Mother’s Day is a day both blessed and fraught for many people, and for many reasons—moms we’ve lost too soon, strained relationships, and for adoptees a particular kind of challenge that is as varied among us as it is the same.
Adoption has touched my family two times. My adoptive mom’s family lost one daughter (they had named Justine) through adoption, then gained one years later when my parents adopted me. As I celebrate the day with my mom over morning coffee, I think about Justine. Her family of origin is my family of memories. They belong to us both in different ways, and I think of Ann, my own birth mother, too.
It was on this day 27 years ago that I received the first letter from her. It was the letter that started it all. Hard as it was to navigate a post reunion landscape without a map (especially back then), one of my life’s greatest blessings was to have had Ann in it for 22 years, and for the ways my mom respected my need to know her. Today is my fifth Mother’s Day since Ann passed and I miss her still.
Beneath all that Mother’s Day is, one hopes, is love, however damn hard that might be to articulate carefully in cards and letters exchanged.
In honor of Ann’s memory, I’d like to share how she first communicated that love in her voice, with the letter that started it all, and her art. The image above is a painting she created a few years before she died and titled “Childlike Spirit.”
May 10, 1987
The time has finally arrived. I have just found you. It is difficult to know just what the right way is to contact you. I am writing this letter today, on Mother’s Day, as it turns out, not knowing how I will get it to you. I have a friend, Jay, who lives very near you, he may have handed you this letter. Perhaps I will see you today and hand it to you myself.
However you received this letter, I hope that you are not upset in any way. I don’t know if you have looked for me yet. I don’t even know if you were told that you were adopted. But I feel fairly certain that by now you must know.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably guessed that I’m your birthmother. My maiden name was Ann Mary Roberts. When you were born I named you Ann Marie Roberts.
I am going to tell you a few things now. In early February 1967, I became pregnant. I was 16 yrs. old and “in love.” I gave birth to you at Providence Hospital in Holyoke, Mass.
I had been living in a home for unwed mothers. A woman from the home rode with me in a cab to the hospital when my labor pains began. (Halloween night – around midnight we arrived) You were born at 5:10 pm the following day.
In the days that followed, you were brought into my room. I remember holding you on my lap and looking at you. Your eyes seemed to look right into my soul. What a miracle you were to me. I was overwhelmed with awe, and joy and love and sadness. I knew I couldn’t keep you and my heart was broken and still is.
I was 17 when you were born. There was no option open to me to keep you. Times were very different in the sixties. My father would not even discuss the situation. My mother’s hands were tied. I got a lot of pressure from the agency and my local doctor to put you up for adoption.
I did not want to surrender you. I didn’t have any choice, though—and no support from any direction. They convinced me that adoption would be the best thing for you.
Words cannot express my sense of loss. Words cannot express how I have felt for 19½ years, not knowing anything about you. And not having you with me.
I have not seen you since you were 4 weeks old. I visited you once at St. Catherine’s Infant Home on Main Ave. I couldn’t hold you or kiss you because you were behind a glass window.
On Friday, May 8th, I set eyes on your picture in your high school yearbook – your sophomore picture. I am filled with joy – you are sweet and beautiful.
You have my dark hair and brown eyes. You looked like myself when I looked at you as a baby. Forgive me for writing down my feelings and memories.
You are a 5-10 minute drive from my house. I live in Woodscape, a two-three yr. old development off Western Ave., right past Coco’s Restaurant.
Naturally, I am anxious to see you and share so many things with you. I have many family members – brothers & sisters. My mom is alive and well – my Dad died when I was 21.
We are good people, nothing to be afraid of.
As I say, I don’t know how you will react to this. I will give you my number at work. Please call me anytime. I love you!
P.S. Your father is in the area. He is married. You can meet him too. He has blue eyes and is Irish and German. I am ¼ German, ¼ Irish, and ½ English. See you soon, I HOPE!
The story of what happened from there can be found here: Portrait in Nature and Nurture. If you have a “love letter” you’d like to share, please send it to me at email@example.com. We’ll be sharing them here between Mother’s and Father’s Day.
Best wishes for a Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!
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