While my parents had years to ponder my “foundling” beginnings, to conjure up scenarios about the who, the when, the why, I have had but a few months to imagine the details surrounding my being left on a doorstep. I have to agree with my mom’s repeated murmurings as the pieces have fallen into place. “This is not at all how I envisioned it.”
We peer at pictures of my birthmother who passed away twenty-six years ago—pictures we’ve studied for months—now placed next to a new-to-us picture of my very much alive birthfather.
This final piece of my adoption puzzle fell into place just over a month ago when my birthfather’s sister appeared as a “close relative” match on Ancestry.com. “Aunt Donna” broke the news of a long ago doorstep baby to her brother who knew nothing of a pregnancy or a baby girl.
At her urging and with his blessing, I sent him a brief email message that included the newspaper clipping and the link to the letter I posted in area newspapers last August, looking for anyone who remembered the doorstep baby from 1963. I struggled with what to say, and although I wasn’t thrilled with the final product, I hit send anyway. His response was quick and accepting of the situation. My loss-for-words condition remedied itself as we exchanged many get-to-know-you messages in the days that followed. He didn’t shy away from my questions which required him to sort through long ago memories and try to fit new pieces into a puzzle that he didn’t know had holes.
Despite the fact that the situation was anything but expected and is the furthest thing from neat and tidy, he’s been very welcoming. He brings four biological half-siblings as well as two adopted daughters to the equation. Add my two maternal half-siblings and my three adopted grew-up-with-me-my-whole-life brothers and that makes a grand total of eleven siblings. Eight brothers, two adopted sisters, and one biological sister.
Yes, I have a sister. And yes, we look alike.
I also look like my birthmother. And paternal grandmother. And even Aunt Donna. My son shares a strong resemblance with one of his maternal uncles. There’s actually quite a lot of family resemblances all around confirmed by several picture montages comparing me at various ages to my new relatives. And I’m loving it. To finally look like someone is incredible.
Immediate family and very close friends have oohed and ahhed over the picture comparisons. But I won’t be sharing them here. Not yet. Maybe later, maybe never. Out of respect for all involved, I’m not revealing the names, the pictures or even the small Midwest town where the story unfolded. As much as I’ve enjoyed sharing this journey with you and would like to share the pictures, I’m very aware that this story isn’t mine alone.
Neither is the decision to share the “news” with my half-siblings and new extended family. While I get one vote, it’s not the deciding vote. Would I like to meet them? Yes, I would. But I won’t insist nor will I approach any of them on my own. This story of decisions made long ago has the potential to impact a host of people’s lives. Should connections and relationships develop, I will welcome them. If some never learn of my existence or choose to remain strangers, those are choices I will respect.
the doorstep as it looked in August 2016
While this ends the search for the “who”, many questions remain. Like how did she conceal the pregnancy, when and where did she give birth, did anyone help her with the birth or walk with her through that difficult time? It’s looking like those questions will never be resolved because the one person who holds those answers no longer has a voice. My greatest concern as I uncovered the truth was that no part of this journey bring judgement upon my birthmother or the decisions she made.
As a close friend listens to the latest update, her head shakes and her eyes widen. “So what’s the why?”
As in why now? Why after all these years are the answers lining up to questions I barely knew to ask?
“That’s what I keep wondering,” I murmur. Now it’s my head that’s shaking, moving back and forth in a kind of circular, what-in-the-world-is-this-all-about motion.
Because now that there’s no one to tell, “You did what you felt you had to do and it turned out okay,” the why of this journey is looming large. I felt certain there was someone who needed to hear, “It’s fine, really. The story had a happy ending.” That surely someone had been waiting fifty-three years to know what became of her/his baby girl on the doorstep. But no.
Since we began this quest, my daughter and I have reunited three searching adoptees with their birthmothers. One adoptee will celebrate his 50th birthday this week having connected with his birthmother who has looked for him for years. We also solved the case of the “mystery brother” for my mother-in-law and in the process discovered a plethora of new first cousins for my husband and his three siblings. A newfound niece will join the family celebration for my mother-in-law’s 91stbirthday this weekend. We couldn’t be happier about connecting with this newly discovered branch of the family.
Maybe the “why” of this journey has less to do with me and my story than I assumed. Maybe the purpose in my search was the opportunity it created to assist in the reunions mentioned above. Or maybe my quest was about the reconnecting with family this discovery has spurred for my new Aunt Donna. While I find myself still longing for my birthmom to hear the words, “It turned out well,” from me, the grown-up version of the tiny baby she walked across two backyards, that’s another decision that is not mine to make.
I suspect there are a variety of “whys”. That evidence of new reasons and purposes will continue to emerge. I do hope that’s the case. This experience has been, all at the same time, overwhelming, inspiring, and satisfying. And this whole business of reuniting people is as heartwarming as it is addictive.
So what’s ahead? For one, a special trip to my hometown as well as more reflections on the cool process and the incredible people that made all of this possible. While the search may be over, I’ve a feeling the journey has just begun. And I’m counting on some more “whys” too. So stay tuned . . .