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Published Monday June 1st, 2009 at 12:22pm

Original Article

Readers of The Globe And Mail share their personal thoughts and feelings about adoptionand Ontario Canada's law change that goes into effect on Monday June 1st, 2009.

The compilation of reader comments is as follows:

Last week's Focus piece by writerRichard Wright on his hope, after Ontario law changes on Monday, toreunite with a son given up long ago moved many to share their ideasand experiences, often deeply personal and intimate. Here are a someresponses we received.

‘Who I might be'

I am a 70-year-old Canadian woman who knows neither her birth name norher nationality. An agency in Montreal holds the key to my identity.Funded by the provincial government to assist adoptees in reconnectingwith birth parents, the social worker would “lose her job” were she todivulge the missing link to my origins.

So, like Richard Wright, I look for matching eyebrows in thecomposite features my mind creates to image my forbearers. I findcomfort in my grandchildren, the second generation of my lost heritage.They remind me of who I am or, at least, who I might be.

Doctors become wary as my aging body expresses what might be geneticpredispositions to disease. This patient cannot confirm any assumptionswith factual assistance to aid the diagnosis without my medicalhistory. This necessitates extra testing and alternative medicaltreatment.

Now that Ontario is making its records available to those who areseeking the discover their stories, will Quebec follow in thisredemption of outdated mores?

The necessity of having one's birthright may seem insignificant tosome. But for the adoptee, having a birth name is a link to the eternalflame of love which was snuffed out by the conventions of an earliertime. Like people in Ontario, I too would like to be “facing a futurewith a new relationship to the past.”

Al Simms

Seeking a secret

When I found out about the existence of the Adoption DisclosureRegistry in Toronto, my son was already 40 years old. He has not, to myknowledge, registered with the passive registry. I have been able topass on some hereditary health information, through an ADR worker, whoknows his name, where he lives and what his occupation is – all of thethings I would love to know about him. I have recent health informationthat he should know about, information relevant to him and to anyfamily he may have.

Thus, after being “sent away in shame” to give birth to my son, theonly information I have from the Children's Aid Society is very vague,with no clues as to my son's whereabouts or name. So here I sit, justeight days away from June 1, hoping and praying with all my heart thatI may be one of the fortunate who learns something about his or herlost child (now adult). This will be the only way I will be able tolive through the disenfranchised grief as a 68-year-old woman who gavebirth in my late teens and was never allowed to hold or feed my child.

Thank you Richard Wright for looking at the positives in adoptionsecrets that may finally be disclosed. May you be one of the lucky oneswho is able to have contact.

Sharon A. Doerr Langley, BC

Missing children

I read Richard Wright's piece on his role as a birth parent. I too,have an adult-child “missing in adoption.” The system in place when mydaughter was born in 1963 was a cruel and vindictive one: I wasdisowned by my own parents, fired from my job for being unmarried andpregnant, denied help from social services and so was forced to put mychild up for adoption. These measures seem draconian in 2009, but theywere actually commonplace.

When I registered for “unidentified” information, it took nine yearsto be placed on the list and another 10 years before I received whatturned out to be only misinformation. Eleven years ago I found mynow-adult child with the help and support of Parentfinders. She isthriving with two children of her own. After a few emotional months,without meeting her, she cut off all contact. I sent her all of hermedical information, knowledge of two full sisters and the location ofher birth father. The fear of upsetting her adoptive mother was sogreat that she could not see any resolution.

Adoption during that period left birth parents feeling that theirchildren were taken from them, the emotions any parent would feel iftheir child had been kidnapped, except that we had no support to findthem, which is why I call our adult children “missing in adoption.”

Bless Marilyn Churley for her efforts to bring us peace.

Dorothy Higgins Mississauga, Ont.

Eric's story

We adopted our son when he was six weeks old in January, 1965. Hisname is Eric. We had a 21/2 year old daughter then (born to us) andthey grew up happily together. He always knew that he was adopted. Welived in suburban Kitchener where my husband taught school and for atime I was a part time physiotherapist. When Eric was 18 we told himthat we would not stand in his way if he wanted to find his birthmother. His reply was, “If they didn't want me, why should I care aboutthem?” I tried to explain to him that she was 17 at the time and wasnot able to look after a baby.

