Archive for the ‘adoption’ Category

A Story Not My Own

April 8, 2009

This story that I`ve been telling about my brother – my lost brother – is not my story, not really. It is becoming my story – that is, it is becoming a story that matters to me, a story that involves me, a story that I am driving forward and that is driving me forward and so has become part of me, part of my life, mine – but still. At the end of the day, it is not my story. It is my mother`s story.

She is telling it here.

And it is breaking my heart all over again.


April 3, 2009

I have moments when I lose the thread of the story that I tell myself about why this is so important to me. I tell myself that this – this story about searching for my long-lost brother – is a story about helping my mother. I tell myself that this is for her, and for him. I tell myself these things, and I stumble over my lack of conviction. It is these things, of course. But it’s more than these things. I want to find him for me. I’m not sure why.

I never knew that I had a brother. His absence from my life, such as it was, was unknown to me. I never felt the loss, because I did not know it. It’s wrong, perhaps, to even describe it as loss. His absence from my mother’s life made it possible for me to exist. Had she stayed with his father, as was her plan, I would never have been born. We were never fated to share a life, he and I, so how can his absence from my life be understood, be felt, as a loss? (Also, oh god, loss. My heart aches for not being able to parse its experience of loss in a manner that makes such loss comprehensible. My heart, it aches, and is confused.) My brother was not lost to me. He was never mine in the first place.

And yet: I’m haunted by the moment, in the telling of her story, when my mother said “your father would have adopted him.” They were friends, she and my father; the circumstances surrounding her giving up this boy brought them closer. My father offered to stay with her, and with him, and make a family. But it didn’t happen that way – my mother didn’t know that she could change her mind about giving up her son, and so the wheel of the fates turned and the boy went to another family and was lost forever to mine. Is it this that haunts me? The idea that he could have been my older brother, that my life might have been the same in every respect save for the presence of a brother? No, because – if there is one thing that Lost has taught me – history does not unfold that way. Keeping my brother would have set my mother on a different path in a different life, regardless of whether or not my father was with her on that path. It would have set her on a different path in a different life. A life without me. So am I haunted by the idea that, but for the grace of the fates, this boy, this lost boy, might have had my life? Is this why I want to know him?

I don’t know. I’m still sorting this out. All I know is, I keep turning this Dharma wheel, hoping that it will project me into a time and place where I know my brother. For better or for worse.

UPDATE: I’m shutting down comments on this post. Apparently, not everyone in the world supports public adoption searches – which, fine, but some of those not-everyones are unable to express their opinion about that in a manner that is civil. My heart’s too vulnerable around this. I’m putting the comments away, to keep private, for myself, and closing further commentary. Anyone who needs/wants to get in touch with me about this, please use e-mail.

Sunshine, On A Cloudy Day

August 28, 2008

Update on Zachary below.

This is going to sound trite, but I’m going to say it anyway: sometimes, on even the darkest day, a little bit of sunshine bursts through a gap in the clouds and that streak of light – even if it does not have the power to warm cold bones and frigid skin – reminds you that there’s blue sky up there somewhere, above and behind and beyond the dark. The smiles of my children – I warned you about the trite – are such bursts of light.

So is this:

Hi Catherine (& well wishers),

I kept up w/ your blog and every single one of your comments on my Beaner and I cannot thank you enough for posting my story and helping me out even though I know that you are going through a lot and I am so sorry if I put you in a position. I say this because I know the hurt you are going through now… but what you did is life changing for me and my kids and I will forever be grateful.

