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.