Sunday, October 9, 2011

breakingcuttingthrashing through~

I was cleaning or brushing my teeth on a Thursday morning in late September, something so banal it's not even worth mentioning.
My phone rings and it's a 412 area code.
Pittsburgh, I thought.
I tend to only get calls from this area code when there's bad news. No one calls me anymore and when they do, it's usually because someone is dead. That's not a joke, by the way.
I pick up the phone and immediately realize it's Kathy the Social Worker.
Emily? It's Kathy. Well, I got so fed up with the way things were going I just took a chance and said it.
She tells me everything and I make her repeat it again as I lean against my refrigerator, sliding down onto the floor into a pile, thinking to myself, I am so glad my son is napping right now.
Kathy explains how she always had the feeling the case wasn't what it seemed like to me, so far away: an evasive birthmother, desperate to keep her past far in the past. She kept trying to get ahold of M but the phone would cut out or one of them wasn't home, and M always called her back, a good sign. So Kathy decided to completely break protocol and just say it---to her husband, who'd been taking most of the messages:

Hi, this is Kathy Leahy from the Pittsburgh Orphan's Court. I'm a court appointed adoption investigator. Your wife had a baby girl in 1980 and she's been looking for her and would really like to talk to her.

Apparently J (M's husband) was so stunned it seemed the line went dead for a minute. What happened next literally completely floored me.
His voice cracked, and he had to hold himself together from crying.
He told Kathy how happy M would be. How she had thought that was what all the calls and letters were about, how scared and excited she'd been, not knowing for sure. He told Kathy he'd call her at work right away to let her know.
Then Kathy hung up and waited on their call back.
Meanwhile, I lay down on my green kitchen floor, in total shock. She finally knows, I thought. I felt the hardness of the tile against my head, phone in hand. I scratched a deep mark into my left arm, the welt it left reminding me I surely woke up that morning.
So I call Matthew, he nearly starts crying on the phone. I wish I could cry too, like all these normal-emotionally-reactive people, but I've got that sad crying problem I mentioned. I find myself feeling hypervigilant, waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me. I make some tea, check my blood sugar to make sure I'm not about to pass out and suddenly, my phone rings.
Ok, Emily. They are so ecstatic! I've got permission from them to give you their names and information. J wanted to be sure you also had their number so I'm giving you that, too. Let me know how it goes.

As I write her name down, I am struck by how normal it is. How normal this whole thing feels. For god's sake, did I think she was going to say her name was Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ?!
I already had plans to take a refugee I assist to an appointment that day. My heart raced with excitement. I was half-tempted in my broken Swahili to tell him what happened, but realized it may not be the best idea. He did, after all, look at me in complete shock saying What? I do not understand you! over and over when I responded to him No, my mother will not come when I was taking a break to have my baby and he asked me when she would be coming. Trying to explain this whole new level of my complicated maternal situation; to understand that I have both a birth mother and an adoptive mother, neither of whom speak to me---I felt it was too much to ask of him. Family being so unconditionally committed in Africa, I feared his head might explode. And he had enough of his own problems to deal with already; the least of which not being that he'd seen his entire family killed in the Hutu/Tutsi violence in his country. Our friendship was important and ever-evolving, things were always shared in due time.
When Matthew gets home that evening, I wonder if I should wait to call her on the weekend, would it be more polite? I realize I'm actually pathetically analyzing the situation so that I don't appear too desperate. Too desperate? What else could she think after Kathy and I had been after her all summer?
Suddenly, it hits me I'm about to talk to my birthmother for the first time in my life.
Her husband told Kathy how happy M was to hear the news.
I found her. And she was happy.


  1. Em...(I'm speechless) so happy for you...and nervous. I can only imagine how you were feeling.

  2. I am so enjoying reading your posts (trying to, with watery eyes). :) The suspense is killing me, I just keep reading! You are truly a gifted writer. You are so raw and expressive, I love your style. And your story is so intereting, your whole life is so interesting, you could write a book! Or several! I'm so glad you are sharing yourself with everyone. I imagine it's scary but exhilarating and therapeutic at the same time. Ever since I met you, I wanted to know more about you! You have so much to offer and this world is a much better place with you in it. You are the kindest person and I just can't imagine how anyone would not want you in their lives. A sad and definite loss for them. Thank you for having the courage to open up your soul to the world! :)