Another adult adoptee shares here story of searching for her birth family, and finding roots that, while limited, help ground her. 

I was born in December 1953, when my birth mother was almost 30 years old. I always knew I was adopted. I looked like my adopted family on the outside but I didn’t feel like them on the inside.

I never bonded with my adopted mother. When I was 14, she died of health issues. A few years later I married a lovely, kind man. He encouraged me to seek out my birth mother, knowing I didn’t have a loving relationship with my adopted mother. During this time I was raising my own family, so life was full and busy. Many, many years passed before I was ready to search.

The reunion

In 1993, I finally met my birth mother–the woman who gave me life. I saw someone I was related to for the first time. We ate together, we laughed, and we told some of our histories to each other.

We had definite connection and resemblances.

Our temperaments seemed to be alike, we dressed similarly, and we both loved music, the ocean, and more. I liked her.

When the first day of our two-day visit ended and I went to bed, I cried like a baby for what seemed like the whole night. The hope and anticipation I’d carried for so long was powerful.
After our short visit ended and I went home to carry on with my own life, it was like a missing piece of my puzzle was now in place. I felt more complete. But I also had strong feelings of disappointment as I left her town. I didn’t know her last name or address. All our contact up until now had been through a third party.

What would be next for me and my birth mother? What were the rules? What could I ask for? When would we see each other again? I felt like I just had more questions, more confusion, and more desire to see her now. Our relationship took place in letters, birthday and Christmas cards, and the odd secret phone call. We exchanged small gifts for the first few years.
I’d periodically ask my birth mother if she could navigate our relationship in a different, more open way, but she always said she couldn’t. She said her life was very full and she was concerned about her siblings and her other three daughters knowing about me. I had to remain a secret.

The price of secrecy

My birth mother and I met briefly a few more times. She was always open to that, for which I am most grateful. However, I didn’t feel honoured or valued due to her insistence that I remain a secret. I kept the relationship alive and respected her boundaries because I knew this was not about me, but I struggled with feelings of disappointment, anger, and bitterness. She told me how proud she was of me, but I couldn’t accept that compliment because I felt like she didn’t really know me.

My birth mother did tell one sister that she gave a baby up for adoption. I was able to meet this sister—my aunt—which was an unexpected gift. She embraced me and my husband at our first meeting.

I continued to hope that one day things would change, but my birth mother never was able to acknowledge me to the rest of her family.

Making peace

Now, many years later, I’ve done the hard work necessary to accept the painful aspects of our relationship. My heart always wanted a fuller relationship, but it wasn’t to be. One thing I know for sure is that I am very grateful that my birth mother was open to meeting me and having some contact. I came away with roots, even if they’re only hers.