What Do You Want to Know? A Reunion Story

by Danielle Fairlee

I always knew I was adopted. I don’t remember not knowing. Each year on my birthday, my mom Valerie would say to me, “Your birth mother is thinking of you today.”

Growing up, I never yearned to search for my birth mom. I was content in my life and always busy with school/work/activities/life. But when I got engaged, Valerie said, “Wouldn’t it be lovely if your mother could be at your wedding?” Of course, back then, we didn’t have Google like we do now. So I looked into joining a national adoption reunion registry, but there was a small fee that didn’t work with my “salad days”-budget. So searching went on the back burner.

Cut to years later, when my twin boys were born. My husband and I were asked all the time, “Do twins run in your family?”  We knew they didn’t run in his family, but what about mine? We had no clue. So we responded with a simple, “They do now!”  Again, I pondered searching, but didn’t get far.

What I had all along, that many of my fellow adoptees don’t have, was my birth mom’s full name. My adoption had been handled quickly, via a doctor and an attorney, and somehow my parents were given this information. I also knew her age and that she wasn’t from my home state of California.

Turns out, when I finally decided to search in earnest eight years ago, that was all I needed.

In my research, I learned I had to be respectful of my birth mom’s life. (What if she was married, with a spouse or children who didn’t know about her past?) I also had to be prepared for anything I would find. Thankfully, I was blessed to be in a good place in life – I had a happy marriage, a stable home, healthy children. I knew I could handle whatever I uncovered.

An experienced searcher told me sad stories of adoptees who discovered birth parents who were impoverished, mentally ill, or even dead. Cushioning me for what I might discover, she gently shared stories of women who refused or denied their birth children, setting off years of depression on the part of the adoptees.  But somehow I knew this would be OK. I was ready.

A few days later, I plugged my birth mom’s name into an Internet site dedicated to background searches. I knew the odds were slim that she would still have her maiden name, but nonetheless, I tried.  Within seconds I had several hits, including various similar spellings.  Among them was an exact match to her full name — a woman with the correct age, still living in the same community where I was born. Right away, Valerie said, “That’s her. She waited for you.”

So I crafted a carefully worded letter. Addressing her by name, I asked if she could possibly be the woman of the same name whom I first met on my birth date, at the hospital where I was born. If she wasn’t that person, she was welcome to let me know. But if she was the one I was seeking, I invited her to please contact me at my home address or via email. That was all. Nothing else. I sent the letter by return receipt mail.

A week later, I got back the notice with her signature, proving she’d received my letter. Something told me to keep that card.

A few days after that, I received an email from her.

Yes, she said, I am the woman you are looking for. “What do you want to know?” she asked.

That simple exchange began a beautiful reunion that continues today.  And yes, twins do run in my family. Turns out I have twin aunts. How about that?

Danielle with her handsome twin sons

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Danielle Fairlee is a freelance writer and publicist in Los Angeles. She and her husband are the proud parents of college-aged twin sons and two rescue dogs. She looks forward to sharing more about her reunion story.

Comments

  1. Thanks, Danielle, for sharing your story. A friend of mine, who was also adopted as an infant, made a similar observation to me: that young adulthood (18-early 20s) is not an ideal time to search because of the other issues a young person is going through regarding identity. He, too, recommended waiting until one is established and mature enough to handle whatever comes. I’m so glad you had good advisors along the way. God bless

  2. This is awesome to hear, I to slugged my mother’s name into the internet, and after a 20 year search I found an address, and mailed a letter, a few days later, I got an email confirming who she was, and we have been in reunion for just over a year now.

    I to was afraid of what I might find, how my letter would be received….all I heard for years was tales of disaster, but I never let that stop me…..

    ….this past year has been absolutely wonderful.

    Best of luck with your reunion journey!!!

  3. @Heidi I don’t believe that there is an ‘ideal time’ for adoptee’s to begin the search. I began my search at 21, and didn’t find my mother until last summer when I was 40. People mature differently at various points in their lives, and this is an individual decision. Some search’s may take a few days, some may take decades. Waiting for an ‘ideal time’, just like parents telling children they’re adopted, might never come……it becomes, I have college, I have grad school, I have a career to start, I’m getting marred, I’m buyng a house, I have to mow the lawn….when an adoptee feels he/she is ready, then they should be supported, whenever that is.

  4. Great story, Danielle! I’m glad everything turned okay –> happy for you all.

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