” Although a lot of time has passed, this is still the name I would like my memoir to be today. At one time, I decided to give up on writing a memoir because I feel like, in a way, my website is my memoir. However, I also feel things are so spread out on my website when sharing MY STORY. There are also a lot of things I haven’t shared.

This website is filled with sharing my insight, experiences, and thoughts. Still, I have recently decided to share my story separately to reach the adoptees who feel isolated and all alone. I want them to know they aren’t alone and their feelings are normal for a not normal situation. Nothing is normal about being separated from your biological family at the beginning of life.

Questions I get from adoptees all the time: 

How did you navigate double rejection from both biological parents? How did you overcome a 27-year drinking career rooted in the painful dynamics of my adoption experience? How was your therapy experience? What was your childhood like? Did you bond with your adoptive parents? How did you overcome emotional, mental, and sexual abuse in your adoptive home? How did you move past the pain and find happiness in a lifetime of heartbreak? I have fellow adoptees ask me how I was able to experience so much tragedy and get to where I am today. 

The truth is, If I had unlimited time left on earth, I would be honored to have individual conversations with every adoptee I cross paths with. But because time is of the essence, and logically I have to work full time to make a living and also juggle Adoptees Connect, Inc. on the side as an entirely volunteer basis, the facts are that I have little leftover time to dedicate to these lifesaving conversations. With what little time I have left, I’m committed to pouring into my self-care and spending time with close friends and family. 

After over a decade of contemplation and wavering feelings, starting and stopping my memoir several times, I have decided to pick my memoir back up by sharing my story via an audible format that will be easily accessible and complimentary for all the adoptees and others who are interested in hearing it. 

My goal is to honor a farewell gift to the adoptee community that’s been so good to me over the years, especially over a decade ago when I first emerged out of the fog from my adoption experience. I was utterly broken, on the verge of suicide, and felt deeply depressed, isolated, and alone. 

What has shifted? 

It’s simple, and I can sum it up in one word

GROWTH.

I believe the timing is everything. My healing has been so progressive and profound that I know I’m going to wither into nothingness when it comes to my voice in the adoptee community one day soon. I know this is coming because I finally see the beauty in everyday life, and it’s time I enjoy it. It’s almost as if my fire for all things adoptee-related is becoming dimmer by the day. I feel it deep inside. However, before I depart, I have this one project I want to complete. I want to offer a glimmer of hope with my memoir to the fellow adoptees who still sit in the darkness trumped by the sadness so many adoptees live with and ultimately die with. 

Don’t worry, my role in Adoptees Connect, Inc. isn’t going anywhere!

While I completely understand that a memoir is ideally created with a printed and published book for purchase in mind, I have thought long and hard about sharing my story in audible format only. It is the most economical and accessible for all, including myself. While I could easily explore all the avenues to market and profit from this endeavor, my desire is not to profit from my story. I hope it will help my fellow adoptees, specifically those with similar struggles. As a complimentary gift, hopefully, my story reaches more adoptees, not just those who could afford a hardcopy book, not to mention shipping prices.

A while back, I started sharing my articles on multiple streaming platforms like Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, and Google Podcasts so my supporters, friends, and family could follow along in the easiest way possible. Let’s face it, technology is taking over! People aren’t reading books like they used to, yet they are migrating to an audio format which saves space and is usually cheaper. This is my deciding factor to write my memoir and share it in audible format for your listening convenience. I am also considering the economical challenges of life many of us are experiencing at this time.

Allowing myself the flexibility to share my story in this way also means that I will be doing my editing and writing without any assistance or insight. My goal is to spend ZERO money because I don’t have much to spend yet still share my journey and experiences from the heart, offering guidance and encouragement. I can do it, and I want my friends, followers, and readers to be the first to know.

I still have other writing I plan on doing and some other adoptee centric projects; however, over the next few months, I will likely be spending a lot of my time focused on my audible memoir. I have re-launched my public Pamela A. Karanova page, which will be a place I update you on how my audible memoir is coming along. Be sure to follow it here. – Pamela A. Karanova – Finding Purpose In The Pain, An Audible Memoir.

“We have to walk through all the adoptee layers, to make it to the light, but it won’t come overnight or without a lifelong fight!” – Pamela A. Karanova

Thanks for reading and listening!

On to the next adventure!

Love,

Pamela A. Karanova

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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

📱 iTunes – https://apple.co/3tKzT5f

🌎 Google – https://bit.ly/3JP6NY0

🎧 Spotify – https://spoti.fi/3Ny6h35

📦 Amazon – https://amzn.to/3JScoga

☕️– Buy Me A Coffee https://bit.ly/3uBD8eI

*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

Being Rejected Before Being Born – An Adoptee’s Perspective

It’s no secret that adoption impacts every adopted person differently. When sharing my story, I describe my separation trauma and relinquishment experience before I was adopted as three separate layers of the primal wound and mother wound:

  1. The rejection from my birth mother before I was born.
  2. The abandonment and rejection I received from her at birth.
  3. The rejection and abandonment I experienced from her after I searched and found her. 

They all come with their own set of layered pain, and they all have impacted me immensely in every area of my life. We must distinguish the difference in all three, as they are different dynamics to the lived adoptee experience. 

I am so thankful I have arrived at a place of healing, and I have learned so many lifelong lessons along the way. While I believe all the articles I have written over the last decade are beneficial in many ways, it’s not until the last year that I feel my articles come from a more well-rounded space. My anger and rage have subsided. While I still feel those feelings and consider them natural feelings to the lifelong adoptee experience, my messages are better received and come across as more informative.

I’m not sure how much research you have done on the prenatal bonding experience that a mother and child experience before their baby is born? That was one of the many areas I wanted to dive into because I know this time in my pre-verbal and prenatal life didn’t go as planned. 

What do I mean? 

I was conceived out of an affair with a married man, and he was a close friend of the family, at least ten years older than my biological mother. Unfortunately, my biological mother chose to give me up for adoption. After spending a lifetime searching for clues to my story, I genuinely believe that she rejected the pregnancy, including me, before I ever entered the world. 

This is entirely different from being rejected and abandoned after entering the world. But, at the same time, they are all very significant dynamics to the adoptee experience. 

I wrote an article titled “My Birth Mother’s Shoes,” and in this article, I had to dissect my birth mother’s life and get to the bottom of her story. Why? Because I wanted to take my anger, rage, and pain and bring some understanding and compassion into the picture. This is one of the most powerful steps to healing for adoptees. 

