I selfishly thought my adoption was about me. Just about me. I had asked my mom so many times about my birthmother. What happened to her? How did she die? (Mom always insisted she had died in childbirth but I learned years later she hadn’t died at all. They lied to me.) Did Mom know anything about this woman who “sacrificed” her life for me to be born? About the woman who gave my parents the ultimate gift? Me.
Yes, my questions were all about me. Questions my parents apparently didn’t have the answers to. I didn’t even know what time of day I was born. I never cared about those genealogy exercises in school because I didn’t have any blood relatives. I didn’t worry about my health since my father’s heart problems and my mom’s cancer weren’t inheritable, because I was adopted. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters. No one understood how I felt. Alone. No one looked like me. I cried when my aunt said I looked like I should be her daughter since I was short and fat like her, not tall like my mom. Why did she feel it was necessary to point out my weight in the same sentence that she reminded me that I was adopted? I was different. I didn’t belong.
I felt inadequate when I’d go to the doctor since I couldn’t provide the medical history they requested. Me, me, me. When I learned my birthmother hadn’t died in childbirth like I was told, I was more determined than ever to find this woman. To find out who she was, what she looked like, and why she gave me up. Since I learned she hadn’t died, I needed to know a reason. And I wanted to know why they lied to me.
Once I found out who my birthmother was, and I must say it took some amazing of detective work on my part, the focus was no longer just about me. It became about my birth mother. My first mother. Who was she? And why didn’t she, or couldn’t she, keep me?
After finding my adoption papers after both of my adoptive parents passed away, armed with only a last name, I wrote and mailed out letters. I included a picture of me and a short bio. I received a response from a woman, Elaine, who was the family historian. Yes, my birth family was so cool they have a historian. She and I set out to find out who I was. Where I came from. And why.
It took years. Twenty-four years for the two of us to piece together the puzzle to the point where we were certain who my birth mother was. Unfortunately, this woman had passed away about the same time I started looking for her.
This family historian, Laney, as I now called her, and cuz, as she called me, was so excited about the book I wrote about finding my birthmother. She told all her friends and family about my story. After one of her friends read my book, Call Me Ella, they posted this status on Laney’s Facebook page: “I loved the book,” she said to my cuz. “It’s about you!” I smiled. Yes, my new cuz Laney is the true hero of my book. Thank you for your help, your encouragement and your love! Without your help I would never have learned how I came to be!
Adoption is not just about the adoptee. It’s about the whole family. It’s about the adoptive family. It’s also about the birth family. When a child is put up for adoption, there are so many people involved. Potential siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins. The sad part is most of the time, the majority of people who are affected by adoption don’t even know an adoption took place. They have no idea there is a person in this world who is feeling alone. Different. Perhaps unwanted. No matter how much they might be loved by their adoptive family, there is still the underlying truth that at some point, they were separated from their blood. What can we do to help? The first step is honesty. Everyone deserves a story. Their own birth story. My adoption might have been the right option. Perhaps the only option. But growing up believing a woman had died who hadn’t? That’s the part that hurts the most. I learned about the lies after my adoptive parents, after my birth mother had passed away. It’s sad. There are so many things I may never know. So many unanswered questions.
January 1, 2017 is the day that I am expecting to be able to request my original New Jersey birth certificate for the first time. I wonder what it will say. Will I learn anything that I haven’t figured out already? If nothing else, perhaps I will learn what time of day I was born. That would be nice.
What do you hope to find when you finally get to see your original birth certificate?
Call Me Ella – An Adoption Reunion Memoir