It took me almost a week to decide I was going to send her a message, but only about 20 minutes to figure out what to say. My subject line was cryptic, the month, year and city of my birth. I hoped it wouldn’t be deleted as spam that way. The message was simple, my apologies for intruding but I came across your name while searching for “birthmother’s maiden name” if this is you I’d very much like to speak to you if you are interested, if not sorry for the unsolicited message.
Then I waited. The longest wait of my life.
She answered about a week later with “yes that’s my maiden name please contact me via email at ______.“ I laughed. I laughed that shocky laugh that my friends tell me is creepy. When I stopped laughing I was still giggling. It was the strangest feeling; giddy with a dose of terror. I laughed because her message offered up nothing. I laughed because it felt like she was busting my metaphoric balls by barely conceding the point that yes that was her maiden name. “Well then”, I thought… “lets play”. I don’t mean to suggest I was feeling antagonistic… I felt, I dunno, playful. I felt like she was willing to acknowledge her maiden name, but wasn’t offering more until I established my ‘pedigree’, so I gave it to her. I gave her most of the relevant information about my birth and then said “I believe you are my birth mother, I also suspect you believe the same thing.” It probably sounds dumb but I was awfully smug about that line, there was a part of me that thought “yeah that’s right I called your bluff”.
So emails were exchanged, the tone shifted slightly from what felt like a rehearsed speech (from both of us) to a Q & A, to a more conversational chat.
I will admit to being totally unable to re-read some of those initial emails, it’s painful. Painful in the way that reading bad poetry you wrote in high school is painful. Painful because it’s not really you, it’s like the shade of you, the raw, emotional, chatty-when-nervous blabbering about stupid shit nobody really cares about painful. It’s painful because it was like I felt I had a finite amount of time to both convey EVERYTHING about me and my life, and to learn EVERYTHING . It felt like at any second it could all be ripped from me and I needed as much as I could get as fast as I could get it. There was a sort of frantic desperation about it.
She lives about 35 minutes from me, in another nice suburb of the same city. It took us over a month to set up a day and time to meet. It was the scariest first date of my life. Every anxiety I had about myself reared it’s ugly head, I was honestly too busy obsessing and criticizing myself for the realization that I was meeting my birth mother to really sink in. Then suddenly I’m standing in the entryway of a nice Mexican restaurant mid-afternoon and there she was walking up to the door. Seeing her in person was dizzying, she looked so much like me. A shorter, blonde, older, thinner version of me, but my god the nose. The nose I’d spent a lifetime hearing how ‘cute’ it was from my birth mother (the one who had a nose job in the late 1970’s). All my life I’ve had my mother adoring my ‘cute button nose’ and there it was staring me in the face, the nose to match my own.
The conversation was sort of awkward, peppered with uncomfortable laughs (mine) and quiet silences (hers). I suspect she expected some anger, some hostility, it almost felt like she was waiting for it. It never came. It’s like the defensiveness she carried from that day, forty years earlier when she’d decided to put me up for adoption was just as present now. She doesn’t show her feelings much, I’m not sure if it’s the result of her dysfunctional (her word) upbringing or if it’s living with her secret. She never told her sons, did tell her ex-husbands and a few friends. It’s clear that the experience left us both with some scars.
We email and have lunch or dinner every few months. We enjoy so many of the same things. She’s tried to include me in her life, into the important things, such as the women’s charity group, a worldwide organization of women in business working to help other women. I’m very proud of her accomplishments, both with her charitable work and in her career. Although she is very different from every fantasy I ever had about her, she ‘fits’. Since finding her something has simply clicked into place. I’m not sure how else to describe it, but the part of me that was unsettled is quelled, satisfied.