With Mary

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Back to the Fold: My Irish Clan

"Everyone will know about you after the wedding on Sunday!"

My birth cousin got married the weekend after Mom, Aunt Kathy, and I met.  I asked Mom to keep the attention on the beautiful wedding and not announce our reunion until after the ceremony. The family flew in from all over the country for the wedding, so everyone gathered in Aunt J's room Sunday night for one last visit.  Mom likes to say that the Irish family is so big that they "bring the party" wherever they go! Out of the chatter, Mom raised her voice to get everyone's attention. Nervously, she fiddled with her hair and shirt as she said, "I have an announcement.  I had little girl when I was 22. And she found me." The relatives gasped! Mom went on to tell them about me and her new-found grandchildren, saying that Conner's red hair and freckles could earn him a cover photo on an Irish magazine. According to mom, after seeing my picture the Auntie's exclaimed, "She's got my smile!" They were so happy for us and- get this- for them! Being so focused on Mom, I didn't fully consider the relative's reaction. I was joyously taken aback by the love that started pouring in!

The week after the wedding, each Aunt sent me an emotional Welcome to the Family letter/email.  I couldn't believe it!  I really did not expect such an amazing outpouring of love and support.  With a tear-streaked face fixed in a perma-grin, I danced on air all week!  Who would of thought?  Everyone warned me about how wrong things could go with a reunion.  No one warned me that things could go so right!  Suddenly, I was enveloped in a gigantic, tightly-woven, Irish Catholic family, who saw my reentry as nothing short of a miracle! The Clan folded me right back in. Below are a few sentiments:

"We, in your large,  extended McGuire family are so excited to know that you are one of us!!  As the news is spreading,  more & more interest and joy is generated."

"Kelly, please know we feel blessed to have you and your family in our lives.  We are forever grateful that you were adopted by a wonderful family and can never thank them enough for giving you a happy life.  I pray that your mother and father are at peace with you seeking out your birth mother and family.  We know we can never replace them in your life.  Will you please give your parents our love and gratitude and assure them we hope only to enrich our lives through the union of our families.  I am hearing plans for a family reunion this summer in Illinois and hope your parents will also come to meet us and celebrate the miracle that is you."

To think that I could have missed out on all of this love had I listened to the naysayers and caved into fear.  Now we were together and had much catching up to do!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Part 6: The Visit

"My sister and I are flying to your house in three weeks!"

In a mere twenty one days a life-long dream would come true! I would finally lay eyes on someone who looks like me, who may act like me, who may talk like me.  My birth mom. I had to get ready!

In amusement, my husband watched me flitter around the kitchen chattering a million miles a minute about everything needing to get done before the visit.  Flowers were planted, floors were mopped, fresh linens were purchased, dust bunnies were shooed out of obscure nooks and crannies.  The list went on and on.  The week before the big day, my "perfect girl syndrome" went into overdrive.  Out came...The Toothbrush.  Yes, I cleaned my kitchen cabinets with a toothbrush!  Strangely enough, cleaning helped me relax and process the coming event. With the house in order, hair done, teeth professionally cleaned, I was ready.  Bring on the visit!

Was I nervous?  Yes.  What would it be like to meet for the first time?  Would we cry our eyes out? My dear friend, Renee*, bought me water proof mascara just in case!  Would our conversations feel stilted and awkward?  Cleaning, running, and tons of Hail Mary's helped calm my nerves, but some anxiety still remained as I went to pick her up at the hotel early Friday morning.

"I wouldn't miss this for the world!"  said my husband as he double checked the charge on his phone, preparing for an emotional photo shoot.  At nine twenty Friday morning, I knocked on birth mom's hotel door and -BAM- there she was!  Shrieks of laughter rang out through the hotel, as we bear hugged, then separated to get a good look at each other, then hugged again, and laughed some more.  I was surprised by her stature. She was so petite.  Hugging an adult smaller than me is not something I am used to.  We shared a similar body-type, though she was much smaller and in great shape from running (erg!). Without thinking, I turned to my husband and said, "Consider yourself lucky! This what you get to look forward to as we age!"  

