Internet was key to dead-locked search for birthmother
Hello. My name is Antonia, and on June 14, 1968, at 10:56 in the morning, I wasborn at West Seattle General Hospital in Seattle, Washington. To anunsuspecting baby, I'm sure everything seemed quite normal. All of the pain,both physical and emotional, felt by my birthmother at that moment wascompletely unnoticed by me. How could I have known that I wouldn't be goinghome with her? I had barely taken my first breath....
Almost ten years later, my mother sat my younger brother and me down totell us that we were adopted. "Adopted?...What's that?" She calmly did her bestto explain. "Oh, O.K." My brother and I then proceeded to go outside andtell all of our friends that we were adopted, which at the time seemed pretty coolbecause no one else had ever claimed that they were. No one believed usthough, so we made bets. It was all a game to us. It didn't stay that wayfor me.
A few years later, my rebellion began. It was your normal teenagerebellion, but I used my adoption against my mother quite a lot. I accusedher of adopting me "just so she could have a maid" or so that "she could have the'perfect' family: one boy, one girl." I firmly believed that since she was a doctor's wife who didn't work, she felt she HAD to have two children to look 'normal' and that was the only reason she wanted us. The more we grew apart, the more Iwanted to find my birthmother. It wasn't that I wanted a replacement mother, itwas that I wanted to know who I was like, because I certainly wasn't like anyoneI knew!
I asked questions and found out that my 'real' (that's the word I alwaysused for my birthfamily) last name was Larson and that my birthmother was 16at the time of my birth. I was told my nationalities: 3/4 Swedish and 1/4Norwegian, with a hint of Indian. Breast cancer had claimed the life of oneof my birthgrandmothers, they said. And, my birthparents were from the midwestsomewhere. Not much information, but I knew that since I had a last name, I'dbe able to find her...some day.
When I was 24 and newly married, I began searching seriously. I startedby calling various state departments, who always said to call someone else. So,I'd call the next person, and so on. I finally was referred to the King CountySuperior Court Adoption Services (which has jurisdiction over Seattle). They told me that they could supply me with "non-identifying information" about my birthmother.
They sent the request form, and I filled it out and sent it back in with my $8money order. I received my information within a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, theonly new information it provided was that my birthmother was Lutheran and wanted togo to beauty school after high school. They also said I was part German, aswell as being Scandinavian and Indian. It also gave my birthmother's height, weight,hair and eye colors.
I pursued two other avenues to obtain more leads--the attorney's office that handled my adoption, and the private medical records archive which took over the files of the now defunct West Seattle General Hospital. Getting nowhere, I stopped my search. Even though I was discouraged, I knew that I'd find her someday.
I'm now 28, and I'm recently married my second husband. In February, 1996, I moved from Oregon to New Mexico where he's stationed in the Air Force. During this move, I lost the small amount of "non-identifying information" about my birthmother that I'd sent away for.
I didn't continue to work after my move to New Mexico, and found myself sitting around the house in a new town with nothing to do. After a few months, I decided I needed my non-identifying information again. After all, that was the only physical paperwork that said anything about who I 'really' was! I went through the same procedure as before,but I got a surprise this time: My birthparents' first names!!!!!!!!
I sat there in total disbelief with tears in my eyes. Was this a mistake? Why would theyprovide first names? Especially when I had put my birthmother's last name onthe request form. Couldn't they see that I could find her now? "Oh well," I thought, "it was their problem, not mine."
That day I started going to the library. I found some books on how to find people and started copying example letters from them. Then I'd go home and write my own. I got nowhere and I started getting frustrated. One of the books said you might be able to get more information by calling someone and getting a rapport going.
So, I called the lady who provided my non-identifying information. I thanked her for the information and began some small talk. She seemed nice enough. So, I asked if she still had my information. Sure did. Was there any way she could give me my birthmother's middle name? Apparently there was, and she gave it to me. I then proceeded to get her exact date of birth. I tried for her home state, but was quickly told that that was considered identifying information. No problem! I now had her full name and date of birth: I'd HAVE to be able to find her quickly now!
