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was painful for her."
GINGER, an adoptive mother, tried for three years to start a family after she married. She says that when she was waiting to adopt a child, "every hour of every day felt like an eternity." Adopting her daughter was the happiest time in her life and she was shocked when WHITNEY was diagnosed at age nine with "a feeling of abandonment." WHITNEY tells us that when she was young, "My mom and I were complete opposites and I never really felt that she understood where I was coming from and vice versa." After some rocky teenage years, WHITNEY and GINGER now enjoy a good relationship.
TOM, a birthfather, says that he was told it was "selfish" of him to want to keep his son, since he was 16 and his girlfriend, Rita, whom he loved, was 15 years old. After the relinquishment he felt like "a jinx in her life" and his self-esteem plummeted. Nineteen years later, they reconnect and later marry after finding their son.
RON was raised an only child. He had suspicions, but did not find out he was adopted until after his parents died when he was 36. He says, "I had a dawning sense of anger and rage at my adoptive parents for keeping this a secret, for lying to me my entire life. I also started to feel very sad about it. Since they were dead there was no resolution to this." Two years later, RON searches and finds out his birthmother has died, and that he has 12 full and half siblings.
DOLORES was an honor student in college in 1964, when she got pregnant. Her mother wouldnt let her bring her baby home and so she relinquished her son for adoption. DOLORES later married. After she gave birth to her second son and brought him home DOLORES says she "cried realizing what I had given up. What I had lost." She finds her first son when he is 19 years old.
DEBBIE is Japanese American and transracially adopted. She grew up feeling "a complete lack of empowerment" and that fundamental choices were not hers to make. "If Im just good enough, I wont get given away again. If you dont have a real identity and youve constructed a false identity, its a very fragile thing." DEBBIE always wondered what it was like to be Japanese. It takes having a child to give her the courage to search for her birth family.
PAUL is Filipino American and transracially adopted. His adoptive mother is Chinese, his adoptive father Irish. He grew up believing he was half Chinese. Even though he finds his birthmother, he says, "I feel like Im living in this strange separated slice of time. Im having a hard time joining up my history and what comes before, the family before and having a sense of moving beyond today into the future."
HAL and his wife had a biological daughter, then decided to adopt a mixed race child. They love their son, but were ill-prepared to raise an African American child. MARTIN is HALs adopted son. MARTIN says, "We didnt get along.... Had to do a lot of family counseling when I was young. I was the identified problem." It wasn't until HAL and his wife looked at it from a new perspective, "adoption was the central issue that we hadnt really dealt with" that things turned around. They help MARTIN find his birth family.
SHEILA, the filmmaker and a birthmother says, "From the day I signed the paper I wanted to find my daughter and tell her I love her." Later on she says, "my arms ached to hold her. I can remember one Halloween seeing kids in costumes and wondering what she might be wearing." SHEILA never had other children. "How could I have one and keep it, after giving one away?" She finds her daughter when she is 19 years old.
ALICE, a birthmother, became pregnant out-of-wedlock in 1922. She lived in an "infant asylum" until she gave birth to her son. ALICE intended to return for her baby, once she made proper arrangements. ALICE tells us, " and when I wrote to the Sister that I was coming for my baby, I immediately got a letter back that told me he had died."
ALISON underwent several years of infertility treatment until she and her husband decided to adopt. They wanted it to be an open adoption, because ALISON knows what her six adopted cousins are going through in closed adoptions. When asked if her adopted twin sons will be confused, she replies, "How can they be confused when you are telling them the truth." PHYLLIS did not have the means to keep her twin sons and so chose ALISON and her husband to raise them. Relinquishing her sons was very emotional for her. Phyllis says, "I began to visit the boys about twice a week for the first year. Thats the only thing that saved me."
HELEN HILL narrates a brief history of adoption from the Orphan Train Era, 1856-1929, to the sealing of adoption records during the 1930s, to the practice of open adoptions initiated in the 1980s, and the current civil rights struggle for adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificate being fought in state legislatures. HELEN HILL, an adoptee was Chief Petitioner for ballot Measure 58 in Oregon. This landmark legislation passed in 1998, giving adult adoptees in Oregon unconditional access to their original birth certificate.
(c) 2017 Sheila Ganz