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Description of Each Chapter in “The Gift of Roots”

All the stories in The Gift of Roots are true, but names and some locations have been changed to protect the privacy of those interviewed.

When dreams and reality come face to face, some disappointments are inevitable. In spite of this, though, nearly all adoptees who search say they’re glad they did and would do it again.

The author’s highly positive experiences in finding her own birthmother and then, eight years later, finding her adopted daughter’s birthmother, led her to collect these stories in the hope that reading them would encourage those who long to search but are afraid to do so. No guarantees are made, however, and the reader should be warned that reunions are extremely emotional events with unpredictable results.

In recounting the life stories contained in The Gift of Roots, the author does not purport to render legal advice nor professional counseling relating to adoption issues.

Read the chapter summaries below. You can download the entire book as a "for screen viewing" PDF in Adobe Acrobat format. Please feel free to download and print out any pages you wish! If you don't already have the Adobe Acrobat reader, you can get it free by clicking on the link at left.

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Description of Each Chapter
in “The Gift of Roots”

Introduction

To The Reader

Chapter One — Dorothy: the Adoptee/Adoptive Mother Who Waited to Search

Dorothy, an adoptee and author of this book, was born in 1928 in Vancouver, Canada, to an unmarried girl and a young professional musician. Shortly after, she was adopted by Nevin and Minnie Ryan, a childless couple in their 40s.

Because of her mother's anger at any mention of her birthmother, Dorothy postponed her search for her until her adoptive mother's death. Finally when Dorothy was fifty, she located her seventy-year-old birthmother, Ellen, who was thrilled to be found. The two women had a close and rewarding relationship during the ten years before Ellen died. After Ellen's death, Dorothy delved into her birthmother's earlier life. She discovered things that gave her the perspective to realize how fortunate she was to have been raised by the Ryans.

Chapter Two — Briana: the Adoptee Who Was Given a Special Gift

Briana's story is somewhat unusual because it was her adoptive mother, Dorothy, who secretly carried out the search for Briana's birthmother, Cheryl, and contacted her. Dorothy did this when Briana was twenty-six, studying for her final college exams and preparing for her wedding.

After Briana returned from her honeymoon, Dorothy took her aside and gave her two special gifts: a framed picture of Cheryl, and Cheryl's letter describing her family's health history. "That was our special moment of bonding," said Briana, "when each knew what the other was feeling."

Since that time, Briana and Cheryl have built a close relationship, and Dorothy and her husband have made Cheryl a shining member of their extended family. Helping others, by example, to see how this can be done and the benefits from it, is the true purpose of THE GIFT OF ROOTS.

Chapter Three — Kathryn: the Birthmother Whose Reunion Empowered Her

Kathryn is an extremely happy story, largely because of the golden-rule-type thinking of the adoptive mother. Kathryn gave birth to a baby girl at the age of seventeen as the result of rape. After spending twenty years trying to forget the details of that traumatic event and the memory of the child whom she had placed for adoption, Kathryn yielded to the urging of her husband and made contact with her birthdaughter, Charlene. Charlene and her adoptive parents warmly welcomed Kathryn into their extended family; their attitude rebuilt Kathryn's confidence and gave her the courage to fulfill her life's goals.

Chapter Four — Eric: the Adoptee Who Found Understanding

Eric, a gay adoptee, was born in Boulder, Colorado, to a Canadian birthmother named Linette, whose parents had secreted her there in her uncle's home. After her baby's birth, Linette placed him in an enormous Montreal orphanage from which an American couple adopted him. Eric was a very troubled teenager and young man, addicted to alcohol and other drugs. He dropped out of college but finally beat his addiction.

Driving a large tour bus throughout the United States, Eric's job took him through Boulder and a visit to the hospital of his birth. The story's bizarre twists include a hospital clerk handing Eric the name and phone number of his birthmother, and his adoptive and birthmothers — who had never met — being thrown together in his hospital room during his open-heart surgery.

Eric's birthmother, a practicing psychologist, brought great insight to her birthson's relationships and helped him to feel accepted, loved, and whole for the first time in his life.

Chapter Five — Ingrid: the Audacious Adoptee

Ingrid was a rebellious teenager who accidentally discovered, at the age of thirteen, that she had been adopted as an infant. Because of her parents' deception, she was devastated and angry, jealous of her non-adopted sister who was "of their blood."

