Who Was I?…Who Am I?

It’s odd to imagine receiving an infant from a foster parent without any background information on the baby. We always got our pets from the Erie County SPCA and they came with medical histories, special needs, perhaps even pedigree documents! An infant can’t yet talk, but s/he does have a medical history, and biological parents and relatives who know their family background. In 1949, in a closed adoption in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, my parents knew almost nothing. A couple of tidbits of information they were given were actually untrue. (Thankfully, adoptive parents today are more informed.)

Here is an excerpt from Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir

“I have a large ring binder with all my documents and notes on my adoption story. My search began in 1983. Ron was 5 and Emily was 3. We visited my parents in Morrisville, Vermont for Easter, which fell on April 3rd that year. I am sure of these details because the first document in my binder is a letter from my dad written on my birthday, April 7, 1983. During our Easter visit, I finally pulled myself together and asked my parents if they knew the name of the agency that handled my adoption. I explained that I felt it was important to get my medical history—for myself and the children.

“This request marked a milestone moment in my life. It was Easter, after all, and for me, it was a new beginning and a new endeavor. My parents responded with compassion and acceptance. I sensed a little unease from my mother―a slight pause. However, Dad took the lead and immediately assured me that they would get the address for me.

“I asked them what information they remembered. Dad described how, when they picked me up at the agency, they were so thrilled to receive me from my foster mother that they never thought to inquire about my birth family.

“Our conversation was going well. Then suddenly, I heard myself ask if they knew my name. I hadn’t planned on asking for my name, and so it was shocking to hear my mother’s quick reply: “Betty Jean.” She had never once mentioned this during the after-dinner chats so many years before.” (I later learned my birthmother named me Betty, not Betty Jean.)

“My parents had given me family names, Eleanor Mary, but called me “Bonnie” because Dad had always wanted a daughter named Bonnie. Dad knew all about his Scottish heritage. I wonder if they had actually wanted to give me a name somewhat similar to Betty. I was almost 8 months old when they took me home, old enough to know my name.”

One piece of information Mom and Dad received was absolutely correct–my birthday! It was confirmed for me when I received my Original Birth Certificate. On the first page of Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir, I write about a special birthday tradition: “Mom would wrap nickels in wax paper and hide a few of them in the cake. Such excitement!”

But back to today’s title, Who Was I?…Who Am I? I searched until I had answers. I now have the information my parents should have been given. I know a lot about my biological families today–I’ve even met many of them! With help from search angels, social media, and DNA, I was able to complete my jigsaw puzzle. I now know who I was and who I am!

Our eldest granddaughter celebrated her 13th birthday this week–here is the card I made for her. Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

Handmade Birthday card

You can find my memoir in my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir Each order includes a matching handmade bookmark and free domestic shipping! You can also order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.

Is Curiosity Overrated?

Curiosity played a major role in my 35-year search for my original identity. Last year, in my second blog post, I wrote, Was My Curiosity Wrong? I always struggled with conflicting issues: hurting my parents’ feelings and the frustration with closed adoption laws that withheld all identifying information.

I was surprised to see I wrote that post on January 22, 2019! One year ago, I wanted you to know that a book was in the works. Now, I am so pleased to share an excerpt from the Introduction of my memoir–it’s all about curiosity!

“As I left childhood behind, curiosity about my birthparents seeped into my conscience. I felt frustrated for the first time—Why doesn’t my story start at the beginning? But I also felt that, perhaps, I should be fine without the whole story. Maybe I didn’t need to know everything. Maybe curiosity is overrated. I shuddered at the thought of hurting my parents by asking for the name of the adoption agency. After all, they had provided me with love, security, and an education.

Worry and frustration are very personal feelings experienced by many adoptees. We worry about disappointing loved ones. Dad drove me to piano lessons at night in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue in the bitter cold and was concerned about keeping my hands warm before my lesson. Mom and I had tea after school and shared a deep bond of love and trust. How could I not believe that searching for my birthparents would upset them? However, we are often frustrated by sealed records that, if they could only be opened, would unveil identifying information and lead us to birth families, medical histories, and our heritage.”

Curiosity is a special interest–often nudging us to new places of discovery and problem solving. For me, curiosity was the gift that kept on giving!

It can never be overrated.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir

1950

What is ETSY?

Etsy is an online marketplace–an e-commerce shopping mall filled with shops that sell handcrafted, digital or custom made, unique, often vintage, items. I opened my original Etsy shop in 2010, “Custom Cards by Bonnie.” I made a variety of greeting cards that I shipped all over the world. I believe that receiving a card in the mail, especially a handmade card, is a timeless gift. The theme of my shop was, “Send a little love.”

