I didn’t realize I was adopted until I was 34 years old and what happened afterwards was a powerful lesson. I learned that a shared experience deepens understanding and eschews judgment. Fear, just as the word as an acronym suggests, is false evidence appearing real.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know on some sub-conscious level. I’m certain that in my being I always knew about my early life turmoil, but it was not a conscious thought until a phone call one day with my brother Mike. The conversation had led to Mike saying, “…What are you talking about? Mom never had kids.” If we had been on a video call that day he would have seen my jaw drop as I asked incredulously, “What do you mean Mom never had kids?”
A bit impatiently, Mike almost shouted, “Hey, I remember going to pick you out!”
Pick me out? What was I, a puppy?
My brother was astounded that I didn’t realize I was adopted and went on to explain that each of us three siblings were adopted from three different families. I was the youngest, Gary was two years older than me, and Mike was two years older than Gary.
I did remember being in college and on the phone with Mom one day when she blurted out that my other brother, Gary was adopted. I guess it was a pattern in my family to relay earth-shattering news over the phone. She didn’t mention anything about Mike or me, just that they adopted Gary after fostering him for a period.
I also remembered a big fight between Mike and my parents when I was about 12, but I never knew what it was about. Mike explained during our phone call that he had suddenly asked my parents for any information they might have on his birth parents. This was clearly a sensitive topic for Mom and Dad.
After I hung up with Mike I was stunned and very fearful at the idea of bringing up the topic with my parents. Why hadn’t they told me? What was the big secret?
It took me almost two years to broach the subject because it was such an emotionally provocative topic. Whenever I would go home to visit, it never seemed like the right time to bring it up and honestly, I was worried about what Mom’s reaction to my questions would be.
One particularly beautiful day I was home on a weekend visit with my parents without my husband. I had gotten married about a year after the talk with my brother and David almost always accompanied me on trips home. But this time he was on a business trip, so I traveled to Connecticut alone. I was out on a walk that Saturday when I got a sudden, powerful urge to talk to Mom about my adoption. I can’t explain why I was filled with such courage. I just knew the time had come to get everything out in the open and I could hardly wait to get home.
When I arrived home, Dad decided wanted to take a walk too and left me alone with Mom. This was perfect because I really wanted to talk to just Mom at first.
Soon after Dad left, I knelt next to Mom’s chair, took her hand and said “Mom — remember you’ve always said that I can talk with you about anything, right?” When she emphatically agreed, I said, “Remember you told me when I was in college that Gary was adopted?”
“Was he the only one?”
Mom teared up and said, “Do you want to know the truth?” I said that I did, and she told me the story of how she and Dad had been unable to have children of their own after trying for about ten years. They decided to adopt and sought to give a loving home to children who had been deeply traumatized at the beginning of their lives. Mom told me they didn’t know a lot about my birth mother but did know she was in great distress and that her actions caused my extremely premature birth at about six months gestation.
Mom said that when each of us reached the age of seven she had us read a book entitled, The Chosen Baby. I remembered the book and that I loved to read it over and over. But I don’t ever remember getting that it was about me! Later, my father would remark to me that actually, they didn’t choose me — I chose them. He said that when they walked over to my crib I flashed a huge smile and held up my arms to be picked up. The rest was history.
After giving me the book when I was seven, years passed without any further discussion. Then, when I was a young teenager, I said something that made Mom realize that I somehow hadn’t gotten the message all those years previously — something like, “Gee, it must have been really scary for you when I was born so prematurely!” I did remember being told I weighed under two pounds at birth.
Mom said she greatly worried about my lack of awareness and talked with my father frequently about it during the ensuing years, but neither of them ever thought the time was right to broach the subject.
As Mom sat there, tears of guilt streaming down her face, I shared with her that I, too had agonized over when to bring up the subject once I had that revealing discussion with my brother. We hugged as I told her I understood completely what she’d gone through and that it made me love her and Dad even more.
The next several times I went home to visit, Mom would take me aside and ask if I was truly okay with everything. She found it hard to believe that I would take it so well that, in her mind, they had withheld a secret from me. I would always reassure her that I loved and admired her and that having experienced the very same emotions, I couldn’t possibly judge them.
Within about a year of this discussion, my mother learned she had very progressed breast cancer and passed quickly after her surgery because the cancer had metastasized. She elected to not do chemotherapy or radiation, refused to eat or drink water like she should have, and was gone within ten months of her diagnosis.
I am so very grateful that I gathered the courage that day to bring up the subject of my adoption with my parents. As my husband and I were helping Dad do some cleaning out one day, I came across a letter my mother had written about our adoptions, with all the information and documents she had on our backgrounds. I knew that, ultimately, I would have known the story but I’m so happy that my parents and I had the opportunity to share and heal while Mom was alive.
The time together with our loved ones is so precious. Instead of fearing the worse, have trust in the best that always comes from telling the truth — whatever that truth may be.
Kat Sohn is a Life Coach, public speaker and writer, and the CEO of Body Memory Process, LLC. After the passing of her beloved husband David Sohn in late 2019, Kat retired from a 36-year career with the federal government to focus on raising their two children, Benjamin (12) and Sarah (8) and continuing David’s novel work, the Body Memory Process. To share this powerful healing process as widely as possible, Kat has created courses, articles and seminars about the work. You can learn more about the Body Memory Process at bodymemoryprocess.com.
Happiness and Joy During Turbulent Times https://medium.com/authority-magazine/happiness-and-joy-during-turbulent-times-kathi-sohn-of-body-memory-process-on-how-to-live-with-680ad36bcd68