I wrote:

“I learned that my birth mother was never seen without a drink in her hand, even throughout her pregnancy with me. She was considered an alcoholic by those close to her, and they told me stories about her life that helped me better understand her. During the 20 years of silence from her, I was angry. I was hurt. I was rage-filled, and alcohol was the only thing that made a bit of a dent in navigating through this pain. It didn’t help me process anything, but it helped me not feel the truth.”

One of the worst parts for an adopted individual is that we’re dealing with roadblocks to receiving our truth every step of the way. Some of us never find it at all, and others gather fragments of clues over a 40-50-60 year span, and we barely arrive at a place of understanding after our life is well over half over. (if we’re lucky) Some of us have spent every bit of our lives feeling incomplete, lost, and filled with mental torment because living in the unknown is a tremendous burden.  

What does this have to do with being rejected before being born?

Once we can assess the truth of our stories BEFORE THE GRAND ENTRANCE into the world, it helps us form conclusions on why things are the way they are and why our biological mothers chose to give us up for adoption. It gives a glimpse of her era and how things were in her life.

This information is critical to the healing of the adoptee experience. 

Every tiny clue matters!

Once I knew that my biological mother drank alcohol the entire pregnancy with me, it was like the lights flipped on. I knew at that moment that she couldn’t possibly bond with the baby in her belly for nine months. So she actually likely and purposely emotionally and mentally blocked any bonding out, and alcohol was the primary way she was able to do this. 

She was a sick woman long before I ever came into the world or was conceived. I had empathy and compassion for her and learned that her biggest problem was her alcohol use which ultimately killed her in her 60s. 

While I have been able to acknowledge and accept that she didn’t bond with me in utero but likely discouraged such bonding before I was born, I can’t deny this hasn’t had a lifelong impact on my life. Did I bond with her even when she couldn’t bond with me? Perhaps, I would like to think so, but that doesn’t change the dynamic of me feeling, knowing, and instinctively realizing that she didn’t bond with me. It takes two to bond, so I can safely say I believe I just answered my question. 

 Many people aren’t aware that this is even a thing, but I tell you, it is. While trying to piece my journey together to assess this dynamic, I have purposely researched how vital prenatal bonding is with our biological mothers and the post-natal bonding experience. I wanted to dive into this so I could understand myself better. For my fellow adoptees reading, I encourage you to do the same. 

While we already know the bond that was broken when I was born and separated from my birth mother and how it impacts every area of the adoptee’s life. This is the same for anyone separated from their biological mothers because this is a traumatic experience for all. Therefore, I encourage you to research Attachment Theory and learn about the implications of being separated from your biological mothers at the beginning of life.

Bowlby’s Attachment Theory suggests: 

“Bowlby’s maternal deprivation hypothesis suggests that continual disruption of the attachment between infant and primary caregiver (i.e., mother) could result in long-term cognitive, social, and emotional difficulties for that infant. Bowlby originally believed the effects to be permanent and irreversible.”

What’s also shared: 

“John Bowlby, working alongside James Robertson (1952), observed that children experienced intense distress when separated from their mothers. Even when such children were fed by other caregivers, this did not diminish the child’s anxiety.”

They found three progressive stages of distress:

  • Protest: The child cries, screams and protests angrily when the parent leaves. They will try to cling on to the parent to stop them leaving.
  • Despair: The child’s protesting begins to stop, and they appear to be calmer although still upset. The child refuses others’ attempts for comfort and often seems withdrawn and uninterested in anything.
  • Detachment: If separation continues, the child will start to engage with other people again. They will reject the caregiver on their return and show strong signs of anger.

I believe in the reality that mothers aren’t interchangeable. I do believe, at times, a substitute mother can come into play, as in our adoptive mothers; however, the bond is nothing like that of the bond we are supposed to have with our biological mothers. I feel once the damage is done with the broken bond, nothing can repair it, and it can and does impact every area of our lives. 

Research foster youth, foster adults, and adopted youth and adopted adults and see how the prison system, jails, treatment, and mental health facilities are over-populated with these individuals. Unfortunately, this is the reality of the aftermath of the primal wound and separation trauma. I could do the research for you, but I already have, and I encourage you to do the same. 

But what happens when we are rejected before we are even born? 

The Evolution of a Theory of Prenatal Attachment: 

Rubin, a nurse specializing in maternity care doing doctoral work at the University of Chicago, perhaps laid the foundation for a theoretical construct of attachment that begins before birth states:

“She identified four specific tasks the women she observed navigated before childbirth: (1) Seeking safe passage for self and baby, (2) ensuring that the baby is accepted by significant others, (c) “binding-in” 3, and (4) giving of herself. These tasks formed a framework for her conceptualization of the psychological experience of pregnancy and, although she did not use the term “attachment,” Ruben states: “By the end of the second trimester, the pregnant woman becomes so aware of the child within her and attaches so much value to him that she possesses something very dear, very important to her, something that gives her considerable pleasure and pride.” 

We can all acknowledge that this process of prenatal bonding can likely be interrupted when it comes to the feelings our biological mothers have about us when they are pregnant due to the very nature of the pregnancy outcome, I think this is noteworthy to investigate each adoptee’s experience. 

I know that this dynamic in my journey has helped me understand myself. Yes, it was a hard pill to swallow that I believe my birth mother rejected the pregnancy and, in return, rejected me for the nine months she carried me. However, acknowledging this and accepting it as part of my story has brought me great healing and understanding of why I am the way I am. 

If I’m candid and transparent, I feel broken because of this severed bond. Not only did my birth mother reject the pregnancy, but she abandoned me and rejected me after she gave birth. So while they are two separate things, I have often tried to take myself back to the days when I was in the womb and to try to process the feelings of my preborn self, to get to the bottom of what I might be feeling; at that time? Any chance of repair with her was shattered, because once I found her she rejected a relationship with me. Unfortunately, in my case this only added insult to injury setting me up for the biggest disappointment of my life.

In utero, I could likely feel the warmth of her body, but her coldness towards me was also felt. I could feel her desire to “get it over with” regarding the delivery and pregnancy altogether. I could feel her disdain and shame for conceiving a baby out of wedlock in 1974 and becoming pregnant by a friend of the family who was older than her and was married at the time. 

I could taste the alcohol she drank daily as any attempt to dull the pain. What did that alcohol do to me every day of my life for the nine months she carried me? One can only speculate. She never sang to me; she never embraced my touch or the growth of her growing belly. Instead, her feelings of badness transferred into my tiny body, and I was born with the feelings of being bad that stayed with me most of my life. 

While this all seems like a lot for an adoptee to navigate, walk through, and process, I can share that even when learning these things has been excruciatingly painful, it’s helped me heal. 

