“I’m not your real Mom. You are adopted.” Those may not have been the exact words, but at age two-and-a-half that’s what I remember hearing. From that moment on, my life changed. Although my mother’s intentions were good, she could not have known how this would impact me.
At the same time as making this comment, she also told me that I would accompany my parents the next morning to bring home a new sister. I was told that we would take a ferry and drive through tunnels to get her- a curious place to get a baby sister, I thought!
So, we brought my new baby sister home, and after finally getting the family of their dreams through adoption, much to my parents’ surprise, my mother became pregnant. This time my new baby sister came home with my Mom from the hospital.
I couldn’t have asked for a more loving family. But those words, “I’m not your real mom” stayed with me. I wondered, “If you aren’t real, then what is? What do real parents look like? Would I be sent back to my ‘real parents’ if I was bad?” Luckily, my parents were unbelievably supportive, and continually encouraged me and my sister, if it was what we wanted, to find our birth parents.
My search would only be for my mother, as we were told that my birth father had been killed in a car accident while my unwed, but engaged, birth mother was pregnant with me.
I did the passive searches - reading the classified ads on my birthday, etc - but it wasn’t until the BC government announced they would be opening up adoption files that I truly got serious. I sent in my request to have my files. When they arrived, I stalled. After seeing my birth certificate with my birth mother’s actual name and the name she had given me, I somehow could not go any further - she’d rejected me once, what if she rejected me again? I didn’t know if I could handle that.
Coinciding with this was a sudden change of heart by my adoptive mother. It seemed, now that finding my birth mother was so close, my adoptive mother was uncomfortable with the whole idea. She told me of many reunion cases gone sour and with unhappy outcomes.
So, I filed all my identifying files away for when I felt the time was right. I knew it wouldn’t be hard to find my birth mother if she was still alive as she had a Ukrainian name and an unusual one.
A year or two passed before I heard, in a conversation, just how easy it was to find people on the Internet through the Canadian 411 telephone directory. I tried it and found about a dozen leads of people across Canada with the same last name as hers, but none with her first name. I concluded she must have married.
I showed my wife what I had found and asked her to see what she could dig up. When I got home from work the next day, she handed me a piece of paper with a few scribbles on it and quickly said, “This is her married name. Here is her phone number. Now the rest is up to you.”
Yes, it had been that easy. Four phone calls and she had found a relative of my birth mother. The person on the other end of the phone gave me my birthmom’s married name, and told me that she was recently widowed and had no children. She mentioned the name of the husband who had passed away, and it was the same name that I had been given on my birth certificate!
My wife and I talked over dinner and she convinced me to make the inevitable call. Holding my breath, I called. She was my birth mother. We talked and had a very emotional conversation. She had lost her husband the year before. I had to ask her, “Was he my father?” He was. The story my adopted family had been given and had passed on to me was not accurate, including the information about my father.
My mother had been 21, living on a farm in rural Manitoba, when she found out she was pregnant. My father, her boyfriend of a few years, decided to split up with her. To prevent embarrassment over her pregnancy, she moved to Vancouver and that’s where I was born. She told no one, except my father, about my birth. I was adopted in Vancouver. She moved back to Manitoba, got back with my father, and two years later they married. They never had any other children. My birth mother has since told no one about me, not even her sisters.
A week after our phone call, my birth mother flew out to meet me. At the airport, my wife looked out of the small viewing area while I anxiously waited inside. My wife picked her out of the crowd instantly, and when she walked through the doors I did too. You can only imagine the scene at the airport—hugs, tears and every other kind of emotion. We spent two days getting to know each other, sharing stories, and putting together the puzzle of who I am.
It is more than four years later, and a wonderful relationship has been formed between us. We talk regularly on the phone. My wife, my stepson, and I have visited her, and she has spent many holidays with us. She has also built a close relationship with my adoptive parents. Last spring they flew to Manitoba and spent a week with her on her farm.
All my life I had been searching for something “real” and had wanted to have a “real” family of my own, my own “real” kids, someone who really belonged to me. My wife and I tried for years to conceive a child, but it became apparent that other than her son Nick, we would have no biological children.
We had talked of adoption, but it wasn’t until I met my birth mother that I made the startling realization - “Your parents aren’t the people who give birth to you - they are the people who raise you. That is what I had been looking for - that was real, and that was my missing piece.
This opened up the reality of adoption for me. Although my wife had mentioned it in the past, I was set on having someone “real.” How things change.
We were so surprised to hear that there were so many kids right here in BC, waiting to be adopted. Our path was chosen right then and there. We applied, went through the homestudy process and did the appropriate courses, and then the day came when we received our children’s profiles.
After a few months of working out numerous details, talking on the phone with our social worker and the kids’ social worker and having conversations with their foster parents, we found ourselves in Victoria. These two amazing kids, unfortunately, never had the opportunity to live together prior to their adoption, and thank goodness the Ministry held firm on their position that they be placed together.
I can proudly tell you that on October 15, 2002, we returned home, as fate would have it, just like my parents via a ferryboat, with two young kids to call our own. A beautiful and spirited little girl aged three-and-a-half and her adorable birth brother aged two-and-a-half that we have since adopted from the Ministry of Children and Family Services.
It is now a year and a half since they moved in with us and they are flourishing in every way. My wife is now a stay-at-home mom and we are the parents of two extremely happy, very healthy kids who sleep 12 hours a night, play hard and laugh a lot. It’s hard to imagine them never being together before this, as they are not only brother and sister but clearly the best of friends.
We count our blessings every day. They have attached to us, their grandparents, and to their new older brother as their growing-up family. It has been truly been a remarkable journey and a relatively smooth transition. We owe this to a delicately orchestrated pre-placement plan executed with both sets of foster families.
Who would have known that four years ago when I set out on a road of discovery to find my birth mother, that I would not only find her but be embraced by her. Even more important than this is that it would ultimately lead me to another missing piece in my life, and that was to be a dad to my own real family.