Marilyn's Birthmother Reunion Experience

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I am a birthmother and as such I am so very thankful and grateful that I have been allowed to find my birthson, Sean and find some semblance of peace regarding him, his existence, and how his life has turned out. Life can indeed hold many wonderful surprises and be filled with much if you are lucky. In fact what you may find if you look is a life filled with Joy :) Although that was not always the truth, at least for me.. This is my story:

I was 15 in 1968 when I became pregnant. In the eyes of the society of the day, I had committed a major sin. My son's birthfather, who was 16, upon discovery of the pregnancy denied any involvement so I bore this "shame" alone.

Pregnant, I attended school and continued on as if all was normal. I know that there was some appearance of the pregnancy but this was unacknowledged and unspoken of. After the end of the school semester in January when I was five months pregnant; I was sent away to an unwed mothers home in Edmonton, Alberta. This home, Woodside, was 500 kilometers or 350 miles away from my hometown. Although it seems that most everyone would have known of my predicament, no mention was made about it. (At least not to me). I do remember speaking to a social worker who must have been handling my case but have no memories of any of the actual conversations. The start of the lies. No wonder for many birthmothers from this era our motto now is "End the secrets and lies!"

On April 18, 1969, in Edmonton, Alberta, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I have grey memories of the actual birth. I do know that he weighed 8 lbs 14 ozs and was 21 inches long and perfect. The hospital stay was not fun. I developed toxaemia right after delivery and was not allowed out of bed until just before I was released. The hospital staff were not kind in any fashion and I just wanted to escape the thought of dying seemed comforting.

The day I left the hospital I had to go to the nursery window to look at my son. I could barely see, I was crying so hard, but that memory of the vision of him, so peaceful and beautiful remains forever imprinted in my memory. I then went into a waiting room and signed away all of my rights to this baby. I wanted everything to be right for him but I would have no way of knowing this until twenty eight years later. At the time I was told the decision to not know him - ever - was permanent and irrevocable.

Cut like a knife; leaving him behind was the hardest thing that I will ever have to do in my life. A point of interest here is that when I was to be married 2 years later I could not sign the marriage license myself, my parents sign on my behalf?! Go figure! Anyway...

After several more weeks in the un-wed mother's home I came back to my hometown and appeared to get on with my life. Surviving this event has helped me to be a very strong person. I continued to do well in school, I was seen as a leader and a survivor. Each night alone in my room though, I would literally break down and experience that same separation loss that I felt walking away from my new born son. It was like the nights were the extreme low as I had used up all of the energy I had holding my head up high during the day.

I wanted my son so very badly. The loss of feeling my son move within me and sharing playful times while he was in the womb were now gone; this made me very sad. Throughout the years this pain dissipated a little when I tried to think that the best things were happening to him and it was going to be okay. I wanted more than anything for him to be all right, okay and happy. And, I always wondered if he knew about me.

Back to that summer of 1969. That was when I found a wonderful friend, confidant, and now my husband of 28 years. He had known of my birthson, as he was from the same small town. This guy has been there for me on every one of "the birthdays" always the most difficult time for me, as well as for all of the downs that I experienced with my loss. We, birthmothers, may give the appearance of happiness on the outside but always feel that void within. I feel very fortunate that my husband wanted to share this part of me. So the years went by and to the world I was seen as a successful, happy person. My kept children, I had two more sons soon after, did well. I did well, my life looked wonderful. Inside though - I always felt that ache, that emptiness - a loss.

Giving a child to adoption has been compared to losing someone to death. In my case, having had experienced the death of loved ones, I know that it is very similar. With one Major exception: We are allowed to publicly grieve the loss of family members who die, we are supposed to grieve, it is part of the process, but unwed mothers were taught not to speak of our child lost to adoption. It made others uncomfortable and we quickly learned to suppress any urge to discuss the child and this suppression was incorporated into our everyday behaviour. Partially, I think, that this could be a reason for an adoption reunion to be such a traumatic event in the birthmother's life. Reunion makes something which was strictly, and totally, not up for discussion, suddenly acceptable. You have to learn how to change your mind set in a really big hurry. Quite an accomplishment if you know my mind. Thankfully, everyone involved, myself being the only exception, has lots of patience. That never has been one of my personality traits. :) So...

