I just found this thread last night, read the whole thing, and decided to sleep and think on it before adding my 2 pennies' worth. I've told this story to people before, but it really helps to tell it in the third person and with diagrams, because it is very confusing--even to me at times.
I found out I was adopted when I was around 8 years old. I think every kid looks at their family at some point and says, "Gee, I can't possibly be related to this bunch of whackos!" I certainly did, and so I asked. At first, my mother wanted to know why I was asking. I couldn't really tell her why, I was just curious. After some endless quizzing on where I got the idea, she finally told me that, yes, I was adopted. I asked her who my "real mom" was, and she said, "me." Well that didn't make any sense. I will skip through a lot of the lies and drama that unfolded afterwards, but she did eventually tell me (not sure how many weeks or months later) that I was adopted within the family and that the woman I knew as my youngest sister (I have 4) was my biological mother. Talk about being floored! Then the questions about who my father was started up. Again, more lies and drama, ranging from "we don't know" to eventually coming around to the truth--that it was a teenage pregnancy (they actually planned it to get out of their respective parents' homes) and marriage that lasted about 18 months. I was essentially abandoned by my bio mom after she left my bio dad and my grandparents took me in, eventually adopting me when I was about 2 or 3 years old (details are fuzzy and my mother is not always forthcoming with the truth).
I had something of an identity crisis at that point in my life, trying to figure out my place in my family. Was I the baby sister or the niece? Now that I knew, was I supposed to call my "sister" my mom? Were my nieces and nephews my cousins? Who am I? Why me? And why was it all such a secret? I found out later that everyone around me in my life knew--everyone except me. The people at church knew, my teachers knew, my entire family (even the little ones) knew, family friends--I was the last to know.
When I wanted to know about my bio-dad, my mother stuck to one story: he regretted the whole thing and his very religious family wanted to pretend that it had never happened. They didn't want anything to do with me and didn't want to be reminded that he had made such an awful mistake. So I grew up with that--the thought that I was abandoned and unwanted.
As I grew older, one of my mother's favorite taunts (and still is on occasion) was that "you'd better watch it, or you'll grow up just like HER." I changed my name as an adult (because I shared the same name as my mom and always hated it), and was promptly told that "SHE has gone by that name." I don't care. It has nothing to do with "her" and is the name that I have always felt comfortable with.
A few days after I'd turned 18, the school librarian called me into his office and showed me a name on a piece of paper and said, "This woman wrote to me claiming to be your grandmother. She said that she wants a picture of you. How do you want me to handle this?" I nearly had a nervous breakdown three weeks before I graduated high school. I had been under the impression for so many years that these people didn't want anything to do with me. I asked him to contact her and ask for her address and phone number, tell her that I would get in touch with her. I spent the rest of the day in such an unbelievably emotional state--crying non-stop--that I couldn't go back to class and had to go home.
Long story a little longer--I did call her, went to visit her, and found out that she had kept in touch through family friends over the years. She had carried a subscription to the local newspaper where I lived in order to keep up with me. (I was involved in dance, theater, volunteering, lots of stuff that landed me minor blurbs in the paper from time to time.) I also found out that it was my mother who had insisted that my bio-dad's family not have any contact with me whatsoever. My mother was the one who wanted the entire story glossed into something that she found more palatable. (Consider that this was her 17-year-old daughter who had made the "unfortunate mistake.") I did meet my bio-dad shortly afterwards and discovered that we have a lot in common--mannerisms, speech habits, etc. We had remained close throughout the years until last year when I moved to Turkey. For some reason, he has a problem with me making major decisions on my own at the age of 35. LOL
Now, to add a little insult to injury, when I was around 16, my mother sat me down and told me that I have a half brother. Apparently part of the "deal" between my bio-mom and parents was that bio-mom go back to school and stay out of my life, which she did, but only long enough to get pregnant again. My half brother was born about a month before I turned three. He was adopted outside of the family. We met once when I was 16 or 17, and then one more time after that. I lost track of him about 12 years ago, when he decided that he was going to go live with our bio-mom. Huge mistake.
Having grown up with bio-mom as my "sister," I know a bit more about her than I would like. She is textbook bi-polar, although I'm not sure if she's been officially diagnosed or medicated. She has substance abuse issues, is a pathological liar, and not the kind of person I would choose as a friend. She has stolen from me, from our parents, our other sisters, abused relationships, etc. Until this summer, I hadn't seen her for about 18 years, although I'd heard about her from time to time from other family members. She was supposed to come for a family dinner about 15 years ago, but no-showed, claiming later that she was afraid I would "start something." I've never started anything, but it's convenient that both she and my mother have now labeled me as an "instigator" because I have personal boundaries that I refuse to allow to be crossed. (Ex: Don't come for a visit when I ask you not to and then expect me to be hospitable to your chain smoking and your dog.) Anyway, I saw her this summer for the first time in 18 years, and she met my daughter (now almost 13). She never once asked me how I was, what I had been up to, how I liked living abroad, nothing about myself. She only wanted to talk about herself, lie about where she was living and what she was doing (other sister filled me in on the truth), make herself out to be this great traveling intellectual (never been outside the US or graduated HS), and actually flirted continuously with my DH. Fortunately, DH is a psychologist and while he humored her at the time, told us all later, "She really needs some help." Even my daughter, who didn't really understand at the time what the situation was, said, "She's crazy, isn't she?"
Now, do I have issues? Heck yes! Abandonment issues, attachment issues, trust issues, you name it, it's all there. Abusive relationships, self-medication with alcohol, messed-up personal life, been there, done that. I tried therapy, but had a terrible time admitting the truth about anything. I thank God everyday for my DH who is so patient with me and so understanding about my issues. Thanks to him, I have 24 hour therapy when I need it, in a comfortable environment (home), with someone who truly cares about me--and it's free! Best of all, he's met my family and understands what I mean when I say that they are crazy and worthy of a week of Jerry Springer episodes.
Having been a mom for 13 years, I have no illusions about who my "real" mother is. The woman who raised me, nursed me through scarlet fever, chicken pox, and three months of mono--she is my mother. The other is merely an egg-donor and rather inconsequential in my life now, although she has left an imprint that will leave lasting scars all of my life. Not because she allowed me to be adopted (IMO, a better alternative than growing up with her), but because of all that she's done since. I have tried to deal with the issues of loss that come along with being an adoptee, but I can honestly say that at this point they are there for good and I have to learn to live with them and around them. I cannot change what has gone on in the past, I can only live my life to the fullest extent possible now.
If you have read all of this, thank you for giving me so much of your time. It was very therapeutic for me to write it all out, although I did leave out some of the most painful details.
The only advice I would ever give to adoptive parents is this: don't hide it. Make sure your children know that although their biological origins lie elsewhere, their spiritual and emotional origins lie in your heart. Don't be upset when they want to seek out their biological origins, it has nothing to do with you and how well you parented them. We are all searching for the meaning of life, adoptees are often searching for the origins of life at the same time.