Then my adoptive parents named me Emily Suzanne. Growing up, a lot of people called me Emi, so it stuck. But depending upon who you are, you may also prefer Emily or Birdy, too.
I have many names, but my birthmother has none. Not to me, at least.
She has forever been a faceless, short curly brown haired 19 year old whom I pictured handing me over to a city adoption agency after fiddling with her fingers when they asked her what was happening. I'm not making this up.
All I have left of my pre-Emily/Marie past is a 5 page typed document from the social worker assigned at the time to my birthmother's case. Honestly, the only thing I could ever pull from the document as being even remotely relatable to my present self was this:
Marie is very alert and curious; she laughs and babbles happily.
Yup, that sounds about right.
Pennsylvania is a closed adoption state. I'm not always sure how I feel about this. On most days I agree with the idea---it protects adoptees from being pushed and pulled emotionally as they attempt to navigate their already complicated status as they grow-up. On other days, the not knowing really anything about my past is gut wrenching. I'd look around at other people and feel jealous they at least knew their story---even if it was painful. The truth hurts, but not as much as a lie.
So was I lied to?
No, I was not. My adoptive parents always made it clear. I didn't fully understand the ramifications of being adopted until I was much older, but I applaud them for not attempting to create an element of bliss that unintentionally morphed into a lie (ignorance is bliss, burst: I know people this happened to and let me tell you: the trust component between parents and child is utterly destroyed forever.) Lying about something like adoption is nearly impossible to move on from.
So I didn't know much about myself other than these facts:
She was 18, Catholic, unemployed, and stressed out.
He was 22, from Saudia Arabia, an engineering student, and uninterested in having a baby with her.
This is what I know about my birthparents. Basically that they were young and having fun. Well, apparently a little too much fun.
Sometimes people ask me why I wasn't interested in finding my birthfather: Oh! He's sounds so intriguing! Oh! I bet he's tall, dark and handsome! Oh! aren't you just dying to go to Saudi Arabia to meet him?!
As much as I love middle-eastern culture, I'm not naive enough to imagine him being happy to see me if I showed up tomorrow. Middle-eastern men are not exactly known for their fidelity to one woman or their treatment of women. Let's just say as soon as I understood sex, I knew that I was, most likely, one of many.
Having said this, I am very proud of my Saudi half. I love that when I'm shopping in a middle-eastern market or eating at particular restaurants, people will come up to talk to me just because they recognize it in me. I've even had people ask me if I am a "good muslim" and why my parents didn't teach me Arabic. (For a time I made something up on the spot because the scandalized reactions I got started bothering me: really? No one in the middle-east has bastard children?!) Most people are kept guessing about my background, but not folks from the middle-east: if you're looking for something, you find it.
But I'm human. It's the stuff in life that we don't know that becomes our nectar.
What's your other half, then? was always the next question.
Sometimes people would guess. When I was a preteen, I got into this hilarious habit of lying about it. I would be very sly. The person would say something random like, Oh, I bet your other half is Czech. It's that, isn't it? and then I would ridiculously reply Yes, yes, how on earth did you guess?!
I wanted so much to connect, to feel a sense of permanence. And you can't take your heritage away, can you?
In the past, some people close to me have said, "why does it matter? Aren't you just happy with what you do know and what you do have?"
We all have a deep desire to know our entire self. The complete story. Even if it's horrendously bad, the truth is very healing. It makes us whole. This is why all people---even those who already know their family story--- still go on in life to "look" for themselves. It is a journey only you can take and the story is not complete until you take your last breath.
The truth will set you free means so much more than we realize.