An adoption story revealed at death. My cousins told me this story after we buried their mother and they visited the grave of Aunt Annie. They told Aunt Annie that she could rest in peace because her daughter was doing well.
Family mysteries often are shrouded in the secrecy of unnecessary shame and guilt. Such a mystery was revealed to me this past June in my own family. While visiting with my cousins Elizabeth and Jessica, they began to tell me that a woman named Susan, who is about our age, recently contacted Elizabeth saying that she believed that she is related to them. Luckily, this all occurred prior to their mother’s death, so they were able to discuss this with her. It turns out that Aunt Annie, their father’s sister, had become pregnant in 1958, gave birth to a baby girl and made an adoption plan for her daughter (Susan). What was discovered is that Annie had become pregnant while on vacation and her family persuaded her to make an adoption plan; in 1958 it was totally unacceptable for a single, Caucasian woman to raise a bi-racial baby on her own. Her family was not going to accept this child. Annie remained close with her nieces and nephew throughout her life but she never revealed this secret and, sadly, took it to her own grave.
As the story unfolded we found out that Annie had always wondered about her child and there was always a void in her life. Susan, now a 52 year old woman, always wondered about her history and never was sure of her racial background. Finally, she was able to have many questions answered after contacting Elizabeth. While at the grave site for her mother, Jessica went over to her Aunt Annie’s grave and told her that her daughter Susan had contacted them and that she was fine; she need not worry anymore.
After learning this, I discussed it with another aunt, who will turn 89 this month. She knew it all. I encouraged her to share whatever she knows with Jessica and Elizabeth so they could share this information with Susan. This story left me with feelings of sadness; mostly for Annie, who was never able to resolve or even given the opportunity to work through the loss of her child, and for Susan who at the age of 52 is finally learning more about her identity.
Stories like this one make me proud to work in the field of adoption, especially now where we have an atmosphere of openness. Open adoption enables understanding of ones’ origins is vitally important for a person who is adopted. This aids in identity formation. I am glad that we work closely with expectant parents contemplating adoption and continue this work with them as they grieve their losses and rebuild their lives. Adoption is a journey that lasts many lifetimes and the work is never complete.