January 4, 2012

Birth Mother & Adopted Son Reunion Story

Posted in Adoption tagged , , at 4:46 pm by Lund

BIRTH MOTHER’S STORY

When I was seventeen and a freshman in college, I became pregnant. The reaction from my parents was very difficult for me. They were totally non-supportive, completely uncaring and told me that I would have an abortion and the “problem” would be taken care of quickly.  This was something that I outright refused to allow to happen to my baby.  It was decided by them that I should be “sent away” before I became too obviously pregnant. I was not from Vermont but, through a connection with someone at the University of Vermont, it was decided that I would be sent to the Elizabeth Lund Home in Burlington, VT, to await the birth of my baby and to then relinquish my baby for adoption.

I was “sent away” without being able to speak with any friends who were then told that I had gone to another state to work for my uncle. I spent my time at the Lund Home not allowing my feelings, emotions and wishes to be known per strict instructions from my parents. This was a very difficult time in my life as I did feel very alone – there were no family members or friends who I could talk with throughout my entire pregnancy. The Lund Home was a very safe haven for me and I was comfortable there. I knew that my unborn baby and I were being very well cared for and that was all that was really important to me then. Given the fact that I was being forced to give up my baby, I was glad to be in the Lund Home and not anywhere near my family during that time.

Photo by Cat Cutillo

During my pregnancy, and my stay at the Elizabeth Lund Home, I was very emotionally attached to my baby and gently rubbed my abdomen while singing and talking softly to my unborn child so that hopefully he would know how much I loved him.  As my due date approached, I became very apprehensive because I knew that once my baby was born that I would have to give him up and walk away. This was very heart-wrenching for me. I did not want to give birth. I wanted him to always be with me. I never wanted to let him go.

As much as I always wanted to be able to keep my baby and to raise him as best I could, I also had to face reality that without any emotional, physical or financial help from anyone that I would be incapable of giving him the life that he so richly deserved.

His birth was a very life-altering experience for me that I will never forget.  He was a beautiful perfect baby and so precious to me.  I felt totally devastated knowing I was giving him away and I didn’t know who his mom and dad would be or where he would be living.  I could only pray that they would love him as much as I did.   After staying at the Lund Home for about six days following my baby’s birth, my parents came to pick me up and take me to yet another state so I could “recover” before going back home.  Even during the long car ride, never a word was spoken about my precious baby.  My parents never inquired as to how I felt and I was never allowed to have any emotions or to ever talk about him again to anyone. This may sound very cold (and it was), but my parents always acted as though my pregnancy was a problem similar to a flat tire on a car – in the beginning it was “how do we fix the problem” and after my baby’s birth, it was “okay, that’s done, let’s go”.

After returning home, trying to go on with my life, acting as if nothing had ever happened, I buried my anguish deep inside of my heart.  No one ever knew the extreme emotional and heartfelt pain that I was going through. I never, for one day of my life, stopped loving my baby boy.   I never stopped hoping that we would someday find each other.

I have gone through all of these many years always wondering where he lived – was he loved enough – did he feel safe and secure  –  was he okay – when did he start walking –  did he walk to school or ride a bus  –  did he have any siblings  –  what were his favorite toys –  what did his laugh sound like –  did he have a girlfriend in high school and did she treat him well.  Most importantly, was he happy.  I wondered if he enjoyed sports as much as I did, and if so, in what sports did he participate.   As the years passed, I wondered if he had married – I always wondered what his personality was like and did he have my silly sense of humor.  The questions about him were constantly in my mind.  I always wanted to know if he ever knew anything about me and I wondered if he ever knew how much I loved him. He was, and always has been, on my mind and always deep within my heart.

Photo by Cat Cutillo

At the time I relinquished my much loved baby boy for adoption, I was told that his birth records would be permanently sealed forever. Unfortunately, I never knew that Vermont had changed their law. I never knew that the Vermont Adoption Registry existed or that there may be a way for us to ever find each other again. I spent countless amount of hours and days and months and years trying to discover if there was ever a boy born on his birth date at the Elizabeth Lund Home who was looking for his birth mother.