In a joyous glaze, we drove back to my house for brunch.  After my special frittata and a home tour, we settled on the back porch with coffee and told our stories.  Mom and her sister said my investigative skills were so good that the CIA should hire me.  Aunt Karol*, the one who took care of mom and me during the last months of pregnancy, kept her compassionate,wise-old-owl-like eyes on me the entire time, which felt like she was peering right into my soul.  Next, mom told her story of The Pizza Line phone call!  Later, Aunt Karol told the story of mom living in her attic and the adoption process.  Over the weekend, I would finally learn about my earliest days on the planet and how I came to be placed with my incredible adoptive parents.  In my opinion, the story is a total miracle.

Apparently, Aunt Karol worked for Catholic Charities before her own children were born.  Turns out her boss, Corneille,* grew up with my adopted Dad, so they knew each other very well.  Additionally, unbeknownst to me, my adoptive mom was Cornielle's secretary at one time.  So, when, my birth mom faced this pregnancy, Aunt Karol sprang into action, reaching out to Corneille for help. Aunt Karol and Corneille were close, so she knew that Corneille would take great care of her sister's baby, placing the baby (me) with people she knew and respected personally- my Mom and Dad!  Months later, when I shared this story, my adopted Dad said, "Wow, Aunt Karol is like a miracle worker!"  

Aunt Karol and Mom were so cute the whole weekend.  Aunt Karol would pull me aside and tell me little bits of information when mom was in the other room.  Randomly, she'd sidle up next to me for a little hug and "tushie pat."  We were tight. The tushie pat proved it!  Mom and I did have a bit of nervous energy so we stayed busy by walking the dog, running, prepping food, and my favorite, looking over old family photos.  A bit of relaxation came when the children were done with school.

The three of us drove to pick up my kids from school after a lovely run along the greenway. The kids didn't know all of us were coming and I'm sure they didn't expect to see us in our running clothes. How would they react?  Over the previous months, my red-headed son had grown annoyed with the search, as my face was constantly in front of the computer.  My twelve year old daughter pretended to "get it," but I wasn't convinced. Now, they would meet their birth grandmother for the first time at school.  My daughter was sweet as ever, demurely greeting us and quietly walking us to my son's classroom.  My son's reaction upon seeing all of us took me totally by surprise.

It was as if a light bulb went on. He "got it"... in a big way.  Suddenly, this woman I had talked about for so many months was real and standing right in front of him.  My Mom. His grandma. Forty-five minutes later, he finished touring her around his classroom, showing her his portfolio of work. They were tight.  Her attentiveness proved it.  Surely, he saw himself in her, as they looked so much alike standing side by side.  Finally, we knew where he got his red hair. Conner* didn't stop showing off for Nana the entire weekend. He took her to the skate park to demonstrate his skills only to be shown up by Nana's prowess on the scooter.  Later that night, he created a nightclub, dance party scene in the living room. For the first time, I saw Conner break dance and do The Worm.  Who was this kid? My husband and I have never seen him this animated for anyone...ever.  But, the real shock came when Nana did the dance for "Gangnum Style!"  Conner's jaw dropped in utter awe! This was his kind of grandma!

The weekend came to a close much too quickly, but I knew our relationship was on the right path.  I'll never forget dropping Mom and Aunt Karol off at the hotel, when mom turned and said,

See you soon, honey.  I love you!"

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Search Part 5: One Bead at a Time

Let go.  It's out of your hands.  Giver her time.

These words echoed in my head as I drove to see my family counselor, something my case worker strongly suggested just in case the situation "went south."  It had been nearly a year since I had visited Dr. H.  Her sage parenting advice got me through countless issues with both children. Now the tables were turned and today was about me. How could I squeeze all of this exciting news into just an hour?

