On December 27, 1965, my birthmother, Sylvia gave birth to me and never laid eyes on me. She never even got to hold me. Sylvia was an alcoholic, a married welfare mother of three, and her husband at the time was in prison. He was not my father. My father was a man she had dated briefly. Their last encounter resulted in my conception, and she never saw him again. At least, that’s what I’m told.
About 4 weeks after my birth, I was placed with my parents, Les and Jean. I was their second adopted child. I guess you could say that I had a good childhood. I most certainly have wonderful parents. I have always known and trusted that I am loved and supported by my mom and dad, and through all of the ups and downs of my life, they have been my safety and my strength. They were always up front with my brother and I about our adopted status, and always told us that they would support us if we someday wanted to search for our birth familes.
I first obtained my non-identifying information from the Children’s Home Society of Washington in 1989. At the time, I knew only what my parents had been told by the agency, not much of which was true. They had been told that my birthmother was a young, single woman who had an affair with a married man and that I was the result. My non id informed me that I had three older siblings, a sister and two brothers. It told of the rape that resulted in my conception and gave the rape as the reason for my relinquishment. It gave a cursory history of my other birth relatives on my birth mother’s side, and some scant medical information. What I still remember today, as vividly as if it were just moments ago, was the thrill of finding out that I had a sister. A sister! I wanted then to know her, and wondered frequently over the years if she knew anything about my existence. I fantasized that she would search for me and that we would someday be together. I, on the other hand, felt that I could not search for her. The revelation of the circumstances of my conception made me afraid to search, afraid that I would be rejected out of hand. I was certain that a woman who had relinquished under such circumstances would not want to be reminded of such a violent and traumatic chapter in her life.
I married in 1992, and two years later, my then-husband and I decided to start trying to have a family. Faced with the concern of not having a genetic history to pass on to any children I might have, I revisited the issue of searching, and decided that I would give it a shot. I went online for the first time that year, and through contacts I made in the Usenet newsgroup, alt.adoption, I got my first real break – I met Shea Grimm. Shea told me that the laws in Washington had been revised a year earlier to allow for the release of first names and ages of birthparents. Armed with this information, I called CHS again, and requested first names and ages. A few days later, the social worker called me back, and told me that my birthmother’s name was “Sylvia” and that my birth father’s name was “Pete.” She told me that my birthmother was 26 at the time of my birth, which would have placed her year of birth in either 1939 or 1940. I sent the information off to Shea, and a friend of hers included it in a database search request. Soon after, Shea emailed me a list of Sylvia’s in Washington and Oregon whose birthdates fell within that time frame. I was daunted by the sheer numbers – there were well over a hundred. For another two years, I thought of ways I could approach such a large number of strangers, and every time I got close to doing it, I stopped, overwhelmed by what seemed an impossible task. Finally, unable to bring myself to act on the information I had, I hired a Confidential Intermediary. While I don’t like the Intermediary system as a forced means of making contact, without having the free time to conduct a search, hiring a CI meant that my search might move faster. I was very fortunate in that the CI I hired, Carole, is an ethical and dedicated searcher. In less than two months, she had located my birthmother and made contact, keeping me updated on her progress the entire way. Finally, in November of 1996, I received that call I had been waiting for: My birthmother had been contacted, and was “thrilled” to be able to finally meet me. Carole was waiting for a signed release from my birthmother to give me her contact information, but Sylvia couldn’t wait for the mail. She pestered Carole mercilessly until Carole relented and gave her my phone number. I came home from work the next night to find a message from her on my answering machine.