Friday, July 28, 2006

Basking in the Sunshine

I've not posted for a while. Letting all of what I've written soak in to my being. It was weirdly exhilarating letting all of this pour out of me, and it's even weirder looking back and reading it all. Has this really been such a huge part of my life? You betcha! Has it taken a back seat now that the rush is over? No Way!!! Rather it's become a part of my being. Tom has blended in to the fabric that is my life and it feels so right. That fabric is definitely tighter than it's ever been. I feel so much more complete than I ever have. Dare I say it out loud? Life is good! (and of course now that I've said that outloud, it will all go to hell in a hand basket...isn't that the way that it always works?)

I went to Atlanta in June. I've met and bonded with my granddaughter...she's such a princess!! I've spent a birthday with Tom (another dream that I never expected to come true). I've met his oldest sister and we clicked. Carol and I have fallen in to step with each other. Sean and I made awesome Fathers Day presents for Tom from the shells that we found when we were camping in the spring. The circle is complete.

The gut wrenching hurt still leaves wisps of reminders around my heart, but they are becoming fewer and fewer, more gossamer like with each passing month. We've become part of each other's 'inner circle' and will always be there. More dreams come true with each passing year. I'll take all this goodness while I can, because who knows where tomorrow will take us.

To all that are searching...Never give up...Never make assumptions.
To all that have reunited, my hope and prayer is that your new relationship becomes as stable as ours has become.
Be aware of your expectations, then drop them off somewhere where you'll forget them because they probably won't apply to this social phenomena of adoption reunion.


Friday, May 12, 2006

Birthmothers Story - Here and Now

I've read and read my posts and I kinda feel like I've gotten it all down. It was a good exercise putting all these thoughts and emotions to paper. It's kind of given me permission to let the past go. I can't change it. I've moved beyond the heartache I think. Yeah, I've really taken that huge step on to the next plateau. Tom has commented many times about how "easy" it's been for us. And it truly has. We are so like minded and easy going, that it has been easy to learn how to be with each other. He certainly didn't come in to this reunion with a huge gash in his psyche or co-dependant or hating his life. I was much needier than he and HAD to get it all put on the table immediately and deal with the aftermath later. We are gentle with each other and don't take much for granted. We're finally at the point where teasing is completely acceptable and laughing a lot is demanded.

I can't change the fact that we happened so late in life, but ya know what? I think I'm ok with that. I was 18 when he was born and I've learned since, to be realistic about the different paths that life sends you on. I've found out that Tom was a hyperactive child, highly inquisitive and in constant motion. No way was I equipped to handle that. I think we probably would have done more damage to each other trying to raise each other had the events of 1971 not taken place the way that they did. We've played the "what if" game a couple of times and each time, we end up looking at each other and acknowleging that yeah, we probably would have killed each other if circumstances would have been different. I know to some that might sound wierd, and maybe it's my own justification for how the events played out, but either way, it is what it is, and I'm finally OK with it. Now, it's today, and it's the rest of our lives that matter and count. Yeah, it's wierd that he wasn't there for so many years, but that was then and this is now.

So, now on to the fun stuff.

Tom and Carol have had 2 babies since all this amazing stuff has happened.

Sean was born in 2001, 2 days after my birthday. Talk about one most awesome birthday present!!! Tom tells me Sean is just like he was when he was little. And yeah, I gotta go back to the statement I wrote before. We would have done a lot of damage to each other had we tried to raise each other. ;-) My well of patience is much deeper now and I can appreciate and love the inquistiveness and the activity level helps to keep me young. You can see the energy eminating from Sean and it's tough for him to contain himself, but he's working on it. People often ask me what Sean calls me...I'm Kaycee. If it ever comes to the table that we need to discuss the family tree, then we will, but for now, I'm Kaycee.

Camille was just born April 30. I haven't seen her yet, but I will in 4 more weeks. I've gotten lots of pictures (God bless the internet!) I'm going to Atlanta to meet the new princess and to spend Tom's birthday with him for the second time in his life...the first was the day of his birth.

I'm loving this all inclusive new chapter of my life. I've learned to sit back and take it as it comes. I think alot of it has to do with maturity and finally letting go of the past. It can't be rewritten and it can't be justified, it just is. It has made us who we are.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Birthmothers Story - After the gush

The sibling concept grabbed a hold of us, tightly. It gave us both a comfort level that was easy to communicate to all of our collective families. It was a bit awkward at first for the families to understand, but after they tried it on for a bit, they too found that it worked. It kind of eased the "threat" of me coming in and taking over the love and it gave his parents (especially his Mom) a lot of much needed breathing room.

Which leads to another aspect of this phenomena. The adoptive parents.