In the spring of 1996 I discovered the internet and went online. I recognize now that I was on a mission, I had hit a new level. I had been registered in a passive registry for several years but was not getting any results. I had an overwhelming need to find out about my son. I always did want to find him and now I found that I could do something about that. I had the means and tools and had also learned that the government had just made it legal for me to initiate a search. I thought that my son was in trouble and needed my help. Wrong! In retrospect, I see who really needed to be saved, and at first I felt guilty about this. Big time. But now I realize that if I really wanted to help anyone else, I had better attain inner peace myself. Your reasons for searching may seem unjustified, when you first find, but with time and retrospection you will understand why you did what you had to do.

After being a participant of birthmother online support lists for close to a year, I found the courage I needed to hire a confidential intermediary, in March 1997, I connected with Ray Ensminger. Alberta, I had discovered, made this option legal the summer of 1996. (Thanks, Jim) The intermediary whom you hire, from a list provided to you by the government, is given access to the original adoption file. They, then armed with this information, locate the person the person being sought, ask for consent to contact; this person has the right to veto any further contact and that is the end of it all or....they can want you to find them!

They say we should read lots, talk lots, and generally prepare. I do not think that that is possible there are just too many possibilities/probabilities/personalities. I do think that we tend to dwell on the negative a bit too much before we find, and although that does happen in some reunions, we should also also allow ourselves to prepare for a positive outcome. I understand that for birthmothers this whole adoption issue has had a major negative impact but for our children it may not have been so. Get ready for the fact that they have had a good life without you and wonderful parents and all you could have wished for. I wish that I had done a bit of this, so that I would not have been such an emotional wreck upon finding. I'm a bit embarrassed about all of the blubbering and crying that my birthson has had to endure.

Only two days had passed from the day my searcher received our adoption file, started to look, and found. Get ready for a major, very long emotional roller coaster ride; it is exponentially longer than any ride in an amusement park! April 9, 1997 I received notice from the searcher that he had been able to find Sean, had talked to him, that he was open to contact and had even been thinking about getting in touch with me! Late that same night the searcher read me a letter that he had received on his fax machine from my son. What a wonderful letter! He has had lots of great experiences and opportunities and has made the most of all of them. He is happily married and successful everything sounded great.

The next day was a complete write off. I was useless at work and went home early my feet did not touch the ground. All I could do, was repeat his name over and over in my head. Sean. What a great name, he has been given with such a perfect meaning - Gift from God. So true when you consider the fact that any of us are even on this earth and are who we are; it becomes emotionally quite intense. One minute I was on cloud nine - the next minute I was in hell. My mind was having difficulty believing that this could be true. How could something that I had perceived to be so Wrong for so long actually be this Right. I have often thought myself to be lucky in life but this was too good to be true.....I thought.

The next evening, April 10, 1997 on the phone the first words I ever heard Sean speak were: "Is Marilyn there?" It may sound trite I suppose but I will never forget those words or the sound of his wonderful voice, soft, kind. We spoke for several hours that night. I had a thousand questions and he had the patience to answer them. Have I mentioned how great he is??? :)

He has had a good life, a loving mother, a really great father, two brothers and lots of good experiences. Everything that I dreamed for him, but was unable to provide at the time. How I wish I could have, but I am (very slowly) coming to terms with the reality of the whole situation now, as much as one can. Maybe Einstein's theory 'for every action there is equal opposite reaction' will give you an understanding of my feelings about life.

Sean is truly an awesome guy. He and his wife Roo are wonderful and very tolerant of my unannounced intrusion into their lives. Soon after we spoke that first time, he sent me some pictures, a copy of their wedding video and some of the travels that he and his wife have experienced. These have been a wonderful healing tools. They have allowed me to move my image and ideas of him into today's reality. In fact, if anyone from Memorex happens to read this I can testify that your tapes have been time tested. But wait, there's more, it gets even better than this...

