Because I have type 1 diabetes, when I take a dose of insulin I absolutely must ingest the same amount of carbohydrate for that dose of insulin or else I will have dangerously low blood sugar and then most likely pass out.
Many people who know me know that I have a pretty strong stomach. I don't get nauseated when I see or smell gross things. I don't pass out from 'feeling woozy' or freaked out easily. The first time I passed out was this past summer when I was about to um, have a seizure. But that's a different story for a different day.
The story I'm trying to tell you is one in which I'd just made dinner and was about to sit down with Matthew to discuss with him about how Kathy the Social Worker had just called me that day telling me that my birthmother and I were now officially "reunited", as they say. We had each other's phone numbers and it was all just a matter of who was going to call who first.
As I made dinner, the phone rang but I didn't hear it. As I began to set the table, the woman who gave birth to me was leaving a message. As I turned the music down that we play while making dinner, that message started to beep on my phone.
But I had already taken my insulin.
I felt like a lunatic, grasping my phone tight to my ear to hear that message. It was the first time in 3o years that I'd heard her, after all.
"You already bolused for your dinner, Em" Matthew says. I can feel myself freaking out on the inside. In some small way (you may think this is cheesy) it felt like maybe in missing her call, we might've missed each other like two ships passing in the night. Like we only had one chance. Ridiculous, I know. But it's the truth.
So I sit down, planning on scarfing my food down like an angry, interrupted toddler.
We begin to talk about the phone call, the message. How bad the reception sounded. How smoky her voice sounded. And how bad her voice was shaking.
It suddenly hits me that I have absolutely no idea what to say to her. My mind is blank.
He tells me we have a lot to talk about. (Really? Where do we begin?) He says so compassionately: Emily, that was the hardest phone call she ever made.
And that's when I look at my dinner plate and realize I have absolutely no appetite. The wave of nausea that comes over me is so big and so strong, I think I'm going to just skip vomiting and go straight to passing out.
So I put my head between my knees and breathe in through my nose, out through my mouth like the good little former military medic I am. The stars stop circling, my heart stops pounding, and I come up for air. Then I was force-fed the carbs on my plate.
I go to the bedroom, shut the door, dial the Louisiana phone number I've been given, close my eyes, take a deep breath and hit "send".
Hi, is M there? A man answers.
Yes, yes she is! Let me go get her! Hold on! M! The phone! The phone!
[Sounds of doors slamming and squeaking and footsteps and coughing and whispering and I swear, even multiple dogs barking managed to squeeze into all this.]
And just like that, after 3o years, we start talking.
It's not like it was just yesterday because I don't remember her. But there are things about her that are consolingly familiar. Things like her Pittsburgh accent. Things like knowing how to picture, at least, which part of Pittsburgh she grew up in (Shadyside). Things like, when I ask a question, she fills in the part of the story I don't yet have. But I know she's my birthmom because she knows things absolutely no one else could know. It's comforting.
One of the first things she says to me is that she thought I hated her.
This depresses me. I admit that while my feelings have been complicated and birthdays were always hard, I never hated her. She tells me she's always had bad timing and apologizes for missing my birthday.
I promise myself that I'm not however going to say things like "it's ok" just to smooth the awkward parts of the conversation over. So when we get to the part where she admits how bad she's felt all these years, how much guilt and regret she's carried around in her heart; this big hole in her chest that nothing and no one could fill, I tell her that we can't change the past. That was over 30 years ago now. That she was a teenager then and she's 50 now. And I'm grown with a family of my own now, I'm not a baby anymore. We can try to start anew.
I figure out halfway through the conversation, just as the room is beginning to dim in the sunset, that she coughs when she's trying to keep herself from crying. She does this for the next three conversations we have.
She tells me she loves animals because they don't bullshit you and that she has 2 horses. She smokes a lot of cigarettes, drinks beer as she roots for the Steelers, follows horse-racing and hockey, and has high blood pressure from stress. Her doctor told her not to quit smoking though because he was more afraid of what her stress would do to her blood pressure than the cigarettes to her lungs. She works as an accounting clerk at the local hospital. She asks me what I did with my life and tells me I've got some balls joining the military after highschool (um, thanks! ;)
Then she tells me she's dying to know what I look like. I tell her I'm dying to know what she looks like because the papers only described her as thin and having short, curly brown hair with brown eyes. She corrects me, My eyes are blue.
Wow, so that's where my recessive blue gene came from to help give my son his blue eyes.
We both carry the conversation along with this sense of desperation and awkwardness and nervousness and excitement. We keep accidentally interrupting each other, and then apologize and start talking again. I grab an index card to take notes, she's talking so fast I can't keep up with all the juicy details. I ask her if she had any more children. She says, Nope. You're my only ch...you're the only one. She gasps and tries to suppress her joy when I tell her I just had my first child.
She tells me I'm half Scotch-Irish; nearly flipping out when I tell her my son (whose nickname is Bird) has an Irish name. My birthfather was from Ryad (the capital of Saudi Arabia). She felt it was important for me to know it was not a one-night stand, even though they only had sex once (well, hey, all it takes is once, right? and voila: Here.I.am).
My heart skipped when she told me how her younger brother always gave her a hard time for not trying to find me. Over the years he'd say I don't know, but I just have a feeling about her, M. You need to find her. She admits she just got off the phone with him right before she called me to get the courage to make the call.
Just as the sun sets (we've been on the phone nearly 2 hours now) she tells me that she wants to meet me someday soon. As long as that's ok with you.
But don't you know M, we already have?