Meeting Tom's parents for the first time was a bit of a trial. His Mom called me and said they were going to be in New York visiting relatives and would like to meet me and my husband for lunch somewhere half way between New York and our house. However, she did not wanting me telling any of her children we were meeting. This had me extremely puzzled, and added much anxiety to this already anxious process. More secrets, more lies by omission .... and it nearly killed me. I had promised myself once Tom and I had found our stable ground that there would be no more secrets, no more lies and now his Mother is asking me to keep one more secret. Out of respect for her wishes, I kept the secret, not willingly at all, but I did keep it.

The day of the meeting finally arrived. I had talked to Tom many times in between, and although the impending meeting was on the horizon, I did not mention it to him, even though it was right on the tip of my tongue.

We arranged to meet at a Denny's right off of Route 84 in western Connecticut. My husband and I were early, so we sat...and sat....and sat...and sat. Tom's parents were now 20 minutes late, then 45 minutes late. They finally called the restaurant and asked for me...traffic was awful and they apologized for being so late, however, they were still about an hour out. So, we sat and waited. I was incredibly nervous...

Finally about 2 hours later, they showed up. His Dad reminded me of a wonderful older Irishman with a twinkle in his eye and a ready smile. His Mom was stately...tall, white hair cut in a bob, young face and pleasant to look at. I wanted to melt. These were the people that raised the boy I gave birth to so many years ago.

The meeting was awkward, comfortable, comforting, awkward, stilted at times, and oh, did I mention awkward? But, at least we got to lay eyes on each other and exchange a lot of information. I left that meeting with a lot of mixed emotions. I was so glad that we finally met, but I was so burdened with yet another secret. It almost smothered me.

Later that week, Tom called me and he was furious with his Mother about making me keep that secret. I told him, I would never be held accountable for keeping a secret from him again. The whole incident was never referred to again...thankfully.

Through the years, my communication with his parents has been stilted and kind of non-existant...Christmas cards and the like. He's sheilded us from each other and I'm sure with good cause. I'm thinking probably out of self preservation, more than anything. His parents are a good 15 years older than I am and a different generation, with much different values. It's not a bad thing. Just different.

This year, however, seemed to be a turning point. 7 years. Doesn't the whole cyclical thing happen every 7 years? I was visiting Tom in March and his parents called while I was there and asked to speak to me...simple chit chat...what was I wearing to the wedding we were going to? How was my flight down, etc, etc. I was blown away. The old adage of all good things take time surely does apply here. I'm a firm believer in that.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Birthmothers Story - The Sap Meter

I'm convinced that there is a huge difference between the way male adoptees and female adoptees think about the search and reunion process. I know that's a real broad statement, very borderline sexist. It really is a Mars and Venus thing.

The initial cultural shock of reunion knocks everyones socks off. All of a sudden here's this extra person in your life and it affects all aspects of the triad. The adoptive parents juggle with the emotions of their worst fear being realized...their child's biological mother is back in their childs life and OH MY GOD, she's going to steal the love away. The birth mother has her child back in her life and is walking on egg shells, not wanting to interfere, not wanting to do anything that might remotely upset the apple cart and undo everything that she's worked for, but geeze oh whiz, it sure is great to touch, to feel, to start to heal that hole in your heart. And then there's the adult child that isn't quite equipped yet to handle this emotional roller coaster. Holy sure is a lot to handle, isn't it? There's no textbook that's going to tell ya how to deal with this one. There's no set rules on what to expect next. This really is one of life's lessons on how to fly by the seat of your pants.

I can look back at that time now and realize how gushy I was...not only my eyes, which continued to leak for the next 2 years every time I was around Tom, but also my wanting to tell him, every way that I could, how much he meant to me and just how important it was to have him in my life and, and, nauseum. He finally took it upon himself to start telling me that I was far too sappy for my own good. We soon developed a joke around it, and developed the SAP METER to gauge the amount of "gush". It was also a wonderful way for him to tell me in a very nice way to back off a bit and give him breathing room.

He was having a lot of problems at this point trying to figure out how those damn puzzle pieces fit. He had stopped communicating with his parents about me and his wife felt left out when ever we were together at their house. It really was difficult for him and I felt bad, but I also knew that we were still figuring out how to "be" with each other.

That didn't happen until our third year of our reunion. That year our "special" time was spent on an island in the middle of a huge man made lake in northern Georgia. We packed a canoe full of camping stuff and paddled out to this island. There was no one else out there. We had the place to ourselves for 3 days. Just me and Tom. What an enlightening 3 days it was! Unbelievable!!! It was during that ttime that we finally figured out what all these feelings and emotions were.

We both were struggling with this mother/child thing. Neither of us felt that way about each other. Sure, I gave birth to him, but I certainly didn't feel maternal towards him. And sure, he knew I gave birth to him, but he in no way considered me a parental unit. We knew there was a deep, deep bond and we definately belonged to each other. All of a sudden it dawned on both of us, almost simultaneously, that we were more like siblings. So, we tried that type of relationship on for a while, and by, Jove, it worked...and it worked really good.

