The me I might have been

A co-worker/friend and I were discussing adoption last week. We discuss (talk incessantly) about lots of things but adoption comes up fairly often for obvious reasons. This particular conversation came up as "my search guy" had called and asked if I'd heard anything from my biological mother since writing her the last letter.

The circumstances surrounding my being adopted was one of the things my co-worker and I were once again discussing and I was explaining to her that some adopted people refer to themselves as bastards and how although I have no problem with that and kind of understand why they would, why they can, but because of this it's occurred to me that had I not been adopted, it's very likely I would have been thought of and treated like I was a bastard, in the true sense of the word.

Having been born 47 years ago to a woman who was very involved in the Catholic religion, fathered by a man who was married but separated, would not have likely been the occasion of celebration most births are. I think it's safe to say that had I been kept and raised by an unmarried woman under these circumstances I would most assuredly have a different feeling about myself now. I would have grown up that grandchild, that niece, that cousin, that sister who was illegitimate, that unwanted stain of shame. I've been told that being adopted doesn't make me chosen, that my parents would have taken any child that had come up, and, I know this is true, but I was wanted and was treated by everyone in my family as if I was.

My personality type is very sensitive to negativity. I can't stand it when I think someone's mad at me although as I've matured I realize not everyone likes everyone and sometimes some people just aren't worth the effort or compromise it would take for them to like me.

I am relieved to have grown up wanted, to have grown up without an undeserved stigma, to be adopted and wanted rather than an unwanted bastard. I shudder to think of the me I might have been.


  1. Campbell,
    That shame you think you would have felt if you had not been adopted, its in there. Its not your fault, but just like your typical adoptee need to make everyone like you, its there deep inside.

    I'm sorry your nmother has not responded. Mine did not respond to my first correctly objective, calm letter either. It was only when I wrote from the heart and opened myself up a little more that she responded. Of course it was only with a few letters, but it was some imformation.

  2. The typical adoptee thing can't fly with me Lori because I have the luxury of having a sister who's also adopted and although love each other, we could not be more different.

    I no longer have a need to make everyone like me but the fact that I like people to like me, that I hate negativity has nothing to do with being adopted. My brother, who was biological to my parents, was the same.

    The point of my post is that I am without a societal/familial shame imposed, and for that I'm relieved. My personality wouldn't have thrived in under those conditions.

    Don't be sorry, although I appreciate your kind words, that my biological mother hasn't responded. I understand and am honestly ok with it. Really, really, really. Although I brought it up to describe why the conversation took place, it's not what the post is about.

    Thanks for the comment and kind words my friend : )

  3. Campbell,
    This is an interesting post. We all wonder sometimes "what if I would have _____ instead of ______." (taken the road not traveled). What is different about adoption is that the choice was made by others, the adoptee has/had no control. And the decision completely alters the adoptee's life forever. EVERYTHING is different than it would have been. I can't imagine (since I am not adopted) how overwhelming that must feel. Mei Ling's posts have had me thinking about that. I am glad you are at peace with it.

    I know many adoptees talk about feeling the need to please everyone and have everyone like them. It may indeed be due to adoption. However, I am here to say I am the same way. I am most definitely a people-pleaser and get myself roped into all kinds of things because of it. I was the one who got stuck rooming with the "bitch" in our sorority in college because no one else could get along with her. I am the one neighborhood moms call when they are in a bind and need someone to watch their kids or take their kids somewhere - why? Because they know I will say yes. I hate to fight or argue and this is actually a bad thing because I get angry LATER and hate myself for not sticking up for myself. The only time I am confrontational is when it has to do with my kids and even then there are many times I let things slide when I shouldn't to avoid confrontation and seeming "difficult". Is this a personality thing or an upbringing thing? In MY case I think it is nature, not nurture. (I can get confrontational online - I guess because it is much less personal.)

    I am glad you felt loved and special growing up. That is what all children deserve.

  4. One of the many differences between Mei Ling and I is something I've just become aware of.

    I, being white and adopted by a white family has allowed me to escape what was referred to as adoption exhaustion.

    Adoption for me, doesn't come up unless I bring it up. Nobody knows I'm adopted unless I or someone else tells them.

  5. Campbell, I get it. There is a huge amount of what if's, and maybes. Everyone does that. I find that the what ifs and maybes are just that.