I want to emphasize that it is critically important for every adopted person to know the whole truth about their beginnings and the story of conception. We need to know it, we deserve to know it, and it is life or death for us. Can you imagine not knowing who brought you into the world and not knowing your conception and birth stories? 

I know you can’t because it’s unimaginable. But, it’s also inhumane to expect any human being to live through this painful and traumatic experience rooted in shame, secrecy, and lies. So, why are adopted adults still paying the price for others’ decisions and outdated laws from the baby scoop era? 

While I hope this article sheds some light on the different layers of the adoptee experience regarding separation trauma and prenatal bonding, I encourage you to do your research and dig as deep as possible to uncover your truth. The truth holds the keys to acceptance and, ultimately, healing. 

Let me also share that no one handed me this information. Therefore, it was up to me to fight the closed adoption laws and raise hell until I got my truth! Even when I was lied to my whole life, and I had people deliberately throw shade to discourage me from ever learning my truth, I kept pushing anyway. This is what I call THE FIGHT OF MY LIFE which is an article I wrote to describe what this struggle has been like. 

For my fellow adoptees, have you been able to learn the truth of your conception? Do you feel like you bonded with your birth mother before you were born, and do you think she rejected the pregnancy? How do you think this impacted you?

Have you ever processed through this layer of the adoptee experience? If so, what did you uncover? If you haven’t, is it by choice, or are you lacking the information needed? 

Thank you for reading and listening! 

Love, Love, 

Pamela A. Karanova 

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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

📱 iTunes – https://apple.co/3tKzT5f

🌎 Google – https://bit.ly/3JP6NY0

🎧 Spotify – https://spoti.fi/3Ny6h35

📦 Amazon – https://amzn.to/3JScoga

☕️– Buy Me A Coffee https://bit.ly/3uBD8eI

*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

Being Groomed for Gotcha Day – An Adoptee’s Perspective

Many of you have heard of the term “Gotcha Day” over the years, and it seems like it isn’t going anywhere. For those new to this term, Gotcha Day is a day our adoptive parents have picked to celebrate, reflecting the day our adoptions are finalized.

While I think many of them might have good intentions, this term is problematic for many reasons. I write this article to offer another viewpoint from an adult adoptee. I don’t wish to throw anyone under the bus if you choose to celebrate this day. While I have read many articles written by adoptive parents, why they choose to celebrate this day, and even an article or two from a biological mother, I have not read an article focused on an adoptee’s perspective.

I decided to share my feelings on this topic in this article. Let me be frank, my adoptive parents didn’t celebrate this day, and I am exceptionally thankful for this. However, after building relationships with adoptees worldwide for over a decade, I have experienced a lot of thoughts on “Gotcha Day.”

One dynamic that I would like to bring to light is that any child enjoys a celebration 99.9% of the time. If our adoptive parents decide to celebrate “Gotcha Day,” the adopted child is along for the ride. Kids don’t generally turn away from a party. This is when our grooming to celebrate the day we are adopted begins. Celebrating this day as a child might feel good.

Our adoptive parents have all the power to celebrate or not celebrate the day we legally became adopted. While they likely see no issue with it when we are children, we must not forget the adopted child grows up.

In 2018 I completed a poll on the How Does it Feel to Be Adopted? page and the question were for adoptees, and it said, “Adoptees, Are you in favor of the term “Gotcha Day?”

377 adoptees responded, and 95% said that “No” they were not in favor of the term Gotcha Day.

You read that right, 95%!

Adult Adoptee, Sarah says:

“I DESPISE it. It was referred to as my ‘Gotcha Day” and always involved a present, much like a birthday. It symbolized a day that sealed my fate of never returning to my biological family. Having it celebrated felt like my adoptive family was disregarding my biological family and my feelings about not being with them. My adoptive mom still celebrates it and brings me a present which I usually throw in the closet for months before opening, or I give it back to her.”

Another Adult Adoptee, Chris, says:

“My family did not celebrate it as I was growing up. I don’t care for the term “gotcha,” as it does feel like ownership. And while I understand that it may be a cause for celebration for the adoptive parents, it’s also a day of loss for the adoptee, even if they are not aware of the loss.”

While I can completely understand the feelings of these two adoptees, I share similar sentiments. I feel that if I were in a position to celebrate this day as a child with the terminology “Gotcha Day,” it would be a dehumanizing experience I likely wouldn’t fully understand as a child.

As an adult, I feel it belittles what someone separated from their biological mother has to lose to become an adopted person. It glosses over the reality we all experience. Do those who celebrate this day understand what we lost before they “GOT US?” Our biological mother and father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers, ancestry, culture, language, medical history, memories, and the list could go on.

I personally would be mortified and resentful if my adoptive parents groomed me to celebrate this day. For me, it was the day I lost everything! To be expected to celebrate it, would be a cruel thing to have to do and I find it insensitive to be encouraged to do so.

Our lives don’t begin the moment we are adopted.

So we have a [his]-story and a [her]-story, which are essential to our lives and experiences. So celebrating “Gotcha Day” solely focuses on the day we are adopted and not what we lost to get to that point.

Some families are using “Adoption Day” or “Family Day” instead of the dreaded “Gotcha Day.” While I respect the need to want to celebrate such a wonderful day in the new family, I must share that no matter how you slice it, you can’t deny the reality of what the adoptee lost to gain a new family.

I say we get rid of these celebrations altogether.

However, if you decide to host them, let’s be honest and have a day of mourning the day before or the same day, so we equally acknowledge all the adopted person has to lose before the adoption ever takes place. If we’re authentic, honest, and accurate, we must acknowledge this as part of the adoptee story, and it happens FIRST.

The sooner an adoptee begins to grieve the losses they have experienced, the better. Therefore, I suggest all adoptive parents become experts in The Grief Recovery Method for kids and learn as much as they can as an adoptive parents and apply it to the adopted child’s life. In addition, finding an adoptee-competent therapist would be beneficial to all involved.

I hope this helps clear up how adopted adults feel about celebrating the day we were adopted, specifically “Gotcha Day.” It’s particularly despised in the adoptee community. I genuinely believe that once we know better, we do better, so I hope this article shares some insight that can be helpful.

To my fellow adoptees, what are your thoughts on this topic? Did you celebrate “Gotcha Day” and if so, how do you feel about it now? For those who didn’t celebrate it, how do you feel about the term and celebrating adoption day?

