Millions upon millions of people are raised by adoptive parents. In most cases, this is readily accepted and life unfolds with one’s adoptive family as if the adoption never happened.
I was adopted in 1948 (70 years ago) and that fact was never a secret. My adoptive parents, Marg and Ted, had zero insecurities about that. I am grateful to be able to have lived my whole life knowing the facts.
As lucky as I was in having been adopted by a loving family, it doesn’t always work out that way. Some children start asking questions about their ‘real’ parents early and then, in many cases, let it go. In my case, I let it go until my late teens. Somewhere in there, maybe when I was 18-19 the voice in my head repeatedly said “Who are you?” “How did you get here?” What happened to my birth mother and father? What was there story? And so on. It was existentially significant enough that I had to get professional help in my 3rd or 4th year university. Late teens, early 20s were not the easiest of times. They aren’t easy for people without birth-family questions too. But I knew my questions were, and would continue to nag me, and be a part of my life story that would not simply vanish in the shadows as days passed.
At that time I didn’t know much at all. I knew that I had been born in Grace Hospital in Toronto and, yup, that’s pretty much it. I let it go for a long time, but when my own daughter had surgery in the mid 1980s, I realized a family medical history would be worth some research. My parents shared that the adoption had been arranged through Children’s Aid. 1n 1995, my daughter was 19 and I started to feel a bit more pressure to find out what I could as I knew she eventually wanted her own family. So I contacted Children’s Aid.
They couldn’t provide more than general, anecdotal information. I did learn that my parents were quite young, had named me David Bruce _______ (last name not provided on the form). Their document indicated that my parents were quite young and in love. They had intentions to marry and have more children. (Maybe I had siblings!)
At that time you could sign into a registry for children and parents. If they indepentedly registered, the CA would arrange a reunion. CA knew a lot about this process. The counselor I talked to said she had seen some remarkable meetings over the years. Mother’s and daughters meeting for the first time in 18 years and would be wearing similar clothes, glasses, and groom their hair the same way. This, I thought, was amazing. it IS!!
Not all reunions work out well. There are all sorts of complications in all families. I have know people who met their birth-families and the relationship never went very far. For hosts of reasons.
Several years ago, I became aware that Ontario had changed its laws pertaining to adoption disclosures. I could apply for my birth certificate. (Also my mother’s death certificate – which I did later). And I did so immediately. Receiving it was a bit of jolt. There was my mother’’s full name, the address where she was living at the time of the adoption. And my full name. BINGO. (No, my name was not Bingo….)
What was possible then had not been possible for very long. I had Google and Ancestry and FaceBook). First, I tried a simple search for my mother’s name. Another BINGO. The first page of Google results listed an obit for Marian Elizabeth Xxxxxx (just unique enough to help zero down the results). That lead to her obituary and a listing of relatives (close and distance). I discovered her last name had changed many years ago when she married my step-father, They had a child.
My mother and my father had 3 children. Me, then a year later, a sister and 2 years after that a brother.
It took 23 years for me to move further forward. Hundreds of reasons. But among those were fear of the unknown and also, I had no idea how I would manage a second family structure while working full time.
I was concerned that if I searched for and found my birth family, they would find my appearance intrusive. Family lives can be complicated enough without discovering you have a sibling (who is seventy!!). I also feared (at least a bit) that they would reject me (like most I’m not a fan of rejection). BUT…having said that, the strongest emotion I felt was that I would like to meet my bio-mom and say ‘thank you’ for making a brave and difficult decision making it possible for me to have grown up in a loving and supportive family.
After all this, the research launched into ‘hyperdrive’. I kept coming up with dates and names that matched. There were photos on FaceBook pages where I could see the owner of the page and also their friends (many of whom were family members). Click, check, click, click, check.
At some point I checked out my brother’s FB homepage. John had photos of members of the same family on his site, but the big kicker is that other photos showed someone who looked a lot like me. BINGO. (No, my name is still not Bingo!!)
So I was very, very sure I was on the correct path.
But what to do? Who do I contact and, more important, what would I say? I decided to contact my brother. He and I were the closest in age since my sister (born a year after me) had passed away from cancer. I painstakingly crafted a message (FB Messenger) to my brother to see if he would find my story a fit as far as family was concerned. Really, my goals were small. I wanted the family to know I existed and had a had a good life. I thought there would be an email exchange or two, but my newfound family reacted by becoming very excited. No one questioned the veracity of my story. John and I look surprisingly alike. We have the same facial hair and there are similarities in our voices.
He wrote back nearly immediately. Yes, the family knew about me. My mother had apparently been trying to find me later in life. Meeting her would have been unimanigeably sweet, but she passed away in 2002 at age 72. My brother, John, was over the moon happy, and suggested a FaceTime call. In short order I was talking to my new sister-in-law and then my brother screen-to-screen. Four years younger, a little taller than me, but the similarities in appearance and mannerisms were astonishing.
…to be continued.