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October 9th was my 20-year anniversary since I first spoke to my birth mother by telephone. My search was short and quick (about two months) thanks to open adoption records in Alberta, Canada. Many emotions erupted from within me, like a dam bursting, the first time I heard my birth mother’s voice. That night has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

My reunion, as many adoptee reunions are, has been an emotional roller coaster. At times, I felt very connected to my birth mother, like two magnets drawn to each other. However, if one magnet is turned around, the magnets will be repelled from each other. Unfortunately, my adoption reunion has been like that. Feeling connected one moment and then something happens where the dynamics between my birth mother and I are such that we don’t have contact for weeks, months, or even years.

This dynamic has been my adoption reunion reality. I’ve spent about half of my reunion time in therapy, private counseling, and being involved with my local adoption support group “Adoption Knowledge Affiliates” or AKA for short. I went into therapy to find myself, to process emotions and feelings, and to learn to grow as a person. Much of my life I’ve spent living in fear of making decisions. Decisions about my career, who I was supposed to be according to what I thought I was expected to be.

My birth mother used to criticize me for her perceptions on my inabilities to be decisive. She would claim I couldn’t make a decision without getting my adoptive mother’s approval or consulting with her first. She would call me “needy” or call me a “liar” if I claim I could not remember a conversation that allegedly happened. I say allegedly because some things she spoke about did not happen.

I began to step back and look at the reality of my relationship with my birth mother. After taking off the rose colored glasses and my pointless efforts of trying to fix our relationship, I began to see what other people clearly saw. I read more on adoption for my own understanding of what may be going on between my birth mother and me.

My journey of growing and understanding our reunion has not been easy. In my fantasy world, I considered my birth mother to be loving and supportive (and at times she was and can be). The flip side to this side has not been easy to accept or deal with.

After reading about the current situation between Rosie O’Donnell and her adopted daughter Chelsea, I can sadly relate to the nasty texts and unloving messages Rosie has sent to Chelsea. And sadly, over the years, I have reacted in ways I am not proud of either.

Last month on our 20 year reunion anniversary, I sent my birth mother a message via Facebook to acknowledge our 20 year milestone. It was Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada that weekend and so I wished her a Happy Thanksgiving as well.

She replied later that evening but I knew from past experience that I should not read it until the morning. Just in case something triggering could be in her message.

Sure enough, my instincts were correct. She acknowledged our anniversary and the birth of my grandson in September. However, she did express that I should have considered “other people’s feelings”  when I posted on MY Facebook wall this summer when I shared pictures of my reunion with my paternal birth family.

The last several years my birth mother has expressed that she was “so over adoption” and that she didn’t want to be identified as a birth mother anymore. I’m not sure what brought her to that place in her journey, but I thought I had respected her wishes. I did not post any pics of her or mention her in any Facebook posts while I reunited with my paternal family.

However, for whatever reason, she seemed to make MY reunion all about her and her feelings (again). Maybe she was upset I didn’t contact her while I was up there. My trip was primarily to spend time with my son,  my grandmother and hopefully meet my paternal birth family. My trip was not about her, but about me finding my biological roots and meeting the other side of my family.

I could see her point of feeling I ignored her when I was up in Canada. However, she had wanted to ask me to remove the photos of my reunion with my paternal family because of how “other’s felt” or more likely, how “she” felt about those photos.

Again, I felt a deep sense of repression and invalidation of my feelings. Her message also said she was happy for me to be able to meet my paternal family. But it seems to me she wanted me to keep my reunion hush-hush behind closed doors. Sorry but that does not work for me. It does not work for the Millions of adoptees who have had to be good, compliant, and silenced for decades about speaking their truth or my truth. I came out from the fog of adoption several years ago and I will not go back.

To show signs of my growth in my adoption reunion journey, I took a few days to respond to my birth mother. Normally I would have likely flown off the handle and reacted to her in a rage of anger, wanting to defend myself. I still defended myself in my reply, but it was well thought out about what I wanted and more importantly, needed to take care of myself.

