April 19, 2014 – The day before Easter
I got up early that day. I barely slept at all the night before. I went to my mom’s house early to pick up some pictures for a scrapbook I was preparing for my birth mother. I didn’t get to talk to her much. My voice was gone by that point. As I was leaving, she gave me a hug and a message to pass along to my birth mother.
As soon as I got back home, I finished the scrapbook, got it wrapped, and got everyone ready and out the door by noon.
On our way there, I was constantly texting back and forth with my big sister, Lori. The closer we got, the more anxious I became. By the time we got to Canton (about 30 minutes away) my stomach was in knots. I was bent over the dashboard with my face in front of the air vent chanting, “Don’t puke. Don’t puke. Don’t puke.”
Even in the best circumstances, reunions don’t always go well. According to one study, about 80% of adoptees do not feel a connection with their birth family, even after reunion. And most do not continue a relationship after the initial meeting. That’s not at all what I wanted.
Of course, in my head, I was expecting the worst. I mean, we had chatted on Facebook, but that’s not the same as meeting someone in person. What if we didn’t bond right away? What if I didn’t feel a connection? I couldn’t even TALK! What if we just sat there staring at each other? We were all strangers, after all. I shared my fears with my husband, and he assured me everything would be ok. “Just breathe,” he said. I tried.
We turned onto their street and slowed down. As soon as we got to the driveway, I saw my sister-in-law, my littlest nephews, and my niece. I recognized them instantly from Facebook. Plus, they were holding a sign that said “Welcome Jessica!” It was hard to miss.
We pulled into the long driveway and stopped about halfway. I got out of the car and hugged the welcoming committee. Already, I was full of emotion. My sister-in-law Jamie told me the rest of the family was waiting for me at the house at the top of the driveway. I hopped back into the car and we continued driving.
Lori was the first one I saw. All those fears I had melted away in an instant.
Before my husband could even stop the car, I opened the door and jumped out. I grabbed my sister and held her tight. I cannot describe what I felt. There was definitely a connection, like I had known her my whole life. I didn’t want to let her go. I don’t even remember if I said anything to her. All I remember is that feeling – I found a piece of my heart.
Next I got to hug my brothers. I remember hugging my big brother and crying, “I always wanted a brother!” I don’t remember much else about that meeting. I was in a daze, shaking like crazy. I just had to sit down.
Lori explained that mom was waiting at her house. She wanted me to meet everyone else first and then have me all to herself for a while.
So we went inside Lori’s house and I showed everyone the scrapbook. The first page featured some baby pictures – one when my parents brought me home, and one from my first day at church – and my name, Jessica Ann. As soon as Lori saw my name, she started crying. I asked what was wrong and Jamie said, “Ann is Mom and Lori’s middle name, too.” And then more tears came. My parents named me after my grandmother, whose middle name is also Ann. I was so proud to have that connection with both my adoptive and birth family.
As I was crying, my sweet five year old touched my shoulder and said, “Mommy, are you ok?” I told her my tears were happy tears. “Mommy has so much happiness inside her, it’s spilling out!”
After a little while, I told Lori I was ready to meet mom. I was still shaking, still in a daze, but I just couldn’t wait any longer.
Matthew, my little brother (I still can’t get over it – I have TWO brothers!!) and Lori walked with me to our mom’s house. Matthew was ahead of us, and Lori was walking with me, holding my hand the whole way.
We came up to the house and went around the side to the garage. Once we got inside the garage, Matthew turned and smiled at me. My first thought was “Why aren’t we going inside?” And then I realized she was there. In the garage. I turned and saw her sitting in a chair. My heart leapt.
We grabbed each other and hugged and sobbed. I couldn’t believe it. I was holding her in my arms, and I still couldn’t believe it. I said “I have to look at you.” And she said, “Me too.” I stood there and looked at her face… and saw MY face. My heart was whole.
I’m going to try to describe what I felt because I want all of you to experience it with me, even just a little. Those of you who are parents, you know that feeling when you first see your child’s face? Well, this was like that, only 100 times better.
It was literally the best moment of my life.
We eventually sat down and I showed her my scrapbook. She was thrilled to have it. Later we went inside and talked. That conversation I will always hold dear to my heart, and most of it will remain between the two of us. However, I will say that she answered ALL of my questions, and I have no more doubts. I know that she was meant to be my birth mother. I know that my parents were meant to be the ones to raise me. I know that both my birth parents made the right decision. And I love them all more now than I ever have before.
After about an hour or so (it seemed like only a few minutes), we joined the rest of the family at the pond. It’s funny now, thinking back, how scared I was. We all had a blast together. Even the cousins bonded instantly. We didn’t want to leave. In fact, we stayed for dinner and late into the night. When we finally did leave, as we were driving away, it felt like I was leaving a part of my heart behind. But I know I will be back. As often as possible.