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Pia Savage

Secrets And Lies: a Closed Adoption Story

My adoptive parents did all they could to tell me the truth.

"canstockphoto', 'stock illustration', used with permission'.
Source: "canstockphoto', 'stock illustration', used with permission'.

As always, this is about me. I can't and won't generalize as generalizations are what caused half or more of my problems. I drive people crazy because I won't generalize and will only judge myself.

This began as a Facebook status. I read an article that made me angry. I had never felt "entitled" to my anger until a friend pointed out that I wasn't jealous as I thought I was but angry because internally I'm a people pleaser but I come off as if I don't care about anybody but me.

That is so far from the truth it would make me cry if I were a crier.

When I began writing this, I wasn't sure how much it had to do with adoption and how much it had to do with nonverbal learning disorder.

But then I remember how therapists treated me when I was a child. They refused to believe that I loved being adopted because I loved being a member of my family and couldn't imagine being a member of any other. Isn't that what one would want for any 9- or 10-year-old?

I had a vivid imagination. It wasn't that I couldn't visualize being a part of another family; I didn't want to.

I felt weird because I couldn't do many things well. Apparently that was a common adoptee problem. I felt weird because I loved my family. As I grew into my teens, I fantasized about my birth mother. And wondered if by doing so I was proving the therapist right.

Roots was on TV when I was in my mid-20s. I didn't watch it as I wasn't often home during primetime and certainly didn't own a VCR.

Roots made people feel entitled to search for ancestors and maybe that was a good thing. But adoptees couldn't even find out their birth parents names in closed adoptions, which basically all were then.

As the computer age took hold, so did sites that enabled you to look up your family tree. Now you can send your DNA. Do people really care who they were related to in the 12th century? Obviously the answer is yes. The way I see it is if we go back far enough, we'll find that we're all related and then how could we explain our prejudices? (I'm not only talking color or religion though...)

If I were to be really honest I would say: "How dare you look for the most distant of relatives yet deny me the right to know who my birth parents' names were legally."

For all people who don't want to talk about adoption and how it impacts their families and all people who don't actively play a part in ending closed records, you are denying me my birth heritage.

Oh that's not important considering all the problems in the world? Then don't look for your 20th cousin 10 times removed.

"But we have the technology."

We have the technology to find adoptees origins. They're called original birth records. And they exist. I know because somebody thoughtfully snuck mine into the middle of the adoption file given to my parents after the lawyer who handled my adoption died.

Only a person obsessively looking through the file would have found it. I was that person. It took me eight years on and off, mostly off, to find my birth mother. Now it would take 80 seconds max!


I was adopted from an agency "everybody" thought was beyond reproach. It turned out to separate twins but tell the birth mother the twins were adopted together and not tell the adoptive parents anything. No I wasn't a twin. But "my" social worker was the social worker implicated in that.

I liked her but she told me I went about my finding my birth family all wrong. It wasn't like she was going to find them for me so...she added to the guilt.

There's a lot of pain in closed-record adoptions: gray market, black market, or completely legal.

My pain didn't begin until I found my birth family. I have talked about how it was obvious my birth mother didn't like me. I didn't live up to her expectations and she made that very clear.

She didn't want to be seen publicly with me. She would only see me if I came to her house. That struck me wrong—I offered to meet her halfway; pay for the motel if she wanted, but she said no to every solution I offered.

My (adoptive) father insisted that I go. He landed in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer before I went. I knew my parents' doctor well and asked him if I should postpone the trip or not go at all.

"Are you kidding? That's all your father can talk about."

My birth mother wouldn't talk about my birth father other than to give me some very non-identifying info. He was an Irish American—that much was true. Nothing else she said was. She's not by nature a liar, I think. But she wanted to protect her one real love.

I didn't press her for details. I have always believed that it's wrong to ask too many questions. People will tell you when they're ready.

My birth mother had been 27 when I was born; he was between 19 and 20. She hedged on his age and said a few different ones. She also said they dated for nine years. But as I'm half sure they didn't date after I was born....

I would love to understand their relationship. The man I lived with around then was younger—by a year.

Maybe she was ready to talk to me when she was dying years later. I heard, after her death, that she wanted to see me.

After she died, I found out my birth father's name. He died at 33.

I have only spoken to the oldest of my four half siblings. He won't tell the others about me because he's older than I am so...Though they all know my birth parents dated the others think it ended much earlier than it did.

My life was much simpler before I found my birth family. It added layers of complexity nobody needs.

But I would do it again as there's a primal need to find your birth family and understand—I'm not sure what. Something to do with that Roots fervor I talked about earlier.

I didn't expect a fairytale ending, but I wasn't used to being actively disliked and that did something to me.

It took away the girl who always did believe the glass was half full. I liked her so I've been trying to get her back.

If you like my writing please read my blog, Courting Destiny. The title might take on a new meaning to you after having read this!


About the Author

Pia Savage is a writer, journalist, and former social worker diagnosed with Non Verbal Learning Disorder.