Thanks for reading and listening!
Pamela A. Karanova

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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

📱 iTunes – https://apple.co/3tKzT5f

🌎 Google – https://bit.ly/3JP6NY0

🎧 Spotify – https://spoti.fi/3Ny6h35

📦 Amazon – https://amzn.to/3JScoga

☕️– Buy Me A Coffee https://bit.ly/3uBD8eI

*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

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

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 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 Vital Contrast Between Relinquishment Trauma, Separation Trauma, and Adoption Trauma and Why We Should Consider the Difference 

I am learning and growing to understand all the layers of the adoption experience from an adult adoptee’s perspective. I am entirely open to learning and growing in my experience, my story, and the stories of my fellow adoptees, intercountry adoptees, and/or multiracial adoptees. 

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who is an intercountry adoptee, and the conversation was striking to me. She shared a piece with me I had never thought about before, and with this, I learned something very significant that I feel we should all understand, so I felt the need to share it in this article.

When most people think of adoption, they think of a “blessing” or a “wonderful outcome” for a child who was not wanted by their biological parents. Rarely do they know the other side of the coin, the reality of what adoption is, how separation trauma impacts us and what adoption feels like from the adoptee’s lens.

Some adoptees might be fortunate enough to receive the “picture perfect” adoption story; however, all the adoptees I know who could sympathize with this scenario still have deep-rooted issues that stem from the separation from their biological mother and adoption experience. Unfortunately, I have not met one who doesn’t, and I have been connecting with adoptees worldwide for over a decade now. 

Let’s get straight to the reason behind writing this article. 

Relinquish – voluntarily cease to keep or claim; give up. 

Voluntary – done, given, or acting of one’s own free will.

Separation – the act or process of separating: the state of being separated.

When I first began to emerge out of the fog from my adoption experience, I learned that the classification of referring to my experience as “Adoption Trauma” was something I could wholeheartedly relate to. My adoption experience did indeed traumatize me. 

However, it’s vital that I also recognize that the separation from my biological mother has also traumatized me. While many already know this, anytime a mother and a child are separated for any reason, a trauma occurs. This separation is classified as a traumatic experience and can cause a host of issues for the duration of the adoptee’s life. While we can undoubtedly suggest that the separation trauma from our biological mothers is traumatic indeed, it impacts us all at different levels. 

Over the years, I have learned that some adoptees have gravitated towards a well-rounded adoption experience, and many of us struggle every step of the way. Sometimes we’re somewhere in the middle of a complex adoption experience with varying emotions and experiences. One thing is for sure; no two adoptee stories are alike. I learned at the beginning of my healing journey that a lot of times, the adoption experience is lumped into one extensive experience; however, I view the separation from my biological mother as one traumatic experience and my adoption from my adoptive parents as a separate traumatic experience.

When we say “ADOPTION TRAUMA,” when we speak about our experiences, I feel like we are speaking about the experience of our adoptive parents adopting us because this event happens AFTER WE ARE SEPARATED from our biological mothers for whatever reason. It begins at the moment we are ADOPTED. But what about the traumatic experience of separation that happens first? 

While I think the adoption community means well, I see a significant issue with lumping these events together as one. Suppose you research separation trauma, mother and baby bonding and what happens when that bond is disrupted, and attachment theory. In that case, you will quickly learn of all the traumatic layers of losing a person’s biological mother. A baby can be fresh out of the womb, a toddler, or a preteen. Separation from our biological mothers will always create a wound, also known as the primal or mother wound. This wound is the greatest wound of our lives for many of us. For others, they aren’t so profoundly impacted by it. 

But, again, it impacts each of us differently. Still, the extreme end of the spectrum is where I have found myself to be, and the most significant source of my heartbreak, grief, loss, and pain is undoubtedly the separation and loss of my biological mother. This is just my experience as I see it over a decade of coming out of the fog from my adoption experience. I don’t claim to know it all, but I have gained snippets of knowledge and understanding along the way. 

While the term separation can describe anyone who has been separated from their biological mothers, relinquishment can not. I have learned that many adoptees don’t know if they were relinquished or stolen, which changes everything regarding how we speak about and view the adoptee experience. Being separated from our biological mothers is different from being adopted by our adoptive parents. 

Totally different! 

When speaking of my own story, I sometimes say relinquishment trauma when speaking of the primal wound or mother wound, but that’s because I know I wasn’t stolen. Instead, I know my biological mother chose to relinquish me. 

When I speak of adoption trauma, I am speaking of the trauma I experienced AFTER separation from my biological mother and paperwork was finalized with my adoptive family and what happened moving forward. But, again, both are very separate things, and both hold very different experiences! 

When I speak as a whole about other adoptees being separated from their biological mothers, I tend to gravitate towards separation trauma (instead of relinquishment trauma) because I don’t know if all adoptees were relinquished or not. We can’t assume all adopted people were relinquished. Many were stolen and sold on the black market and other various ways. 

And even when adoptees are relinquished, a lot of the time, the biological mothers didn’t voluntarily give their babies up. Instead, they were often coerced and conditioned, which is a form of gaslighting and manipulation that leads them to feel the shame and guilt many feel, which leads to adoption. 

Some might use the term “Surrender” when speaking of the separation of a mother and a baby. That means “to cease resistance to an enemy opponent and submit to their authority,”  however that doesn’t align with the possibility that there is an UNKNOWN area where a baby could be a stolen baby. 

Adoption Trauma, Separation Trauma, and Relinquishment Trauma all mean different things. I wanted to highlight this because I see “Adoption Trauma” used more and more. When I think a lot of the time, “Separation Trauma” is better fitting for what the person is trying to explain. 

Not all adoptees feel like adoption traumatized them, and not all adoptees feel like separation from their biological mothers traumatized them. We all write our own stories based on what we know and our experiences in life with our adoption journeys. I want to spark conversations with this article and thoughts that will shed light on this topic for anyone that hasn’t thought of these dynamics. 

I say, “Relinquishment trauma, compacted by adoption trauma,” when it comes to MY STORY, which fits me the best regarding my story.  It’s no doubt that no matter how you slice it, Separation Trauma, Relinquishment Trauma, AND Adoption Trauma are all very traumatic experiences. However, it is good to distinguish between them when we communicate our experiences to articulate our messages more clearly and defined. 

Adoptees, How do you refer to the separation from your biological mother?

Have you been able to learn if you were stolen or relinquished? 

How do you refer to your adoption experience or the experience of others who have been separated from their biological mothers and adopted? 

Do you use “Adoption Trauma” across the board, or do you distinguish the two as separate experiences? 

I am curious about others’ thoughts on this topic. 

