Where Do I Belong?: A Story
by Carolyn Seibold
The following story was sent
to us two years ago, but we are just now finding room in the newsletter to
give it justice. The author, a resident of Garland, TX, is a friend of Diane
Herman, a therapist and member of O.I. and the Santa Fe Adoption Support
I was almost six years old my mother sat down with me and told me that I
was adopted. She said it was a good thing to be adopted because when someone
adopts a child that means that they really want that child in their life.
She told me she went to Kansas to get me when I was just twenty-four hours
old. Of course I was too young to understand the full meaning of adoption
and just what this would mean to me throughout my life.
During the first part of my life, in some ways,
being adopted made me feel special because it meant I was a chosen child.
I was very close to my adopted mothers family as we all lived within
a block of each other and spent many hours together. In this family I had
my grandmother, Maude, who was like a second mother to me as I lived with
her or next door to her until she passed away when I was just over ten years
old. I always felt I was special to her and I remember one time when we saw
a friend of hers at the drug store. Her friend said, My, my, she looks
just like you, Maude, and my grandmother beamed and agreed with her
friend. I also had three uncles who were my mothers brothers and their
wives who were, of course, my aunts. There were nine first cousins and I
had one brother four years younger than me, who was also adopted but from
a different family. Of course, everyone in the family knew I was adopted
and for the most part they didnt treat me any different and usually
I felt I was one of them. I do remember a few occasions when I had the feeling
that they thought of me as adopted and not quite solid in the family.
I never hid the fact that I was adopted and
growing up all my close friends knew it. When I was in my early twenties
my adopted mother, Ramona, was cleaning out their safety deposit box and
at this time she asked if I would like to see my adoption papers before she
destroyed them. I was very interested in knowing what information was on
my adoption papers but I didnt want to offend my mother. I hesitated
but not wanting to miss this opportunity, I said, Yes, I would like
to see them. I always knew exactly where I was born because it was
on my birth certificate, but these papers contained my birth mothers
name, Berniece. I didnt need to write down her name because I knew
I would always remember it.
After I married and started having children
of my own, I became very curious about just who and where my biological mother
was. I had no biological or medical information about myself and therefore
didnt know just what I might be passing on to my children. As time
went by, I became more and more interested in knowing my biological mother,
Berniece. It was often on my mind and at times when I would see a woman in
a crowd or elsewhere, I would wonder, Is she my mother?
I was finally driven to see if I could find
Berniece, for after all I did know her name and where I was born. So I drove
to Kansas to the town where I was born to see what I could discover about
my biological mother. I went to the local hospital, and they informed me
that the home for unwed mothers which was once in this town was no longer
there and all the records had been destroyed in a fire years before. They
suggested I go to the Vital Statistics Department at the state capitol in
Topeka and request to see my true original birth certificate.
So I drove to Topeka that same day and went
to the Vital Statistics Office and requested to see my birth records. After
I had showed them the birth certificate which I had used all my life and
my drivers license with my photo to prove I was actually this person,
they showed me my original birth certificate.* I wrote down all the information
that was different from the birth certificate I already had. Of course my
biological mothers name I had learned several years earlier, but the
original birth certificate also listed the town where she had lived before
I was born. Now I had something more to work with in finding my biological
went back home and immediately began a serious
search for this person, Berniece, who had given birth to me twenty-eight
years earlier. I wrote letters to schools and places in both the town where
I was born and also in the town where she came from. In just a short time
I heard back from a person who had known Berniece years before and they informed
me she had lived on a farm just south of Garden City, Kansas, when she was
a young woman. So I went to the local library and looked in the Garden City
telephone book and there was a listing for a man with the same last name
as Berniece who lived on south star route just south of Garden City. Now
I had a very good lead and a phone number.
That very evening I called the phone number.
When a man answered, I said I was looking for someone I had known a long
time ago and gave my biological mothers name, Berniece, and asked if
he knew or was related to her. The man who answered said, Yes, she
is my sister and she lives not far from here. If you want, I can give you
her phone number.
I quickly said, Yes, Id like her
number. I was very excited because now I might find Berniece and actually
be able to talk to her.
However, now that I had some reliable, current
information on my biological mother, Berniece, and was about to contact her,
I began to feel deep emotions related to this fact. Although I was very excited
and hopeful about finding her, maybe she wouldnt feel the same way.
I wondered how she would react, would she be happy or mad, would she accept
me or hang up on me? I was very nervous about making this phone call, but
I had waited years to reach this point and I didnt want to give up
now. So I dialed the phone holding my breath and waiting to see what was
going to happen. A woman answered the phone and once I had established that
she was truly Berniece and the person whose name was on my birth certificate
I said, This is your daughter. Then there was dead silence on
the phone and I thought, Oh my, what have I done? But soon she
responded and said, Oh, you are? I tried to find you when you were
about one or two years old but I never had any luck. I only knew that your
adopted parents lived somewhere in Oklahoma. I am so happy to hear from
you. What relief I felt at that moment, Then she asked me about myself,
How tall are you, what color is your hair, are you married, do you
have children? We talked awhile and then decided that we needed to
meet each other in person as soon as possible.
