How this all got started was a complete fluke. My adoptive parents always told me I was adopted, and even told me the names of my birth parents. I never questioned it. The big bits of information given to me were, my birth mother wanted to keep me, but my birth father was a student and did not want a child interfering with his studies. The other information the state provided was both my birth mother’s parents were dead by the time I was born (she was 24) and my birth father was an orphan. What this telegraphed to me was: no one lives long in this family, so trying to look for them after I reached my majority would probably be a waste of time.
Fast forward to my early 30’s, and I was asked to attend an adoptee workshop. It would be attended by both adoptees and people who had put their children up for adoption. I wasn’t overly interested or motivated, but it was pointed out that of the majority of people who look for their birth parents, the overwhelming majority are women. They really wanted a male adoptee to attend. Reluctantly I agreed.
I was rather surprised to hear stories of loss, regret, and pain and I reevaluated how I actually felt about being adopted. Another component of the group was an ex-FBI agent, Neil, who had put his child up for adoption and regretted the decision. He made his services available to the group. After some consideration, I asked if he could assist. Neil was recovering from open heart surgery and sounded quite frail on the phone. He had resources from his FBI days as well as other California based data. After a week, he said he could find nothing. His conclusion was either my adoptive parents had given me the wrong names intentionally, or this could be something more like witness relocation. He even joked, “maybe alien abduction?”
Fast forward again to 2001 when me and my husband did our wills. It turned out our attorney had adopted his son. (fun fact: I seem to meet a lot of other adopted people. It comes up in conversations. Kind of like dead bodies in swamps.) We asked what the cost of a search might be, and he said upwards to $20,000 or so. With striking out with Neil a few years previously, and the supposition that no one lives very long on either side of the family, we passed.
(final) Fast forward: February 2007. I was watching the news on a Friday morning and at 9 the news ended and rolled over to the Greg Behrenht Show (he was a writer on Sex and the City and wrote the book He’s Just Not That Into You). The show’s topic was adoption and reunions. I stopped what I was doing and watched. The show wasn’t particularly informative, and had the usual telegenic young woman desperate for a connection and the “surprise” reunion with her equally telegenic (young-ish) aunt. As I was about to get back to work, at the end they put up a website and said, “if you enter your information you might be matched with your family.” (this was 2007, so the privacy and security issues weren’t as extreme as they are now). I went to the website and entered my birth date, the hospital I was born in, and the names of my birth parents given to me by my adoptive parents. And I promptly forgot about it.
About an hour and a half later the phone rang. A number in Tennessee. I didn’t know anyone there, and almost let it go to voicemail, but something prompted me to pick up. A bright voice on the other end introduced herself saying I had entered my information on the website and she thought she could help me find my parents. I was instantly skeptical, and asked, “how much?” She replied, “Oh, $250 to start…”, and I chimed in with a somewhat sarcastic, “AND????” She replied, “$250 if I close.” Well, that was much better than what we had heard previously, but I also doubted she could close. After consulting with my husband, I PayPal’d her the initial money. Upon receipt she called and said, “I already have your mother’s maiden name…”
And the adventure began…