'Family ties' shares stories of adoptees - like me
Last updated 2/2/2022 at 3:35pm | View PDF
Growing up, I didn't know a soul who was adopted. As an adult, I find the opposite is true. Adopted people are everywhere.
At a 2020 Community Revue cast party, I learned that two of my castmates were also adopted and that all of us either had met or hoped to meet our birth parents. A fellow cast member came up and asked us what we were discussing so intently.
"Finding our birth parents," one of us offered. She promptly turned around and headed back to the bar.
One of the folks I was talking to that night, Alisa Messana, is the first adoptee to share the story of finding her birth parents (actually they found her) in a three-part series we are launching today. The other person in that conversation, Bill Lewis, will be featured in one of a quartet of stories to run Feb. 10. The series will end Feb. 17 with me sharing my own journey of meeting my birth family.
If memory serves me, the first piece I ever published about being adopted was a May 2000 column I wrote for The Doings, thanking my mom, mother-in-law and my birth mother.
"I think of her often, especially around Mother's Day," I wrote of my birth mother. "My parents adopted me when I was 13 days old, and my mom has always been just that - my mom. But I know there's another woman out there who is a part of me."
At that point in time, I didn't really think I'd ever meet her. I didn't know what had happened in her life since I was born, but I assumed she had a new family, and I wasn't sure they knew about me.
After the sacrifice she made carrying me for nine months and then giving me away, I felt I had no right to show up as a grown adult.
As I got older and became a mother myself, my feelings about finding her began to change. In columns over the years, I shared that I might want to meet her one day. One such piece led an adopted acquaintance in town to advise me against going on a search.
"It doesn't always turn out happy," he warned me.
Another Hinsdale resident contacted me after I wrote a November 2020 column about connecting with my birth family. I had already found and met my sister and had plans to meet my birth parents. She cautioned me to take it slow. After she shared her story, which she was not interested in seeing in print, I understood why.
And then there's my friend from grad school who located and wrote to her birth mom only to receive a very polite letter in response indicating there was no interest in a relationship.
I recognize how lucky I am, and how lucky the folks I talked to for this series are. The searches didn't all turn out perfectly, but everyone is happy to have found the relatives they did.
While I've written bits and pieces about meeting my birth family for the first time and what it has meant to me over the past year or so, I have yet to share the full story. Like Julie McGue, whose story will run next week, people have encouraged me to document the experience. I wasn't quite sure what form that would take until I came up with the idea for this series.
I am grateful to all who shared their stories with me. I was fascinated to hear them and to discover - as fellow adoptee Mary Catalano noted during her interview - how different they all are. I hope you enjoy them, too.
- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].