Monday, November 17, 2008

A phone call

Yesterday I spoke with my birth mother on the phone.  There are times I still can not believe that I can even say that.  I was adopted at the age of ten weeks old by my parents and I consider myself so blessed that they are my parents.  They adopted my younger sister two years after me.  My sister and I were always told that we were adopted.  It was never something that was hidden or something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. I am so grateful for that.  We celebrated our "anniversary day" as well as our birthdays in my house.  Our anniversary day is the day that my parents were able to take us home from the adoption home/orphanage.  My mom always made a small cake on that day and we talked about how lucky all of us were to be a family.  I treasure those little celebrations as times that built up my self identity and self esteem.  Growing up, I really didn't know anyone else who was adopted other than my sister.  I'm sure that there were others throughout my school years who were adopted, but it's not like I introduced myself as being adopted.  That would be weird.  It would also be implying that I was different somehow in a bad way.  Don't get me wrong.  I have plenty (too many actually) of experiences with someone implying being adopted was a negative thing.  Maybe someday I will write about some of them, but not today.  
Even though I grew up feeling secure about being adopted, I could not help but wonder about things.  I had some questions.  Okay... a lot of questions.  I don't really believe someone who is adopted who claims that they never thought about things while growing up. I would often wonder what "she" was like, what "he" was like, what happened that lead to my being given up for adoption.  But more importantly, the one question that haunted me was, "does she ever think about me".  I don't know why exactly this question was so important to me, but it was. Maybe I needed to think that I wasn't some awful painful memory that had been driven away. Maybe, even worse, I needed to know that I wasn't forgotten because "she" didn't care.  
Five years ago, I "found" my birthmother.  I used a person who does that kind of thing.  At the time, I did it because I was having a lot of health problems and the doctors had yet to figure out what was wrong with me.  I thought if I just had that huge missing piece of information (my medical history), things might make more sense to the doctors and then they could help me feel better quicker.  It was such an emotional experience to make that first phone call and to hear a voice on the other end that I felt should sound familiar to me, but didn't.  It was a very bumpy start to something I now like to refer to as a special friendship.  The communication was so awkward at first that we went almost three years ( I think) without any communication.  Then my mom gave me an article in a newspaper about an author who wrote the book, "The Girls Who Went Away".  I ordered the book and read it.  All I can say is wow.  It was a very difficult book for me to get through and I love to read and usually can read very quickly, but not that book.  I found some chapters mentally exhausting for me to wrap my thoughts around. However, it was one of the best things I could have done for myself.  I found so much understanding and sympathy for my birthmother after reading that book.  I gained a new, important perspective on what she must have gone through having given birth to me in the early 70s.  It was not a very understanding time, especially in a strict Catholic Italian family.  
After reading the book, I decided to write her a very heartfelt letter and told her about my two girls.  At the time I wrote the letter, dd1 was 2 and 1/2 years old and dd2 was about 4 months old.  I figured if my birthmother responded to the letter, then the communication between us would resume.  If she didn't respond, then I would respectfully leave her alone and not try to communicate with her again. I basically told her this at the end of the letter.  Six weeks later, I received a letter back from her.  I had told myself that I had made peace with whatever decision she made, but boy did I feel relief and happiness after receiving her letter to me.  Since then, we have exchanged many emails, photos, and have had many long phone calls.  It is different this time and I think it is because of the letter I wrote to her after reading that book.  It is more comfortable.  It still has its awkward moments on occasion, but those are rare.  We haven't met in person yet.  She lives pretty far from me and it would require a plane ride which just doesn't fit in my life yet and hasn't fit into hers yet.  We are however making plans to meet next summer provided our lives allow it to happen.  
Talking with her on the phone yesterday still feels so surreal sometimes.  We have no problem talking and the conversation flows easily which is nice.  It is usually after I hang up the phone and think about it, that a little smile emerges and I feel so thankful.  I thank God every night for all of the people in my life who love me and my family and I am so thankful to know that my birthmother is one of those people.  

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