His parents had two natural daughters before they adopted Tom, so Tom was raised with two older sisters. One of them is about 9 years older than Tom. I'm 18 years older than him, so , although, chronoloigally it might seem like a bit of a stretch, emotionally and mentally, that's where we were, and still are to this day.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Birthmothers Story - A Whole New Way of Thinking

Twenty Seven years is a long time to live a lie. Everytime I went to the Doctor and they asked how many preganacies did I have and how many live births, I'd hedge around the answer. I'd want to scream "TWO", but I'd very ashamedly admit in a small voice that I had two preganacies and two live births, but I gave the first one up for adoption.

That thinking has turned around completely now, when asked, I'm very proud of the fact that I have 2 sons. I finally feel complete about that.

The first year of having Tom in my life was a real learning experience. It was nothing what I pictured it to be. Once we both had the realization that we were pretty much ok with each other, we started the process of getting to know each other and the boundries of our relationship started being defined. I'm all about love, all the time...all inclusive, without, the boundries had to be put around me, to rein me in. Tom was very tactful in how he handled me.

Of course once I got home from Atlanta, I wanted to talk to him all the time, even though I didn't have much to say. I tried to refrain from that. I'd send an email and patiently (yeah, wait for a response. I knew I had to let him set the pace. I had to keep reminding myself that we are complete strangers to each other and we're adults that have to figure out how to "be" with each other before we can "be" with anyone else. I also had to keep reminding myself that it was only the beginning.

One of the common misconceptions of birth parents, moms especially, is that when you're finally reunited with your child, it will be total acceptance, unconditional love and the true Mother and Child Reunion. That's a HUGE expectation and completely unrealistic.

One of the first small hurtles, in my mind, was my title. hmmmm. Hadn't ever really thought about it. He was my son, I did give birth to him, but, I'm not MOM, I'm not Mother. He comfortably called me by my first name. It finally dawned on me that a title is nothing more than a word. AND why should I expect anything different from him, especially when all of my nieces and nephews call me by my first name, without "Aunt" preceding it. Ok, first one down...only about 5,000 more to go.

That first year, we danced the dance of two people trying to figure out how to fit into each others lives.

Also during that first year, I exchanged letters with his parents. His Mom was great about sending me a package of pictures of Tom's life. They all depicted a happy, well adjusted boy. And of course, I cried.

In September, Tom came to our home in New England. WOWOWOW...this was a biggee and I sure didn't know how to act. My damn expectations got in the way again!!! I wanted Jess and Tom to be fast friends right off the bat. Of course, they both knew better and knew that they had to find their way with each other. Talk about an agonizing time for me!! They both retired to their respective corners of the house and didn't talk hardly at all. I finally had to leave because I couldn't take the anticipation any more. They were completely civil to each this point, Jess was 21 and Tom was 28. They are so different from each other, but look so much alike. Tom is an avid reader, Jess is not. Jess is totally in to his car, Tom could care less. And so it went on. They certainly would not seek each other out in a crowded room. But, hope always springs eternal in my heart, and, after all, this is just the beginning.

Ok, so Tom's visit wasn't horrible, just different. Different isn't bad. But, my expectations are...gotta stop that.

The first year of our reunion drew to a close and an awesome opporunity presented itself.

A friend of mine (also Tom's age) invited me to go to the Florida Keys with her to spend some time aboard a sailing yacht and to go ahead and invite Tom if I'd like.
How could I pass this up??? No Way, Jose!!!

So we put all the logistics together and the next thing I knew I was standing in the Miami airport waiting for Tom's plane to arrive. My friend had rented a convertible, so, here we were doing the perfect vacation in the Florida Keys.

We spent 4 days and 3 nights aboard a 41 foot yacht. It was amazing!! It was the best time ever! So many "firsts". Nature granted us a beautiful, serene night with a full moon. The two of us sat huddled under a blanket on the bow of the boat and talked until the sun came up. We really got to know each other and a level of comfort started to sink in. It was becoming pretty obvious to both of us that we were in this for the long haul.

This was also the start of what was to become a yearly ritual for us. Since that amazing trip, we try to get together every year around April and do something out of the ordinary and fun.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Birthmothers Story - Voyage of Discovery

Interesting observations come to light during this wildly wonderful voyage of discovery. Tom is an adult, but yet, my initial expecation was that he's my child, so therefore he will love me without question. Wow, can anything be further from reality than that!! There weren't many books written on the subject of closed adoption reunions in the late '90's. I think I managed to find two. So, we kind of wrote our own rules as we got to know each other and our immediate familial circles. It was surely a journey.

