I was adopted as an infant and I am extremely blessed that this young woman decided to give me a chance to be raised in a safe, nurturing environment. I have always known that I am adopted and I have an amazing family God lined up for me, one that is better than my birth mother could ever have dreamed of had she tried to pick them out herself. Of course, anyone who is adopted knows that adopted children are jewels in their family’s crown; taken from an unstable environment to begin a new life with loving, doting parents, whose love and anticipation swelled in their hearts, for many, way longer than the 9 months of a growing belly.
I am full of sweet childhood memories, photos, and stories that still make me smile and laugh with my siblings! But I wonder if other adopted kids and adults feel the same way I do–feeling so fortunate and loved, and yet also feeling a strange, nagging emptiness. It’s almost like a part of your soul, while continuously fed and nourished with such abundant love from your new family, has a tiny, slow leak in it so it never quite feels full. Dual feelings of gratitude and saudade often confused and haunted me throughout my childhood and adulthood. I had always been told that I was adopted and I had always been told that my birth mother’s parents did not approve of her having a black baby and that is why she gave me up. I always knew this, so I’ve always had issues with abandonment and with racial identity. I struggled with feelings of low self-worth, and a constant need for acceptance, always conforming and trying to fit in throughout my life. And that’s why I’ve been scared to try to find her. I had an incapacitating fear of rejection–they didn’t want me then, why would they want to know me now?
How I Found The Courage To Start My Search
When I discovered yoga in my early 20s and started practicing this ancient, gentle form of exercise, I began to find a sense of calm in many areas of my life and I desired to look for the true meaning of self-fulfillment. Yoga has helped me uncover, nurse, and clear my emotions of low self-worth, abandonment, and negative body image. My yoga and meditation practices have become therapy to me. Sitting quietly with my own thoughts was deafening at first. I was amazed at how quickly shame, guilt, doubt, and worry rise to the surface. But I quickly learned that I could trust myself and I began to grow in spirit. Yoga has helped me to find my oneness with God and to know intuitively that I am 100% worthy of love simply by being in this world, regardless of my circumstances. So as you can see, my yoga journey, 10 years in the making, gave me the strength and courage to begin my search for my biological mother.
Once I understood the reasons why I was afraid to pursue her, and began to finally feel comfortable in my own skin, I could focus on what it would mean to me to find her: mainly to thank her for her selfless act of love and tell her how much I respect and admire her for her decision. I decided one night that I could bring her into my life through the deep desires of my heart, so I wrote a vivid description of what it would feel like to meet her, hold her hands, speak to her and finally understand her reasons for her decision. I wrote about how much I appreciated the chance she gave me at a great life and I envisioned and really felt the intense feelings of love and acceptance we’d share as we embraced. It felt so real that I actually had a moment of peace and contentment as I folded that piece of paper up and placed it in my prayer box to give it to God.
The Story Unfolds
Not long after I wrote that prayer, I contacted a renowned genealogist who has a show in which she assists people to find their lost relatives on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is very kind and compassionate and she was willing to search on my behalf based on the limited info I have collected over the years. When she contacted me months later, she had some wonderful but very emotional news. I would finally have an opportunity to connect with my birth family! Now, I see my mom as my protector and my number one supporter; she always has been. I could tell that she was ready to be there for me in this instance too, but I didn’t take a minute to see the situation from her standpoint–her baby girl had just announced that she had found another person who might come into her life and offer something more than she could provide. So I am afraid that I offended or threatened her. She discouraged me from jumping into a meeting, suggesting it might not be legit and that I take things slow in terms of an immediate reunion.
Understandably, she didn’t want to see me get hurt and of course I’m sure she didn’t want to get hurt either! I definitely should have prepared her and my dad for the news, but I was so excited and I always get tunnel vision when I get excited about something; I don’t consider the big picture or the impact on everyone involved. So it seemed that my immediate family was mad at me (albeit I acknowledge this may have just been my perception) and I was not getting the emotional support I thought I would upon discovering this big news. I was quite nervous enough to make contact with these new people, but I didn’t want to alienate myself from my family. I tried to stay open-minded but this was something that was so important to me that I had to move forward. I connected with my best friends from childhood and a few close family members who shared my excitement yet understood my confusion and trepidation about mom and dad’s approval.
