OpinionSun Feb 12, 2012 - 6:44 pm EST
At 30, I learned that my mother was raped by her father…and I was that child
In May of 1978, God put forth the plans for my life. I was given up for adoption when I was only three days young. My adoptive parents were unable to have any children of their own, and were ecstatic that their dream of raising a child was about to come true. God placed me in the arms of two very loving people who took me in and provided me with unconditional love, support and opportunities that shaped the foundation of the person that I am today.
I was raised in a Christian home, and attended a Christian school up to the fourth grade, which set the foundation of my faith. Although I remained active in the youth group at church, I still struggled through school, both socially and emotionally. I was not the social butterfly, and often enjoyed my time to myself. I did not make friends easily. This pattern would continue through high school and even into college. I had a few close friends, but that too was difficult. If I began to feel like I was being left out, as I often did, it would put me into a state of depression and panic. I knew deep down what the real issue was, but I did not want to admit it, even to myself. I did not know how to handle the fact that I was adopted. I did not know anyone else who was adopted who I could turn to for advice, and going to the psychologist for my behavioral outbursts with my family did not seem to be much help either. I could not open up to anyone, let alone find someone who understood my frustrations.
For as long as I can remember, my parents have been open with me about being adopted. It was not something that I needed to be ashamed of, but in a way, I was. I was not ashamed of being adopted, I was ashamed of the way it made me feel. I was always angry. I felt like I did not belong in this world. As a matter of fact, I would often ask God “Why am I here?” and “Why did I have to feel like this?” My high school years were the toughest years of my life. I would cry myself to sleep almost every night, praying to God to take away the pain in my heart. Thank God that I had my faith to turn to, because I felt that I had nothing else. It was only when I was at church that I felt any semblance of peace. Something told me that I belonged there.
One particular person at church made an impression on me that will last throughout my life. She is someone I will always look up to. She was my first grade teacher, and she was the one person in this world that I wanted to ask for help and guidance. If only I had had the confidence. Ironically, I now interact with her often.
My husband is a minister, and is called to the same church where I grew up. God is a marvelous God! I know for a fact that God placed certain people in my life for his purpose, including my first grade teacher. I feel the same way about my husband. He and I have been married almost 10 years, and have one son. As a family, the three of us share something very special, we were all adopted. We are a family stitched together with God’s love and that was God’s plan from the very beginning. God has provided our family with unending blessings, even through the difficult times.
I had a low self worth, and would often question my very existence. I cannot pinpoint exactly what brought a change to that view. I believe it was a gradual change, beginning with a speaker that I saw while attending a youth gathering in 2004. Her story moved me to the point that I felt something telling me that we had something in common, I just had no idea what it was. She was survivor of an attempted late-term abortion who fought for her life, and now brings awareness of the effects of such procedures. No, I was not an abortion survivor, or an attempted abortion. However, as I would find later, I do indeed have a story to tell!
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In April of 2008, I attended a mission trip to New Orleans to help rebuild homes from Hurricane Katrina. It was there that I made the decision in my life that the time had come for me to know exactly where I came from. I would be turning 30 in a little over a month, and I was going through the reality that I had dreams that were not fulfilled. The “what ifs” were weighing heavy on my mind, as well as many other unanswered questions. There was never a day in my life that went by without me thinking “Is that person related to me?” wherever I went. It was also on this trip that I met a new friend who would be a God sent support in my journey. I am eternally grateful to her for all of her support and the strength she helped me to find. I finally had the courage to face the unanswered questions that I had for a very long time. I knew my adoptive parents had always told me that they would support me if I wanted to research my adoption, but I have always told them I did not want to know. The last thing I have ever wanted was to hurt them. I did try first to get information through the legal system without telling anyone. I have always been told that I would have that option as long as I was 18 years old. However, the judge determined that the case was sealed, and would remain sealed. I was crushed, but at the same time, I knew that God wanted me to do things the right way, not my way. My parents are very important to me, and even though I thought it may bring them a bit of heartache, they deserved to know the truth that I did want the information I had denied numerous times.
By mid July of 2008, I was very interested in knowing what needed to be done to begin my search. I remember picking up the phone several times with the intention of telling my parents that I wanted to know about my adoption, but I could not follow through. Finally, after a few weeks of anxiety, I brought myself to ask my mom and dad for the information. It was almost as if, in an instant, I went from having no courage, to having more than I ever knew possible. My adoptive mother almost sounded relieved that I had finally asked. She invited me over, and she and my adoptive father were very honest with me. What I would find out was something that had never and would never in a million years cross my mind. After knowing only that my biological mother was 16 when she gave birth to me, I was told that she was also a victim of incest and rape by her father, and I was likely the result of these actions. I was speechless! It took all I had to keep my composure. I went from having about a dozen questions in my mind, to having hundreds.