Neither of us really knew what to make of each other. My first impression was the physical stature, the 'eye candy'. I found it hard to get beyond that. I blush when I think back and realize that it was about as close to a sexual attraction as you can get without it really being that. Through some research on the topic of reunion (there are many books now) it's evidently a normal phenomena. All I knew was that first week, I couldn't keep my hands off of him. Had to touch...face, hand, arm, hair....something, had to have that physical the point that it made him uncomfortable. At one point he had dropped me off at my sisters at the end of the day and I was giving him a hug in the driveway and he said he felt like he was dropping me off after the prom. It was all just so wierd.

We did quite a bit that first week as we discovered each other. Went to Stone Mountain, went for a walk along a river, drove endless miles around Atlanta, did lunch, did dinner. During this "getting to know each other" time, we found that our lives had been this wierd parallel. The first thing that came to light was the fact that he was a chef at the Ritz Carlton in is his passion. When I became pregnant with him, I was a waitress and I stayed in the food service industry for several years...bartending, cooking, hostessing and of course waitressing. He was also going to school when I met him. He was studying for his MSNE (Microsoft Network Engineer) certificate. I had been in technology since 1984 in many different capacities, and to this day, am still (and so is he). His family had raised him staunch Catholic and he never really felt like he fit in...likewise here, too. He had gone to a Catholic College, I went to a Catholic Girls School. The list goes on and on. After a while, we stopped being surprised by the uncanny similarities.

Somewhere along the way, you really have to ponder the 'nature/nurture' aspect of life. Some of the characteristics of make us who we that because we were taught that or because it's our natural instinct.

Tom always knew he was adopted. He knew it from day one. He's always been ok with it, I think because of how his parents handled the facts. He looks at it as a trait, like his blue eyes and red hair. He's never felt like he had this big void in his life and as a result of that he told me that he probably would not have started looking for me until his parents had passed. I find the more people that I talk to about adoption reunion, I find that when men do eventually look it is after their adoptive parents pass. Generally, men don't feel the need to look before that if they've had a fulfilling life. It really is a gender thing on how it's all processed.

So, I left Atlanta feeling satiated. Full to the brim and lethargic. It was cleansing, purging, beautiful, freeing. I now knew who my son was/is. I now knew what made him tick. I now knew how I felt about him, but this whole relationship's not just about me. It's about's about Tom and me. That took a minute to sink in.

I don't remember the flight home. But, I do remember walking in the front door of my home and there was a bouquet of flowers from my husband, who never gives me flowers. The card read: Congratulations, It's a Boy!!! I cried....AGAIN

Monday, April 17, 2006

Birthmothers Story - April 15, 1999 and Stained Glass

Some how I managed to make it through the week leading up to my flight to Atlanta. I busied myself making a piece of stained glass for Tom. It represented the puzzle pieces of my life.

Primary colors - green, red, blue and a frosted clear. Pieced together with squares and triangles. I had one piece given to me that was clear with the primary color speckles that I was able to trim down to the right size and that represented him. The end result turned out pretty nice, if I do say so, myself. It hangs in a prominent window in thier house to this day.

The morning of April 15th arrived. During the week, we had tried to exchange photos through email. I managed to get one off to him but it was at least 10 years old. The one he tried to send me was too big, so I could receive it. That meant that I was arriving in Atlanta without a picture of him, so I had no idea how I was going to recognize him. Some little voice somewhere deep in me told me not to sweat that part. If worst came to worst, we would be the last two standing there after everyone disbursed.

I know that I had an early flight that day. I didn't sleep very much the night before, so my nerves were pretty frayed. I woke well before dawn and showered and tried to get myself ready for THE DAY. My hair was quite long at that point and as I was brushing it out, my hairbrush broke. That was enough to send me in to a tizzy of tears. How on earth was I going to make it through to the end of the flight in Atlanta??

I did finally make it to the airport thanks to some very good friends, but it all seems like it was long ago and far away. At the airport, everything was delayed by at least 1/2 hour which means the probability of me making my connection was becoming slimmer and slimmer. I called Tom from the airport at 7 am and when he picked up the phone on his end, all I could do was cry....AGAIN. I finally got out that not only did my hairbrush break, but my flight has been delayed. I don't think I differenciated the importance of either calamity, because at that moment, they were equally important to me. Funny how stress makes you react to life.

Tom was completely understanding and told me not to worry, he would watch the airlines site and make sure he was at the gate waiting for me. Oh, and how would he know it was me? I told him to look for the old hippy carrying a big shopping bag.

As you can well imagine, chosing my wardrobe for the day was a bit challenging. I finally opted for the clothing that I wear all the time...jeans, turtle neck and a jacket. I couldn't image starting this new relationship with Tom by not being exactly who I am. After all, this was all about dispelling demons from the closet, freeing all the secrets, righting all the wrongs, why complicate things by misrepresenting myself by my clothing. What you see, is what you get. No hidden agendas. Once I came to all these realizations, it made the day so much easier to deal with.