I ended up back at the library looking through phone books. I called state licensing boards to see if anyone with her name had a beautician's license. Since I thought she was from the midwest, I requested driver's records from all the midwest state departments of motor vehicles that only needed the person's full name and date of birth. No record. I even wrote to the Lutheran Church Archives--they wrote back saying they needed to know the exact church she went to. I was stuck again, and I had her full name...How could this be?!?!?
My husband's a wonderful man. I have to say this to you before I go anyfurther. If it weren't for him, I'd still be stuck. I'll try to explain.
A few months back we had both watched an edition of the television show "48 Hours" which told the story of a woman who was on the Internet, and through anonymous help, found her birthmother. At the time, all I could think was "Why can't that be me?" Deep down, I really, really wanted a computer, but knew it was too much to ask for at that time. After getting nowhere with my search, even with a name and DOB, I was really down.
My husband and I had been toying with the idea of getting a computer, butalways said 'later'. Well, I was really starting to bug him...a lot. I don'tremember exactly what happened, but one night at about midnight, my husbandgot home from work and I finally convinced him. By that time I was running my ownhome-based mail order business and a computer would help with that in addition to my search. At a little after midnight, we went to Wal-Mart and bought mycomputer. The next day I got on the Internet.
After spending a few days trying to find adoption search sites, I finally keyed into a site with a lot of links. I posted my information on all of the bulletin boards and registries I could find. I finally ended up on the AIML (Adoptee's Internet Mailing List). I believe I posted my story a day later. I wrote in my post that now that I had my birthmother's full name and date of birth, I thought it would be easy to find her, but it wasn't.
My distress was heard by a wonderful lady who is a private investigator. She has access to a nationwide database that will pull up a list of people with the first name and DOB you enter. She 'donated' the list to me the same day I posted my information. There were 63 people on that list. I ruled out all that had the wrong middle initial. That brought the list down to eight. Then I searched for phone numbers. I found four. I was pretty scared that she would be one of the ones I couldn't find a number for. But, thatnight, I swallowed my fear and decided to start calling.
The first person I chose to call lived in Minnesota: one of the fewpossibilities on the list in a midwestern state. With the butterfliesa-fluttering, I dialed. She answered. I told her I was looking for a woman named so-and-so who was born on such-and-such a date. She said the maiden name I mentioned was not hers. Talk about a sinking feeling--none of the other women were in the midwest! "OK, chin up," I told myself, "she could have moved. " I decided to not even guess at which one of the remaining three she might be.
I dialed the next number. It was for a woman in Montana. A young man answered. He said the woman was out. I told him this was going to sound real strange, but that I was looking for so-and-so whose maiden name was Larson. He confirmed her maiden name was Larson. I asked if her middle name was such-and-such: yes. I asked if shewas 44: Yeah, 44 or 45. (Oh boy, this could be her!!!!!) I asked when shemight be back in. He said in about 45 minutes. I told him I knew she probablywouldn't want to call me back as I was a stranger AND long distance, but gavehim my name and number anyway.
I hung up, ran in the bedroom and woke my husband up telling him that I may have found her! He didn't do or say much, he was so tired. Well, I had time to waste, so I got on the Internet and posted a message to AIML asking for help on what to say to her when I called back. I didn't want to scare her away if it was her. I didn't get a response back from the list (I had forgotten that it takes longer than 45 minutes for a message to post.) But, I played around on the computer for the full 45 minutes anyway. Then I decided I'd better call again.
By then, my husband was up and about waiting to see what would happen. I disconnected from the Internet. Within five seconds the phone rang. Itcouldn't be her...she wouldn't call a stranger long distance, would she? I answered. She said, "Hello. This is ___ and I'm returning your call."I said, "Hi. My name is Antonia Lauer, and I know this is going to sound real strange,but I'm looking for ______ born ______ and, well, I don't really know what to say,so I'll just tell you what information I have on her."
Before I could say anything else, she asked, "Are you looking for your mother?"I swear it didn't click that it could be her; otherwise, I would have dropped the phone right then and there. So, I just said, "Yes." Her voice broke when she said, "It's me!"I looked at my husband as the tears started flowing and said, "Oh my God, it's her!!!!!"
We spent the next couple of minutes confirming that, yes, we were eachother's birthdaughter and birthmother. The next two hours were spent crying,laughing, asking and answering questions, and beginning to plan our reunion. My husband and I were already going to California in five days, so her husbandoffered to fly us from California to Montana on the day we already had scheduledto end the vacation. Of course, we accepted!!!
