April 5, 2000: One of the Best Days of My Life

An adoptee's experience searching for her birth parents and finding her birth father.

Sonia Billadeau April 12, 2014
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For as long as I can remember I’ve known I was adopted when I was two weeks old. When I was younger the thought never really crossed my mind of searching for my birth parents. I’m not sure why that was, though. As I grew older I started wondering who I looked like. People said I looked like my dad. I liked hearing that, but I wanted to know someone who I looked like that was also genetically related to me. I knew I had been born in the town next to where I lived, so I wondered if my birth mother had somehow found me, wanted to see me, and make sure I was okay. Whenever I went out in public, I would look at people passing by to see if they were staring at me and see if they possibly looked like me.

When I was a freshman in high school, people talked about their ethnicity and where their families came from. I thought to myself that I knew where my adoptive family was from, but I had no idea what genes I had. I mentioned it to my mom and she said I was Spanish, Irish, and German. I asked her how she knew that, and she said she always knew because it was on the papers she was given when I arrived home. I asked her if I could see the papers because then I was really curious. One of the papers said that my name at birth was Rebecca Ann. These papers included my hospital papers when I was born and my birth mother’s name. All of her information was very well crossed out. I tried to hold the paper up to the light and see what it said, but that didn’t work. The papers did say that because I was born premature, I stayed in the hospital for two extra weeks and my birth parents came in every day to feed me. Learning bits and pieces of information about my ethnicity and my name was really exciting. This made me think a little more about who and where I could have come from.

As the days turned into years, I thought more and more about searching for my birth parents. My parents had divorced when I was five years old, and my father remarried when I was eleven years old. My stepmother’s family didn’t replace the family I already had; they were an addition. I was thinking with my high school graduation nearing it would be nice to have my birth parents there (even though I didn’t expect it to happen) and have an addition to my already very large and confusing family. One day I told my mom I wanted to search for my birth mother. Her response was something like “We’ll see,” or “I don’t think it’s such a good time right now.” Finally, I told her I was serious about searching and it was something I really wanted to do. That was when she realized I wasn’t kidding. She said we would have to talk to my dad about it and see what he said.

My parents and I sat down one Saturday to talk about how we should go about this search and if we all felt it was the right time to search. My mom said the adoption agency I was adopted through had closed, and my records were sent to Catholic Charities in Lynn, Massachusetts. We could meet with the social worker there to see what we could do. The three of us went to meet with the social worker whose name was Lisa. We all agreed that before I could search I had to meet with Lisa alone to discuss all of the possible outcomes my search could have, both positive and negative. I also had to go to an adoption conference with my mom in Washington, D.C. I thought those were all reasonable conditions because I had no idea what to expect. I started to meet with Lisa alone, and we discussed some of what she knew about my birth parents. She didn’t tell me their names or where they lived because when I was adopted it was considered a closed adoption, which meant that my birth parents didn’t know the names of my adoptive parents or where they lived and vice versa. She told me that she had a bunch of letters my mom had written at different points over the years for my birth parents, not knowing if they would ever get to read them all kept in my record. She told me that my birth mother had been married at least twice and she may not have told anyone in her family I was even born, which meant it may be hard for her now to tell them if she did agree to meet me. Lisa informed me that my birth mother might have also had another baby that was on life support and had died. That meant she would have lost two babies, which would have been really hard for her to deal with and probably be something she doesn’t want to remember if she’d tried to forget about it over the years. The more positive scenario could be that she was really excited about hearing from me and had always wanted to know where I was and if I was okay. The last part of the “deal” I had to complete was to go with my mom to the adoption conference. I found it very interesting listening to other people’s searches and reunions. Some of the reunions had worked out and others hadn’t. This was all good preparation for what the outcome of my search could be. I also wondered if my birth mother was there at the conference searching for me and we just didn’t recognize each other. Once we got home it was settled. I definitely wanted to search, even though it was my senior year in high school and I was preparing for graduation and going to college in the fall. My parents told me that 18 years ago, a decision I had no control over was made that changed the rest of my life, so it was now up to me. Whatever I wanted to do at that point, they would support me 100 percent. I wanted to search!

Lisa, my social worker was now in control of the search. She said that if she had my birth mother’s social security number, the search would be very easy. I knew that in the records Lisa had my birth mother’s name in it. I asked her if she could tell me what her name was. She told me my birth mother’s name was Della. She couldn’t tell me her last name in case she didn’t respond to my search. This way her name would still be confidential. That Thanksgiving, when going around the table to say what we were thankful for, I said knowing my birth mother’s name. Knowing her name made her more of a person rather than someone in my imagination. Lisa obtained my birth mother’s social security number and seemed to find her very quickly. I was very excited and hoped she would be glad to hear from me after 19 years, but I also kept in the back of my mind that she may not want any contact with me. The first step to make contact was Lisa sent her a very vague letter in the mail saying she had information about her birth daughter and if Della would like the information to contact her. There was no response. The next step, Lisa sent a certified letter in the mail so we would know if she got it because she had to sign for it. This letter was more detailed and said her birth daughter was searching for her and again for her to contact Lisa. Again, there was no response. By this time I was sort of trying to accept that she probably didn’t want to see me, even just once. I wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I would be in that situation. The last step was to see if Della responded to a letter I wrote that Lisa sent certified. Again, there was no response. Lisa then suggested that I search for my birth father. She told me his name was Bob. I thought, “Why not, it couldn’t hurt.” I don’t know why the thought never really entered my mind to search for him. Lisa thought for some reason that he might be more responsive than Della had been. I wrote another letter and gave it to Lisa to mail to him, with a detailed letter from her. It seemed like he responded right away. My letter said I wanted to meet him at least once if it was okay with him. He also wanted to meet me! I was very excited. Lisa also informed me that I had two siblings: a brother, who was around 8 years old and a sister, who was around 6 years old. I was also thrilled because although I already had a sister in my adoptive family who was 16, I always wanted younger siblings and a brother.