On Friday night I was able to get visitation w/ my two older kids for the weekend. It was the first time I’d been w/ them for more than 2 hours since Beaner was born. It was a great visit and they just adored her. I had originally told them when I was making the adoption plan that Beaner was going to live w/ a family that couldn’t have babies. I thought that was the only way for them to understand…I can honestly say it was a very hard weekend w/ all 3 of them, but I wouldn’t have had any different. We were all finally together, our family…My Family. How could I give her up and take her away from her big brother and sister who were lying nuzzled right next to her giving her so many kisses? Would they ever forgive me for taking her away from them, would she for giving her up? Believe me, there was a moment where all 4 of us were crying at the same time… I know its going to be hard, but you know I want to do it, I have to do it for them…

Everyone one that left a comment, sent prayers and thoughts my way will always be in my thoughts and prayers, as I will be forever grateful.. They gave me A LOT of advice and I read and processed every single one of them over and over…Thank you for sharing personal stories, I know how hard that is and was for some.. I wasn’t strong enough on my own to not get help and opinions from others. Right now I’m taking the adoptive parents backing out, your blog entry about your brother and I’m taking them as a sign…a sign that things are right now because they are supposed to be, that I will learn and grow and put this behind me as a very hard and confusing part of my life…

I can honestly say that this time last week it was at any moment that I was going to sign the adoption papers. I drove by the agency 8 times and visited my caseworker once, but there was not one moment that I could actually make the pen move on the paper…I couldn’t sign…So I’ll take that as another sign…

So, it’s final, a decision is made….I’m keeping my Beaner, she will grow up w/ her big sister (2yrs) Itty Bitty who will lovingly teach her everything she knows…and her big brother (4yrs) Lil Man who will always be there for her and protect her as much as he can… He was such a good big brother this weekend making sure Itty Bitty was gentle w/ Beaner… I am glad to know that adoption as an option was there for me, because I do know that there would have been parents out there willing to love her and take care of her. And it would have been my decision had this mess w/ my parents not happened…but I now believe things happened for a reason… this all happened for a reason…

Things are going to be different…I know they are, its not going to happen overnight…but I will keep believing because I will have my kids…all 3 of my kids. I love them more so much. And I will never give up, I promise them that…I will do everything in my power to make sure they are provided for…I won’t be ashamed to go the welfare office and get the help that I need now to get back up on my feet…I will do this because its too late to do an adoption plan…I love her too much to let her go now…

Thank you HBM, I don’t know if you realize it… but because of you and your help, my family will be forever grateful indebted to you… My prayers and my thoughts are with you finding your brother and that your Nephew Zach will get better…he’s young, and I’m sure a fighter…

Always here,

PS Attached is a picture of Beaner, so you can meet the little one who this was all about… OH, and, well she needs a name now… I don’t know about you but Beaner C, Attorney at Law doesn’t sound right for her future… So if you wanna ask your readers for any suggestions, I would welcome it… My other kids are names begin w/ M’s, so I would like to find an M name…

I want you all to know this: the greater share of Marie’s thanks is due to you, dear internets, dear friends. I corresponded with her, shared my meager thoughts, and posted her story, but you all did so much more: you shared your own stories, you shared your wisdom, you filled this virtual page with warmth and hope and love and realism and friendship and support. As you have done so often for me. As you continue to do now. For that, all the gratitude in the world is barely enough.

Now, you heard her. She needs a name for a baby girl – her baby girl – a name that begins with M…


(Zachary has not improved. The doctors still don’t know why the strain of meningitis that is attacking him is attacking so aggressively and unreservedly. They think that there is probably something more than meningitis that is waging war on him, but they don’t know what. Zachary continues to fight. I leave for Vancouver tomorrow, to sit with my sister at his bedside and offer all the love that I can.

If you have more prayers and good wishes to spare, I will accept them gratefully.)


Update on Beaner:

Hi Catherine,

I wanted to let you know that Little Mia Catherine is doing great! She is 8 weeks old and a great baby, ya I’m a little biased!! 🙂 I just want to say thank you again, what you did for me was life changing… It opened new doors for me, and I am so happy w/ ALL my kids and her with me! Good news, I found a job…a bigger place to live w/ my friend that will accomodate all of us!! My brother moved down and is babysitting while I work (11pm-7am)…so everything is falling into place!! So anytime you are in NM please hit me up, I owe you a few drinks!! 🙂 Much love Friend!!