Dr. H. gives off a warm and jovial feeling much like Mrs. Claus.  Over the years her easy, hearty laugh put me at ease and gave me confidence to tackle whatever parenting task seemed challenging at the time. Today, after bounding into her office and telling the story in a flourish of great detail, a serious look fell upon her face that I did not expect.  Collecting her thoughts for a moment, she asked me to take a step back to examine just who we were dealing with here, so that I could keep my emotions in check.  Given the little information we knew, together we created a portrait of a birth mother who seemed to be fiercely independent: 1. Lived as a single lady in Africa for decades 2. Still worked but was eligible for retirement 3. Still provided dinner for her grown family (remember the pizza line?). Tread carefully, Kelly, Dr. H. advised.  In her opinion, my birth mom seemed like someone who thrived on control.  Nothing like surprise contact from your birth daughter to throw your life right out of control!  

Knowing me too well for my own comfort, she went to outline my control freak, Type A qualities.  See the potential problem with two Type A gals in the middle of an emotionally wrought situation?  I had to be calm and patient.  Calm and patient?!  Me? Not in my DNA, I blasted!  Well that finally got laugh out of our Dr. H.  She replied that at least I now knew where my drive came from!  Once again, her face turned stern, as she gave me a bit of homework.  I never liked homework and I certainly didn't like this assignment.  She said, "Kelly, I don't know what your spiritual beliefs are or how in touch you are with your spiritual side, but it's time to connect with a higher power." 

"Seriously?" I whined. I have avoided my spiritual skepticism for so many years and now I have to work on reconciliation? This sounded like a lot of work.  She assured me that I could do it, that I HAD to do it.  Wisely, she went on to explain that my current situation was so big emotionally, that having a spiritual place to "put" my anxieties, worries, fears was essential.  From this point on, I could not control the outcome and was forced to embrace life's ambiguity.  According to Dr. H., prayer would help relieve the stress of living with all of the if's and maybe's headed my way. Not until I outlined my prayer plan was I free to leave her office.  Growing up Catholic, I agreed to say the Rosary daily. To my great surprise, Dr. H. then admitted that she too was Catholic and said the Rosary daily!  She even suggested I attend a special Stations of the Cross told from Mary's point of view.  We shared a comfort in considering God in the feminine.  Before leaving, Dr. H. gave me one last bit to think about:  "Be like Mary.  How did Mary act when Jesus was suffering?  Calm and supportive, right?  Be like Mary."

Even though I had my work cut out for me, I followed orders, dug out my Rosary from an old jewelry box, and started a new morning routine of having coffee with Mary.  I'd get up at six in the morning and say the Rosary while everyone slept and the coffee brewed.  I did feel better.  I prayed that birth mom was okay, that she would say YES to us, and that her sister was comforting and advising her.  I prayed to my deceased birth grandfather and grandmother that they would intercede on our behalf.  I prayed for open hearts and acceptance from my brother and sister and aunts and uncles.  Who knew how they would react?  Did they even know about me?  Praying daily gave me confidence that I could handle the outcome. I searched out of love with a forgiving heart in hopes that I could lighten whatever burden birth mom carried with her over the years since our separation.  Would that love be reciprocated?  All I could control was saying another Hail Mary.

One week later, it came.  The letter (well email) arrived!  My kids and my husband huddled up in our bed while I read it first to myself and then to them.  Happily the letter was long and full of good news!

Yes, she was excited and wanted to meet in person soon!  Yes, she was relieved to know that I was alive and raised by great parents (lots of concern expressed for my parents).  She went on to explain a bit about her life and my birth brother and sister.  No, nobody in the family knew about me expect for her oldest sister.  How to break the news to everyone would take some thinking.  The letter explained my Irish roots and plus my birth dad's!  There was his name printed right there in black and white. Whoa.  While it was not general practice to name the father in those days, she really wanted to.  She marveled at our similarities, especially regarding painting and running, two of her passions. Emotionally, I kept myself together until she explained the day of my birth.

..." You were born right on time and absolutely beautiful!  You had very light reddish blond hair.  I saw you through a glass window.  It was hard to tear myself away from the window as I looked at you.  They would not let me hold you. It was hard to leave the hospital without you."

