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Posts Tagged ‘reunion’


I haven’t talked to Jeanne in 13 years.  Life went on.  Nicole is 16 now, and I have a wonderful husband and life.  Yet – I’ve felt something missing, and I’ve never attributed it to being adopted.  Being adopted was just something I was – like being female, or being funny. 

Writing this blog has seemed to open things up for me that I’ve never considered.  It’s made me think more about the circumstances surrounding my being and it’s making me realize that all might not be as it seems.  Maybe there’s something to the “primal” theory – that a person is irrevocably changed when removed from their mother.  That a mother is irrevocably changed when forced to give up their child. 

Being a mother myself, I cannot begin to imagine how my life would have been ripped apart if my daughter was taken from me at birth.  How could a person ever recover from that? 

Women – especially women “back then” – didn’t even get to talk to anyone about their pregnancy – they were shamed and sent into hiding.  Who could they talk to about their feelings?  My birth mother, like many – was “sent away” – as a young girl – to experience pregnancy on her own, and forced to “behave” by not even crying.  They went through one of life’s most changing experiences – alone, and then were expected to just go home and get on with living. 

There is a book called “The Girls Who Went Away – The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children in the Decades Before Roe vs Wade”.  I intend to read it. 

I believe now that something that happened to you at birth, of which of course you have no memory of, can have effects of which you won’t understand – unless you try to understand – if that makes sense.

I have been having conversations with my sister – Jeanne’s daughter, which has made me realize that Jeanne never recovered from her experience as a young woman.  I don’t think Jeanne realizes it herself.  I will talk about these conversations with my sister in another post.

Maybe, in trying to understand Jeanne – I am trying to understand myself.

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Nicole, my brother Kevin, and Jeanne in the background

I haven’t spoken to Jeanne in 13 years. Surprised? I am too, but I know my reasons. I just didn’t know Jeanne’s reasons.

I have been reading about adoptions extensively since I’ve started this blog, and  I’ve discovered a few articles and studies that would explain why and how a birth mother feels. Whether she knows it or not. I don’t believe Jeanne realizes the implications of what happened to her almost 50 years ago.

It is interesting this information that I am reading, yet most of us haven’t even heard about. There are millions of adoptions, and nobody talks about what really happens to a woman (a girl, really) who has relinquished a child and what it does to them. Young women left to deal with the aftermath. How it carries on throughout their lives and the effect it has on their future relationships and their families. I’d like to understand it better and I’d like to hear other’s experiences.

My beautiful daughter Nicole was born in 1994. Jeanne and her husband came out for the christening. Nicole wore my christening gown, and it seemed everything had come full-circle. Except, Jeanne was very – uh – disassociated for lack of a better word. The one thing that stands out in my mind most is her lack of wanting to hold the baby, as you would expect a grandmother to want to do. Especially since she lived in Michigan and we live in Pennsylvania. Nicole’s godmother had a party at her house after the christening, and she had a ferret. Jeanne walked around the entire time holding that ferret and making a fuss about it. Really?

As time went on, Jeanne would call me – often. And she didn’t want to talk baby talk. She wanted to talk about Jeanne. Incessantly. I couldn’t get off the phone with her. Jeanne seemed to be undergoing a transformation of sorts. She had decided that to become highly educated was her answer. So that’s what she did. And that’s what she wanted to talk about.  For  hours.  It didn’t matter if the baby was screaming in my arms.  She seemed not to notice.  I would practically have to hang up on her to just get off the phone.   And Jeanne didn’t approve that I didn’t have the same drive as she did at the time. I was raising a baby and she just didn’t seem to “get it”.

I had hoped that even though we were clearly very different people, that she would be happy that we were reunited, and accept me as I was. That we could enjoy a friendship. But it didn’t work out that way.

So, I stopped answering the phone.

We haven’t talked since.

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Jeanne and I first met in Scranton, as I have written earlier.  Our first meeting went quite well.  My parents were sweet and welcoming to her.  My mom always said she felt thankful towards Jeanne, and she gave her a special gift.  We all got together several times, Jeanne met my family – my brother, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Jeanne and I exchanged gifts.  She also brought me a photo album of her past and her family.  She brought me a pin that was her mother’s.  Things went as well as anyone could  have hoped for. 

I then travelled to Michigan to meet Jeanne’s family.  Her husband, son and daughter as well as her brother – my Uncle Leon. 

Michigan was great – as was meeting everyone.  Jeanne loved cats and had two beauties :).  My brother and sister, Tracy and Todd and I hit it off.  Everyone was so nice!   

Here are a few photos from our trip –

Meeting Tracy and Todd for the first time 🙂

Tracy, Jeanne, Me, Ray, Uncle Leon, Todd and Jack

Jeanne and Uncle Leon had also arranged for me to meet my birth father, Charlie during this trip.  We would meet the next day at a local restaurant.  Time to get nervous again!  I had no idea who, or what to expect.  As a woman, you can sort of relate better to what your birth mother went through.  I had no clue whatsoever how Charlie was feeling about all of this, but he HAD agreed to meet me – so that was a good thing – right?
 
