Today is my birthday, and I am feeling sad.
Oh, it isn’t about my advancing age. After all, I always say you are as old as you feel, and most days I feel much younger than my years. I’m generally a happy, positive and thankful person; just not quite as much today.
My sadness is that this is my first birthday since I found my birth mom a few months ago.
Now, keep in mind that I hadn’t even looked for her prior to this past year; never really thought much about being adopted.
And actually, to be truthful, I wasn’t even looking for her when I did a 23andme test last year to try and learn something about my roots. I had been looking to find out if I had Irish or German heritage or otherwise. I hadn’t been thinking of or searching for my birth mom.
But I had found her. The 23andme results along with other information led me to my birth mom’s family tree on Ancestry.com. (you can read all about this in my previous blog post if interested)
And even though I didn’t want to meet her, or reunite permanently in any way, I wanted to reach out to her and just “touch bases” (LOL, that sounds so cheesy, but truly, I just wanted to get 100% confirmation she was in fact my birth mom, find out a bit about my medical history and let her know I was alive and well). I wanted her to know that my life had turned out great. That two loving parents had adopted me as an infant and were the world’s best parents a child could have ever had.
So I had written her.
Friends said to be careful. They know me to be an emotional sort, someone who cries while watching rescued animal videos and during television programs and the like. I can’t even make it through one episode of This Is Us without crying (how can anyone?). I also wear my emotions very visibly and deeply, I think it is the writer in me; I think you have to share how you are truly feeling to evoke an emotional response in others.
In any case I wrote her this letter:
I am writing you as I believe you to be my birth mother.
I am reaching out to you to let you know that I have had a wonderful life. I had the world’s best parents (both now deceased) and now have my own loving family (married 32 years and have two awesome adult sons).
I don’t want to upset you, disturb you or otherwise cause any concerns for you. I thought if we could connect I could answer questions for you, if you have any. And I thought you could answer questions for me. My primary questions are really just relating to ancestry info and health history information. I would also be interested in learning the name and any information about my birth father (for the same ancestry and health history reasons).
Why do I believe you to be my birth mother?
I had my family all do 23andme DNA profiles at Christmas. Being adopted has meant my sons didn’t really have a lot of info on their roots. My husband’s side of the family is also very small, so with no info on my side…it seemed like a fun thing to do, for them to get a bit of info on their ancestry. The results were interesting for them to learn. The results also pointed out that I had some cousins with the Diedrich name listed. I had known that Diedrich was my mom’s maiden name.
Recently I also dug into other sites such as Ancestry.com and pulled out my parents’ old file folder on my adoption. From there I had snippets of info, such as your full name, your age, a little of your family history and some other info relating to your father. It wasn’t hard to pull the info together and identify you were likely my birth mom.
My birth name was Theresa Gale Diedrich. I have a little background information on you, and know you met me prior to giving me up. That must have been difficult, but I understand the situation and harbor absolutely no ill will or negative feelings.
If you would like to reach out to me I’ll provide some contact information for you. It would be great, even if you don’t want to connect, to at least hear you received this. Again, I don’t want to create stress for you. Even sending this letter is not something I do lightly for that reason…but I just didn’t know another way to open up the possibility of dialogue with you.
I thought it was the perfect letter to meet my objective of “touching bases.” I mailed it and waited…
Weeks went by.
I was fairly sure I had found the correct address (on the internet, scary what you can find there)…so I waited some more.
But no response.
I had provided every type of contact info. My email, cell phone, address, etc.
In any case, more time passed.
No response was challenging. Maddening actually.
Friends said to give it time. Not to take action.
But I wrote a second letter (why don’t I ever listen to the advice of my friends!).
In this note I told her I would not write her again (and I truly meant it), but that I was disappointed in her lack of response. The whole “touching bases” was supposed to be a positive after all! My life had turned out well! Wasn’t that a positive for her to know?
I told her while I would try and respect her privacy that I was going to continue to find answers about my ancestry by connecting with people on 23andme, researching Ancestry.com or even Facebook. I told her that I didn’t understand her lack of response. I still wanted to know for sure she was my birth mom. I still wanted to learn who my birth dad was (to “touch base” with him, I suppose…). I wanted to learn about medical history, really more for the sake of my two sons.
I agonized over this letter just a bit (given her lack of response to the first one). Should I even send it? What was I hoping for?
Truthfully I wasn’t sure what I was hoping for at that point. In looking back I think I was secretly hoping to make a small connection with her. Not a “let’s meet annually” sort of thing, and not likely even meeting at all. But a connection, a brief exchange of information. Confirmation she was my mom. Maybe my birth dad’s info. Something.
