Stories that Matter

I Had To Find My Mother To Find Myself by Catherine Leggitt

At two weeks and one day old, I rode home with my adoptive parents. Of that first family plane ride, I remember nothing except the joy and excitement my parents expressed each time they told me the story—joy and excitement that never diminished, no matter how often I requested the telling. Through their eyes, I never considered being adopted as a negative. I was chosen, as eagerly anticipated as any natural child, maybe more than some.

Two years later, my parents brought my sister home and our family was complete. My childhood came as close to ideal as human childhoods can. Dad grew oranges on a farm in southern California; Mother—Dessie—managed the household and ran the Sunday school at church. They were available, loving, gentle, and excellent role models. 

Laughter, flowers, and music characterized my childhood. Fresh orange juice for breakfast and vegetables from the garden nourished our bodies. Daily prayer and Bible reading nourished our souls. Hot summer nights became excuses to sleep on a haystack under the stars. Going-to-bed rituals included either Mother or Dad reading the classics or poetry.

Yet, in this idyllic setting, something was always missing. A longing for my biological mother, Deloris, grew in my heart over the years. My parents knew a few facts about her, such as her first name, but I had many more questions they couldn’t answer. I thought that finding my birth mother would banish the pesky unknowns that weighed me down like a lead backpack—questions about my nationality, who I looked like, where my ancestors had lived and what they had accomplished. Details all of my friends knew about their heritage that were unknown to me.

I married young and soon had two children. By the time I neared thirty, I was struggling with a turbulent marriage and smothering under a load of self-doubt. I had nearly completed the puzzle of my identity—the frame and corners that defined me were in place as well as some of the inside pieces—but important sections were missing—gaps that made it impossible to see myself as a whole person. I believed that locating my birth mother would provide the solution.

Finding her proved easy. I knew the town where she grew up and her age when I was born so we searched in the high school yearbook and there she was—eyes so like mine she must be related. Armed with her last name and bolstered by my mother’s full blessing, I hunted through area phone books. First I found her uncle, then her mother, and finally, I found Deloris.

We met for lunch at a restaurant. I couldn’t stop staring. Besides the same expressive blue eyes, we also shared big toothy smiles, keen observational skills, and certain mannerisms. Her first question for me, “Do you laugh a lot?”

I asked her a hundred questions and she answered every one.

“What now?” She asked, her hand clasping mine as we stared at each other across the table. “Now that you’ve satisfied your curiosity, where will you go from here?”

The question surprised me. I had no answer. None of my imaginings had ever progressed beyond finding her and living happily-ever-after. I gulped down a lump in my throat. What now?

“Couldn’t we just stay here forever?”

That was over thirty years ago. My mother is gone now but thankfully, Deloris is still a big part of my life. Of course, I was disappointed to discover that finding her didn’t fix me. The things that were broken in me would take maturity and God’s mercy to fix. But a few of the missing pieces in the puzzle got filled in. I heard the other half of the story of my birth. And finding her gave me a new strength, boosted me over a rough period in my life, and spurred me forward in matters related to self-esteem. In Deloris, I discovered a cherished friend and confidant, a wise mentor.

If Mothers are defined as women who stick with you no matter what, loving you and nurturing you while you find your way in life, then I am twice blessed. God knew I would need them both.

To adoptive parents I say: Answer all your child’s questions as honestly and completely as you can. Support their desire to find their natural mother without feeling threatened. Trust God. The years you’ve put in as a parent, the prayers and tears you’ve shed for the child God placed in your care will never be matched or forgotten.

Catherine Leggitt is Author of the Christine Sterling Mystery series –

PAYNE & MISERY, THE DUNN DEAL, AND PARRISH THE THOUGHT Published by Ellechor Publishing

Connect with her at http://www.catherineleggitt.com

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8 Comments

  1. Beth K. Vogt on November 8, 2012 at 1:28 am

    I read each one of these adoption themed posts with eagerness. While I’ve never adopted a child, I have a number of friends who have — or who are adopted. This helps me understand their stories — helps me understand them — better.

    • Cathy West on November 8, 2012 at 10:38 am

      Beth, I’m so glad to hear this. Part of the reason I decided to do this month-long feature in honor of National Adoption Awareness month was for this exact reason! To make people aware. 🙂

  2. Maxie Lloyd-Hamilton Anderson on November 8, 2012 at 5:05 am

    I enjoyed reading this. Glad her birth mother was found. And, that they became friends. I had a nephew who was adopted out. I always wondered about him. If he was still alive, healthy, with a loving family, and if we would ever get to know him. We finally did meet when he was about 50, He looked just like his mom and several of the boys in our big family (cousins.) I think I would have caught my breath if I had just seen him somewhere. He did have a good home and life, but was glad to meet his birth mom, my sister. It was so wonderful to meet this nephew that I had always wondered about. But, some couples would never get to experience parenthood, if not for some of the other mothers. I h know others who have adopted.
    Maxie

    • Cathy West on November 8, 2012 at 10:40 am

      You are right, Maxie. Adoption is a wonderful gift and can fill a need for those couples who may not be able to have biological children. But there are so many facets to it – I’m glad you got to meet your nephew and that he was able to meet his birth mother and the rest of your family.

  3. Beth Willis Miller on November 8, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Catherine, what a wonderful writer you are! Your story is so well-told, I was captivated in just a few words. Also, as a fellow adoptee, portions of your story were so similar to mine…I, too, had very loving Christian adoptive parents, a wonderful childhood, and not until I was 30, after my first child was born, did I feel the need to find the missing pieces surrounding my birth. After our reunion, which also occured quickly, that same question was asked, “Now what?” In our case, we stayed in touch by phone weekly, and my mail, but no further physical contact in the six years after our initial week together before her death in 1989, the same year my adoptive father died. It has been 30 years now since we met for that week in Chicago in 1983, and even with finding out difficult family information, many of the missing pieces were filled in, and I am just now, in the last two years really allowing all the complicated emotions surrounding adoption to come to the surface, and to write…I guess that’s the answer to my “Now what?” question…write about it 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story with us!

  4. Cathy West on November 8, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Apologies to Catherine for not being able to post her wonderful pictures until just now! WordPress has been giving me fits! I love this story of reunion! And I agree with the title too. I felt the same and gained a greater understanding of who I was after I held all the pieces of my puzzle in my possession. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Catherine!

  5. Don't We Look Alike? on November 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    This is a beautiful story! So nice to hear that you were doubly blessed with caring mothers.

  6. leenilee on November 8, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Beautiful.

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