Thursday, October 4, 2012

Adoptee Jitters: Working Up the Nerve to Search

As an adoptee growing up I frequently had to process conflicting messages about adoption. For example, people would often ask me if I planned to search for my biological mother someday. The age 18 was sometimes mentioned as the magic number at which I might begin such a search. But I also learned that my original birth certificate had been sealed, and that the practice in that era of closed-adoptions was for the original parents' identities to be obscured, legally and permanently. So, although I gathered that many people seemed to expect me to search, I had no idea how one would do such a thing.

I don't remember when I first heard about the state of Maine's adoption reunion registry. I have a vague idea that I may have originally read about it in a magazine, and a small window of possibility opened in my mind. The concept of a reunion registry is simple. If the parent registers and the adoptee registers, and the registry is able to make a match, they will send each party the other's identifying and contact information.

I was delighted to know that such a thing existed, but I tucked the information away in the "someday" file. Why? Because I loved holding the possibility that my original mother might have registered, and I was loathe to exchange that possibility for what I might discover: that she hadn't.

As it happened, I was able to learn the identity of my first mother without the registry's help; my adoptive mother, I eventually learned, had possessed that information all along (a circumstance that has never been satisfactorily explained) and was simply waiting for me to ask the right question. But even once I had the information, I didn't search. Why? Because I wasn't yet strong enough to handle the other possible outcome: that she wouldn't want to know me or have contact with me.

I was living on my own in a small, second floor apartment when I finally decided to send my application to the registry. I can't say with certainty what had changed for me; it was simply time. When the envelope arrived from the state of Maine, I knew immediately what was in it. I didn't make it into the apartment before I had the envelope opened. Sitting on the second floor landing outside the door to my apartment, I unfolded the single sheet of paper. And there it was: her name and address, and the date of her registration, a decade earlier. She had registered! She had been there waiting for me all along!

A bit more investigation would be required to uncover her current address, but within a few short weeks I would climb up those stairs once again, open the door, press play on the answering machine in my entryway, and hear her voice.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos


  1. you are so fortunate! us international cases.. have much more complexity!

  2. wow, that went fast! I have been waiting 10 years, and only to have her deny I am hers, (Through her sister) even though everything lines up in the info down to very specific info that other people didnt know... and my adoptive mom has reacted severely negatively to the point of telling me horrible things and lying on my facebook about me... and my adoptive siblings all take her "side" because they only see her pain and story. It has been a rough few weeks ( months , years) trying to sort myself out and try and grieve. My adoptive mom knows nothing and I don't see the need to let her know anything given her "support"

    Grieving someone that may not remember anymore (i am 43) and someone that has lied her whole life and does not feel worthy. Someone I have missed and would love to have healing. For her and me... I am not sure we will ever get that. Someone that was a 25 year old nurse that happened to get pregnant and didn't feel she should be a mom without a husband. Times have changed hey?

  3. I'm so sorry! Yours is a common story, but that doesn't make it any easier. My heart aches for you and all of our fellow adoptees who have had similar experiences.

    Are you familiar with Karen Belanger's blog? She is one who comes to mind as having had a similar experience, and she writes about it with much eloquence.


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