How To Find Compassion In Adverse Circumstances
A woman discovers the gift and healing power of motherhood on her search for her birth mother.
After the passing of my parents who adopted me, there was a greater desire to search for my birth mother. Over the course of two decades, I would waiver between feeling compelled to find her or completely unmotivated. Embarking upon this journey required me to visit a new portal of emotions I had not yet explored.
For so many years, I had longed to become a mother. During my first pregnancy, I had a miscarriage after two months. This was a terrible loss for me. I felt from the beginning that something was amiss in the pregnancy. However, seven months later, much to my delight, I was carrying a child once again and a serene calmness filled my soul. During this time, I was preoccupied with nesting and wrapping up my job. As time quickly passed, I obsessively watched seasons of Northern Exposure and suddenly the due date was here (which I felt was going to be earlier than predicted). I gave birth to a baby girl! This was the most profound and transformative experience in my life, as she became my first blood relative. During this period of time while raising our daughter, an indescribable feeling of love and joy that my heart and mind never experienced before filled my entire soul.
The years that followed were filled with birthdays, holiday celebrations, school days, friends and play dates surrounded by loving groups of family and friends. With each passing day and night I delighted in the rapid changes and growth of our precious daughter. Her presence illuminated the world for us.
As we approached her sixth birthday, my husband and I separated, followed by a divorce two years later. This was a very challenging time for us. On a cold Saturday in March of 2007, she was visiting her father. I was home watching television and came across a documentary about an internationally known rapper who later in life discovered he was adopted. Featured in the film was another adoptee who dedicated her life’s work to helping other adoptees search and find their birth mother, with great success! She located the musician’s birth mother and the reunion had a very positive and happy outcome. Watching this story piqued my interests. As I held the remote in my right hand and turned off the television, feelings of sadness and despair that had been lying dormant for decades rose to the surface. Instead of staying in bed, I chose to cook a meal, followed by making one of my greeting cards that included hand-made paper crafted by my daughter and I. Creating art that evening lifted my spirits, and was the perfect antidote.
During the month of June, I discovered a support group for adoptees facilitated by a therapist who was also an adoptee. After listening to some of their stories, I felt emotionally safe in the space and spoke about my experience as well. The therapist said that he believed my birth mother could still be alive and that I would have a good chance of finding her. The person he recommended turned out to be the same woman; a specialist in adoption reunions featured in the documentary I had watched in March. Kismet! About three days later, I called her and left a message. Two weeks later, she returned my call and had indicated that she was working with another adoptee. As we spoke, the spectrum of emotions ranged from excitement to uncertainty. She was both encouraging and supportive. Fortunately, I had my birth mother’s maiden name. Miraculously, within a week, she found her. Somewhere between the age of twenty-six and thirty, she met a man who she eventually married and had three children with. It was highly unlikely that she would have revealed to him relinquishing a baby girl to adoption. I spoke with my daughter, who was twelve years old at the time, my therapist, extended family and a few close friends, sharing with them that my birth mother was alive and living in the tri-state area. Everyone was aware that I was going to call her and gathered around me. Meditation and prayer were instrumental in keeping me strong and focused.
On a hot summer evening on August 14th, 2007, I sat down on my black wrought iron chair at our marble bistro table. A small flame flickered from each of the seven white tea candles which I scented with lavender oil. As my eyes slowly closed, I began to feel centered.
While sitting at the table, I began touching each key pad number methodically. I focused on my breathing, while listening to the phone ring, once, twice, three times. By the fourth ring she picked up the phone and said, hello. Clearly and in a calm voice, I confirmed that this was her. She said, yes and then asked who I was. I told her I was an adoptee, that my journey had led me to her and that I believed she was my birth mother. She began to breathe heavily and did not speak. About two minutes later she responded:
I am not her.
I hope you find her.
I just lost my son two weeks ago.
She then abruptly ended the call. I felt raw and sad inside. Tears flowed as a wound was reopened. Disappointment covered me like a cold winter chill. I stood up, walked into my daughter’s bedroom, and hugged her. I then said, goodnight, got into my bed and fell asleep. Over the next few days, I was processing what had happened and spoke about it in the adoptees group. The following week, I wrote a brief note to her, saying that I respected her privacy, but would she be willing to speak in the near future. Though I never received a response, the note was not returned to me.
Later that month, a request I had made in June from a source that was able to provide non-identifying information about my birth mother was presented to me. As I read the letter describing the situation, I cried and felt both compassion and empathy for her. She was rejected by her family while pregnant with me. The relationship with the man who was my birth father became challenging and they constantly argued and eventually terminated the relationship. Somehow, she had the wherewithal to seek help and guidance from the adoption agency who also offered housing and support during her pregnancy. Through my research and reading I discovered how during that time women in this situation were belittled, criticized, degraded, causing them to feel low self- esteem, and terrible guilt. Ultimately, many of these women would bury their feelings and the situation deep inside their psyche. I believe this is what occurred for my birth mother. Her only alternative then was to relinquish me. I can and would not want to even imagine what this was like for her. The image I have of her and what she might have looked like at that time resembles a withering flower.
In the summer of 2015, I wrote to her again, including a self- stamped addressed envelope.
She replied to me about a month later, and said, I am not her, but if you give me her name, maybe I could help you. I decided not to pursue this any further and my therapist agreed.
The holistic practitioners I worked with began to assist me in my process of transforming the anger I felt towards her into forgiveness, but this is ongoing. After all, she was the vehicle for giving me life. If ever the opportunity had presented itself, I would have thanked her. The possibility of that will now never happen, as this past winter, while on-line, I discovered she passed away during the winter. However, I do at times, imagine her standing in front of me as we talk to one another and then embrace.
We are all wired in a unique way. I believe that when I was in my birth mother’s womb, her fears and anxiety were passed along to me, but they do not define who I am today. My nature as a worrier has required me to be diligent and not let my emotions and thoughts rule over me. When I choose love, I move effortlessly, anger only holds me back. Considering that I was brought into this life under adverse circumstances, I am proud of the woman I have become. The aperture within me is expanding. This experience has helped me to form the building blocks for my spiritual practices for without them I would be unable to heal, have solace and strengthen my emotional, physical and spiritual immune system. I possess a vast and diverse spiritual history which includes practicing Reiki and various forms of meditation.
Upon reflecting about my own childhood, I remember how my mom who adopted me would talk and bring great comfort and support when something occurred that was upsetting. She taught me about compassion and love. When my daughter was seven, I picked her up from school one afternoon at 3:00 pm, and we returned to my office. She sat in the chair and began crying. I asked her what had happened. Her response was, “The teacher spoke to me and sounded mean. She was not nice, Mommy.” I continued to encourage her to express her feelings and hugged her. I also assured her that I would speak to the teacher. Then, I said, “Mommy needs to get back to work now, so try not to cry.” She then walked over to the printer and removed a piece of paper. I was typing an e-mail, when suddenly I looked up and saw my daughter sitting in the chair with a sign taped to her shirt that read, “Tears, 25 cents only.” You could see how she drew a picture of a twenty-five cent coin. I looked at her and said, “Honey, tears are expensive and you need to charge more.” This was such a profound communication that she was able to process emotionally and then bring pen to paper.
Now years later, I continue to be ever so grateful for my daughter who brings such joy to me. Her kindness, wisdom, sense of humor, love for language, writing and beauty, provide continuous inspiration. Though life has presented us with various challenges, we remain a strong team. I respect and admire who she has become as a young woman. Next year, she will graduate from college.
Writing this piece has been so cathartic, while also providing a timeline demonstrating the circle of life.