I’ve been thinking about my mother who gave birth to me. We missed out on getting to know each other.
Searching for her in my late 30s, I disappointedly learned that she passed away when I was just a little girl. At the time, I don’t know if I would have been so enthusiastic about finding those of my siblings that she raised had I known the truth to my beginnings.
Since that confusing time in my life, I’ve had a lot of time to better know who I am and what I need from others.
I would love to know more about my mother, especially after relatives marveled at how much alike the two of us were supposed to be.
Here are questions I would ask if I could have a do-over and erase some of the painful parts:
1. What favorite memory of our mother did each of my siblings have while growing up?
2. Did she like to read to them as young children and say, “When I was a young girl…?”
3. Did she ever let my siblings jump on the bed or not have to eat their vegetables?
4. Do they remember a special time our mother wiped away their tears?
5. When was she was the happiest in her life?
6. What song would she have been singing while holding a hairbrush or a spatula?
7. I believe each and every one of us has a gift, do you think our mother ever found hers?
8. Which sitcom was she more like? Vicki Lawrence in Mama’s Family; Roseanne Barr in Roseanne, or Marianne Ross in Happy Days.
9. Was there one defining moment in each of their lives that she missed, and where my siblings wished they could have called her and said, “Oh, Mom, …”
10. I remember when my oldest sister shared with me that she was named after our mother’s doll that had burned up in a fire. What was she sentimental, passionate, or a dreamer about in her short life?
11. What has our late mother’s shortcomings taught me and my siblings about remembering to forgive ourselves when we too have fallen short to be perfect?
They must have known I lost my name and wrote this clever, fun book for once-little girls just like me. Maybe I could write my own book :). I believe when society includes the word “adoption” to a child’s less-than-perfect beginnings, it somehow is supposed to always make the story have a happier ending.
As an adult, I asked my adoptive mother who named me. Strangely, she flat-out refused to tell me. I asked the doctor who delivered me and who, as my hospital birth records show, I was discharged to late in the evening, “Why is it that your wife’s nickname is Jo and your daughter’s name is Ann, yet my adoptive mother won’t tell me who named me?” He also answered me like he was holding all the cards, “I am not going to tell you!”
A few years after his death, I asked his daughter named Ann, “Your father said that he took several babies home for an adoption agency. Do you remember him taking me home?” (She would have been a teenager at the time). Miraculously, she did partly answer my question in a cordial phone message. “I asked my older sister and to the best of our recollection dad never brought any babies home from the hospital. I will talk with the nurse he worked with for many years and get back to you.”
Guess what? She never did, even when I sent her a brief follow-up letter a few months later. The adoption agency refuted her father’s claims as well, and the director added that they had nothing to do with my placement in the first place.
So in the meantime, one of my adoptive aunts who, still to this day, knows nothing about the ridiculous tug-of-war I had to endure while attempting to find even simple answers to what I believe most of us take for granted, “What significance did naming me JoAnne have to someone or anyone for that matter?” One day, out of the blue, this aunt mentions that my adoptive mother was close to one of my grandmother’s extended family and supposedly that relative had a baby named JoAnne who passed away. It was important to me to find this mystery baby in old genealogy records, but I never did :(. It would have certainly felt less empty than it does now if I learned I had been named after a precious child whose life was cut short, rather than this other nonsense.
My birth certificate still has no name.
I am assuming she must have done something very bad. However, for a brief moment that we made eye contact as two mothers, it didn’t matter.
While sitting in the waiting room at the hospital on the day my first grandchild was born, I noticed what appeared to be a number of uniformed officers asking for permission to go back and forth through the locked area to Labor/Delivery. I didn’t give it much thought why security seemed to be so tight that day in a safe place where new life is welcomed into this world.
Looking over at the door each time it would beep, to see if my son-in-law was there to proudly announce the birth of our grandson, it took a minute to register the surreal scene that was playing out before us.
An ashen-faced young woman was being pushed out in a wheelchair by one of those big burly uniformed officers and surrounded by at least three other men dressed like prison guards. Still in a hospital gown with flip-flops and shackled at the ankles, it was clear to me, she had just given birth to a baby.
For a brief moment, this prisoner and I made eye contact. It wasn’t a look to kill but rather one of such hopelessness in her sad eyes. As a mother with daughters of my own, I knew even for that quick second she was feeling a tremendous loss from her poor choices. She could have committed the most heinous of crimes that would make me wonder how we could ever forgive evilness, but what I saw that day was a human being … a mother who had just given birth to her own child.
I will pray each year on my precious grandson’s birth not only for him but that this young woman was able to turn her life around and be a mother to her child. If not, I hope that her baby will be able to see one day like I did — a human being — despite her flaws.
When I was searching for my birth father, the old-timers mentioned three separate names as possibilities. None of the people I contacted seemed to be positive about who my mother, a lonely miner’s wife with three older children, was having a relationship with during the time period I would have been conceived.
My first preference: Mr. Nice Writer guy because, of course, writing is one of my favorite things. 2. The well-respected Mayor who was married to the embarrassing town drunk. 3. A very bright geologist whose sometimes poor choices in life weren’t always quite as impressive.
I had no intention of finding my half-sibling’s father instead. Ten months after my birth, my birth mother found herself with another unplanned pregnancy. She and number 2. (the Mayor) as it turns out placed my younger birth brother for adoption. Apparently, the proud Mayor always knew who his son was and watched from afar his career and achievements that, amazingly, had paralleled his own. I am still holding this information close to my heart in case my birth brother ever wants to know.
Yes, I was a little disappointed … my birth father was my last choice: the geologist. He had supposedly turned his life around and unfortunately, passed away just a couple of years before I started searching for him. I wanted to ask him to please put his name on my birth certificate as one of the few pieces of truth in my adoption story.
But, I am still trying to find the connection that one of my birth relatives has to be some great author. If not, I will keep telling my birth parent’s stories to show that sadly, life really hasn’t changed that much from then to now when it comes to the definition of “faithfulness.”