On Being Eighteen...
I was breaking into a cold sweat, the kind that leaves skin clammy and goose bumped. I stood waiting, adrenaline pumping. Eighteen years I had waited to get my answers. I was going to know where I came from.
The story sounded like a broken record, repeating the same old tune in a skipping, fuzzy track cycle. The breakdown? Young woman gets pregnant, knows she can’t take care of a baby, and decides that giving the baby away is the next best option.
Simple, logical, and not entirely uncommon.
However, this woman has a story enveloped in hurt and heartache, wrapped in lies, and bound by a decision to change a life.
Patience is a Virtue
Sugar laden coffee probably wasn’t the best choice of beverage at the time. I was bouncing in my seat, feeling the caffeine pulse through my veins, stinging every cell with a burst of extra juice.
Like I needed it.
He had told me 2:00 o’clock when we chatted on the phone, and my excitement had driven me to Biggby at 1:30 sharp.
I had so many questions to ask, so many stories to tell... But I was hesitant. Nervous. I had already undergone one revelation when he told me we weren’t half, but full siblings. At first, I didn’t believe him.
Nothing against my mom and dad, but they had always told me that my birth mom had a little boy and I, but from different fathers. However, that was not the case. What they had been told was a forced fib, resulting in an extended lie that had influenced my belief. It was a typical part of the adoption puzzle for a kid like me to have a handful of half brothers and sisters, especially if the biological parents had separated and settled down with someone new. But a full sibling that was kept by the birth mother was a little more rare.
My excitement started to transition to anxiety. For the first time in my life, I would be face to face with a blood relative, a sibling who shared the same parents as I did. I was treading foreign territory, and I was scared.
Every few minutes, my eyes jumped down to my phone to check the time. 2:00 o’clock inched closer.
The coffee shop’s door ding-donged. I tried to act casual, glancing up slowly at the young man walking through the door. He had told me he would be wearing a cap and a light tan shirt, but that hadn’t prepared me. (In my defense, being taken aback by someone you have never met is not a strange reaction. The mind creates expectations of people before we even meet them) Skinny jeans, a button-up shirt, a pair of holey-shoes all complemented by a golfer’s cap was my first observation of my biological brother. One or two inches separated our heights and he was built leaner, but two things were the same. From beneath his cap, light brown wisps protruded erratically, matching the shade of my hair, and his eyes glinted the same blue. He was far from clean shaven, sporting a beard that was tinted red, a trademark of our shared Irish heritage. Staring at each other and making mental comparisons, I felt a smile appear.
Returning my childish grin with a smirk, he extended his hand.
“Nice to meet you Rach, I’m Josh,” he said excitedly.
I couldn’t help but laugh. He had a quirkiness about him, and after grabbing a grande Chai Tea, we took a seat by the window.
We stayed and talked for hours. The conversation flew in each and every direction, from interests in high school to favorite restaurants and movies. We had both avidly participated in theatre/drama during school, and we both excelled in the language arts. Our closeness in age allowed us to talk freely about similar life experiences like crappy relationships and stupid decisions. It was like we had known each other for years, chatting like old friends basking in nostalgia.
More surprising still were our strikingly similar mannerisms as we conversed and laughed together. Our hand gestures and wrinkled noses when we laughed reiterated our kinship.When the conversation lapsed, I swore that I heard the eerie echo of the Twilight Zone theme dwindling in the background. It all seemed surreal.
Sitting in a Biggby coffee shop at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, after eighteen years of questions, I was meeting my brother. He played an important role as the precursor to meeting my birth mom, and he became a support system for me as I learned the truth of my conception and adoption. Together we were able to connect the dots of our childhood stories, beginning with the meeting of a young woman and a childless couple.
Who Was She?
Kim wasn’t a first time mom. When her second pregnancy came around, she was already swaddling an eighteen month old baby Josh. Her life had been wracked by emotional struggles and financial strain within a short time period. The man in her life who had sounded so faithful had a different agenda. A different life entirely to return to.
