I learned I was adopted when I was ten years old. It came out by accident one bright summer afternoon. I'd come across a scrapbook from my mothers baby shower, one which I'd never laid eyes on before. While looking through the scraps of wrapping paper and various photographs, I found a congratulations card from a former neighbor. The cover of the card read something like "Congratulations on the Adoption of your Baby" My first reaction was denial, then disbelief, then utter fear. I called for my mother, and when she saw me holding the card in my hand, all the color left her face and she sagged against the doorframe. I do remember her sitting down with me at that point, although I don't remember exactly what she told me. But I do recall being instructed not to tell any of my friends, that this was to be kept a family secret.
For the next four years I told no one. I knew some of the people I went to school with had been adopted, and they weren't treated any differently, but it was ingrained in my mind..."Don't tell anyone!" When I finally confessed my deep dark secret to my boyfriend at the age of fourteen, his reaction was one of "Well, so what?" I finally understood that my being adopted had nothing to do with the person I was or the way others would view me.
From the time I'd learned of my adoption, thoughts about my birthmother swirled through my mind. Why was I given up? What did she look like? Did I have any brothers or sisters?.....thoughts all adoptees share at one point or another. I finally made the decision to search for her when I turned eighteen...I assumed once I reached the age of adulthood, all the answers would be given to me, and I could finally meet this person whom given me life.
I asked my mother for all the records and documents she had from my adoption. Time and time again I was put off..."Oh, they're in the safe, I can't get to them"....."I'll get in there tomorrow, I have a really bad headache right now"...etc. etc. Finally, I asked her point blank why she wouldn't give me these papers; did she not want me to search? She began crying and asked me "What's wrong, am I not enough for you?" I tried very hard to make her understand it was nothing to do with her or my father...I knew who my parents were, but they either couldn't or were not willing to answer the questions that had plagued me for years.
Everytime I asked why I was given up, the story changed. First it was a young, teenage girl who'd "gotten in trouble" and gave the baby up for adoption. (This was in 1970, and unwed mothers of ANY age were not readily accepted as they are today) Then it was a newly married couple who couldn't afford a baby and wanted to give the child a better life. I think at one point I was even told "she" just didn't want a baby...married or not. I needed to know. I can't explain why the urgency for the truth was so strong...it just was, and I sensed my parents wanted me to just drop the whole subject, but I couldn't let it go. Not anymore.
Eventually I did get the paperwork from my mother, although there really wasn't much there that would help me. I went into my search completely blind...I wasn't aware of the books and organizations out there that would point me in the right direction. I called every name I saw listed in my papers...tried tracking down (without success) the attorney my parents had used, and generally made a nuisance of myself to the welfare agency, who'd handled the arrangements.
Everywhere I went I had doors slammed in my face. I was asked numerous times "Why are you doing this to your parents? Don't you love them?" I finally came up with the answer "Yes I do, but they need to understand that this is something I have to do...only in finding my birthfamily can I find the answers to my questions." It was never good enough for any of the "officials" and from time to time I became discouraged and shelved the entire search only to pick it up again a few months later.
When I lived in Hawaii, I wrote for some information about a reunion registry in the state of Indiana. I was actually writing to have my non-identifying information sent to me, but was inadvertently registered with the basic information I had. A few weeks later I received a letter from the state. As I opened it, I thought it was merely a confirmation of my request along with the standard "We'll be in touch" I'd grown accustomed to.
Instead I was in for the shock of my life! The first sheet of paper said "In compliance with state law number blah blah blah the exchange of the following identifying information has been listed with our agency and sent to the parties named." Below that were two columns...my name, address and phone number was listed along with the words "adult adoptee" in parenthesis...under the second column was my birthmothers name, address and phone number and the words "birthmother" listed in parenthesis. I don't think I would have understood or believed what this name meant if it hadn't been clearly stated.
I screamed, and almost fell to the ground. After four long years, I had all the information I needed to talk with her right in my hands. I think I floated to work that day. Emotions ran the extremes...complete happiness all the way to total disbelief.
As it turned out, I didn't talk with Mary until after moving back to Indiana. Three days after receiving the information, we learned Jerry's transfer had gone through and my time was spent packing and preparing for the move. Christmas came and went and I wanted to call, but I guess I didn't because I was afraid. I knew the only reason I'd been sent her information was because she too had registered, and was searching for me, but I was still afraid.
Finaly I did call, and we spent a few hours on the phone that first time. I didn't ask all my questions immediately...I was too wrapped up in just listening to her voice, telling me about her life now. I learned that indeed I had siblings...an older half brother, and two younger half sisters. We made arrangements to meet.....come to find out, she only lived twenty minutes from my hometown, and I'd driven down the very street she lived on countless times. She said she prayed that God would allow me to be close to her even if she didn't know it, and sure enough, I had been. In high school softball I even played against my sister without even knowing it.
We met and suddenly all the pieces seemed to fall into place. I found out exactly why she'd given me up, learned that she did in fact love me but wanted better for me, and that she'd always regretted her decision. Oh, not the decision of giving me a better life, but never knowing how I was or if I was well taken care of. Her guilt drove her to become addicted to the drug heroine, which she struggled for years to overcome.
In the four and a half years since our reunion, Mary and I have become very close. She has not taken the place of my adoptive mother...no one can...but she and I share a bond, a connection like no other.
Under the 'Links' button below you'll find some links to adoption-related websites.
to read about my first meeting with Mary
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