While I was home this week, I had the good fortune of spending time with a friend of mine. It was 7:30 in the morning and I was pondering going to the local Meijer or WalMart to let my daughter run around the aisles because I knew my Mom wouldn't be up to seeing us until late morning. As I loaded my kids in the car, my cell phone rang. It was my friend, wondering what I was up to. When I told her of my plan, she told me to come out to her house and have some coffee and let Baby Girl play with some toys. I was so grateful to get the offer and happily accepted.
My friend happens to be the daughter of my birth mother. I guess most people would say that she is my sister. Or maybe half-sister since we are sure we have different fathers. While I haven't had any discussions with her as to how we should refer to each other, I like thinking of her as my friend who happens to be my birth sister.
When my parents adopted me the welfare department had told them that my birthmother had been married with a bunch of kids. Apparently the father would leave for long stretches of time and then come back, beat up the mother, etc. Allegedly, I was one of the byproducts of this. Later in life, I found out who my birthmother was and contacted her to receive information on my medical history. I really wasn't interested in meeting her, but I was curious about the possibility of siblings being out there. My birthmother lived 30 minutes from where I grew up so my husband and I visited the local library where she lived on one of our trips home. I looked up yearbooks to see if there were any kids with the same last name (it's not a very common name, so I was reasonably sure that someone with the same last name would be related to my birthmother). I found one girl. She was four years older than I was. I photocopied her photo out of the yearbook and looked for others but never found any.
Over the years I thought about trying to contact this girl, but I was much too afraid. I worried that she might be close to her mother and that my contacting her would be very traumatic. I imagined it turning into a horrible Jerry Springer episode in my head, so I left it alone. Then, a couple of years ago I was on Classmates.com and was looking around. For kicks, I put in L's name and she popped up. I think she had her email address listed for something on there, so I wrote it down and thought I might email her someday. Months later I wrote her a simple email asking her if her mother was "X". I still don't remember what possessed me to do that. The next day I received an email with the question, "Why do you want to know?" I suddenly felt a lot of fear. What right did I have to do this and possibly mess up a couple of lives. So I didn't answer her back.
Almost a year later, I got an email from her:
Almost a year ago you wrote, wanting to know if my mother's name was X. I emailed you back wanting to know why. However, I never heard from you.
Every once in a while, during this past year, I'd think about your email and wonder, so..... Yes, my mother's name is X.
Now, I've answered your question, please answer mine. Why do you ask?
I absolutely flipped out and called my best friend and asked her what I should do. She didn't think it was such a good idea to tell her everything at once. I told her that I felt I should just tell her and be done with it. So I did. And then she wrote me back.
First, I want to thank you for not using that "unsend" button in your
initial email! When I received your first email, back in September, I had a
feeling I knew what it was about. I don't know why I answered the way I
did. Scared, being careful, maybe? I am sorry. It was what I was hoping
for for quite a while.
As far as I know, my mother still has no idea that I know anything about her
pregnancy/adoption. I don't think that I am ready (nor she) to face that
wrath. I really can't remember how long I've known, but when you have a
mother (unlike your very understanding adoptive parent's) who is not
forthcoming with information from her past, there wasn't a whole lot I could
do about finding siblings. At this point, you probably know more about
X's past than I do. This whole story is so confusing, I don't even
know where to begin or that you even want to hear it.
I do know that it was a very happy day for me when, who I call my "granny",
let slip that I have siblings (yes, that's plural). I always thought that I
was an only child, now I've got siblings. It was a wonderful secret that I
kept between myself and my husband for a long time. I've often wonder who
they were, what they would be like. However, even with the internet,
without anything to go on, there was no where to go. I'm having a hard time
comprehending that I had a sibling living one county away from me for so
many years and didn't know it!
I'll give you a few facts about me (I would like a few more about you, too,
please) and then we/you/me can decide what we want to do from here. You
already know my name. X was not wed at the time she had me, either.
I was born in April, 19xx, so I am your older sister.
Please don't ever be sorry about writing that first email, I'm not.
Hopefully, I'll hear from you soon.
So now, for over a year, we have been getting to know each other. L is fantastic. It has been such an interesting case study in Nature vs. Nurture. My sister and I have always been complete and total opposites. I am constantly amazed with the things that "L" and I have in common, be it ideologies, favorite books, our love of the occasional menthol cigarette, you name it. It has also been interesting to meet someone who shares the same genes. I found out that I am Irish instead of Scottish, twins run in the family and that "L" and I are quite tall (we're 5'5") compared to the rest of the family. People who aren't adopted take resemblences for granted.
While I like spending time with her I constantly worry that "X" will find out and that it will destroy their mother-daughter relationship. I don't know that L worries about it as much as I do. I also feel bad that she hasn't been able to tell anyone about me except for her husband because it would apparently rock her family's world as none of them know about me (apparently "X" was very good at hiding pregnancies!) So for now, we are carrying on a friendship and are helping each other fit pieces into a strange family puzzle.