I remember walking really slowly back toward the house, holding the envelope from St. Andre’s in my hands. I think I left all the other mail in the mailbox. When I got to the steps to the house, I stopped and sat on the second step and just breathed for a while. I actually thought about just bringing it in the house and leaving it be for a while – opening it when I was ‘ready.’
But who was I kidding? I couldn’t wait any longer. I felt like I’d been waiting my whole life. I carefully pried the flap open and extracted the single sheet of white paper inside.
As I write this, I have the paper next to me, retrieved from the file where I keep all my adoption search papers. I wanted to be sure to be accurate in this account, but to be honest with you, I’ve got every single word memorized, so it doesn't matter. The paper St. Andre's sent was a form with various categories, and only about two-thirds of it was filled in.
St. Andre’s Home, Inc.
ADOPTEES BACKGROUND INFORMATION
This section contained my date of birth, time, sex, weight, length, place of birth, and date of discharge from hospital, and “birth history,” which basically reported that I was a healthy baby girl.
All of this I already knew.
THE BIOLOGICAL MOTHER
This was the part I’d been dying to see. The paper was shaking (okay, maybe it was me) as I read. It reported that her age at my birth was 24, that she was single, white, had blue eyes (like mine) and fair-colored hair (not like mine). This completed the physical description. There was room for more, but the rest of the categories were blank.
It went on to say that she had a high school education, worked as a clerk (it didn’t say where, or even what industry), and had two sisters. Her nationality was listed as English/Scotch. Nothing was listed in the TALENTS, AMBITIONS OR HOBBIES sections. It said she was Protestant.
I took several minutes to digest this. I had believed all my life that she had been a teenager. I had cultivated a story in my head, which might have been encouraged by my parents, that she was a young girl, probably madly in love with a young boy. When she had gotten pregnant, she had realized that she was unable to give me the home she so wanted for me, and had turned to adoption.
It was a romantic story, and somehow, it made me feel better. I just knew she had wanted me, but at such a young age, how could she have cared for me?
But now, I realized that she was 24 – not a young girl at all, and she had a job. I know intellectually that I had no way to understand her circumstances, but all of a sudden, emotionally, it felt like she just hadn’t wanted me. My stomach clutched. Tears began to pour down my face. I remember putting one hand on my very-pregnant belly, feeling my child move, wondering. It took me a long time to continue reading.
Finally. What I needed most, I was thrilled to see that this section was filled in. Then I started reading: Rh neg, no family history of: TB, diabetes, allergies, hypertension or multiple births. Biological mother’s mother is deceased of cancer (no details known.)
No details known? Are you kidding me?? What kind of freaking cancer was it? So, instead of answering questions and alleviating fears, this just made everything worse. Was it breast cancer? Cervical cancer? Ovarian cancer? Some other cancer that I could be saved from if I had the heads up to get screened for it? Unbelievable. Now I was mad.
REASON FOR SURRENDER
This was where I might get some answers. Here is the part where she, supposedly in her own words, explained why she was giving up her child. This is what it said, word-for-word:
Biological mother expressed the wish to place her child for adoption from the start of her stay at Group Home. Biological mother wanted her child brought up in the Catholic faith.
Now I was confused. And still mad. First of all, what kind of a reason was that? I wanted to hear that she couldn’t afford a child. Or that she wasn’t emotionally equipped to deal with a baby. Or something. Not that she wanted the child raised as a Catholic. The report said she was Protestant, anyway. Why did she want me raised in a different church? It all made no sense.
Then I turned the page over. Here was the information about the Biological Father, but precious little information it was. He was 27, white, 5’11”, athletic, dark brown hair and eyes. He had a high school education and was a telephone worker. He was Franco American.
And Catholic. And married.
Ahh, there it was. She was a single Protestant woman, and he was a married Catholic man. In a split second, everything I’d always believed – wanted to believe – was shattered. I’ve grown up a lot since that day, and I understand that one can never truly understand other people’s lives. It’s not up to any of us to judge, and you can never know what’s in another’s heart. But in that moment, I was a child again, and so incredibly disappointed.
I sat there for a long time, looking at the paper and reading it over and over through streaming tears. I’d waited so long for answers, but all I had ended up with was more questions.
Get Ready For SANKOFA!
11 hours ago