I went on with my life but never felt complete. There was always a very empty feeling in my heart. I married and had two more children but no child can ever replace the one who was lost.

In March of this year I spent several days with two good friends of mine from high school.  One of these friends is an adoptee herself and the other one has an adopted son.  One of them had recently learned of the son I had given up for adoption.  Through hours of conversation, the one who had been adopted offered to try to help me locate my lost son as she had been helping many others since she had searched for her birth parents. The one who had adopted a son also encouraged me to try to locate him.  She always felt it was important, and in fact encouraged and supported her adopted son, to find his birth mother which he did.  They both encouraged me to search for mine knowing that I needed desperately to at least find out if he was okay even if I was denied any access to him and to hopefully get the answers to all of the many questions I had kept inside. I had never wanted to intrude into his life or make contact with him unless it was something he was searching for. That would not be something I would ever do. That, to me, should always be the adoptee’s choice to make. Both of my friends totally agreed with my feelings and my perspective.  I do admit to having had a fear that he held animosity towards me and would reject me if we did ever meet again.  Even if that were to happen, I would feel better knowing that he was doing alright.  That would bring some peace to me.

Upon returning home from our get-together, I started to look up the Elizabeth Lund Home and discovered the Lund Family Center. I don’t know why I never thought to do this before. I was still assuming that his records were permanently sealed and I would never have any access to his identifying information or any other information about him.

I immediately emailed someone at the Lund Family Center and quickly received a reply from Christina Shuma who is with both the Lund Family Center and the Vermont Adoption Registry. It was through Christina that I learned of the Vermont Adoption Registry. She is an angel in my life and I am so very thankful for her. She explained how the Vermont Adoption Registry worked and about the registry papers I would need to complete and submit to her. Once I did that, she would research as to whether my son had ever registered.

Then long days went by as I waited to hear anything.  Christina apparently had to locate him and confirm whether or not he still was interested in contact with me.   Shortly thereafter, I received the most incredible life-changing phone call from Christina telling me that he had registered many, many years before and he was still interested in contact with me.  I was shaking and having trouble concentrating on what she was telling me.  I know I was in total shock.  At that point, Christina asked me if I was sure I really wanted a reunion with him.  Christina ever so compassionately, and with great care, made sure that both of us really wanted to go forward. She then gave him my email address. He sent a short message and in it he stated that he held no animosity toward me. That opened my floodgates and brought to me the biggest relief that I had ever felt in my life.  He then called me the next day and we talked for two hours. I cannot begin to explain my emotions and feelings at that exact time – a true miracle had just happened in my life and I didn’t know quite how to handle it – it was total excitement mixed with a roller coaster ride where your insides are all churning and your heart is pounding.

Very shortly after our initial phone contact, I sent my son some family background – grandparents information, the countries his ancestors had come from, some information about me, etc. We had one and two hour phone conversations almost daily until I offered to fly to where he lived for our first face-to-face reunion. This reunion occurred 17 days after our initial contact. I flew to where he lived by myself. He was alone at the airport when I arrived. Because of the many, many lengthy phone calls and emails between us, I felt instantly and completely comfortable with him. It was a great feeling. We really liked each other from the very beginning.

That first hug in the airport was something I had waited for decades to give and to receive and it felt absolutely wonderful. His smile, his warmth and his acceptance of me was the most incredible gift.  I stayed in a hotel even though he had offered for me to stay at his house. My friend, who had been adopted and found a birth brother, advised me to do that as we would both need some private time over the course of that first weekend. We took long walks through the woods and talked. We sat on a large rock by the edge of a river while I told him everything about my pregnancy — about my time in college when I knew I was pregnant and was going to be sent to the Lund Home – about my time at the Lund Home. I wanted him to know anything and everything about his life before birth, during birth and after his birth. I told him from the beginning to feel totally comfortable with asking me any questions he may have and that I would answer them all. I wanted him to know how much I always loved him and why I had to relinquish him for adoption and how excrutiatingly painful that was for me to do.

