A literal face-to-face with the woman who birthed me

meand my birth mom Lori

me and my birth mom Lori

There was nothing I could really do to prepare to meet my birth mom, a women with whom I’d connected via email (and Facebook!) a little over a year ago (see previous posts!).

Forty-one years had passed since Lori had given birth to me, and after saying goodbye to me, dutifully handed me over to the nurses of the Indiana hospital for my upcoming adoption. Afterward, she joined the Navy, divorced my birth father, traveled the globe, remarried, had a son, and worked for the U. S. Postal Service for many years. She endeavored to put her past behind her, and very few people, outside of her family and closest friends, knew about me.

She’d been scheduled to come to my house in January because she’d planned a trip to D.C. with her younger sister Darla (from Bloomington, IN) to see Obama’s inauguration. They’d made reservations at a hotel in Short Pump the night after the Washington festivities. But while in D.C., Lori tripped over a barricade that had been set up for the events and fell squarely on her nose, which she thought might indeed be broken–it was painful and bloody and bruised, so she and Darla headed home for Indiana without even seeing Obama’s inauguration! Our visit was postponed to a later date, to occur around her and Darla’s vacation to Myrtle Beach in March.

 I like to prepare. I didn’t used to be that way when I was younger, and my college grades prove it. But now I know that I perform more successfully if I’ve given matters some thought, put a consistent amount of work into a project, etc.  Just a little bit here, a little bit there, is how I usually get things done. It’s how I wrote my first novel, actually, during my second-born’s nap times and preschool hours. But preparing to meet my birth mom proved impossible to get ready for.   

I tried to do what I could. I found a comprehensive photo album (wondering if she’d even want to see an album full of pictures from my childhood!), made reservations at a restaurant where I felt comfortable, planned the day around Ellery’s naptime, worked in a possible visit by my sister, cleaned the house, chilled some bottles of wine, bought a Key Lime pie, planned an outfit (neutral colors). But it was like I had a mental block–laced with periodic spasms of both dread and excitement–about the meeting itself. I’d never been in a comparable situation before. I couldn’t see past it, couldn’t possibly imagine how it would turn out.

When she pulled into our driveway with her sister, I peeked out the window to watch them walk up our walkway. She smiled, she looked the way she looked in the photos on her Facebook page–tall, pretty, friendly. Sean stood grinning next to me, our kids perched anxiously on the steps. And when I opened the door for her, we smiled and laughed and embraced, every single one of us exchanged hugs and greetings, and from then on, the day went more smoothly than I ever could have anticipated.

Once we settled next to each other on the sofa, I wanted to sit there and stare at her, but certain social conventions sort of prevented me from oggling her so I snuck little glances here and there, worked it into the conversation. And yes, we do resemble each other physically. She is tall (she has shrunk just a bit from her 6 foot height!), and blonde (of course we both color now!), and fair-skinned (we’ve both had skin cancers removed–apparently it runs in the family!). Dorsey and Sean said we resembled one another facially, and my sister teared up pretty bad when she saw us standing together to greet her. She said it was so obvious we were related.

But our similarities definitely go beyond the physical. It’s hard to explain, but we both laugh a lot. Guffaw, giggle and grin as well. Those of you who know me know that I laugh…some would say too much, and often inappropriately (when I’m nervous, excited, bored, frustrated, asleep, etc.). Well, I think Lori sometimes suffers from this affliction as well. It’s quite lovely, actually, to know that she is so good-humored. In fact, I could distintly imagine us having a great time hanging out together, on an occasion other than our very first meeting. My adopted mom and dad weren’t necessarily known for their ability to let it all hang out, though they were perfectly happy people. But it makes me wonder…is this particular personality trait genetic?? Also, we both enjoy a good glass of wine. We both like martinis and beer. And my adopted mom and dad hardly drank at all. Hmmm…genetic as well? And there were lots of smaller things…we both gravitate to the coast. We both like to read. Snoring bothers us. We both enjoy walking long distances in nature, preferably at the beach! Suffice it to say, we seemed extremely blood-related.

Grinning and giggling

Grinning and giggling

Lori brought along a photo album full of lots of different relatives going back to the mid-19th century. This, to me, was the one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, because I’ve never been related to anyone by blood before, except my own children. There is something very magical to me about looking at these people, and learning about them, and piecing together the past. I want to know these people some day.

I’d like to thank Lori, and the very lovely and fun Darla, and my own family and friends for all of your support during this whirlwind of a time. There have been times that I’ve wished for a “normal” family life, where blood relatives and histories are known and difficult personal reunions are minimal. But now I see that there is hidden magic–and an unknown and abiding love–in this life of mine. And I am one more step closer to discovering just who exactly I am.

A group shot, minus sleeping Ellery!

A group shot, minus sleeping Ellery!

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