The adoptee’s perspective…
All my life I’ve known I was adopted from Deaconess in OKC. My parents told me I was adopted way back before I could understand what it meant. They always emphasized how special I was and how very much they wanted me. I have an older brother who was also adopted and we grew up in a wonderful and loving home. I was thankful that I ended up with parents who loved me and taught me I could do and be anything I wanted to be. But still I wondered who my biological parents were and under what circumstances I was born. At age 25 I got married and shortly after that decided to send in the confidentiality waiver to Deaconess to see if either of my birth parents was searching for me. There was “no match”.
I found the Deaconess website and read about the confidential intermediary searches. Most of my curiosity growing up was aimed at my birth mother. I felt a connection with her because I now had two children of my own and had experienced all the emotions that go along with pregnancy and childbirth. I have the highest of respect for anyone unselfish enough to give up a child for adoption.
I sent in the forms and payment, wrote a letter to my birthmother and waited to hear back. Debbie called me just a few days after starting the search to let me know she had found and talked with my birthmother. Unfortunately though, my birthmother declined to meet or correspond with me. It was disappointing news. My birth mother did not provide a reason for refusing the reunion, but just told Debbie “I just can’t.” After thinking about it, I realized that there could be a number of different reasons that she could not have a reunion with me, and I respected that. That is her prerogative and it takes nothing at all away from the gift of life that she gave to me. I was encouraged that Debbie had read her my letter and that she knew I was OK, thankful to her and interested in knowing her. I hoped then as I do now that some day we would meet. I went on about my busy life, enjoying my husband, two kids and friends.
About a year later I decided to initiate a search for my birth father. I contacted Debbie again and she told me she had his full name and date of birth and felt confident she could find him. So I set my expectations good and low and prepared myself for the million reasons that it would probably not work out. Boy was I wrong!!
Debbie found and contacted Jack within just a few days of beginning the search. She immediately called me and excitedly shared with me that he was responsive and happy to hear from me. He wanted to have a reunion! He told Debbie that his wife and two adult kids have known about me for years. She read my letter to him and then mailed it to him along with my phone number and email address. She informed me that he would be contacting me directly!
Of course all this happened just as we were leaving for a family vacation, but when we returned from vacation there in my inbox was an email from my birth father! I think I stared at it forever. Indeed he did seem quite excited about hearing from me and offered to call me the next day. We exchanged pictures of ourselves and our families and I told him I’d be ready for his call.
When he called the conversation flowed easily from the very beginning and we traded all kinds of information about ourselves. It was just incredible to hear the story I had wondered about all these years and to learn about Jack and his family.
We spoke on the phone several times over that first week and I also got to talk with his wife Judy and daughter Becca. We planned our meeting and I flew from Tulsa to Denver to meet them a month later. I stayed at Jack and Judy’s home and have never felt so welcome. Over a three day period of time I got to know some of the most incredible people I’ve met in all my life. And the best part is that I now have the rest of our lives to continue knowing them. I now have a new sister, Becca and a new brother, Dan and am getting to know them and their families. Jack and Judy and I email and call regularly and are truly enjoying the addition of this relationship to our lives. I feel so very lucky and blessed!
Thanks to Deaconess, I have been “adopted” twice in my lifetime; at birth by my adoptive parent and again now by Jack and his wonderful family. I’m very thankful to the Deaconess Home and to Debbie for making this possible! I hope that my story will encourage any adoptee who has experienced a disappointment in his or her search for birth parents to try for the other parent. You just might get lucky like me!
Thoughts from a birth father…
Sometime during the first part of 1965 my girlfriend informed me that she had become pregnant. Or as I really understood it, that WE had become pregnant. Fatherhood, just like motherhood, is serious business and thankfully I understood it that way and tried to act accordingly.
I do remember quite well that hot, humid summer, we had no car, as I recall, and would walk to the local corner convenience store for sundry needs, a popsicle cost just a nickel and we must have had dozens, trying to keep cool. Our little black and white TV, our books and our radio…that was about it back then. As I recall we didn’t know a soul; just the two of us, the real love we shared and our pregnancy. I just couldn’t face marriage and fatherhood. I felt like I was just getting started in the great adventure of life and had a momentous decision to make.
In the fall I returned to college, as agreed, and my girlfriend went on to Deaconess Home to live and to eventually bear our child. We did communicate by letter and phone. By December I had received a tiny Polaroid snapshot of a tiny baby girl. Her physical details were almost completely obscured due to the poor photography. This was to be my first and last contact with my first biological child.
For the next almost forty years, this baby would remain an abstraction; a kind of potential reality out there somewhere.
In August 2005 I made a phone call to Debbie Campbell in response to her phone message left on my answering machine. Debbie carefully explained that my daughter was in search of her bio- dad, if you will, and asked if I wished to cooperate. I had no reason to hesitate…yes, of course! A letter composed by Jana soon followed in the mail and in quick succession we emailed one another, spoke on the phone, and exchanged some digital photos and soon Jana was on her way to Colorado. Because I had told my wife and two children of Jana’s existence so many years ago, introducing her into our lives presented no problem whatsoever. On the contrary, she was welcomed with love and a certain sense of wonder. What a thrill this was! Our response to her was warm and natural and overwhelmingly, above all, a human response. Another dimension to my life… What a privilege! Obviously the product of a loving and caring upbringing, Jana is a high quality person. We think of her and her husband and two great kids as extended family now. My wife and I plan to travel to Oklahoma this month to meet Jana’s whole crew.
An interesting aside… for reasons I myself do not understand I had chosen to keep a piece of artwork executed by her Birth Mother way back in 1965. This highly personal piece provides a very realistic view of the single room we shared, off campus, with all the furniture and personal objects belonging to each of us. The piece is a clear, meticulous projection of her vision and artistic talents. Jana and I made a color copy together at Kinko’s. The original was hers to keep. A copy, in full color, is still in my possession. Her mother’s artwork, wow! I really had a persistent feeling that I kept the artwork all those years to present to our daughter one day.
Thanks to Jana’s bravery, persistence and curiosity, each of our separate nuclear families have become extended family to one another and thereby enriched. This is a boom to us all.
I want to extend my sincere appreciation and thanks to Deaconess for “being there” at my time of need so long ago, as well as for being instrumental in bringing all of us together when the time was right. Thank you for enriching my life through Jana. – Jack Wartell, September 2005