Originally published 05:31 p.m., Tuesday, November 24, 2009, at http://www.stamfordadvocate.com
By Terri S. Vanech
Allow me to introduce myself.
I know; some of you are thinking, “Don’t I already know you?” Funny thing is, until recently, I thought I knew all there was to know about myself.
But in the mail today came a document I’ve coveted more than any college acceptance letter. It is my adoption information from Westchester (N.Y.) Family Services. A social worker there has transcribed the events leading up to my birth in a 4½-page document culled from WFS files. The report contains no identifying information about my birth parents, but offers some new pieces to the jigsaw puzzle that is my life.
Make no mistake: I’m not bitter or angry about the circumstances of my birth. My parents — by this I mean the couple who adopted me — are terrific, loving and generous people. I’m fortunate they chose me and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Still, there are plenty of things about me I don’t know, and as I’ve aged and watched my daughter blossom into a beautiful young woman, those simple curiosities have grown, too. Two summers ago, I finally decided to request the information sealed away all these years.
I once worried that searching would hurt my parents’ feelings, but I needn’t have feared. They have been amazingly supportive, offering me yet another in a long line of gifts I can never repay.
My request in July 2008 for non-identifying information from my birth certificate turned up precious little information, so I followed up with WFS. And waited.
The WFS report confirms what my family always suspected — I am the daughter of unwed teenagers — and offers some new information: My birth mother was blonde, blue-eyed and considered pretty. She had an upturned nose and engaging smile. She intended to go to college and work in the data processing field.
My ancestry is English and German.
My birth father left high school to become a machinist apprentice.
I was born breech — both feet first — and have been baptized twice.
Workers at the maternity home reported that my birth mother took excellent care of me during the six days I stayed there with her; the WFS reports are clear that she never wavered in her commitment to put me up for adoption.
It is a lot of information to digest, and I have found myself repeatedly rereading the report in an effort to understand and find more clues to who I am.
My remaining questions vary from the seemingly frivolous to much headier stuff: Which one of them is responsible for my dry sense of humor? Are the snow-white strands of hair taking over my head similar to hers? Do I have siblings? What would my birth parents think of their biological granddaughter? Does my birth father think about me? Would they be proud of the person I’ve become?
Did she love me?
After first reading the report, I had a bit of an identity crisis, but I made peace with that quickly. Regardless of the answers to my many queries, the report doesn’t change who I am; it simply helps put some things in perspective. Most of all, it’s amazing to know even this much about myself after all these years.
Now, with the blessings of my parents and my husband, I’m starting the next leg of this journey of self-discovery. I don’t know where it will lead, but I welcome the trip.
Terri S. Vanech, an Old Greenwich resident, is the former features editor of The Advocate. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.