The past few weeks, I've felt a lot like Roberta from one of my favorite childhood movies, Now and Then. As I've been going through all of my research, I keep flashing back to this scene, where she happens across a newspaper clipping about the death of her mother when she was too young to remember. It's not exactly the same, but I imagine it's the same sort of grief and sense of loss that I've been tackling since two Fridays ago.
So for those of you who know me personally, you may know that I have been doing some searching in regards to my birth family. I don’t feel comfortable disclosing too much information here because it is a public blog, but I will tell you a bit about what I’ve found out. Feel free to comment or email if you want more of the story.
So I wrote back in February about sending away for my original birth certificate, and I did finally receive it in the mail. Catholic Social Services had said that most original birth certificates don’t offer a lot of new information, as most mothers don’t bother to name their infants. Well apparently I am one of the lucky few. By the time the document actually made its way into my hands, I had given up hope that it was coming. The estimated time frame was three months, so after three and a half, I called the office of vital statistics to see if they had even received my form. When they told me that they had no record, and I should resubmit, I put it aside and forgot all about it.
Then, on a Friday morning two weeks ago, Steph handed me a stack of mail. I ripped into it not thinking, and was suddenly holding a birth certificate. Once it registered what I was holding, the emotions started flooding in. My given name was Susan Linda. Along with my birth name (including last name, not posted for obvious reasons), my birth mother’s name and her address in November 1985 were both listed. I hadn’t meant to open this particular emotional bomb at work, but since I didn’t know it was still coming, here it was. Since we were in the middle of moving at the time I sent away for it, I had it sent to work so that it wouldn’t get lost in the mail. Since it was already opened, I shared the document with other folks at work, mostly because I was a little bit in shock. Eventually, once the gravity of what I had set in, all I wanted to do was go home and search for every piece of information I could find.
I left work halfway through the day, went home, and spent about 4 hours researching. It turns out that the family is from the area and that my birth mom lived nearby with her parents, a sister, and a brother. Both her sister and her brother have children, so I have cousins, and my birth mom herself got married after she gave me up for adoption. She has three children, so I have half siblings. As an only child, I think that is really pretty cool.
Unfortunately in my research, I also found out that my birth Mom passed away during my senior year of high school. It felt like a smack in the face to see her death record. All the hope of finding out more directly from her just died. And of course all the grief of losing my dad got caught up in the death of the possibility of meeting my birth mom, and I just cried. Even if I had gotten the records released the minute I turned 18, which is the earliest you’re able to legally, I would have missed being able to meet her by mere months.
That night, I took all of my findings over to my Mom’s. I told her what I had found, and when I told her that my birth mom had died, she gave me a great big hug and cried along with me. There are no words for how wonderful my Mom is. Not only is she supportive, but she actually was willing to drive out to our family’s safety deposit box with me at 10pm on a Friday night to get all of my infant records to see if they held any clues. We pored over the pages at the kitchen table and looked up medical terms in her old nursing books.
I found quite a bit, and I haven’t given up hope about finding out more. I would love to be able to know more about my birth mom through her family. I was already able to track down a senior year book from her high school, so I have a picture of her at 18, but of course I would love to have more photos, stories, anything really. I would love to know what she was like. Am I like her? Did she have similar interests? Do I have any of her mannerisms? Why was I given up? Who is my father?
I’m hoping to be able to contact members of her family, but I have to be prepared that they may not want to speak with me (or even know about my existence). I’m not quite ready to do that right now, but I know that it is something I want to do in the future.
As for my birth father, I have no records on him. Unless someone from my birth mother’s family is able to give me more information, or new information surfaces, I may not be able to find out who he is. I am considering contacting the social worker who was in charge of my case and asking what my rights are and if I am able to get any more information.
But for now, what I have is enough.