Are you my mother?

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.

Baby Steps

A moment of gratitude here for the Internet. I think people in my situation prior to the Internet that were trying to discover their truth, to connect with others walking the same path, and to learn had such limited opportunity as to make this staggeringly huge project virtually impossible or at least much too overwhelming to embark upon. If I had discovered my truth back in those times I wonder what I would have done?

Within minutes of discovery I was scouring the Internet for resources and information. I learned almost immediately about the Original Birth Certificate (commonly referred to as OBC) – this would have my birth mother’s and possibly my birth father’s name on it . I also learned that the laws vary from state to state as to whether or not an adoptee has the right to obtain this critical document, and there are ongoing legal battles to release them. Fortunately for me I am in a state that does, and so I contacted my public health department, downloaded the necessary form and sent it off. That was mailed on 10/7, so we’ll see how long it takes.  I also downloaded forms for the Adoptee Registry and for sharing medical information. There is also a form to redact your information. I haven’t read the statute too closely but it seems that after the redacting party is deceased you can get the unredacted information.

I’ll have more to say about the OBC thing later, but I must say it compounded my sense of betrayal to think that not only were many family members and friends of the family conspiring to keep me ignorant of basic facts about myself, but so was the state! I understand about the times and the stigmas attached to the birth mothers and the bastard children, so I have not yet come to anything like a conclusion about the practice, but my knee jerk reaction was incredulity. You’re not supposed to falsify official documentation, period. Isn’t that a felony or something? Yeesh.

I joined a forum and a facebook group and got such warm supportive responses to my initial posts that it really helped steady and encourage me. One of them suggested I do the DNA test from Ancestry and another the mtDNA test, so I have ordered both. Ironically I have spent the past several years constructing a vast family tree. I have traced my adoptive father’s family back to the 900s, and found many interesting facts about members of the tree. I look at that work now and just feel numb. It’s still interesting, it’s still technically my family, but there’s a disconnect for me now. I wonder why that should be? I read somewhere that we are all related by a surprisingly small number of genetic steps, so perhaps someday I will embark on a discovery to link myself back to that tree somehow. Probably no time soon though.

I still feel like a stranger in a strange land, groping my way about and pretty sure that I don’t want to be here in the first place. But the natives have been very kind and I will try in turn to be kind to those that find themselves here after me.


My cousin told me I was adopted. She was tormented by indecision. My adoptive father was a very harsh man and those that knew were sworn to secrecy, or threatened to it. She is older than me so she has known this fact all of my life. She was inspired to tell me because we had been discussing the story of another cousin who was adopted, who had somewhat recently found her biological mother and has since developed a relationship with her and her half siblings. I told her that I thought that was very nice, and also rather tragic that it took so long – how many years wasted that they could have known one another! It was that sentiment that inspired her, and even that took her several weeks of agonizing before she finally broke down and told me.

I was, predictably, in shock and denial at first. My ramblings about the internet since have led me to many, many adoptee stories. Not as many LDAs, but a few. I have yet to come across one that was as wholly blindsided as myself. Honestly, it makes me feel a little dumb. Everybody seems to have had feelings about it or suspicions. I reached out to the adopted cousin (who, as it turned out, also knew my truth) and she told me that a lot of little questionable things that I dismissed in the past will start coming to mind as I walk this path. None have, as yet. My adoptive mother at 42 was old to be having a baby in 1965 but I was satisfied with her explanation that they had found a doctor who helped her carry after having had difficulties. My middle brother who is also adopted and I look nothing alike, but even that never engendered any real suspicion – even about him specifically, since I at least bear some faint resemblance to our parents but he does not. Our birth certificates, altered as I now have learned, bear our adoptive parents’ names. I was just truly not at all suspicious that I was adopted.

I contacted a cousin on the other side of the family, who confirmed the truth, so there was nothing for it but to accept this strange new reality.