I always knew I was damaged goods, it started in the womb and followed me into womanhood. Born to a woman addicted to alcohol, and prescription pills, I don’t think I ever had a fair chance. The State of Wisconsin took me away from my mother when she went to prison. I’m not sure how I would have handled this devastating blow if I had been alone. I had two siblings who suffered the same fate as myself on that day. We were very close in age, so we depended upon each other both emotionally and physically for survival. Although my mother going to prison was quite tragic for myself and my sisters, I believe it saved us from a fate much worse. I often sit in wonderment when I think back on the serious accidents I suffered before the tender age of six.
My story is not as tragic as some but much more tragic than others. Once removed from our mother’s care we realized that there was more to life than sadness and pain. Unfortunately, I would learn quickly that fairy tales didn’t come true for people like me. We were told that once our mother was released from prison we would be returned to her care but unfortunately that would never happen. Before long we would be torn away from this new family and simply handed over to a different one. Suddenly, we were the hottest things on the auction block being sold to the highest bidder. Poor native American children were easy to come by and that made them desirable for non-native families looking to adopt quickly.
We were quite content with the family they had given us, but we were told that there was another family searching to replace their daughter who had died as an infant. They only wanted one little girl, but social services didn’t want to separate us, so they agreed to take all three. Maybe they agreed to adopt all three of us girls, so they wouldn’t lose the opportunity to raise at least one. I really don’t believe they were qualified emotionally to take on such a large task, but I was a child and my opinion didn’t matter. I knew I would never accept them as my family, and I felt my hatred for them grow stronger as the years passed. At one point in my life I was devastated by the thought of losing another family, but now that is all I wished for. Our days were spent cleaning the house or working in the garden while the boys played like all the other children in the neighborhood. In between all the chores there was abuse and punishment. I wanted so badly to tell my story, but I knew no one would listen. When the boys weren’t playing the oldest one would physically hurt us because he believed we were trying to replace his dead sister.
Seven very long years after being adopted by the family from Hell, they sent me back into State custody. It was a bittersweet moment because I was happy to leave them but devastated that I would be leaving my sisters behind. I didn’t know what the future held for me,
but I still hoped that my sisters and I would one day return to our mother. For the next several years I was shuffled around to different foster homes and juvenile facilities which only contributed to my feeling of being unwanted. I was a very angry teen that hated all adult authority figures because they had torn my life apart. By all outward appearances, I was a tough as nails kid that could brush off anything that came my way but internally I was a disaster.
I survived losing my entire family, but it destroyed me inside. I suffered from severe depression, poor self-image and unrealistic expectations. My sense of love and affection was warped beyond repair and there was proof of that in every one of my relationships. It was obvious that my mother’s decisions early on, had left my heart damaged, dark and cold and I was now unable to form healthy relationships. None of these things would stop me from wanting her back in my life though because she was what was normal to me.
Once I was finally out of the juvenile system I would unknowingly sentence myself to years of physical, mental, verbal and sexual abuse. I had crossed over into that cycle of abuse that I witnessed my mother in as a child and I couldn’t find my way out. I had been thrown away so many times that I had very little self-worth and even less hope. This cycle led me through several dysfunctional relationships in which I struggled to find a place to belong, so I accepted any type of treatment. When I became a mother myself, things changed slightly but I was still lost. I knew deep inside that I didn’t want my child to go through life like I did, so I was determined to find myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t know who I really was, and I was so damaged that I kept finding myself back amid the abuse. I was also so reckless in my behavior that I found myself pregnant again. How could I ever take care of these two children when I could barely take care of myself? I didn’t realize just how much like my mother I truly was.
I wasn’t sure what I would do until one night the father of my first child tried to kill me. I knew then that I had to find a new life no matter the cost. So, I joined the Army… of course, not before I tracked down my biological mother and gave my second child away. I wanted to hear that she missed me as much as I had missed her and loved me equally as much. I tracked her down just after she had been released from jail for throwing a neighbor’s cat out of a window. I found this to be disturbing, yet a little amusing, because I knew I was a lot like her. For the first time I felt like I really belonged because we could relate on so many levels. I never realized at the time just how toxic she really was because I wanted a mom so bad.
Once I was enlisted in the Army I continued communication with her but soon discovered that I didn’t like her very much. She made it very clear that she disapproved of the choices that led me to having biracial children and that was something I couldn’t accept. I didn’t love for skin color or ethnicity, I loved for love itself, but she couldn’t understand that. She tried to keep her hate hidden from me, but it showed with my older sister who also had a biracial child. Eventually her negativity and hate weighed too heavily on my heart and soul, so I discontinued contact with her. One beautiful thing that came out of the whole situation, was the discovery of another sister. She was the youngest of us girls and very meek and mild considering she grew up with our mother. I still wasn’t in a good enough place in my life to form much of a relationship with her, but I tried. There were times I probably went months to a year without contact, but she was always on my mind.
