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Late discovery adoptee finds her true self by opening up to past, making connections for future

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Adoptees Connect ~ Grand Rapids is part of a national movement with chapters across the country and beyond. This is an oasis for all adult adoptees to come and share their version of adoption. Jillian Blair writes about her journey here.
Article writer and adoptee, Jillian Blair

Article writer and adoptee, Jillian Blair /Courtesy of Jillian Blair

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Jillian Blair is a late discovery adoptee (LDA). She graduated from Davenport University, and started her career in the petroleum industry, moving later into HVAC.

This successful career has spanned over 30 years. While she thrives in her work life, her heart is at home with her family. In her free time, she enjoys boating, camping, and reading. All things pure Michigan.

Sometime in October of 1966, a woman found herself pregnant under not the best of circumstances. She was on a break from her marriage where she had four other children. Her boss, whom she had been staying with, was not that into her. Soon afterwards, she decided to return home and shares news of a baby. Her family assembles at the hospital in April,1967, anticipating the birth. However, her husband relays to the family that the baby did not survive. A sad time, one would presume.

The behind- the-scenes story is different, however. This woman, who had met someone at her new job after she'd become pregnant, shared her story with her coworker. Her coworker, who had recently lost a baby with her second husband, and with whom she was yet to have a child, became her sounding board. They collectively decided the baby would be “transferred” from the pregnant woman's family to her coworker's family after birth. This transfer was to stay a forever secret from everyone, including the child.

While these women’s stories have many more twists, I’ll leave them for another day. I’ll tell you my story now.

I’m the baby. And I'm the adoptee that grew up wondering why her mother didn’t like her. I was, however, very close to my dad. But I had to be exceptional for Mom to be anything this side of tolerating.

I had cousins that were adopted. We talked about that often, all the while my parents sat in silence about me. That is until Mom, after being upset by my sneaking to see a boy at age 16, decided to tell me in a fit of rage that “You are just like your REAL mother."

Now, she was always good at finding words that cut like a knife, so I wasn’t sure if I should believe her. Was this just her dreaming that she didn’t give birth to what she felt was such a disappointing, incapable, unworthy and ungrateful child? After prodding at my sister and grandmother, the truth was exposed. I should have known by the paleness of my father’s face and anger towards her when she said it.

A life of feeling like an outsider and never feeling liked enough, loved enough, just never ENOUGH.

It’s a common story among adoptees. At first, I found myself telling people my story and saying that I was fine. I was on purpose where many others may have been accidents. While that may have been true, it was always in my head that they were kept, cared for and loved accidents. I was a cast away.

My life took many turns. I made MANY mistakes, including marrying at a young age. I was always seeking commitment from others. I would often test relationships, all types of relationships. Did they truly care? Would they stay no matter what? I believed deep down that everyone would leave. It was sometimes easier to screw it up just to get it over with sooner. It would hurt less that way.

I developed a strong shield. I wore an invisible cloak of armor that no one could penetrate. It was easier to have relationships with people who truly weren’t available to be in a relationship.

I threw myself into work, losing all sight of boundaries between work and life. It was always easier to play a role than risk getting to know someone new and have them see through me. Being at work required professionalism which required distance. And I have always lived inside of my own mind. All of this while feeling very alone, even when surrounded by loved ones.

My story is much deeper and longer but as I’ve become a bit older, I realized that I wasn’t okay with it. Any of it. Some say that is called “coming out of the fog”.  I wanted to share with those close to me but when I would, my friends, who love me and want me to be okay, would tell me that either it was in the past or mention how far I’d come. Some would talk about the wonderful relationship that I’ve formed with my own daughter.

Some, knowing the whole story would tell me how lucky I was to be adopted. That statement is the kiss of death with many adoptees. Even if it could have been worse, I assure you that feeling lost and empty as a result of wondering who you are, who you look like, and why you do what you do never feels like luck. The point is, no one understood.

And no one can unless they too are an adoptee. I decided to search on Facebook. They have groups for everything, right? And this would provide anonymity. Wow, what could be better for an introvert wearing an extrovert’s clothes? Jackpot, I found online support! It was nice to share and listen to these people talk about things that I had thought were exclusive to my situation.

Then one day a meeting notice, a new group was being formed in MY area! Wow, this could be great. But then I realized, this would be in person, face to face. Could I do that? Would I be able to share my awfulness with strangers?

Well, I marked the date on the calendar and with nervous anticipation I attended that first Adoptees Connect meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In one night, I felt like my life changed. There were people there who had similar stories, similar feelings, similar experiences to mine. They talked, shared, cried, and showed the gamut of emotions. In this group of people, I have found my tribe. They get me. They don’t ask why I do what I do, why I tolerate people being less than I deserve, why I shut down or disappear sometimes. They get it. They do these things too. I can share, I can listen, I can be me.

I have a long way to go in my journey of self-acceptance and forgiveness but I now have the tools to get me there.

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