I will preface this with a shout out to Jeanette Winterson. I recently devoured your book Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?. I have always been fascinated with how the quest for conformity and normality in all the adults in my life has made them very unhappy people. Today I can write about how the ‘quest for normality’ has aggressively affected my life from the day I was born. Thank you Jeanette!
Have you ever looked for your parents?
In a passive way. Ever since the dawn of the Internet, I have maintained a web page somewhere that lists my basic info such as my name and my birthday. I have submitted my request for biological data about my birth parents and received them around 1994 just before I got married to my first husband, who was also adopted from the same orphanage. It turns out my birth father is also adopted! More on the curious habit of messing with babies in the Province of Quebec later. Around 2000, I submitted my story to a local show who periodically did a special on adopted children and a producer took additional information. Unfortunately, she never followed-up. For my entire life, this question and ‘do you want to find your parents?’ is the first question strangers ask me when they find out I am adopted. Having had a terrible relationship with my adoptive mother that still undermines my ability to work and relate efficiently with women today, I have not been keen on adding more parents to my life. Now I am old and think differently. However, I do not think that my biological mother is actively looking for me, I have had the #1 result on the Google-type machines for my adoption information for over 19 years and received zero contacts.
UNRELATED CUTE PHOTO #1: For the first few years of my life, I lived in the basement apartment below my grandparents self-built home. My grandfather built all the things, my grandmother cooked all the food, made all the clothes, played all the instruments, etc. This view no longer exists. The water used to come up all the way to the Motel at the bottom of the hill on the other side of boulevard Sainte-Anne. All this was filled in to make a highway so tourists could save 30 minutes to get to the ski slopes.
When did you find out you were adopted?
I have always known this. I can remember my adoptive father telling me about the process of adoption when I was as young as 6 or 7. He told me he went to the orphanage and picked me because I was the prettiest. This is a very nice and positive thing to hear as a bedtime story. I can understand how my father chose the baby who shares his blue eyes. I look a lot like my dad to the unsuspecting stranger. My half-brother, the soon to be born surprise baby who is only 18 months younger than me, looks like our dad but has brown eyes like our mom. Later in life my adoptive mother always told me this whole adoption thing was my dad’s idea and was a mistake and she would return me in an instant if she could. She also insinuated that my biological mother was crazy or that there were things I didn’t know about that were awful. To be fair my adoptive mother has always been full of shit. There is no evidence in my papers or in the observations of my adoption case worker that would suggest mental illness. In fact, both of my parents were kids from well-to-do families, my father was described as a handsome musician and my mother as a distinguished looking arts student. These people most likely has all the resources available to them to welcome a child, yet many adults with an agenda made sure this NEVER happened for me and 350,000 other Canadian babies born out of wedlock in the last century. Today I understand that the reason why I have always be cast as the worst daughter in the world might have a lot to do with being on the autism spectrum. As a child I aggressively poked at the system in so many ways in order to find out what independent path I could take to save myself from these conformist unhappy adults I encountered every step of the way. Today they remain unhappy, they hate me. And I? I sincerely feel that, as I live a life of simplicity and DIY self reliance with obviously, the most intelligent daughter, the most loving boyfriend, and the most adorable cat, I have won at life! I won at life by declaring my mission as ‘I am going to do whatever the fuck I want!’ and finally refusing any more meddling by unhappy ‘normal’ people with an agenda who were also manipulated their whole life. My childhood best friend Marie-Claude who was privy to the awful life I had before graduating high school wrote in my book ‘I am sure you will have a great life later because your life sucked so bad before’ (liberal translation from French). The first 17 years years of my life are such a small blip now. When you consider that I have only hit HALF of my super duper eventful life so far; I am well on my way to dying as the person who has LIVED and LOVED the most :)
UNRELATED CUTE PHOTO #2: My brother was always the most handsome chap! He now works in risk assessment for a legit bank and has 3 adorable little girls with his spouse of 20+ years. Here we are in the back yard of our second home (1975-ish to 1984-ish) in the very pretty (and still exactly the same) Villeneuve.
Baby Kidnapping By The Church WTF?!
I have known for a long time that the orphenages in my small city were full of babies, sometimes as much as 1100, with nuns and ONE (1) doctor providing care. The intimidation part of the information is new to me. Here is the contract that my parents signed for my adoption. At the time, in 1971, there were 408 440 people in Quebec City, La Sauveguarde de l’Enfance was founded in 1943 and I was case #37806. In 2012 a group of women filed a class action lawsuit stating that they were deceived and coerced into giving up their child when the Church purposefully didn’t inform single mothers that they had the right to keep their child. My adoption story comes with gossip that my mother held out for over 6 months before signing the papers authorizing adoption and was devastated when she came to see me the next week and I was gone. This story comes from my grandmother who had a friend who worked at the orphanage and is also the most awesome honest and ethical person I have ever known so I am inclined to believe my biological mother faced many hurdles in keeping me, one of which must have been the intimidation by the agents of the Church who aggressively redistributed babies to conforming Catholic families in Eastern Canada and the US. This practice ended a few years after I was born.
In this letter dated May 19th, 1971, Louise Simard informs a young couple from Courville that they get LOTS of requests so she will follow-up with them in a few weeks.
On November 15th, 1971 the contract is signed and my adoptive parents enter into a probation period. I do not know what this means. Notice that they are required to provide me with religious education based on the fact that I was swiftly baptized as Catholic. The notion of who my soul belongs to here is more important than my biological mother’s right to educate me herself. So almost 40,000 babies were relocated in my Province in 30 years for the good of the Catholic Church who controlled every aspect of life. To be fair we still live in a nanny state though it is corrupted in different ways than it used to be. Also, as a side note, a 7-month waiting period for adoption is pretty swift!
I am still reading about the serious meddling with babies, children, aboriginal children and mentally ill people that occurred in my province before children got their own charter of rights and were no longer considered property (after 1976).
Another comment I encounter from adults growing up (less now) was ‘stop whining, who doesn’t get beaten and otherwise abused by their parents?’. Yes, I am conscious that child abuse is the mainstay of society and it’s unfortunate. I hope that one day, my daughter can write about her experience growing up with loving collaborative parents (and their respective spouses) who didn’t emotionally or physically abuse her and how, she turned out just fine anyway!
If you can read French, here’s my current reading list
Alice Poznanska-Parizeau, “Les droits des mineurs et l’emprisonnement des jeunes au Québec”, 1976