Friday, November 21, 2008

May I see some non-identification, please?

In my quest for information about my birth family, one of the first things everybody said to do was to contact the adoption agency. If you read yesterday’s blog, you already know about St. Andre’s. Lots and lots of babies were adopted through this place starting around 1940 – and it still operates today.

I called St. Andre’s, ironically, while I was pregnant with my younger son, who’s now 16, so this was a while ago. I was having some difficulties with the pregnancy, and my doctor really urged me to see what I could find out about my medical history. I spoke to a very pleasant woman, probably a nun, who told me that she couldn’t tell me anything. Don’t you love it when that happens?

She did, however, connect me to another person, a man, who told me that they did have ‘some post-adoption services.’ He then proceeded to spend several minutes lecturing me about why looking up your birth parents was a bad idea. He concluded with the instruction to “take some time, think about whether this is what you really want, and then, if you still want to, send us a letter asking for the documents you need.” Okay, I will come right out and admit it: he pissed me off. But I kept my cool and told him I would reflect on what he’d said.

However, since I had been ‘reflecting’ on this subject since I was old enough to reflect, I hung up the phone and typed out a letter requesting assistance. Three weeks, and two more phone calls later, I got the precious documents. There were a lot of them. Basically, there was a letter which told me that I must register for the state’s Reunion Registry, which serves to match consenting blood-related adults separated by adoption. I was already registered, so I moved on to the other requirements: completed St. Andre’s release form (notarized), a written request for the desired information, and $25 fee.

So, what would I receive after all that? Non-identifying information. This is the term they used to describe the tiny tidbits of info about my birth mother – facts that would make it impossible for me to identify her. They warned that there might not be much there, as birth moms were allowed to fill out as much or as little of the forms as they chose, and if they didn’t want to name or describe the father, they didn’t have to.

But – there might be. There might be all kinds of pertinent details in there – physical descriptions, medical histories, even stuff like her education, her hobbies and talents. And one other thing: the Reason for Surrender, a statement she was required to write in her own handwriting explaining why she wanted to relinquish her baby. Finally I would know why she gave me up. I can’t describe my feelings other than to say I could hardly breathe just thinking about it. Good thing they warned me not to get my hopes up!

Oh, and they told me that I would have to pay $50 per hour for them to go look for the stuff in my file. This irritated me too. As it turned out, it took them 1.75 hours to access the information, including the correspondence to me, so I got a bill for $87.50, which was a pretty good chunk of change to me back then.

A few months and several reminder phone calls later, the envelope arrived. One thin 9x12 manila envelope that would change my life. I’ll never forget walking back from the mailbox that day. It was hot and humid, and I was almost 8 months pregnant. I kept turning the envelope over and over in my hands, looking at it with emotions somewhere between excitement and terror.

19 comments:

kim-d said...

Oh man, Mary Ellen...please say you're planning on posting again today! I'm going to assume that you did not find out much, but I'm dying to know what WAS there.

What is it about being an adult that makes us wonder so much about our roots. My parents were divorced when I was very young and my biological father's presence was sporadic until I was 7, when he disappeared completely. When my Mom remarried, my dad (versus biological father) legally adopted me. I was two months shy of my 12th birthday, and I never thought too much about any of it one way or the other.

But now I sure do. And when he, the biological father, died a few years back, I was very sad about it without really understanding why. Right after my Mom died and he found out about it--really strange situation, like he was meant to find out she had died--he called me. That was pretty much the start of the wondering...

I cannot wait until you get some of your questions answered; here for ya all the way!

kim-d said...

Hehehe...cool! I think we were commenting to each other at the exact same time!

Jammies and movies are seeming better and better for Thanksgiving Day, and I think that is what it's going to be...

Andrew Scott Turner said...

see? you ARE a novelist

(jerk!)

ps: I mean that in a good way

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

Andy called you a jerk.

Yeah, he tried to say he was joking but I think he feels threatened by your novelistic (made that up) ways!!

He senses competition!! :)

H

Andrew Scott Turner said...

i'm so transparent

i need to work on that

Mary Ellen said...

Hey - do I need to separate you two?

kim-d said...

It pains me to say it, but Hallisicle is right. People don't read/blog much on weekends. Except me, because I am addicted and cannot stay away and have no life. Plus, I'm doing NaBloPoMo for November so I HAVE to do a post everyday. But I would anyway :). What was the original question? BWAHAHAHA!

I'm just riveted by your story...and I just cannot believe all you are having to go through to get so little. Can you imagine being young, unmarried and pregnant in the early 1960s; I cannot even imagine the guilt and the shame that was heaped on those young women back then...

kim-d said...

And who is Andrew Scott Turner? Is this a novelist I should be aware of? :)

Andrew Scott Turner said...

kim-d: I am a novelist. You didn't know that?

Damn it. I'm firing my publicist.

MET: you SHOULD separate Hallie and me. She's demanding chocolate cookies for crying out loud. I CAN'T HANDLE THIS PRESSURE. Did you even see The Shining, when Shelley Long finally read Jack's "manuscript" and he went all Heeeere's Johnny all over her? That's me when Hallie demands baking favors.

Laura ~Peach~ said...

OHHHHH the memories... must...must drag out of the dark abiss and complete my story...oh the joke of NONidentifying information... BLAH...

Becca said...

OH OH!!!! I scrolled down and there was no more!!! pure e-vil!!!


Waiting with baited breath

Becca said...

And the comments here are almost as good as the blog!!!!

Mary Ellen said...

Becca - Thanks for saying ALMOST...

GingerJar said...

Wow, hope you find out something. I'm here from WWoW...

Time were definately different then. When I was 2 my dad's baby sister got pregnant and was sent away (No I don't remember, my mom just told me this last year when I told her Aunt L's husband had died). She never told who the father was...and the baby was put up for adoption, and Aunt L came back like nothing had ever happened, then she moved with Grandma and Grandpa back to Oklahoma where no body knew of her "sin". Mom said that none of the other sibling knew about the baby, just my Daddy because he was in California in the same town at the same time. Aunt L married and moved up North somewhere and was never close with her family afterwards. I would think there is more to the story...but will never know.

Reddirt Woman said...

What a cliff-hanger!!!

Helen

~*amber*~ said...

That is SO not fair! I presume you didn't find out what you really needed to know though otherwise you wouldn't still be looking and waiting for identifying information come January. Hopefully you got a few medical questions answered though.

bernthis said...

Oh you have to tell us what you found out. I am crossing my fingers that you at least get something helpful. I'll be back.

justlori2day said...

I now see what you meant by people not liking where you left off. I am so glad I came by AFTER you posted the follow up. Now I will go read....

Vegas Princess said...

Tease! I love it!

Hallie, you and Andrew need a time out I believe. After YOU make ME cookies.