It has been wonderful for me to hear him tell me about his life – where he has lived, both in and out of this country, over the years and why –  his many experiences –  his ups and downs –  his times as a child and all the years thereafter. We never seem to run out of anything to say to each other or to ask each other –  I’m sure that will never stop.   The more time we spend talking or spending precious time together, the more there are strong similarities we see in each other  –  not necessarily physical appearance but personalities, likes and dislikes, sense of humor, thoughts and perspectives.  My son is an extremely kind and caring man with a tremendous heart and I am so very grateful to have him back in my life.

Not long after our reconnection, Christina Shuma sent me a 5 ½ x 8 ¼ inch card with my son’s original left and right footprints with my right index fingerprint in between.  Also on this card is his weight and length at birth. These prints were taken the day after his birth. I will always treasure this and it will always bring tears from my heart.  Christina also sent me the Probate Court Report full of information along with the relinquishment papers. Christina told me that I would have received a copy of the relinquishment papers at the time they were signed but I have never had them. My parents must have destroyed them.

Since that time, he has been down to where I live twice and I have been to see him again. We live about 9 hours by car away from each other. The distance that we live apart is our only enemy now. We have never slowed down on the constant phone conversations. He is coming to my place for a long Thanksgiving weekend and we both are anxiously awaiting that time together again.  I always felt that he is the one meeting an entire blood family he has never known so we have taken meeting his brother and sister and their families very slowly. My other two children and I have known each other since they were born. He has never known any of us. On one of his trips to my home, he did meet my other two grown children (his sister and brother) but not their spouses or children. I did that intentionally as it would have been way too much too fast for him. When he comes for Thanksgiving weekend, he will meet their spouses and their children (his nieces and nephew), but he will also have the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with his sister and the same with his brother. We are all excitedly looking forward to his trip here. He is very wanted in this family.

Through continuous one and two hour phone calls, constant emails, and in-person times together, we have built an incredible bond and a very caring relationship.  We are now creating our own “memories”.  This has been a truly beautiful journey for both of us.  I truly love my newly re-discovered son.

There is no way that I can ever thank Christina Shuma, the Lund Family Center and the Vermont Adoption Registry enough for bringing us together. Christina has been extremely professional yet compassionate, caring and wonderful to both my son and to me. We will never forget her.

My life-long dream has finally come true. Miracles do happen.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

ADOPTED SON’S STORY

I have known all my life that I was adopted; in fact, I was so young that I can’t remember being told.  I was raised by loving parents who provided me with everything that I needed and I love them the same as they love me. This is my story.

When I was very young I did ask my parents, “Why was I adopted?” and at first they didn’t have an answer for me.  I must have surprised them with this but my father later explained some of the reasons why children are adopted but he didn’t know the exact reason why I was put up for adoption.  That was the last time I remember ever asking questions about my adoption out loud.  That didn’t mean I did not have questions.   I had plenty of them.  All my life I thought about it, some of the times were worse than others.  There were triggers to these questions:  thoughts and emotions and sometimes I didn’t need a trigger, I would just ponder over it.  Some of these triggers were birthdays (not just mine), family reunions and trips to the doctor’s.

Photo by Noelle Bonneau

My family consisted of the five of us, my Mother, Father, two siblings and myself.  One of my siblings was also adopted.  The other was not.  My parents treated us all the same and never once did I hear any remark about adoption or see any kind of favoritism.  I had a normal childhood and did all things that young boys like to do.  I liked playing outside, played a lot of sports and spent some of my summers at a camp.  My relationship with my siblings was normal, although we are all about five years apart in age from each other.  We lived in a nice community with other kids within walking distance and open places to play.

When I was in my preteen years (about twelve) my extended family, led by my father, started studying genealogy and building a family tree dating back generations.  Over the holidays we had the normal family get together and the family members that had done some of the research got everyone to sit down and learn what was found.  I had never felt so out of place before in my life.   I wasn’t sure I should have even been there.  This was about the same time my father was getting us ready for a sabbatical overseas for a year.  This required an extensive trip to the doctor’s office with many shots, a physical and a medical history sheet for me to get into school overseas.  I was in the office when my mother had to explain why I did not have any family medical history and why my birth certificate was different and not completed for almost a year after I was born.  She had to supply more documentation before I was approved to get my passport and some kind of student acceptance form.  These events did little to help my state of mind.