Years later, against tremendous odds, Ingrid finally tracked down her birthmother, Marthe, whose acceptance she craved desperately. Four years after their first contact, and despite Marthe's insistence that she did not want to meet her birthdaughter, Ingrid went to Marthe's home unbidden, stood outside her back door, and talked to her birthmother for an hour, her eyes glued to the woman's face.

Although all contact ultimately ended, Ingrid feels content that she has found some answers about her roots, thanks to the handful of phone calls and letters that passed between her and her birthmother. "Knowing who I look like by seeing my birthmother that one time," she said, "that was very, very important to me."

The other very positive thing to come out of her reunion was that she and her adoptive mother made peace with each other, sealed by her adoptive mother's taking off her engagement ring and giving it to Ingrid.

Chapter Six — Rachelle: the White Adoptee Raised by a Black Family

Rachelle is a white adoptee, born of a liaison between a married white man and a divorced Black-Native American woman. After giving birth to Rachelle, her birthmother left her with an adoption agency, from which a Black couple adopted her. Because Rachelle grew up in a family of ten blacks and encountered racial prejudice, she always felt like she didn't belong with either blacks or whites. Her burning question, ultimately answered in the story, was, "Since I was so obviously white, why did the agency place me with a black family?".

Chapter Seven — Ricky: the Impulsive Adoptee

Ricky, an adoptee born in Columbus, Ohio, took advantage of Ohio's open records laws. When he was twenty, he drove to Ohio's Bureau of Vital Statistics. After he showed them three pieces of I.D., they unsealed his adoption records, including his original birth certificate bearing his birthmother's name and address. With that vital lead information in hand, Ricky impulsively drove to Dayton to find his birthmother. He drove around for hours, and finally made contact.

Years into his reunion with his birthfamily, Ricky finally gained enough insight into his strained relationships with his adoptive parents to make peace with them.

Chapter Eight — Micki: the Birthmother Who, After Marriage, Had to Adopt

Micki, when she was young and unmarried, had, by different fathers, two sons whom she gave up for adoption. Ironically, when she married a third man, Lee, Micki could not conceive, so they adopted two Colombian children.

When Micki's first birthson, Kurt, found her, she had one thrilling lunch date with him. Encouraged by that happy experience, she decided to look for her second birthson, wrongly assuming he would also want to meet her. Micki's precarious relationship with Kurt lasted two and a half years, until he broke it off because his parents became so upset when he finally told them that he'd met his birthmother.

A deeply religious woman, Micki believes that God gave her two sons she had to relinquish for adoption so she would understand the need for roots in her two adopted children. That understanding was the reason she took her adopted son on the long journey back to Bogota to try, day after day, to locate his remembered birthfamily.

Chapter Nine — Elaine: the Adoptive Mother/Former Nun Who Found Her True Calling

What kind of people are the happiest with their son or daughter's reunion experience? Perhaps someone like Elaine, an extraordinary woman who — thanks to her upbringing, education, and faith — is understanding, accepting, and non-judgmental.

After graduating from high school, she took her vows and was sheltered as a Sister of Poverty for eight years. Then she went away to summer school and was sexually awakened. Two years later she left the order so she could save the world, marry, and raise a family. Naively, she didn't foresee the cruel realities of the outside world, like discovering she was infertile and married to an alcoholic, abusive, and cheating husband.

Adopting a child led to her own validation as a woman. She understood her adoptive son's need to find his roots, and the need of his birthmother to be warmly accepted into their extended family. Motherhood proved to be her crowning, most blessed role in life.

Chapter Ten — Reunion Tips

This chapter answers many specific questions and offers valuable advice for all parts of the adoption triad.

For adoptees: Should I search and reunite? What qualities do I need to be truly ready to search? How can I discreetly contact my birthmother in case she has kept my birth a secret from everyone? What can I expect from this person and what happens if I don't like her? Shall I tell my parents I'm thinking of searching? How can I tell them I've already found my birthmother?

For adoptive parents: How can I prepare myself for a future reunion? How can I deal with feelings of jealousy? Why should I make every effort to understand my adopted son/daughter's needs and to be part of the reunion process? What can I do to help form and nurture my son/daughter's extended family? How will reunion benefit my son/daughter, and how will it affect me?

For birthparents: Do I have the right to search and contact my relinquished offspring? How can I handle it if my birthchild contacts me and it's not a good time for me? How and when should I write an appreciative and non-threatening letter to the adoptive parents?

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