Thank you for reading,

Love,

Pamela A. Karanova  

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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

📱 iTunes – https://apple.co/3tKzT5f

🌎 Google – https://bit.ly/3JP6NY0

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*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

She Just Had a Bad Adoption Experience

Wow, at how many times I’ve heard people whispering these sentiments as I walk on by with a giant-sized adoptee chip on my shoulder. I couldn’t even begin to count, but it’s a lot. Even when they don’t say it directly to me, I feel it.

But the truth of the matter is that if we’re being honest and transparent, a trauma occurs before every adoption occurs when we experience the separation from our biological mothers. Even when adoptees are removed from dire situations and taken into foster care to more safe environments, the trauma of separation is still present. Because of this trauma, every adoptee can equate separating from our biological mothers as a bad adoption experience.

Some of us have awful experiences after we are adopted, and some have wonderful ones. But, of course, no two adoption stories are alike. Still, one thing for certain is that before every adoption occurs, the trauma of separation from our biological mothers occurs first.

The world pretends that separation trauma doesn’t exist in adoption. They gloss over it and even celebrate it. But then, they sweep it under the rug, ignore it and act like it doesn’t exist. Yet, the separation trauma is genuine and the root of every adoptee’s experience.

Some adopted people don’t even understand or realize that this trauma can impact every area of their lives. Unfortunately, most of the world doesn’t acknowledge it or recognize it either. If they truly knew, would they still celebrate every adopted person’s trauma, not leaving room for the realities of the heartache every adoptee experiences before they are ever adopted?

When we know better, we do better. At least we hope that is the plan.

My reason for sharing this article is to highlight that we must acknowledge and recognize as a society that separation trauma is a real thing, and it hurts. Separation trauma always happens before the adoption takes place. When I write, I try to distinguish that the SEPARATION is TRAUMA. And while we can speak about adoption being trauma, for some of us, it can be. But separation trauma is a separate thing. It’s essential to identify them as separate events in our lives.

 No matter who my biological mother was, how she was, or what she wasn’t, she was my biological mother. And no matter what the reasons were for our separation, it caused me a lot of heartache to lose her. But unfortunately, the world and my adoptive parents swept it under the rug because that is what everyone is told to do. We’re blank slates. But let me share a part of how the separation trauma showed up in my life.

At 12, I started drinking alcohol, and I started to run away. I started breaking the law, and I was in and out of group homes, juvenile detention, and drug and alcohol treatment. I was in an abusive relationship and pregnant at 15. This was only the beginning of what the world can consider “acting out” as a teenager. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of a lifetime of troubles. I drank alcohol for 27 years to cope with the pain.  

But it was much more than that. I knew I was adopted, and to the very core of my being, I just wanted and needed to find my biological mother. But no one knew the internal agony I was going through. I didn’t even understand it. Read over some of my articles, specifically “She’s Bad,” and you can gain a glimpse of the feelings I have carried.

For those who want to apply the label to my life, “She just had a bad adoption experience,” let me share some advice with you. Instead of applying this label to me, my life, and my fellow adoptees, why not open your heart up to the possibility that there is much more to adoption than what you always knew?

You can continue to label me as the lady that just had a bad adoption experience, but I ask you to reconsider your thoughts. Maybe I share my pain because it brings healing to my life. Maybe I share it with my fellow adoptees to know they aren’t alone. Maybe writing is healing to me. Maybe it’s one of the only places I can share my feelings about being adopted, and non-adoptees can’t silence me, shut me down, and tell me how to feel? Maybe writing my thoughts about adoption-related topics has helped me more than the 100 therapists I have seen in my life? Maybe it’s a safe place for me, and the world is not when it comes to sharing adoptee thoughts and feelings?

Also, please understand that the sentiments of “she just had a bad adoption experience” come off as gaslighting and invalidating my trauma and pain resulting from separation trauma and my adoption experience. Please stop.

If you have made it this far, thank you for reading. Hopefully, this article helps non-adoptees understand that every adoption is rooted in separation trauma first. It’s so much deeper than me just having a bad adoption experience!

How many of my fellow adoptees have heard this at some point in your journey? How has it made you feel?

Thank you for reading,

Love,

Pamela A. Karanova  

Facebook: Pamela A. Karanova

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

📱 iTunes – https://apple.co/3tKzT5f

🌎 Google – https://bit.ly/3JP6NY0

🎧 Spotify – https://spoti.fi/3Ny6h35

📦 Amazon – https://amzn.to/3JScoga

☕️– Buy Me A Coffee https://bit.ly/3uBD8eI

*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

Why Do Adoptees Search? An Adoptee Collaboration

I feel adoptees have the most powerful voice in the adoption constellation and we hold the keys to understanding and healing not only for ourselves, but the world around us. The key is that non-adoptees have the willingness to listen and learn. I would like to compile an article about why adoptees make the choice to search with an emphasis on it not wavering how much we loved or didn’t love our adoptive families.

Over and over I hear adoptive family members or non-adoptees discourage adoptees from searching because we should “Just be happy with the family we got” and “We have no idea what we are getting ourselves into” by searching. I would love input from my fellow adoptees to include in this article.

Here are the questions over 20 adoptees chimed in on. 

1.) What made you decide to search and did this decision have anything to do with how much you loved or didn’t love your adoptive families?

2.) No matter what you found, do you regret searching?

3.) What advice can you share to your fellow adoptees that are searching or considering searching?

4.) What can you share with the non-adoptees and adoptive family members who might be discouraging adoptees from search?

Here are their voices

Adoptee Voice 1

  • Search is not about replacing your family, but about finding out who/where you came from and how you got to be who you are. While I always wanted to know more about my birth family, when I was pregnant with my first child the “want to know” became a “need to know”. While my birth family was not everything I hoped to find, I am so glad that I search. Not only was I able to have a 35 year relationship with my birth mother, but having all the facts of my adoption actually improved my relationship with my adoptive family. I was finally able to integrate my two family legacies.

Adoptee Voice 2

  • From the time I was little I knew I wanted to search when I got old enough. I waited until I was 28 to begin searching because I was busy w/ college, getting married, & having a family. It took over 20 years to find my bio. Family, & by that time my mother & both sisters had passed away. I have a half-brother still living & have had some contact w/ him, but he’s incarcerated in a federal prison, which complicates matters. I did get to meet my stepfather & my only living aunt, as well as talk to one of my uncles on the phone. We were planning to meet a few months later, but he died unexpectedly. I don’t regret searching. I only regret that I wasn’t able to find them until it was too late to meet my mother & sisters. My adoptive family was very supportive of me, but for adoptees whose adoptive families discourage them, I’d tell them that it isn’t about them. It’s about needing to know who you are, who you look like, where you get your quirks, etc. The best advice I can give those who are considering searching is to find a search angel. Don’t waste money on a private investigator when a search angel can do the same thing for free, & usually a lot faster.

