Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Am A Baby Sister

Yes, I am. I am a baby sister and I have to say that even though I have known this fact for the last third of my life, I’m still surprised every time I think about it.

I was always curious about my past. Actually, my heart ached for answers, however there were little matters like sealed records and laws. Then one day, my doctor casually stated while scribbling notes in my file that I should try to find my medical history. “It would be helpful” he said. That began my quest to find my birth mother.

I was adopted at the age of 22 months to a nice couple in their late 30’s. They were loving and kind, and I was raised as an only child in a cute little home. They gave me the best life they knew how, but I often felt very lonely. My heart must have known something that my mind couldn’t remember.

It took two years from my first request for information before the manila envelope from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services arrived at my door. My hands shook as I carefully read through the stack of papers trying to learn of my past. So many years of not knowing left a hole. I needed to know and I was finally holding the answers.

And there it was, at the bottom of the fourth page, typed in almost as an afterthought. “Siblings - Connie is 9th of 9.” I read the words again in disbelief.

The shock continued. I always thought my mother was an unwed teenager who gave her baby up for adoption. Imagine my surprise as I read through the file that my parents were married and had nine children. Wow.

It was all there. The social worker’s notes as she observed a little baby girl through the entire process (that child was me!). There was my brother’s attempts to petition the courts to find me. There I was, going through life and someone was looking for me. My brother was looking for me. I love that. (Thank you D!!!)

As I read through the paperwork, I noticed that all the identifying information had been blacked out. Names, addresses, dates, all disappeared. It made me angry. Who has the right to decide what I should know about my own life?

I am amazed now that I reflect back on how it all unfolded. My pleading with God through tears during a sleepless night, a name suddenly appearing on the adoption certificate that we hadn’t seen before. The ladies at church praying that God would help me at the very time I called George, who happened to be home that morning when usually he wasn’t.

George had the same last name as mine. “I’m looking for my family”, I told George. “I haven’t seen them in over 30 years and I’m hoping you can help me.” He said we weren’t related. And then, before exhaling my sigh of disappointment, he continued.

“My wife took me to a wedding a few years ago. I had a two minute conversation with the bride and found out we had the same last name. She told me that she is from a small town in Wisconsin and came from a large family and all the kids were given up for adoption when they were small. Let me talk with my wife and see if I can find out who that was.” And that’s when my heart skipped a beat, because somehow I knew I was getting close.

Two days later on a Saturday afternoon, my phone rang. When I answered it, I heard a beautiful voice that said, “Connie Beth, where have you been? We have been looking for you!” I still get choked up when I think of that moment. It was the bride. My sister.

I found out that our birth parents had problems. I still don’t really know the whole story, but I know that the State of Wisconsin came in and dissolved our family. The kids all went to aunts and uncles so they stayed in contact with one another. Another brother and I were adopted outside of the family.  My birth parents separated but never divorced.

My sister gave me names and phone numbers. What a gift and I held the list close. I had numbers for my birth parents, my two other sisters and five brothers. It was like a dream.

I am so thankful I was given the opportunity to see and talk with both of my birth parents as an adult. I really liked them. It was important to me that they knew I didn’t hold anything against them. We mess up all the time and thankfully, God forgives us. They passed away shortly after that. God let me find them just in time.

I also was able to meet some of my siblings. Some I spoke with on the phone but haven’t had the joy of meeting them all in real life yet. I’m hoping someday.

Brothers and sisters. A connection that is unexplainable. Having once lived together as a family, we share something special. There is a bond. Perhaps it's from growing up with the same ache in our hearts because we all feel that same loss.

It’s not always like Oprah or in the movies. We didn’t stay in touch. Everyone had a lot going on in their lives and I personally needed the time to process it all. Also, out of respect for my adoptive parents, I didn’t stay in contact with my first family. They wouldn’t understand. To them, they were my parents and the subject was never allowed to be brought up while living with them. And they were right. They are indeed my parents and I thank God for them. My Dad passed away over seven years ago and I still miss him so much it hurts.

And then, this year Facebook brought us together one by one. I am at a place now where I feel complete having them in my life. We’re still getting to know one another but I feel a strong love and connection with them. My sister R. is so, so special to me. I just love talking and laughing with her. And even though our lives are so different, she gets me.

My brothers are everything I imagined big brothers should be. They are smart, encouraging and funny. They make me laugh and tear up. I love it and I love them. And, I love being a baby sister.

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