The first question that I remember asking was, “How would you know that if my adoption records were sealed?” Ironically, my adoptive mother worked at the hospital where I was born. She is unable to remember exactly how she had my birthmother’s name, but having her name is also how she knew about the possible situation with my biological father. The incest was published in 1991 when my biological mother prosecuted her father, for not only the one pregnancy resulting in my birth and adoption, but also for six other pregnancies resulting in five abortions, and one forced miscarry by her father. Words could not begin to describe the emotions going on inside my mind at that moment. What kind of monster would do such a thing to his own daughter? Another thought going through my mind was, given the fate of the other six children, why was I spared?
As a teenager going through the struggle within my mind about being adopted, I had also wondered if my birthmother had thought about aborting me. I did not, however, imagine that my very existence would be so controversial. When I was told the circumstance, I kept asking myself, “Why wasn’t I aborted also?” I thank God for showing me where to turn in times of crisis because this question could only be answered through scripture. Romans 9:20, NLV states, “But who are you, O Man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it ‘Why did you make me like this?’” I do not need to ask why. I already know why I survived—I was created intentionally by God for his purpose. He chose me!
I did have heartache for the others who did not survive, but I had more concern for the true survivor, my biological mother. How could one person be put through such trauma? I also thank God that my faith was strong at the time that I asked to know about my adoption. If my relationship with Christ was not as mature, my view may have been very different. This just reinforces the fact that God’s timing is perfect!
I really stewed on the information I received for about a week, praying and asking God to guide me to do His will. I felt that I was being guided to continue my search for my biological mother and the truth of my existence. I also wanted to consult with my husband before continuing with my search. It did take me a few days to tell him what I had found out also. I did not fear his reaction, but at the time, I was not even sure of my own reaction. After sharing the information with him, he expressed that he was supportive of me continuing my search if that is what I felt led to do, and that where I came from was indeed God’s doing, not man’s. I could not have asked for a better man by my side.
I had many things to consider as I decided how to begin a formal search. First of all, was my biological mother or father still alive? Second, would she want anything to do with me if the circumstances were in fact that I was a child of incest? Another consideration was facing the possibility that my biological father was present in his daughter’s life, and what his reaction to me would be. On the other hand, my strength lies with God and in my faith. No matter how I got here, I know I am his child. Matthew 10:30, NLV states, “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” I knew I had to trust in Him, especially now. Ultimately, my thought was that if she has been through so much in her life, does she know that there is someone out there who loves her unconditionally and does she also know Jesus as her Savior?
After only two short days of searching the internet, I came across a popular website that reunites schoolmates, revealing a photo of my biological mother. At this point, I had so many emotions going on in my head that I did not know what to do. The moment that I had imagined for so long was no longer just a dream, it was finally a reality. I could not believe it! My first thought was, “Where do I go from here?” Would a picture and a small amount of information be enough to satisfy my desire to find her? Should I contact her? How do I contact her if I decide that is what I want? There were too many “what ifs” not to try to contact her, but was I really ready? After much prayer and a lot of support from my husband and a close friend, I decided to follow through with the journey I had started. I really felt that if God brought me this close, how could I stop now? I searched again on the internet in hopes of finding some way to contact her, but the only thing I found was a partial email address. At the bottom of the website where I originally found her picture, there was a note that she could be contacted at an email address, but it was only a partial email address. Now I was really confused. The address ended with ym.com. I was not familiar with this particular email, so I searched it online. After finding nothing matching ym.com, the only possibility I could think of is yahoo mail. Since this was the only information I had to go on, I had to try it. It was definitely a shot in the dark, but if I had no guts, I knew I would have no glory. I sent a blind email to a yahoo email address that I believed was the correct one with the intention of never hearing from the recipient. I simply asked if she was the correct person from the area where I grew up. What were the chances that it was really her? But that is just it, there are no chances in life.
Later that night, I had a message back from her stating “Yes, Who is this?” As I read this, my jaw dropped. It was really her! Now I had to figure out how to tell her who I was, and also ask myself if I was prepared should she tell me she wanted no contact. I knew it was time to face the reality that had bothered me for so long. I brainstormed for an hour trying to decide how I would word my response. Finally, I simply let her know that I thought we had a connection, and asked that she please visit my page on the same website where I found her picture. I also stated that I wanted to honor her wishes if she chose not to contact me again. Ironically, our internet went down that evening shortly after I sent the last email so I had no way to see if she responded back. It was like sitting on pins and needles. First thing the next morning, the internet was working and I immediately checked my email. Sure enough, she had responded. Not only was that a pleasant surprise, but she wanted me to call her right away. I can still remember the feeling I had in my stomach.
It is like having a hundred butterflies fluttering around uncontrollably. I quickly sent her another email letting her know our internet was not working, and that I had just gotten the message. I also told her that I was getting ready to go to work, but she was welcome to call me. She replied back that she would call me at 8:00 that morning which was in about half an hour. I was counting the seconds, as it seemed like the longest half hour of my life. At 8:10, I began to get worried because my phone still had not rung. All of the “what ifs” began to enter my mind, but I quickly reminded myself that God was in control. Patience has long been one of my weaknesses. When my phone did begin to ring at 8: 15, I was frantic. What would I say to her? What would she say to me? As I answered the phone, I could tell she was nervous, as she could tell I was also. After about the first 5 minutes of conversation, the awkwardness left, and it was smooth sailing. She and I spoke on the phone for well over an hour about some of the family’s history and my upbringing.
