Sometime prior to 2006, I can only assume late one night when I was tooling around on the Internet, I entered my birth information into one of those websites that allows people to find their match based on date of birth and some other data. I honestly only remember doing it in the vaguest sense, never planning on Meeting My Birth Family. So it was rather shocking to get a phone call, in March of 2006, while we were living in Guatemala, from my husband’s uncle telling me that someone had reached out to him based on the information I had entered. My birth mother was about to re-enter my life.
Heart. Stop. Light-headed. I wasn’t someone who had had a life-long yearning to know my birth family. My own family was not perfect, not in the slightest and full of dysfunction, but it was Mine. Hoping to put some distance between myself and someone who could only be a con artist (at this point I had no recollection of submitting my data), I had my best friend call the person who I came to know as Aunt Pat. She was on the phone for quite a while, I believe, before she called me back, in tears (she’s a cryer). She was very moved by Pat’s story and how she had come to search for me.
Realizing that this was, indeed, someone from my birth mother’s family left me stopped in my tracks. Who was this person? Did she want something from me? Did I want something from her? And how the heck would I figure that out all the way from Guatemala. I learned her name, Debbie. I also learned the name she would have given me at birth which now belonged to my youngest half-sister.
Meeting My Birth Mother In Person
In June, 2006, after many emails had been exchanged between Debbie and me, we agreed to meet up at an Applebee’s that was about halfway between my home in Cincinnati and the town in Indiana where she lived. I flew home from Guatemala for the sole purpose of meeting her and my half-siblings. To say that I was full of anxiety on the hour-long drive would be an understatement. This was to be a meeting just between us. Nobody else. She beat me there and when i spied her across the room it was surreal. I grew up in a family where I did not look like anyone else. Nobody ever said “Oh, you have your dad’s eyes.” Or “Oh, you look just like your mom at that age.” To see someone who looked incredibly like me, whom I had never met, was not something I was prepared for.
She looked as nervous as I was. Our small-talk was awkward and stilted. Lunch gave us something to do with our hands…and our mouths. I don’t remember our conversation. I only remember staring at her hands and thinking “those don’t look my hands at all. This must not be real.” But it certainly looked real to the waitstaff, cause…we looked eerily alike. Our initial meeting is, for the most part, a blur, and I can only assume that I immediately called my best friend once I was back in my car to unpack the whole experience with her. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has those moments where life is happening but your brain is off somewhere else in a corner, hyperventilating into a paperbag.
I Meet More Family
A few days later we were scheduled to meet up at the home of Aunt Pat. My best friend drove me and I can’t even imagine what our conversation was like. Nervous chatter no doubt. There were a lot of people there. Debbie’s mom. Aunt Pat and her husband. My half-sisters: Gail and Julie. My half-brother who is affectionately known as Keebs. I’m sure we ate. I’m sure we made awkward small talk. It seems odd to write this and have to say so often “I’m really not sure what happened.” But I don’t think that’s unrelatable. My mind isn’t the only one that freezes up and blanks out during moments of high stress. Everyone was entirely lovely to me, but the biggest takeaway I took from that day is the intense difference between growing up as part of a family with all its shorthand and inside jokes and family stories and deep level of comfort in each other’s company, and growing up completely separate from said family no matter what story your DNA has to tell.
For the next few years I had rather haphazard interaction and communication with Debbie and the rest of the family. I would say that the responsibility for the haphazard nature of it fell mostly on me. The combination of living in various foreign countries during this time, plus my mom’s battle with ovarian cancer, left me in a push/pull frame of mind and affected the growth of our relationship deeply. I will tell you more about that in the next installment of this story.
I would love to hear from anyone else who has met their birth mother or who has been affected by adoption. Leave a comment because I would love to talk with you.
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