It is a paradox of the writer’s life that some of her most profound experiences leave her speechless. But she must write, because that is how she makes sense of the world, so she crafts the story in bits and pieces. She drafts it in the drowsy moments before she falls asleep at night, scribbles sentences on coffee shop napkins, saves recorded thoughts on her cellphone. She puts the pieces together until she has enough for a story that makes sense, one that gives the reader just enough information to understand while also conveying the enormity of the situation. And then she puts it to paper, or to the Internet in this case, and hopes it will be well received.
I want to tell you part of the story of my experience as a birth mother. When I share that I am a birth mother, the revelation is often met with a perplexed silence. “Do you know what that is?” I ask. Almost no one does. They understand “mother,” but the qualifier throws them off. Isn’t every mother a birth mother? they wonder, and then they realize that, in fact, there are many ways to be a mother.
Twenty-seven years ago I gave birth to a beautiful boy with a perfect little round mouth, sparkling blue eyes, and soft blond hair. I am his birth mother, the mother who carried him but not the mother who rocked him to sleep at night or bandaged his wounds or picked him up from soccer practice or gave him advice about life. I made an adoption plan for him. I released him. I chose a family to become his family, to raise him and care for him. And three weeks ago, I found him.
This is the Cliff’s Notes version of the most recent developments in our story: On my birth son’s birthday, I wrote a post on Facebook indicating that I was ready to begin searching for him. I received a piece of information from a friend that helped me begin to make the connection. I reached out to the agency through which he was placed, and a social worker called him, letting him know that his birth mother wished to have contact. He friended me on Facebook and sent me a thoughtful and kind message. We have continued periodic communication through text messages since then.
When my birth son was born in 1990, it never occurred to me that I would one day be able to find him on a website, to see that he looks like me, and to piece together the story of his life. I never imagined that we would send messages to each other on our phones. And I have not really ever allowed myself to consider anything beyond what is currently happening — not a phone call or a meeting — because… Because I don’t know. Because ours is a new relationship that will continue to evolve. Because neither of us have any experience with this.
I can tell you this part of our story, but I cannot begin to convey what it’s like to see my face in another person’s. I don’t know how to explain the love I feel for someone who is, for the most part, a stranger. I also can’t tell you how difficult it is to remember the grief I felt when I held my child for the last time. And I don’t know exactly how to describe the joy that comes with knowing I made a good decision, that he is happy and successful, that I am not hated, and that I gave my birth son (to use his words) the best life a kid could have.
I want to know more about him, to sit across from him and to hear him tell his story in his own words. I want him to know me as well. But I don’t know if that’s what he wants, and I don’t know how to ask. I don’t have the words. I don’t know where to begin or how to continue.
There will be more to tell, I believe. But I am learning that some of the best stories must be told one sentence at a time, as the story unfolds and the words come to the writer.