On October 4, 1996, my husband and I landed in Great Falls, Montana. From the moment we took off from the short stop fifteen minutes prior to thatmoment, my heart was racing and it took all the strength I had not to sob thewhole way. I was nervous. REAL nervous. I knew that my birth aunt, uncle,grandmother, mother, 1/2 brother, and three cousins (plus in-laws) would beinside the terminal waiting for me. What would they think of me? Did I look like any ofthem? Would there be an instant connection? I'm a shy person when I'm around newpeople: Would I just stand there like an idiot not saying anything? I just wantedto sit there and cry while everyone else got off of the plane. At least, that's whatI wanted to do until the plane came to a stop. We ended up being two of thefirst people off. No one was allowed to greet passengers at the ramp, so there was aways to walk before seeing anyone.
Then I saw her. We didn't even have to ask. We walked right into each other's arms and cried, and cried, and cried. I could see the other's behind her, waiting, but this was my 'mom' and I was going to cry on her shoulder for as long as I wanted to. She seemed to understand and feel the same way. When we finally pulled apart, we just looked at each other. Yes, this is who I look like. Finally, I look like someone!!!Everyone else, I noticed, was crying with us. It was such a wonderful moment!
I found out that breast cancer does NOT run in the family. As a matter offact, cancer in any form doesn't exist in the Larson family. I also foundout that my migraines come from my birthmother, as does my dry skin, short waist, pugnose, short toes, and a variety of other traits. She also informed me thatEnglish ran in the family several generations back, but she doesn't even considerherself having any in her because it was so far back. Throughout the day, severalpeople commented on how some of our actions were so much alike!
Later that night, after a day filled with pictures, presents, jokes, food anddrinks, and just plain fun, we went back to the airport to pick up my full brother! He istwo years younger than me (my birthparents created him and married two yearsafter I was born. Two years after that, they were divorced). It was almost asexciting to meet him as it was to meet my birthmother. A brother: Wow!!! A'real' brother!!! We saw little things in common, like how we shake a footor leg while we're just sitting there watching TV. Little things like that. Physically,there's not much in common. Our hair color, the crease between our nose andcheek when we smile, and our height.
I was accepted by everyone. Everyone was accepted by me. Thatinstant connection wasn't there, though. It wasn't anything they did ordidn't do. It was just me. After I got home, I realized that these people are mybirth-relatives, but they're also strangers. Up until now, I'd seen storieson TV about people hitting if off from the start and feeling as if they'd knowneach other forever. I had always hoped that would happen to me. But, I didn't feel that.
These were people I'd have to get to know. And we're working on that. Mybirthmother and I talk once a week. She's having the same exact feelings that Iam. We're also seeing that the more we talk, the easier it's getting. I understand now that my shyness comes from her. Two shy people trying to get to know each other is not easy. But, we're doing it. And we're doing it because we both want to do it.
Our reunion has helped me in at least two very positive ways: 1) I no longer have the confusion and curiosity about who I am. My questions havebeen and are getting answered now. I no longer have to guess about where Icame from. And 2) with my curiosity gone, I no longer have to second-guessmy adoptive family. In my case, they ARE my mom and dad, brother and brother(my older brother is not adopted, but from my dad's first marriage), aunts anduncles, cousins, grandparents, nephew, etc. They're the family I've alwaysknown and always will know. They raised me, nurtured me, taught me, laughedwith me, cried with me, and supported me through the good and the bad. I feelcloser to them now more than I ever have.
It may sound as if I'm disappointed with my reunion. I'm not. I did,however, let myself build up many expectations that were too high to be met. Ifthere's one thing I would say to all people searching, no matter whothey are, or what part of the triad they represent, it would be:
PLEASE DON'T BUILD UP EXPECTATIONS. ALL THINGS, GOOD AND BAD,HAPPEN FOR A REASON. LET THEM HAPPEN THE WAY THEY ARE MEANTTO HAPPEN AND ANY DISAPPOINTMENT FELT WILL BE SO MUCH LESS.
I'm glad I searched. I'm even more glad I found! And in fact, I'm evenmore glad I was adopted, because now I have two wonderful families that I cancall my own! Good luck to all of you searching and finding