Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Were You Born in Albany, New York in 1958?

Imagine this. You are a young unmarried woman, deeply in love with a man who swears he loves you and has promised, any number of times, to marry you. You discover you are pregnant. Due to your circumstances, the fact that you are not married to the baby's father, you feel ashamed that you are expecting, you don't have enough money or resources to support a baby, you plan to give this child up for adoption.

As the pregnancy progresses, you are told you are carrying twins. You rethink the adoption plan, fearing that your babies will be separated at birth and will not be raised in the same loving home you were assured they would have.

Against all odds, because we know there is no help or encouragement for single mothers who wish to keep their children, (and there was even less help back in 1958) you leave the hospital with your twin sons, determined to do whatever you must to keep your family together.

The father of the boys is occasionally on the scene; he sees you and the boys, he helps out when he can but still his promises of marriage remain empty.

The twins are only a few months old when you discover you are pregnant again. You know you are not able to support and care for another child and you return to the same agency you used before. Once again, they assure you this baby will be placed in a loving home and will be given all the things you cannot possibly provide for it. You feel pressured. It's not an easy or a comfortable decision, but you tell yourself you will try to keep an open mind about it; after all, everyone is telling you it's in the best interest of the child.

A blizzard of record proportion hits Albany mid February and you worry about getting to the hospital if you go into labor since you are due any day now. Over the next two days, city crews manage to clear the streets and on the 21st day of February you arrive safely at the hospital to deliver this baby.

The stages of your labor are recorded and hospital records do not indicate that you were given anything for pain. Several hours later, the baby is born at precisely 6:09; you probably never heard her cry because precisely at 6:09 you are given demerol and ether which knocks you out. You wake up, well over an hour later, and are told you delivered twin baby girls, both stillborn. You ask to see them and you are denied. You ask for paperwork, death certificates, stillborn birth certificates whatever is provided in cases like this and you are told there is no paperwork for you to see.

Now imagine this: An adoptee is searching for her birth mother. She knows little, which is typical of the information given to adoptees, but she does know she was born on February 21, 1958 to an unmarried woman who already had twin boys about two years of age. She was told she was born with a positional club foot, corrected with massage. She is also told her mother struggled with her surrender and did not turn her over to the authorities until she was several months old, when she finally signed the relinquishment papers.

The adoptee's search is diligent; she and I team up with other search angels. She photographs yearbooks, every woman who even vaguely fits the description of her mother since she was told her mother relocated to Albany from another state to finish high school after her own mother's death. The adoptee is told she is most likely, based on the information they received from her mother, the result of a one night stand, a blind date her mother was talking into.

I could not possibly count the number of places her search information was posted on the internet, the number of city directories searched, the number of obits searched, the number of emails sent to potential classmates and phone calls that were made and the list goes on. Finally, there is a break through. Her twin brothers are located.

Fast forward to today: The adoptee is reunited with her twin brothers via phone and email; a face to face is in the works. Sadly her birth mother passed away a few years ago, but not before this kind and loving woman moved back to her home state, met and married wonderful man who would be totally dedicated to her, her children and their children for thirty years.

The adoptee also learns she has an even bigger family; it's not just the twin boys but also two other children adopted out before her mother's marriage, and two half siblings from the marriage. DNA testing was done and the adoptee is the full sister to the twins and two others, one male, one female; all of whom had found each other a few years ago.

She learns that her mother had wondered all her life if her twin girls were really stillborn. It would be easy for a reader to judge her; please don't. She never lied about her past and her deep love for the man who fathered her children; she was open and honest with all her children, which helped them to find one another, well almost - there is, according to the stories the mother shared before her death, one more child born sometime in 1960 and of course, the other "stillborn" twin girl.

My own outrage: This mother lived all her life being told her twin daughters were stillborn. This adoptee has searched much of her adult life hoping to find her mother. I know this goes on. It has happened to other mothers and other adoptees. And yet, I am outraged! I will continue to be outraged!

Why is a mother knocked out with ether and demerol at the precise moment her baby is born if the physician on the receiving end of that baby is an honorable physician?

This woman's paper trail (same agency) would clearly indicate that she changed her mind once before when she delivered twins, fearing they would be immediately separated. It would also indicate that this woman was gutsy enough (remember we are talking about 1958 here) to initiate a paternity action against the father and win!!!

How long have the adoptive parents been standing in line, waiting for this woman to give birth and how much money did they pay to stand in line? Is there a birth certificate? Does it have the adoptive mother's name on it?

Where is the other twin? Was it really stillborn? Was it really a girl? If she's living, does she even know she is adopted? Nothing in the adoptee's hospital records (which she has since been able to obtain) indicates a positional club foot; maybe in all the bullshit flying around that day while the mother was knocked out,
it was the other twin who had the club foot? Once someone starts playing God and spitting out lies between their teeth (which BTW is something God does not do), I imagine it's difficult to keep it all straight.

I realize this didn't happen to every woman who gave birth in Albany, New York in 1958, but it happened to one and that's one too many.

Call me livid; call me angry and you would be right! We are looking for someone born on February 21, 1958 in Albany, New York. We have no idea how to find you but if that's your date and place of birth, and maybe you've always felt like you didn't quite fit into your family, there may be a reason. We have more information than is posted here. I know TRUTH can be a scary thing. Upon finding the truth, it isn't always honorable, right and just. Still, I prefer to be a seeker of the truth; I don't like walking in the dark, amongst lies, at all.