At the end of June 1997, my husband took me to meet my bson -in person! Of course about all I could do was stare, absorb and generally gawk. So much to see - he has grown a lot :) He is quite a diverse human being with talents in many areas. He and his wife were perfect hosts. We stayed at their house, something that I was quite apprehensive about at first, but they both possess a calmness about them that is very soothing. I did make mention later on at how well they treated "strangers" and he replied, that they specialize in strange? I'm sure he was joking ;)

My husband, Randy was super. He took photos and video and had lots of fun with the whole reunion visit. He had been quite excited about taking me to meet Sean and I'm quite sure because he had been a part of this pretty well forever, that he was more than a bit curious. We had the best time ever. They like to do outside things as do we. We went biking, swimming (I floated), on a picnic, saw where he works, what he does at work, they made supper, we went for supper, went to a movie, (scared me at first because of the title "Father's Day", but it is not sad at all, I would recommend it), had a water fight, he played his clarinet for us, we looked at pictures......Which reminded them that Sean's mother-in-law, who lives very close to where I live, was in possession of an album showing Sean from when he was a baby of 4 months up until his wedding. I was able to borrow this album and even made my own copy of it. Too cool.

We were able to meet again at Christmas time. This time Sean got to meet his half brothers and all of my daughters-in-law had the opportunity to check each other out. Watching them all interacting together was very gratifying for me. We are so lucky to live in this place in this time. Of society's acceptance, of the accessibility of networking :) I have a newspaper want ad from 1970 and in it the positions are listed as "jobs of interest to males" and "jobs of interest to females". We have travelled very far in very little time and I'm really glad for those who went before and showed us how to be here. We have a ways to go but we can get there if you try to believe.

Because a reunion will significantly affect your other relationships, I am attaching a bit of my husband's perspective as a point of interest:

"When I met Marilyn I knew that she was a birthmother and thought to myself that she hid this fact very well. I did know from time to time that in parts of our first conversations, something was not being discussed, but felt that it was a touchy situation and knew that she did not want to talk about it.

Awhile after we were together, Marilyn trusted me enough to really open up about her birthson. I could tell it was a tender spot for her. After she did open up, she would get mad at me because I could not understand. "You can't understand the way I feel." she would tell me. And then I would feel helpless with a loss of control. I remembered pretty well every birthday that passed and if I forgot -- I would remember by looking at her and seeing those mixed emotions. Sometimes she did not understand that the past had no bearing on how I felt about her.

Time went on and after twenty seven years, she found out about her ability to search for and perhaps locate her son. I had a few reservations about this, when she said that she was definitely going to search. I had visions of things maybe not turning out and him being bitter towards her. She said she would be happy to find out if he was "safe and alive", but if there had been problems I do not think that she would have forgiven herself. I also worried about our kids, I worried about how we had not told them earlier and how they might not understand. There also were times soon after she found Sean that she seemed to be obsessed with the reunion.

Now that we know about him and know him. I feel that he is a part of the family since he is so much like her and our two sons. I was just about as excited as her when he was located. I was, how to put it? Anxious, hoping. I do remember telling Marilyn over the years that she should think how well our kids were turning out and find comfort in thinking why would he be any different? And it turned out -- That is true."

Awhile after we were together, Marilyn trusted me enough to really open up about her birthson. I could tell it was a tender spot for her. After she did open up, she would get mad at me because I could not understand. "You can't understand the way I feel." she would tell me. And then I would feel helpless with a loss of control. I remembered pretty well every birthday that passed and if I forgot -- I would remember by looking at her and seeing those mixed emotions. Sometimes she did not understand that the past had no bearing on how I felt about her.

Time went on and after twenty seven years, she found out about her ability to search for and perhaps locate her son. I had a few reservations about this, when she said that she was definitely going to search. I had visions of things maybe not turning out and him being bitter towards her. She said she would be happy to find out if he was "safe and alive", but if there had been problems I do not think that she would have forgiven herself. I also worried about our kids, I worried about how we had not told them earlier and how they might not understand. There also were times soon after she found Sean that she seemed to be obsessed with the reunion.

