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For an adoptee, a few paragraphs bring hope … and validation

It’s been a heck of a week for Jeff.

Jeff was born in 1965, nearly a year before me, and discovered at age 41 that he was adopted.

Trying to sort out your identity when you’re adopted is difficult enough; I can’t begin to imagine what it must be to process that news in midlife.

But Jeff – who I know only through Facebook — didn’t have a pity party. He became an activist, throwing himself into the fight for the adoptees‘ rights. Early this week, a first mother and her child were reunited thanks to his efforts.

And just a couple of days ago, 5 1/2 years after requesting it, Jeff finally received the first true clues to his identity in the form of a report of non-identifying information. The packet included foster care records and other details, including a photo of him taken when he was a year old.

Naturally, Jeff’s Facebook feed overflowed with notes of congratulation, “likes,” shares and other commentary. My tears overflowed reading it all, because although I don’t know Jeff personally, I have a pretty good idea about how he is feeling.

One of the people leaving a note for him asked if he felt like a “real boy” now.

I can relate.

Me, in June 1968; 2 years old and already a fashionista.

Receiving my report of non-identifying information from Westchester (NY) Family Services in 2009 (state law forbids any clues that might identify my first mother) was like opening the most exquisite Christmas present.

Finally I knew that I was English and German.

That I was born both feet first when I made my appearance in this world on Feb. 15, 1966.

That my first mother was blonde and blue-eyed, but taller than me. That she was just 18 when I was conceived, but that she had graduated from high school, and hoped to attend college and work in data processing.

And that she was Episcopalian — a clue that later led me to Christ Church in Tarrytown where I found my baptismal record in the spring of 2011.

That there was a history of MS and heart disease in the maternal side of my family.

So many little details. I read that report so many times, I practically memorized it.

Dork that I am, for a while I carried a copy of it in my purse, in case I should bump into a good friend with whom I could share. I finally filed it away when the pages’ creases started to soften and fray.

Jeff’s elation has evaporated, however. Late last night, he learned that his first mother died in 1995. I can’t begin to parse the grief and frustration Jeff must feel.

Surely, I have feared the same about my own search. I have my non-ID. I know her name is Patricia Clark and that she baptized me Jennifer Elaine Clark. I’ve seen the registry where my baptism is recorded and the former St. Faith’s Home for Unwed Mothers building next door to the church. I’ve even met or corresponded with three women who were at St. Faith’s at the same time as Patricia, but they don’t have any memories of her to share with me.

The trail has run cold. I’ve made numerous calls, but have not found the right Patricia Clark, nor have my hopeful messages on Classmates.com or my pleas on this blog or on several adoption sites borne fruit. I’m not sure whether to dare hope she’s looking for me.

Increasingly I caution myself that I must learn to be at peace with what I’ve been able to find. It’s much more than many adoptees will ever know.

Of course that is easier said than done. I confess that the joy I feel for those found and reunited is always tinged with a bit of sadness and envy.

Who am I and where do I fit in?

Last weekend at our church fair, a woman I do not know stood next to me in the serving line. She noticed Catherine nearby and quickly made the connection: “She looks so much like you.”

I’m quite sure she was taken aback to see my eyes fill with tears, but it was simply too much to explain while serving up helpings of Pastitsio and Moussaka.

About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and recently reunited adoptee. I'm living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.


5 thoughts on “For an adoptee, a few paragraphs bring hope … and validation

  1. Have you considered using online genealogy tools to discover more about your story/family history, which can lead to recovery of historical documents? When one generation makes a choice to give a child up for adoption, other relatives may make posts searching for these children. I have other suggestions if interested, which have been very helpful in my own search.

    Posted by TC, former Ohio Search Angel | October 10, 2012, 1:11 pm
    • I’ve had the help of terrific search angels, but of course am interested in any suggestions that might help my search.

      Posted by Terri S. Vanech | October 11, 2012, 7:28 am
      • Terri,
        I’m also an adoptee– found my own birth parents years ago with only my non ID and a fairly common last name. Last week I helped an old college acquaintance find hers. I started by searching some birth/marriage records via Ancestry.com (which I could access for free at my public library and followed the trail from there. Happy to take a look for you this week if you want…just email me if you’d like me to.

        Posted by Kim | October 21, 2012, 10:15 pm


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