Despite my overall happy family growing up, I have always felt an absence, a black hole if you will. It was most devastating in my young adulthood and has gradually grown smaller as I have aged. I always felt I had a relationship with my birth mother, only not a face-to-face one. After all, I thought of her often and, after speaking with other women who gave up babies for adoption, I knew she must have thought about me through the years as well. I remember sometime in the early 2000’s mentioning to Jeanne that I felt that link had been severed. I winder know if it was in the fall of 2004 when my birth mother actually died?
Every adoptee responds differently to their situation and I was the one in my family who probably spent the most time actively searching. As someone working in kitchen prep (turns out restaurant work runs in the family) I never had enough money to hire a specialist. I found out that I could have “bought” an original copy of my amended birth certificate, but if I had that much cash I would have bought myself a car! And I always felt that I shouldn’t have to “buy” my own story!
So, I did what I could on my own, going to the public library in NYC once when I was traveling through, and sure enough only two babies had been born in Manhattan that day in 1954, one of them a girl listed as Baby Harrison, female, the other baby was a boy. But the hospital I was born in had since closed and I couldn’t find out where their records might have gone. Then I signed up for the National Adoption Registry and the New York State one as well ( New York is one of the few states that still has closed adoption). Once we entered the age of the Internet, I spent countless late night hours searching online for anyone who might be looking for me. Of course the names Nancy and Harrison couldn’t have been more common. A quick search on Ancestry shows only a hundred of so Fondries, Jeanne’s surname, but thousands and thousands of Harrisons.
I think my adopted sister wrote the Children’s Home Adoption agency first for her non-identifying information. Then, in my early twenties, I did as well. You always hear stories of workers accidentally or on purpose giving a tidbit of useful information but no such luck in my case. I got a pleasant typed (remember those) letter giving me a short page and a half of information about my birth mother and three pages of what I weighed at birth, what I ate, how well I slept and when I first smiled at my foster mom. Needless to say, I was disappointed.
The tiny story informed me that my birth mother was 35 at the time of my birth, from “the South”, one of five girls, Baptist with a tenth grade education, and worked as a waitress. She was tall, with brown hair and brown eyes and in good health. She was divorced and had two children, a ten year old girl and a twelve year old boy.
She told the social worker she was Pennsylvania Dutch on her fathers side and half Irish and half Cherokee on her mother’s side. She said she had known my birth father and his family for a while, as they lived in a small community. She said marriage was not a possibility. She thought he was Irish, that he was 31, in the Air Force, and had light brown hair and brown eyes. She said, and I quote, “he had beautiful wavy hair.”
My birth mother told only my father when she found out she was pregnant and came to New York so no one in her community would know about her pregnancy.
As I read this short story, I wonder if the agency just hired unemployed writers to create imaginary stories for every adoptee that wrote requesting non- identifying information about their adoption. I mean, who would really know in the end?