Writing “Dear Mother” seems so formal, yet I never met you so I can’t call you “mom.” I don’t even know if you would have wanted me to call you “mom.” Let alone if I would have been comfortable with that either. How strange all of this is—and to think that at my age I am writing you a letter for the very first time. All in all, this seems to be a harder letter to write than I thought it would be. It seems without purpose, or reason, yet I think it is still something that I need to do. Perhaps it is just part of the journey: this need to talk to you and write down my thoughts. So here it goes…
One of my greatest wishes is that you could have known all the times throughout my life that I thought about you, longed to know who you were, desired just to know you. Looking back, I can’t remember a single time in my life when I didn’t want that. Every year on my birthday, I could be found looking for a message from you to me in the paper. I never found one, but it didn’t stop me from dreaming of the day you would look for me and find me.
That day never came and when I found you it was already too late. I never heard your voice—at least not that I remember—I do not know if you ever saw me, held me, or even said goodbye. That hurts: not knowing anything about what happened when I was born. I can never ask you the questions that haunt me. Questions like: Did you see me? Hold me? Did they take me away and not let you see me? Did you want to see me? Did you try? Did you name me?
I wasn’t named on my birth certificate, so I will never know if you named me and they just didn’t put my name on my birth certificate as I was just a baby for adoption. In my heart I think you did, but that too is just another missing piece. I do know you thought I had a family to go to, but I didn’t and I spent a few months “somewhere.” I don’t know where or if it was just one person or many people who cared for me. No one knows. No one thought to ask. No one documented it. All I know is that I was somewhere because I am still here. I did get wonderful parents who were loving and supportive and did the best they could in all things.
There are many missing pieces to my story that can never be answered. I can never get to know you, see you, talk to you. Those missing pieces haunt me. At the heart of who I am, I am a puzzle solver—I have to solve it, understand it, know it. Yet the event that dramatically altered my life in such a profound way is still a puzzle to me. It will always have missing pieces. It will always remain incomplete and unsolved.
There are so many things I wish could have been different. That you had reached out while you were still alive, while that one small link between us was still partly open. Perhaps you did try to reach out, but others thought you shouldn’t. Perhaps you didn’t reach out for any number of reasons. It’s the not knowing that hurts and that can never be answered now.
I wanted to know you in whatever form that relationship took. To know if we would have connected and talked for hours on end, finished each other’s sentences and understood each other. Or, be totally disconnected from each other and distant. Or, something in between. There is comfort in knowing we shared similar interests—flower gardening and a love of roses—that reading was a passion we both shared, and crafts, too. I also know that you married and had children. But that’s pretty much all I know, and it seems so little. Despite the willingness of others to share with me their knowledge about you, they can’t provide the knowledge that I crave, knowledge that can only be learned when you know someone personally. I am grateful to know as much as I do and am sorry that I didn’t push harder. I was unsure if I should, and worried it would cause you pain. Perhaps that is what happened on your end, too.
I would have liked a different ending, regardless of the outcome. To have been able to share with you my journey and hear your journey. To have been able to tell you about things that happened in my life that seemed random at the time, but now strike me as perhaps what is called synchronicity. When I work on the family tree, I think of you and wish you could tell me stories to give me a better sense of who our ancestors were. Above all, what would have been best is just the chance to spend some time getting to know you and hear our story.
From all accounts losing me changed you but I don’t think anyone truly understood why. How could they when they never went through anything like that? Little things said about your choices or actions—things that made perfect sense to me—seem to not make any sense to them. They don’t understand your motives or at least they never connected the changes with losing me. I believe I know why because of similar reactions I had after my son, your first grandchild, passed away. I don’t know if that makes us alike, or just aligned, because we both lost our first child. My hope is that your husband understood. From what has been said, he was a good man, and I hope he was there for you when you needed him.
Finally, I have been told that, when asked, you said that you thought of me every day. That makes me both happy and sad at the same time. I always hoped you were okay and had a good life, while still thinking of me from time to time. Knowing that though, does provides me with a level of certainty that you would have been open to knowing me as well. Instead we both failed to act, allowing the wall of secrecy between us to stay for life. Secrecy that wasn’t right then, and still isn’t right now. I don’t believe that adoption was ever meant to be done this way, and they are slowly learning from the impact on so many of us from this closed-era social experiment. It’s just sad we had to be a part of that. Bad timing I suppose. But at the end of the day, we can’t change the past and just had to live the life that was dealt. I hope you did—and that you found the peace you needed, and the ability to have joy and happiness in your life, too.
Your first child…
About the Author: This post has been lightly edited from the originally publication on The Adopted Ones. In the blog, two adoptees reflect on their life experiences, including their experiences specific to adoption. They also respond to current adoption conversations and advocate for ethical adoption practices, especially access to family medical history. Their personal and emotional reflections can at times be hard for readers.