I am that little bird now, trying to establish a basic fact. But I am a grown woman, not a helpless baby trying to find the one that will care for me. I had a good and mostly happy childhood with my adoptive parents, my adoptive mother particularly. I was nurtured and loved.
If there was a disconnect it was by virtue of the gulf of societal changes that occurred in the years that separated us. I think that particular span was more significant than possibly any span before or since, even for the same number of years. My mother was born in 1923 and I in 1965. There were many times in my teen and young adult years when I am sure I just befuddled her. I remember her being completely horrified that I called a boy on the phone. ‘Only sluts do that!’ she informed me, and my mother almost never used language like that. I wasn’t even calling a boy I was romantically interested in – I was probably about 11 or so at the time. I remember saying ‘Mom, nobody thinks that, that doesn’t make any sense.’ I think she believed me, or tried to, but it was one of the first times I realized that as far as navigating the society I was born into, I was on my own.
Looking back on my upbringing it’s amazing that I am the firm feminist I am. Or possibly it’s not at all surprising, because I was presented every day of my life with vivid proof that feminism is absolutely necessary. At least for me, holding firm to feminist ideals (even before I put that name to my way of thinking) was how I could avoid becoming like my mother, at least as regards how she was treated as a housewife. My father was king of the castle. My mother the dutiful wife, who endured his irrational demands and rages placidly. We children generally tried to be obedient and unobtrusive. Mom was the kind of amazing mother that always packed our lunches and who would produce full meals for us and our unannounced friends at virtually any time. She scrubbed floors on her hands and knees and always ironed the clothes. I think she did these things very willingly, and I never felt like she resented not having a career. To her, that was just how things were done, and both of my parents subtly and unsubtly tried to fit me into that mold, too. But I just wasn’t going there.
Now in my new reality I wonder about my birth mother. If I could identify one trait that seemed wholly out of place in my family, it was my sense of independence. I wonder, did I inherit that from her? It must be a very strong trait indeed to completely thwart all of my adoptive parents’ efforts to make me in their image. I never even thought about it as rebellion and I don’t think they viewed it as such. It wasn’t a fight, it was simply how it was for me. I was not going to be a man’s doormat/helpmeet, full stop.
It’s still so early. Not even a week has passed since discovery. But I put my form for my OBC in the mail the very day I discovered. I need to find her. I hope she is alive. I fear finding out she is not. I want to know her story, if she was one of the hundreds of thousands of young women who were bullied and shamed and coerced into maternity homes and giving up their “illegitimate” babies, never being presented with options or even the faint possibility that keeping them was something to consider. It seems rather likely that she was. I think, too, that at least some of those women signed documents promising never to go looking for their babies and were made to fear doing so. If that is her case, and if she is also like the extremely high percentage of those women that wished for contact, I hope that she hasn’t decided that since I did not come looking for her, I did not want that contact. I want her to know that I would have come looking for her immediately as I have done. Fifty years ago she gave birth to me. I have daughters of my own, and there is simply no way she does not remember or think of it.
Mom, if you’re out there, I’m looking for you. I will find you. I want you to know that I don’t feel rejected by you because you gave me up, and that I want to know you now. I want you to know me, and your granddaughters. I want to know if I have siblings or half siblings. I want to do a new family tree and climb up its branches as I have with my adoptive family. If it turns out that I am a secret you prefer be kept that way I will honor that too, but I hope you’ll let me know you and let you know me.
Perhaps this is a Pollyanna phase that I will come to scorn but the way I am looking at this today is that my adoptive family, my childhood, all of what made me who I am is still there. I just discovered that there’s a whole lot more to know, too. And I want that, so very much.