Still chokes me up.

More letters would follow, she assured me, and they did.  Over the next eight weeks, we got to know each other slowly, sharing long, thoughtful emails every other day.

Opening each letter was like a Christmas gift.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Search Part 4: When You Least Expect It...

Through the power of Google, I found birth mom living in Illinois, working as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.  Still working? Illinois?  Why would she choose to live in Illinois?  Then, I remembered my Facebook family tree and recalled a few family members living in that state.  Using tax records and People Search, I determined that she was living near her oldest sister.  My non ID report explained that mom's oldest sister took care of her during her pregnancy.  She was the only other sibling who knew about me. My gratitude and love for this mysterious Aunt was enormous.  After all, by taking care of mom, she really was taking care of me too.  She took care of both of us, which was sweet beyond measure!  I couldn't wait to thank her.  Still thinking it best to have my case worker act as my intermediary, I nudged her back into action.

My case worker sent certified letters to two addresses where I thought mom lived. When another week passed in silence, I asked her to send a letter to mom's sister's house.  My poor case worker!  I'm sure she had other work to do, but we were so close; I had to stay on her case.  Well, she forgot to send the letter. The following Monday, I did what I told myself I would not do.  Admitting this is hard.  Yep, I called mom's office. Knowing that I'd have to leave a message with the receptionist, made it a little easier, but I still practiced what I'd say a few times before pushing the numbers.  Here's how my message went:  "Hi, I'm trying to get in touch with *** about an upcoming reunion.  Could you have her call Kelly at ******* please?"

An upcoming reunion... I should say!

Apparently, while I was leaving this message at mom's work, my case worker called mom's sister's house.  A man answered.  A man? My case worker explained that she had been trying to reach *** with no luck.  Do you know what he said?  Get this: "Oh yes, you'll never reach *** without her cell number.  Here is it is."  Bless his heart.  He just gave her cell number out to a total stranger... thank goodness!  The moment I heard this news was electrifying.

Call her, call her, call her, I implored my poor, overworked and underpaid case worker.  When?  When are you going to call her?  Did you call her yet?  She promised to call birth mom THAT night.  Come on... CALL HER!

"Okay, Kelly, I'm calling now and I'll call you right back."  

Aaaaaaaaaaa, the waiting was almost over.  What would she say?  Would she freak out?  Surely, she'll freak out.  Poor gal is about to get the phone call of her life and doesn't have a clue that it's coming. Bless her. I hoped to heavens that her sister is around to help her process the event with a jug of wine!

"Okay, Kelly, she was happy for the call!  She asked if you were okay or if you were you sick?  (Nurse Practitioner after all).  She answered the phone while picking up pizza for dinner, so the call was rushed!  I gave her your email address and said that you were excited and- no, not angry.  She was afraid that you might be angry.  Kelly, from here you have to let go.  Give her space.  It might take a day, a week, a month or more until she feels ready to contact you.  I feel good about the call though, like she will make contact.  Her voice was very pleasant."

Let go.  Surprisingly enough, letting go felt GREAT!  I did my part.  She knows that I'm alive and okay and and not at all angry with her.  I can live with this and only this if I have to.  Relief and peace washed over me.  I slept like a baby that night.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Search Part 3: The Search Angels

Waiting one week for the microfilm to arrive felt like an eternity.  Feeling frustrated at this point, I thought, what else can I do?  What clue am I missing?  THEN, I remembered the search angel website I reached out to back in June.  I never sent them my non ID information, as I got caught up with Catholic Charities.

Late one Friday night in January, I found Gary's email address and sent him everything I had been working on.  All of my spreadsheets, my non ID info, websites I had scoured.  I wanted the Angels to see how hard I was trying on my own.  Gary took all of my research and emailed it out to all his volunteers.  When I woke up the next day, I had at least ten emails from five or more different search angels who were working together, trying to crack my case.  It was outrageously exhilarating to be a part of their communications.  All day long on Saturday, we worked the case, coming up with this name or that name. Nothing fit, but I knew these folks were on it!  

