Home from work, I reached into the post box and pulled out a handful of junk mail. And also a cream coloured envelope with an unfamiliar postmark. I had seen the handwriting on the envelope once before: it matched the signature on my adoption paperwork. It felt as though all the blood was draining out of my face as I stumbled blindly along the hallway to the apartment, clutching the letter. I didn’t allow myself to open the envelope until safely inside.
“Thank you so much for your letter which I hoped you would write one day…”
Tears streamed down my face as I read and re-read. One passage made me sob out loud. After some time had passed I became aware of my surroundings again and realised I was sitting on the stairs, my bag still around my shoulder, in semi-darkness. The front door stood ajar, my keys dangling from the lock.
And so, finally, I was able to read my biological mother’s version of the events surrounding my birth. She had been hoping against hope for almost thirty years that I would make contact with her one day. Having me adopted was not exactly her choice, as her parents (with whom she had always had a difficult relationship) had pressured her into taking that course of action. I was shocked to read that my sixteen-year- old mother had spent ten days in the maternity hospital after the birth, feeding me, bathing me and holding me in her arms, before giving me up. She remembered vividly driving away from the hospital in her parents’ car, her arms empty.
A couple of years later my mother got back together with an old flame and they married when I was four years old. More than a decade passed before she felt able to try for any more children. Eventually they had twin boys. The thing that she found hardest to explain to me, the main reason for her feelings of guilt and regret, was that the man she had married was my biological father.
When I finally made the decision to write, first and foremost I wanted to contact my mother to let her know that things had turned out well for me, that I was happy, that I was contemplating starting a family of my own. In return I hoped to find out that her life had not been ruined by her teenage pregnancy, that she had moved on and been happy too. I didn’t know for sure whether the address I had used was correct, whether my grandparents would pass on the letter to my mother, or indeed whether she would ever reply if she did receive it.
The one thing I had never contemplated, and I don’t know why, was the fact that my biological mother and father might actually be together.
I was a mess for a while. I couldn’t read the letter without crying and I read it every single day, more than once. I suppose I was unprepared for the emotions I had stirred up: I had no inkling I possessed such strong feelings, but they must have been lurking beneath the surface all along.
It was overwhelming. Far more than I had bargained for. I had wanted to find out about my biological mother. Instead I had found a whole family. And I wasn’t sure I knew what to feel about that.