I’ve been told that a girl’s wedding is something that they wait their whole lives for. They put a lot of planning into it, the day comes, it’s the best day of their life, and then it’s over just like that. To me, that’s what April 5, 2000 was like. That’s the day I “re-met” my birth father. (I already met him when I was born.) My whole life I had nothing but questions and some feelings of emptiness and incompleteness that no one could fill or change except my birth parents. All day long I couldn’t stop thinking about how that evening my life would be a whole lot different. I told everyone I was going to meet my birth father that night. I was nervous when I arrived at Lisa’s. She told me to arrive early, so I did. While we were waiting, I showed her some of my pictures and told her about my first day of clinical in nursing school. I started to relax a little. The phone rang. It was the secretary from Lisa’s office saying that Bob had called to say he was lost and was going to be a couple minutes late and that he didn’t want me to worry. Lisa and I looked at some more pictures. A couple minutes later the phone rang again. He was downstairs. Lisa asked me if I had any questions before she went to go get him. I said I didn’t. As she left the room, my heart started pounding. I knew I shouldn’t be nervous. This was someone I had met before and was just reuniting with. When he walked in the door, I saw a striking resemblance. I couldn’t believe how much we looked alike. I’d been waiting my whole life to see someone who I looked like and was biologically related to. Our bodies and faces were the same. He stuck out his hand, shook mine, and gave me a hug. That’s when I knew everything was going to be okay. Although we had just reunited, I finally felt complete.

We sat down and started talking. Lisa helped to get a conversation going, but she didn’t need to do a whole lot. After a couple of minutes Lisa said she would leave us alone for a little while. We began to talk about our similarities, of which there were many. We both have the same shape and color eyes, body shape, cheekbones, hair color, red eyes in pictures, and a kneecap that dislocates. We had stitches in our chins. Also, we both drive a green mini van; watch the same TV shows; hate country music and like soft music; don’t like to be the center of attention or speaking in groups; and like to dance, but only in groups. He and I like things about the Civil War, baby-sat, did volunteer work with people who had disabilities, need a lot of sleep, and are very organized. Our favorite ice cream is Oreo. We both played sports and had very strong throwing arms. He played baseball– his number was 16, and my softball number was 16. His favorite number is 30, mine is 20. He and Della were engaged on Christmas Eve, and I was engaged on Christmas Eve. One of his sisters works at Beverly Hospital, which is where I did my maternity clinical for nursing school, and lived in Newton. His other sister is a Veterinarian, and I am in nursing school. He gave me some pictures of my birth mother who I had never seen before. That really meant a lot to me. Seeing him for the first time (that I can remember) and seeing my birth mother for the first time (even in a picture) meant a lot to me. It helped me to put faces to my curiosity and answered some of my unanswered questions. I can’t even begin to explain the elation I felt meeting him! I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. The feeling of being able to see someone who I truly look like is unexplainable. I even look a lot like my brother and sister. Bob saved many of the things that my birth mother had given him and souvenirs of places they had gone when they were together. He put them in a scrapbook and gave it to me. He also made me a scrapbook of the night I was born, which he couldn’t find, but he knows he has it and that he’ll keep looking for it. He found the calendar where he kept track of his daily events from 1981, which is the year I was born. For the two weeks I was in the hospital, he wrote down each day that he and Della came to visit me and who they brought with them. He also wrote how much I weighed each day because if I gained a certain amount of weight the hospital would discharge me, which he wanted for me to be healthy. But that also meant he would have to say good-bye, so he also didn’t want me to gain weight. All in all, I feel that April 5, 2000, was one of the best days of my life. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my entire life. We exchanged addresses and phone numbers that night before we left and took a picture together.

When I got back to my dorm, I immediately called my mom to tell her about my amazing and life-changing experience. I hoped that my birth father and I would remain in contact which we are, and that I would get to meet my brother Ben, and sister Hannah, which I did. Today they are all a part of my life and of my family. My parents also think of them as extended family. Bob, Hannah, Ben, and Bob’s wife Karen all come to family events, like birthdays, and just to visit as much as we can with our busy schedules. We also talk on the phone as much as possible.

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Sonia Billadeau


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