Finding family through the phonebook


Siobhan Rowe
Focus on Adoption magazine

Both of *Melissa Berry’s children want information on their birth families, but at this time, only one, Kaiya, aged 11, has. Nine year old Brooke has to cope with the knowledge that, unlike her sister’s birth mom, hers is not ready or is unable to make contact with her. Brooke came home at 11 days old. Though her adoption allowed for an open arrangement and her birthmom indicated she would be interested in written communication, it has not happened. The Berrys have sent information via the Ministry but have not had any response.

It must have been particularly hard for Brooke when just last year the Berrys finally made contact with Kaiya’s birthmom. Kaiya came home at 23 days old and at that time, there was no option for an open arrangement. Melissa and her husband were allowed to send one letter with pictures via the Ministry but there was no opportunity for her birth mother to reply. The adoption was considered closed.

Then in 1995, the Post-Adoption Registry was established. The Berrys registered immediately, hoping that Kaiya’s birthmom had registered too. She hadn’t. Kaiya was heading toward her teens and was asking questions about her birth family so her parents felt it was important to get some answers for her.

Though the registry turned up a blank, the Berry’s had, for some years, been sitting on information that they should never technically have had access to — the birthmom’s last name. This vital piece of information had inadvertently been left on some of their adoption paperwork. Though they had resisted making use of it for several years, the couple finally decided to act, and turned to the phone book.

After several calls they found Kaiya’s birth grandmother! She was delighted and reported that she thought Kaiya’s birthmom would be too. She called back ten minutes later to say that she had told the birthmom and she was very excited but also nervous. The Berrys left things to settle for a few days and then made that momentous call. They learned that the birthmom, who was 17 when Kaiya was born, had settled into a happy adulthood. She was married with one child and another on the way. Since that call, they have exchanged letters and gifts and, very importantly, photographs. “Kaiya has not expressed her feelings about it all,” says Melissa, “but I know she was really anxious to see a photograph of her birthmom — the resemblance is really striking. The letters and the Christmas presents seem to be enough for the moment. “We took a risk, but for Kaiya, it’s a really good thing. It just makes our job as parents easier when that piece of the puzzle is no longer a mystery.”

Sadly, for Brooke who has watched from the sidelines, the mystery of her birth family has not been solved. The family have no secret nugget of information in this case and must just hope that one day the letters they send to her via the Ministry will be answered. Melissa believes that the birthmom never told her parents about the pregnancy and this may be difficult for her.

Melissa and Brad have talked to the girls about the situation and have agreed that they will keep writing to Brooke’s birthmom via the Ministry. They have also explained that sometimes relationships take time to develop. So far, Brooke understands that each adoption story is unique and she is happy for her sister. She has decided to include her own letter to her birthmom in the hopes that she will feel ready to respond.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.