    The need to be likd is something that I don't get. LOL! Like taht is not obvious. I honestly believe that a friend that will tell you that you look like crap in an outfit or that you need to get the spinach out of your teeth has much more value than someone who agrees all the time.

    You and I disagree on a lot of things, but we do it with a smile. Which is to say, it is confrontation that you can't handle, not this "not being liked". My husband was much like that - and like you said, it isn't about being adopted.

  6. Oops, I mixed up Lora and Lori...I think?

  7. @ Lori....in fact I can handle the odd confrontation now and then, I just can't handle them with people I like ; )

  8. Campbell, the thing is, it is not the confrontation, it is about not wanting to be disliked in a confrontational fashion. So, like, instead of telling your friend that her outfit is not all that good looking, you might simply ignore it.



  9. Campbell, there is a third possibility, that your mother would have raised you as a very much wanted child, and that she may have married after you were born and you may have had a step-dad to "legitimize" you. The 'what if's can indeed be endless.

    On another unrelated note about illegitimacy and language, I've been thinking: Hypothetically, if a child is born to married parents and surrendered by the parents (let's say, due to poverty), and then is adopted by an single parent (like Angelina Jolie, etc.), does that mean the child is thus "bastardized"? Hmmm....

  10. With the facts I know,I picture it like this....

    It's 1963 and a woman is seeing a man who's married but living separately from his wife and becomes pregnant by him. Said woman is very involved in the Catholic religion, along with, and likely because of, her parents/family. Marriage at this time would have been impossible because of the religious beliefs.

    If marriage is impossible due to religious beliefs, rolling out the welcome wagon for a baby is even more ludicrous to expect.

    No matter whether my mother would have raised me as wanted by her, in those days Cedar you know as well as I do, I wouldn't have been wanted by anyone else and I'm pretty sure in those crazy times there could ever have been anything done to legitimize me except for what was done.

    I think that a practical woman did what was best for the both of us for those times, and I respect her very much for it.

    As far as the unrelated note you bring up, I see what you're saying. I for one am so very very thankful that at least in some parts of the world a "bastardized" child no longer even exists.

  11. "I for one am so very very thankful that at least in some parts of the world a "bastardized" child no longer even exists."

    Me too.

  12. Man I cringed when you wrote that you grew up wanted. LOL I was expecting a ton of backlash over that reference...especially from birth parents.

    I know many people that are adopted and don't feel the need to be liked by everyone. I'm like that myself. And I know lots of people that aren't adopted and feel the need to be people pleasers and make best friends everywhere. To be its a nature vs nurture arguement. My brothers don't feel the need to be liked by everyone either. They are bio sibling with each other and not with me. Yet in many ways we couldn't be more different. I dislike when people stereotype based on adoption/bio. My mother refers to part of my personality as "fight or flight" and she's somewhat true in describing it as that. I don't feel the need to be liked by everyone and sometimes if there is confrontation I will confront back(no...really Alex???) and then not run away because I am scared or upset but just because I think like is too short and why bother having people in your life that make you unhappy. Other times, with good friends if I get in an disagreement, and we have years of history I won't "flight" because real relationships have ups and downs and they are worth fighting for. So I ignore my nature to not bother, and I make it work. And its worth it.

    My mom still firmly believes that my flight or flight response has to do with my being adopted. Which I feel is absolute bunk. I am secure in my adoption and don't feel that I was abandoned(although I do occasionally shrug and say I was a bastard and now I'm a bitch...so I don't get offended or upset over being though of as a bastard (had I not been adopted)...or a bitch!!) and I don't feel that I was thrown away. I was very much wanted by my parents. Possibly even very much wanted by my birth parents. So blaming adoption on my fight or flight response is as stupid as blaming the need to please on being adopted in my opinion. Because both my brothers also have a flight or flight response. So maybe my parents just raise independant kids that don't like to be bossed around.

  13. I hear you Campbell. The situation that I would have lived in had I not been adopted is not a pretty one either....even without the stigma of the 60's..... the 'what if's' resounding in the brain can be deafening, cant they?