She was alone.
Faced with a daunting new responsibility, a young woman made a choice.
Two Towns Over
Not long after marriage, people start having babies. A small town couple who had spent their whole lives in the same suburb shared the Leave It To Beaver mentality. Steady careers and a newly finished dream home had been their first marital stepping stones and with those accomplished, they started trying for a family.
After a year of failed attempts, the couple decided to make a visit to their physician, only to discover that their ability to have kids was highly unlikely.
The next few years were a routine of doctors visits and specialists, procedures and tests to try to determine why Randy and Ellen remained childless. Two ineffective surgeries led to heartbreak as Ellen remained infertile. The hope of conceiving became a dying dream.
Discussion and prayer led Randy and Ellen to adoption. Beginning the process was strenuous, riddled with interviews, legal documents, and evaluations. To become parental candidates, a birth mom would have to go through an adoption organization and find their profile. Like other couples, Randy and Ellen’s profile was compounded into a large booklet where birth mothers were able to look through and choose candidates who would be potential parents for their unborn child.
The first contact caused a buzz of excitement in the young couple’s home. They were soon going to be the parents of a little baby boy. A nursery was prepared, baby clothes were bought, and a baby shower was scheduled. When he was born, they named him Ethan, and the first week of having him home was a dream come true.
But Ethan’s birth mother changed her mind.
Randy and Ellen had their baby taken from them. Disappointed and mourning, Randy and Ellen started the process again, determined to fulfill their desire to have a family of their own.
Randy and Ellen got a call a few months later from their adoption agent. Containing their excitement was a difficult task, but their last heartbreak had instilled wariness. The first meeting between Kim and the young couple was the beginning of their journey through the adoption process. Randy and Ellen were allowed to pick the name of the baby and were sitting in the waiting room patiently as Kim underwent a caesarean section to deliver their baby girl.
A summer morning in August, Randy and Ellen held their daughter for the first time. They named her Rachael Ellen.
For the first year or so, my mom and birth mom kept in contact with each other, sharing pictures through the mail with letters detailing how my brother Josh (who was only 18 months older) and I were developing.
My adoption case was closed, meaning that my birth mom, Kim, didn’t have my parent’s last name, address, or contact number. When I left that hospital in a pink blanket and car seat, it was as if she had never existed. She was no longer a part of our lives.
Coming back into contact with her was my plan from a young age, and my parents were very supportive of my decision to pursue her. Their only advice was to wait until I was older, and we decided eighteen would be the right time.
Fast forward to my eighteenth birthday. It’s significance was more than becoming a legal adult as I walked up the front steps to Kim’s house.
Kids like me, we go through phases. It doesn’t matter that we are loved by our parents unconditionally, it doesn’t matter that we are happy with the life we have; we still experience a feeling of insecurity. Kids like me were given away. The sad fact is that many adopted kids look at their adoption as a quick fix to a mistake, they believe their birth mom’s actions were stemmed from a lack of love and wanting.
Sometimes, that is the case. I would be stupid to deny the occurrence of that scenario.
Other times, however, a birth mom’s choice is one of extreme love and humility. I knew that Kim had chosen this path for me because she knew that it was what was best for me, enduring the pregnancy in hopes that I would have a beautiful life with Randy and Ellen.
I rang the doorbell, pulling at my scarf nervously as I heard the footsteps making their way to the door. As it swung open, a smiling, dark haired woman opened her arms.
“Well hello!” she blurted as she wrapped me in a hug.
I studied her brown eyes and black hair, looking at the face that mine mimicked so closely. As she stepped back and held me at arms length, little tears complemented her smile as her nose wrinkled. In those few moments, a peace had started to settle as she asked if I wanted to come in for some Chai tea. Years of life kept conversation busy as we began catching up on the last eighteen years.