Romanian girl struggled with ‘identity crisis’
Worked through it
She was so tiny in her crib that her soon-to-be-mom thought she was about 18 months old. Actually, she was 4 1/2, but neglect and malnourishment had taken their toll.
“What about this little girl?” Sonya Paterson recalls asking in one of a string of dark rooms in dark orphanages she visited throughout Romania. She was helping hundreds of Canadian and American couples adopt children from the crumbling communist state.
“‘Is this little girl adoptable?’ I said. ...
“The orphanage director looked at me right in the eyes and said, ‘Sonya, that girl’s not for you. She’s irrecuperable and you should get yourself a baby.’”
But the fact that Carmen had survived the barren, prison-like orphanage only endeared the bright-eyed little girl to Paterson and, later, to her husband David. Carmen Louise Paterson was adopted on Aug. 11, 1990, one of about 1,400 children who were brought to Canada from Romania. Now 28, she is still tiny, at four feet 11 inches and little more than 100 pounds.
“I remember that scared feeling of being left behind,” she says. “I do have that sometimes, where it’s like being abandoned.”
In the early days, she had nightmares.
In high school, her struggles became more emotional.
She didn’t fit in, was sometimes bullied, quit school in Grade 11 and left her parents. They found a place for her to stay in another city and she finished Grade 12, but their estrangement continued on and off for years.
She drank. She had bad friends. She struggled through what her mother refers to as her “identity crisis.”
She suffered a cut to her artery during a fight with her boyfriend. It nearly killed her, though it brought the family back together months before her father died a year ago. Today, mother and daughter are very close.
Carmen is enrolled in college. After a childhood in gymnastics, swimming and other sports, she has an eye to a career as a kinesiologist or a fitness trainer.
“You work through it and you grow in character.”