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Adoption search and reunion bring host of unexpected gifts

Hollow heart made of puzzle pieces

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve made cry these past few weeks.

Relatives. Friends. Acquaintances. Strangers.

I’ve watched them all well up, one by one, time and again.

It’s not what you think. I haven’t morphed into a monster (or brought my household drill sergeant persona out of the house).

Turns out the story of how I found and met my first mom is a tear-jerker, start to finish: part Nancy Drew mystery finally solved (but so much more interesting than the “Hidden Staircase,” even if the heroine didn’t have a head of auburn hair), part Saturday afternoon Lifetime movie, and all a study in the human condition.

Setting out more than five years ago on this journey, I never anticipated the people I’d meet, the lessons I’d learn, the folks I’d touch and who would touch me along the way.

  • The search angels, Pris in particular. She searched in the wrong direction for a long time, pivoted when we got the name sorted out and searched some more, then helped put the final pieces in place and pave the way for me to make contact with Pat’s sister after another person, Joanne, found the missing clue. These angels are just that —  many others jumped in at various points to help, each of them spending countless hours, free of charge, to help me and many hundreds of others like me.
  • The other women I met who were at St. Faith’s Home for Unwed Mothers when my first mom was there, too. They offered enormous support, insight, loving thoughts and, in the case of Karen, an amazing touchstone I can never thank properly.
  • Several librarians, including one at Newsday who spent time in the newspaper archives hunting down clues.
  • Grae, the kind church secretary at Christ Church in Tarrytown, NY, who surprised herself by unearthing my baptismal record — the first one she’d ever found chasing countless requests over the years only to find, time and again, that records had been destroyed. I’ll never forget her return call to me and how we both sobbed. Nor will I forget the reverence with which she set that ledger before me in the church, then left me to sit alone and contemplate Pat and many other St. Faith’s women whose names were so carefully recorded among the baptisms of church parishioners. All but one that is — one baby girl whose mother’s name was left out of the book. One child now grown who will never find the initial validation I first did on those pages.
  • Countless adoptees and birth moms who reached out to me with handwritten letters and emails in response to my blog posts — all eager to tell me their stories. Through many of their communications I learned that I wasn’t weird or selfish to want to know, that there are many, many other people who grew up just like me — loved and supported, but always struggling to see where they fit in.

I wasn’t prepared for the people I’d meet along the journey (not even the man who responded to a blog post by telling me I should be grateful I wasn’t aborted), just as I wasn’t prepared for the whirlwind of emotions and outpouring of warmth I’m experiencing from Pat and her huge family (I swear, I’m getting a white board to track them!).

They have welcomed me with open arms, leaving me stunned and awestruck. I had spent so much time anticipating the worst possible scenario, I didn’t dare hope for acceptance.

Lately, though, there has been yet another layer, another gift borne of this experience that I didn’t anticipate, either.

I have managed to touch people in an unexpected way.

I had hoped I’d see support from friends and relatives, so that wasn’t surprising, but the outpouring of kind messages on Facebook amazed me.

So, too, did a visit from my neighbor, someone with whom we only exchange greetings a couple times a year when we cross paths doing yard work. She brought me chocolates and hugs, cried in my living room and told of the wine-glass toast she and her husband offered on my behalf over lunch.

Basil and Catherine’s priest and one of my bosses have hugged me with joy.

The mother of one of Catherine’s church friends was so absorbed in the story, tears running down her cheeks, that she was nearly bopped on the head by a volleyball during the girls’ game this past Sunday.

Customers at Jazzercise have stayed behind after class to hear how it unfolded, see the picture of Pat and me together, offer their congratulations, hug me.

A woman whose daughter, a classmate of Catherine’s, is struggling with a serious medical issue, stopped me in CVS, but wouldn’t talk about what she’s coping with. She only wanted to hear what I had to say, and was effusive with her congratulations.

Each and every one of them has cried, even if I (occasionally) managed to get through the story dry-eyed.

And each and every one reminds me of how — family or not — we are all connected.

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.


24 thoughts on “Adoption search and reunion bring host of unexpected gifts

  1. Found my birth 1/2 siblings via DNA this summer (born 1964 at St Faith’s). And thanks to NY opening adoption records, I was able to get my original birth certificate to confirm everything. Both birth and adoptive parents are now deceased but I’m looking forward to developing new connections with all my new family members. Life is good!