Eric got married at 29 to a lovely lady. They have two boys. Theyoungest, now 8, has Tourettes disease and is bipolar. The doctorssuggested that Eric make inquiries about his birth family, so they puthis name into the Ontario registry. I have worked with unwed mothersand have always felt for them and what a difficult thing it has beenand continues to be for them.

Three years later (they had pretty well given up the thought thatthey would get a response) we got a message from Eric that he had a“big envelope” from the Ontario Registry. He was quite upset. “I'mafraid to open it,” he said. I replied, “Eric, she needs to know thatyou are all right.”

Eric sent her an e-mail (she now lives in B.C.) and she returnedwith a most rapturous reply. She had been trying to find him for sometime. When Eric was born in 1964 she was told by her parents not totell anyone. Eric's father knew, however. He was enjoying a sportsscholarship in Michigan. A few years later they got married and had twochildren. About a decade after that they were divorced. My feeling isthat Linda could not forget the beautiful boy that she gave up and herhusband did not show much sympathy.

A few months later Eric and Andrea flew to B.C, to meet Linda, herdaughter and her second husband. The reunion was very emotional,particularly on Linda's part as she told us that she never forgot him,and so much wanted to know where he was and whether he had a goodupbringing. Her own mother, who lived in Cambridge, was overjoyed tohear that he was alive and well.

Lastly, for now at least, Eric heard from his birth brother Greg whois a golf pro in Orlando, Fla. Greg contacted him immediately with muchexcitement and within weeks flew up to Toronto (where Eric lives) andtogether they drove to Cambridge to see Grandma. Again, a tearful andvery meaningful reunion. Now Eric and Greg are best friends, exchangingvisits and particularly messages frequently. It is fun to see themtogether, they are so much alike, and have such respect for oneanother.

Dede Boulden, Kitchener, Ont. The saddest day

After reading the article in the Saturday Globe written by RichardWright, I would like to thank him: This is the very first time that Ihave ever heard a male speak on this issue and how he feels abouthaving had to give a child up for adoption.

In March of 1965, I was a 16-year-old young girl that had givenbirth to my son. The father was not interested and denied beinginvolved – however, his mother was very supportive. As I look back itmust have been difficult for her to visit with me and also lose hergrandchild. Today I would thank her for her support.

The social mores of that time were of shame and secrecy, andadoption was the only recourse. I was sent to a home for unwed motherscalled Homewood. It was not a bad place: it was run by the AnglicanChurch and it was located in downtown Toronto. However, once a week thepriest visited and reinforced what everyone else thought, and said thatwe were bad girls. There were many young women from all different walksof life, and none of us were bad, only victims of the time andcircumstance – parents that only wanted it all to be swept under thecarpet and for us girls to get on with our lives in education orwherever our path was to lead us. There were no choices, only adoption.

I did see my son for at least three months prior to his adoption.This is unusual but that is what I wanted and I exercised my right –the only one I seemed to have at that time. Fortunately I have babypictures of him that I look at on his birthday and the other specialoccasions that we celebrate throughout the year. He is never far frommy thoughts and my heart.

The saddest day of my life was attending court with my social workerand being made to say that I abandon my child to the court of Ontario.When I think now on those words and how difficult it was to speak themwhen it was never my intention to abandon my child – again, there wereno choices.

My life has been blessed and I am the mother of another child who isnow 39 years old. I have a wonderful husband and we are all ready tomeet the boy that was taken from my life 44 years ago.

June 1 is yet another step in finding my first-born son. I know itwill take a long time because of all the paperwork and waiting lists. Ihave been on the Adoption Disclosure Register for years and whether myson does not know he is adopted or whether he has never had theinterest to find me because that is often the way with young men or soI am told, it only furthers my belief that he has had a happy life.

To date it took two years just to receive non-identifyinginformation that I treasure. It is just a small piece of him that I amleft with, a few words about the wonderful people that adopted him andI truly believe they are.