Adoptee Voice 3

  • My need to search was about me as I needed to know who I was and where I came from. My parents knew this, and they totally supported my decision. 2. I have no regrets that I searched, because I found myself. 3. My biggest pieces of advice would be to have low expectations and a good support system. You’ll be disappointed if you expect too much, and it falls through, and you might run the other person off like I did with my brother. I wanted the relationship with him to undo the past, and there’s no way that was going to happen. I’d also say to do your own work before you even think of searching as reunion is filled with so many unknowns, and it’s good to have a therapist to process all that stuff with. Reunion is a roller-coaster, and you never know what’s going to happen, so it’s vital to have people that support you. 4. I’d respectfully say until you’ve walked in my shoes, you have no right to judge what I’m doing. This isn’t about replacing adoptive parents but about finding your identity. If people don’t understand that, then that’s their problem. Don’t let them stop you.

Adoptee Voice 4

  • I first felt the desire to search when I was in my early 20s, just a few years after I found out I was adopted. The decision to search was about finding my own history and filling in the holes in my life story and had nothing to do with my feelings for my wonderful adoptive family or their love for me. It always strikes me as strange that anyone would question why an adoptee searches when genealogy is such a popular hobby in this country. Isn’t a search for your birth parents really just the ultimate genealogy research? (Further complicated by closed records, of course!) 2. I will never regret searching. I ended up being found instead of finding and my birth mom and I are five months into a storybook reunion. But even if the outcome had been different, searching was something I needed to do for myself, to know my truth and my story. And now that I have it, I find it’s as priceless as I always imagined it would be. 3. To everyone searching, I would say, post your information everywhere, and, more importantly: never, never give up! You might be just one step away from finding what you’re looking for. 4. Non-adoptees or adoptive families who discourage an adoptee from searching are speaking from their own place of insecurity and fear. While adoptees who search need to be aware that things don’t always work out the way they might hope, they also need to remember that non-adoptees don’t have the same experience of life as they do and cannot understand. As Gertrude Stein said, “Let me listen to me and not to them.”

Adoptee Voice 5

  • 1). As a twice-adopted person, by two separate families, I grew up with ideas of searching for my biological mother. She was the woman I often dreamed about; the woman without a face. My decision to embark on my search occurred as a 20-year-old young man. I did not have the experience of growing up in good families as an adoptee. In both, the abuse of me took precedence, although, in the second family, it was intermingled with positive responses. So, by ultimately looking for my adoptive mother, it served as an attempt to create the loving family for which I never had as a child.2). While I ultimately found both biological parents, exactly 20 years apart, there were problems. Yet, I absolutely do not regret searching for doing so filled in the blanks for which I had wondered about for decades. In the end, my biological mother abandoned me for a second time, as an adult, and I would only meet my biological father as he was dying of stage 4 cancer.3). Advice? Be prepared for the unexpected. It doesn’t always work out and yet, it may just work out. It can be the best time in your life, and the worst. It all depends upon the reception by the other side.4). A potential search is not about about wanting to abandon the family of your adoption. It is only about finding those missing puzzle pieces that can create the entire picture of a life still unfulfilled. Most people know their families, their parents, siblings and grandparents. Knowing of your origins is, in my opinion, one of the basic needs of being human. The adoptive family may feel threatened and yet, they should understand this is not about wanting to replace them by returning to the family of origin, but more, a gift they can offer by lending support, and clues, to their son or daughter’s early history. It is selflessness on the part of the adoptive family.

Adoptee Voice 6

  • I was found because I was too terrified of rejection to search myself. Thankfully my birth mom searched for me. From there, with her help, we found my birth father. I truly believe that it’s imperative to make the journey for the sake of self and descendants. The only advice I can give is to keep your eyes wide open, don’t expect good or bad outcomes as every situation is unique, and be brave. When you have a better grasp of who you are by way of your genetic links then you will understand fully why it’s so important.

Adoptee Voice 7

  • I’ll start with the last question first because that situation annoys me. It’s not anyone’s place to get in someone else’s business about why they are doing something. We don’t owe anyone an explanation. We don’t have to defend ourselves to the clueless or earn their blessing. Most people who question our search already have their minds made up anyway. I would just say I’m sorry you don’t understand. You could always bring up the general interest in genealogy as evidence of how many people are interested in their roots, but it’s not necessary. Also, there’s my own example – my sister told me my mother finally had peace for the first time in her life now that she knew what happened to me and that I was ok. So searching can actually be a kindness to our families, not just self-serving. And I would say to my fellow adoptees who are searching not to get discouraged or give up. I didn’t find my family until I was in my mid-50s.

Adoptee Voice 8

  • I was just getting out of an abusive relationship and I needed a distraction so I wouldn’t go back to him. Plus I was always curious about where I came from.
    No regrets.
    3. Don’t give up. But check your expectations at the door.
    4. In end, whatever you decide to do, it’s your story.

Adoptee Voice 9

  • My dad died and I just thought that life is short and better to search sooner than later. Also I didn’t want to hurt my dad’s feelings in any way. Zero to do with how much I loved my family!
    I don’t regret it even when some biological family rejected me.
    Just do it-it’s better to know the truth.
    It has nothing to do with you. You can’t fully understand the feelings of an adoptee unless you are one.

Adoptee Voice 10

  • I decided to search because I wanted answers, pure and simple. I didn’t need anything, didn’t expect anything beyond gaining knowledge. I gained so much more but I actually went into it prepared for the worst. My adoptive family had nothing to do with it except for the fact that my experience with them – and particularly with my a-mother – was so bad that it put me off searching for years. I just did not want a repeat experience. I had a real negative association with the word “mother.”  I do not regret searching. My search had a wonderful outcome but, even if that had not been the case, I had been so plagued with questions for so long it was just nice to have that settled and over and done with. Not that finding didn’t bring up a new set of questions but at least I learned the basic facts of my personal history.

