5 years ago today, Saturday, May 7, 2011, I boarded a flight in Minot, ND….bound for Washington State and a weekend I will never forget.
I was adopted along with my younger sister. I was 3 years old and she was 18 months old when we went to live with our new mom and dad. I always knew I was adopted and when the kids teased me in elementary school, as kids will, my mom held me and soothed my tears. The kids said that my birth mom didn’t want me….I was unlovable. My mom told me that she CHOSE me and my sister and the other kids parents got stuck with them. She WANTED us from the first day she saw us. That was my mom. She always knew how to heal my hurt and make me feel loved.
Before my mom’s death she had shared with me the information our caseworker had given her…..dates of when I walked, ate, slept all night…..information that was carefully tracked by my birthmother and given to the caseworker. And on the back page was a list of three names, titled “important people in Teresa’s past”. On that piece of paper was written my birth mothers first name—Laura. My mom loved me enough to let me know the information that would eventually help me to find the answers I sought. I am sorry that she was not around when I finally found those answers, many, many years later.
A person’s story starts the day they were born, but for an adoptee the story starts the day they are adopted. And my story began when I was 3 years old. It was as if I had been dropped on this earth, at the age of 3…..out of nowhere. I longed for the answers of where I came from and why I was given away.
I have often been asked why I searched for my birth parents, did I need to find my “real” parents? My “real” parents are the couple who adopted me. My mom and dad arrived in my life when I was 3 years old, and they will always be my mom and dad. My search was more about answers, putting the pieces of a puzzle together, trying to complete that puzzle when pieces were missing….I needed and longed for those missing pieces. I wanted to know who I looked like, where I got my love of writing and reading, where I got my love of the outdoors…..and I wanted to know why my sister and I were given up for adoption. Did something happen, a tragedy perhaps? Or was it the way the kids at school said it was—that my parents did not want me or love me? I had a hole in my heart, a part of my story missing and I needed to know the answers.
I searched for years….long before the internet. And I dreamed about what it would be like when I finally found them. I knew I had a birth mom and dad and I knew I had an older sister and brother….where were they? Why were we not all adopted together? Were there more siblings?
During a trip home to Washington in the summer of 1990, I finally found a piece of the puzzle. I found my birth announcement in the archived papers at the library in the city where I was born. There in black and white was the name of my birth father, the address where he and my mother lived when I was born and the names of my older sister and older brother. I had to be sure this was the right family….so I went to the city where my sister was born and at the library there, I found her birth announcement and the same couple had given birth to her.
I finally had a last name for our parents and names for our siblings. The emotions took over and I spent the next 20 years searching for them, posting on message boards for adoptees searching, posting on message boards for lost siblings, and searching the online databases. The internet was a blessing, making it easier to search through databases from thousands of miles away. But I kept hitting brick walls…..searching for the needle in the haystack and never finding it.
I began to feel as if I would never find my siblings, my parents or my answers.
And then one day, in January 2010, my sister called me. She had messaged every person she could find on facebook with the same name as the person who had been searching for our biological father….and she got a response. I messaged the individual and she called me. She was the younger half-sister of our older siblings and yes, she knew where they were. Within minutes of hanging up the phone, my brother called me….my brother CALLED ME! I was overwhelmed with emotion. Finally, on the other end of the line was the brother I had longed for. I don’t remember what we talked about, I just remember the tears, laughter and the love…immediately.
It was a few days before I heard from my older sister and when I heard her voice on the phone, I dropped to my knees….I knew her. The connection I felt was immediate…yes, this was my big sister….the one I had longed for. We didn’t talk long….the emotions took over for both of us.
The four of us spent the next year connecting on facebook and talking on the phone. My sister and our newly found older brother managed to meet for a weekend shortly after we had all connected. And after a year of getting to know each other we finally made plans to meet in person in Washington state, all four of us. I was looking forward to this weekend and being able to see my siblings, to hug them, laugh with them and get to know them.
A couple of months before we were to meet in Washington, I received a facebook message from someone who was looking for my older sister and had seen my posts on the adoption message boards….the posts where I was looking for my siblings and my birth parents. We messaged back and forth and then talked on the phone. There were lots of emotions in that phone conversation. Suddenly we had another younger sister, and a younger brother. 2 more siblings…..6 of us, sharing the same dad. I cannot imagine the emotions she felt as she learned that she had not only the older sister she was looking for, but 2 other sisters and a brother she didn’t know about. And then, one more call, to my younger brother, excitement and emotion ruled those calls. I was thrilled to finally have some of the puzzle pieces and to have an expanding family….expanding faster than I had ever imagined. We made plans for all 6 of us to meet on Mother’s day weekend.
So, I boarded that plane on Saturday, May, 7th and flew to Washington. I arrived at the airport, got my rental car and headed to the city where I would spend the night in a hotel with my two older siblings. I was nervous and excited. I arrived at the hotel and a little while later, heard a voice in the hall….I opened the door and there they were…..my older sister and brother. We hugged, cried and laughed. We spent the night in a flurry of conversation, tears and laughter and eventually sleep came. I finally had more of those puzzle pieces and the puzzle was getting closer to completion.
The next morning, Mother’s Day, we drove to my sister’s house where she was finally united with our older sister. And then we all drove to the cabin we had rented for the weekend….a great location on a little lake where we could meet and get to know all our siblings. After arriving at the cabin we heard cars pull up and there they were, the youngest sister and brother. Lots of hugs and tears as we met for the first time.
The night flew by….conversation, tears, laughter and connecting. 3 pairs of siblings came together that night….strangers to the other pairs and yet we knew each other…..we were connected by a shared father. We spent that Mother’s day together, celebrating our expanding family.
The next day was spent hanging out at the cabin, kayaking, talking and eating. We had dinner after our youngest siblings returned to the cabin and then sat around the fire that last night together, talking, sharing stories and laughing. This was my family and I was almost complete.
I will never forget that Mother’s day weekend or the pieces of my puzzle I found. I found the two older siblings I had been missing and found 2 younger siblings I never knew about. And I am so blessed to have found them, to know them and to love them.
The first chapter of my life story was finally filling in…..and more answers would come, during that weekend and in the months that followed, as I would reunite with my biological father and find my biological mother’s family.
Those stories are for another day.
For today, I cherish the memories made that weekend, 5 years ago.