I am not sure what will happen or if I will in fact ever meet myson, I know it maybe a very painful time for all the men and woman thatfind themselves discovering the adopted names of their children. LikeRichard Wright, we do not know how the information that we receive fromthe adoption records will all turn out.

My only hope is that in giving my son up for adoption he has had ahappy life with all the care and love he deserved and that is reallyall I need to know anything more would be an unbelievable plus in mylife and that of my husband and his brother who is also waiting to meethim.

Jayne Duncan, Cobourg, Ont.

A messy reunion

As people impacted by adoption await the June 1 opening of Ontariorecords, I hold my breath. I was adopted in New Jersey 1967. In manyways, I had the idyllic childhood; unconditional parental love anddevotion and significant wealth which brought access to limitlesseducational and recreational activities.

As a teen, I often wondered about my birth parents. I was arebellious teen – not prone to drugs or drink, but I felt disconnectedfrom my parents, who were 40 years older than me. I imagined that mybirth parents would be hipper – that I would have more in common withthem.

As a university student, I contacted the agency that arranged myadoption and, to my surprise, so had my birth mother. They arranged areunion, to which my parents drove me. What I discovered wassurprising. After putting me up for adoption, my birth parents marriedand had four more children, all boys. They had also moved to Ottawa,evading the Vietnam War draft. Ultimately, my birth parents divorced.

I kept in touch with my birth parents and my brothers for a fewyears, off and on. I came to Ottawa twice to visit. Abruptly and ratherimmaturely, I cut off communications in my early 20s. My teenagerebellion against my parents had ended with a deep appreciation fortheir love and had been replaced with an undying respect and gratitudethat made it impossible for me to maintain a relationship with mybiological family.

In 2004, my own family – husband and two daughters – moved toOntario for my husband's work. My father had died of Huntington'sDisease in 2000 and my mother passed away from cancer in 2006. I feltan overwhelming desire to reconnect with my birth family shortlythereafter and I was welcomed back with open arms.

So the question is, as an adoptee who has had the opportunity tomeet her birth family, how do I feel about the opening of records inOntario? I'm against it.

Adoption family reunions are not easy. While the stories have a lot of Oprah appeal, they're messy and uncomfortable and sometimes downright unpleasant.

I have so little in common with my birth family, it's often hard tofind a way to fit at all. There's no history of shared experiences tokeep us sewn together. I have adopted friends who have no desire tomeet their biological parents and I believe their wishes should beprotected. The system in which I was adopted – where a reunion isarranged when both parties want to meet – though not perfect, is morerespective of privacy than the law that was passed in Ontario.

I initiated the recent reunion with my birth family and, quitehonestly, there are many days I question the soundness of thatdecision. What if I was contacted by biological relatives that I had nodesire to meet? I believe I would feel very violated.

My parents – the people that raised me – were amazing people. Theyhad their issues, as we all do, but they gave me a wonderful life andnurtured me through scarlet fever, recurrent ear infections and theterrible teens. They are my heroes. While I try to develop arelationship with my biological family, I often struggle to like themas people. Is that fair to them? Who does this new law serve?

Wendy Myers, Oakville, Ont. I was not abandoned

I did not go looking for my birth parents at 18, on the cusp ofadulthood, as is so commonly portrayed in made-for-TV movies. In fact Imostly found the relentless fictional quests of TV teenagers to findtheir birth parents quite puzzling. I had known from the beginning Iwas adopted – although it was not a daily topic of conversation, it wasnot a secret my family kept from anyone – and so I was frequently askedwhile growing up whether I wanted to find my birth parents.

I usually replied with a number of ideas I had about the subject:that I was raised in a completely loving family, which includedimmediate and extended family who never for a minute considered me asanything but part and parcel of the larger whole; that finding a birthparent was like opening Pandora's box – once done it could never beundone; and of course, the reason I am sure many adoptees can relateto, that enormous fear of being rejected yet again.