And Miles To Go

August 25, 2008

I think that I broke my mom’s heart all over again, writing that post. Even though she told me to go ahead, even though she knew it was coming, her heart wasn’t ready.

That was beautiful, she said. I only read it once. I won’t be able to read it again.

-That’s okay, I said.

But it was beautiful.

-I just told the story.

But the way you told it.


Something you didn’t write about… why I’ve been afraid to look for him… I’m afraid of the hurt. If he didn’t want to have anything to do with me, it would hurt as much as it did when I gave him up. It would feel like the same loss. It would be that loss, all over again. I would feel it all, all over again.


It’s a wound that’s never healed.

We don’t have to do this, if you don’t want. I don’t. You just have to say so.

No. Do it.

-You’ll tell me if you want me to stop?


Both of our hearts will break many times, I think, before this is over. But hers will break more than mine, the cracks will run deeper and longer, and I am pained by that. I’m pained by that because she’s my mother, and I love her, and I want to spare her hurt. But I’m also pained because I will, I know, be the architect of some of that hurt, because it will be my words that press her heart to strain. I can only hope that there is some joy – or at least some release, or some closure – at the end of this journey.

I am so tired, and we’ve barely begun.


She loved your comments. The comments stretched the ache in her heart, and soothed it. That so many people understood, that so many people took something from her story, that was precious. Thank you.

We’ve quite a journey ahead of us.


I had to walk away from e-mail this weekend. I needed a break. But I’ve read and am reading everything. If you haven’t heard from me yet, it’s just because I’ve been putting sleep and baby-cuddling ahead of correspondence. You will hear from me. I’m indebted to all of you.


August 22, 2008

And then, there was this:

wow, you don’t understand what your post really did for me today… I am right now in the middle of an adoption plan gone wrong… i have so many emotions going through my mind… Its hard for me to look at her sometimes because I know what I should do, but why can’t I do it?! …just got word the adoptive couple just wants to back out completely… is this a sign? do I keep my baby girl even though if I do I will be sacrificing the lives of all my children… this baby is #3… I would love to have your opinion… please…

Her name is Marie. When I saw her comment, the other day, I stood up from my chair, closed my computer and walked away. I walked into the room where my baby was sleeping, and sat down on the floor with my knees curled up against my chest, my arms wrapped around my legs, my heart pounding. I didn’t cry. I was cried out already, from having written that post, from having taken that story that I’ve been carrying for days and bringing it to life, from having made public my pledge to do this remarkable, difficult thing. To find my brother.

If I wanted to make this story more poetic, I would say this: that I stood up and looked at my baby – my precious baby boy, this boy that I could no more give up than carve out my own heart – and, overwhelmed by my love for him, made my mind up to help Marie at once. But that’s not what happened. I stood up, and took extra care to not look at my boy – for fear that I would be reduced to a sodden mess of tears – and went back to my computer. I opened it up and logged on to Twitter and prattled something about could anyone, anyone please go respond to this comment please please I just can’t and then I went and ate some cake.

Then I went back to my computer and posted a response to Marie: Please, Marie. E-mail me.

And she did.

I found your blog one day just browsing and you are amazing… It was so ironic to find your story and here I am going through this… I haven’t made a decision yet… I haven’t even named my baby yet, she’s been with me since monday and all I can call her is Beaner, what I called her when she was in my belly… I’m really confused, I don’t know what to do….. She’s not my only child, this is kinda a big mess…

I started my adoption plan 2 months ago, I told my family… they are not happy.. I live in a shithole little town that sucks the people in and i don’t want to be one of them… My family threatened to take my 2 older kids 2&4 away if I placed this baby… I went into labor early, I had her on July 23 and she wasn’t due until Sept 3. After my mom drove me to the hospital where I gave birth alone, I got a summons that afternoon stating my parents were granted temp custody of my 2 other kids because I abandoned them…

I picked a family and because of all this drama, they backed out and now I’m left with deciding do I try to get to know another family as fast as I can? Or do I take it as a sign and keep my baby… I’m just afraid of the life I’m destined to have w/ my kids in this shit hole town if I do… If I place her in an open adoption, I can still see her grow and be happy…And then I can move out of shitville with my kids and away from my family….

