Thirty-three year old reunited adult adoptee with over twenty surgeries - that is me.
My parents adopted me when I was 13 days old on August 7, 1974 from Edna Gladney Adoption Agency in Fort Worth, Texas.
Two high school teachers raised me. Papa taught senior level English at the same high school I attended. My parents chaperoned my prom and my father sponsored my senior class. He handed me my diploma on stage at high school graduation. Yet, even with this abundant life I was given, I still never felt "complete," as if there was still a part of me missing.
While driving me to my elementary school one morning, Papa explained to me how I was "chosen and special" and how I was adopted. I reacted positively, instantly and felt from that point in my life there was something unique God had made about me.
My grandmother, Nana took me to the movie theatre when I was 8 years old to watch, "Annie." Afterwards, I had many thoughts cross my mind, such as "Where is my birth mom and my birth dad? Do I look and act like them?"
I remember some of my family teasing me that night after the movie as I had already memorized all of its' music and could not stop singing one particular song titled, "Maybe". I repeatedly sang my favorite lyrics:
Maybe in a house
All hidden by a hill
She's sitting playing piano,
He's sitting paying a bill
My curiosity increased over the next several years. At age fourteen, I began having horrible pain several days out of each month. Several gynecologists told me nothing was wrong and that I simply had worse cramps than some other females. As a twenty four year old college student, I realized I could not handle this pain anymore. By that time, I had become very anemic and had still not received any diagnosis.
While my college sweetheart (now my husband) and I were chatting one day, he said, "'Chelle, I think it is time. I think you need to know your birth family's complete medical history."
He drove me that next week to the adoption agency. As we were about to leave, our tour guide asked me to wait a moment as she wanted to see if there were any items she could give me from my "file." I will never forget that moment as my life then began to change drastically. She handed me a letter; my birth mom had written to me. (This note had remained in my file for a few years as the agency waits until both birth and adoptive family members both register to meet.) My birth mom wrote that she had to have a hysterectomy after I was born and never had any other children. And it was due to her having ENDOMETRIOSIS. What's that, I thought? I'd never heard of that disease by that point in my life. I got to know a lot about it over the next few years. She strongly encouraged me to get checked out for it. By the time of my diagnosis, my body was already in the the worst stage of it. I was my doctor’s second worst endometriosis case. (His first worst case being a lady who was twenty six years older than me). The doctor explained to me how the disease had spread into many parts of my body, including intestines and ovaries. He said he believed this occurred due to me having it for at least ten years with no diagnosis nor treatment.
The adoption agency had many stipulations for the reunion process. My birth mom and I were permitted to write letters to each other, but only as long as they were sent almost anonymously through the agency. We could only sign one single name we each could choose. My choice was "Chelle" and hers was "Suzie." Also each of us had to pay seventy-five dollars for a counseling fee and were required to attend at least one session (if not more) before they would decide when we were ready to meet. At that time, I had been waiting on my tax refund to use for it as I did not have much money and explained this to my birth mom in one of my letters. The agency refused the offer my birth mom had given them to pay for my fee anonymously. She then went through another method and found someone who helped her in the search for me. She gave her helper any information she had gathered about me; a 24 year old female student named Chelle attending college. She guessed that maybe I attended a public university in Texas.
One of my close friends worked at the front desk of my dormitory on Tuesday night before Thanksgiving. Kazu told me there was someone calling for me and asked if I wanted to accept the phone call at the desk, and I accepted it. Since I had been waiting for my English professor to call me back about a research paper, I assumed it would be her. "Hello, this is Suzie" were the first words I heard. I began shaking as I realized it was my birth mother. I hurridly apologized and asked if I could call her right back from my dorm room. As we conversed for a while, I discovered she lived only an hour from my university. That very night, she and her husband met David and me on campus. We spent several hours together and formed a bond instantly.
Endometriosis caused many complications as it weakened my immune system. I have had over twenty surgeries since age 24, such as laprascopies. At 29 years old, I had a hysterectomy. My husband and I decided at that point in our lives that we would adopt whenever we are ready for a family.
For major holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday, we celebrate about a few times during that week with my adoptive and birth family. I love my life and I have no complaints. All of my experiences with my surgeries as well as being reunited with my birth family have humbled me.
Although it was difficult for my birth mom, she understood and helped me find my birth father. After my reunion with him, I met his other children. I have two birth brothers and birth sister. And all of us have gotten along very well. It amazes me how we do after not knowing each other for 20 years or more but we do and we keep a relationship. I also gained not only more parents and siblings, but also nieces, nephews, and one grand nephew. David and I are godparents to my birth brother, Josh's daughter. So not only do we have "Pumpkin" as our niece, but also our goddaughter.
She was the first baby I have known from day one in my birth family. Looking like someone else in the same family was a foreign concept to me before then. Even now, sometimes I find myself staring at a birth family member and compare our similarities.
When Grandpa Kelly died, this was the first death I experienced through my birth family. I had a relationship with him for two years. I wrote a poem and read it at his eulogy:
"GIVEN THE CHANCE"
Two years ago, I was given the chance
The chance to meet a man
Who I never knew before
He accepted me into his life with open arms
He treated me as his own granddaughter
He was my birth grandfather
Now, I grieve for the loss of Grandpa Kelly
Today, I am given another chance
A chance to share, celebrate, and remember him
As I reflect upon the memories,
I recall the similarities
Between him and me
The same looks and the same taste
We both could be proud of our thick and wavy hair
as well as how much chocolate we could eat
It amazes me after only knowing this man for two years
How easy it could be to love him instantly
I have no doubt Grandpa Kelly loved me
He always treated me with respect
and as a part of the family
He was there for me in my many times of need
At the end of his time, I was given one last chance
The chance to hold Grandpa Kelly's hand and tell him,
"Thank You" for always having loved me.