How I Found My Birth Family, Part Two: No Stone Unturned | I don't blog, but if I did...

How I Found My Birth Family, Part Two: No Stone Unturned

How I Found My Birth Family, Part 2 - No Stone Unturned

I’ve never been a fan of mysteries — no Nancy Drew or Murder, She Wrote for this girl. But at the same time, I cannot stand unfinished business. I can’t leave a book unfinished, even if I’m not enjoying it. I can’t stop a movie midway even when it’s a stinker. I always wonder where paths lead when I turn back and walk over my previous steps. It’s that desire to complete the puzzle that helped me find my birth family.

I was adopted in 1975 through the Children’s Aid Society, as a newborn. I wrote about the beginnings of finding my birth family before. It has taken me two years to begin to digest the information I found, and understand how to move forward with the people I found, too.

Lately, I’ve seen a number of people using the power of social media to track down people they’ve photographed, long lost loves, or birth relatives. It gives me shivers thinking of how these connections matter. We all live for connection, don’t we? Nothing feels better than when we read words we can truly connect with, or when we meet a friend who feels like they just “fit”, or when we feel understood. This is the essence of human existence, I think. And the internet has made it so much easier to do that. Without the internet, I would never have found my birth family.

I always try to help these people find their missed connections, because I know how much that matters.

As a little kid, my Dad always told me that the social worker in charge of my adoption mentioned my birth mother’s surname to him. He could only guess at the spelling, and he knew she had slipped up (they were not supposed to disclose any identifying information at all back then), so he committed the nugget to memory in case I ever wanted to search for her. For more than 30 years, I didn’t want to search. When I told people that, they look at me incredulously as though it was impossible to not want to unravel that mystery. Who was she? Why had she given me up for adoption? I didn’t care, really. I loved my family, and I was comfortable not knowing.

And then, as the wind changes direction, I changed my mind. I was expecting a child myself and it suddenly struck me that carrying a baby to full term and handing it over into someone else’s arms was simply not something I could do. I wanted to know more about the woman who was able to do this. Not out of anger, but sheer curiosity. I was always thankful to my birth mother, for the record. I have lived a privileged life and I always knew choosing adoption was no easy task.

So I started to Google spellings of the surname my Dad told me once upon a time. Around the time my non-identifying information file came, Children’s Aid opened the files of adoptees, allowing us to apply to receive our birth records. I did, and the day mine came, and I saw my birth mother’s full name, I lost my breath. A name. A real person.

I could find no trace of her online, though. How was that possible? Maybe she had changed her name or gotten married and taken her spouse’s surname? Maybe she had died. But someone, somewhere must be related to her.

Every day, I would Google the name, hoping to find a bread crumb to follow. And then, in one small corner of the internet, there was an obituary for an elderly woman who had died a couple years prior. Someone with my birth mother’s name had left a condolence saying that she and another person would always remember their visits.

Hmm. Could that be her? Who was the other person she mentioned?

In the obituary, they listed all the woman’s grandchildren and one name matched the one mentioned by the woman with my birth mother’s name. My birth mother’s child, maybe? Could this really be? There was no contact information, but with nothing to lose, my husband contacted the funeral home requesting the email address used to leave the condolence. We had little hope that they’d share the confidential information but within 24 hours, we had an email address.

With that email address, I searched online, finding various places this person had commented, putting together a picture of who this person may be, and whether she could be my birth mother.

Finally, more than a year later, I decided to send an email off to the person. Who knew if it was her? I couldn’t leave the puzzle unfinished, I just wanted to move on. I used an email address I had set up that used the name given to me at birth, not my current name.

Again, within 24 hours, I had a reply.

I’ll never forget the day I heard from my birth mother. I was sitting in my in-laws’ backyard when I checked my phone.

[Birth name] you have just contacted your biological mother. How on earth did you get this e-mail address?

I am sure you have thousands of questions just as I do about you. We can start slowly by e-mailing each other and go from there, OK.”

Even today, when I read those words, my chest feels tight. She holds so many secrets, so much information, so many pieces to my puzzle.

I’ve met her now. But I have few answers. And more than two years later, she never did answer the questions I asked of her, and we don’t keep in touch. I harbour no bad feelings, and I’ll never regret opening that treasure chest, but I also know that I’ll never put this puzzle together fully.

One day I’ll tell you the crazy story about how I tracked down the full sister I have met, and the one I still seek who was adopted in California. One day I will tell you how my birth father denies my existence. One day I’ll tell you about the day my parents met my sister.

Maybe one day I’ll better understand my own story. But today, I’m still turning stones.

