Iíve never met her, yet Iíve memorized her fact. In the Polaroid picture sheís leaning forward slightly on the edge of a shiny orange chair, wearing a pale yellow blouse with her hands in her lap. Dark curls frame her rounded cheeks and jawbone and though her complexion and eyes are lighter, she bears passing resemblance to me. Iíve scrutinized the faint smile and slight tilt of the chin, hoping each time to discover something more about the lady behind the sad green eyes.
The photocopied form from the social worker offers some information: height, weight, date and place of birth, brief family history, nationality. Additional notes mention some college education, an interest and talent in interior decorating. I find it satisfying that we share a love for reading, poetry, and music, and that sheís Catholic too. She insisted on placing me in a home where Iíd learn the same religion and values.
And thereís the letter, written in a curly, slanting script that could pass for my own. In her simple words and sentences, this woman barely past adolescence addresses the most basic of questions that so many in my situation never find answers for: "Dear JessicaÖIím writing this letter to let you know why Iím giving you up for adoption." She explains that at the time of my conception, she was young and ill equipped emotionally or financially to raise a child. Though as a Rubella Syndrome baby I came with a number of physical complications, particularly visual, she assures me that she never intended to give me up on account of my disabilities: "I held you and loved you when you cried because they couldnít feed you before surgery. Iíve never felt so helpless." I can hardly imagine the vulnerability and insecurity she must have felt, dealing with all this when she was only three years older than I am now, yet she had the strength and maturity to ensure that I receive the upbringing she wanted for me.
Contrary to common assumptions regarding adolescent adoptees, I harbor no bitterness or resent towards my birthmother or adoptive parents, and when I try to adopt those emotions they only seem feigned and superficial. In contrast, I realize how fortunate I am to know so much positive information about my past. My younger brother, who is also adopted as a "special needs" child, and I have always received support and encouragement from our parents. Our large, incredibly close, extended family has welcomed both of us without reserve. With their solid, positive influence, I have grown into a confident, well-adjusted person.
Of course, I have many more questions that my birthmotherís picture and letter donít answer, needing to know the countless small details which comprise her personality and cannot be expressed in a few words. Iíve tried to piece together the facts to form the full story, to explain for myself how and why it took place, what let her to make her decisions. Yet it never seems concrete or tangible enough. The images in my mindís eye always remain a nebulous blur, more lake a fairy tale than real life. Maybe that will change as I enter different stages of my life; as I grow older, different issues and questions will arise, and my perceptions will alter.
For the time being, I am content to let the mystery of my birth lie at rest. As I leave high school, I stand at the brink of myriad choices and possibilities, eager to embrace my future and challenge the world. My diverse interests, including writing, music and political science, will undoubtedly keep me busy for a long while. Meanwhile, everything I hope to accomplish relies on my roots and how they have shaped me. The choices my birthmother made sixteen years ago have had an enormous impact on my life, and I know neither of us will forget that. Someday, I hope to see her face to face.
I wrote this essay last fall as part of my college applications. Little did I know that this spring, I would find my birthmother on an Internet registry. What a wonderful surprise Ė it came along at the same time as my acceptance to Stanford University. Since then, my adoptive parents and I have exchanged several letters and photographs with my birthmother. So far, everything is going along well, and all the news on both sides is positive and encouraging. Hopefully, weíll continue to get to know one another, and eventually meet.