Her journey through adoption, identity and biological family highlights
the importance of truth in the construction of our own history.
My name is Gabriela.
I was born at Piñeiro Hospital on June 17th., 1968. My birth mother’s name is Ada and today she is 76 years old. When I was born I was named Patricia Fabiana, but I was immediately given to a married couple: Esther and Osvaldo, who changed my name to Gabriela Mabel.
My adoptive mother found out that a baby was going to be placed for adoption through an aunt of hers. Then, through a man named Dr. Alfie, my adoptive parents contacted my birth mother. They gave her money and for a while (between a few days before my birth and a few days after it) they rented her a room in a hotel in the neighborhood of Chacarita, in the City of Buenos Aires. The decision to look for a place where she could stay was mainly due to the fact that Ada was with her first born: a 2 year old girl named Aurora.
I always had the gut feeling that I was an adoptee but no one ever told me. Physically I don’t look like anyone in my adoptive family. This fact was like a constant affirmation of the possibility of being an adopted child. However, I was always looking to look like someone.
I am an only child and, as I mentioned before, my parents never said anything to me about my ‘adoption’. On one occasion, when I was in my 20s, I tried to talk to my adoptive mom and tell her about my suspicions but it was not possible because she immediately got upset when I brought up the subject. We argued and I never tried to talk to her about this again.
I always felt part of my family. I was the first granddaughter and the first niece, so I enjoyed the privileges of occupying that place, but at school (I attended a bilingual school in Belgrano neighborhood) I got bullied a lot. I didn’t feel I belonged at my school, with my peers. Some classmates picked on me because I was brunette, and that’s when my suspicion of being an adopted daughter increased. But neither in my childhood nor in my adolescence did I talk about it with anyone. I never said anything about it to my friends or to anyone in my family. It was a taboo topic.
I was always very compliant, submissive and often felt guilty. I was not allowed to talk about my suspicion. I could not unfold myself or break the status quo. It was implicit that silence had to be maintained.
My relationship with my adoptive parents was ‘normal’ as long as I didn’t question anything. My dad was an absent, hard-working, not at all loving father and my mom was an omnipresent mother, who passed away tragically, very quickly, and who did not help me evolve in many ways because we were overly attached.
In 2013, when I was 45 years old, my maternal aunt finally confirmed me that I am an adopted daughter.
I did therapy for a few years, and it helped me a lot, especially to get out everything I had kept inside for so long. I was able to focus, understand and begin to heal. Wanting to know who I am was central to begin the search for my birth family. But it took me a long time to make the decision to go through with it. I lived with a true knowledge I could not express and it was very uncomfortable until I could.
Finally, when I decided to search, I found. I went to the Human Rights office at the Civil Registry of the City of Buenos Aires, and left all the information I had. Soon after, they gave me the data of an older biological sister: Aurora. I called her and we talked. And after some time I finally met her and Ada in person. The three of us met right on Ada’s birthday. The conversation with Ada was not easy. She just looked at me without saying anything and I didn’t want to or maybe couldn’t engage her in conversation. I don’t know. That was the only time I saw Ada. But with Aurora we began a relationship that we are still slowly building. I do want my bond with her to grow stronger.
On the other hand, I found out that I have four other biological siblings: Alejandra who is the third daughter and three younger boys. I only met Alejandra and I don’t want to meet my three younger biological brothers.
My adoptive parents offered me a happy childhood, with a large extended family, cousins, aunts and uncles. I was a privileged person because out of six children my biological mother had, only I was given up. My five biological siblings grew up with a very different reality from mine. I had access to an excellent education. I had a home, a bed every night and a family who, as I mentioned before, took care of me.
The recurring anguish I feel, the abandonment, the uprooting are feelings that have always been with me. I went to therapy and it helped me a lot, but I feel that being an adoptee is an experience that goes through me, with all that it entails. I am very proud of the woman I am today and I am even proud of the little girl I was: complacent, grateful and often feeling guilty. I was also very strong and I will always be strong. Besides, I always cried a lot. But my mom wouldn’t let me cry. She would scold me if I cried, and I am very sensitive and often feel anguish.
I think that not being able to put into words what I feel, makes me feel distressed. I was abandoned and that makes me insecure and my self-esteem is low. I am afraid of being abandoned again. I think of Ada today and I ask myself who was she, who is she today? I don’t have any answers.
Since I met them, Ada, distanced herself from her daughter Aurora, and this caused great pain to my sister.
I also think about my birth father, who is not the same one Aurora or my other siblings have.
My ‘adoption’ was clearly an ‘appropriation’ (not an adoption): a term that means that there was no legal adoption process.
My adoptive mother’s selfishness, her desire to be a mother, was the driving force behind my appropriation. I specifically mention her because I know that my father accompanied her desire. But this is a common denominator in these situations: the ‘adoptive’ parents put their desire first and change, for example, as in my case, even my birth name. And I consider that this was the first act of a number of successive acts that violated my basic human rights.
Likewise, the lie, the concealment and the famous ‘we don’t talk about that’, underlie my story and have influenced my personal relationships all my life.
Today I can assure you that telling an adoptee that he or she is adopted and always speaking the truth is the healthiest thing adoptive parents can do.
By sharing my story, I want to encourage those who are hesitant. If someone is hesitant to search or not to search and if they are afraid of what they will find, I especially want to express that searching and being able to know always helps to heal. It sounds like a trite phrase but undertaking a search, and a search as meaningful as the search for identity, invariably heals.