Just after I turned 40, for the first time in my life, I becameacquainted through work with a number of other adult adoptees. A few ofthese men and women had sent for their non-identifying information. I'dtalked about health issues with my doctor, about tests in absence ofany genetic history, and it seemed more necessary and also harmless toapply for non-identifying information than it ever had. My brother, whowas also adopted in infancy, had applied for his information yearsbefore.

I always say that finding my birth mother was accidental, but ofcourse it wasn't, completely. The thought that the metaphoricalPandora's box would open had always made me reluctant to apply forinformation and, as it turned out, in effect it did.

My information had strings attached, in the form of a letter in myfile written by my birth mother only five or six years previously,which was then sent to me. Of course I could have said no at any pointin this process, but what is more tempting, more compelling to one whohas lived a life which started with an act of abandonment than theknowledge they were in fact wanted, that some regret had been felt?

What did my partner say, with the uncanny wisdom he brings to mylife? “You are not the kind of person who will let this woman go to hergrave without meeting you – it's more a question of when you willchoose to meet her.”

Two quite profound changes took place for me – the first, that Ifelt as if my real family had been hijacked – from thegreat-grandfather whom I had never known but whose actions defined mychildhood as I spent my summers in New Brunswick in the cottage he hadpurchased, to my cousins and Aunts and Uncles. None of these people hadever treated me as anything less and mostly considerably more than whatmost people would consider real family, and yet all of a sudden allthat history, heritage and sentiment, down to the objects in my lifeinherited from these people, felt counterfeit. I felt adrift.

After interviews with the case worker assigned to us, exchangingemails and seeking advice from my father and very sage advice from aconfidant of my mother's, I drove to the first meeting with my birthmother with my partner's sympathetic ear listening to me rattle onabout how I did not want a new mother or an old one depending how youviewed it, I just wanted my mother, who had died five years previously.I wanted more family, but children, not new aunts, uncles or cousins.

The second profound change, and indeed really the thing that definesthe value of the experience far and away above the people I've met,although they are wonderful and welcome and loving, is that I have beenable to let go of one of the founding precepts of an adopted child.

Quite early in our communication my birth mother wrote to me thatshe hoped I did not ever feel that I was abandoned because I was not. Ithink for many reasons which may be entirely personal to her, that sheis unable to face the idea that a great number of adopted children feelabandoned to a greater or lesser extent. But in having come to know herbetter over the past few years I came to realize that I was in fact notabandoned.

My birth mother will always have given up a child, but that childwas not me. I have come to realize that giving me up had nothingwhatsoever to do with me, and never will. I was determined not to lookat the past when I went into the relationship with her and start with aclean slate, but she has not.

One of the very first things she did, without any prompting on mypart, was to take me to a local high school and show me yearbookpictures of my birth father who had been a teacher there at the time ofmy birth.

Although I hadn't expected to find my birth mother I think I wasready. And although my birth mother had been searching for me for anumber of years, and has often asked me why I had not looked for herearlier, she was not ready to find me. She still has difficultyacknowledging who I am in her world, while at the same time I think itwould be impossible for her to recognize that this can feel likeanother rejection, a disownment, to me.

I would in no way seek to pass judgment on the unique and personalcircumstances surrounding every adoptive situation, but emphasize onlythat the value I received from the experience of meeting my birthmother was being able to let go absolutely of the thought that I hadbeen abandoned.

When I came back to myself after this realization, I also came backto my family – my real family. Despite the fact that I am geneticallyhalf-Slovak/half-British, my real heritage is Scots/Acadian/UnitedEmpire Loyalist/Irish/English – everything about my family is mine,after all.

I have learned a few startling things about the absoluteness ofgenetics (like Richard Wright's children I also share the eyebrows ofmy birth father, coincidentally also a Richard). I have journeyed to aplace where finally someone looks like me. But the people who don't aremy family.

