Friday, January 7, 2011

The Start of my Reunion: One Year Ago We Said "Hello Again"

My Facebook profile photo at the time.
January third, I woke up early. The sun was peering through my window and keeping my eyes closed was no longer enough to shut the bright rays out. I rolled out of bed and made my way over to my dresser where my little netbook was sitting. No emails.

I checked occasionally throughout the day to see if my original mother had written back.  I had just sent her my very first contact after receiving clearance from the Confidential Intermediary.  I played games with my son, thinking about what I was going to tell her about first.

She was young and I was worried that telling her right away that she has a grandchild would freak her out. An original mother at a forum I frequent suggested perhaps not to tell her about that right away.

In my email, I had told her the things I wanted her to know the most. I had read in my adoption file that she had told the adoption worker that she was afraid I would think she was mean for surrendering me to adoption. I told her I did not think she was mean. I told her that I was sorry it took me so long to find her. I told her that I loved her. I signed the email with both of my names "Amanda/Christen." She didn't know my adopted name; I knew I was still "Christen" to her.

There's no script for any of this.

I was proud of myself for making it to 24 hours before trying another form of contact. I had found her on Facebook and decided to send her a friend request. "It's your daughter;" I wrote on the request.

I wondered if I looked like him, the man who fathered me, and if seeing my picture would upset her. I had already made the friend request; it was too late to worry about that now. Shortly after, my friend request was accepted and I momentarily forgot how to breathe. It is all a blur to me now and I don't quite recall how, but somehow, whether by Facebook mail or chat, I got to talk to her.

"Can I call you?" I asked.

"Of course!" She said.

So I called.

She told me that she didn't check her email often. But she happened to be on Facebook; one of my aunts was helping her figure out how to use it. She had signed up for an account around the time that she first heard about me from the CI.

"We didn't know who it was when we first saw the request." She said. "My sister-in-law pointed out where it said "it's your daughter" and yelled "it's your daughter, it's her!" and we both jumped up and down and hugged each other."

One of the first things she wanted to know was what had taken me so long to contact her. It is then that I explained to her my end of private, domestic, infant adoption in the 1980's. There was no information exchange; I knew very little sociodemographic information about her and a few of my family members through her and that was about it. Even in my early 20's when I first started emailing with the agency, they refused to tell me her name. She paused. I could envision her at that moment shaking her head in disappointment. 

She had been told that I would always know her name and that about somewhere between ages 16 and 18 that the agency would encourage me to contact her. She had been waiting for me for almost 9 years, even updating her information with the agency. She was never supposed to be a secret to me.

I think the next thing she asked about was the CI. That had been a strange and emotional experience for her. We both agreed that the CI had been rude. She had not quite understood what was going on during the process either and most of her questions had also been greeted with a "I can't share that information with you Ma'am." What she wanted to know most was why I had the state contact her when she was always told I would be able to contact her myself. She too wondered what was taking so long; she had corresponded with the CI in a timely manner as well and was left waiting with no clue as to what would happen next.

In case you're wondering what the problem with the forms that were "filled out wrong and sent back" that I talked about in my post on Monday, she didn't pay the right amount of money to file the forms, which is why they sent them back. I had paid plenty of money for this process; why in the world did she asked to pay anything? In reality, they had made the mistake and told her the wrong thing. She had no idea that the state essentially places restraining orders on adoptees (Contact Veto system) and that what she had been doing was allowing me contact through the veto. She had no idea my birth certificate was amended and sealed. 

She had no idea that I did not already know who she was.

You're probably wondering about our conversation thus far. And if you're like me, you're thinking that it would have been nice to have been able to discuss things like our lives and things we share in common, rather than have to sort out the mess of misinformation and the legal jumble of the state law the first time we spoke to each other. But for us, it was important to sort out the misconceptions about what each of us were told to put our minds at ease. Yes, it would have been nice not to have to deal with agency and government misinformation at all. 

Neither of us asked for this.

The phone was passed around the room and I talked to various aunts and uncles that had come over to support us. I talked to my brothers; the youngest one excitedly chattered away to me about everything he wanted me to know about him. I had always been counted in with the other grandchildren/cousins and they acknowledged my birthday every year.

One of the first things I made sure to tell her about was the Adoptee Rights Movement. I wanted her to know what it was about from me and not make assumptions. I had already had a bad experience with this with my Adoptive Mom who thought I was upset about adoptee birth certificates because I didn't want her to be my mom any more, as if being on the one and only birth certificate I was allowed to have was what made her my mom. I have two moms; one doesn't need to replace each other in any way shape or form. So naturally when it came to explaining this to my original mom, I worried about the same things. I did not want her to think that reforming adoption and changing laws meant that I was mad at her or that she did anything wrong. I was relieved that she agreed with me about amending and sealing and understood that I have problems with adoption-the-institution, not problems with her or the people in my life.

Also during that conversation, she told me about a paternal aunt of mine that she was still in contact with regularly. I was shocked; I never imagined that I would be able to learn anything about my paternal family. My paternal aunt had always put my birthday on her calendar and had been waiting for me to find my mother as well. She too wanted to talk to me. So later that day, I called my paternal aunt.

Meanwhile, Facebook friend invites and messages were pouring into my account from aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends of the family. "Your eyes!" One family member wrote to me after looking at my picture. "I feel like I've gazed into those eyes a thousand times." I was looking at their pictures too; they looked like me. Up until this point, people would always ask me "who does your son look like?" as he faintly resembles me but not really my husband at all (my husband's baby pictures and my son's baby pictures do look alike though).

I exchanged cell phone numbers and contact info with more cousins and had a few more phone conversations with uncles that day. It was a whirlwind.

Photo credit:  Suat Eman

5 comments:

Von said...

Whow!!So glad you got there but what a mess and how very wrong and immoral to treat adoptees and mothers this way.

Miss Begotten said...

Thank you for explaining the emotional aspects of the CI process. It sounds horrible.

And this:

"My son looks just like my youngest brother and one of my aunts. That may not sound like a big deal but I thought it was cool."

Only someone who wasn't adopted wouldn't think that was cool, and a pretty big deal. I remember feeling so left out of 'who does he look like' conversations about my son before my reunion. Turns out - he looks like my father. And I look like my mother. Go figure.

Lori said...

That is awesome - I so wish my contact with my daughter had been remotely like that.....she has my face, her father's height and shape and well, a serious blend of us..... including hands, which are a big deal to me for some reason, but she has my hands (larger proportionally). Sigh....a good contact would have been nice... An adoptee saw to it that it wasn't.

Jeannette said...

I actually cried reading this. Not only for the joy that you found your natural mom and that she was so accepting of you but for also the loss that you both experienced. I can only imagine her agony as she waited for you to turn 18 knowing she couldn't have contact for those years but always hoping you would have her information. As another natural mother in a semi-closed adoption I know the agony 18years can bring. Then the years after you turned 18 and she kept waiting oh how she must have felt such despair. Reunions are not perfect but knowing that you are wanted and loved is such a relief. Being wanted and loved goes both ways for the natural mom and the adoptee.

veggiemom said...

This gave me goosebumps. I hate all that you had to go through to get to reunion but I'm so happy for your reunion. It's what I dream of for my daughters, I just hope Blueberry doesn't have to wait as long and that we can establish easier contact with Violet's mom/family.