Adoptee Voice 11

  • The first time I was aware that I wanted to search for my birth mom was when an adoptee friend told me she thought my b mom loved me and didn’t want to give me up. I remember feeling excited at the thought of finding my mommy that loved me. I was terrified to search because I knew it would mean being shut out of my adoptive mom’s life. She would stop talking to me if I did anything she didn’t like and that was absolute hell. When my adoptive mom handed over my non identifying information when I was in my early 30’s (I have NO idea why she chose to give this to me) I think I felt that was her permission to search. The journey to finding my b mom was a long one. I had lots of help from people who volunteered to find records on my behalf and that made the process so much easier and bore fruit much sooner!! I could write a book filled with the joys and pain of meeting my b mom. Without support from my husband I don’t think I could have done it, but I am NOT sorry I searched. My advice to fellow adoptees is making sure you have supportive people surrounding you when you search. Please DO NOT wait until your adoptive parents pass away to start this journey….you deserve to find YOU and that doesn’t just happen by being adopted into a new family. Finding out where I came from gave me such a sense of belonging. Did it heal all my wounds? No, only some. But I didn’t spend emotional energy wondering anymore.

For the adoptive families I would say find support for your own fears about this. I believe our fears keep us in a place of denying what is needed for healing. If you truly love your adopted child be the ADULT they need you to be. Remember no matter how much you wish they were your own, they are not. They belong to you AND another family. Consider this an opportunity to bring healing to your child’s life at the expense of it being painful and scary to you. I do not believe we can have an authentic relationship without looking at truth. Take their hand, and remind them you are not going anywhere!

Adoptee Voice 12

  • ) What made you decide to search and did this decision have anything to do with how much you loved or didn’t love your adoptive families? I chose to find my natural family because it is my right to seek answers and know my heritage. I want the opportunity to bond with siblings, grandparents, cousins, and other family. I find it infinitely frustrating that adoptees are pressured into disregarding their own feelings about their first family because of the feelings of adoptive family and non-adoptees. Why do our feelings matter less? The love we feel for our adoptive family has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with it.2.) No matter what you found, do you regret searching? Not at all. I kept searching for 20 years until I found every single living relative.3.) What advice can you share to your fellow adoptees that are searching or considering searching? Don’t let anyone tell you that your feelings are less than. Keep an open mind, without expectations. Remember that your natural mother also suffered trauma because of the adoption, so she may have just as much of a hard time with reunion as you.4.) What can you share with the non-adoptees and adoptive family members who might be discouraging adoptees from search? Consider this: to an adoptee, our adoption feels like our entire family died in one day, and we are expected to be grateful for the situation we were forced into. We have the human right to mourn the loss of our first family just as if they had died. We are neither blank slates nor eternal children. We are forced to deal with the stress of living three entangled lives – the person we were born to be but never were the person whose life we assume but never fit into, and the person we create for ourselves as adult adoptees. It’s a very stressful and difficult to navigate life, regardless of how wonderful our adoptive families may be. We need your support! Denying our feelings will only push us away from you.

Adoptee Voice 13

  • I needed to know who I was and where I came from plus I was biracial I did actually find out my race from DNA testing before I searched or whilst I was searching but had not found. I am glad for the prep work or healing I did before searching because I did uncover a lot of trauma and drama. I was also lied to by my adoptive family, social services and members of my natural family so I was misled a lot while searching but I had a great search angel that helped me. The info I received was almost like working through grief bit by bit and also the letters I wrote to natural mom were very hard to write but each time I posted one it got a bit easier, she never actually got any of them. I was sad to find so many traumas in my natural mom’s life stemming from the fact she herself was abandoned at nine years old and went from one abusive relationship to another after my dad left her to marry someone of his own race. My dad took my bro and she kept my sister…. she lost my sister and my half bro 7 years later trying to escape the abusive jerk that she left me for…she got with another abusive jerk after that who told her she could not keep my sister either but they reunited when my sister was 16… My mum tells me that I am lucky and should be grateful she didn’t keep me and I didn’t endure what my sister did , but none of them asked how my life was growing up with and abusive manipulative lying my adoptive family… My reunion is not going that great there is too much pain all around. My mum doesn’t answer my calls or phone when she says she will which triggers me into a three day meltdown mode. My sister is overflowing with love but for all the wrong reasons and I just keep walking my healing path because truly that’s what it’s all about reunion or no reunion we have to heal from the loss and reunion just shoves that loss right in your face so now you are face to face with all the years lost whether it’s with mum or siblings or whatever adoption is based on deception and loss and healing is possible but it takes years of work…reunions do not fix the pain of the loss …

Adoptee Voice 14

  • ) What made you decide to search and did this decision have anything to do with how much you loved or didn’t love your adoptive families? What made me decide? hmm sad occasion of someone showed me the realization that it’s time to do what I needed todo for years that I was ready for it
    2.) No matter what you found, do you regret searching? Not at all. It’s important to do
    3.) What advice can you share to your fellow adoptees that are searching or considering searching? Don’t expect miracles and acceptance from that moment on it’s not up to you alone
    4.) What can you share with the non-adoptees and adoptive family members who might be discouraging adoptees from search? I can only say this: it’s not about you and with all the respect you need to support or walk away

Adoptee Voice 15

  • 1) Curiosity. Who am I? And no, my family was amazing which made it even harder to talk about wanting to search because I felt like I was betraying them or something. 2) I do not regret searching. 3) I was actually found on fb by my birth mother. I had all the information that I thought could be helpful, full birthday and my full name (Irish + Romanian) 4) Helping someone get through something is easier than helping someone get through the unknown. In my opinion you can’t get closure until you know everything.

Adoptee Voice 16

  • I searched because when my oldest had a hidden medical condition. They tested me and I had it also! So I wondered what else might be hiding. #3) Don’t expect a Hollywood happy filled reunion. You were given up for a reason. You may or may not find that “missing piece of the puzzle”. Keep expectations very low and search for the right reasons

Adoptee Voice 17

  • My search began a month before my wedding day. I found out my birth name at the bank. My papers were in a vault along with my Savings Bond. I asked who is Linda Marie? Mom would not give me a straight answer. 2. I did not regret searching for the truth even though I ended up asking mom again for my truth 2 years later and mom’s reluctance to give me information. 3. If your mom has information continue to badger her and keep on asking.

