An Open Letter to My Birth Parents
Years ago, I found my birth family. One of my sisters and I have maintained a relationship, but my birth mother has chosen to have no contact with me. While that’s ok, and most of the time it doesn’t bother me, I am admittedly left feeling a little untethered sometimes. I don’t feel anger over being adopted; it’s really quite the opposite. I’m thankful to have had the life I have had, but I’m torn feeling eager to understand my genetic past, and having no substantial information. And I’ll be honest: it’s really hard to understand why these people who conceived me want nothing to do with me. I’m really cool, what’s the deal? When I had to deep dive into this in therapy, terms like “attachment disorder” are thrown at me, and I’m not ready to accept that this is the root of my problems, and yet, as an adoptee, I also cannot discount this experience. So, I’m left with questions.
While I was procrasticleaning the other day (you know… instead of doing what’s most important, I decided I absolutely had to clean out some old files), I came across the folder of information that I received from the Children’s Aid Society when adoption files were made available.
I can’t remember if I’ve written before of how CAS lied to my parents about the situation surrounding my birth. The social worker assigned to my (adoptive) parents told them that I was conceived by a very young (“approximately 15-16 years old”) couple of kids from Newfoundland. She said that my birth mother was Catholic, and my birth father Jewish, so clearly, in the mid-70s that was positively not gonna work out.
The case worker said the girl’s family sent her to Ontario to give birth to me. Naturally, because my Mom’s from Newfoundland, this tugged her heartstrings. It built a little extra bond, you know? So it was the narrative I grew up with — that I had this connection to my Mom, that my birth parents were just a couple oopsy-daisy kids, and I felt pretty lucky to have landed where I did. I guess I understand the reasoning behind the lies, but I feel so angry at this long-gone CAS caseworker for lying. None of what she told my parents was true. None of what I grew up internalizing was true. My core identity was built on someone’s lies.
Ok, well, 99.9% of it was untrue. It’s factual that my birth father is Jewish, but otherwise that’s the end of the truths. When my package of information arrived, it felt like my world collapsed. Let me be clear: it changed nothing of the woman I became, but the magnitude of the lies hit home. My birth mother was 24 years old at the time of my birth. She’d also had three prior pregnancies and all were adoptions. I had a full sister adopted in California. And, as I would later discover, another full sister here in Ontario, and another (paternal) half brother here too.
It’s been a decade since this information became mine, and so much has changed, but some things remain the same: this little folder of information still takes my breath away.
I met my birth mother a couple times, and even had her in my home. She promised she’d keep in touch and that she had information she wanted to share with me, but she never did either of those things. My birth father, when notified that I had been in touch with my sister just completely denied my existence. He said that perhaps I was the product of my birth mother and one of his brothers. Ouch. He sounds like a lovely man, doesn’t he?
None of the rejection really matters. It shouldn’t, in any case. Look at the life I have, after all… It does matter, when I am really honest.
For some absolutely stupid reason, I must have needed a good cry, because I knew before I flipped the folder open that it would be a bad idea to read this again, and I did anyhow. I wonder if my birth parents ever read the letter I sent back to CAS to include in my file in case they ever looked for me. I spent a long time writing what I felt would be well-received. Thankfulness for a life, without bragging about how awesome it turned out.
I wonder if they’ll ever read my words anywhere. I wonder if they have any idea how little I want from them, but how proud they’d be of me if they ever just acknowledged my existence.
* * *
Dear P and B,
Thank you for giving me the chance at a better life. You might be happy to know that I think about you two, and the circumstances around my birth quite often with gratefulness. I’m not angry or resentful, and I would never want anything but information from you.
This is what I know of myself. This is it. Chances are, you never knew just what was written about you in my case file. And you probably don’t want this information shared. Maybe it feels too private. I debated for a long time about whether I would post this, but this is my life. This is my story, too. And I am tired of being silent.
You both hold so much information that I’d love to have — now that you’re older, are there health issues I should know about? What was it like to carry me, hold me, name me, and hand me over? What’s it like to know that I live so close to you both, that we share so much, yet share nothing at all?
What was labour like? Why was I in hospital for almost an entire month?
Who was the foster family who cared for me? I wonder what they felt.
I wish I had photos of you in your youth, P. Did we look alike? We sure have the same interests, which leads me to believe that nature is a pretty strong force over nurture. I’m a literature lover, too. In fact, I have a degree in English. We’re exactly the same height, isn’t that cool? And we share the same interests. All of them. Swimming, camping, crafting, animals and I’m agnostic, too. We’d get along so well, you and I. It’s such a shame you never reached back out to me.
I grew up an only child, and I would love to know these other relatives. Are you in touch with them? I assume your parents have all passed on now?
I would love to know more about your family history, B. I’ve been in limited contact with your niece, and I hear about you sometimes from your daughter, but it would be amazing to hear your side of things. I’m an introvert, too. And a music lover. My Dad actually hung out in the same areas of Toronto as you in his youth, and while he’s a decade older than you, I bet your crossed paths. Isn’t that strange? He rode a motorcycle, and loved the Toronto music scene, too.
Do either of you have information about the baby you had in California? We’ve tried to track her down, but she was either adopted out of state, or she died. There’s just no trace of her, and I would really love to connect with her.
My life is a good one, you’ll be happy to know. I am happily divorced, surrounded by love from friends, and I have two kids who are incredible people.
I do enjoy hearing about you both from time to time from my sister.
I’m a real person, for the record.
All the best,