In addition to talking with loved ones, I began to read the stories of other adult adoptees, of birth mothers and fathers, and even of lost siblings (via internet articles and online forums at adoption.com). I realized that this is not just my journey alone, but an experience shared by everyone who has been a part of my life–affecting my relationships with my husband, my parents, my sister and brother, and even my son, not to mention the journey this experience has taken my birth mother and her family on over the years. I’m glad my family knew that this opportunity for closure and connection would ultimately help to ground me and assist my growth. In faith, I prepared myself emotionally to meet my birth mother, find out who she is, and figure out how to share our lives together.
Hello, Nice To Meet You, Thank You and Goodbye
When the day came when I was to find out my birth mother’s name and get the chance to hear her voice, I was full of love and anticipation; I knew in my heart that she would not reject me. I called Pam and she told me that my birth mother had passed away two years ago and that she had suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years. I’m so glad that I entrusted Pam to uncover this important information for me because she was so kind and sounded genuinely sympathetic when she told me, as if I had known her for years and she told me a loved one had just passed. The news was bittersweet. I was immediately saddened to learn that I would not be able to look her in the eyes or give her a hug. Yet I did get the answer I had longed to hear when Pam told me that she had saved a lock of my hair all these years. She loved me. I meant something to her. It was hard for her to give me up. I really appreciate what Pam did for me! She’s so compassionate and like a good friend and a trustworthy confidante.
Although I missed meeting my birth mother in person by two years, I still felt a strong desire to express my respect, appreciation, admiration and gratitude to her loving, caring spirit for being brave enough to give me up for adoption when she knew that her present circumstances would not have allowed her to provide me the type of life she knew I deserved. I wrote this letter to her and sent it out into the universe:
“Well, Marilyn, hello, nice to meet you, thank you and goodbye. Here is what I wanted to tell you about my life: you gave me to a wonderful family who gave me more than enough love for both you and I put together. I turned out really good I think! I know you would like the woman I’ve become. You’d like my mom too. She has such a big heart and probably would have adopted you too if she knew what a tough life you had! Oh, Marilyn, I am so sad and sorry to hear about the difficult life you had and that you were sick and alone for so long! My soul reaches out to you and I hope that you can feel my sincere love for you! I don’t know why God put us here in this lifetime–perhaps if reincarnation is real, then our souls planned this life experience we share long before we were both conceived. And you know what? We did know each other in this lifetime as we shared 9 months together while I was in your womb! I can’t remember it on a conscious level but I know that we loved each other then. I don’t know what else to say but I’m glad I found you and I pray you rest in peace until we meet again. Namaste.”
Finally, She’s Real
Someone once told me that adoptees tend to fantasize about their biological families, but that the reality is always quite different. This has certainly turned out to be a true statement for my experience. I’m a person who has always wondered about my roots, both because I never thought my rural upbringing was very glamorous, and because I have the kind of looks that are hard to place culturally. Throughout my life I’ve been mistaken for Ecuadorian, Native American, Indian, Puerto Rican, or Caribbean; people thought I was from all kinds of exotic, far off places that were far more exciting than either of my racial identities–a black girl, a white girl, or even biracial. Imagine my surprise when I find out that my birth mother’s family is Polish, just like my mom’s family, and that she was raised and lived out her life in another small, rural town about 90 minutes north of where I grew up! I don’t know why this was surprising to me. I knew my parents didn’t adopt me from another country. But still, the reality didn’t match my fantasy.
I met Marilyn’s cousin, Gwen, by phone and Facebook right away as she was the immediate contact that Pam gave me. Right away I could tell she was a very warm and friendly person and I also found her to be very open and trusting. Gwen is a very loving, caring person who visited Marilyn often while she was sick in the nursing home and settled her affairs when she passed. She only learned of my existence after the nursing home gave her a box containing Marilyn’s belongings when she passed. Yet she trusted me completely when I called, and willingly sent me the precious keepsakes. In the box were the court papers giving up her parental rights and the adoption paperwork from the agency, as well as the photo from my birth and a lock of my hair. There was also a handwritten note she had written to me stating how badly she felt giving me up and that she is sorry she made such a mistake but it’s not my fault and she would welcome me with open arms should we ever meet again.
