I had never given the thought of searching for my birth parents much consideration as a child, teen, or young adult. Of course, being the curious creature I am, at times, I had wondered about my birth parents. I wondered who they were, what they looked like, just as most adopted children will do. At some point, I am sure I had asked about them. I don’t recall if, or what, I was told. I just remember thinking no one knew anything about them. If no one knew anything about my birth parents, I suppose, I just accepted that I would never know either. It was no big deal. That’s just how it was. As a child, why would I think anything else?
One day, I remember my Mom sending me to find my birth certificate in their box of important papers. As I was looking through the box, I came across a green piece of paper in one of the file folders. That piece of paper was from Hope Cottage. Being the curious, little kitten, that I am, and was, as you might imagine, I, of course, had to read it, especially, when I notice that it had my name on it. Contained in the green paper, printed in black ink, were the generic details of my birth. It had my weight, length at time of birth, and general, generic details about my birth parents, such as, hair color, eye color, weight, height, an ethnicity. Basically, it was the condensed version of what I would receive, years later, in my non-ID information. It was nothing, and it was everything, to a curious, preteen adoptee, which believed no one, knew anything about where, or who, she had come from, and hadn’t really, ever given it much thought.
As a hip preteen of the 70’s, I, of course, knew where babies came from. I understood enough what I had been told about adoption to logically understand that a stork hadn’t really drop me off at the doorstep of my parent’s home, or the doorstep of Hope Cottage. I had been told the story of how the agency called one day to tell my parents there was a baby girl in need of a home, how they had gone to see me, and obviously, brought me home. Yes, as a preteen, Logically, I understood how babies were made, where they came from, and how families became families, but that was not how I had become part of a family. I knew I had another mother and father. My parents had explained it to me. I was adopted. In my child’s mind, was that really all that important?
I don’t recall a specific place and time when my parents sat me down and explained adoption to me. It seems I just always knew I was adopted, and as much as a child can, understood what that meant. It wasn’t, however, until I found that single piece of green paper that the reality of what being adopted meant became real to me. I hadn’t been searching for information about my birth parents. I hadn’t even been thinking about them. At the time, they were nothing more than a curious enigma in the depths of my mind. At that young age, why would they be anything more?
All of a sudden, there I was, sitting in a closet, looking for my birth certificate, which my Mom had asked me to do, and their they were, my birth parents, looking back at me through a little green sheet of paper. My birth parents had just become real, well, at least, as real as knowing descriptions of them could make them in my child’s mind. I had just unintentionally been introduced to the terms birth mother and birth father, as well as, a confirmation that my birth mother was “unwed”. Even at that young age, I understood the stigma that went along with the notation of “unwed” on that paper. As a child, was that really supposed to mean anything to me?
As a preteen, I was fully aware that it was wrong for girls to have sex before they were married. I understood that girls, who had sex before they were married, and became pregnant, well, what did I really know as a preteen, other than it was not a good thing? All I really knew was what I had been told. I had never given any thought, as far as I remember, to just why I had been given up. Maybe I was just too young? Maybe it didn’t’ matter? Maybe I didn’t care? Maybe I didn’t want to think about it, and I guess, wasn’t going to start then. The information I found on that paper had just brought my birth parents to life, at least, in my mind. That was good enough for me. As a child, the why’s of it all just really didn’t matter. Why would it? As a young child, was I really capable of understanding such a thing?
As I sat in the floor of the closet, staring at that little piece of green paper something inside of me began to awaken. It was a feeling that I could not find a word for. It was feelings I didn’t understand, but it most definitely evoked some kind of feeling in me. Butterflies in my stomach are what come to mind. I had found the answers to questions that I hadn’t realized were that important to me. This was exciting, like finding a hidden treasure chest. I was scared too, but of what, and why? Why hadn’t anyone ever told me about this? Was I not supposed to know? Was I going to be in trouble for finding this? Were my parents going to be mad at me? I certainly didn’t want to upset them, or for them to be mad at me. Exhilarated by this treasure chest of new knowledge, And terrified because it, for some reason, felt very threatening to me, I put the paper back, found my birth certificate, closed the box, shut the door, and decided that what I had just found would be my secret.
I’m not sure why I felt the need to keep my find a big secret, but the longer I kept my secret, the angrier I became. Why hadn’t anyone told me about this? How could they keep this from me? Needless to say, as my anger grew, my secret didn’t stay a secret for long. I went to the closet, found the paper, and took it to my mother, demanding to know why she hadn’t told me about it. She asked where I had found it. She hadn’t remembered having it. I don’t recall what she said. Whatever it was, it must have satisfied me for the time being, and we returned the paper to the box. No big deal, and the subject never came up again, but it was most definitely not forgotten, not by me that’s for sure.
I don’t recall how much time went by before, unbeknownst to my parents, I sneaked back to the closet, retrieved that valuable little green piece of paper, and hid it in my room. It wasn’t that my parents had ever, intentionally, kept that information a secret from me. They were always very open about my adoption, so why I felt like I had to sneak into the closet and steal a piece of paper is a bit mind-boggling.
I can’t really say if I truly understood at such a young age, what exactly that paper represented to me. Did I somehow comprehend that it was the only connection to my actual birth, and all that goes with that. Did I somehow understand it somehow connected me to my birth parents?
What it meant at the time, I can’t really say. It was just something that felt important to me. That little green piece of paper was somehow a part of me, though I didn’t really understand why. It was nothing, and it was everything. It was something I needed, even if I didn’t know why at the time. Even after finding that paper, I don’t recall ever considering the thought of someday finding my birth parents. That paper, and the information contained within, was enough for me.
I never knew if my parents realized I had taken that paper from the folder I found it in. No one ever mentioned it if they had. The subject had never come up again, until last year, when my Mother asked if I still had it. I was a little shocked that she would remember, much less ask about it over 30 years later. Maybe they did know, and maybe they understood just how important that information was to me. The answer to my Mother’s question was yes. Over 30 years after my discovery, and after reuniting with both of my birth parents, I still have that little green piece of paper. It is still nothing but a sheet of paper with some information, most of which I found out to be incorrect, and it is still everything too. It is part of me, part of my story. It was, and is, nothing and everything to this adoptee.