Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Different Kind of Anniversary

5 years ago this week, I talked to my mother for the very first time.

I'm sure she talked to me some time during the three few days we had together in the hospital---she was a young woman not knowing what lay ahead of her, and I was the baby she was saying goodbye to.

But that was long ago and buried in memories I can't access.

After 4 years of searching, amidst the fog of the moment during our first conversation, I think I said, "I've been waiting to hear your voice for my entire life."

I'm not sure. I was trembling uncontrollably and a little buzzed, because I had just downed two shots of brandy (in the AM!) and three pep talks (one from a fellow adoptee, one from my husband and one from my Mom) before I actually dialed the number given to me by the intermediary from the agency.

Before I get anybody's panties in a twist over my use of the word "mother", let me assure you that I'm not disrespecting my adoptive Mom at all. This is how she has always referred to the woman who gave birth to me---as my mother. Unlike many adoptive parents from the era, Mom never felt the need to obliterate my mother's role in my life.

She just scootched over on the "Mommy" chair to make sure there would always be a seat in my heart for the both of them.

Those who like to think they are, but really aren't intimately involved in adoption (like friends, neighbors, siblings, people on the street, etc) don't always "get" this.

For many decades, our society has told us that infant adoptees are blank slates---just waiting to be molded and melded into the perfect [koff] two-parent adoptive family. Luckily, in the last couple of decades, practices have evolved to understand that "nature" is as equally as important as "nurture".

Unfortunately, many Muggles (pop-culture term for those who mistakenly think they "get" it) still hang on to the stereotypes.

Let me set them straight.

I had a great adoption. I wasn't looking for a new family. I wasn't searching because I was ungrateful to the family who opened their home and hearts to me. I have a mom, a dad (now deceased) and brothers who I'm pretty damned attached to. They're my family. We have a shared history, and I love them deeply.

Both of my guys were born with "supposed" genetic disabilities. At the time they were diagnosed, genetic testing only identified 17% of known disabilities.

Those of you who have intact families probably never think twice about this. Why should you? I had no problems myself, but on every medical form I've ever filled out, my family history has been a blank. A zero. The more cynical of you might say that adoptees just need to be tested more often for diabetes or breast cancer or heart disease, etc .

Yeah, maybe so.

But it's a bit too little, too late when adoptees have already had children who have inherited something that there's no test for and is practically impossible to diagnose without a family medical history.

Tell me to my face that I should be grateful for the adoption secrecy, especially when my mother tried to alert my adoptive parents a few years later through the agency that there might be medical issues, and the agency told her take a hike.

I'm not kidding myself, and I'm not ashamed of this either:

I had questions I needed answers to. I needed to know if my mother was ok, and I wanted to let her know that her decision to relinquish me was ok. I wanted her to know that I'd had a good life. As a mother myself, I think the question would have haunted me for the rest of my days, and I wanted to let her know that I was well.

I'm not going to get into the Sturm und Drang over emotional issues for pity, but for those who've been raised in their biological families, I can only say this:

I no longer have to consider myself the top and only link of my genetic chain.

I no longer have to look to my children to feel a biological tie, or to find a glimpse of myself in them to see if we share any attributes, just to have someone who looks like me. I now can see that my oldest has inherited his beautiful eye-shape from my mother, and shares a unibrow (there should be two!) with my biological brother.

Ok, I personally inherited her long and creepy toes too.

To my Mother, on our 5-year anniversary.....

Thank you for being so accepting of my search for you.

Thank you for being so open and honest in answering my every question.

Thank you for being so welcoming and paving the way with the rest of your/our family over my existence.

Most of all, thank you--thank you so much for being my close friend!

I can't tell you how much my life has been enhanced since you've become a part of it.

Happy Anniversary!


Amie Adams said...

Oh Attila!!!!!!

Me too!! Me too!! You couldn't have described my feelings about being adopted any better. I adore my adoptive Mom, but it is hard to feel like you just hatched from an egg found on the side of the road. Giving birth to my first, I was so excited to finally look like someone and then a mini-version of my husband popped out. You can imagine the small sense of disappointment I felt.

