Momfiles: Ghost of a First Family

Mystery of my birth is now mystery of my daughter's family history.

It happened again at last month. The cashier said she was surprised to see me back so soon, since I had just made a purchase an hour ago. In confusion, I looked at her and said I hadn’t been at the store earlier. She laughed. “Oh, yes you were,” she said, “You can’t fool me! I never forget a face.”

Mistaken identity

It was another case of mistaken identity; it happens to me all the time. Apparently there is a woman with a child about my daughter’s age who lives in Summit County and looks identical to me. People comment on my “twin” several times a year, or, come up to me, waving and smiling as if they know me. Their greetings are followed by a couple of minutes of them talking to me as if I am someone they know. I am usually frozen in surprise. Often, the people who approach me are shocked when they realize I am not their friend, and stammer an apology in embarrassment.

"First" family

It is said that everyone has a “twin” but in my case it feels disconcerting to be mistaken for someone else. The reason? I was adopted at birth and the only information I have about my “birth” (or “biological,” or “first”) mother and father, and their families, is listed on a single sheet of paper. The paper lists their physical attributes and education levels at the time of my birth, along with similar information for their siblings and parents. Not much else, except for details on my gestation and delivery.

The original paper with this information is threadbare along the creases where I have folded and unfolded it repeatedly, trying to find clues about these people hidden in the non-identifying information. There aren’t any, really, just eye and hair colors, weights and heights. Not much help in unraveling any mysteries, though some of the information explained my daughter’s blue eyes, when both her dad and I have brown eyes.

Real family

I was raised by a loving family, and to me they are my “real” family. My parents were always upfront about my brother’s (from a different birth family) and my adoption, and made us feel that being adopted was not only normal, but also made us uniquely special. They said we were wanted by two families, but only one of the families could take care of us.

Maggie's mystery too

This explanation of my origins seemed logical and sufficient until I was pregnant with my daughter, Maggie. And then I began to wonder what it would be like to carry a child inside me for months, and never see her again. I couldn’t imagine being able to give her up, even if it was the right thing to do. But then I realized maybe I could, since I already loved her so much, if that would provide her with a better life and I wasn’t able to do so.

By the time Maggie was old enough to begin to grasp the concept of my adoption, she began to ask questions which made me wonder more frequently about my birth family. Things about Maggie herself--her bone straight hair, dancing abilities and unusual sense of humor--made me stop and consider the family I don’t know, and possibly never will.

This past summer, after much consideration and trepidation, I reached out to an adoption group on Facebook. I asked for the help of a “search angel,”

someone who offers their time and expertise, free of charge, to find answers for people in the adoption triad (birth families, adoptive families and adoptees). A wonderful search angel in Texas, Connie, responded to my post and within a few days of our correspondence, she was able to locate the woman who seems to be my birth mother. After almost a year of deliberation, I wrote a simple letter to my birth mom, based on suggestions from Connie, addressed and stamped it. The letter sat at home for weeks, as I considered all the possible outcomes of its arrival at my birth mother’s home, from the worst case scenario to the best.

I dropped the letter in the mail today, and in doing so, felt some closure within myself. I reached out and might not get a good result, but I took the first step. I hope to hear from my birth mother in any form--an email, a return letter, a phone call--about who she was when she was young and pregnant with me, about her family, my birth father, her hopes and dreams, and where life has taken her.

But, if I don’t hear back, I can at least tell Maggie I tried and sometimes that’s all you can do in life. I am hopeful, though, and will be checking my mailbox, email inbox and voicemail in case my birth mother is able to meet me halfway. If she doesn’t, I will respect her decision and never contact her again. After all, what more could I ask of her than the wonderful gift she gave me back in 1973? 


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