Rick’s birthmother relinquished him into foster care where he was terrorized as a toddler. He was eventually adopted around age 6 but always felt like an outsider. At 16 years old he reunited with his maternal family who informed him his mother was institutionalized for paranoid schizophrenia. Their reunion didn’t go at all how he had hoped. When he found his birth father, the man was incarcerated but welcoming. Eventually, Rick distanced himself from his birth father and when he tried to reconnect, it was too late.
Read Full TranscriptRick: 00:03 Like this was part of her schizophrenia, you know, so she believes that she had another child. I’m an only child. She believed that she had a girl that was taken away from her too. So this is a lot for a 16 year old boy just to take in, you know, I’ve never been around anybody mentally ill. I’ve never experienced this. And now this was my…. This is my mom.
Voices: 00:35 Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I mind?
Damon: 00:47 This is who am I really a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I’m Damon Davis, and on today’s show is Rick. He called me from Central Illinois. Rick tells the story of being terrorized in foster care as a toddler and challenges in childhood, connecting with his adopted family. Those early issues drove his desire to find his birth mother, but when he did, her mental state wouldn’t allow them to connect. Rick hadn’t focused on finding his birth father at all, but when he did, the man was surprisingly receptive. They had a falling out and Rick tried to reconnect later, but he learned it was too late, but that news wasn’t even the worst news of that day. Rick’s doing just fine now, but he’s been through a lot. This is Rick’s journey… Rick says, adoption was never really talked about in his house growing up, but even before his adoption, he says he spent the first years of his life with his mother and grandmother.
Rick: 01:50 I have kind of a unique experience. I wasn’t adopted as an infant. I was actually with my mother and grandmother for about the first year of my life and then was placed into foster care. And so my earliest memories are not of my adopted family or my biological family, but a foster family. Um, and those weren’t very good memories at all. Um, and so these things fester throughout life and, uh, just kinda came up and got triggered and you know, it was one of those things I needed to talk about but didn’t really feel like I could talk about my adopted parents pretty much, you know, just wanted me to pretend like they were my parents. And always was that way and there was no reason to believe that it ever wasn’t.
Damon: 02:38 I wonder if you could take me back just to your memories of foster care. Do you mind just sharing a little bit about what, what was so traumatic about it?
Rick: 02:47 Uh, sure. My earliest memories that the most traumatic thing for me, I had a bed wetting problem as a kid, which I was in foster care. I would have been too, you know, so, um, so I don’t really think of bedwetting problem at two is really an issue, um, but it, it was to them. So it was, there’s a lot of shaming around that and there were times I was locked in rooms and they were pounding on the door and saying, this is the Boogie man and, you know, just really trying to scare me and put a lot of fear into me. And I just, I never understood why or how somebody could treat a child that way. You know what I mean? The worst experience was, uh, around the bed wedding. They, uh, they pretended like they removed my penis with a toy chainsaw and told me it wasn’t a little boy anymore and that, um, I wouldn’t be able to wet the bed anymore because I didn’t have a penis.
Damon: 03:51 Oh my gosh.
Rick: 03:53 So yeah, this is acceptable and material for your podcast or not. But this is a, this is my life as it is.
Damon: 04:02 No, man. These are real stories we learned. This isn’t about filtering for, you know, people’s feelings. This is the reality of what happens to people throughout their lives. So you say whatever you have to say. This is your, your journey.
Damon: 04:16 Rick said he was in foster care from August 1978 to July of 1980. He has no recollection of the first foster home, but the second one is seared in his memory. They terrorized Rick while he was in their care at about three years old. He buried those memories for a long time until they were randomly triggered one day. Rick did some research into his own bed wetting issues which continued after he left foster care.
Rick: 04:43 I didn’t know. This is actually how I started getting into the adoptee community. I had a hunch one day I’m like, you know what? I got the bedwetting was tied to my adoption somehow. I don’t know why I was thinking about that, but I just, you know, I’m like, I’m going to look into that. So I searched it. I just did a google search, you know, foster kids or adopted kids and bedwetting and it’s a thing. It’s a lot of adopted and foster kids have bedwetting issues. I don’t know why, uh, you know, the psychology of it or whatever. It’s just a thing. And so somebody had written a blog about it or something and I responded to it. And then, uh, and then I started finding these adoptions, communities on facebook and whatever. And so then I started talking about some of these things and finding out wow theres’s, lots of people that have a lot of issues because they were adopted, I guess, you know, I, I had certain issues I guess I didn’t really ever understand that it was actually a pretty, a pretty big deal. And a lot of people are affected by the option.
