A Shot in the Dark

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A Shot in the Dark

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Posted: 5/23/2009
Note: Names, Identifying informaiton and details may have been altered to protect personal identities.

When I first contacted Search Quest America, I thought my search was a shot in the dark. I hoped that they would find my birth mother, but I expected the worst. I told myself the case would be open for six months and then I would get a phone call saying it couldn't be done and I would be right back at square one. Or if it was solved, I was sure my birth family would want nothing to do with me. I could not have been more wrong--my search has taken so many twists and turns and the outcome is better than I dared hope for. Here is my story.

I found out I was adopted at an early age, but my childhood and youth years were turbulent to say the least. I had a great father, but I lost my mother when I was 16. I didn't know who I was or where I came from and I ached to know both of my mothers. I am now successful with two children, one girl 25 who is a medical student and a boy 16 who is working towards getting his pilot's license to pursue a career as a medivac pilot. I have reached a point in my life where I need to find the answers. Who is my birth mother, what were the circumstances behind my adoption, and does she care to know me and her grandchildren?

Two weeks after I first spoke with my researcher Patricia, my case was solved--or so we thought. Patty found the woman listed on my birth certificate, whose name is Eileen, along with her sister, Marna. First, she contacted Marna and asked her questions to verify that she had found the right Eileen Smith. Marna answered Patty's questions but seemed a little cryptic. She insisted that Eileen had never given a child up for adoption and left it at that. Patty was sure she had found the right person, so she tracked down Eileen's two daughters and gave me their phone numbers.

I thought it would be less of a shock if I contacted my sisters first, so I mustered my courage and picked up the phone. They were open to the idea of reuniting with me, but never knew their mother had given a child up for adoption. They called her right away and asked her about it.

Soon afterwards, I got a call from Eileen. She said she had never given a child up for adoption, and she was not my mother. However, she did drive her sister Marna to the hospital the day I was born. It turns out that my mother forged her (Eileen's) name on my birth certificate. This woman wasn't my mother, she was my aunt. Patty had already spoken to my mother Marna, but she did not come clean about her true identity.

I found out from Eileen that Marna is almost 70 years old and is suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. She takes care of her husband who has severe dementia, and she has had a hard life. Before I was born she was engaged to a young man and pregnant with his child. One day when they were walking down Main Street, a car jumped the curb and came straight for my mother. Her fiance pushed her out of the way and was hit by the car himself. He did not survive the accident, and she never got over it. When the baby boy was born out of wedlock, she decided to give him up for adoption. That little boy was my half-brother.

A few years later, she fell in love with a married man. They had an affair and during that time I was conceived. My birth father's wife knew about the affair and confronted my mother. One day they all sat down at a nice diner, and holding hands with her husband, she asked my mother if she would let them raise the unborn child, me. My mother was a staunch Catholic and did not believe in birth control or abortion. But she was also a jealous woman, and out of spite gave me up for adoption to a stranger. My birth father simply said to his wife and his mistress, "I love you both, don't make me choose."

The affair continued for ten years. She conceived another baby, this time a son. Again, my birth father's wife approached her and asked to raise the baby, and again, Marna gave him up for adoption. As I listened to this story I began to form a picture in my mind of a passionate, yet cold woman. The first thing I did was call Patty and say, "Guess what, my mom isn't really my mom. She's my aunt."

I called Marna a few days later. She didn't seem surprised to hear from me. She knew the phone call was coming after she spoke with Patty. She told her version of the story and said, "Unfortunately, I got pregnant from the affair. Please forgive me, but I thought it would be better if you were raised by a family that wanted you." She was never good with babies, and never intended to be a mother. At first I was hurt when I heard these words, but I realize that she gave me life in an era when she had other options, and I am grateful to her for that. I told her that I love her, and that I forgive her for giving me up. She was very emotional, and I could tell she was relieved to know that I harbor no ill feelings toward her. I said, "in your own time, just let me know and maybe sometime we can meet. I have no expectations whatsoever, and if we never meet that is ok too. I just want you to know that I love you."

Although Marna eventually got married, she never had other children. This left me with another responsibility--to find my older half-brother and my younger full brother, both given up for adoption. This is where Patty really went above and beyond. Technically, my case was solved because she found my birth mother, who was the original subject of my search. But instead of closing the case and marking it solved, she did a little extra research and found my half-brother.

His name is Charles and he is a private investigator. If he had wanted to find his birth family, he could have done it on his own, but he was content with his life and never cared to know more about his birth family. In fact, when Patty first contacted him and explained who she was, Charles said, "Im not interested" and hung up the phone. When she called me the next day and told me what happened I was very discouraged. But she gave me his contact information and I found him on Facebook. I sent him a message, explained that I am his sister and just wanted to give him the opportunity to know me and find out about his mom. I didn't really think he would contact me, but a few days later I got the call.

He explained that after stewing over it for a while, he decided that "my parents are my parents, and I don't care to meet the woman who gave birth to me. But you are my sister. You are an innocent part of this just like I am. Plus you are the only blood I have in the world and I would like to get to know you." I was thrilled that he had a change of heart. We have been talking over the phone and on the internet a few times a week and we are forming a relationship. He is happy to know the circumstances behind his birth, but still has no desire to meet our birth family.

I, on the other hand, am planning to get on a plane in just a few days to head out to Washington and meet my aunts and uncles and several of my cousins. They have welcomed me with open arms and after corresponding on the internet and over the phone for the past few months, I feel like I already know them. I can't wait to meet them in person. I won't be meeting my birth mother this trip, however. She lives in California and I don't think either of us is ready for that yet. I also found out that my birth father passed away a few years ago, and his wife is also deceased. He died of a heart attack, and though I am disappointed that I will not get to meet him, I will eventually meet my other siblings and learn about him that way.

The one missing piece in this puzzle is my brother. I don't even know his name yet, and Patty and I are working in partnership to find him. I hope one day I will get to meet him and see if we look alike. We are full-blooded siblings, after all. For now, though, I am overjoyed with the progress I have made.

To Patty and Search Quest America, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. To others in my shoes I would say... don't discount the possibilities. If you are like me and feel that searching for your birth family is like taking a shot in the dark, do it anyway. It boggles my mind to think that a few months ago, all I knew was my birthday and that I was born in San Jose, California. Patty has truly been a miracle worker, and without the help of Search Quest America, my reunion would still be just a distant dream. Move forward with optimism and you will be surprised what comes your way. Sandy.

(Written by Mica Burton on Sandy's behalf.)

Client ID#238713
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