Amy's Adoption Story Timeline
My name is Amy Barker D'Alessandro, LMHC, and I'm the owner and founder of Adoption Savvy.
I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Washington state specializing in Adoption & Trauma. I'm also an
Adult Adoptee from a Closed Adoption in longterm reunion and a Birth Mother of a grown son of an Open Adoption. This is my Adoption Story Timeline up until today.
(hover over the pics for details)
14 Days Old
I was adopted in Texas in 1965 through an adoption agency when I was 14 days old. I'm not sure where I was those first 14 days of my new life, but most likely I was with a foster family. My Birth Mother secretly went away to a home for unwed mothers in a state far from her home and never told her parents about having me. She said she wouldn't sign the relinquishment papers unless they let her hold me just once, which they didn't want her to do because they were afraid she would change her mind. But because she insisted, they relented, and she said she held me for a few moments before signing the paperwork and handing me back.
4-12 Years Old
My adoptive parents were unable to conceive, and I was their only child together. They divorced when I was 4 years old, and I stayed with my adoptive mom but remained in contact with my adoptive dad, visiting on holidays & summer vacations. Both my adoptive parents remarried and each couple had two biological children, but before any of my adoptive siblings were born, my adoptive mom & stepfather (who later legally adopted me) welcomed several foster children into our home. When I was 9 years old, they planned to adopt one of my foster brothers but then got pregnant with my sister and changed their plans. So even though we continued to be a foster family for many years, I was the only adopted child in either home.
24 Years Old
I met my Birth Mother in 1989, shortly after I became a Birth Mother myself. Actually, my social worker came into my hospital room while I was there with my son and told me that she had located my Birth Mother. I was adopted through the same agency that I chose for my son's placement so it was easy for her to access my adoption records. My Birth Mother, Joye, and I met in person a month later and, except for a few years in between, we have stayed in contact over the years. She went on to have four sons after me, and I was thrilled to find out I had four half brothers.
Because I had been part of a closed adoption and knew how hard it was to grow up without any contact with or information about my Birth Family, it was important to me that my child have an open adoption which was just becoming popular in the late '80's. The family I chose for my son was very interested in openness with me, and despite the loss of my only child being the most painful and difficult experience I've ever endured, knowing he was in their care gave me tremendous peace while he was growing up without me.
26 Years Old
A couple of years after meeting Joye, I met two of my half brothers who were very close to me in age, and we all hit it off. I got to sing Karaoke with one of them and also got to introduce them both to my adoptive sister, which was great. We expected to make up for lost time and stay closely connected after that, but the challenges of both physical distance and distance in the ways we were raised made that a lot harder than it sounded.
Around that time I also went to my first Adoption Conference called "Adoption in the '90's." I was very interested in how adoption had impacted me both as an Adoptee and as a Birth Mother but found it very difficult to find helpful information. Therapists rarely connected ongoing anxiety & depression to adoption issues, a problem we still see happening today.
27-34 Years Old
In graduate school I had a class assignment of creating a genogram, similar to a family tree, and with Joye's help, was able to add plenty of information about my Birth Mother's extended family along with my adoptive parents, step parents, and many siblings. However, there was a big empty place in the chart where my Birth Father's information should be, so I decided it was time to meet him as well and to gain information about the rest of my biological heritage. We spoke first by phone and had great conversations. Then I flew out to California to meet my Birth Father, Doc, to spend a few days getting to know him. I look a lot like my Birth Mother and have a lot of her personality traits, but I also had quite a bit in common with him. He was a longtime entrepreneur & writer, and we discovered that we both had a background in radio & theatre. I too have embarked on many entrepreneurial ventures, like opening a gourmet bakery & coffee house, pursuing a singer/songwriter career, and managing producers in the music business. Doc & I seemed very similar over the phone, but in person, our differences made it a bit harder to really connect.
During this time, I had a job for four years that required extensive travel which really facilitated my ability to meet and to meet up with some of my Birth Relatives as well as other family and friends domestically & abroad. While touring with a major entertainer, Doc's extended family surprised me by purchasing tickets to the show in Madison, WI in the hopes of meeting me. I got a call in my hotel room before the show from a birth cousin I didn't know, and that's how I met them all for the first time. It was amazing to meet cousins who looked like me and were my own age as well as aunts and uncles who were so excited to meet me.
