Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Are you my mother?

Adoption has been on my mind quite a bit lately. This happens now and again, the unsettled feeling rearing its ugly head. My parents adopted me when I was just 2 months old. My older brother is also adopted, although we're not biologically related. I've always known. It was never kept secret from us. For the most part, it's never been a big deal. There have been instances... in 5th grade, for example, when I told my teacher that I couldn't complete the family tree project we'd been assigned because I was adopted and didn't really know who my ancestors were. Or at my grandfather's funeral when I was about 11 or 12, overhearing my great-grandmother tell my mother that I couldn't be in the picture showing 3 generations of women in the family because I wasn't a blood relative (A lesson to be learned: kids really do retain these things. This happened 25 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday.). God love my mom - she shot right back to my great-grandmother that if I couldn't be in the picture, she wouldn't be in it either.

But every now and again, I get the itch to start searching.

When I was about 13 or so, my mother took me to the agency that had helped her and my father with my adoption. The caseworker we spoke to was unbelievably rude, telling me I should be grateful for the parents I had and asking how I would feel if a mistake from my past came knocking on my door? A mistake that my family - husband, children - probably didn't know about. Wow. I left in tears.

I went back in my early twenties, when I learned it was my right to get non-identifying information from the agency. Thankfully, this caseworker was much more helpful. I found out that my birth-mother was 16 when she had me. That certainly answers the question of why she placed me for adoption - teenage motherhood wasn't as socially acceptable as it seems to be today - so I never really developed the feelings of rejection that a lot of adoptees do. I found out what her parents did, that they were in the middle of a divorce that year. I did some digging at the library, and went back to the caseworker. She couldn't outright give me information that would identify my birth-mother, but if I guessed, for lack of a better word, she could confirm or deny. So after the second visit I knew that her name is Barbie Pearson. She was born April 25, 1953. She was 15 when she got pregnant, 16 when I was born. She's the 2nd oldest of 5 children, was living with her mother at the time I was born because her parents had just gotten divorced.

I tried to find out more, but didn't get very far. Then I stopped because I realized it was upsetting my mother very much - she ended up with the feelings of rejection. I couldn't bear the thought of something I was doing hurting her that much. So I closed that door in my head and didn't think about it again until after my mother passed away.

Then the itch came again. I did more digging, and found someone that I thought was one of her brothers. Using the advice I'd gotten from other adoptees I'd talked to this about, I wrote him a very innocent letter - "I knew your sister when we lived near each other in Dayton, back in the late 60's, but we've lost touch with each other. I know her birthday's coming up. If you're who I think you are, could you pass this card along to her. If not, sorry to bother you." The note in the card to her read pretty much the same way. That's the way they tell you to do it - ease into it, don't just blurt out that you're the more-than-likely illegitimate child they had way back in the day, and here you are. Hi Mom, what's been shakin' the last 36 years? I never got a response from that letter or card. I let it drop assuming that either 1) I had the wrong person or 2) I had the right person and she wanted nothing to do with me.

So here we are today.

I've never really wanted to meet her. I'm not sure what I'd say. And I can't imagine what kind of relationship, if any, might develop. I've always wanted to see a picture more than anything else. Just to know if there's anyone out there that I resemble. I've done quite a bit of psycho-analyzing on this (big surprise)... I think this is in my mind so intensely because of both my parents being gone now. I've written before about these intense feelings of alone-ness (not to be confused with loneliness) that have been haunting me lately. I thought I had it pretty well pulled together... but since my dad passed away, I just don't know how I fit into the mix anymore. I'm not sure how searching for this stranger would assuage any of those feelings, especially since I don't plan any attempt to contact her even if I did track her down. And would searching for her with or without plans of making contact be an incredible invasion of her privacy? Good questions that I don't have an answer for. All I know right now is that it's like a burning itch underneath the skin that you can't get to.


justrose said...

wow, what an amazing journey in discovering information about your birth mother. i guess you have to follow it as far as it leads or as you are comfortable. once you get an itch to know something it's hard to ignore. i am not adopted so i can't speak from experience, but i have known adoptees and their feelings sound very similar to yours about this. best of everything to you as you work it through.

Teresa said...

Ruth, Your Mom Rocked!! LOL You know I liked your mom!! But my respect for her jumped even higher! Let me know how this search goes...