Now I have an Etsy shop dedicated to my book, Young Love—An Adoptee’s Memoir. I self-published my memoir with FriesenPress in British Columbia, Canada. I decided to make a matching bookmark—I still love to create with paper and ribbon!

My Etsy shop is in my home. I autograph each book and include a personal message if you wish. I wrap each book as a gift.  The bookmark and my new theme, “there is no one like YOU” are placed on top of the book. Domestic shipping is free!

Selling on Etsy allows personalization for you and for me!

Have fun checking out Etsy. You can go directly to my new memoir shop from here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir?ref=search_shop_redirect

Happy New Year!

I am thrilled to tell you that Young Love – An Adoptee’s Memoir is now in print!

In the beginning, I wanted to record and share my search for my birth parents—a search that began in May 1983 and finally ended in March 2018. However, eventually, I realized that my story did not begin in 1983. In fact, it began in the late 1940s, well before my birth, with two young people—caught in young love.

My story continues with my parents and their decision to adopt an infant. I believe that the circumstances of my birth and the details of my childhood bring life to the story that, in the end, reveals my identity and heritage.

Young Love – An Adoptee’s Memoir is available in these places:

Etsy–I opened an Etsy shop to offer personalized sale of both the paperback and hardcover formats. I will autograph each book and add a personal statement if you have one in mind. I will include a handmade bookmark that matches the book!

Free shipping on all domestic orders. Here’s the link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir?ref=search_shop_redirect

FriesenPress— My Canadian Publishing Company. No autograph or bookmark.

Paperback, hardcover, and digital formats. Here’s the link:  https://books.friesenpress.com/store/title/119734000102459125

Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Thank you for your support and encouragement this past year. My first blog post was on January 19, 2019! Our lives are so complex and filled with countless experiences. Whether or not you live with adoption, I hope some small part of my story resonates with you.   

I Love to Write!

As I pondered topics for my blog this week, I realized that I’ve been writing for years. Yes, I am amazed that I never gave it much thought before. For example, when our school staff took a field trip to a local nursing home for our school-business partnership, I wrote about our magical school bus ride and the possibility we would never return. Ha! Or, when Paul and I took care of Ron and Kim’s goldendoodle for a week and I wrote a story for our grandchildren, Max’s Riverhead Vacation with lots of cute photos.

Another example is dear to my heart. Twelve years ago, I was just home from the hospital and I was learning about the need to rest after surgery. Paul went off to work and I found myself feeling a little upset remembering waking up in recovery… But I pieced together the details and decided to write about it to combat the bad memory. For some reason I do not recall, I submitted my story to the Buffalo News for a My View article. It was published May 2, 2007.

Nurse’s Kindness Was the Best Medicine of All

“I heard that,” I said softly. My recovery room nurse had sighed, not a big sigh and probably not meant to be heard. I’d regained consciousness fighting the pain in my back. It had nothing to do with the surgery, but I clearly remember my last thought before going under: “My back is going to kill me when this is over.”

I squirmed and struggled to get on my side to ease the pain in my back, causing the blood pressure cuff to become loose and who knows what other damage.

The IV brought pain relief and I began to calm down. As the team moved away, my nurse put final touches on all she could do to make me comfortable and began recording everything that had happened. Without looking up, she replied, “It’s my birthday.”

March 29—I’d known for months that on this day, I would have laparoscopic abdominal surgery at Buffalo General Hospital. At least, I prayed it would be laparoscopic. “Three Band-Aids, I want to wake up with 3 Band-Aids. I don’t care if the 6-inch abdominal incision is called a smile. I still want 3 Band-Aids.”

My need for reassurance and TLC began in the weeks way before March 29. Anticipating surgery is no fun. Thankfully, my son and his wife chose medical careers, and they provided me with information and assurances that everything would be OK.  Paul and Emily would be allowed in the recovery room when I was ready for visitors.

My daughter-in-law had worked with my surgeon at Buffalo Medical School and they remembered each other. I would soon find out the immeasurable value of the connections we make when things are the most precarious in life.

I welcomed the news that it was my nurse’s birthday. March 29 now had a new meaning. She was in a reflective mood, pensive, no big plans. It had been a long day without a birthday reprieve. “But if they’d shortened your day, we wouldn’t have met,” I stated immediately. She smiled, and we continued to chat about life.

In my vulnerable state, our connection assured me I wasn’t just a name on her list. Her sweetness and kindness made me stronger in an otherwise foreign and frightening situation. It was her knowledge, skill and experience that initially calmed me down. Now it was her kindness that lifted me up.

Throughout my short stay at Buffalo General—another benefit of laparoscopic surgery—the extra caring ways of the staff made me appreciate their choice to work in a hospital, to help us during our most challenging times. I wonder if they know the importance of their every act of kindness, or are kind acts intuitive on the part of hospital people?