Name withheld by request Seeing with one's heart

At this time of year, my Grade 9 students and I read the chapter inwhich the Little Prince meets the fox in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince. The Prince is afraid to have a relationship with the fox for fear hisheart will be broken when he leaves on his journey; perceptively, hesees no reason to enter into a relationship that is doomed to hurt. Thefox then tells the Prince a secret: On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur; l'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. (“One can only truly see with one's heart; what is essential isinvisible to the eye.”) And so, the Prince befriends the fox and thengoes on his way. Although sad, the two are fuller beings because oftheir bond.

The message is clear: Relationships and the risks involved are the essence of the human condition.

With both of my fathers prematurely deceased, Father's Day, as itapproaches, has been a tender time for me. I feel loss, abandonment andsadness. It is also about undeveloped relationships. My adoptive fatherdied when I was 14; my biological father, when I was 40. However, mybirthfather died without knowing me at all. Perhaps he would have, ifhe had lived; perhaps he couldn't have. But what I live with now is themissed opportunity to create any kind of bond with him. Because therewas no relationship, the essence of my being remains fragmented.Perhaps, with his other children, there is a hope of finding the gluethat will hold these bits together.

The passing of Ontario's Adoption Information Disclosure Act, orBill 183, stirs up a mix of feelings each Father's Day. I lived for 34years trying to fill the void with a few pieces of “non-identifyinginformation” about my birth parents. I conjured up the shapes of facesthat were pure invention. The mirror reflected only the surface of myface, but not the “me” I was searching for. I finally obtained a photoof my biological father. I imagined him to be a kind, eager soul whoselove would be kindled on meeting me.

This imagined meeting never happened. My birth mother, with whom Ihad reunited in 1992, disclosed his identity. After three years ofwaiting to be sure of my motives, I wrote him a letter,double-enveloped for secrecy. His response was a short phone callsaying he could not meet me at that time. He said, “God bless you.”Before I could utter two words, he had hung up. He died four yearslater.

He died knowing more about me than I realized. The irony is that heand my adoptive father had worked together on a volunteer board; ourfamily homes are still in the same neighbourhood; and my biologicalgrandmother respected my adoptive father for his work in the arts.

One of my dearest friends, who became a surrogate father to me over15 years (now also deceased), was a friend and colleague of mybirthfather and had offered to take him out for lunch to tell him whata “great gal” I was. I always said, “Thank you, but no.” I was afraidto break into his private space, to wreck his life, to shatter anychance that he would re-consider. Respecting his “secret” was moreimportant to me than insisting on my right to know him. This choice waswrenching, knowing what a huge miracle it was that this man was soclose to me, yet so far.

I waited a couple of years after his death to write his children, togive them time to grieve. With the events of September 11, 2001, asense of urgency pushed me to contact them. After a few months, theirwritten response was open, respectful and caring. They had never knowntheir father's secret and they were in shock. And although we have notyet met (I await their invitation), I have a better sense of who hewas, who they are and, more, who I am.

When I first saw his photo in 1995, when I hesitantly pulled theblack and white image from the envelope, it was as if my father wasbeing born. First, his kinky black hair, the lines of his forehead, hiseyes, “my” eyes – finally, I could see the watermark.

In the early 1990s, British Columbia changed its passive adoptionregistry to an active, open one. I had been on the list for years, butunless my birth parents also registered, I had no chance of findingthem. With the new legislation, I was able to pro-actively search outmy birth mother and I found her. In light of the changes looming largefor many in Ontario, I feel lucky to have had 17 years to know my birthmother and to learn more about my birth father.

Despite arguments against opening the adoption registry – the rulesand expectations of yesteryear, the promise of secrecy – as an adoptee,I believe we have a right to have access to our original identity. Ihonoured my birth father's secret while he was alive, respecting hisprivacy and never contacting him again. Even now, I protect hisidentity and continue to respect the private suffering that kept himfrom wanting to know me. There is a fine line between the right toprivacy and the right to discover one's identity; there seems to be noeasy answer.

When I started my search, I had to choose one birth parent. I chosethe right one. My birth mother was more than eager to meet me. Waitingfor that phone call from Connecticut, the angst, excitement, fearcrystallized – the anxious questions of childhood, adolescence andyoung adulthood culminated in a ring. I picked up. A soft, quietBritish voice: “Hello, Laura, how are you?”