Now that we know about him and know him. I feel that he is a part of the family since he is so much like her and our two sons. I was just about as excited as her when he was located. I was, how to put it? Anxious, hoping. I do remember telling Marilyn over the years that she should think how well our kids were turning out and find comfort in thinking why would he be any different? And it turned out -- That is true."

Awhile after we were together, Marilyn trusted me enough to really open up about her birthson. I could tell it was a tender spot for her. After she did open up, she would get mad at me because I could not understand. "You can't understand the way I feel." she would tell me. And then I would feel helpless with a loss of control. I remembered pretty well every birthday that passed and if I forgot -- I would remember by looking at her and seeing those mixed emotions. Sometimes she did not understand that the past had no bearing on how I felt about her.

Time went on and after twenty seven years, she found out about her ability to search for and perhaps locate her son. I had a few reservations about this, when she said that she was definitely going to search. I had visions of things maybe not turning out and him being bitter towards her. She said she would be happy to find out if he was "safe and alive", but if there had been problems I do not think that she would have forgiven herself. I also worried about our kids, I worried about how we had not told them earlier and how they might not understand. There also were times soon after she found Sean that she seemed to be obsessed with the reunion.

Now that we know about him and know him. I feel that he is a part of the family since he is so much like her and our two sons. I was just about as excited as her when he was located. I was, how to put it? Anxious, hoping. I do remember telling Marilyn over the years that she should think how well our kids were turning out and find comfort in thinking why would he be any different? And it turned out -- That is true."

In conclusion, I will share what I have learned. Birthmothers surround yourself with caring people. You will need a lot of supporters, your family and spouse. You will even need more than that though, as they will need a break from you and your reunion thoughts. Share with everyone who seems interested. Talk to adoptees, other birthmothers and adoptive parents if you are able. Some will not be interested but you may be amazed at the new and interesting allies you will meet. The experiences of others can teach us all a lot; take what you need from that information, give whatever you are able. It is quite interesting to gauge your progress through the eyes of others. Although, only you, yourself will know your reality, I have been able to find immense personal growth and an appreciation and respect for others that I was not aware could even be possible. Yech, this sounds like "born again". I'm not, although I can imagine how that must feel.

Summary statement: Trust your gut, that's why you have one! April 5/98

July 1998... Since creating these pages I have been overwhelmed by the intensity of caring found in all of those close to me as well as from many online responses from people I have never met. Never being able to share this experience with others except for Randy and now finding that I have exposed myself through out the internet has most certainly has been educational. What a gift to be able to discuss and enjoy life to the fullest!

I guess now if I would have one more point to add, for those who have not yet searched; what do you have to lose? Reunion, through the eye's of a birthmother, one who has searched and found. I will equate to the experience of climbing a ladder, with every rung you reach, every step you take, you are able to see a more intriguing view. I think and my experience shows, that there is so very much more to gain by living and being the real you; including everything that you may have perceived to be a bad thing. Face it. Admit it. Live it. That is who you really are. Sometimes life really sucks -- sometimes it doesn't!

Sean and I continue on with our reunion. For me it is much more intense, a fact of which I am grateful. Every encounter brings a new discovery, Big and Small, it is the truth and it is the reality. Endings and answers bring new questions = Life :)

Update June 2000

Pretty neat, all that has happened over the past three years. Sean has had four birthdays now since I found him and finally, this year, his thirty-first, all is fairly well in my mind. We, birthmothers, have a sense of "knowing" but the real knowing, in my case has been to understand that we do not. It is helpful to have, and to go by inner sense, to begin with, but time and growth, as with any relationship guide one past, and onward and upward...

Reunion, to me, means a collision of two or more different realities. For myself, as a birthmother, the reality was that I lost a child; for Sean, he was raised and loved in a family that is his truth. Now, reunited we are able to forge - this new, different from any other, as well as interesting: adoption reunion relationship.

Update June 2001

Sean and I, together with our families have had more opportunities to get together. Thanks a whole bunch to Roo's family gatherings. Each physical interaction brings more understanding of who and what we are to each other... I continue to learn.

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