While I had originally been quite positive that I held no ill-will about her giving me up, I wondered if I did in some small way! Maybe I wanted something more from her, some emotional olive branch; acknowledgement that she was genuinely happy my life had turned out so well? Hmmmmm……
I thought long and hard on this, but was still fairly certain I harbored no deep resentments or ill-will regarding her long ago decision. None. I even sympathized with it.
No, any ill-will I might have been feeling at this point was from her lack of response to my initial letter. It seemed cruel and heartless. I tried to put myself in her place. Maybe it was a shameful place, or some type of trauma had been involved. But now, so many decades later…a lifetime, really….and to have heard my life had turned out so well. It seemed wrong that she chose to be silent.
It would have been so simple for her just to respond with, “Have a great rest of your life. Thanks for touching base.”
I held on to my 2nd letter for several days. Along with her mailing address I had found her phone number on the internet as well. I toyed with the idea of just calling her, but I thought a phone call would be too aggressive. I felt like it really should be her decision whether she responded. I still held out hope that she would.
So in the end I mailed the second letter.
But again, there was no response.
Time went by.
More time passed and I somewhat moved on.
It was fine. I had lived my entire life without worrying about my biological roots, after all. Plus I had learned a lot through 23andme. I had learned a lot about my biological family through Ancestry.com. I had learned a lot!
So what was the deal with me still pondering about my past?
Why did I still feel a response was so important?
I thought maybe my own parents being gone or my sons settling down (perhaps the side effects of an empty nest or aging?) were bubbling up these feelings…who knew…but I wondered if something may have triggered this need to learn more. Perhaps it was simply the DNA results, suddenly getting a “probable” mom identified?
Then, one day, I finally received a response.
It wasn’t really a response. It was more of a “Cease and Desist.”
It was from a lawyer.
While the particular words weren’t used, “Cease and desist” was my immediate reaction to the brief letter.
While I had done nothing wrong, I felt intimidated by its abruptness and tone.
And it was from a lawyer!
There were just four sentences.
The lawyer stated he had been engaged by my birth mom and was relaying her thoughts; it began with what I interpreted as general displeasure over my sudden appearance and unsolicited communication. One sentence had (incredibly) generic and pretty much useless medical info. One sentence said she would provide no info about the birth dad. And finally, please respect my privacy and buzz off.
Well, it didn’t REALLY say buzz off. After all it was written by a lawyer she had engaged. Engaged for the sole purpose of not connecting in any way, and of literally getting me to Cease and Desist.
I couldn’t believe it. During the initial few moments I alternated between being really upset and sad at being dissed in such a manner (pretty sure I cried), and then feeling completely intimidated.
Friends said not to respond.
But again, I chose not to listen.
So I responded to the lawyer, and reminded him – like I had said to my birth mom – it was supposed to be a good thing.
In the brief response I told him I was sad that my birth mom had responded through him and that, “I had no way to know of the depth of her apparent emotional concerns about my existence.” (Yes I really wrote that…I was hurt after all) But I also wished her well and reiterated I was in fact, buzzing off.
So that was that.
I still can’t put my head (or heart) around why she would have responded the way she did. I’m sorry, but no amount of shame or whatever she was feeling should have trumped reaching out to me just once, especially if she was going to confirm she was my birth mom anyway.
So, that’s it. That’s the story. And that takes me to today. My birthday.
This morning I woke up and unbelievably…thought about my birth mom. I wondered if she remembered the date. Every year on my birthday…has she ever thought about me? Has she ever wanted to know what happened to me?
And now, is she glad to know my life turned out so well, that my adoptive parents were wonderful and kind?
And why do I even care? She is really no-one to me.
Yet it saddens me somehow; thus the need to write this piece. Writing is the only way for me to process my emotions and move on.
Now I feel better.
My chosen family, husband and sons are giving me lots of love.
My cell phone keeps letting me know a new birthday text has come in.
My life is full of love and wonderful blessings. Truly it is time to move on.
Time to go celebrate.
Beautifully written, Diane. I am so happy that my Aunt Dee and Uncle Eddie are your real parents and that you have such a wonderful concept of family. Thank you for sharing this. Love you. Allie Boo
Reading this makes me so sad-for you and your birthmother. She doesn’t know what she is missing. I imagine she only sees fear and grief. And I’m sure she has definitely thought of you every milestone and more. I hear this kind of story too often and I really do think it is because of the guilt and shame they could not work through and they don’t think they can deal those feelings again.
Even though I was so excited my daughter found me the feelings were incredibly hard. But God has been with me and her every step of the way. She always felt like she must have been the product my biggest mistake, but I tell her she is a blessing. She was before she was even born. I am so very thankful she searched for me just to tell me she was okay. 😍 I pray God heals your heart-and hers.
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