A giggle, silence, tears. Thirty-four years of waiting for thatvoice, that heart, that buried memory of birth provoked a torrent ofloss, feelings of abandonment, forgiveness, desire, love. I was glad Iwas alone.

The inner tumult has calmed somewhat now that I have met my birthmother and her children and developed a relationship with them over theyears. Also having been a secret to her children, my existence was ashock to them, but a welcome one; my presence answered questions.

What I realized after the reunion was what so many take for granted:My adoptive family was my “real” mom and dad, sister and brother. As achild, especially when I was having a tantrum, I would scream “I'mgoing to find my ‘real' parents.” Little did I realize then that myreal family had been with me all those years. Yes, we were alldifferent, none of us siblings connected by blood, but this family andmy huge extended family are part of who I am now: my values, myexperiences, my choices – my essence. I was blessed to be adopted.

The “adoption triangle” connects my two families. Ontario hasfinally made this connection easier. As adult adoptees, birthparentsand adoptive families, we can begin to heal the “primal wound.”

As of June 1, Ontarians will be able to take that risk. Like theLittle Prince and the fox, adoptees and birth families can create newbonds, new relationships and start “seeing with the heart.” Laura McNairn, Chelsea, Quebec Opening up

When I finished Richard Wright's story, I burst into tears. It took afew minutes for the tears to subside. I cried for your sorrow and foryour lost time.

I am an adoptive parent and my story is so very different. I have a16-year-old daughter and was fortunate enough to have the experience ofan open adoption. This afternoon I will sit with her birth mother andlisten to our daughter's half-sister and half-brother perform at theirannual piano recital.

I can do this because, in 1993, open adoption was in its infancy andmy husband and I took the leap. Slowly, slowly, over the years ourrelationships with the birth parents changed and grew, always with aview to what was best for our daughter. It's not always been easy. Butit has always been worthwhile. Our daughter is comfortable with havingtwo sets of parents. One set is in the background, but she knows theyare there. She's never known anything else.

When she was six months old, Global TV interviewed my husband andme, as well as her birth parents, as part of a mini-documentary on thisnew form of adoption. At the end of the taping I told the interviewerto check back with us in 20 years to see how it all went. We are almostthere, but I think it is the kind of story that never truly ends. Isincerely hope you find your son.

Heather Row ‘So, where's the baby?'

For some reason my adopted parents handed me my birth namecertificate two days before I married in 1971. I was stunned at thattime to see my real identity in print. I was 21 years old.

I wrote to the Department of Social Services in New Brunswickseeking information on my biological parents. They located my file fromthe Archives at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in St. John.They sent a summary of what they called “non-identifying information.”At that time they did not have permission to provide the service ofcontacting my natural parents for permission to release identifyinginformation.

However, the Adoption & Child Care Supervisor sent enoughdetails – like the fact that my parents married two years after mybirth. They had seven children – six boys, then finally another girl –hoping to replace the one they had given up together. I wrote back tothe Department of Social Services and they sent more informationregarding my biological grandfather which enabled me to write to himbefore contacting my birth parents.

When I travelled to meet the family in New Brunswick the first thingmy mother told me when I stepped from the plane was how she hadbelieved she would be able to keep me. However after the delivery, shewas forced to sign papers, not realizing she was releasing me foradoption. My father called her after the birth and the first questionhe asked was, “So, where's the baby?”

My parents were too young to understand that with no help from theirimmediate families, the Catholic Church would intervene and make thedecision for my future.

My biological parents believed for years that I must be somewhere inSt. John. But alas I lived everywhere but St. John – France, Labrador,Ottawa, Quebec and Vancouver. Imagine how we all felt meeting for thefirst time at the age of 27.

It took my mother several years to talk about her birth experience.When she did it seemed at least for me, to be more appropriate toexpress her story through poetry. When life is altered at the beginning– why not?

