Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Secrets Revealed and Secrets Kept

To continue where I left off in my last blog, I'll start at the beginning regarding my adoption and what led up to me searching, and finding, my birthmother. Believe it or not, it does relate in some ways to how I developed Chalice, the main character in my Knight's Curse books.

My adoptive parents went through a private agency in the late fifties. Adoptions were handled quite a bit differently back then than they are today. Very hush-hush and in some cases, such as mine, lots of deceit going on. Even though my parents' application for adoption had been approved, I was still put in foster care right after I was born. My adoptive mother described my living accommodations and even I want to weep for the newborn that had been me. The foster care mother was pregnant herself and had four newborns in her care.

So imagine a tiny baby living in an unclean environment, soaked diapers most of the time, suffering an allergic reaction to the infant formula, and left to cry helplessly without anyone to hold and cuddle her for the first two weeks of her life. Yep, that was me. My adoptive parents weren't allowed to take me home until I was two weeks old.

I honestly believe my start in life affected my ability to connect and form relationships when I got older. My adoptive mother told me I preferred to be left alone in my crib and when held I cried to be put down. I was a product of my environment and struggled for years to be able to open up and allow others to love me. Loving back was another challenge I needed to overcome.

But my parents never kept the facts of my adoption secret from me. I don't remember a time when I didn't know where I came from, I just didn't know who I came from. To be honest, I didn't really care. At least not until I had children of my own. I had questions, especially in regard to medical history.

So when I was 26 years old I embarked on an intense search for my birthmother. Back then, there was no Internet and sealed records were more common than not. I spent a fortune on postage sending letters to all the various departments of government records, but most of what I received back were documents with thick black marker lines obscuring any identifying information.

I'm a very determined person and I never quit until I get what I'm after. After 9 months of searching, I finally learned my birthmother's name and tracked her down. She was a cocktail waitress working in Las Vegas. When I told her who I was, she didn't believe me.

My birthmother hadn't been allowed to see me when I was born. Wasn't allowed to hold me. The nurses promptly swept me away to the nursery and that was that. They told my birthmother she'd given birth to a baby boy. That's why she didn't believe me. In those days, telling birthmothers the opposite gender of their babies was a common tactic used to prevent them from finding the children they'd given up.

It took some doing, but I had accumulated enough facts surrounding my birth to convince her I was the daughter she had given up at birth. We talked on the phone a couple of times, but we had nothing in common. She was a stranger. I'd come from her body, not from her heart. We never met, only exchanged a letter or two. She answered my questions and I was pleased to know I had 3 older sisters and 2 younger brothers, all of whom she had kept in her life. My birthmother refused to give me their names because they had no idea I existed and she didn't want them to think badly of her. To this day I'm her best kept secret. By mutual agreement, she and I never kept in touch.

My birthfather: who is he and where is he now? Well, I was surprised to learn my birthmother was a devout Catholic and had met my father in a Catholic church in Chicago. He was in the seminary, training to be a priest. Once he learned my birthmother was pregnant, he left the church and went on to become an electrician. He died of a heart attack at the age of 46. I found this out from his death certificate. I'd never had the chance to meet him.

So there you have it. How does any of this relate to the character development of Chalice? She's damaged, as was I, and though her mother had died in childbirth, she still longs for that connection to the family she's been denied most her life. She's desperate to belong. As for her father, she knows he's around somewhere and though she feels he abandoned her and her mother, he used to be her mother's guardian angel and is the reason she has the powers she does. Will she find him? If you read KNIGHT'S CURSE, you know the answer to that question. In DARKEST KNIGHT, there's even more to this part of Chalice's story.


Peg Brantley said...

What an amazing personal story, Karen. Thank you for sharing. I hope you're taking care of your heart, in more ways than one.

Isn't it wonderful how we can use some things in our lives to enhance our stories . . . and how sometimes our stories can shed light on our lives?

Karen Duvall said...

Oh, yes, Peg, that's so very true. Life imitates art and art imitates life. It's one of the reasons I love reading fiction. I know the author has been inspired by personal events from his or her life in some way, whether big or small. It enriches the reading experience.

I'm very conscious of my heart and do all the right things, though sadly I don't exercise enough. My bad! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful post, Karen. Incredible story.


Karen Duvall said...

Thank you, Greta. :)

Diana Mcc. said...

As I am in the process of reading Chalice's story now, I can see how your feelings and experiences are woven into the "Knights Cruse". Excellent story, by the way and I will be buying the 2nd book in the trilogy when it comes out in March. Wonderful post and thanks for sharing your journey. And take care of your heart, as Peg said, in more ways than one!