In a few weeks my husband and I drove to Kansas
to meet Berniece. It was a Memorial Day weekend and her family was having
a big family picnic. Berniece was from a very large family and she was one
of thirteen children born to my grandmother and grandfather, so this was
a very big picnic. Berniece insisted that we go to this picnic so the whole
family could meet me. Apparently only my grandparents and one aunt knew that
I even existed, so there were many surprised faces and lots of questions.
I could see that Berniece was proud of me and she wanted her family to accept
me, and they did, but for some of her family it was easier and sooner than
with others. Now I had this large new family to become familiar with and
Now the mystery of my biological mother was
solved. As it turned out, I was the only child Berniece ever had. I never
told my adopted parents that I had found my biological mother and there was
reason for this. The main reason was I felt that it really had nothing to
do with them and the way I felt about them and I didnt want to take
a chance of hurting them. In my mind they were still my parents and nothing
was changed in that regard. They both died never knowing that I had found
my biological parents.
A few years after I met Berniece she told my
biological father, Al, about me. He was still living in Kansas and was married
with four sons. When he learned about me he immediately called me and said
he wanted to meet me as soon as I could get there. At the first opportunity
I went out to meet Al and his wife and boys. It was a little awkward meeting
his wife because I could tell she had known nothing about me and was not
too happy with the whole situation. My half-brothers on the other hand accepted
me and wanted to get acquainted with me and my husband and children. It was
apparent that Al was very proud of me and happy to have me in his life. He
said he always wanted a daughter and now he had one. Al was also from a large
family and he was one of nine children. So once again I found myself with
many aunts, uncles, and cousins to get acquainted with and learn about.
During this same time I met more and more members
of my biological families and got to know them and began to feel some connection
with them. I attended several of their family reunions and in many ways became
one of them. The first reunion I attended of Als family was interesting
because several relatives came up to me and apologized for staring at me.
Then they would tell me that I looked so much like my grandmother that it
was uncanny. They said that I not only looked like her but I had a lot of
the same mannerisms. One of my cousins gave me a photo of my grandmother
and I must say I could see a strong resemblance.
In many ways it was good to have all these
families to care about and share life with. Then on the other hand, at times
it was stressful and caused complicated feelings within me. I mean, can you
imagine having two mothers and two fathers and being closely involved in
their lives but one mother and father know nothing about the other mother
and father? Ive struggled for years to understand this interesting
but unusual life Id created for myself.
I had a wonderful adopted family and also two
nice biological families in my life. As the years went by I remained close
to some of my adopted family. In my heart they were still my real
family. Of course as we cousins all got older we moved to different parts
of the country and had our own families. I lost touch with many of my cousins
during this time and as the years went by my adopted uncles and aunts passed
away and were no longer with us. It was only recently that I have reconnected
with all my adopted cousins and their families.
My adopted mother, Ramona, passed away when
I was thirty-seven years old and about four years later my biological father,
Al, died. Then two years after that my adopted father, Oscar, passed away
and Berniece lived for about twelve more years and passed away when I was
fifty-five years old. So I have had no living parents for over fifteen
When I was around sixty years old, I became
very interested in genealogy and began doing research and putting together
my family genealogies. It was fun and very exciting to learn about former
family members and their lives and the history of each family. I have continued
with this and now, ten years later, I am still searching and building my
family genealogies. I began by doing my adopted family and have done work
on both my Ramona and Oscars families. I gathered an enormous amount
of history and genealogical material on Ramonas family dating back
to around 1750. Oscars family genealogy has been more difficult because
it seems that not much has been previously done on his family genealogy.
Then I gradually began to work on both Berniece and Als family genealogy.
I discovered that some genealogy had already been done on both these families
and so I just needed to update it and do some research in areas that were
missing or never documented.
The interesting and very important thing that
has come out of my doing all this genealogy was what I discovered about myself.
While gathering all this research and working on the family genealogies I
began to realize I have some deep and unexplained feelings about being adopted
and about my adopted and biological families.
On one hand, I have an adopted family that
I love and I am close to. I have life history and experiences with this family
and so many memories from the beginning of my life until now. When my adopted
mother died I felt as though my real mother, the mother who took
care of me all my life and loved me unconditionally, was gone. I still share
early life memories with my cousins who have the same memories. We can get
together and talk about our younger days and our family. But when it comes
to the genealogy, I have no blood nor genes relations to these same family
members, and this makes me feel somehow separate from my adopted family.
On the other hand, I have two biological families
that have been in my life for many years, and in fact for more than half
of my life. I have gathered memories and experiences with these biological
families through my adult years and I do care very much about them. However,
the feelings I have for my biological family are not the same family feelings
I have for my adopted family. I am related to them by blood and by genes,
but I dont have the childhood memories and experiences with these families.
This causes me to feel separate from my biological family.
In fact, in some ways I feel separate from
both my adopted and biological families. There are times when I feel that
I dont really belong anywhere. This has resulted in mixed feelings
and at times a sense of feeling strangely alone. So now the big question
in my life is, where do I belong? Or do I really belong anywhere? Perhaps
someday Ill know the answer to this, but for now Im still searching
for the feeling of truly belonging
Thanks to Carolyn for sharing
her story. We would love to hear readers comments on this story, and
also would welcome other stories. You may give us permission to publish your
name or we will be happy not to reveal your name if you wish to keep it
undisclosed. Send your story to Barbara Free, 1818 Somervell NE, Albuquerque,
Excerpted from the July 2011
edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2011 Operation Identity