You might imagine that the first time an adopted person mets a member of his or her birth family that the experience would be emotional, moving, perhaps even profound. A connection is formed, a missing piece suddenly fits, similarities are found and long wondered about questions are finally answered. I have read stories like that. I have seen a few adoption reunions on television. Emotions run high, tears flow, hugs are exchanged and new relationships are formed.
My story is not like that.
Unlike most reunions, I met my birthfather first. It wasn't officially a 'reunion' since we had not previously met. Although I believe at some point I would have searched, I wasn't looking for him or my birthmother. I was looking for information. I had been struggling with a chronic medical condition. I was tired of going to doctors and being unable to answer questions regarding my medical history. I called the agency that handled my adoption on a whim. I was almost positive that they wouldn't have any medical information to give to me. I called anyway. Just in case. Part of me just wanted to voice my frustration at the absurdity of placing a baby into a family and not including a thorough family medical history. Regardless of my motivation, the result of that call was the last thing I expected. I was told that my birthfather had called two weeks prior to my call, inquiring about me.
The social worker that I spoke to, Mrs. Kelly, told me that my birthfather said that he would consider meeting me if I were to ever call. Was I interested in a meeting?
I was twenty years old. I had never had never met anyone with whom I had a biological tie. I had never seen a picture. I didn't know even the first names of my birthparents. I had no idea what hospital I was born in. I didn't have knowledge of the circumstances of my birth or why an adoption plan was made for me. I didn't know who I resembled.
Was I interested in a meeting? I was.
Mrs. Kelly wanted to meet with Tim (now I knew a name!) and then with me. After those meeting we could plan a time we could meet together if we both agreed.
A few days later, I walked into Boston Children's Services for my meeting with Mrs. Kelly. It was here that my parents came for all of their adoption interviews. It was here that they picked me up to bring me home. I could almost see them. My dad in a suit, my mom in her best dress and my brother (also adopted from this agency two years earlier) wearing his Sunday best. I have heard the story so many times that it felt as though it was from my own memory. My brother happy and proud, my parents so nervous and excited that they forgot to bring any baby supplies. I loved 'my story' and I loved my family. I was ready to know the rest of my story.
Mrs. Kelly had met with Tim the day before. She asked me a few basic questions. What were my expectations? I really just wanted information. I hoped to fill in some of the blanks. She asked about my family. I told her the basics, happy childhood, I lost my dad two years earlier, my mom was supportive of this meeting, particularly so I could get some medical history. I was recently married to my high school sweetheart. I worked in a dental office and was studying to be a nurse.
She had met with Tim the day before. She told me that he was 35. That made him 15 at the time of my birth. I didn't like how this made me feel. I felt inexplicably embarrassed. He was married with a 4 year old son. He also had a daughter from a previous marriage who was 15. He had struggled with drugs and alcohol. He assured her those days were behind him. He implied having some problems with 'the law' as a result of a tough childhood. He was interested in meeting me as long as I wasn't 'a troubled kid looking for money'. I assured her I wasn't. Maybe this information, so carefully given to me my by Mrs. Kelly, should have caused me to reconsider, but it didn't.
Our meeting was scheduled for the following week.