So with these priceless momentos, as well as all the photos that Gwen sent me, I feel as though I have a glimpse into Marilyn’s life. I have had the chance to speak with Gwen at length as well as to my great aunt and another great aunt by marriage. The stories they recount are all similar in nature and paint a picture of a sweet, loving girl whom everybody liked being around. However, her mother was often cruel and hard on her and stifled her potential. The family members each told me that they did not know that Marilyn was pregnant, let alone that she gave a baby up for adoption. Apparently, her mother forbade her from keeping me and even kept her from seeing any family members during her pregnancy. Marilyn left town after she had me and went to military school in another state before later moving back to the area. Sadly, she contracted multiple sclerosis at a very young age, which took a toll on her body and her capacity to care for herself physically. She entered a nursing home at a very young age (around the time I actually made my initial attempt to connect with her).
Sometimes we don’t know why things happen when they do. I stayed so optimistic throughout my life, always believing I would one day meet her. I even stayed positive yet detached during the process of searching for her and I expected a positive outcome, only to discover that after all those years, and our lives going in two totally different directions, we missed a reunion by only two short years! I don’t understand why my life was so blessed and she seemed to have such hardship and not much love. I don’t understand why she was so sick and died so young. Some of my close friends and loved ones believe that she was broken-hearted. It does seem, in looking at the pictures of her from her childhood and into adulthood, that she has a haunting sadness in her eyes later in life. I know that having a child out of wedlock was quite scandalous during the 70s, and I always knew she wasn’t approved of. Nevertheless, I feel so sorry for her knowing the shame she was made to feel by the mistake she made and I’m so sad to think how she may have punished herself for it over the years.
Recently, I had a very nice experience visiting the nursing home where Marilyn lived! The caregivers there are so loving and kind and it seems that she was well cared for and loved while she was there. I got a lot of the same feedback about her personality that her family gave me–that she was very sweet, smiley, happy, and had almost a child-like disposition. And again, the mention of the not very loving or supportive environment she came from (aka-her mother and husband were not charming to say the least). But despite this, and her disease, she was soooo lovable! I love hearing that about her. The staff there were so happy to meet me and to talk about Marilyn. The social worker even told me that I have her smile and that everyone loved her and babied her. They knew about a daughter she gave away for adoption. She didn’t hide this fact. I know that she would have been so happy to meet me. But such is life and God knows best so we “met” spiritually when I got to view her beloved doll collection that Gwen left in memoriam on display there. They were kind enough to allow me to keep one so I could have something special that belonged to her. I carefully chose one that I “felt” embodies Marilyn’s spirit, and mysteriously has a haunting sadness in its beautiful eyes.
The End is a New Beginning
I know that there have been specific events throughout my childhood and adult life that have brought me to this point on the path of my journey. The seeds were planted as a young girl for me to have the intense desire to meet her. As a young college woman, my insecurities about rejection made me stop short after initial attempts to search for her lead to a dead end. As I mentioned before, the timing of that attempt coincided with when Marilyn was admitted into the nursing home for what would turn out to be the rest of her life. Needless to say, with that type of life transition, she was not initiating a search for me that year! The year she passed away was the year my son was born and thus I was not focused on searching for her at that time. God planned the unfolding of events exactly as it was meant to happen so that I could have known her and felt her profound love and regret, without having the heartbreak of losing her all over again.
There are nuggets of wisdom to gather along the path of every journey we take in life. The definition of the word journey is: a passage or progress from one stage to another. This experience has certainly taken many steps to get me here over the years. I’ve made emotional, mental, and spiritual progress. I believe that I have moved from one stage in my life to another now. But the second part of this definition is: usually taking a rather long time. Though I have found a bit of closure, I know that my journey is not complete. I’m grateful to Pam for helping me find this missing link in my past, providing me with the first piece of the puzzle of my blood roots. And now I have faith that I’ve found the key to a doorway that I can open wide and allow a new set of people to come into my life as well. This bold step I found the courage to take is one of many that I will take as I continue to move forward toward the ultimate destiny that God has planned for me!