I don't know if I will ever search for her. But it's just so damned wonderful to know that someone else understands what it feels like. Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling like the family tree begins with me. I've been jealous that my boys are part of an extended web on their father's side.

Oh, Oh, Oh, I could go on and on!

Maybe you could send me a note some day when you have time (seriously I know how laughable that is) and tell me all about meeting her...finding her.

Congratulations!!! Sorry to get all verbose!

Anonymous said...

That was beautiful, Attila. *sniff* I can't believe you made me tear up at work!

Unknown said...

Wiping away a tear here too. Congratulations on your special anniversary!

Beth said...

What a wonderful, wonderful post. I actually did the mouth quivering, eyes filling thing while reading it.
How marvellous for you to have two loving mothers.
My mother was adopted - and other than informing us of that (for medical purposes?) refuses to discuss it. Says she has one family only. How times have changed.

Happy Anniversary to you!

Leon said...

I should have waited until I was back at home before I read this... Jen and I love a good snivle! Very well written and rather moving story... thanks for sharing it.

Oh, and by the way, to the person who keeps trying to call my office, I can't answer the phone right now because my throat feels like I just ate half a loaf of dry bread!

DutchBitch said...

Wow, that was such an open and honest post about your adoption. Even though I have not experienced anything like it up close I so agree with you. I am experiencing the genetic testing for my son and I can understand how important it is to know these things.

Happy Anniversary to you and your mother!

TxGoodie said...

Lovely story with a happy ending! I just love happy ending...I know both your Moms are special because they formed YOU! I'm thinking the Dads probably had something to do with it too....enjoy the day!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing that with us. Both your Mom and your mother sound like great ladies. And I have to say, there are some of my "blood relatives" I could not care less for. And a couple of shipmates from the late '50's who are more like family to me than the above mentioned kin.

Anonymous said...

Dear Atilla- thanks for reminding us who are not adopted/adopting that we really dont get it- we need to hear your voice and story! N

Mel said...

Happy Anniversary, Attila!
I am not adopted, and I sure as hell don't know how that feels. As the friend of a woman who went on a similar search, for similar reasons (she has a great mom and dad, but for medical reasons needed to seek out her birth parents), I will add that I came to understand that part reasonably well.
And whatever reason you had for seeking out your mother is valid and relevant, regardless.

Mel said...

Adding the statement that my first sentence was intended to read as an agreement, not a slur; see? I need to stay off the Internet until I can write something without having to clarify it. Jeez.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful tribute to both your mothers...

Me said...

Happy Anniversary Attila and thanks for sharing.

OhTheJoys said...

Wow. What a great tribute!

stinkypaw said...

Nice tribute and I'm sure your mom and mother must both be very proud of their daughter! ...and they should be! Big hugs yo you on this fine day!

Litzi said...

Hi Attila,
Happy Anniversary to you and your Mother! Your post is inspiring, informative, and very positive on the entire adoption process. I only wish my Father were alive to read your words.

My Dad was not told he was an adopted child until he enlisted in the Coast Guard at the beginning of World War II and had to have his birth certificate. He was 22 years old. When he confronted this “mother” about this, she said she’d told him when he was small and he “must have forgotten”. When he inquired about obtaining any pertinent facts about his real parents, he was told the orphanage had burned to the ground soon after they’d taken him in, which was a falsehood.

He never had a solid relationship with either of his “parents” after this and consequently I never got to know one set of grandparents, even though we lived within 5-miles of one another. I think this need to “hide” the adoption from the world was more prevalent in the 1920’s than it is today, but I’ve always thought that he should have been told the truth as soon as he was old enough to comprehend it.

Thanks for a wonderful post.

Samantha said...

That was such an amazing entry!

Ruth Dynamite said...

So beautiful, Attila. Your story warmed my heart - thank you for sharing.

carmachu said...

Happy anniversary darling. Thats such a sweet story about your mom making room for your mother...

Unknown said...

What an awesome story...thanks for sharing it with us....and happy anniversary to you and your mother...:)

About 5 years ago a good friend of mine found his birth mother and the whole process has been a wonderful, positive one for him and an awe inspiring one for me...I am happy that both your experiences have been good is humbling for sure....makes me emotional just thinking about it.