Sunday morning.  Still no answer.  At noon, right before I hit the trail for a two hour run, I decided to check my email one more time.  And there is was...

"I found the family.  MCGUIRE."

The angels were positive about the match, confirmed by two family obituaries.


I let the name roll around my tongue as I said it over and over again, savoring every vowel, every consonant.  I finally knew my name.  On a cloud, I ran those two hours, imagining this mysterious Irish family and my amazing mom.

After my run, I had more GREAT news waiting for me.  The search angels found my mom and her siblings.  They listed their names, birth dates, and place of residence.  Suddenly, my eyes caught my original name on the sibling list, which meant I had a namesake!  Next to her name was her birth date-same as mine! Dancing around the kitchen, I shouted, "My Aunt and I share a birthday!" So special. Great news kept coming with each email I opened.  Gary found Facebook links for the relatives. Seeing people who look like me for the first time was thrilling.  My smile was everywhere! My nose and cheeks too!  Scouring Facebook pages for family members, I determined family branch groups. I found most of my cousins, then my SIBLINGS!  Mind-blowing.  After confessing to my case worker the discovery my family name, our teamwork to find my birth mother doubled.  All of my friends were enlisted to help as well.

In the first week, my friends and family found loads of exciting information about my birth mom.  My runner friends found race results.  Mom was/is a runner?  She ran at least three marathons in her late forties. My brother figured out the type of work she did with the government and determined that much of her career was spent in AFRICA.  Africa in the seventies?  This woman was a trailblazer. Not surprising considering the 1960's newspaper articles found by the search angels, which illustrated her early nursing career and political work with the Democratic party.  She was so beautiful in her nurses cap and so accomplished.  Every tidbit of information found felt like a Christmas present.

All online research pointed to birth mom living in a particular east coast city, but all of my case worker's calls and letters went unanswered.  A month of silence.  The silence made me consider that mom might be living somewhere else. Interestingly, I never took the silence negatively.  I never thought that she might not be answering on purpose.  My glass was half full, my attitude postive.  But where was she?

Once again, late one Friday night when I should have been out on a date with my husband, I obsessively searched the web, typing my mom's name many different ways with many different key words, using various search engines.  I did this for HOURS.  After who knows how long, I hit an unexpected match.  A PDF brochure for a fundraising gala in Illinois came up on the Google search. Why in world would mom's name be associated with this seemingly random document?  With interest piqued, I downloaded the PDF, something I normally do not do (too impatient). Sure enough. There was my birth mom's name listed with a medical practice.  The medical practice was a sponsor for the gala.

I did it!  I found her!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Search Part 2: Competition to Find Birth Mom

Happy Anniversary!  Yes, one year ago today, I met my birth mother and her sister in person.  Before meeting we had exchanged numerous emails, but never talked on the phone.  In fact, she wondered if I had a southern accent.  Only after a glass or two of Merlot, I replied!  Naturally, the anticipation was high.  Before I jump to the actual meeting, I'll touch on how it all came together so beautifully.

While my case worker searched for my birth mom, I did as well.  Being a competitive person, my goal was to crack the case before the professional!  I catalogued the schools attended by each sibling, estimated when each sibling graduated from high school, requested class lists from those schools, combed through online year books, all in an attempt to find an Irish sounding matching name.  This process was tedious beyond belief, but incredibly compelling.  As I mentioned in the last post, half of the non ID information I received from Catholic Charities was incorrect, but I didn't know that at the time.

In early November, my case worker confirmed that my birth mom was alive.  Phew.  She estimated contact time to occur by Thanksgiving. Given the number of siblings living in the area, locating my birth mom should be easy. Two weeks later, my case worker said that she made contact!  I was too excited at the time to ask how she made contact.  My Type A self simply thought, "okay, I'll hear from her in a couple of days!" Sadly, weeks and weeks went by in silence.

