Last week, my family was blessed to finally end our search for my biological grandmother, make contact, and see my mother reunite with the woman she had been wanting to meet her entire life. In light of these events, I am spending the week sharing more about our story in this week-long series on my mother’s adoption from my perspective. Please read the first post for additional background: Adoption is Life.
When I was three years old, and the youngest of my mother’s children, I was introduced to the couple that my mom referred to by first and last name and told they were my grandparents. Until that day, I had only known of one Grandma, my paternal grandmother with whom we were all very close. Knowing how much I loved the grandma I knew well, I can remember being excited to have more of them. My mother, however, had her own feelings about the introduction and would tell me years later that this was a hard decision for her to make. It had been nearly eight years since she had been in contact with them, and she was unsure if she felt safe trusting them in her life.
As I grew up, I would learn that this couple had adopted my mom as a baby and raised her as their daughter, but that their relationship with her was not as loving and nurturing as many adoptive bonds become. I would learn that though her parents provided for her needs and raised her in a church, she endured a rather troubled childhood and had been mistreated by her mother in ways that left her feeling alone and broken. Her adoptive mother’s mental illness and cruel treatment made her home a place of fear and anxiety. She left home as soon as she was able, and tried her best to distance herself from her parents. With children of her own, she felt the need to protect us from her mother and deny her contact with our family.
Later in my childhood, my mother became very sick and was struggling with a variety of health concerns. After many doctor’s visits and tests, it was decided she would need to have a major surgery that would leave her fairly immobile for several weeks. In the process of preparing for the surgery, I can remember her expressing her frustration over the lack of information she had on her biological family. As you know, medical procedures often warrant questions about your family’s health history. As an adoptee of a closed adoption, my mother could not answer these questions, and that left her feeling unsettled.
This was the first time in my life that my mom made it clear to me that she desired to find her birth mother, and at that time I only understood it as a need to have answers on her medical documents. I vaguely remember her requesting documents over the phone from her parents and the agency through which she had been adopted. I remember her hopeless words as she looked through what little information she had and expressed the impossibility of the search. I remember thinking that the mother she was wanting to find might not want to be found, and believing that actually finding her would take a miracle.
It was not until I had matured and neared adulthood that I began to recognize the deeper desire my mother had to find the woman who had given birth to her. Because I had a loving and nurturing relationship with my mother, I would never fully know what it felt like to live life without that relationship. I was slowly learning, however, to sympathize with the feelings that lingered throughout my mother’s life. Though many adoptees feel fully secure in their identities and at peace with who they are, my mother describes a complete lack of security and peace, always feeling as though she was missing something. Feelings of abandonment and confusion overwhelmed her at times, and she could not help but believe that finding her biological mother would help her settle these feelings.
So with very little identifying information to use and no clear direction on where to start, we searched. At times, this search was more intentional and promising than others, but nonetheless the search continued and lingered in our minds and conversations together for years.
I look forward to sharing more of our story with you throughout this week, and I am overjoyed to be able to conclude it with an ending I never believed would happen!
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If you liked this post you might also enjoy Adopted for Life.