Recently, I had the opportunity to help Dora,* an adoptee, locate her birthmother, Nancy,* through Catholic Social Service Search and Reunion Program. Initially, the search was spurred on by the Dora’s health problems and her desire for more medical information. Dora related that she had inquired about searching several years prior but “chickened out.” However, the seriousness of the recent diagnosis made it imperative that she complete her search.
Dora was very nervous during our conversation and stated several times, she didn't want to disrupt her biological mother’s life and was fearful of the response I may receive after contacting her birthmother. After researching Dora’s family files, I was pretty confident I had located her birthmother, Nancy. The next step was sending a letter to Nancy asking if she would contact the agency as I had some important information for her.
Almost two weeks went by and I had received no word from Nancy. The lack of response increased Dora’s anxiety. What would she do if her birthmother didn’t respond? I was getting ready to send a second letter when Nancy called. She acknowledged she had placed a child for adoption and I proceeded to explain why I was contacting her. Nancy was more than willing to provide a health history, but she was also cautious because her family (with the exception of her husband) did not know about this child and the subsequent adoption.
Soon, emails were sent from Dora to Nancy and vice versa with the agency acting as the intermediary. As they became more acquainted, personal information was shared including pictures. Dora and Nancy seemed ready to take the next step – a telephone call. Both women were a bundle of nerves and worried that they wouldn’t be liked, they would say something to offend the other, or generally be a disappointment to the other.
I was honored to be the facilitator of the meeting and intrigued by the similarity of these two women. They are virtually strangers to each other but were so much alike it was uncanny. Their voices, hobbies, love of reading, family values, favorite foods, their husband’s attributes, and the way they described themselves were exactly the same. The whole experience really made me ponder the whole nature versus nurture debate.
The women mutually agreed to stay in touch by email, and to arrange for a meeting in the near future in a neutral location that would include their spouses. I walked away from that meeting and this experience with a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. While my part in bringing these women together was small, their willingness to let me be a part of their journey was indescribable. I look forward to reuniting many more families in the future. I wish them well on their path of discovery.
* Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals in this story.