I don’t hate my birth mother. I have never blamed her for my issues regarding being adopted. I did tell her one time that I had challenges being adopted and I don’t think she wanted to hear that. I know I was spared from likely abuse on both sides of my family and for that I am truly grateful. However, I am not grateful for all the years of being a kept secret or not being able to grow up with my siblings, mainly my brothers, both maternal and paternal. Those years can never be reclaimed and I accept that is the starting point of my relationship with my biological families.

The thing people do not realize is that despite what was thought of as “best for adoptees” either newborns or those in foster care, we did not have a say in what we wanted or what was best for us. As adult adoptees, we do have a say in what we feel is best for us.

We have a right to our past. We have a right to speak our truth and share how we feel. We have the right to be open about our journey and not edit ourselves just to appease others anymore. Many of us grew up thinking we had to “earn our approval” with our adoptive families. Chasing that unobtainable goal or level of acceptance is a squirrel cage.

As in any relationship, if one person is not willing to listen or grow, then it can become toxic.It’s painful and so difficult to let go of a relationship that you want it to “work out.” But sometimes it’s too painful to stay.

Here is a phrase I use from some advice my old therapist used to tell me.

“The well is dry.

It is time to say goodbye.”

This July I traveled back to Calgary, Alberta Canada to celebrate my son’s 25th birthday and to meet his girlfriend. They are expecting a baby boy in mid-September (yes, I will be a grandpa for the first time).

During my visit, I was fortunate enough to meet up with my paternal brother Aaron, whom I first met in March, 2011. We spent three hours together as I drove him back to the family farm in Southern Alberta. I’ve always cherished that experience with him and I wanted to build on our reunion.

After landing at the airport in Calgary, AB I drove up to Red Deer to meet him for lunch. As we embraced again, I felt safe and I began crying, not realizing how much I had missed him. Our first ever lunch together, the conversation between us felt so easy and natural to us both, like we had known each other our whole lives.

After lunch, I was able to meet his girlfriend and his step-mother Kathy, who had welcomed me into the family when Aaron and I first met. Though Kathy and I knew each other through Facebook, we had never spoken on the phone before or met in person. Aaron spoke very highly of her and I wanted to meet her and thank her for welcoming me as openly as she has.

I ended up staying overnight at Aaron’s that night for the first time. Saying goodbye to him as he left for work in the morning was hard but I felt grateful for reconnecting again.  I wasn’t sure when I would see him again but I thanked him and told him I loved him.

A couple days later, I received a text from Aaron, informing me his mother wanted to meet me for a meal and get to know me. This news excited me but I was also a bit nervous. I called his mother and we spoke on the phone for a few minutes. We agreed to meet and so I picked her up at her house and went for dinner.

She was very open about my birth father, the father of her three sons. Sadly, he was a very abusive man both towards her and my brothers. I felt sorry for what they had endured by him and also grateful I was spared from that abuse. He had kept me a secret from her and my brothers. Had she known about me, she would have insisted we search for me.

Over the next couple of days, I helped Aaron’s mother pack for her move into an apartment, I was able to meet her sister, who happened to be married to a brother of my birth father (my paternal uncle). She would talk to her husband to see if he wanted to meet with me (which he did want to meet me).

A couple days later, I drove to their house to meet and go out for dinner. About a ¼ mile from their house, my fears of rejection overcame me and I had to pull over to compose myself. Finally, I was able to get myself together enough to drive to their house. His wife answered the door and invited me in. I felt very nervous and I held back tears. My uncle entered the front door behind me and we shook hands and he gave me a hug. We then proceeded to sit in the living room where they told me a lot more family history about my birth father and the family.

We went out for dinner and spoke more about the family and many other things. I felt very comfortable with them and I thanked them for meeting me and the wonderful meal.  This reunion could not have gone any better.