Another show in Baltimore was where I met my youngest half brother. His parents surprised him after picking him up at school that day by saying, "We have two surprises for you: 1. We are taking you to a big show tonight, and 2. You have a sister and that's where you will meet her." I think he was about 14 years old at the time and such a little sweetheart, but I remember in addition to a big smile on his face, he certainly had a "deer in the headlights" look in his eyes the whole night.
The last time I saw my Birth Father was at another show in California. We went out to breakfast one morning, and then he came to the show that night. He had tears in his eyes after the show and told me how proud he was of me.
38 Years Old
My Birth Father, Doc, died suddenly at the age of 59, and I was surprised by the depth of emotion I felt when I found out. I went back to Wisconsin and stayed with my Birth Aunt there (his sister) and participated in his memorial service by speaking and then singing a song we had sung together when I had first visited him. It was a very surreal experience to be there and to be a part of this service, but I remember the biggest shock came when I entered the room where the service took place, and there was a life size photo of him & me up at the podium. I wasn't expecting that! But given that he never married and never had any other children, his family wanted to share me with everyone since I was his daughter and his only legacy.
40-44 Years Old
I relocated from Nashville, TN to Seattle, WA to work on a Masters in Counseling Psychology. My initial goal was to work in anti-trafficking, and I became submerged in that endeavor on trips to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Turkey. However, as I continued to do my own emotional healing work necessary for becoming a Mental Health Counselor, I began more deeply addressing my adoption wounds. At that time, I was surprised to learn what an intersection there was between adoption and human trafficking. During my final year in Graduate School, I became more convinced that the experiences I had lived as an Adoptee and Birth Parent had uniquely qualified me to work closely with the adoption community, and though it was something I would never have before considered, it truly has lead to the most rewarding work of my life.
49 Years Old
As I mentioned before, my son, Dillon, was adopted by a wonderful couple who had previously adopted a baby boy. I was thrilled that Dillon would be raised with an older brother. I kept in contact with his parents regularly until he was around 5 or 6 years old, and then contact dropped off. I still checked in with the family from time to time, but as he grew older, he wasn't interested in contact with me. In 2016, I got a chance to reconnect with him and the rest of his family, including his brother and brother's wife. It was an amazing experience! I had travelled to the Austin area to introduce my fiance to the rest of my adoptive family in Texas, and at the last minute, when my son decided he was ready, I got to take my soon to be husband into that "reunion" meeting with me. I hadn't even dared dream that would happen!
50 Years Old
At 50 years old, I got married to the love of my life which instantly made me a step-mother of two and grandmother to a delightful little grandson (and I now have three beautiful grand children!). My (first) Adoptive Father and Step-Mother both walked me down the aisle, my Adoptive Brothers were groomsmen standing with my husband, and my Birth Mother was there on the front row to support me and to be a part of my special day. We could only laugh when we realized we both gave each other the same gift to one another as a remembrance, a hand-embroidered handkerchief with a personalized note on it. Synchronicity in adoption is real!
Sadly, the other side of my adoptive family, my Adoptive Mother and my adoptive siblings, chose not to be a part of my wedding. I think this was especially difficult for me because I so wanted all the sides of my life to be in one place at one time - like bringing the fragmented pieces of my story together once and for all. But unfortunately it just didn't turn out that way.
56 Years Old - Today
As you can see, I have my own lifelong experience with adoption & foster care, and it certainly isn't over yet. My Adoptive Dad passed away recently, and losing him was again a layered and complicated grief process that I know is rooted in my adoption story. This was my third father
funeral to participate in, and I know losing all three of my mothers is on the horizon. I do not look forward to navigating the grief ahead.
Fortunately, I had another face to face meeting with my son a couple of years ago, and during the pandemic, we've had regular Zoom calls, most lasting for several hours, It has been transformative to be a part of his life, even if only on the fringes, and to see not only my reflection in him, but to revel in his uniqueness as a lovely young man.
Adoption is a lifelong journey because each stage of our lives can present different adoption-related challenges, triggers, and issues. Further, the relationships we have with all the extended members of our family either biological, adoptive, by marriage and/or divorce make those issues even more complex.
Along with my own personal experiences, I also carry with me the stories of so many others impacted by adoption whom I have worked with or met along the way. I know first hand and in my work how complicated & painful the layers of complexity can be, and I have devoted my professional life to continuing to learn, understand, and educate others about it while working to facilitate healing in the process. I am truly honored to be able to do the work that I do. I am passionate about it and about us all working together and becoming Adoption Savvy!