Peace to you all and those you love,
Aunt Patty

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Adoption Story Board

I'd like to invite every member of the Adoption Triad to participate in The Adoption Story Board. It is your opportunity to put a human face on a situation, an injustice that has existed far too long.

It is an opportunity for everyone to read the words of those touched by adoption in some way and to see their faces. We all look at faces; birth parents and adoptees alike have walked down the street or stood in line at the grocery store wondering if the person near them once belonged to them.

The reader of the Adoption Story Board can see the face of a child, now an adult, that someone had to surrender to adoption and read about their search; they can see the face of a birth mother who has searched for her child for many years and seeing that face will help to erase the stigma associated with unwed mothers and the mindset that so many people had and still have about women who give up their children. I hope it will encourage more birth mothers to search as they read her story.

Birth fathers may write their stories too. Not all of them walked away and left the mother to carry the burden alone. We know many of them were never allowed to participate in the decision; some were never told about the child until years later.

Each person who adds their story to the Adoption Story Board is given an entire webpage to tell their story. It can be as long or as short as you wish. In addition to sharing your search information, I hope some will also talk about the brick walls you have hit along the way and what it feels like to wonder about your heritage, your medical background, where you came from and who you look like. Do you have siblings, grandparents and aunts and uncles? I encourage everyone to include photos - those are the faces people need to see. It is your story and you will not have to share the webpage with anyone else. It can be edited if you find someone you are searching for and are still looking for others.

As a search angel, I have read through thousands of database entries. I have to admit that I am hard pressed to always remember where I saw pieces on information that may be relevant to a search I'm working on now. I do, however, remember a story and where I read it. I remember a face and I always remember the vivid pictures that someone's words create in my mind.

For those who may not have been touched by adoption, it gives them an opportunity to know those who have and to see their faces. These are the folks who phone their congressmen and senators when legislation is in committee; their phone calls and letters can make a difference. They have never had to tell a physician they have no medical background information and they have never been without their original birth certificate. It is an opportunity to share knowledge, to teach.

Readers will also have a chance to see the faces of adoptive parents too. There are many adoptive parents who have helped and supported their grown children in their search. The have seen first hand that in the end, it didn't result in them being set aside and it didn't result in anyone taking their place. Such stories can be an encouragement to other adoptive parents.

I also don't mind if some of you wish to get political as long as you include your basic search information. Very few states support adoptee's rights and it's time the average person hears about the hoops we have to jump through just to get minimal non-identifying information and the medical issues we have to face when knowledge before hand might have prevented them.

Reunion stories are welcome too. Someone's successful search will hold keys that others may well be able to use. It will also give others HOPE!

The Adoption Story Board is not intended to replace any of the other wonderful databases that we use on a regular basis as they are critical and important to all searches. There is no mailing list associated with it and it is not a search and support group. We have many wonderful groups and I hope those who write their stories will include the places where they have registered so that others who are considering a search may join.

The Adoption Story Board is an enhancement, a tool we can all use in seeking the same goal - reuniting our families. It's a place for information and pictures to be located on one page; a place where a human face and the words they write will stick in someone's mind. A reader will know who you are looking for, possibly what you've been through if you wish to write about that and what you look like. They might even think you look like someone they know who gave up a son or daughter years ago and is afraid to search, afraid of being rejected.

The Adoption Story Board is a branch of my genealogy web site which has been on the internet for 11 years and attracts thousands of visitors each day. I anticipate the Adoption Story Board will also get some of that traffic and that can translate into more exposure for everyone's search. Anyone will be able to search it by date or place. They don't have to join a group or a mailing list, they can just look and read. And, it's free!

As to the specifics, you write your story and send it to me along with photos. I have set up an email account for this on aol because it is easier to retrieve pictures using aol. Please send the photos as an attachment in their original size and I will resize them to fit your page. I will format the story and send you the link to it before it is published on the internet. You will have a chance to view the page before it goes public so you can make any changes you want to make.

If you blog or post anywhere on the internet, you are free to use the link to draw people to your story. I will use keywords specific to your search; the keywords are hidden in the html formatting behind the story so no one can see them but the search engines will pick up those keywords within a couple of weeks.

If you are worried about spam, I can take precautions to help eliminate that just as we have done on the genealogy side of the site. Your email address is not visible but is a direct link off your name. If someone clicks on your name, it opens up an email to you. If you want to post confidentially, that link can be set to open an email to me and and correspondence will be forwarded to you.

If you would like to participate, all you need to do is:
Please write your story in notepad not MSWord or you can write it in the email.
Send your story and your photos to Aunt Patty
Send me your contact information in the same email.

For your protection, I will not publish birth certificate numbers, phone numbers or addresses. Your contact information is confidential; just a way for me to reach you and it will never be given out to anyone without your written permission.

This project is in its infancy. I am open to all suggestions and your ideas. I have two stories posted so you can see what your story can look like. You can find them at these two urls:

Birgitta Sjoholm (this story captions the adoptee's birth
name at her request)

Cherie's Continuing Search

If you need more information, please contact me.

Peace to you and those you love,
Aunt Patty