I flew to British Columbia for a few days to see my grandmother. While I was there, Aaron’s mother texted me, informing me her eldest son wanted to meet me as well. Thankfully I was able to change my travel plans and stay a few more days and the pieces fell into place. I drove with Aaron’s mother to Canmore, AB where her son and his family were attending a wedding.

We all met up for lunch that Saturday. With his 6’5” frame, he towered over me (I’m 5’10”) and his wife is 6’1” as well.  Our meal was at a local restaurant that served food from local growers. My brother and I sat across from each other. He answered all my questions and I answered all of their questions too. Again, I felt sorry for what our mutual bio father had put them through.

After lunch, we met up at a local park, which happened to have a car show there as well. The weather was beautiful, a true reflection of my new found relatives. We said goodbye as my brother and his family had to go get ready for the wedding. His mother and I went to Banff and spent the afternoon and evening sightseeing and having dinner.

I drove the car home and I talked a bit more with their mother. She had endured so much with my birth father that I could not possibly imagine what she went through. We embraced one more time and I thanked her for helping me facilitate meeting her son and my uncle. Although I miss them very much, I look forward to continuing our relationships in the future.

Tonight I almost died in a car accident. After playing golf and catching up with a friend I was heading into Temple, TX to drop off a gas grill for my buddy Ronnie. The GPS on my IPhone was directing me to a route I was not familiar with but I followed the directions the map stated to travel. I stopped at a stop sign for a few seconds and then I proceeded forward, assuming the intersection was a four-way stop.

It wasn’t.

Out of the corner of my left eye I could barely make out a large vehicle before impact. Immediately my 2002 Toyota Tundra was sent spinning in a counter clockwise direction. From time of impact to the time my truck came to a rest up the hill could not have been more than a few seconds. However, the experience i felt will last with me forever. 

Those few seconds were some of the most surreal moments I’ve ever faced. I wasn’t prepared for this accident to become my reality and shatter my comfort zone within my life. But the accident did happen and, for whatever plan the universe has for me, I am still here.

Had I waited another second to cross the intersection, the semi truck that jarred my truck would have surely killed me. Had I proceeded one second or so earlier than I did, my truck and I would be unscathed and my life would have gone on without incident or the “wake up call” that people many of us experience at different times in our lives.

Thankfully, no one else was hurt in the accident. Some witnesses came to help me out of my truck and gather some of my personal items. Soon the fire department arrived and then an ambulance and the police. I agreed to be evaluated by the paramedics but I did not go to the hospital (I will get checked out tomorrow morning).

Regretfully, I did not get a chance to thank the good Samaritans who helped me during my time of need. The police woman who responded to the accident could not have been any nicer and supportive. My friend Ronnie and his girlfriend Cindy came and took me to their place. My wonderful wife Christine who was settling into bed for the evening came to get me and take me back home.

I can only be thankful and grateful tonight for this second chance of my continued existence on this planet. My left collar bone and neck are severely bruised from the seat belt but I know my body will heal in time. No broken bones, no death announcements or funeral arrangements need to be made. These are the blessings I am thinking of as I write these words.

A friend of mine I used to play squash with in my hometown of Peace River, Alberta, Canada told me “It only takes one second to change your life.” And tonight, i know those words of wisdom to be more clear and true than ever.

Thank you to my friends and family on Facebook for all of your support. Namaste

Daryn Watson

House Bill 984 (HB 984) died a painful and unnecessary death in the Texas State Senate tonight. The bill would have granted an estimated 540,000 adult adoptees in the Great State of Texas access to their Original Birth Certificates (OBC’s). The bill was fair, clean and potentially some of the most advanced legislation in the United State…had it been allowed to pass.

The demise of HB 984 was more political greed by the few, if not, one Texas state senator, Donna Campbell. Allegedly, she shamefully brought and paraded her young adopted daughter on the Senate floor, seemingly as an act of defiance to the supporters of HB 984.

