Baby Boy #3331: An Adoption Story
On the same page I see that you were to enter nurses’ training in 1962, the year after you had me, and that you were 21 and a waitress: “dependable, industrious, good disposition.” What was it like for you, Rosalie, that morning in October 1961, when you went into labor and gave birth to me? The Report from Supervising Nurse on Deliveries says there were no complications of pregnancy or labor. Was it really that simple? Did you hold me at all? Did you look at me before I was filed away under #3331?
Were you there when they took my footprints, which I see for the first time today, so tiny and crinkly? I counted my toes when I saw them. All 10 toes — a healthy baby boy. I think you might have been there, because in the space marked Mother’s right index fingerprint something has been covered over so that I cannot see it. The same holds true for the last half of Infant’s name, Hospital no., and Prints taken by, all covered over. Rosalie, I have no FBI database of fingerprints in my basement with which to search out and identify you. But knowing that your fingerprint is underneath that tape, evidence of you so close but inaccessible, I want even more to see it. To see you.
In the packet i received today is a list of your wants for your baby, for me: a good education, a Roman Catholic family, other children, to grow up in a small town. I had all of that, Rosalie, and more. I wish you could know the comfort I feel right now writing your name: Rosalie. That’s who you are. I haven’t known your name until today. I’ve struggled over the years to identify you, to simply refer to you. “Birth mother” is such a technical term, isn’t it? For me, and I mean no ill by this, when I think of “mother” it is Edith I think of, the woman who raised me.
You would have liked her, Rosalie. She was kind and thoughtful, and she loved to laugh. Edith was a Vermont girl, like you. We lived for a while in the little village of Reading, where I remember evening walks up the dirt road. On one of those walks, my sister and I were catching fireflies. When our clenched hands couldn’t hold any more blinking bugs, and still others were flashing around us, Mom put the beetles in our jacket pockets. We walked back home flashing and giggling all the way.
Family was important to her. Every week we had dinner with Uncle Gil and Aunt Bertha, my mother’s brother and his wife. We almost always had spaghetti and meatballs, with Aunt Bertha’s tomato sauce. I remember after dinner, when the grown-ups retired to the living room to listen to Minnie Pearl or Johnny Cash, my sister and I would go down the hall to the room where our aunt kept her collection of salt and pepper shakers.
A whole wall, floor to ceiling, had been devoted to these funny little pairs of kissing Dutch kids, giant rolling dice, coconuts hanging from their own palm tree stand, and hundreds of other variations. We would sit there on the floor and look up at them towering above us and play “I spy” and “What’s your favorite?”
When I was growing up, our home was home to more than just the four of us — my parents, my sister, and me. For as long as I can remember, my mother’s mother, Leila, spent winters with us, unable to keep up by herself with the snow and the cold that held her mountain farmhouse hostage each year from Thanksgiving to Easter. I looked forward to her visits and would sit on the kitchen counter as she baked something every day she was there: doughnuts, the old-fashioned kind, made with sour milk and fried in lard, or cinnamon rolls, with extra spice and sugary frosting. Overlapping her stay would often be one of her sons, my uncle Henry, who also lived alone the rest of the year.
At our house, the front door was always open. After my aunt Dorothy converted to the Mormon faith, our home became known on the missionary circuit as a place to drop in for those homemade doughnuts and sweet cider. A pair of young men would arrive at our doorstep, always in white shirts, dark slacks, and ties, and be seated at our table within minutes. There would always be talk of their missionary work, but my father, a Catholic and a former altar boy, would make it clear that conversion was out of the question. But have another doughnut, why don’t you? And they would. And six months later, two more would as well.
Who decides what information we can share, Rosalie? In a letter from the Vermont Department for Children and Families, my “request for the release of identifying information” has been denied. Instead, I’ll have to write to the probate court that handled my adoption, outlining my reasons for wanting to know who I am: “The judge will determine whether there is sufficient reason to release identifying information.” Sufficient reason? What if I say I’ll go crazy without knowing the truth? I resent having to prove it, but I admit it’s a good question. Why am I so desperate to find you, Rosalie? Why now, after all these years?
The fact is I’m not sure. Finding out that you had named me before relinquishing me changed completely so much of what I thought I knew about my adoption. Knowing that you gave birth to, and then lost, two children before me breaks my heart. I didn’t die; I lived more than 10 minutes, I lived more than six weeks. I’ve lived 45 years without you, Rosalie.