In 1964, my birth mom made a very beautiful decision to give me a better life than what she could offer. She was 28 years old, living in San Francisco and unmarried. My birth father refused to have a long-term relationship with her and she felt unprepared to give me the life that she wanted me to have. Although she was a nurse, many other parts of her life were still very open-ended and undecided. She didn’t feel she would have the support she needed both emotionally, financially, and physically to raise a child. She was also part of an Italian family that would have felt great shame if she had come home to the East Coast pregnant. She was able to get counseling at the adoption agency she chose in San Francisco, and even though she would leave each appointment crying, she knew it was the right choice. She still had a bit of hope that my birth father would change his mind though.
On November 6, 1964, I was born. During the heart-wrenching days after my birth, while still in the hospital, she really wanted to see me, but her requests were denied as the hospital knew she was going to be relinquishing me for adoption. She felt really sad that she never was able to truly say goodbye. My birth father, although emotionally there for her during the birth, remained strong in his decision that he would not commit to her long term. (In retrospect, I think his decision was a good one, since both of them had issues at the time which would have worked against a sustainable marriage.)
Words cannot express how grateful I am to them both for making one of the most selfless decisions imaginable. After being in the hospital, I was placed in a foster home for six weeks by the adoption agency (in case my birth parents changed their mind) and then placed in the most loving, Italian family that you could imagine. My adoptive parents had tried for ten LONG years to get pregnant with no success. (Infertility in the 1960’s was very hopeless with not many solutions available.) My grandparents and extended family were also beyond excited to welcome the very first grandchild on my adoptive father’s side. I was given every opportunity imaginable. However, more than opportunities, I was given two loving people who were at a place in their lives where they were ready to BE there for me, they were ready to BE two people with patience, perseverance, love, encouragement and support. They were ready to BE parents twenty-four hours a day no matter what! (That was something my birth parents were not in a place to do.) My adoptive father was a teacher and my adoptive mother was able to stay home and take care of me.
While growing up with such a wonderful family (who later adopted a brother for our family, too, from a different birth mom) I sometimes wondered about my birth parents, although my cup was so full with love from my adoptive parents. At 32, I finally decided to pursue a search for my birth mom. My husband and I were thinking of starting our own family, and I wanted to know more about her, her pregnancy, and any medical issues that ran in our family. Since my adoption was legally closed, I first needed to contact the adoption agency and sign off some forms. I found out that my birth mom would also have had to sign off forms to legally change our adoption agreement. In my mind, I didn’t think she had done that. I assumed that the adoption agency would just send me biological information with all of the identifying information marked in black. However, three days after sending the forms, I was given a call by the adoption agency. My birth mom had signed her forms ten years earlier. The adoption agency gave me her contact information. Remarkably, my birth mom had become a Colonel in the army and moved to Georgia (after living in all sorts of places in the world). I had never lived anywhere except California and knew only two couples in Georgia who had moved there from our church. When I told the first couple where my birth mother lived in Georgia, they were amazed. She lived ON THE VERY SAME STREET, IN THE VERY SAME TOWN as the other couple I knew. I then called my other friends and found out that she had moved just months before but that they knew which hospital she worked at. I also found out that she had remained single all of her life and didn’t appear to have any other children. I then made the decision to call her at work.
I started out the call by saying my name and birth date and telling her that I believed that we were related. There was a long pause before she was able to say “I have been praying for this moment for years!!!” We spoke briefly then and much longer in the months afterwards. My husband and I were able to conceive in the months following the call and were able to share our pregnancy with both my birth mother across the U. S. and my adoptive parents who lived close by. It was truly wonderful.
When I was about five months pregnant, I flew out to meet my birth mom. We were able to spend a week together. We had a great time. In some ways, we are very similar (our eyes, our sense of humor, our desire to do well academically, to name a few.) However, it was then that I began to realize that my relationship with my birth mom would be very different than with my adoptive mom. My birth mom chose a very different life path, and wasn’t used to being a nurturing mom like my adoptive mom. I am grateful for both of my moms and the relationships we have. When I had my baby with my husband, I realized what a sacrifice my birth mom had to make. I also realized how HARD it is to be a parent. I was so thankful she made the decision she did in light of the lack of resources she had. I was also grateful for my adoptive parents who provided the loving support as ever-present parents for me and now grandparents who helped day and night for my daughter. It really does take a village to raise a child!
Since my daughter’s birth, my birth mom has made numerous trips to California and we talk on the phone. She was instrumental in helping me get in touch with my birth father’s family. Although my birth father passed away before I could meet him, I connected with the most fantastic half sister from my birth father that anyone could want. We have a wonderful relationship. My half sister lives locally and goes on a lot of adventures with the kids and me.
It often crosses my mind how thankful I am for my birth mom’s decision back in 1964. She really would not have been able to be what my adoptive parents were for me. I am also grateful for my adoptive parents and to God who let it all happen the way it did!
– Kathleen, Sunnyvale