Finding my biological family after adoption
Posted by mandyf on May 14, 2012
I was thirty five when the email arrived to a question I posted over five years earlier, “Could you be my mom or dad?” I had been searching on and off for nearly fifteen years hoping I might find my biological parents. When I finally saw the subject line which was forwarded from a site from the department of health, I wasn’t sure what to do.
On one hand I was excited as I thought maybe someone had a lead for me or possibly even that this was directly from the man or woman that played a part in my creation. So many thoughts ran through my head that I had to just sit back for a second and consider what was inside. Was I finally going to have all the family medical history I desperately needed considering my long battle with health woes? Why was I given up for adoption in the first place? Does somebody actually want to physically meet me, or is this just one of those things where someone says I’m your mom and wanted to know you are okay?
At the time it was too much to take in. A lifetime of questions, anger, sadness, joy, and finally relief swept over me. I knew that no matter how wonderful my biological parents might be I would never really think of them as my parents. My parents were the ones that nursed me through every scrape, operation, broken heart, and dilemma that comes with growing up. They clothed me, fed me, and gave me every opportunity they could to make sure I had the best chance of succeeding and having a happy life. Most of all they loved me. They even told me from the time I was very young that when I grew up and was old enough that if I wanted to find my birth parents they would understand and help me however they could. Of course by the time I was old enough, my mom had been passed on by several years and it somehow seemed wrong after eighteen years of love and sacrifice to ask my dad to help me do such a thing. It almost made me feel like I was cheating or marginalizing all he had done for me. I can’t recall if I ever felt so dirty for lack of a better word when I began my search. Still, something compelled me to keep digging.
I thought of dad and mom who were both passed away as I signed out of my email leaving the letter unopened. I decided to get dinner ready and catch up on things around the house before everyone got home. I vacuumed for the second time that day and started cleaning the bathrooms yet again. Were it not winter I probably would have even cut the grass or anything else to take my mind off of what was waiting for me in my inbox. It wasn’t long before my daughter came home from school and my partner returned from work. Still I hadn’t opened the letter. I couldn’t even talk about it, that is until my partner finally piped up and asked if I was going to kick the sheets all night or tell her what was wrong.
We discussed the pro’s and con’s and it seemed as though I needed to open it if for no other reason than to find out if it contained anything on my medical history. My doctors had been grousing for years about not knowing what illnesses may run in my genetic code and all I could ever say was that I had no idea. Ultimately though she said it was my choice alone and no choice was right or wrong. What finally compelled me to get out of bed was that she reminded me if I could get any information to keep me healthier or take steps towards preventing further illness I owed it to our daughter, after all, I knew all to well how hard it was to lose a parent while still young.
I think the boot time on my computer was the slowest it had ever been yet it still wasn’t slow enough. I sat in the dark and watched the startup menu until finally it was ready for use. I clicked the Internet explorer icon and watched my homepage appear. I read the news, checked some sports scores and anything else I could think of to delay logging in. I knew once I did that I was going to have to read this email I still wasn’t sure I really wanted any part of. Tentatively I entered my information and saw the letter was still there and hadn’t vaporized in the manner I sort of wished it would. Finally I just quick clicked it, but averted my eyes to it’s opening. Then I looked.
It wasn’t from my Birth mother or father. It was forwarded through the Department of Health for someone named Catherine that said she was my little sister. I stopped right there wondering how a little sister, someone that was born after me could know to look for me? Being a skeptical person I quickly thought this was some kind of scam or sick joke and got angry until I noticed something about Pink. Pink was my stuffed bunny rabbit, my favorite in fact although these days she is more brownish than pink. She said Pink was the one thing her mother had given to me when I was born and somehow she had been by my side my whole life. Then I knew it was real as nobody would know about that. When she mentioned the first and middle name I knew I was given at birth I accepted this as actually being my real sister. Dare I say, family.
