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I usually focus on design, business and things that inspire me in this blog. However, I want to share something more personal, my adoption story. Sharing this story may be wearing my heart on my sleeve, but I want to tell it so my family and friends can understand how grateful I am for my life.
“What is family? They were the people who claimed you. In good, in bad, in parts or in whole, they were the ones who showed up, who stayed in there, regardless. It wasn’t just about blood relations or shared chromosomes, but something wider, bigger.”
~ Sarah Dessel
My parents, Richard and Sandra Bauer knew they wanted to adopt internationally. At first, they were going to adopt a child from Korea, but that fell through. In the process, they met Louise Lineup. She ran an orphanage in the Philippines and had connections to other Filipino children that needed to be adopted.
Once my parents were approved to adopt me, everything went downhill! The Filipino President was not allowing anyone out of the country. Mount Mayon, a volcano in Legaspi where I was located erupted resulting in lost communication for months. Finally, they found me and the Filipino President decided that only 10 babies were allowed out of the country. I was one of those babies!
After 5 years of struggling to adopt, my parents were finally successful. I arrived at JFK airport in New York City on October 31st, 1984. I was 18 months old and I could walk, talk (in tagalog) and was fairly healthy. I had a large infected bug bite on my head that was easily treatable. Throughout my childhood, I had multiple problems with my teeth due to malnutrition. Otherwise, I was at the right stages mentally and physically.
I always knew I was adopted. When I was a child, I would proudly introduce myself saying, “Hi! My name is Julie-Ann Virginia Bauer and I am adopted from the Philippines!” In 6th grade, I remember wondering why I was adopted, but I never asked my parents. When I was in high school, I struggled with being adopted. I didn’t like talking about it.
When I was 16, my mom came to say goodnight to me like she always did. This time she sat down on my bed and said, “I think you are old enough to understand your adoption story.” She proceeded to tell me that I was never in an orphanage, but stayed in a mental hospital. The nurses nurtured me and took care of me. I asked my mom, “Why was I in a mental hospital?” She replied, “Well, because your birth mother, Gloria Sinay was schizophrenic.”
Gloria’s family placed her in the hospital, but eventually couldn’t pay the bills. Months later, a nurse found her on the streets pregnant with me. My mom was told that Gloria was a very beautiful woman and they believe that she was raped while she was homeless. The hospital allowed her to stay there until I was born. Once I was born, the nurses had to help Gloria sign the adoption papers.
My mom didn’t want to tell me this story until I was mentally developed because they were unsure if Gloria’s schizophrenia was due to her family environment or if it was genetic. I had no idea what schizophrenia was but it sounded scary. I researched it and was hoping I didn’t have a mental disease. As you know, I don’t have any signs of schizophrenia and I am well adjusted.
Before I knew my background story, every day I wondered and struggled with the idea of how my birth mother could give me up. It mortified me that someone could do that to their own flesh and blood. In Gloria’s case, she didn’t have a choice and I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up in that situation.
When people find out that I am adopted, they immediately ask, “Do you want to find your birth mother?” I use to think, “Absolutely!” imagining that it would be a beautiful reunion. In reality, meeting her would only be heartbreaking for me. I don’t think there is any information on where she is and I have a hunch that she may not even be alive. It deeply saddens me that I will never know her, but I think it is best for me.
I reflect upon how my life started and it is not glamourous. There were no baby showers or a mother and father nesting preparing to take me home. But, I don’t remember anything from the Philippines or adjusting to my new life. I never knew myself as Julie Ann Sinay and have always proudly identified myself as Julie-Ann Virginia Bauer (now Burkhart).
My childhood friends never thought it was strange that I was adopted. I never got teased about it. The first time I had to explain and tell people was in college. They would ask why the people in my family pictures were white and not Asian. It was a new experience for me. Now that I am in California, some people know but not a lot. When I do tell someone, they just say, “interesting” or “cool” and it doesn’t seem to go beyond that. I wonder if people are afraid to ask me about it. I am completely comfortable talking about it now.
I am so grateful that I was one of the 10 babies allowed out of the Philippines. The opportunities I have been given have been amazing. I am living the life I have envisioned for myself. I am married to the most amazing man, have a loving supportive family, living in California minutes away from the ocean, surfing whenever I want to, running my own businesses, and have friends that are like family to me on both east and west coasts. I am nothing but grateful and appreciative for my life. I can not even imagine what my life would be like and maybe I wouldn’t even be alive if I were not adopted.
My family is just like any other “normal” family with our ups and downs, but I know I am truly lucky to have been chosen by the Bauer family.
In a letter my mom gave to me on the day I got married she wrote, “Remember, you are deeply loved and will always be my precious miracle baby.”
I am blessed.
For my family:
Thank you Dad, Mom, Cindy, Mindy and Andy for being the best family through thick and thin. Without you, I would not be who I am today. I know you will always be there for me. I know that flesh and blood does not just make up a family, but the love, care, hardships and memories that we have endured together does. I love you!