Adoptee Voice 18

  • ) I decided to search because it’s a natural human instinct to want to know who we are and where we come from. It’s impossible to know where your headed if you don’t know where you come from. It was tearing me apart inside to not know. My wanting to search was natural for a not natural situation. My pain of the unknown was SO GREAT I was addicted to alcohol most of my life because I couldn’t handle adoptee grief, loss & trauma and not knowing my answers. With the world celebrating adoption they make no room for our pain so I NEEDED TO KNOW MY ANSWERS. Trust me if I didn’t have the deep desire to know I would have much rather chose that route but that’s not how it works for many of us. My decision had nothing to do with my adoptive family and them loving me or not loving me. Love has NOTHING to do with us wanting to search and everything to do with needing the TRUTH. Without the truth we can’t move forward with acceptance and healing. Give it to God? Let me ask… If I don’t search and have the answers and beginnings of how I came about how do I know what to give to God? Am I going to hand him a question mark? Don’t think so….2.) I faced double rejection from both birth parents. It gets no more painful than that yet I still would rather know than live in the unknown because that was pure inhuman torture in my mind living wondering who my mother was and who my people were. Don’t regret it for a minute.3.) Think about your desire to search and pray about it and ask yourself if your pain outweighs the peace in your life regarding not knowing. If you’re at total peace not knowing great for you. But if you are bothered by it or it torments you then search and really try not to think of everyone else’s feelings. You deserve your answers and you deserve your truth! Everyone else can put on their big boy and girl panties and deal with it. I know it’s hard because when we make the decision to search we are going up against the grain and most people who aren’t adopted can’t comprehend our NEED and how deep it is and why we need answers. It’s important to stop trying to get them to understand. Trust me, the very few non adoptees who WANT TO LEARN will listen. They are worth talking to. Those who try to shut you down are ones you should leave alone. Most non adoptees will never understand us so I choose to stick with those who do understand me, my fellow adoptees. There is an army of us out here so you are never alone. Do what is best for you and don’t wait. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.4.) Please understand this isn’t about you and it had nothing to do with you. You could have been the best most amazing parents in the world but we still need our answers and truth. You can either support us and help us or we will do it around you. It’s much nicer when we have adoptive parents who aren’t manipulative who make it all about them every time we open our mouths. For once please know this isn’t about you. I can’t say it enough. And for you to say “Can’t you be happy with the family you got?” I would like to respond by saying until you are stripped of your basic human rights of wanting to know who you are and where you come from you really should keep your comments to yourself. If you can’t support me please leave me be. And when I find less than what I dreamed please don’t be quick to rub it in my face that I should have listened to you. The trauma of being an adoptee and living in the unknown is horrific in itself so please don’t make it worse on us with your unsupportive comments.

Adoptee Voice 19

  • Keep looking and do not give up.

Adoptee Voice 20

  • My decision to search was my own, and had no bearing on the opinions of others. I knew I was adopted before understanding what adoption was, and my desire to know/search was formed at the same time. The only considerations regarding my AP’s was around informing them about my actions, both in searching and reunion. Again, the decision was completely my own, even forgoing the concern of my then fiancé. This was MINE, something I wanted my entire life, and nothing was going to dissuade me. I waited until I met the age of independence to start, because I had to. There was no specific trigger that set me on the path toward finding; it was ALWAYS something I knew I had to do. I have regrets associated with my search/reunion, but none about searching. Again, the need to know was like breathing. I simply had to do it; there was no consideration or hesitation. As soon as I legally could search, I did. My birth mother received me well enough. In hindsight, she, like so many birth mom’s, was damaged from the experience. Had I been more informed, or more mature, more whatever, I may have been better prepared. Over the course of 20 years, I found & lost her 3 times. I don’t regret this, it is what it is. My only regret was waiting 10 years to find/contact my birth father, because my birth mother requested she make first contact with him. I felt I was being loyal, but in truth I was acting in fear. Fear that I would rock the boat, and damage relations with b-mom. A relation that never existed, and never formed. Even if it had, I was wrong to let someone hold me captive. Advice to those beginning a search… invest in your own search efforts. Searching may seem difficult, but the journey will build strength and knowledge. Both will be needed in reunion. I’m not suggesting the final goal of reunion is bad, but like any relationship, it requires work. Perhaps more work than another relation, as there is commonly much emotional and psychological baggage associated with adoption. The birth mother and the adoptee are damaged. And depending on their own journey, each may be in a different place of readiness for such a relation. And quite often, the adoptee must become the parent. By this I mean they must come to reunion prepared, offering both understanding and the voice of reason. It’s so very complicated; I’m not sure how to address it for the purpose of this project. In short, the adoptee should be an active part of the search. The adoptee should educate themselves on their legal rights to information, and reunion related issues. Understanding why they or the birth parent are acting as they are will help them navigate next steps. Final points related to searching; be honest in communications with birth parents, be honest with yourself, start a journal to help organize search efforts and log events/emotions after reunion, be kind to those who don’t have to help you and gently push those who do. Lastly, take action, do not wait, people die. Time is NOT on the side of us adoptees, so don’t let discomfort or indecision keep you from taking next steps. One of the hardest things is to find a grave at the end of your search.To the discouraging voices, they can all suck it. They don’t know, will never know, and so can’t advise. Some may be heartfelt, and with your best interests in mind, but only YOU can decide. And only another adoptee can truly understand. We had no voice in what happened to us. We don’t owe anyone anything as it relates to being adopted. Do what you need to. If that is to search, than do so unequivocally. Naysayers and alarmists be damned.

Adoptee Voice 21

  • My answers to the 4 questions… #1 – I have known I was adopted since around the age of 10. I always had letters written from my birth mother to my Mom. In those letters there was mention of two boys. I always felt a disconnect with my family even though they were always good to me and I was always more curious about the brothers more than anything. My love for my family always made me feel guilty for wanting to find them, but I was also very afraid of rejection. I have a very uncommon birth name, so actually finding my brothers was the easy part thanks to Facebook, getting the courage to contact them, not so easy. I just decided I was about to turn 50 and I needed to do this and I did not tell my family until after it was done. #2- I do not regret it at all. But only because I was not rejected. #3 – We had about 3 days AND nights worth of texting before we met in person. You just have to be careful of letting a complete stranger in your life. #4- you have no way of knowing how they feel if you aren’t adopted yourself. Let them do what their heart is leading them to do. In my case it literally filled my heart with joy and made me a happier person for my family to be around…not that I was that bad before, lol, but when it works out, it’s a feeling I just can’t describe.

This blog post was compiled for all those in the world who just can’t understand why adoptees put ourselves “out there” to search in the first place, what our thoughts are regarding this search and how difficult it is for many of us.

No adoptee “Story” is the same and we each have a unique story and desire to be heard. So many in society want to speak for us, but you will never ever fully understand adoptees unless you seek our voices and ask us how it feels to be adopted.

Thank you to all my fellow adoptees who chimed in and made this article post possible. You matter and your voices matter. Keep sharing your voices!  If you are reading this and you would like to answer the questions please reply to this article. Your replies will stay with the history of the page.

If you aren’t adopted and you made it this far THANK YOU for your willingness to learn from the experts in the adoption constellation! We appreciate you taking the time to read this post. You have made an attempt to try to understand how adoptees feel. Keep reading and keep sharing the voices that’s almost always ignored, the Adoptees!

Pamela A. Karanova

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