For many years, I answered it automatically, without much thought. In my childhood years, the answer was, "Oh, yes, probably when I'm older" (in other words, that's a matter for a distant future that I can't even quite imagine yet). Then, in my teen years it became, "No. I have one mother already, and that's more than enough, thank you very much." But it wasn't actually something I thought about a lot. It was too big and scary to approach, even in my thoughts.
The complexity of emotions for a pre-search adoptee is mind-boggling. The adoptee may have lived for years with denial and unprocessed grief over loss ("Why would I search? I'm just fine as I am."), and then there's the loyalty issue ("Am I betraying my adoptive family if I search?"), and the big R, fear of rejection ("What if she doesn't want to be found? What if she refuses contact?"). I hadn't actually consider the fact that it might not be possible to find her, but I now know that, because of sealed records and denial of access to original birth certificates, many adoptees can't get past square one. In fact, I feel a little guilty about what I am about to write because I'm aware that so many other adoptees have struggled and continue to struggle with lack of access to the information that would allow them to search.
For me, adoption grief and awareness of loss began to rise to the surface in my twenties, but I still hesitated to approach my adoptive mother with questions, and I couldn't bring myself to begin the search without her knowledge. Then one day, the topic arose spontaneously in a conversation between us. She was very open to talking about it; in fact, she had been expecting the conversation for years but apparently believed that I needed to be the one to initiate it. And not only was she prepared to talk about it, she also had some surprising information.
There was a crack in the seal of my closed adoption. My adoptive mother should not have known the identity of my biological one -- and she couldn't, or wouldn't, explain how she got the information -- but somehow, she knew the name. Not only that, but one day during my childhood she had opened up the paper to see my first mother's wedding announcement. She had cut it out and saved it, waiting for the day when I would ask about "my beginnings," as she put it.
And so I suddenly found myself in possession of a newspaper clipping of with a photo of a woman who looked a lot like me and all of the little tidbits of biographical information that are typically included in such write-ups. The bride had attended graduate school (as had I); she had lived in various places in the United States (as had I); she was a librarian (I was -- and am -- a lover of books).
But I didn't search right away. For a while, just having these little pieces of information was enough.
To Be Continued ...
Read part two here.