Monday, November 24, 2008

Not what I was expecting

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

THE CHILD

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.

MEDICAL HISTORY

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.

14 comments:

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

Wonder if that's a universal theme... John's first round of info he received from the agency he was adopted through left him with far MORE questions than answers.

Hallie

Andrew Scott Turner said...

The underlying theme of our adoption "training" is how far adoption has come. It was reinforced over and over again that it used to focus on the mother. Almost solely. The attitude was that the woman (and in some instances the man's) privacy be guarded at all times. Now, it's all about the child. Particularly the birth and ancestral history, and there is a concerted effort to place the child with relatives first - any relatives, from cousins to great great aunts.

I sound like a rep from DHHS, but I thought it contrasted your experience greatly. And to be hoet, I think these changes have occured over the last 40 years because of children growing up and fighting so hard just for medical histories and hitting a wall at every turn.

Andrew Scott Turner said...

And, for you language aficionados out there, "hoet" is Dutch for "honest"

God Mondays are soooo ASS

Laura ~Peach~ said...

WOW your non identifying information was alot MORE than mine... mine was half assed medical history and that was it.

my mother was 20... my father was in his 30's was married with 3 living and one deceased children...(found all this out later)

When I was 11 (again found out later) my mother married my father... in 84 they had another child a girl... their LC (last chance) to have a family.

ALL of the dreamed up senerios and all the things I ever thought NEVER EVER included my parents marrying each other... I was shocked and astounded and for a while angry a bit jealous I am sure .... but i do believe you will find more and more things that you thought or expected just are nothing much like the real situation. TIGHTEN that seat belt ... :) HUGSSSSSSSSSSSS Laura

kim-d said...

As soon as I read that your birth mother was 24, I guessed the scenario was exactly what it was. Back in those days, I cannot even imagine the judgments that were made then!

I cannot even BEGIN to imagine the way you felt upon reading that SINGLE sheet of paper; I cannot even BEGIN to imagine what that 24-year-old young woman went through, leading up to that single sheet of paper. What I CAN begin to imagine now is why this quest is so important to you.

I suspect I'm going to be counting down the days with you...

justlori2day said...

This makes my need to count with you more and more driven.

I cannot imagine being on your side of the single piece of paper. So little information, so many questions.

I thank God I had a family for my baby that would make it known who I was - eventually.

I was going to post my story today - it has been sitting in "edit" mode since October 8th. But now I am thinking I should reschedule it for January 2nd... We shall see.

Bogart in P Towne said...

Wow...thanks for sharing.

Becca said...

Oh, hugs for the little girl inside you who was so devastated.

~*amber*~ said...

I, like everyone else, will be counting down the days with you too until January.

I know that information left you with a LOT more questions, but be thankful you at least got a LITTLE bit of information out of it. At least you had some information to tide you over until the time comes when you can find out even more.

I was like one of the other commenters, after I read her age, I figured it had something to do with him being married. I am sure that was SO looked down upon back then.

So, if/when you find out both your real parents names and if they are still living, are you going to try and meet them, is that the goal here? I just wondered that because it sounds like your father didn't really have a part in this other than making you, so I wondered if you would want to meet him too or if he even knew that she had gotten pregnant?

Vegas Princess said...

Reading through this post I am amazed at the strength and courage it takes to write about this trying time. How jumbled up your emotions must have been. I am so happy you will finally get the answers you deserve after so many years of questions and lack of information.

Mabry's gamma said...

I am happy that you are starting to get some answers and hopefully a lot more of your questions will be answered in Jan.

Odette said...

Wow that's shocking. I can definitely understand how that can be earth shattering! Thanks so much for sharing, yours is an amazing story! :)

katy said...

I guessed the married part too. I bet your mother was miserable having to give you up but knew she couldn't do it on her own. People were not as understanding then.

Shellie said...

Wow. Just wow. Hugs! The whole situation sounds so hard. Hopefully some more questions will be answered in the end. They will lead to even more questions. Hopefully the most important ones will have answers.