Feeling a bit down, I finally asked my case worker to explain her strategy for making contact.  I nearly fell over when she said that she simply left birth mom a Facebook message.  That's it, I thought. My case worker went on to explain that after finding a phone number, she had started leaving vague messages for birth mom, like, "Hi, this is Cathy*.  Please call me when you get a chance."  WHAT! Birth mom is not going to call her back!  At this point my Type A nature went into overdrive.  It was time to take this into my own hands.  I did not fire my case worker, as I did want her to be the intermediary once I found my birth mom, but I obsessively resumed searching online.

Friends and family gave me new search ideas, along with much appreciated support along the way. My brother in law energized me with the idea of searching cemetery records. My non ID info gave me an idea of when my grandmother died and the report listed her first name.  I sat for HOURS combing through online cemetery records, looking in vain for "Jitterbug Mary" (her nickname).  I mean HOURS. When I exhausted this avenue, I considered requesting a death report from the coroner's office.  However, my Pathologist friend said that such a report would be nearly impossible to obtain. Erg, another dead end.  So I moved on to searching obituaries.  Ancestry.com told me that without a last name, finding grandma's obit. would be nearly impossible.  Undeterred, I befriended my local librarian and ordered microfilm of the newspaper for the year she died, prepared to read every issue until I found her listing.  Later, I found out that my search would have been futile, as the death year in the report was...you guessed it...wrong.  Luckily, a giant break through occurred the week I waited for the microfilm to arrive!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Search Part 1: Non Identifying Information Arrives

One afternoon in August, while impatiently waiting to receive my non id information, I got an exciting call  from my case worker.  She said that my file contained "a load" of information which was pretty unusual and she wanted to discuss it with me before writing up the official report.  I danced around the room!  A load of information?  This was beyond thrilling!  I picked up the phone to hear the sweet voice of my case worker share a treasure trove of information from my birth mother.  This really IS love, I thought.  My birth mother loved me enough to leave me this record.

Growing up my adopted mom told me a story about my origins ever since I could talk.  I made her repeat this story constantly even as an adult.  She said that Catholic Charities could not tell her much because my birth mother lived nearby.  She said that my birth mother's father was a doctor and that she came from a "good" family.  She was most likely a teenager.  For forty years, my vivid imagination turned this tiny seed of information into a grand story about a beautiful young girl- probably a cheerleader- caught in a mess, needing to give up her baby, spending her entire life pining for me, wanting to know if I was okay.  Even as a child, I was determined to bring us together, to relieve her pain, and make her proud.

My dreams of this beautiful young girl, who probably went on to become a Joanie Mitchell-like hippie of the sixties and seventies, were muddled when my file was read aloud that August afternoon.  She was not a teenager.  She twenty four.  TWENTY FOUR.  She was not a hippie, but a well respected nurse with several degrees at her young age!  My birth father, the report said, was in dental school.  DENTAL SCHOOL!  These were no slackers.  A wave of "I'm not worthy" washed over me.  I haven't achieved enough.  Now what?  Wisely, I chose to push those negative thoughts away and focus on the present, losing myself in the details of my birth mother's life as outlined in the report.

The report told me that I was one hundred percent Irish AND Catholic. My birth mother grew up with seven other siblings.  The report gave information about her parent's and siblings:  their job, or area of study, schools they attended. GET OUT, I thought!  I have so many aunts, uncles, and cousins to meet. Later, the report outlined my birth and a tiny bit of medical information.  In all, it was a four page story of my original family as well as my birth mother's background, professional interests and struggles at that time; her mother had just passed away.  The compassion I felt for this accomplished woman who had lost her mother and then lost me was deep.

Months later, when my birth mother and I met and read the report together, she corrected numerous errors.  She confirmed my suspicion that I never could have found her based on the hints provided in the report as most of them were incorrect.  I had tried though, spending countless hours sifting through online resources, searching in vain to locate my lost mom and family.  More on that in the next blog!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Nature Versus Nurture: Zelig

"Sociology in Film," a class I took at the University of Georgia, examined the Woody Allen movie, Zelig. The main character, Leonard Zelig, is an enigma who transforms his actions and appearance, emulating famous people in an effort to be well-liked.  Midway through screening the movie, I recall- twenty five years ago- feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious.  Why?