I don’t know…

I wanted to say to her, keep your baby. Keep your beaner, please. But how could I say that, when I didn’t know that would be the best thing, the right thing? My own heart is bruised and sore, struggling to come to terms with my mother’s loss, with my own loss, a loss that I had never known, a loss that might have been for the best, who knows? I didn’t know. I don’t know.

I’m not the best person to turn to on matters concerning the heart, right now.

I said this:

Oh, Marie.

I wish I knew what to tell you. All I can think is, you haven’t said what you *want* – what do you want most? It’s so hard to predict or know what the best path is – but what one do you *want* to take? Do you want to keep your beaner? Can you get out of your town with all three kids? Or do you really think – and this might be true – that beaner’s best shot at a good life is with another family? SO HARD.

I wish that I could do more to help, other than say things like ‘follow your heart’…

It’s not necessarily true that her heart will guide her to the best decision. I know that. Maybe the heart should be left out of decisions like this. I know that my mom tried to put her heart aside, or part of it. It was why she didn’t hold her own beaner. She was afraid that she would never let him go, and that that would be the wrong thing for him. That it would not be the best thing, that she would get carried away by her own selfishness, that she would give in to the selfish thrum of her heart and keep her boy. Her heart was divided against itself: do what was best for her heart – keep her child – and do what she believed was best for his heart – give him to a family that could give him everything she couldn’t.

She did what she believed was best for him. But it broke her heart. The cracks have never gone away. And now here I am, her daughter, her love, suffering for knowing that those cracks existed, that I could never fill them, for the fact that I never knew they were there.

But this isn’t about me.

I don’t know what to tell you, I told Marie. Can we ask some others for help?

Yes, she said. Please.

my heart wants to keep my beaner but my mind says i cant… i don’t think i have asked my self what my heart wants… i need all the advice i can get. this just hurts so much i love all my kids so much and i just want the best for them.


I can’t, we can’t, tell Marie what to do. We can’t know what the best thing is to do, anymore than I can know what the best thing would have been for my mom and for my brother. All we can do is hope and pray that they find – that they have found – some path to happiness.

And we can hold her hand while she finds her way. Please, any words of support you can offer… so many moms never get to have this kind of support. My mom didn’t. Offer it to Marie, and to all the moms that do and ever did need it.


To all of you who have been sending links and tips and stories: thank you. I love you. I just do.

And? That thing that I said we were going to do? We’re still doing it. Next week, if I can stay on top of everything. Info here.

Lost Boy

August 20, 2008

His name was William Frederick Hunter, and she only saw him once.

Once, from behind the window of the nursery. He was wrapped in a blue blanket, and he was oh so small. They asked her if she wanted to hold him, and she said no. Just as she had in the delivery room, right after he was born, when she had squeezed her eyes shut so that she wouldn’t see him, her heart, the heart that she was giving away. She said no.


It would have killed me, she said. It would have killed me. I couldn’t have gone on. I loved him.

She had loved his father. They had planned to marry, as soon as he divorced his wife. Nobody had believed her, but it was true. It seemed true. They’d run off together twice. They both went AWOL from the Air Force, running off into the night to be together. Her family pursued them, his wife’s family sent private detectives after them, the Air Force searched for them. They were wanted. They ran. They were found, and they ran again. He left his family for her, risked his career for her. He was happy that they were going to have a baby. They hid out in motels.

At the time, she said, I thought it was romantic. She shakes her head.

She was nineteen years old. He was nearly twice her age. When her family found her the second time, they didn’t bother to reason with her. They just took her. They took her and put her in a home for unwed mothers. She stayed there. She doesn’t know what happened to her lover. She never saw or heard from him again. She thinks that he probably went back to the Air Force, and to his wife.

