Bittersweet End to Mary's Search

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Bittersweet End to Mary's Search

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Posted: 1/4/2012
Note: Names, Identifying informaiton and details may have been altered to protect personal identities.

Aside from wanting to reunite with my birth mother, father and possible half siblings, I also have health issues that may be genetic. That's why I initiated my search years ago. This is my story.

My birth mother's name was Melinda Catelano. Doesn't she just sound beautiful? That's the first thing I thought when I learned her name for the first time. She was in her thirties and working as a secretary for my birth father. He was married and I was conceived through an extra-marital affair. My birth certificate says Melinda was living at home with her mother. It was 1958 and I was born at St. Elizabeth's hospital in San Francisco, California. I was placed for adoption through a prominent adoption agency in the area.

I had a wonderful upbringing and love my family very much. However I began developing health problems as a young adult, and first contacted the adoption agency to inquire about my birth family when I was 20 and in college. I was told all the information was sealed and they could not help me. I returned a dozen times over the years, and always got the same answer. I've never been a quitter, so I quietly started gathering information from my adoption records and other public records. I learned that my birthmother was actually from Omaha, Nebraska, and only came to California to give birth.

That led me to believe she would have gone back to Nebraska following my birth. I also learned that she had several siblings, and I began searching for families with the right last name and number of siblings in Nebraska. I started with public census records, but it was an overwhelming task and I soon grew disheartened. Years have passed. I'm now in my fifties and feel no closer to solving this case than when I was twenty years old. Each time I contact the adoption agency, I get the same line about how the records are sealed to protect my birth mother's privacy and I should just leave it alone. Yet I know the clock is ticking and if my birth mother is still alive, time is absolutely of the essence.

That's why I decided to get help from SQA. My experience working with them has been extremely positive. My case was officially started in May of 2010, and it was solved in June of the same year. My researcher kept me apprised of each stage of the search. She was also very understanding and gentle when she called to tell me that my birth mother passed away several years ago, but she had the contact information for my birth mother's two brothers and two sisters, who were excited to meet me and get to know me.

The joy of our reunion was tempered by devastating news, however. My niece Elizabeth had actually filed a consent for relinquishment form with the adoption agency. The purpose of this release was for the adoption agency to give me my birth mother's information in the event that I called to request it. I am devastated that although I visited and called the adoption agency dozens of times over the years, no one released the information to me. Had they done so, I would have been able to meet my birth mother in person rather than simply hearing stories about her second hand.

I know there are hundreds of adoptees out there who would be grateful for the opportunity to meet their birth family. However, I am filled with sorrow at the opportunity lost, and anger at the adoption agency who stood in my way and prevented me from meeting my birth mother. I'm angry that we live in a world where as an adoptee, I do not have the right to full disclosure to know where I come from, especially since this information can impact me so greatly on and emotional, spiritual, and physical level. Now that I have been reunited with my birth family, I've obtained priceless medical records that may be the missing puzzle piece that helps my doctors determine the cause of the medical issues I'm having. I only wish my story had a happier ending and I had been able to meet my birth mother just once. I would have wrapped my arms around her, told her how much I love her, and thanked her for giving me a wonderful life. What might it have meant to her to have these answers before she died?

I don't have all the answers. I don't know when my bitterness and anger will go away. But I am grateful the case is finally solved and I am grateful that SQA helped me get the answers I so desperately needed, once and for all.

written by Mica Burton on behalf of Mary, a Search Quest America client.
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