 
 
 
 

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Jeanne was left with no alternative but to tell her mother. I don’t know much about that conversation, but I do know Jeanne was “sent away”. From Michigan to St. Joseph’s in Scranton, PA. The “home for unwed mothers”.

We drove to St. Joseph’s together and sat and talked. It looks so institutional there.

She described a desolate place filled with unhappy girls and strict nuns. You could go out for a walk – if you were “good”. Being good meant that you sucked it up and didn’t CRY or show emotion. Very Christian place. So, you’d cry at night after the lights went out, and hoped that you weren’t caught “being bad”.

Jeanne begged her mother to get out of there. She couldn’t come home, but her mother agreed to come to Scranton. They got an apartment together in Clarks Summit. This is where she waited out the rest of her pregnancy.

In the meantime, she held out hope that my birth father would somehow come to her rescue – you know – “do the right thing”. I believe his parents were supportive of her, and I imagine, but am not sure, that they would have encouraged him to step up. She told me they were extremely nice people. So, she held her breath, and waited.

I was born on September 15th.

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We got all settled in at the house. We talked a lot that first night, and she brought a photo album for me – of Jeanne as a child and growing up, her parents, her family, and her son and daughter – my half-brother and sister. Our plan for the next day was to take a ride around Scranton, and talk some more.

We drove to St. Joseph’s and sat outside awhile. I could tell it was hard for Jeanne to relive this. Her story was an incredibly difficult one.

Jeanne was raised in a very strict Catholic family. Very disciplined. She was happy to go off to college and start living her life. She dated someone who would be the first person she would sleep with – my birth father. It was Christmas night (there’s that Christmas thing again!), and they went on a date and had a few drinks.

What happened that night changed everything – forever.

When she realized she was pregnant, her fear must have been unbearable. HOW would she ever approach her super-religious mother with this news? She told her older brother her dilemma, and they decided the best approach would be to tell their father – he would likely be the more understanding of the two, and would help her break the news to her mother.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Just as she was going to tell him – he died a sudden death – heart attack.

Oh. My. God.

She was left with terrible grief, and a terrifying secret and only one person to turn to – her mother.

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Today was the day I was to meet my birth mother. I was almost 31 years old.

We drove to the airport in Allentown to pick her up. She had gotten the picture of me that I mailed to her, so she knew what I looked like. I didn’t get the picture she’d sent – so I had NO idea who I would be looking for in the crowded airport. We nervously waited.

The plane landed. People started getting off – and I was sort of expecting she’d be one of the first off the plane for some reason. But nobody looked like they were looking for me lol. More and more people got off the plane, until it was just the last few stragglers getting off. At this point, I started joking around – saying under my breath to ANY woman who got off the plane – old or young, black or white – “are you my mother”? lol

Well the plane emptied. No Jeanne. Now what?!

I phoned her house and learned she had missed her flight! Wow – more waiting!

So, we sat and waited and finally her plane landed. When people started getting off – I saw her. She was petite – just like me (lol -not!) and she was cute. And we hugged. We laughed about her missing her flight. We looked at each other and smiled a lot.

She had something in her arms that she had carried all the way from Michigan on her lap on the plane – My christening gown. My 31-year-old christening gown. She had saved it all these years. Waiting for this moment.

How sweet is that?

I couldn’t wait to get home, get settled, and TALK.

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Friday finally rolled around – I thought it would NEVER come! Pacing, staring at the phone, crazy! RING phone! – And in the same thought – Oh my God! What are we possibly going to say to each other?

It’s funny – you get consumed with “the search” and when reality slaps you in the face – you have a whole other set of issues to deal with – and you have to deal with them fairly quickly! And you have to have courage. Something like this definitely takes courage…

Finally the phone rang. It was my birth mom, Jeanne. I could tell she was nervous as well, so that helped. We did the dance most adoptees and birthparents probably do the first time you speak. “How ARE you?” “I’m fine – how are YOU?” LOL – good god – REALLY? Awkward City!!

So, we then quickly got to the snapshots of each of our lives. Jeanne is married and has 2 children – a boy and a girl. So I have 2 half siblings. I am excited about that! There were odd coincidences – she had been pregnant with twins – a boy and a girl, and she lost the boy. She had named him Christopher. And, she lost him at Christmastime. We talked for quite a long time, and it was nice. And it became easier. I could tell she had quite a story to tell. All that had happened to her leading to this day.

We decided that we would meet. We (snail) mailed each other a picture of ourselves so that we’d know who we were looking for at the airport.

Jeanne was to come to Scranton within a week.

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