As the years went by, the rumors of other siblings bounced around, but I didn’t know where to start looking so I never did. However, my oldest sibling did receive some papers from social services that revealed a little about our situation. They revealed just enough to get her to search for a sister who was named in one of the paragraphs. I was so lost in my own world I don’t even remember when this all happened, but they eventually met.
Sadly, things didn’t work out between them, so the relationship never grew. Several years later we all attempted to have a relationship, but the pain and anger from childhood got in the way and it ended badly. The bond that we had as sisters was already strained to the point of being almost nonexistent so we all just went our separate ways. Then three and a half years ago I finally slowed down long enough to find myself and rediscover what life had to offer. It took a final blow to the face from my ex-boyfriend to wake me up and make some profound changes in my life. I was finally on a better path which led me to the truest love, first in myself and then in a man who encouraged me to always be myself.
Once we were married, I became a part of his family and I found myself struggling with feelings that I had buried long ago. Holidays and family gatherings were strange because I had never been a part of any after the age of fourteen, then suddenly I was expected to remember Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I struggled to adapt and soon I found myself thinking back to my own family. Although we were barely speaking and knew very little about the adults each of us had become, I still thought of my sisters often. I didn’t want anything to do with our biological mother because of the things she had said and done but I knew if I were to get any information about other siblings I would have to ask her. For a couple of years, I pondered the idea of talking to her, but I could never bring myself to do it. Unfortunately, my mother in law became sick with cancer and I then realized that I would suffer extreme guilt if I never spoke to my mother again. I really wanted to hate my mother but a part of me needed to release whatever hurt was still hidden deep inside. I knew if I was to ever be successful at telling my story I had to bring her back into my life even just for a moment.
I rationalized every scenario in my head until I finally convinced myself that it was okay to contact her again. I wanted to find every sibling that I had been forced to live without because of her bad choices. There were many things that I wanted the answers to and she was the only one who could give them to me. At first, I thought it would be difficult to not react to her nasty words and comments, but it wasn’t. I knew I was in a good enough place emotionally that I would not allow her to have control of my feelings any longer. I also made the decision to reconnect with
my older sibling again because I was getting too old for grudges. It was difficult at first because although I had forgiven her, for the things said out of anger, I still had pain in my heart because of it. Learning to let her in again would be hard but I knew it was the right thing to do. She seemed to have a calming effect on my mother so that alone made the talks with my mother easier.
My oldest sister was also the one who encouraged me to start writing my life story. Before I did though I needed my mother to tell me about the other mysterious child she had given up for adoption. Maybe it was her gift to me for abandoning us or maybe she was tired of carrying the secret but whatever the reason, she finally told me. I lived the beginning of my life thinking I only had two sisters and now I have the knowledge of five sisters. She didn’t have much information on my sister though; my mother said all she remembered was her first and middle name, date of birth and location. She was the second oldest child and just like the oldest, she was born in prison. I spent hours on the internet searching social media and writing to random people hoping it was her. I searched hundreds of photos looking to find a physical connection because there was no denying our family genes.
Eventually, I knew I was grasping at straws and even began imagining similarities in some of the photos people shared with me. I was desperate to find my sister because I knew she needed me just as much as I needed her. There were days my search felt hopeless and other days I felt encouraged but unfortunately every lead ended up at a dead end. Then one day my oldest sister suggested making a poster and sharing it on social media like so many others had done when searching for family. At first, I felt quite silly sharing a picture of me holding up a poster but within a few days I had over ten thousand shares and hundreds of people trying to help in my search. Unfortunately, weeks went by and I still had zero luck and I felt deflated. In the meantime, I was wrapping up my memoir and preparing it for publishing so that kept my mind off the search. I think maybe a part of me hoped that when it was finished someone out there would read it and lead me to my sister.
During this time, the relationship between my mother and I was slowly starting to unravel due to her ability to access social media. She had given me all her secrets willingly and knew that I was searching for my sister but suddenly she became angry. She didn’t want anyone knowing that she had thrown away all her children except one. Each day I would wake up to nasty comments and threats from her and I finally had to cut her out of my life again. I refused to be subjected to her evil, selfish ways any longer. She may have also become concerned for her precious reputation because my book had finally been released; I was the one who stood tall and finally exposed her for the person she really was.
Once my story had been told, I was able to focus a little more on my search for my other sibling. I still wasn’t having much luck, so I had to enlist the help of a professional. With her help, I was finally able to connect with my sister and the hole in my soul had been filled. Now here we are, six motherless girls who still have no idea how to be sisters. We also know that every story has a beginning and an end, and we can finally write the happy ending to our tragic story.