At 30 Years Old, I was Face-to-Face with my Biological Mother for the First Time

Today, I’m going to write about my meeting with my biological mother 20 years ago.  Why?  To hopefully help other adult children get in touch with their biological parents.

I’ve always known I was adopted.  My adoption papers were always kept in a fire-proof safety box that I could look at any time I wanted.  I appreciated that my adoptive parents never kept it a secret or tried to hide the truth from us.

I had an adopted sister who was a year older than me and an adopted brother who was 4 years younger than me.

My adoptive mom (let’s call her Grace) could get pregnant, but she couldn’t hold onto the babies.  She had a number of miscarriages around 5 months before she and my dad decided to adopt.  Nowadays, there is an easy fix for that issue, but back in the 60’s there wasn’t much they could do about it.

I never felt any ‘different’ being adopted.  I didn’t think anything about it at all, really.  I never knew any different.

One thing I did feel and will always feel is that putting your child up for adoption is the most amazing and selfless act that any woman can do.  The decision to let someone else raise your child, the child that has grown inside of you and bonded with you for 9 months, in order for that child to have a better life than you could provide…..  I have no words for that strength.

I know other adopted children feel differently than me.  Both my brother and sister felt like they were unwanted by their biological mother so they had no reason to look her up whatsoever.

I felt completely the opposite.  I always thought that I would like to, one day, contact my birth mother to thank her and to let her know that I was OK.

It was my husband that really pushed for it.  We had just had our third child, and he thought it would be both interesting and beneficial to know more about my biological and medical information.

We knew that his family tree contributed mental illness, heart conditions and cleft palettes to our gene pool (oh lovely), but we didn’t know what my family provided.  For all I knew, my daughter could be a strong candidate to develop some disease that is genetically passed down from my side; a disease that we can and should test for as soon as possible.

So one day I decided to go for it.  I knew the city I was born in and I knew my birth surname.  It was a very uncommon eastern European name that I knew would not be too difficult to track down.  I opened the phone book (yes, there were still thick phone books back then) for that city and looked up my birth name.

I found 3 entries with that last name.  I prepared some crazy story and dialed the first number, my heart thumping out of my chest.

“Hello?” was the response on the other end of the phone.

“Hi, I’m wondering if you could help me out.  My sister and I are throwing my parents a surprize 25th wedding anniversary party.  We’ve come across a bunch of names that we don’t recognize and we’re guessing they are friends of theirs from University.  (I knew, from the adoption papers, my birth mother’s full name and that she got pregnant with me while attending University in the city I was born.)  Do you know someone named —-   ——- who went to ———  University in the mid 60’s?”

“Oh yes, that’s my sister-in-law, ——“.  (Oh my God, I was talking to my biological aunt!!!)

The nice lady then went on to give me all my mother’s contact information.  Where she lived and worked and where the flower shop was that she owned.  I thanked her very much and hung up the phone.  I fell to the floor in a puddle.

Fast forward 1 month.  It was a sweltering hot day in July.  My youngest baby, my daughter, was only a few months old.  My boys were 6 and 3.  My husband and I gathered our children in the van and set off to hand the letter I had written to my birth mother.

I wrote her a letter telling her briefly about my life; that I was very happy and healthy, that I had been raised on a farm with a good family, that I had met and married the man of my dreams, and that we had 3 beautiful children.

Most importantly, I wanted to thank her for putting me up for adoption.  I feel that putting a child up for adoption is one of the most selfless acts any person can do, and I just wanted to let her know how I felt and to let her know that I was OK.

I realized I couldn’t mail her the letter because I didn’t know who else might get it.  I didn’t need to create a problem for her if other people in her current life didn’t know about me.  I figured the safest way to give her my message was to hand deliver it.

So we were on our way to her flower shop, at closing time on a Saturday (that’s when shops were closed on Sundays).  I didn’t want to disrupt her whole day or her week.

All the way to the shop, my heart was beating like a race horse.  I was going over in my head the small talk I would use before I actually handed her the letter.

When I stepped into the shop, by heart was pumping right out of my chest.  There were two ladies in the back.  I looked them both over to see if I looked like either one of them.  Nope!  One of the ladies was giving the other one instructions about a flower shipment that was coming in.  I figured she was the owner of the shop.  My mother, Barb.

Then Barb left the store.  Thinking that I just missed meeting my mother, I quickly walked up to the other lady and said, “Hi, I’m looking for Barb.  Was she the one who just left?”  The lady looked at me and said, “No, I am.”

I was stunned.  I was staring into the face of my birth mother and the whole plan of small talk just went sailing out the window.

“Can I help you?”, she asked.  I didn’t know what to do.  My hands were kinda tied at this point.  I slowly reached into my purse and handed her the letter.  “I have something for you.”, I said.  She started to open it right in front of me.  That wasn’t the plan!!  Just then, luckily, the other lady ran back into the store to give Barb a few forgotten instructions.  I quickly placed my hand on the letter and said, “You might want to open that in private.”

“And you are……?”, she asked me with a very puzzled look on her face.  “My name is Kathleen, but the letter explains all that”.  And I walked out.

I didn’t hear back from her for a while after that.  Months later, I got a letter that said “I would like to keep contact with you, but I can’t at this time.  I know now that I made the right decision.  I could never have given you the life you had.  You have inherited good health.”

I’ve never heard from her since.  And that’s just fine.  I accomplished what I wanted to.  I met her and thanked her and let her know that I was alright.

Not too long after that, I was telling my girlfriend the whole story.  When I told her my birth surname, she said, “My husband works with a guy with that last name.”  I found out that my girlfriend’s husband works with Barb’s brother.  Holy Crap!  Small world!

My girlfriend put me in touch with my biological uncle and we started chatting.  I found out that Barb never had any other children, and that she ended up marrying my father.  My adopted mother had told me that my mom got pregnant by a University professor when she was in school.  She kept me for 3 months, but her parents forced her to give me up for adoption.

My uncle set the record straight and said that my father was the same tall, blond guy she was dating all through University (which explains why my height and hair colour is the opposite of my mother’s), and that she never brought me home from the hospital.  I have inherited good health, though.  I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been sick in my life.

And now, I’m Facebook friends with my uncle and his wife.  Too funny!  My uncle is not very close with his sister, my mother.  It’s doubtful that she knows we keep contact.  Again, as long as she knows I’m well and I’m thankful, then I’m content.

Luckily, I didn’t discover any health issues or concerns with my biological family.  That’s not the case with my adopted sister. My sister has a very rare and serious disorder that she has passed onto her daughter.  She decided not too long ago, after many years of not wanting anything to do with her biological family, that she should make them aware of her hereditary ailment.  She has since made contact and met most of her biological family.  Our adoptive mother went to meet them all as well.  It was a positive and rewarding experience for everyone.  I was so glad to hear that.

Please let me know of your experiences contacting your biological family.  I’d love to hear from you.


Kathleen Bolton

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