Many adoptees, birth parents, and even adoptive parents supported HB 984. Support Texas Adoptee Rights (STAR) spearheaded by Connie Gray, Marcie Purcell and many others, along with Erica Babino, Shawna Hodgson, and many others all saw our efforts and hopes squashed as the Senate closed over an hour early tonight.

I was not born in Texas but I’ve lived in Austin, TX for over half of my life now. Thankfully when I began my search in 1995, the laws in Alberta Canada had changed to where I could get my identifying information. My search took less than two months from the time I wrote the Alberta Government to the time I first spoke with my birth mother for the first time EVER!

Although I didn’t have a personal need for HB984 to pass, I wanted to and felt compelled to support my fellow adoptees in our support group, Adoption Knowledge Affiliates, and the over half-,million adoptees in Texas. Finding our heritage, our lineage, medical history and identities is imperative to us. It is also our constitutional 14th amendment right to be treated as equal citizens under the US Constitution.

Tonight I feel emotionally defeated, like most of my fellow adoptees who fought tooth and nail for this ground breaking legislation. I feel rejected and angry, like many adoptees who may never find their birth families alive. Instead of finding answers to their questions, they may likely find an obituary or a gravestone.

Think about how that would feel Donna Campbell. Have you ever gotten much comfort from a piece of paper or a slab of stone? Not likely.

How Are You Interpreting Events?

The A-B-C Psychology Model describes an event (A), the reaction (B) and the Consequence (C). The “B” part of this Psychology equation is the only thing each of us have any control over. To put it another way, my church minister once said “When you enter a room, you do not see the room. You see your thoughts about the room.”

I believe good communication is vital in relationships, especially in adoption reunions. Many of us assume we “know” what the other person is thinking or feeling, when in fact, we may really not have a clue. We can guess what someone thinks or how they might react to a situation, but we really don’t know for sure how someone will respond to a situation.

Several months before the turn of the new millennium, I was visiting my birth mother and her family in the city they resided in southern Alberta, Canada. The relationship between my birth mother’s family had improved a great deal, especially with her husband.

Ever since I met them, I had thoughts of moving back to Canada from Texas as a way to get to know my biological family better. While visiting them on that particular trip, I researched the possibility of buying  a rental property, thinking this could get me some income and allow me to live there for relatively cheap while I relocated and searched for employment.

Part of my mindset was that this would make my birth mother happy, living in the same city and to be able to see each other on a regular basis. I also dreamed of becoming closer to at least one of my brothers, the youngest one with whom I seemed to get along with.

Fast forward a decade later. I stayed in Austin, got married, and continued my business. My wife and I had some trials and tribulations, especially with the economy. Like many people, we had to downsize (for several reasons) due to financial challenges. During this time, we kept our financial situation private from my birth mother and her family. I also kept my distance that year, only calling her three times that year, according to her scorecard.

A few months later, I received another nasty letter from her, full of anger, misconceptions and LOTS OF PROJECTING on her part. The letter both hurt and infuriated me at the same time. She ended the letter by stating she didn’t want contact and that she would “pray for me” that I find God (because she was so “in touch” with God at the time).

In a bit of a panic, I called her husband at work to find out what was going on, as I wanted to honor her declaration that she did not want to talk to me. He didn’t really elaborate what was happening with her and that I should call her directly. I did confide in him that we were going through some financial troubles and it had been very stressful but we were taking steps to get ourselves back on track.

I would learn a few months later that my perceptions of wanting to move back to Canada ten years earlier were “not wanted” and that my motive for wanting to return to Canada (according to my birth mother) was due to the “strained” relationship I had with my adopted mother at the time (apparently based on things I had told my birth mother).

“HUH?!? Where the hell did you get these erroneous beliefs,” I thought. I was completely perplexed by hearing this from her. She continued to say that she didn’t want me to move to their city because of “the BACKLASH on her.”

I was completely stunned by this. My mind kept racing to think of what I allegedly told my birth mother about my “strained” relationship with my adopted mom. For the life of me, I could not think of what she was eluding to. Unsuccessfully, I tried to explain my true motives and feelings of wanting to move back to Canada at the time, but she would not hear of it. Her mind was made up, end of story, case closed, etc.