One of the nurses was having a tough time removing my IV syringe and all the clear sticky tape. “I’m really sorry if I’m hurting you,” she said repeatedly.

I got a kick out of the doctors’ measure of success. Everything is relative. For me, I never felt worse, but for them, the surgery was successful, and everyone agreed I was doing so well. In retrospect, I’m grateful. Their optimism pointed me forward. I would get better. They knew my prognosis better than I did, and gave me hope.

My recovery room nurse decided that she would take me to my room. Always the caregiver, she reminded me at every turn to keep my arms in. When we finally reached my room, she wished me well and gave me a hug. I thanked her for everything. Happy Birthday! March 29 was our day.

My biggest writing project ever, Young Love, An Adoptee’s Memoir is in its final editing round. I hope to have news for you soon about a publishing date.

Thanks for reading!

An Ever-Important Attitude of Gratitude

One wintry day in February 1960, an unmarried young woman named Rose gave birth to a healthy, handsome baby boy. She named him Louis. Rose and her family lived in Verdun, Quebec, Canada on the Island of Montreal. Rose could not provide for her son. She had no choice but to relinquish her parental rights. The infant was adopted by a French-speaking couple who gave him the name, Marc . They raised Marc in a French-speaking community in Welland, Ontario. Welland is located on the Niagara Peninsula between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, barely 26 miles from Buffalo, New York.

Marc at 10 months with his Mom

Marc had a happy childhood. He lived with his parents and his brother and had a close extended family. In his career, he specialized in Information Technology (IT) and worked for a major company in Ottawa, Ontario. Over time, Marc’s curiosity about his birth family grew and he decided to get his DNA tested. FamilyTreeDNA posted his results sometime around 2010, I believe. Unfortunately, he did not receive a high match for years and stopped checking regularly. 

I had tested only with AncestryDNA until a friend recommended I branch out and test with other companies, especially because AncestryDNA was not yet available in Canada. Having been born in Montreal, I realized she had a great point. In 2016, I tested with FamilyTreeDNA, Marc’s company. My results came back with our high DNA match!  I was elated, shocked, and mystified—who was this person? While I waited for Marc’s response to my email, I asked folks in Facebook’s DNA Detectives and Free Canada Adoption/Family Search and Reunion about our match. Everyone agreed that Marc’s birthfather and my birthfather were brothers—we were first cousins! 

It was a Hallelujah moment! We were both very excited. We’d found the needle in the haystack—our shared DNA. Marc lives in Ottawa, I was living on Long Island, NY at the time and through DNA, we learned that our fathers grew up together in Verdun, Quebec. It was magical! I was also thrilled that Marc speaks both French and English.

However, even better than finding our DNA link was finding Marc—friendly and funny, down-to-earth, kind, and smart. Everything that intimidated me in our search became a simple to-do task for Marc. I keep telling him to this day, we’d be back at the beginning if he hadn’t followed the leads the way he did. Today, we message, text, FaceTime, and talk on the phone for hours. He has visited us here in Western New York and we got together last summer in Montreal to meet new biological family. We became partners in the search for our identities, determined to unlock the secrets in our closed adoption files. Now, we have become cousins. Thank you, Marc.

A Jigsaw Puzzle!

Believe me, I was absolutely thrilled to receive non-identifying information about my birthmother and family for the first time back in 1983. I think I soon had it all memorized.  She liked to knit and read and ice skate and roller skate. She was 19 when I was born. She carried me to full term and I was “a normal healthy baby.” Having had no information, this was a dream come true. It was stunning to know the file existed—I had actually been born! It’s true that adoptees have strange thoughts compared to everyone else. 

It wasn’t long before I wanted more. They had piqued my curiosity and there was no turning back! Parent Finders of Montreal guided me. With every letter from the adoption agency, I wrote back with more questions. Interestingly, the agency kept sending me small bits of non-identifying information. I always wondered why I didn’t receive it all in the first place. This is when I formed the image—the agency folks had the lid from the jigsaw puzzle box! They had all the answers, both identifying and non-identifying. They were also sworn to obey the Quebec laws and never divulge identifying information to an adoptee. Maybe they suspected I would keep coming back for more. And not wanting to run out, they chose to give me small bits and pieces over time. I do believe they had strategies!

I had strategies too. On top of being curious, I was usually patient and almost always grateful for everything they were doing for me. I learned early on that they made mistakes. For example, she had a sister named Frances. The agency confused Frances with Francis and told me she had another brother. I was offended when they referred to my mom and dad as my adoptive parents. They were, in fact, my only parents. The agency apologized and said they were happy for me. (And, yes, I do understand why they said adoptive.) As my search continued, I examined each and every puzzle piece they sent. I was on the case—hoping for a mistake that might be a valuable clue to my birthmother’s identity.

My St. Patrick’s Day Greeting Card