She gave me some information about herself and family and told me that her mom, my birth mother was dead. She had passed three months earlier. She didn’t mention much more about it, just that she would like to get to know me and that if I would like to I could call anytime day or night to talk to her. I was tempted to pick up the hone at that very moment but decided a call after three A.M. was probably a bad idea. I read the letter several more times and went back to bed. Sleep wouldn’t come so I was back to the computer and began composing a long letter, the story of my life. By seven thirty I was still going and had taken care of getting Kay ready for school. I made some breakfast and left it on the desk, but I couldn’t eat. By eight I couldn’t wait any longer and picked up the phone.
Right away I got Catherine, or Cat as she told me was her preferred name, and after and awkward exchange and a few of those dreadful dead air moments things began to flow. At first I thought she would be a bit surprised to learn her older brother was now actually her queer older sister, but she took it in stride and assured me it was no big deal and that she already knew. I was surprised but figured a Google search can do wonders. She even told me her/our shared mom knew and was just happy I was happy.
I caught her in the car on the way to work but we agreed to talk later and she even mentioned maybe sometime it would be nice to meet. I asked when, and when she said anytime, I said how about tonight? I knew it may be too much too soon, but I really had to know. I had so many questions. I wanted to see what my sister looked like standing next to me. For some reason I wanted to see what it felt like to touch a person I shared so much with. She laughed a bit and said we can do lunch if you can make it. I was serious though and she agreed.
I called work and told them I wasn’t really sick and explained the situation. Thankfully they told me to take all the time I needed, and if I needed more than I had saved we could work something out. I called Mary and she said she would meet me at the airport with Kay. All I had to do was book a flight and pack some bags. The Trip to Texas went quickly but felt like days. We checked into our hotel and I called Cat to let her know we arrived and set up a meeting. We agreed on a restaurant near us and it was back to waiting. Finally and thankfully for an hour or so I was able to sleep.
We enjoyed a nice meal and although awkward for the adults initially, Kay and her new cousins hit it off immediately. Cat’s husband Ed suggested he take Mary and the kids to the mall or a movie so Cat and I could have some time alone which was a good thing. Finally I could ask my questions. I learned of my medical history as she had already prepared a packet listing family health issues back to her grandparents. I wanted to ask her why I was given up but I knew she didn’t have the answer. As we sat at the lounge table Cat reached across and took my hand in hers and said “Not a day passed that you weren’t thought of. You were always loved.” She told me how my birth mother lived and eventually died. She told me how every year on my birthday she put away a gift for me in the closet in case we would one day meet.
I asked why she hadn’t found me sooner? I had been searching for years investing tons of time and money and even took out ads in newspapers in and near where I was born hoping to find her. I even offered a reward at one time. How could she miss all that? How could she not respond? Cat then told me something I never expected to hear. She said her mom knew I was looking but was afraid of meeting me. Afraid I might reject her. Afraid that as she was struggling in life and I was doing relatively well that I might think she wanted something from me. She saw I had a nice life and didn’t want to upset it in any way. I wanted to scoff at the idea but then considered that in her shoes I might feel the same.
Our spouses returned and we made our way to the parking lot. We hugged and cried and promised that we would spend much of the next few days together. Our kids were all thrilled to get an extra little unplanned school vacation. She had Ed pull their car next to ours and in the trunk sat thirty five years of birthday gifts. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t kidding! We went back to our hotel and by working together we took everything to our room and I sat and opened each in order as the cards attached to each marked the years. The gifts were all simple but nice and each letter explained why it had been picked for me. Sweeter than that though was each detailed what her year had held and how she wondered how I was, and each told me how much she loved me and was proud of me.
Finding my birth mother wasn’t what I expected, especially considering she was gone before I had the chance to meet her. Through her letters though I did get to know her and understand why things worked out as they did. As for my birth father, I decided he was someone I didn’t need to find or meet. I had learned all I wanted to know about him. A few months later we asked Cat and her family to come up north and spend my birthday with us at our home and I was glad they could make it. While I didn’t have a package and letter from my birth mother waiting for me that year I did have a sister and brother in law as well as a niece and nephew. They are greater gifts than I could ask for. Now each year we take turns visiting to spend a holiday together. What could be better than that? It is true what they say, a mother’s love knows no boundaries.