My car spun out of control quickly as metal on metal made a horrible noise. I was on the Interstate in my small yellow Datsun hatchback. As others in crisis describe, many thoughts went through my mind. It wasn’t individual thoughts, but a general sense of lack of accomplishment and things yet to do and experience.
I thought I was going to die that day as I screamed an expletive. (You can imagine what you might scream if you thought this was the last minutes of your life). I was in my mid-twenties, single, had completed college and had good professional career path. I lived in an apartment, had a roommate and had some family in the area.
One minute I was at the gas pump, and the next I was on the interstate and the car was spinning out of control. Then I heard a loud metal noise. I awoke in a hospital bed with the bright lights and people bustling around me. I felt pain, but I couldn’t put it quite together with what had happened.
The paramedics stopped by to check on me and told me on the scene I kept asking the question “Was it my fault?” It wasn’t my fault, but thankfully there wasn’t an ambulance chaser who overheard my silly question. I had no memory of the previous day, let alone hours. I had IVs and tubes and gauze everywhere. I overheard their concern as I went to have my body scanned. Then the nurse questioned me about my family medical history. I felt some of the spinning of the room returning, the same as I had felt in the car.
I realized how I had not resolved the huge questions of who am I? I answered the nurse, “No, I don’t have a family history”. My head was throbbing and my shoulder was in pain. I was realizing what had just happened and how I may never really know my family history. I whispered to the nurse out of sadness, not shame, “I was A D O P T E D”, as tears streamed down my face.
I felt so alone. I just spoke out loud the secret that had continued to haunt me. I wanted my parents there, my adoptive parents. They were the only parents I knew. I was lying in a hospital bed and searching for the meaning of my life and not knowing if I was going to live or die. Not only did I want my adoptive parents, thoughts of my first mother came pouring in.
I wanted her to hold me. I just wanted to know who she was. I wanted to be loved by her. I couldn’t and didn’t share those thoughts with anyone else and explained the tears away as pain. The pain was just as much emotional pain as physical pain. I just wanted my mom, the one that birthed me; the one who gave me away. I wanted to hear her words, her voice, see her face and feel her touch. Might that be the last thought before I die?
I survived the car wreck, but I knew that I had to again restart my search for answers about my adoption. The secrecy surrounding adoption and feeling less than whole came back with vigor after my car wreck and also on holidays, birthdays or even with the lyrics of a song.
The details of my adoption were a secret although I was told in generalities about adoption when I was very young. I was told of the fairy tale story and how I was chosen and saved. (Both ‘chosen’ and ‘saved’ are not words I would use in describing adoption). I had no idea at that time what adoption really meant, but I had a sense that it wasn’t the fairy tale story that I was being told. I felt confused with a sense of emptiness for this first family.
I remember having a need to know who I was. This had haunted me since I figured out what adoption meant. As a child, when I tried discussing my adoption with family, it was obvious it wasn’t a discussion anyone was comfortable having. The secret just continued to grow into this big dark cloud of little information and no clarity.
Eventually I just stopped asking questions of my adoptive parents when it seemed the questions were painful to them. They had difficulties speaking to me about my adoption and therefore I assumed that searching would also not be something they would approve of. As much as I felt different or out of place in this family, I still never wanted to hurt them. I didn’t share with them my great need to know the answers.
I knew they loved me, but I also had an irrational fear as a child that they could send me back. I wanted them by my side on this search, but I didn’t believe they would have the desire or the emotional strength to embark on this journey with me.
Not having resolution about my birth/ first parents continued to be an issue throughout my life. I tried searching throughout the years with no luck and no clear plan. During those years the script that played in my head was; ‘ If your mother didn’t want you then why would anyone else really want you?’
This script has been an ongoing issue for me in other relationships too. Secrets of little information and poor assumptions just continued to rule my life at that time. After all, I didn’t really know who I was! After the car wreck, I started searching again. I had tried various ways to find, but nothing really worked.
After every big life event I would jump back into my research. I would fill note books with information, tracking everything I found and every scrap of information. I had copies of city directories that I had secured over 10 years before from the 1960’s. They were sitting in my file with my mother’s surname scattered through the directory.
Years later, I found, my mother’s name was staring at me the whole time in that directory. I just didn’t know it was her! Can you imagine how I felt when I realized her name was right there in front of me? The kicker was, when I first had the city historian send me the directories, my mother was alive! I had her name in my hands and she had been alive, but I had no way of knowing it was her!
The secrets surrounding adoption kept the information to find my mother out of my reach. By the time I was able to find her in 2010 and with help from the internet and search angels, I found a grave instead. I was three years too late.
After 30+ years of searching and at 49 years old I found my mother had passed away three years before I found her. I was feeling so blessed to find her, yet grieving her loss in a whole different way. There would be no reunion, no stories, no hugs, just a grave. How do you begin to grieve someone you never knew?
I started a journey of discovery of the woman who gave birth to me, my first mother. I was thirsty to know all about her and sought out other family members to fill in the pieces of this giant puzzle. Also trapped in the puzzle was information about my father. I didn’t have a name for my father and very few clues about him. Without my mother, there was no way of finding his name.
The person that deserves the most credit for identifying my father was Caroline, a 4th cousin I matched on Ancestry.com. She had genealogy experience and we met through her own DNA family search. Unfortunately, my father had also passed and again I had to grieve the loss of my father the day I found him. Two graves was not the outcome I hoped for, but it was still better than not knowing.
I owe Caroline a great deal for her help and her friendship. I am convinced that with the information I had at hand, I would not have been able to pull the puzzle pieces together without her expertise in family trees and genealogy. My birth records, birth certificate and anything that was mine before my adoption is no longer legally mine. Once the pen of adoption is signed and sealed in New York State where my adoption took place, it cannot be opened. I can never legally have a copy of my Original Birth Certificate, no matter how old I am.
This made searching a challenge, but I knew I would never give up. I knew I would break down the secrets that stood in my way of feeling whole. I did not want to go through life or be faced by death again without full knowledge of who I was. Then again, it is not who I was… but who I am!
I still am meeting cousins and other family members and I am still filling in the pieces of the puzzle. Although I know now who he is, my father is still a bit elusive. I continue to learn about him as I piece together his information by caring members of my paternal family. I hope to continue to learn about this intriguing man that is MY father.
I feel blessed that I know now my parents of origin and my family lineage. Oh yes, and I am 100% European and a good percentage Irish! I finally know my ethnicity as well, thanks to my DNA.
I continue to feel almost whole with my family surnames and relatives. I am thankful and feeling blessed for finding the answers to the question of ‘who am I?’
Peace to all those who search…..
You can visit Emma Macgent (the author of this blog) here
Thanks for reading!
You can visit Emma Macgent (the author of this blog) here
Thanks for reading!