I would have liked for him to know that he had a son, she said. I think that would have made him happy. She paused. Or maybe not.

When she went into labor, the nurses at the home for unwed mothers gave her some money and put her in a taxi. She arrived at the hospital alone, labored alone, gave birth alone. Gave up her child alone.

She was alone when the social worker came into her room and asked her if she knew anything about the parents who would adopt her child. It’s a private adoption, she told the worker. My doctor arranged it. The social worker nodded. But did she know that those parents were in their 60’s? That they were old? That the province would never approve it if it were a public adoption? She didn’t know. She didn’t want that. She wasn’t giving up her son to new parents, only for him to lose them in a few years. Like he was losing her, now. She wanted the best for him. That was the only way she could do this. She had to know that she was giving him a better life.

She called her doctor in. She told her that she wouldn’t do it. She wanted her son to go to a young family, to parents who had their whole lives ahead of them, to parents who had years and years and years to love him. Her doctor was furious.

I was terrified, she said. I’d never spoken up to anyone older than me, not to anyone with any authority. But I had to do it. For him.

Her baby went into foster care while adoption services sought new parents. She didn’t go to see him.

My parents went to see him, I think, she said. They never talked about it, but I’m sure they did. My mother put him in her will, and kept him there. Through revisions and revisions until the end of her life, she kept him there, always a member of the family, in her heart.

The man that she would some day marry came to her side during that time. They were friends. He held her hand, a lot. She grieved for her lost love and her lost baby, and he held her hand. He said, I’ll marry you. We can get your baby back. I will love that baby. With you. We will love that baby, together.

But it was too late.

William Frederick Hunter was adopted by a Vancouver couple. Professors at UBC, I think, she said. It was too late for me, she said. For us. Or so we thought. We didn’t know any better. We were so young. We might have been able to get him back. But we didn’t try. We didn’t know to try. We thought he was gone.

She grieved for years. Her husband held her hand. She couldn’t bear the idea of having children. Just the thought of seeing another baby in another blanket it was too much.

The grief became less acute, as time passed. One day, she realized that she could have another baby, and bear the pain. She could imagine not transposing her lost boy upon a new child. She could love again.

It took seven years, she said. Seven years before I knew that I would be okay. And then I had – then we had – you.

And I loved again.

I squeeze my own baby boy, pulling him tightly against my chest, wondering how it would feel to let him go. Even if I thought it best, for him – could I let him go? My heart screams.

I understand why she couldn’t hold him, her lost boy.

I’ve thought about him every single day of my life, she says. Every single day. Every single day I see that little baby in that blue blanket, and I wonder.

I wonder.

She pauses. I imagine that her hand trembles as she lifts her wine to her lips, but I can’t see in the dim light of the late summer evening. I’m glad that I can’t see, and that she can’t see me. Tears are streaming down my face and wetting my baby’s head.

I’ve never looked for him. I couldn’t. What if something had happened to him? What if he hated me? What if he didn’t want to know anything of me? What if he never forgave me? Her voice cracks. I couldn’t stand knowing.

We sit quietly. I reach for the wine bottle between us and fill her emptied glass.

Still, she says. Still. I’ve often wondered whether you or your sister would ever look for him.

Would you want me to?

She takes a sip of her wine. She doesn’t look at me.


Then I will.

Thank you.

We sit.

I just want him to know how much I loved him. How much I love him still.

I know.

Thank you.

His name was William Frederick Hunter, and he’s my brother. I’m going to find him.


PS: Because you are asking: he was born in July of 1963, at Grace Hospital in Vancouver. William Frederick Hunter was the name given to him to at birth. One or both of his parents were – we think – professors at UBC. That’s all I know.

PPS: Those of you who are offering to help – oh god the tears – your generosity makes my heart ache – please e-mail me, if you haven’t already. And, all of you, with all of your tremendous words of support: THANK YOU. Going off to weep now.