Identity, Adoptees' Right to Know
Updated: Oct 11
Hello! You have arrived at the author blog of Mary Ellen Gambutti which is part of my website https://megam-author.com Whether it's your first or tenth time you are welcome here! I encourage you to sign up to receive my newsletter and blog posts in your inbox with
updates on the upcoming launch of my memoir, I Must Have Wandered: An Adopted Air Force Daughter Recalls.
I post information relevant to my community of adoptees, such as adoptee rights, and amplify our voices, by featuring other adoptee writers, bloggers, and memoirists. Each of us has a different way of expressing our truths. Each of our lives is worthy; of our contributions to the collective story of adoption. I encourage you to share if you are an adoptee; to put your feelings into words. And I ask others to listen to and acknowledge the importance of what is shared by adoptees. We are finding our way through our marginalized status into full freedom and equal rights under the law.
I sometimes bring up the topic of flowers, and gardening, since I owned a small horticultural services business in a previous life.
I hope you'll find something of interest and relevance to you. I'd love to hear from you!
Emma Stevens, Author of The Gathering Place: An Adoptee's Story
Reader review: "In lyrical prose, the author encompasses the harrowing, soul-destroying abuse by her adoptive mother, as well as the transformative, healing imagery that springs from gaining agency out of trauma."
The Gathering Place
"Since you keep asking about this, it makes me think we’re just not good enough for you. Is that it?!” my mom said with her eyes flaming and fists and jaw clenched.
She was irate the few times I dared ask about my adoption story. Because of outbursts like this, I had developed a sense of guilt that made me feel I should apologize for being adopted. It also made me feel apologetic for being me and not who they desired me to be. I adapted my behavior in so many ways to try to feel loved and accepted. This was one of the ongoing results of not being allowed to know my story without condemnation and consequences. So was feeling apologetic for taking up too much space.
“Why would you ask about your birth mother after all your father and I have done for you? Nothing’s ever good enough for you, is it?! I think we should take you to the poor side of town so you can see how grateful you should really be.” My mother spoke harshly as she leaned forward, looking as though she was going to lunge at me.
I felt myself shrinking in front of her as she spoke. My body was absorbing the shame and it was being stored in my gut. I immediately regretted voicing curiosity about my birth story. Episodes like this taught me to mask my feelings, especially when the topic was adoption. I don’t think I was as concerned about being taken back to the adoption agency as I was fearful of the emotional deprivation that was so often both my parent’s style of discipline. They could give me the silent treatment for excruciatingly long periods of time. At least it seemed that way to me as a young child. The way to make them stop was to acquiesce and say that I was very sorry. That’s how I became a people pleaser and eventually, a perfectionist. These maladaptive tools gave me a way to keep them relatively happy and keep peace in the family. I also loved them and looked to them for my livelihood. It became clear to me I had to become someone else in order to receive their love and acceptance.
My brother and I were like mismatched bookends. We were both shy children — I’m not sure if this was by nature or by nurture — but Tim made me look like an extrovert in comparison. We lived as brother and sister in the same house for 18 years, but he was a withdrawn little boy that I never really got to know. He was my first attachment that I consciously remember. I looked to him as a possible place of safety and emotional support. However, he was not equipped to provide either of those things for me, or even to himself. When I was about four years old, I became very frightened at nighttime and had it in my mind to escape to the presumed safety and comfort of my brother’s room. He would be asleep, and I would very slowly creep into his room and try noiselessly crawling into his creaky bed with him. The slower I went, the louder the mattress springs would squeak. When I’d finally gotten all the way into the bed, my body sweating and my heart racing only then was I able to fall asleep.
“Emma! What the hell are you doing in your brother’s room?! You’ve been told to stay in your own room! What is wrong with you?!” my parents screamed. “Get back to your room – NOW!” Shocked awake, I realized I’d forgotten to crawl silently back unseen to my own bed just before sunrise. I had been caught. I felt my body immediately flush with shame, condemnation, and embarrassment. After this scenario had happened far too many times, my brother began to resent me coming to his room because he got in trouble too. I can’t say that I blamed him. He didn’t cause any of the reasons why I was afraid at night. I truly hadn’t meant to get him into trouble. I would learn later when Tim would be the one to get into trouble most often, that it’s no fun getting caught in the crosshairs of my parent’s wrath and you weren’t even responsible for it happening.
I highly recommend Emma's book! You can find The Gathering Place: An Adoptee's Story on Amazon:
Thank you, Emma!
My Memoir I Must Have Wandered: An Adopted Air Force Daughter Recalls is with my publisher's proofreaders and should be published by the fall. My goal is to give you the best reading experience, and I must allow the process to take its course!
One of my articles published in Visible Magazine is about adoptee identity and knowledge of our natural families. Our origins should not be kept from us. If our parentage is known, it must be shared with us. Our original birth certificates, our care records, and adoption records should never be falsified, and they must be made available to all adult adoptees. I trust that even the most rigid states, like my birth state, SC, will eventually change the laws that keep us from our truth If adoptees and our advocates continue to make a case to legislatures and adoption agencies. You may like to read the full piece in the magazine link above. Here are a few excerpts:
Adoption Fables and the Right to Know
Mary Ellen Gambutti
The falsehoods around my origins adhered to me. I lied to create a self because the truth of my identity was masked.
They were incapable of offering me the comfort I needed. Their lips were sealed like my original birth certificate and my true identity.
The laws that treat adoptees as children are archaic. States are thieves of what inherently belongs to us. It is our civil right to know our identities, our heritage, and our ethnicity. It takes persistence to get these laws changed; the kind of determination that drives adoptees to seek our truths, what we lost when our records were sealed, what is most important; intrinsic to us. The movement to restore adoptees’ rights is alive. Adoptees, bastards, foundlings, and orphans, we have suffered a great loss: identity. We are all entitled to the truthful date of our birth, and our actual birthplace. We must have open access to our birth certificates. The laws that deny us our right to our identity must not define us.
(c) Mary Ellen Gambutti 2022 All Rights Reserved
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