    Posted by Wendy Storms | April 4, 2022, 8:20 pm
  2. First time here in your blog and I swear I could stay all day… too bad I have to go, but I´ll be back! I am not adopted or really know any adoptees, but have always been fascinates by your stories! I am so glad yours seem to have worked our just fine! Glad to meet you!

    Posted by carolina | March 24, 2015, 12:16 pm
  3. Getting chills reading your tale. There is a LOT of this on my husband’s side. I’ll leave it at that. His drama is unbelievable. So happy for you. Diana

    Posted by Holistic Wayfarer | June 9, 2013, 12:41 am
  4. “Every time a bell rings, an adoption angel gets its wings!” Congratulations, Terri…and to all the angels who aided in your search. I just read your emotional and eloquent story on First Mother Forum. I too have been searching for so long, born in ’58, and believe the first weeks of my life were at St. Faith’s House. You have opened a new avenue of possibility. Keeping the faith, Laura

    Posted by Laura | April 1, 2013, 5:36 pm
  5. Hah – you made me laugh – my whole baby group (now book group as our children are all so old) were with me every step of the way during my reunion story and they wept like infants when Gwen’s first letter came with the story of how she had to give me up – even the really bitchy woman I can’t stand!

    Posted by Sweetpeas | March 7, 2013, 12:14 pm
  6. What a wonderful story and so happy for you! I continue my search and this helps to hear. I only started my blog this past summer but it has been good therapy for me 🙂 I hope to gain more followers because I would love to help others and be connected with others like myself.

    Posted by irisheyezs | March 4, 2013, 4:18 pm
  7. Wow! What a journey! Found your blog from the March blog hop and am now your newest follower!

    Posted by Monica Platz | March 4, 2013, 11:23 am
  8. We really need to give a special shout out of thanks to Joan Edelman and her NYAdoptees group on Yahoo, where we met five years ago and where I have honed my searching skills. Also, if everyone who is touched by the story of Terri and Pat would take a few moments to contact their state legislators and give a word of support for adoptee birthrights to their original birth certificates, that would be wonderful and much appreciated. Hopefully, we can get OBCs restored in all “sealed” states so that hundreds of thousands of adopted persons and those who love them can at least learn their own truths if not make wonderful connections like Pat and Terri have.
    In NY, go to http://www.unsealedinitiative.org
    In CT, go to http://www.obcforct.org
    Nationwide, go to http://www.adopteerightscoalition.com
    Huge lovin’ hugs,

    Posted by Priscilla Sharp | March 2, 2013, 1:26 pm
  9. This is a great story and yes I had tears, too. It also is maddening to read all the contortions adopted adults have to Ho through just to find family. I hope you join in the fight for open records if you haven’t already.
    Pat looks like a wonderful woman. I’m one of those women swindled out of her child. Didn’t know it till I was in reunion for several months. Let Pat know that we have a yahoo group via email which supports mothers in reunion. It’s called Sunflowers First Mothers and it saved my sanity.

    Posted by Barbara Thavis | March 2, 2013, 12:25 pm
  10. Thank you for sharing. I’m adopted and I’ve met my birth mother as well as half-siblings when I was 17. I’m 52 now and in my situation life wasn’t a bed of roses afterwards.

    Posted by Debra Elliott | March 2, 2013, 11:19 am
  11. PS> I just shared your blog on FB

    Posted by zoozig | March 1, 2013, 9:56 pm
  12. Terri, from beginning to end, I am so very very happy for you. I must admit I began to think you would never find, and then…it happened. Just good vibes from me to you and I do hope we can meet one day. xxxx

    Posted by zoozig aka lorraine | March 1, 2013, 9:55 pm
  13. I say this tongue in cheek — if your search hadn’t been so difficult, I wouldn’t have gained a friend I value a great deal. And I will say that, as much of a challenge as life as a birthmother can be, the friends I have made through the experience are a treasure. Even reconnecting with some of the women at St Faith’s in an effort to pool memories to assist in your search has brought friendships I wouldn’t have thought possible — or probable — 47 years ago.

    Love you!

    Posted by Karen Waggoner | March 1, 2013, 9:09 pm

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