So, I checked my expectations with my baggage and finally got on the plane.

The flight was blessedly uneventful. The change of planes, a bit nerve wracking, but I made the connection thanks to the stewardess strategically placing me in the first row so that when we landed I could bolt to my connection. Somewhere around 2pm I landed in Atlanta. I felt like a deer in headlights and numb.

I clutched my big shopping bag with the piece of stained glass in it and walked off the plane into an area with about 150 people. (This was pre 9/11, so folks would stand at the deplaning gate to meet you). My heart sank. How the hell would I know him in all these people?!

I scanned the room once and started panicking. Took a deep breath and scanned the room again. Then, like a blinding flash, I was looking in to the eyes of my once beloved. They were unmistakable. I walked up to this young man who was looking at me with questioning eyes and said "I think I might be looking for you". We fell in to each others arms in the middle of the airport, totally oblivious to our surroundings and hugged and cried and looked and hugged and cried and looked. It felt like we stood there for an hour. He finally led me to a row of chairs that we sat on where we continued to hug and cry and look. I remember him saying, "I look like you". It was wonderful. It was bizarre. It was surreal. It was awe inspiring. It was yet another beginning. I couldn't stop touching him, I couldn't get enough of him, I wanted this moment to last forever and ever.

He was wearing jeans and a tee shirt. I found out later that his parents had wanted him to wear a nice shirt and tie. Through our conversations during the previous week we found that we were both jeans kinda people. So whatever wardrobe crisis's arose, were very quickly rsolved by putting on a pair of jeans and facing the world. A nice shirt and tie would not have been appropriate for this day....not by a long shot.

Somehow, we managed to leave the airport and get in to his toyota pickup. I felt right at home in that felt like the inside of my car. The wierdness of this whole surreal process was starting.

Tom had lived in Atlanta for several years, but on this day, he got lost going home from the airport.

We finally made it to his apartment. Cute, cute place. Second story one bedroom apartment in Mid City Atlanta. Carol had done a great job decorating. It was comfortable. They had just adopted a greyhound, a very large greyhound, Breezy, that looked a bit out of place and was somewhat cranky. It was my first experience with a greyhound. It was my first experience with Tom. It was my first experience in Atlanta. All these firsts, all this sensory input. My eyes just would not stop leaking.

We covered a lot of territory in a few short hours. This voyage of discovery was pretty cool. There were parts that I felt awful for not being there for. The wedding pictures were probably the biggest tear jerker for me. In hind sight, I guess my reaction would be pretty normal.
We also started discovering many similarities in our lives...both growing up and life choices/paths.

I remember when Carol walked in. We were in the bedroom where the computer was. I had been looking at the computer and Tom was lying on the bed. I went out to the livingroom and got something out of my wallet that I had carried for 27 years. It was the hospital bracelet that I had on when he was born. I walked over and sat down on the edge of the bed to show it to him with leaking eyes. Carol walked in. Geeze, another first impression that took me a long long time to get on the other side of.

Time acted very strangely that day. In one respect, it flew so fast I couldn't catch my breath, but in other respects, it seemed to drag to a new level of slowness. Some how, we made it through and it was time for Tom to take me to my sisters house so that I could lay my weary head upon a pillow and try to sleep.

I was going to be in Atlanta until April 20th.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Birthmother's Story - Contact

One has to wonder how many times in ones life can one reinvent themselves.

I was watching this new door open in my life and for once I was totally aware of it. I had made it happen. I walked over to that closed door, turned the door knob and opened the door to find out what was on the other side. What was on the other side was the wildest emotional roller coaster ride that ever existed.

So, this mystery person was real. He had an unbelievable way of expressing himself in the written word. We emailed twice and got on to an instant messenger then. His typing skills left a lot to be desired at that point, or was too nervous. The whole time I was typing I was crying tears of elation and disbelief. Finally he asked to call me. It was a Saturday about 4 in the afternoon. I gave him my number and again to my total disbelief the phone rang instaneously. With shaking hands, I picked up the phone and didn't say a word. I couldn't. All I could do was cry. Little did I know that for the next 3 weeks a majority of my time would be spent crying. All the tears that I had to hide over 27 years where about to erupt from the dam I had built up in me. He kept asking me if I was all right, and in the squeekiest voice ever, I managed to get out some kind of sound that indicated that, yes, indeed I was ok, just over come with emotion.
Finally, after about 5 minutes, I did manage to compose myself somewhat, for 30 seconds, then I began to hysterically laugh. Wow, what a great first impression, huh?