This painful revelation into what my birth mother was really capable of became gut-wrenchingly clear to me. My “fantasy” birth mother was shattered and my “true” real-life birth mother was showing herself, and she did not seem very appealing at all.

She stated she refused to discuss my adoption with her anymore “because it hurt her too much.” This was after years of being an “open book” to me, answering any question I had asked (and revealing many unsolicited details that I did not want to know about her past and about most people in her life).  She was angry and she had spent decades stuffing her feelings about relinquishing me.

For years, I encouraged her to get counseling for her adoption experience, as it had helped me immensely. My hope was that she would learn to rid herself of the colossal emotional burden she carried with her; guilt, anger, shame, denial, etc. But she refused to get help or actually deal with her trauma. This saddened me greatly but I realized that was her choice and path to follow and that it is not my job to heal her. Only she can do that.

Since these revelations two and a half years ago, we’ve had little contact between each other. At times, I do miss having a connection with her and that saddens me. When I hear other adoption reunion stories at AKA (Adoption Knowledge Affiliates in Austin, TX), I feel myself become numb and withdrawn. I want to be happy for those with a positive, ongoing adoption reunion, but at the same time, I feel jealous that I can’t currently relate to what other adoptee reunions are like.

There is a part of me still wanting a connection with my youngest brother on my birth mother’s side. Hopefully sooner than later I will reach out to him and see if he is willing to re-establish a relationship outside of our shared mother. My expectations of this reconnection are not high, but the fear of rejection from him is present. The “not knowing” if he wants to have contact is a burden and I want to get the courage to take that step and see what awaits .Happy Easter everyone.

Take care,

Daryn Watson

 

When I began my adoption reunion search sixteen years ago, most of my thoughts were focused just on finding my birth mother. Given the fact my search took less than two months until I found her, I didn’t have a lot of time to contemplate other possible family members, such as siblings, cousins, aunts or uncles, grandparents, etc.
After finding my birth mother, though, I fantasized about spending our first Christmas together. The thought of being with her during this special holiday meant a tremendous amount to me, and I was determined to make it happen.
What I still failed to realize was the potential tensions of how my birth mother’s husband or other sons would respond or react to my presence. There was excitement for sure, but there was also a lot of tension that arose due to the extreme emotions that can arise during an adoption reunion.
I read somewhere that meeting your birth family and dealing with your birth family is similar to meeting in-laws and learning to relate with them. I was single when I began my search, so the concept of “in-laws” did not really hit home with me because I had not gone through that experience.
This Christmas, I spent with my wife and her in-laws in another state. I had some experience with her family, but I had not been in a position where I was around them for days on end nor staying in their house. After some tensions and regretful actions from both sides early on in our trip, I realized what it meant when I read that meeting one’s birth family is similar to meeting one’s in-laws.
For me, there was more incentive to meet and get to know my birth mother and her family because I did not have that chance for the first twenty-five years of my life. I wanted to stay and get to know them more, even though our reunion was challenging at times.
The key, I think, is for the adoptee to remember to do things to continually take care of themselves while going through the reunion process. That may mean journaling, exercising, taking a walk, meditating, or just taking time out away from others for a few hours to relax and recharge. Taking time for oneself will give you, and your birth family or in-laws time alone as well.
The family dynamics and energy of birth families or in-laws can vary drastically from what an adoptee or anyone is used to. We do have to learn to adapt to others’ but we don’t have to abandon ourselves entirely. If you need a time out for yourself, then take it. If someone else needs a time out from you, respect that too. It likely means they are not rejecting you. It probably means they want a chance to take care of themselves in their own way too.
Communicate that what you need clearly to each other and reassure each other that you are not “going away” but that you just need a chance to recharge your batteries (or decompress if that is the case). You have the right to do that. In the long run, taking care of you and feeling centered will enhance the relationship with birth family or in-laws.