The following story first appeared in the September 24, 1990 issue of the Brandon Sun, under the headline “Natural mother makes unique sacrifice by giving up her child.” It’s reprinted here with permission.
I remember that it was a sunny morning, a nice one to sit on the front steps of my parents home and think about the future.
I was my 21st birthday.
I remember my mother joining me and then, speaking softly and with tears in her eyes, her asking me to take a few moments to think about a woman whom I had never met.
“I’m positive,” she said, “that your birth mother thinks of you, especially on your birthday. You should never forget that.
“So will you do me a favour today and say a prayer for her? Will you promise me that?”
Later that day, while walking down a downtown Toronto Street, I said a prayer for her. I don’t recall the exact words, but I remember asking God to look kindly upon this woman for having the courage to bring me into the world and then, knowing she couldn’t offer me a stable family life, put me up for adoption.
I had thought about this woman many times before that day over six years ago, as I have so many times since. Those thoughts have never been anchored by feelings of anger or resentment.
They are feelings that came back recently after I read the contents of a plain brown envelope that came to me in the mail.
Inside was what is called non-identifying background information of my birth parents and information on myself during the time I spent in the care of the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto as an infant.
Inside that envelope is, in fact, the beginning of my life. And now, after reading through it, I fully understand. I’d like to share some of the contents of those seven pages of information.
The records tell the story of a 17-year-old girl raised in an Irish Catholic family who became pregnant in the fall of 1962. She weighed 120 pounds and had brown hair. Her eyes were blue, her complexion fair and she had freckles. Her health was described as good.
She was in Grade 10, but had to leave school due to her pregnancy. She was an average student who enjoyed spelling, typing, penmanship and mathematics. She also took home economics in school.
She worked during one summer at a sanatorium and was hopeful she would be able to obtain work as a clerk typist at some point. After my birth, she worked for the health department assisting with immunizations programs at various schools.
She enjoyed playing basketball, swimming and skating and like to watch baseball and hockey. She enjoyed listening to popular music and reading newspapers and mystery books. She liked to knit and sew.
She was described as a quiet responsible young lady with a refined and mild manner, but somewhat insecure. She had a mother and a father, three brothers and a sister.
During her pregnancy, she lived in a maternity home and returned to live with her family after my birth. I am the result of a brief relationship she had with a 23-year-old French Canadian. The records say that, in retrospect, she felt she was very immature and irresponsible to have gotten involved with him.
He was part of her circle of friends and when he asked her out she was very flattered, as he was apparently a sought after fellow in the group. She did not wish him to know of the pregnancy because she felt he would not be supportive. He was never told.
I grew up knowing that I had been adopted as an infant. The same goes for my younger sister and brother. And while I can’t speak for them, knowing this was never a big deal for me. As a matter of fact, it used to make me feel kind of special. After all, I was a chosen child.
My parents were always very open with our family, friends and relatives about adoption. I think they too felt special. After all, they too were chosen.
I’ve never really given much thought to the types of questions that I’m sure many people who either know or find out later in life that they were adopted wonder about. And I credit that to my adopted parents’ openness.
I requested this information over two years ago to find out about the medical histories of my birth parents, not to get answers for questions like” How could she give me up? Where is she now? Why hasn’t she ever tried to find me?
What I learned recently only confirms what I’ve been told many times before by my adopted parents. That is that the decision to put me up for adoption was not made because it was the convenient thing for my birth mother to do. It was a hard decision. But it was the best one.
I want to share a section in the records that note her reasons for opting for adoption because I believe it confirms this. And maybe her reasons can in some small way help other adoptee’s understand how difficult a decision it must be for birth parents to make.
“The birth mother felt that it was in Patrick’s interest to be offered the opportunity of a loving and stable two-parent family,” the records state. “As marriage was not a possibility, she was unable to offer him this. She was young and single and was not equipped to deal with the responsibilities of single parenthood. Although she requested permanent wardship for Patrick, it was a very difficult decision for her. She attended his Baptism and saw him while he was in a society-operated foster care home. She requested a month’s adjournment on the first court date, as she was unable to relinquish him for adoption.
After much discussion with the worker, the birth mother came to the realization that she could not provide adequately for Patrick’s future. She therefore attended the court hearing and requested crown wardship for Patrick. In this way, she gave him the opportunity for adoption.
I prefer not to think about what I would be today if she had decided to keep me. Instead, I sometimes think about what I would have missed.
After reading through the information, I said another prayer for this woman. I’ve been asked before whether I would like to meet her some day. It is a question I’ve never really been able to answer.
Maybe we’ll meet some day. Maybe we won’t. But if we ever do, one of the first things I would say to her is, thanks.