After that, the context of our conversation is pretty much lost to me. I know we talked for over a half hour and it was comfortable and comforting. It was the first step of a brand new relationship that neither of us was sure where it would go, but boy, oh boy, did it feel right, all the way down to my toes. During our conversation, I do remember him telling me that he could not get the time to come to New England until the summer, however, I was welcome to come down to Atlanta to meet him any time.

When we hung up, I just stared at the telephone in disbelief. It really happened. I just had a conversation (albeit teary and emotionally charged) with my son. My son who I didn't know. My son who is a grown man. My son, Tom.

So, within the next 24 hours, I had made the rather rash decision that I was going to Atlanta, come hell or high water and I was going there as quickly as I could get there and not break the bank. I had one saving grace in this decision process. My sister, Patti, lived in Atlanta and after speaking with her and explaining what had just happend, she insisted I come and stay with her as long as I wanted. I called Tom and asked him if this coming weekend was too soon to come. He laughed and said no. I bought a round trip ticket to Atlanta for Thursday, April 15, 1999. OK, now it was time to panic.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Birthmothers Story - In the Trenches of the Search.

The search process for a state that has closed records is not easy. With tidbits of information, search angels in the forum that I belong to, can piece together a pretty whole picture and give the searcher a couple of avenues to follow. Today there are many many sites available that offer many different ways to search, but the bottom line is get your "non-ID" information. This comes from the state and from the agency. There are registries now, hundreds of them. But in 1998, information was still pretty scarce and paths to follow even scarcer.

Every site that had an adoption registry, I registered. Back then, it really was a needle in a hay stack. People were talking about the internet, but it still wasn't a part of everyone's life, so the probability of my son looking at the same registries that I put my information in wasn't good. But, it helped me pass the time and it helped me really think about the task I was undertaking and the implications, oh, and the doubts, too.

Around June 1998, his birthday, I stumbled across this group called PAFind. It's a Yahoo email group centered around folks separated by adoption in Pennsylvania. FINALLY, a group of people in the same boat, some of the stories were identical to mine, some were incredibly sad, some were unbelievably successful, but all had the common thread of adoption in Pennsylvania.

Through PAFind, I became educated in the search process. I saw people be successful in thier searches. I saw people in the afterglow of reunion, felt their roller coaster ride and all the while wondered if I would ever be so lucky.

I had tried to prepare myself for the worst. The rejection. If he were dead, at least I would have known that and had closure, but if there was rejection, I had to steel myself for that. But like death, I guess it's something that you can never really prepare yourself for. I had also had "best case scenarios" floating free form in my brain. The absolute best case is that we would have another person around our Friday night bonfires. Anything that fell inbetween would be gravey. And so I sent myself out on this journey.

I hadn't been a member of PAFind very long when I started corresponding with a young man that was an adoptee through Catholic Charities in Philadelphia and he was born in St. Vincents. His words of advice are emblazoned on my brain forever..."Go back to Catholic Charities, they are the keeper of the records". "Catholic Charities" were still dirty words to me. The phrase brought back a lot of agonizing memories, a lot of hurt and closed doors. But, I knew in my heart he was absolutely right, they are the keeper of the records. And if I was going to do this, this was the path that I had to take.

With my new found knowledge and power, I called Catholic Charities in Philadelphia because that's where I gave birth. The women I talked to were pleasant and caring...hmmm, this was a new twist for CCS. They did some research and found that my reocrds were not in their archives. I explained my initial contact was in Allentown, but since I gave birth in Philadelphia, I assumed the records would be retained with Philadelphia office. But they were not. OK...big deep breaths... I was getting closer.

The next call was to the Allentown Catholic Charities in October of 1998. BINGO. Yes, they had my records. Yes, they do searches and yes, they would send me the information on how to proceed. I hung up the phone shaking. It was becoming a reality. and I was right in the middle of it.

I received the information in the mail a few days later. I poured over it, agonized over it, then cut a check for $250 for the search and sent it in, against all odds. That little voice was still repeating "never, ever" and it was getting louder and louder. Was I being silly to actually entertain the notion that I might actually get to meet him?

Of course during this time, I was keeping my new support system from PAFind apprised of every action I was taking, every feeling I was feeling. They were behind me 150%. So, I set a date with the Allentown Catholic Charities to meet them 12/10/1998 and seal my fate one way or the other.

Time has a way of crawling when you're in anticipation of big events, doesn't it? During this time, I became overwhelmed with my job, with my search, with my life, with my marriage and on December 2, 1998, I had a breakdown. Something was bound to give and it was my mind. Just one too many things layered on top of each other and I became a hysterical mass of jello that had to be carted off to the hospital and sedated. It wasn't pretty. At this point, my doc advised me to take time off from work, signed a disability consent for me. My husband was advising me to let the search go. In my mind, that seemed rediculous. Here I was so close, and to stop now??? No, I couldn't do that. So, 8 days later, broken spirited, I went to Allentown for a 1:oopm appointment with a woman named Kathy at Allentown Catholic Charities. I tried to prepare for this as best I could. I took my medication, I went swimming where my sister was working, said a small prayer and walked in to the office.

