I was talking to my biological mother on the phone a few weeks ago... “I didn’t think my mother would ever forgive me…” She said. Recanting the moments after my birth. Both her pregnancy and my life being a sin in her mother's, my grandmother's, eyes.
A confusing moment for a pregnant 17 year old girl. Feeling her own mother's humiliation at the same time as feeling a deep love and connection to her baby. “But… she did… eventually." Her voice trailed off as she painfully reminisced.
We paused in the silence shared between the phones we held. I sat in her sadness with her. Feeling the weight of her mother’s shame she still seems to carry along with the regret of having to let me go.
I wait in that stillness with her until she chooses to continue… After a very deep breath she does.
The day my mother was released from the hospital, the social worker who took me, did a follow up visit at my mother’s home. As she approached the porch, my mother was standing outside, alone, waiting for her.
The social worker greeted her and asked how she was doing.
My mother told her she was doing poorly.
“Was she placed?” My mother asked her.
“We have a foster home that is taking her.” The social worker answered.
My mother’s gaze went down to the wooden porch floor boards beneath her feet. Her hormones surging, her body still aching from the labor.
“I was told she can find me when she turns 18.” My mother stated.
The social worker did not respond.
“Will she know anything about me?” My mother asked.
The social worker nodded and diplomatically stated, “We call it unidentifiable information. I will document every time we have a conversation. She will know your height, weight, hair color, things like that.”
“But not my name or where I am though.”
The social worker shook her head.
“So, you’ll write down what I say?” My mother asked.
The social worker nodded.
“My mother made me do it.” My mother stated into the shocked social workers eyes. “I didn’t want to give her up… Be sure to document that.” She said fighting back emotion. Feeling the burn of tears welling up in her eyes.
The ink from the social worker's pen scribbled on her notepad.
“I’ll find her one day.” She said to the social worker as she was still writing.
She looked up from the page. Her eyes met my mother’s once again, and my mother walked back into her home. The door slamming behind her.
All these years later, I would get the paper work from the state. Telling me of my mother’s red hair, blue eyes, her height, weight at the time of my birth. Her favorite subjects in school. Her hobbies.
Also, in that paperwork, it spells in black and white how she wanted it documented that this wasn’t her choice. “Her mother made her do it.”
The social worker did, in fact, also document the tears in her eyes as she spoke these words.
She asked for an open adoption. One I could locate her when I turned 18. However, her mother never approved it. My adoption was sealed. And red stamped, “closed”.
As the story goes, both my mother and father were devastated after the removal of their first born. They made a pact to never allow it to happen again. Bonded in their pain. Connected by their shared loss. They made a decision to stay together.
They got pregnant again. 11 months later, my sister was born. Her middle name being Lynn to match the middle name my mother would have given me. She was born on my mother’s 18th birthday. Meaning, she was no longer a minor. She had that baby with my father by her side instead of her mother. They were able to make the choice that no one else was allowed in that hospital room. No one else would be allowed to hold her. No one else would be allowed to take her. No one else could rip that baby from her arms.
“I would never let them take another baby.” My mother told me weeks ago. Still with the quiver in her voice. The crack as she spoke. I could hear the pain that still exists within her.
My father enlisted in the army to support his new family. Two years later, my brother was born. Giving me two full siblings. Who my mother sat down as soon as she thought they were old enough to understand. My sister 5. My brother 3.
“You have a sister.” She told them. “We will find her one day.”
A choice that enraged my father. He felt my mother then ruined my siblings lives the way my removal ruined theirs.
"They didn't need to know." He said.
My mother stood firmly before him. Trying to listen to his words. Attempting to understand his emotion. Looking down at the confused sets of young eyes gazing back up at her from my siblings.
With her eyes filling with tears once again, she decisively stated, "Yes, they do need to know."
By admitting my truth to them, she was keeping me alive in a family where I was absent. She kept me present in a world I could have been locked away and kept as a secret. She kept me relevant in a reality that would have no other way of knowing my existence.
Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”
Today, I have realized one of my “whys”. I want to give her story life the way she gave life to mine. I want to tell her story to keep her as relevant as she kept me. To share her voice that didn’t feel like it mattered for all those years. That voice that couldn’t defend herself or her baby. To reframe and hear my own disbeliefs and misunderstanding in the process. To expose a trauma that crosses many beings in the act of adoption. Seeing the searing pain of her reality, instead of disillusionment of what mine seemed.
I want to give this story meaning. And to share my immense respect for her. Reframing a shame into a triumph. Showing a strength in her conviction, the perseverance to continue on and the survival of mistreatment. Something we both overcame. Against, all odds or judgments. A success only we could reach, against all red tape or red inked stamps of impossibility. A faith we carried within us instead of a faith we were told to have.
I want to expose how misunderstood she was in her family, in her youth, in her life, for so long. I want to tell the love she carries. I want to show her mine as well.
I want us both to see we still have time. To meet, to discover each other, to connect through our story. The story that we simultaneously lived through within two different experiences. Connected, in that separation in a way only the two of us could be.
I want to show her she was a role model before I knew her. A tenacity I hope to inherit. A spirit I recognize I have.
The meaning of this, our, journey, is our story. The story I am meant to tell.
Until next week…