Mother, you had me, but I never had you…
–John Lennon, from “Mother”
Back in May 2011, I mentioned that I was adopted at birth.
Well, see that stork? However ridiculous a myth it may be, that babies are delivered by storks, when you are like me, an adoptee in a closed adoption, not told anything about it until 12 years of age, as was my experience, and even then provided no details whatsoever, only that I was born and then raised by the two people I’d been calling “Mom” and “Dad” my whole life, it’s not really all that different than being told that I was delivered by a stork.
Because, you see, from the age of 12 onward, I lived with a massive void in my identity. I knew the history of my adoptive parents, their Jewish, eastern European origins, but I knew absolutely nothing about my own heritage. What country or countries are my ancestors from? What religion(s) did they belong to? What did/do they look like? Do they look anything like me? Do they look at all like my son?
When my son was born, 14 years ago, one of my first thoughts was that he was the only blood relative I’d ever known.
Over the years, when I’d periodically become curious about my adoption, I’d ask my “Mom” and “Dad” and for the longest time they told me that they didn’t know much and that they disapproved of adoptees trying to contact their biological parents. They’d say something like, “You have to respect her privacy and realize that it could be very upsetting for her to hear from you.”
Fast forward to sometime in the late 1980s, when my parents finally agreed to tell me a few details. They told me my birth mother’s name and the name of the lawyer, by then deceased, who handled the adoption, and that’s it. Given that adoption records are sealed in the State of New Jersey, and that this was pre-Internet, it would have taken an enormous investment in time, energy and money to conduct a search, especially given how much time had passed, how likely it was that my birth mother might have changed her name, moved to another state, or another country, and that is if she was even still alive.
Fast forward again, to the Internet Age, when I’d try every now and then to just Google my birth mother’s name, or register at websites like the Adoption Reunion Registry, where adoptees looking for birth parents and birth parents looking for the children they’d given up for adoption can sometimes find one another. But, I’d always come up empty.
Fast forward to 2011. After I’d blogged about the story of a recipient of a heart transplant, a man who’d met the wife of the man whose heart he received, the blog post wherein I mentioned that I was adopted, I was inspired to talk to my “Dad” about it once more. (My adoptive “Mom” died 11 years ago.)
And when, for like the millionth time over many years, I spelled out my birth mother’s last name, to make sure I had it right, this exchange happened:
My “Dad”: Wait! that’s not right! That “e” before the “l” should be an “a”!
All it took was entering her name in Google, spelled correctly, and the very first search result was a website for a high school reunion, and there she was, with a photo from her yearbook, and a note that she’s now married, with another last name, and the name of the town where she currently lives was there as well.
A few more search results later and I found an email address for her, I spent a few weeks drafting what I hoped would be the perfect email, apologizing if hearing from me was upsetting, assuring her that I didn’t intend to invade her life, telling her about myself, and asking her to, at the very least, supply me with some details about my heritage, especially any hereditary medical issues that I could benefit from knowing about.
The email, when ready, was sent August 1st, 2011, it never bounced back as an email would that was sent to a deactivated email account, which seemed a good sign, but then weeks and then months passed and…nothing.
Fast forward to yesterday, and on a whim I thought I’d resend the email, and I prefaced it with a restatement of my assurances that I meant no harm, but that I was aching for some answers.
Fast forward to last night…my iPhone rings, I’m tied up and can’t answer it, but 15 minutes later I check and there’s a new voicemail waiting for me, the call originated from the very town where my birth mother lives, an obscure little hamlet that I’d never heard of prior to this search, a town from where, certainly, no one else I knew would be calling.
I stared at the phone number and the name of the town and I was suddenly scared to listen to the message. Would it be an angry plea to leave her alone? Would it be a cold, indifferent agreement to provide me with some of information that I sought, in a detached, businesslike exchange? Would it be an angry, threatening husband demanding to know why I’m emailing his wife with some crazy story?
It was none of those things. It was, based on all the reading I’ve done about reunions, the absolute best-case scenario one could hope for.
She was sorry to have not responded to my initial email, reporting that she deleted it without reading it, spam being spam, because she didn’t recognize the sender. She said that she is certain that she’s the person I’ve been looking for. She said she hasn’t stopped thinking about me. She said she would love to talk to me and answer any questions I might have.
She was sweet, warm, noticeably tearful.
I’ve found my mother. We will talk this weekend. It feels surreal and yet hopeful. I will soon know EXACTLY who I am and where I came from.
Stork, my ass!