My Adoption Story, Part II: The Search

This is the second in a multi-part series of posts sharing my personal adoption story. If you haven’t already, read My Adoption Story, Part I: My Adoption before reading the post below. 

Shortly after I turned 18, my aunt and I went to the Catholic Charities office where I had been adopted. We requested help to locate my biological mother but were told that the records were sealed. The nun we spoke with told me that I could write a letter to my birth mother and she would add it to the file. If my birth mother also happened to write a letter in search of me, it would be added to the file. If someone happened to notice that we both had written letters and wanted to find eachother, they would offer assistance at that time to facilitate a reunion. We asked for medical information and were given very little “non-identifying” information. Included was the fact that my biological father had also signed off on the adoption, was Irish and was 5’5″ tall. It seems odd now that I remember only the information provided that day about my biological father, but don’t recall any of what was said about my biological mother. I think maybe that is because that was the first day I had given more than a fleeting thought to the fact that biologically I had 2 parents, not just the one that had given birth to me.

My aunt and I left feeling discouraged. Oddly, I remember that we went to Burger King and she ordered a kids meal because she said that was all she could eat. I remember that we tried to brainstorm ways to get more information but knew that it would be futile, so we let it drop.

Being an adoptee remained a critical part of who I was into my adulthood. If asked to describe myself, that was always a descriptor. I continued to look at my face in the mirror, wondering who I looked like.

Four years later, and just before I was to be married to Mickey in 1996, I was waitressing. I remember a couple at one of my tables telling me that I looked just like their neighbor. This wasn’t the first time I had been told I looked like someone and my heart fluttered wondering if it was possible that we could be related. I commented back that it was possible that I was related because I was an adoptee. I remember the shocked look on their faces as they shared that this man had given up a child for adoption. I felt certain that I had finally made the connection I needed to locate where I had come from. In time, though, we were able to rule out that I was related to this random neighbor and I was left disappointed again.

Shortly after Goofy was born in 1997, he became very ill. He was hospitalized for 5 days for an unexplained high fever. He had a spinal tap and numerous other tests run to determine the cause. The doctors were never able to determine what had been the cause and this reopened my desire to search for my biological roots. I reasoned that it was possible that every single family member had died of some rare illness that could be preventable if we only knew far enough in advance.

Within a couple of weeks after Goofy was discharged from the hospital, a friend of mine had agreed to go to the court where my adoption had been finalized to see if we could get the records opened. On a sunny Friday morning, we made the hour trip together to the court house. I spoke with a clerk and explained what had happened with my son and let her know that I was looking to have my records opened to search for my  biological family to get updated medical information. She sent me along to another woman who said she would go speak to the judge. I waited nervously. The mood in a courthouse is quite somber and I really didn’t know what to expect. After what seemed to be an eternity, the woman came back and said “Well, I dont know how much help this will be as the medical information is quite old” and she handed me a stack of photocopied papers. My friend, Jen, and I sat down at one of the legal desks in the hallway and began to browse through the records. One of the first things that caught my attention was a birth certificate. The name listed was not my name… and then slowly I started to connect the dots. This was my ORIGINAL birth certificate. It took me only but a minute to realize that either the clerk had made a terrible mistake in copying the entire file for me or that she had done me the biggest favor of my life. In either case, Jen & I made a MAD DASH for the exit knowing we had just what we needed to begin the search.

As she drove away like a criminal fleeing a bank robbery, I continued to look through the files. The birth certificate contained my birth mothers FULL NAME. I knew that she had likely married (and  statistically that she had potentially even divorced). At the time, we didn’t even own our first computer. The internet was a novelty at this point and not the incredible tool it has become today. Where would we begin this search?

Being the good detectives that we were, we decided to start at the city hall where she had lived. We knew that she hadn’t been married at the time I was born, so that gave us a starting point. We requested her marriage license, giving her name and the approximate years. Low & behold, the clerk at the city hall handed over a marriage license! We were stunned. Could it REALLY be this easy??

We spotted a diner nearby and  decided to grab breakfast and plan our next move. We decided the next logical step was to locate a phone number for her using her new married name. We knew there was a chance she was divorced, but were not sure how to track down the next piece of information. We headed to my aunt’s house and were easily able to locate a number for the man my birth mother had married. His last name was quite unique and there were only 3 of them listed in the entire country! I remember being really nervous as I dialed the number. A man answered and I asked for her by name. He replied “There is no one here by that name” and hung up. I was crushed. I had slammed head on into another road block!

Things had stalled but I was determined NOT to give up. I spent the weekend calling everyone in the phone book (remember those crazy yellow things?) with her maiden last name in the area where she grew up hoping that I would find someone who would be able to connect me to her. During each call I explained my story and who I was looking for and why, but sadly no one was able to help.

On Tuesday, as I reviewed the paperwork for what felt like the 40 millionth time since I had received it on Friday, I noticed that my birth mother’s parents names had been listed on one of the documents.  I reasoned that the older generation had a lower incidence of divorce. Was it possible that THEY were still married and had a listed phone number? I raced back to my aunt’s house to search for them online. Low and behold, they were listed together living just 50 miles north of where we were living. I held my breath and wrote down the number. Was this my golden ticket?

I came home and dialed the number while standing in the bathroom (for privacy). No answer. I did not leave a voicemail. I called back every hour that day until finally in the late afternoon, a woman answered the phone. I stated “My name is Minnie. I was born October 12, 1973 and I was given up for adoption.” I paused and she practically screamed “Oh my God! I always knew this day would come!”

Continue reading My Adoption Story in this post: Part III: The Reunion!