The office was located in the basement level of the building, it wasn't much larger than a closet. We talked for 3 hours in the stifling hot little room. For the life of me, I can't remember what all was said, other than about half way through the interview, Kathy informed me that my son had been in contact with the office within the past 2 years looking for medical history information.
At that moment, I almost passed out.

I quickly took inventory of what I now knew, which was volumes compared to the past 27 years.
I knew that he was alive, I knew that he was probably married (Kathy informed me that most men contact them for medical info when they get married), I knew that he was in the United States, I knew that Catholic Charities probably had a fairly recent contact number for him. WOW. This was a virtual treasure trove of information AND the likelihood of the search ending in contact was more than good.

We finished the interview by Kathy first recommending that IF I wanted to, I should write him a letter, of course omitting any contact information. She also cautioned me about completing a waiver of confidentiality. I had always wanted information in my file that would lead him to me if that's what he wanted, but never knew I could do that. I was not the least bit hesitant about completing the waiver of confidentiality, which she put in my file and sent me on my way to digest the past 3 hours.

I sat down one night and I wrote my son a letter. I wrote it from my heart, leaving nothing out. Hopes, dreams, regrets, happenings...8 pages worth. When I re-read it, I changed nothing. It said everything I wanted it to say. I put it in an envelope and mailed it off to Kathy.

I contacted her the week of Christmas to make sure she received it and she responded that she did and she would be calling his parents to see if all parties were amenable to a reunion. Be still my heart.

Well, the phone call terminated with a generic answering machine that she did not leave a message on. She then sent a letter "I have more information about your birthmother, please contact me"kind of letter. The beginning of February, she called the number again and got his amom and identified herself and asked the amom to pass a message along to him for him to call her, which she evidently did. 1 1/2 weeks later, he called and left a message on the social workers voice mail, that he would call back (she failed to tell me at that point that he had left a number).

They finally spoke, my son and Kathy, on March 3, at which time he told her that he wasn't ready to deal with me yet, however he'd liked to receive the letter I wrote him. When Kathy reported this to me, I had so many mixed emotions.

So, the next question is, how did I feel about this. A bit disappointed that the initial response wasn't more positive, a bit relieved that I knew that I had done everything possible to open the door and have shown him the path that he needs to take should he decide that he'd like contact, and a bit encouraged that the initial response was not total rejection. And, I guess the best of all, is that all of the not knowing whether he's alive or dead and that he made it to adulthood relatively unscathed is OVER!!

The rest of March was lost to me. Waiting and patience have never been strong suites for me.

April 7th, Kathy called me, leaving me voice mail that she would have some information for me tomorrow. Talk about one long night!!! I didn't sleep at all. I was in to playing card games on the internet at that time, so I spent the whole nite playing cards. Finally about 8am, I checked my email, and there was an email from my son. The most articulate, beautiful piece of communication that I had ever received.

His name is Tom (I had named him Tim) and he lives inAtlanta and according to his letter, he's happy, content, well adjusted and we will probably meet during the summer. My wait, my uncertainty, my longing to tell him the story was over. He got the letter, he responded, the beginning of my healing had started.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Birthmothers Story - The Start of the Search

Life happened. We moved across the country a couple of times, spent some exquisite years living at the beach in California, moved back east to New England, built our home on 4 acres of land, finally got good jobs, successfully sent Jesse out in to the world on his own. All the while, somewhere, right in the center of my brain was this little voice that kept reminding me that "he" was out there somewhere.

Songs reminded me, especially Simon and Garfunkle and the Moody Blues. June always reminded me. Milestone birthdays really made me cry...2, 7, 13, 15, 18, 21. But I will never ever be able to search for him, to see him, to find out if I did the right thing, is he happy, does he hate me, all things that I thought about and questioned would remain unknown to me forever.

Then one day in 1996, when the internet was emerging in to mainstream life and I had access to it at work, I typed the word "Adoption" into the Yahoo Search Engine, and OH, MY GOD!!!

A whole new world was presented to me. A world of people looking for each other because they were part of the adoption triad. Databases to register in and tons of information about people seaching. It overwhelmed me. I started shaking thinking about the implecations, thinking about the possibilities and I was also quite scared, because remember the "never ever" part was programmed in to my being.

For a couple of years, I tried not to obsess about it. I did a lot of soul searching during that time. Did I really want to find him? What if, what if, what if. Was I really prepared for the worst...would I find that he died?...would he be in jail?... would he be a codependant addict? would he reject me?...would I even be able to find him? I tried to process each of the worst case scenarios, all the while keeping, again, another secret. I didn't talk to anyone about my thought process. Just read and thought and read and thought.

