When I was 3 years old, I was adopted by a young couple in their 30’s with 2 children of their own. Adoption is a wonderful thing- matching families with children in need of a fair shake in this world, who, for whatever reason, have been given up by parents who cannot provide for their basic needs.
Experiences for adoptees and their parents varies from adoption to adoption. For some, there is a natural “click” that happens. For others, the road isn’t so easy.
My biological mother kept me until I was about a year old. From there, I went into foster care and lived in 3 or 4 different homes before finally, one day, a man in a khaki colored trench coat and Indiana Jones hat took me to McDonald’s for a happy meal; my new dad.
Before I knew it, I’d moved again. I carried with me a jumble of memories of different mothers, temporary siblings, and a case worker named Dana, a kind woman with dark hair.
Childhood was seemingly simple enough. We lived in a nice neighborhood and went to the nicest schools. My new brothers were just that- brothers. One who didn’t seem to mind that I was there, and the other who- well, minded a lot.
My “new mother” and I never really clicked. It seems I didn’t “adjust” quickly enough, and resentment filled a space between us within the first year, which never went away. Don’t get me wrong, I have a special place in my heart for my mom- she’s the only person I’ve ever had in that role. I’ve learned a lot from her, and as I’ve matured into a woman, I understand her as her own person. Her parenting skills were handed down to her from her mother, a woman who was hard pressed to show much emotion, but was very concerned about appearances. Thus, instead of a tight bond with my mom, the relationship more closely resembled one of caretaker and child.
I often wondered about my biological mother, but wasn’t ever told much more than “she gave you up”, or “she couldn’t take care of you.”
That all changed, when, at 15 and going through severe growing pains, the woman who raised me gave me an envelope full of papers she’d kept since I was 3. Papers with information about both birth parents- original documents from my adoption file. I will never forget the moment I first looked at the documents, a few which were filled out in my own mother’s handwriting. She had touched this paper. She had written every word. I scanned the pages quickly, looking for a name. What I found jumped off the page and hit me in my gut; Dana. My mother’s first name was Dana.
I sat down and burst into tears. The woman I had remembered all this time was not a case worker, she was not a lawyer or a foster mother- she was my mother. I remember being amazed that a 1 year old could remember such a thing as her mother’s first name. It was astonishing.
I searched high and low for her, chasing trails that had grown cold years ago, hoping someone, anyone could tell me where she was, but only came as close as finding her father- who had no idea where she was. He also revealed that he’d known a child existed, but never knew if I was a girl or a boy, or what became of me.
A few times a year I would search data bases looking for my mother. By my early 20’s I’d accepted that she was likely dead. I had been able to trace her, but could come up with nothing after the early 1990’s. My mom and my dad also thought she had died, along with her mother, who at my time of adoption had been too ill to take me in herself.
The need to know where the two were burried grew, and at times would keep me up at night. I was accepting of the fact that the possibility of ever meeting a biological family member would never happen, but I needed to know with certainty what had become of her. I wanted to pay my respects and let her know, even in death, that I was okay. I am a mother and imagine that I would want to know that the child I gave up was alright out there in the big wide world.
Late January of 2009, I got my chance, when one day in casual conversation I explained to Mr. Verity pretty much what I’ve written above, and he said he knew someone that could give me a difinitive answer- if I wanted it.
I’ve gotten these offers in the past, but either the person never acted on it, or what was found was a dead end. But I went searching for that file anyway. I passed it on to Mr. V who passed it on to a family member.
Within two hours, via a 1 senence email, I had the information I’d been waiting my entire life for; my mother was alive.
The raw emotion that went through every inch of my body is something I’ve only ever experienced after giving birht; I laughed. I laughed because it was fantasical, unbelievable, beyond my train of thought, mind blowing, life changing information. My mom is alive and living in California.
A closer look at the information revealed another startling fact. The house where my mother lived was in someone else’s name, another member of the family. I looked at at the name and felt a dizzying sensation.
I knew from meeting my grandfather that at birth, my middle name was that of my maternal grandmother, “Irene”. The first name of the owner of the house was Irene. My grandmother too, was alive.
I had an address and a telephone number, and I had to decide what to do.
Now let me say this. Every time I ever looked for my mother, it was not because I had rose colored classes on. I never romanticised the reality of the situation. I knew that my mother had a very hard life. Nor was a trying to throw away the family that I had.
But it’s a funny thing, growing up and never knowing what you looked like before a certain age, not knowing where or who you came from. I never had any expectations. That may sound unbelievable, but it’s true. That’s until I had the woman’s address and phone number in my hand, and the only thing I could think was, “what if she hangs up on me?”
I thought about writing a letter, but that would take too long, and if I never got a response I’d spend the rest of my life wondering if it got lost in the mail- crazy, I know. After a few days, I glanced at the paper, as I had a million times, and a calm settled over me. I looked from the paper to the phone and I heard a distince voice in my head say “you’re about to change her life, forever.”
I picked up the phone.
My grandmother answered and no matter how loud I spoke, she couldn’t hear a thing I said. She hollered for her daughter and said “she’ll be here in a minute,” and set the phone down. My heart was in convulsions, to say the least. And then I heard the phone move again.
The next 8 minutes, which I’ll keep private, changed my life. It was quickly confirmed through shock and tears who I was, and who I came from.
My biological mother was so overcome that she had to get off the phone, but not before telling me that she loved me, and a promise to call the next day…and that she was my mother.
Since then, Irene has died, but not before finding out who that caller on the phone was that day a few months before.
The relationship between Dana and I has dual faces. On the one hand, it’s very sensitive, very emotional, very small step by small step, plus a dash of larger family drama just to keep it spicy. I am constantly processing the reality of this reunion.
On the other side, the relationship between she and I is very simple. She is my mom and I am her only child.
I’m really very “ehh” when it comes to holidays. There is no single holiday that I jump out of bed for, though I appreciate tradition as much as the next person. So mother’s day isn’t a major deal, just like Valentine’s Day, Easter or Thanksgiving, though I do call my mom every year like a good child is supposed to. I personally think the greatest days are birthday’s, and not just mine, everyone else’s too.
But yesterday, puttering around the house, swimming in random thoughts, it suddenly dawned on me- Mother’s Day has changed, forever, for me. The person who carried me in her womb for 10 months and went through natural labor and child birth is alive and on this planet. I’m in this world because of her.
Finding out that Dana is alive is still a shock.
Being able to establish a relationship with her is more than I ever conceived.
Calling her on Sunday will be like fulfilling a dream I never even knew I had.