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10 Responses to “How I Found My Birth Family, Part Two: No Stone Unturned”

  1. DadGoesRound

    I recently re-connected with the daughter I placed for adoption when I was 16. Her twin brother has no interest in contact. Last week I got to call her and do something I’ve never been able to do before – I called her and wished her happy birthday. My search was easier than yours – also as a result of the opened records. I did however have a longer wait for a response to my initial outreach and when it came I too had that same physical reaction. We have met a few times. It is an odd thing to meet a stranger who is actually a biological parent or child. So far it has been an interesting experience. I hope you find what you are seeking.

    • alex durrell

      How old are they now? Why did you want to reach out? (If you don’t mind me asking.)

      I’m interested in how biological parents feel about adoptees. I didn’t feel much connection to my birth mother when we met. And since my birth father denies my existence, it’s unlikely I’ll ever meet him.

      • DadGoesRound

        They just turned 24 last week. I have always wanted to meet them ever since we left them at the hospital. It was the right decision to place them for adoption at the time. We would not have been able to provide them the kind of life they deserved, and as far as I can tell, received. We chose their parents – all be it anonymously based on a profile. I had two reasons for wanting to find them. 1) I wanted to make sure that we hadn’t given them away or abandoned them. We made the choice that we thought was best for them and for us and I wanted them to understand those reasons and that the foundation of our decision was love. 2) I wanted to know that they were ok. I hoped that we had chosen well for them and that their lives had turned out ok – so far – as far as I can tell things are good. I think that bio parents feel differently depending on the circumstances under which the adoption occurred. For us it was a free choice, influenced by parents to be sure, but free choice nonetheless. For others they were shamed into placing kids for adoption or had those kids stolen away from them under false pretenses because the mothers were young and unmarried. Then they were told to forget it ever happened and get on with their lives. That is a hard thing to overcome. Many birth fathers don’t even know that they had kids or they were threatened with harm if they came near their partner again. Some are too ashamed by their decision to walk away and they bury that deep inside and it is too hard to let it out. Most of us keep the secret for decades and opening that door to let it out is painful. I had the good fortune to find people willing to listen to my story over the years so it was not hidden as deeply. It was easier for me to open the door and search. I do still occasionally get looks of disapproval from people when I talk about my forays into pre-marital sex and becoming a teen parent. I have set aside the shame that was put on me and that I felt for a long time. Any disapproval felt by others is their problem and not mine. All that said, I have only ever encountered one other birth father in person or in the media. There are lots of us out there, but sadly virtually none willing to talk or acknowledge that part of their past.

      • alex durrell

        Thank you so much for sharing this. It isn’t often I get to hear a birth parent’s point of view, and your story is so touching.

      • DadGoesRound

        You are welcome. It took me a while to get to the point of sharing my story, but I think the more people talk about adoption – from all perspectives, the better. There should not be any shame attached to placing kids for adoption and there should be no shame being an adoptee. People also need to think about domestic adoption and not just international adoptions. There are lots of kids in Ontario and Canada looking for forever homes and we need to do more to support them and encourage prospective adoptive parents to consider adopting locally instead of/as well as swooping in to other countries to ‘rescue’ kids. If sharing my story helps in any part of that, it is worth sharing. I’m happy to chat more if it is helpful to you.

      • alex durrell

        You’re so right, there should never be shame from either side.

        I really appreciate this conversation, thank you. 🙂

  2. Melissa

    I can remember as a child playing in the back yard of my home. There was a field and a set of railroad tracks to the side, and lots of big stones. I remember I always had this fear of turning them over. Lots of bugs? Worms? Insects that I wouldn’t be able to recognize. The more I got used to turning over each stone and see what was there, the more my eyes began to see and my mind began to process. Eventually my fear of the unknown under the stone became my strength in knowing I had the choice to turn it over or not.
    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sure its not an easy road. I give you alot of credit for what you are doing.

    • alex durrell

      This is such a beautiful comment. Thank you for reading.

  3. Dawn

    As an adoptive mother I appreciate stories posted by adoptees who are now adults and have searched out their biological families. I’m surprised how many of you are bloggers and I have met through Blissdom 🙂 Is there a link LOL?
    Anyway…circumstances surrounding my sons birthmom lead me to believe he may not have the opportunity to meet her when he is older. Her maternal age and life style lead us to believe she may not lead a long life. I do have quite a bit of information about her to allow us to trace her and I will be honest I do google her every now & then without any results.
    I support any contact he want to have once he turns 18 but I also hope that he grows up feeling that he missed nothing and always feels truly loved.

    • alex durrell

      I can almost guarantee you that he will feel truly loved. 🙂

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