Then one day, I took the first step. I registered on a couple of sites. Still clueless as to the process, taking stabs at what I thought a search might be. Depressed and frustrated because in my research I found that Pennslyvania had closed birth records for adoptees and the amended birth certificate was given to the adoptive parents, not the original one. So, I had no name, only a birthday and even that over the years I lost track of whether it was the 16th or 17th. Not much to go on at all. Pretty sad. So, I kind of gave up, seeing this huge task in front of me...the proverbial "needle in the hay stack".

So, now I had new things to dwell on. 24 years had gone by and low and behold I was now grappling with the idea of maybe, possibly searching and Holy Cow, maybe finding him. WOWOWOWOW and how frightfully scarey. I finally told my husband what I had discovered that a search is possible and to ease my heart, I had to figure out how to do it and find him.

During this phase, I also had another truth to deal with. I had never told Jesse that he had a brother. Many, many times during his life I had wanted to, but just didn't know how and was afraid of what he would think. The stigma of an unwed mother in the late 60's and early 70's still surrounded my psyche, even though in my heart I knew it was silly. I just couldn't bring myself to say the words to him. But, here it was 1998, the new millenium was getting close, ideals and morals had changed, so I took a deep breath and with my husband at my side, I told my son who had always thought he was the first and only son that he was not.

All my worry was for naught. Looking back now, I know why. We had raised Jesse not to be judgemental, and silly me, had I gotten past my own doubts and self imposed worries, and taken a step back, I would have realized that Jess is our son and he would have been accepting of us no matter what. He was very pragmatic about the whole thing and wished me luck in my search.

So, now my family knew my intentions. I just had to figure out how to go about this.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Birthmothers Story - The beginning.

I was so in love and it was September of 1970. My love was returning to school for the semester but stopping at my house before he continued on to Penn State. We made love outside under a canopy of trees and of course, I conceived. I was 17. He was 20. It was the Age of Aquarius and life was all about drugs and sex and rock and roll.

I knew I was pregnant 5 weeks later and as time went on, it became more and more apparent that my period was not going to happen. The end of October arrived and I told my love about our little secret and his response was "Don't worry about it". So, I didn't for a while, but then I did. The magnatude of the consequence of our actions was becoming insurrmountable.

Still I kept the secret hoping something would happen ...the old "if you ignore it, it will go away". But it didn't. I didn't hear from my love for October, for November, trying hard "not to worry". Thanksgiving approached, and still no contact. Now I was mad, hurt, befuddled but most of all scared. I was working at Howard Johnson's on the Pennsylvania turnpike as a waitress. Long, hard hours for pittance. All of a sudden, one day, there he was, my love...sitting at the counter. He sat there all day until I finished. Approached me.

How are you?....PREGNANT....


I've been thinking that I'd like to ask you to marry me....AND LIVE ON WHAT? YOU'RE A PRE-MED STUDENT, I'M A WAITRESS, OH, I KNOW...WE'LL LIVE ON LOVE.

I'll ask my aunt for money.......UH NO, SORRY...NOT AN OPTION.

He followed me home, told my mother I was pregnant and so started the rest of my life.

He disappeared off the radar and I started my journey on my own.

My mother marched me down to Catholic Charities because she wanted to make absolutely certain that the pregnancy would not be interrupted and they would be the saviors. This was after she wanted me to have the baby, bring it home and she would raise it.

Uhhhh, no, not an option either.

The next six months were pretty much a blur. I lived with a family for a while in Cherry Hill, NJ and went in to St. Vincents Hospital for Women and Children in South Philadelphia on a regular basis for checkups. This arrangement worked only for a short time. By April I had moved in to St. V's and spent my last 2 months there as a resident. Yes, it was a home for unwed mothers and I fit that bill to a "T".

My pregnancy was uneventful, the delivery was tough. Leaving there and walking away from my baby was even tougher. But I knew it was what I had to do. I was 18 and emotionally and mentally unfit to be a mother. That was June 19, 1971...3 days after my son was born.

August, I signed the relinquishment papers and was councelled that I will never ever lay eyes on this person and I have no rights to look for him .... ever. Pretty strong words to a clueless 18 year old.

As life happened, so did many other momentous occassions. Each year that went by, I had a silent party in my head for my unknown son on June 16. I got married in 1975 and had my second son, Jesse in 1978. The three of us have had a wonderful life together, but always lurking in the back of my mind was this thought that my other child should have been with us. I'd quickly shove that thought out of my mind, because remember...NEVER EVER was I to look for him or expect to find him. And so I led my life with that belief.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

First musings

So many things I'd love to write about, but like all good things, it'll take time and will happen in it's own good time. I'll get this out bit by bit, and I'm sure there will be lots of my life's factoids in this.
It'll be interesting to see how it grows, much like my garden :-)
Peace to all