At one point, she told me that both she and my biological father thought I had not survived when I was born. The reason that this was assumed was because of a hospital bill that she had received by accident. I was born with an infection in my body, and was very sick. I was transferred to a bigger hospital that could provide me with the intense treatment needed to recover from the infection. My biological mother received a bill from the hospital for the services I received, and at that time was told by her mother that if a child is taken to this hospital, it is likely not to survive. Not only did I survive, I also completely recovered from the infection.
After our initial conversation, we both agreed that we wanted to meet, along with her younger daughter—my half sister—who I found out was expecting a child in a few days. My half sister was very excited, and asked if I would like to visit when she had the baby. I was thrilled! I made quick arrangements to drive there over the coming weekend, and we were all very excited. That same evening that we had talked, my half sister had her baby. What a day to remember! Three days later, I was on the road to visit. I decided it was a trip that I would take alone, even though my parents were concerned about the drive by myself. I knew that God would guide me and protect me.
The drive only took about 5 or 6 hours, which went very quickly. We all met for breakfast, including my new nephew. I could not believe that the day I thought about for so long was finally here! We talked briefly at breakfast, and spent the morning together looking at pictures and getting to know each other. I was literally in awe with the resemblance between my biological mother and myself. Later that afternoon, my biological mother wanted to spend time showing me around the area where she lived. She and I took a drive around the downtown area and eventually stopped at a park to sit and talk. I will never forget this day! We sat on a bench near a beautiful lake just talking about everything.
It was also at this time that she felt comfortable enough to tell me about my biological father and who he was. My half sister and biological mother’s fiancé suggested she wait to tell me because they feared I would turn and walk away from her. I had no intention of ending the relationship, and I told her that there was nothing she could tell me that would make me want to run away from her. My biological mother was unaware that I or my parents knew her name or about the prosecution of her father. As my biological mother began to explain to me who my biological father was, I let her know that I already had an idea about it. My biological mother was very surprised that I had chosen to find her even after knowing the truth about my biological father. This is when I let her know my faith and how I felt about who I was. He may share my DNA, but God created me. No matter the circumstance, it is of God’s will and purpose that I was conceived. I do not want anything from my biological father, nor will I ever.
It is very hard for me to describe the feelings towards my biological father. The sinner in me wants to see him punished for his actions, considering he only served less than 18 months in prison due to lack of evidence, (which would have been me.) However, my Christian upbringing taught me different. Don’t get me wrong—in no manner what-so-ever do I agree with what he has done. It is tough to explain exactly how I feel, and I do not even understand completely how I feel toward him. If I were given the opportunity to speak to my biological father, I really would simply tell him that I pray he has asked for forgiveness in his heart.
The second day of my visit with my birthmother, reality hit me. I woke up early in the morning and sat on the porch for several hours by myself, crying profusely. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not stop. It was 29 years of bottled emotions that were pouring out. All I could do besides cry at this point was pray prayers of thanksgiving that I finally got to meet the person who gave birth to me. It was truly a miracle!
That evening, we drove about an hour to visit with my biological mother’s brother and his family. This was something that meant a lot to my biological mother. Growing up, her brother did not believe that his father had been raping his sister, as his father wanted him to believe she had made it all up. Finally showing her brother that there was relevance to the claims was a form of closure for her. For her brother, it was a shock! He now believed her after all of this time, and this was a good feeling for me to know the truth finally brought them closer again.
A few short weeks after my first visit with my biological family, my biological mother came to visit with me and my family. I was able to introduce her to my adoptive parents and to many of my close friends. Although this was a bit awkward for all of us, it was one of the most precious moments in my life! I also got to meet some of my biological mother’s family who still lived within a 40 mile vicinity from where I live now, as her family is also from the area where I currently reside. It really is a small world! Her family here was also happy that the truth was finally revealed and the family was brought together again. My hope is that the family that was torn apart by secrets and lies can now be brought together and begin to heal by the truth.
There is no doubt in my mind that God was in control of it all. There is no other explanation! I was finally beginning to see the pieces of my life fitting together. He turned my feelings of being broken and unworthy to that of having unending value. Through Christ, I have gained the confidence necessary to fulfill my dreams after searching for so long on my own. I am not defined by my DNA, but by the calling I have received as a child of God. No one can take that away from me. My calling in Christ Jesus is my destiny! He is my foundation, and with Him I cannot crumble. Now I am able to share my faith with someone who has had many obstacles to overcome in life, and to help her to move on.
I have learned something very important in the last year. Life is about the Faith that we have in Christ, the Hope he gives us for tomorrow and spreading his Love to everyone around us! Look to Christ for strength in everything! Even in cases of rape and incest, each unborn child is created by God for a purpose. As my story reveals, God can take something bad and make it an opportunity to do something miraculous! The legalization of abortion is nothing short of playing God, and who are we to question God?
Kristi Hofferber may be reached here. She blogs at speakupforlife.blogspot.com.
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