Damon: 05:45 So you’ve said that you weren’t really allowed or encouraged to talk about adoption in your adopted family. Um, what was life like there in, in your adoptive family? As a child?
Rick: 05:59 It was decent for the most part. I had three older sisters that were biological children of have my parents assuming my dad wanted a boy. And that’s why I ended up getting adopted. I found out years later that they had actually had a foster kid before me that was the boy that they ended up not keeping which is kind of weird, you know. So that was like the second try at it, you know,
Damon: 06:26 the second triad, it, those words struck me. And I wondered how Rick found out that he was the second boy in his parents’ home. He explained that when he was 13, his father gave him a letter from the caseworker, from Baby Fold, the adoption agency his parents worked with to adopt him. Keep in mind, Rick has already said they didn’t talk about adoption in his home. So this was a big moment in his life. His father owned a construction company and on this day he asked Rick to meet him at his business afters chool. Rick rode his bike over to his fathers shop,
Rick: 07:02 I went into his office you know, just chatting with me and hands me this letter and this letter gives me non identifying information about my biological family and I just started bawling because this is stuff that I was never able to talk about and you know, just kept in and all these emotions just came pouring out and now they have this letter since they had me, you know, so this was his chosen time to finally reveal this information to me. And so I, I think it would have been more beneficial for all of this stuff has been talked about growing up to never pretend like I didn’t have a history before them to just incorporate me into their family but also account for the fact that I know I was having always been a part of their family.
Damon: 08:00 Rick said that was actually his 13th birthday. When I asked him how that was as a present, he said it was great because finally his father was open to talking for that brief window in time.
Rick: 08:12 There you go. Yeah. Then he asked me, do you have any. Do you have any questions? I said, yeah, who is Jimmy? And this wasn’t in the letter. It’s just something, a question I had that I was never able to ask. Growing up. All my sisters had sleeping bags that were monogrammed on the outside of them and they all have their names on them mindset. Jimmy. I had no idea who jimmy was and they’ve never had the courage to ask Jimmy was. And so at that point, my dad explained to me that they had another foster kid before me and, and uh, had issues is that I guess were worse than my issues and they didn’t feel like they could keep him in their home. So that was kind of odd.
Damon: 09:01 That is so fascinating. You, you lived with the hand me down artifact of another child’s existence in their home for awhile and you just, I would imagine to the trauma of having been through what you went through in the prior home would have prevented you from asking questions too. Like if your wetting, the bed, something that’s seemingly uncontrollable for a child, I would imagine it would be very traumatic to feel empowered to open your mouth and ask a question, you know what I mean? Like … wow
Rick: 09:34 Absolutely, absolutely. And, and they weren’t real encouraging would that the bed wedding continued, you know, and uh, this home as well, the home where I was eventually adopted into. My dad would have me wear my underwear on my head and make me walk through the house a one time you put a dress on me and called me a girl’s name. I don’t know what that has to do with bedwetting way of shaming me for it, you know. And so the opportunity for healing was never really presented to me. And I did talk to my dad about it once, um, you know, my dad and there are points where he’s going to sound like a really bad guy, but you know, there’s also in a lot of ways he was, he was a good father to me, you know, and, and so, you know, we had good moments and bad moments and you know, one time he was trying to reach out to me and have a heart to heart with me and he’s like, why do you think your wetting the bed, you know, what do you think the problem is? And I told him about the experience at the foster home with the toy chainsaw and everything. And his response was, well, I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if it is, that’s really terrible, but I don’t know whether I can believe you or not. And that was it. Nothing was ever said about it. No. You know, I didn’t get taken to counseling. I didn’t, you know, it was just, I don’t know whether I can believe you or not. And sorry about it. And it was just left at that.
Damon: 11:11 We’ve talked quite a bit about Rick’s father so far, so I was curious about...