Guest blogger, Jen Matthews, Founder of Conversations About Adoption Facebook Group shares her own adoption journey. She shares her raw story from the initial contact to how life after reunion feels. Please note this is her personal story, please respect her journey she has chosen to share with us.
On June 18, 2001 an intermediary for Orphan’s Court of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh, Pa) was the one who actually made initial contact for me.
I had searched for years in the early days of the Internet. I poured over mutual consent reunion registries for hours at a time. I had no real information to go by though.
All my life, the only info I had about myself and my natural parents was very sparse. I had my birth date, the name of the hospital where I was delivered, the Doctor’s name, and that my mother was around 16 or 17 and from the North Hills area of Pittsburgh.
After she spoke with my grandmother, and my grandmother checked with my grandfather, the intermediary was granted permission to fill me in and give me their phone number and names.
My mother had passed away April 19, 1982.
I was devastated… But didn’t know it yet. The grief would come later.
When the intermediary told me what my mother’s name was… I was struck with the feeling of familiarity that I had never experienced before. My mind said, “Oh yea, that’s right. That is what her name was. You’ve known this all along, but just forgot.”
I called my grandparent’s house.
My grandmother answered. She was SO happy to find out that I had been raised by a good family, and that I was “OK”. I was told that I had a younger half-brother, and an Uncle. Neither were ever told of my existence.
While talking to gram I realized that I already knew my brother. He had been expelled from his high school. His paternal grandparents (who raised him) wanted him to get his diploma so they paid tuition at a nearby High school so that he could finish… It just happened to be MY high school. He had been one of my bullies the last 2 years at school.
We talked about when I could meet them. My ENTIRE natural family lived less than 20 miles away from where I grew up. My grandmother said she would have to tell my uncle first.
I went to my adoptive mom’s house and frantically raided the photo albums for pictures I wanted to show them of me when I was little.
On June 20, 2001 I met natural family for the first time. My adoptive mom drove me to my grandparent’s house for the reunion, and I am quite glad she did, as I was a bit of a nervous wreck on the way there. I was so filled with anxiety, and fear, and excitement… I remember I couldn’t sit still in the front seat of her van. I kept saying, “I can’t do this.”
Mom would say, “Yes you can.”
We arrived at my grandparent’s house. My grandmother met us out in the yard. She hugged me really tightly. Tears were flowing. Then she hugged my mom and said, “Thank you for taking care of her.” And mom said, “Thank you for giving her to us.” (Which in retrospect feels a little weird.) In the moment it was magical.
We entered into the house by the kitchen. There I met my grandfather, who hugged me, and then chuckled and made his way over to the living room couch. Then I met my Uncle. He and I stared at each other a lot.
I remember the first time I saw my grandmother, I thought, “Well that’s what I am going to look like at 71.” It was THE first time I had ever experienced genetic mirroring, and it was that profound. I feel like I resemble my uncle too.
(Now I know I look like my dad too but that is a whole other story.)
The entire experience of meeting them was just amazing and TOTALLY OVERWHELMING.
It was a sensory overload. Most of my memories of that time spent in their home are a blur. Except I remember thinking to myself, “she was pregnant with me in this house.” There were multiple small moments like that.
My gram brought out family pictures. She showed them to my mom, and I tried to look at them, but I was in such a state, that focus was difficult. I do recall hearing my gram point out certain pictures to my mom. They were all pictures of my mom with various animals. Ironically the photos I had selected of myself was a collection of me with various animals. I found out that she had had ponies, and a horse up till she was married. That really blew my mind because I have been obsessed with horses for as long as I can remember.