Warm hugs to you.......:)

Anonymous said...

Hey there Atilla..congrats on 5 years...congrats more on being raised by wonderful people that truly love you. People who were able to see all the "truth" of who you are and who you would become by keeping your world open to all sides of adoption.

I was touched very deeply by your post. I wish there were more people in the world like your mom adopting kids.

Your parents have not only told you about compassion and understanding while you were growing up they have lead you by example.

I am not good at expressing myself and my feelings on things like this but .............I am really happy to know what you have written. Think of how many people have benefited from her selfless loving choices in allowing you to be yourself inside and out, and by accepting your birth mom as an equal ...Is freaking HUGE.

Tell your mom...that I want to tell her ...Thank you.....what a great lady.
There are those of us that have never known TRUE motherly love I like to think that I am doing all that I can with my children.

Brenda said...

How lucky you are to have found that part of you that was missing! This was the sweetest, most honest post I've ever read.

Flawed And Disorderly said...

Wow! You're amazing! That was an excellent post. So interesting to hear your perspective. I'm glad I got to read it.

Unknown said...

That's a great story. A college girlfriend was adopted, and she looked for her parents, which I think is perfectly understandable regardless of whether there are any genetic issues. As I recall, she just wanted to know who she was.

Still, I'm a little stunned that the agency didn't try to alert you regarding the genetic issues.

elizabeth said...

Happy Anniversary!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the morning cry, biyotch!

And Happy Anniversary to you and your mom, too!

Kim Ayres said...

That was a very moving post Attila. Happy anniversary :)

Mary said...

I remember when you finally found your mother---I can't believe it's been 5 years already!

As an adoptive mom, it's very hard to look at the medical history form that April's birth mother filled out before relinquishment, because she checked "no" on every line for medical conditions other than high blood pressure. She never really had any medical care, so who knows what's lurking in there.

But April knows she started out somewhere other than here. She knows she lived in a group home for a short time, and that her mother loved her without question and without limits. She knows her mother had a very hard time and couldn't take care of her. She knows she had a different mommy before me. She is four years old, so she doesn't yet know she was born addicted to meth, or that her first mother continues to struggle with drugs and alcohol, or that her older sister is a 15 year old meth addict.

What she does know is that her first mother tried very hard to be a good mommy. Some day she'll know the rest. We keep pictures of her in April's scrap book. She knows her name and the names of her siblings. We just take it a little at a time.

Happy Anniversary--I'm so glad you have found her, and that she is such a friend to you. I cannot imagine not knowing my history for so long. It may seem like a little thing to some people, but I know that to adoptees, it is the world.

Unknown said...

Good job explaining for the uninitiated what it feels like. I'm glad that meeting your mother worked out as well as it did. I work with a lot of people who are adopted (and a few whose fathers were just "donors") and it raises many issues that I don't often have wise answers for.
Happy Anniversary.

Deb said...

Beautiful. I am so glad your quest to meet the woman who gave you life has such a happy story. My cousins were not so lucky in there search. You are truly blessed in having not 1 loving mother but 2!

Undercover Angel said...

Very beautiful! Happy Special Anniversary to you and your mother!

Queen of the Mayhem said...

Okay, yours is the third post that has made me cry today! I just LOVE you! You are such an honest and amazing woman!

It is interesting that you mentioned the "blank slate" babies....I am reading The Strong Willed Child by James Dobson and he refutes that very theory.

As a mom, I am sure you noticed a difference between your children immediately. You simply cannot escape from where you come. Whether it is emotionally, or even your genetic makeup!


Doughnut said...

What more can be said. You said it so well. We are all happy for you and your family....such a wonderful story!

Anonymous said...


It blows my mind that in this day and age we still have to explain why we would want to know who gave birth to us. sigh....


Happy Happy Day!!!!!! Much love to your mothers who both got it. You deserve the love my friend.

Pendullum said...

Happy Anniversary to you and your mother...

This will be a post to follow me today and I will have it nestled in my heart..Well told, Attila..
Thank you for sharing it...

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