  14. Lol Alex. It likely has to do with the fact that I've made it pretty clear my biological mom isn't suffering in the way some do. I think people who read here know that me saying I grew up wanted wasn't a slight against her. It's just a fact of my circumstance. You and I are on the same page as far as stereotypical adoptee traits. It's impossible to know this as fact because there are too many players and situations to establish any givens. Plus, the "real" kids can be messed up too ; )

    Amanda, the best part for me is that they're not deafening for me now, if they once were. Part of who I am is adoption and I'm fine with that part. I understand I'm fortunate, even privileged in my experience, that I'm one person who's as well off (if not better) as had I not been adopted. I'd like to think that even without that luxury I'd be able to get to a place where I'd know it's not about me as a person. That I'm just as here and just as real as anyone who's from an intact family, that I'd know this is the only life I get and it's a precious one.

  15. Unfortunately, in my experiences, that stigma of illegitimacy is there even with the adoption label. It is assumed. People talk, when they learn you are adopted, they talk, they usually just don't do it to your face. I know this because I don't tell many irl of my adoptee status. They assumed I am like them and they talk about adopted people when they are out of earshot.
    Back in the day, I had a boyfriend who told me after dating me for over a year, that I could NEVER tell his family I was adopted because if I did they would reject me. First, because of my assumed illegitimate status and secondly because if I wasn't good enough to be raised in my own family, I wouldn't ever be good enough for theirs.
    This is a guy who claimed to love me! He said it to me. To my face.
    We did not stay together much longer after that.
    The reality (at least for me) is that most of us adoptees ARE illegitimate. It seems silly to pretend otherwise. A piece of paper submitted to a court in chapter two of my life does not negate my chapter one. I have access to my records and I have a document from my birth record that asks the question "Legitimate?" with a big check through "NO".
    It's there with my original non-name on it. It's been sitting in a file my whole life.
    And people knew it.
    Adoption does nothing to erase the stain of illegitimacy. It's there and it's real. It's just nobody is usually rude enough to say it to your face.
    I say, who cares? Who cares? Who cares what the neighbors think?
    That's why I don't have a problem being a bastard. It's more honest.
    Believe me, I've been called worse.
    And anyway, it's true. I am illegitimate. I've even got the papers to prove it.

  16. Wow, ok I have to try that, act like I'm not adopted around someone and see what they say. See, I've never been in that situation, that I can remember anyway. Obviously nothing that made any kind of a lasting impact anyway. Never had a boyfriend say anything like that either.

    There's really a box to check asking Legitimate Y or N ?!?! Huh. Another wow.

    See, I know I'm as legitimately illegitimate as any other bastard. But I've never been treated in the negative sense the word bastard implies or used to imply. I would have though had I not been adopted and I firmly believe that would have affected me.

  17. Also, I don't believe in the application of the word illegitimate to a baby. A baby is THE most innocent member of any society.

  18. It gets worse. Some of the jurisdictions that didn't have the check-box on the form just used a big red stamp with the word "Illegitimate" on the birth record. :(

  19. Very good post, Campbell. I am thankful that I grew up wanted as well.

  20. I'm a bastard and proud of it,it's adoption that gives me problems.I hate the word illegitimate, I like to think I'm no less legitimate than anyone else.
    The 'what if's?" are usually unproductive and not useful in becoming who we are, survivors if we work at it.

  21. I hear what you are saying, most definitely. I also get what Issy says, because I think what she discusses is the prevailing societal attitude, unfortunately. If it weren't, I think OBC access wouldn't be debated as hotly as it is in some adoption circles - the closed-minded ones, that is. Unfortunately, a lot of those closed-minded people are in positions of power, so there you go.

    Re this "Also, I don't believe in the application of the word illegitimate to a baby. A baby is THE most innocent member of any society."

    Right on! That absolutely has to stop!!

  22. I wrote about it loooong ago. Just reposted it. "Item 20".
    I've found that reunion sometimes makes it difficult to discern what is real. It's taken me a bit to figure out that who I am is all I get.

    I also don't know state to state if "Item 20" exists for everyone. I just know it was on mine.

  23. I've thought about that a bit lately, too. In one of my recent posts about my birth mother, that thought came through: that even if I had been kept by her, I would have just brought shame upon her and her family. And who wants to live with that?

  24. "Who I am is all I get" is a great thing to figure out.

    Item 20 sucks.


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