I gave up my daughter for adoption more than a quarter century ago, when I was a teenager. It was a closed adoption; I was not supposed to know the name of her adopters. If I wanted to learn how she was doing, I was to contact my lawyer, who would contact her family’s. Fortunately, the baby’s father spotted their last name on the adoption papers and told me. For the next few decades, I would check in on her periodically via Internet and database searches. Although she lived in the next town, I never violated her privacy by driving by her home or attempting to contact her.
A few years ago, I got contacted by my daughter’s father. He wanted to make amends, and to tell me that he had planned to get in touch with her. The amends-making part did not go well; I didn’t think he had changed that much, and the approach he mentioned seemed to completely disregard her feelings about whether she wanted to hear from him. It seemed like pretty typical behavior from him.
However, his self-absorption and entitlement made me think: why couldn’t I contact her? I had always assumed I would never see her again, and that was how I lived with the decision. I had to shut down all hope if I was going to get through the loss. But along came her biological father, who planned to sail into her life. Why couldn’t I do that, albeit with consideration for her feelings?
Eventually, we made contact, first by letter, then via email. I made it clear that this was about her being comfortable. I wanted her to know that I loved her, and that if/when she was ready, I’d love to meet her. I also told her that I’d understand if she didn’t want to. I think this helped a lot in terms of trust. (I didn’t realize it, but apparently a lot of reunions are hamstrung by the fact that one side of the equation was pushing for a meeting that the other side wasn’t ready for, or just plain didn’t want.) Fortunately, she did want to get to know me.
It turned out we had a lot in common; we both loved zombies and science fiction. There was a significant difference, of course: as a product of her generation, she was completely immersed in sci-fi, whereas my interest had always been something that I’d kept on the downlow, because it just wasn’t something that any women I knew enjoyed when I was in my teens and 20s. So she had a lot to teach me in that department.
I had a lot to tell her, too. The most important: I told her how many of the women on both sides of the family did not really take to marriage and motherhood. As good Irish Catholics, they ended up doing both, but they were happiest once those responsibilities were removed from their lives and they could operate independently. In other words, if she wasn’t feeling it, she came from a long line of women who didn’t feel it.
Eventually we met in person at a restaurant that I had always enjoyed and that she also loved, it turned out. She brought a family friend. I learned later that they had established a safe word in case she was uncomfortable: pickles. Fortunately, things went swimmingly, and pickles were never mentioned. I brought her a crocheted zombie and grim reaper, which turned out to be absolutely the perfect gifts. For our first solo meeting after that, we went to the Crime Museum in DC and compared our knowledge of serial killers and mass murderers. We were both quite impressed with each other in that area. We also went to see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which we both found enjoyable but ludicrous. (Lincoln was our favorite president, which pleased both of us, although I suspect he’s most people’s.) This year we are going to a small Comic Con in DC, and my husband has promised to go with her to a Star Trek convention. (She is a fan of the original series, which has always left me cold.)
She has met my parents and one of my brothers. I’ve met her mother (again) and her dog. She has also met my two children, both of whom adore her and proudly refer to her as their sister. She good-naturedly tolerates their worship.
It has not yet ceased to amaze me that she is a part of my life. When I gave her up, I never imagined for a minute that it would end up like this. It just goes to show that there are some things in life you can simply not predict, and that even if things look pretty grim, you don’t have to abandon all hope. Sometimes you get lucky.