Subconsciously, I believe I have spent my whole life in preparation of meeting my birth mom.  Having no idea of what she would be like, I became interested in a wide variety of activities and people.  I became good at many things, but not great at any one thing.  Depending on my current circle of friends (or boyfriend), my interests would change.   One year, I might learn to paint. Another year, I might really love hiking.  One year, I finally learned to play guitar.  While I viewed my Zelig experience as positive, after all, I learned so many new things, Woody Allen seemed to make fun of Leonard Zelig, the human chameleon.  Suddenly I questioned my core personality.  Who I am, really?

As an adoptee, "who am I" is a BIG question with no clear answer.  Before reuniting with my birth mom, my genetic life was a complete mystery.  Living with this mystery was not necessarily a negative one.  When home life became tense, I could live in my fantasy world where I imagined my birth mom like a fairy princess with long flowing hair, a radiant smile, and endless patience. Even as a small child, I wanted her to like and approve of me... to love me. Could it be that becoming Zelig in childhood was my strategy to ensure a successful reunion as an adult?  We have had a successful reunion and do share many common interests.  Nature versus nurture?  Hard to say, but fascinating to ponder.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In Favor of Pennsylvania HB162

Dear Senators,

On behalf of myself and all Pennsylvania adoptees, I implore you to pass HB162.  
This time last year, after searching for twenty five years, I met my birth mother for the first time.  It was glorious and has been ever since.  Her LARGE, Irish Catholic family embraced me with open arms, even hosting a forty person family reunion in my honor last summer.  Happily, I now have so many aunts, uncles, and cousins that keeping track of everyone is a joyous challenge!  

I cannot tell you how relieved and PROUD I am to know my heritage not only for myself but for my children.  My eight year red-headed son now knows the origin of the bushy crop atop his head; he looks just like my birthmother, now lovingly called Nana.  The bond HE has forged with his new Nana is beyond precious.  

During the committee hearings (I watched the tape), Catholic Charities stated that ACT 101 is all adoptees need to access non identifying, medical information.  As a Catholic Charities adoptee who just went through their process twelve months ago, please allow me to offer a bit of feedback.  The medical information in my file was scant at best, as the information was gathered forty five years ago and has not been updated.  How would it be updated?  How would my birthmother ever know about ACT 101, especially since she had moved out of state. 

My birth mother is a well-educated Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who certainly would have updated my file had she ever known it was permissible.  It is my opinion that the culture of shame and secrecy that drove adoption practices in the 1950's and 60's kept my birth mother from ever even considering updating my file. Ironically, my birthmother and two of my aunts are breast cancer survivors. It is such a relief to know my medical history and it is still unfolding.

I am slowly discovering that dyslexia runs in the family.  Both of my children are challenged by dyslexia and it is a relief to know we are not alone. Even more importantly, my children can now look up to family heroes who have overcome dyslexia, earning advanced degrees and excelling in various professions. Learning the life stories of my birth family enriches our lives, but it does not live in a file.  The stories unfold over time as our relationships grow.

HB162 is NOT about search.  It IS about equal access to personal history and TRUTH.  Obtaining my non identifying information from Catholic Charities cost me one hundred dollars.  Many adoptees cannot afford that fee.  When HB162 passes, adoptees will pay ten dollars- just like everyone else- for their accurate, vital record.  The non identifying information I obtained from Catholic Charities was far from accurate.  Had I not met my birthmother, I would have accepted the Catholic Charities report as the TRUTH. Adoptees, like myself, live a life of mystery surrounding our beginnings.  HB162 affords us access to our history, our heritage, our TRUTH. 

Please do all that you can to PASS HB 162.  Feel free to contact me for any further information.