After returning from overseas, I started to become rebellious and with each passing year this became worse.  In high school I started to hang out with the “wrong” crowd, partying and staying out late and didn’t worry about consequences (there were few).  After my seventeenth birthday I suffered a huge personal loss that sent me over the edge and made me impossible to handle.  My parents tried counseling but I wasn’t listening to anyone.  Later I dropped out of high school and started to work as a dishwasher and prep for a local restaurant.  After getting into more serious trouble, I decided that it was time for me to leave home and find a new direction.  So I went into the local recruiters’ office and enlisted into the Military.  Twenty-four hours later I was at the recruit depot and my life started to change in a big hurry.  While in the service I did go to night school and completed my credits and received my high school diploma. What I learned in the Military has served me well for the rest of my life.

When I received my honorable discharge,I started my career in manufacturing.  I went to college for two years to learn more and gain access to higher paying jobs and did well in the manufacturing arena.  During this time I had little contact with my adoptive family but did spend quiet time thinking about all of the questions I still had from my childhood that never went away.  In the nineties I was burned out from working too much and was starting to lose my way.  It was then I decided to move and change my direction again.

After moving, I started a completely new career, started to have a little more contact with my family and more so with my sister who was also adopted.  I finally started to speak to her about how I felt about my adoption and some of the thoughts, questions and emotions I was experiencing.  She told me that she was going through some of same things and suggested I put my name and contact information on the Vermont Adoption Registry that she had discovered.  I didn’t know at that time that was an option and knew that I really needed to register.  The thought of being able to answer some of my questions and maybe even meet a blood relative was exciting to me.  When I did register I found out that my birth mother had not registered.  At that time I was supplied with all of the non-identifying information that I was allowed to have. I learned that my birth mother was young and had to give me up, not by her choice, and I was given other minimal information.   Somehow that did make me feel a little better about things but did wish that there was contact information.

The information that I received from Lund was helpful for some questions but did bring on more and a big desire for contact. For almost 12 years I went about my life and made more changes and had moved again, this time back to the state where I was raised. During this time, I had divorced and remarried and changed jobs again.  Life was okay but I seemed to always be missing something and was unable to become close to my adoptive family.  Even though I had people around me, I always seemed to feel alone and still wasn’t sure where I belonged.

Then one day out of the blue, I came home from work and there was a message on my answer machine.  I went about my normal after-work stuff and then went over to the answer machine to hear the message and what I heard made my heart skip a beat.  It was the from the Vermont Adoption Registry looking for me.  This was at 4:30 on June 17, 2011.  I returned the call and reached a kind woman, Christina Shuma.  She asked me a few questions and told me the best news I have had in my life.  My birth mother had contacted the registry, was hoping for contact and wanted to provide me with medical history.   I told Christina that yes, I did still feel the same way as when I registered back in 1999, and it was okay to provide my birth mother with my contact information.   Not thinking clearly when speaking with Christina, I hung up the phone with my head going in a hundred different directions and then I kicked myself for not asking for my birth mother’s contact information.  So, I tried to call Christina back but, of course, it was after five and she had gone home for the weekend.  That made for the longest weekend in my life, but thought to myself that I would just find out on Monday.  Well, Christina didn’t work on Monday so I waited until Tuesday and was then able to speak with her.  Christina gave me the information I asked for.  I asked her some questions and she gave me some good advice on how to proceed.

I took Christina’s suggestions and sat down at my computer and wrote my first e-mail to my birth mother.  It was short but I let her know the door was open.  I think I checked for a response about once a minute for two hours and got my first reply that literally started the first day of the rest of my life.  My first reaction to receiving a response was a flood of over forty years of emotions that just poured out.  I could not believe it.  My birth mother, the one person I thought about all of my life, was e-mailing me.

It was very important to me to let her know from the beginning that I held no ill feelings or resentment toward her and that I really did want to communicate with her.  After a few e-mails, she sent me her phone number and said that it was okay to call her.  On June 21 at 4:30 pm I spoke to her for the first time.  What a good feeling!  We talked for about two hours and told each other that this was what we both wanted.  That phone call was just the first of countless more that would go on for hours and continue to this day.  During one of these early-on phone calls we both talked about wanting to meet each other face-to-face.  Then she made me very happy and took the bold step of suggesting that she fly to my local airport and stay at a hotel for a couple of days.  On July 8th, at 8:25 am, I watched my birthmother walk off the plane and two minutes later I got the best hug of my life.  We spent the next couple of days talking, laughing and crying and going for walks.  That was a weekend I will never forget.  She told me everything I wanted to know and even the things that must have been very difficult for her to tell and I did the same for her.

In one of the earlier phone calls she told me she had two other grown children after me and that they lived in her area.  She had to sit down with them and tell them all about me.  After her meeting with them she immediately called all excited to tell me of their complete acceptance.  I was thrilled with the news.  They both wanted to meet me and I wanted to meet them.   They are my blood related half-sister and half-brother or as we all prefer to say, “sister” and “brother”.   We exchanged e-mails and they both sent me pictures of themselves and their families.  A few weeks later my birthmother and I talked about me going there and meeting my sister and my brother and spending some more time with her and to meet her husband.

I flew to my birth mother’s for a weekend.  I have to admit that I was quite nervous.  I was also feeling overwhelmed about meeting, for the first time, with my newly discovered siblings but my birth mother helped me to feel good about it all.  My sister and my brother came separately about twenty minutes apart and were very nice, made me feel welcomed and we talked for some time.

It has been five months now since I first reunited with my birth mother and it has been such an awesome experience.  It was my dream to meet my birth mother; but to meet her and enjoy my time with her and just really like her as not only my birth mother, but also such a great friend, is more than I ever could have dreamt was possible.  Through these last five months I have had the chance to know her and spend time with her.  Now I look forward to getting to know my sister and my brother better over Thanksgiving weekend.   The only struggle that I have had to endure through this is the distance between us.

5 Comments »

  1. Kath said,

    Two amazing stories. Great job, Cat.

  2. chris said,

    my husband is meeting his birthmom for the first time this weekend….

  3. Vicki said,

    I met my 25 year old son last Thursday for the first time, its been an incredible experience and such a blessing. The initial reunion was a little awkward but we have been messaging all weekend and have found incredible personality similarities. My son told me I am possibly the one person that completely understands how he thinks and feels. There is such a deep connection there and we really don’t know one another. I think we both have felt a tremendous void in our lives and meeting one another is filling that void. I cannot wait to build memories with my son. I am fortunate he lives on two hours from me. I am the luckiest person in the world. God definitely has a plan for us, what an incredible journey we are beginning. God Bless you and congratulations on finding each other. Your experiences seem to parallel ours. Take care.

  4. Nancy said,

    I met my birth son for the first time almost two months ago. Our first meeting seemed to be perfect and then the one three days later had some bumps in it. I always thought that he was going to be the one filled with many different emotions of abandonment, anger, sadness, rejection, and other, but it was actually myself who was having the rollar coaster of emotions after we met. He has not expressed many emotions except to say he loves me and wants to have a relationship with me. He mainly wanted to know his birth story and meet me. I am left wanting more than I think he is prepared to give me, and I know that I have no rights to his life, but I want him in my life just the same. I can feel that he has these walls up to protect himself and is not opening up to me but is instead finding reasons to push me away. Everyone tells me it just takes time, but it has already been 35 years, how much more time does he need? I have not seen him in 6 weeks and lives only 20 minutes away from me. We text sometimes when he feels like it or he calls me when he wants to but it is all on his terms. I am trying to deal with all my emotions when they come up, but all I want to do is just spend time with him. I feel like I am losing him again and this time is more painful than when he was born. Any suggestions?

    • Lund said,

      Hi Nancy,
      Please feel free to contact Kate Van Wagner, our options counselor who supports birth moms in situations like yours. Her e-mail is katev@lundvt.org or (802) 258-0366.

      Good luck,
      Charlotte


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