My natural parents and siblings have embraced me as one of thefamily. I'm grateful to the Regional Supervisor of the Adoption &Child Care Services in New Brunswick who took the time to relate asmany details as she was legally allowed to in the 70's. I'm alsograteful for my adoptive parents who loved me as their own and who madethe decision to release my true identity.

Thank you for the invitation to share our adoption experiences.

Thanks also to Richard Wright for reminding adoptees and birthparents how overwhelming the experience can be when we look into theface of another human being for the first time and recognize our trueselves.

Deborah Phillips, aka Anne Marie Whipple (birth name)


A girl, not a woman, she's sixteen, stands at the corner of a streetoutside a home, unlike ordinary ones, this place hides castaways.

This girl, not a woman, in the course of one week enters, delivers, and signs her baby away.

Then, suitcase in hand, she stands outside the home on Princess Street.

Outside the home On the corner of this street She stands, alone,shut out from the world And from her own identity, and asks “willsomeone come for me?”

Alone, shut out from the world, she stands, outside the home until wonder turns to real.

This girl, not a woman, she's sixteen, must leave this corner of the street.

Puritan hypocrisy

I have found considerable hypocrisy in the English-speaking world; thehandling of adoption is just one example. Perhaps it derives fromPuritanical roots, perhaps more. And it permeates through other areas.I encountered an example when I recently applied for a passport for my15-year-old daughter. After filling in her names, there is an item“surname at birth.”

Presumably adopted children would have their surnames and givennames changed. Sometimes stepchildren would have their names changedalso.

My daughter and only child was born when I was 58. Before that Isteadfastly refused adopting a child. I was willing to bring up a childin my family, as a foster parent; but I would want the child to keephis/her roots. Adoption is a fake.

R.S. Tse A turn for the worse

I used the Adoption Disclosure Agency to have a successful matchwith my birth mother. It only took one year. All went well with themeeting and over time a relationship occurred. Things took a turn forthe worse on my side when I realized that I no longer felt comfortablewith how the relationship was changing. I guess in time I realized thatmy adopted parents were my parents and I felt very awkward having mybirth mother consider me her daughter. She was basically a stranger andas time went on I might have considered her a friend at best.

The article in Saturday's Focus hit a nerve with me at the startwith the tag – “Adoption: A Father and Child Reunion.” I want RichardWright to know that even though he might have been the original fatherby birth, someone else has been doing a lot of hard work raising hisson Graham. Whatever Graham has become today is through his upbringingand Mr. Wright can meet him and enjoy him but to call himself thefather seems wrong to me.

Of all my adult friends who are adopted and have had reunions withbirth parents, none have ended in a positive way. I think we all havesome fantasy idea of how it will all go and it never seems to end likewe think it will. I hope Richard Wright has a more successful meeting.

Symantha Rush Heart grown 10 sizes

I have a dream of speaking to a room full of pregnant women who arestruggling with what to do about their growing tummies. I would love totell them how beautiful adoption can be.

I was raised in a small town in the B.C. interior, but that wasn'twhere I started. I was conceived in Juneau, Alaska, where my biologicalparents met dancing because, I'm told, that was the only really funthing to do during the winter in Alaska. My biological mother was doingmissionary work for a church in Juneau with two teenage children whowere living with their father. My biological father was recovering froma difficult past and needed a new scene. He travelled from his hometownin California to stay with family and work in Juneau. Both in their mid30s, they shared a love of life and, of course, dancing.

When my biological mother became pregnant, she didn't quite knowwhat to do. She already had two children of her own. My biologicalfather didn't want children at the time. Confused, she returned to theB.C. interior town where she'd been living to be with her sisters andconsult friends. This brings us to the fateful night in which she wentout for dinner with what happened to be a mutual friend of mysoon-to-be parents, in my future hometown.

My parents were out for dinner at the same restaurant, saw theirmutual friend having dinner, and slid into the booth to say hello. Thewomen got to talking. Here is what my biological mother would havelearned about my mother: My mother had always wanted children. Shewanted to become pregnant with a fierceness I believe only women whohave difficulty getting pregnant can understand. She had been throughevery operation you could possibly have, and learned that the time Iwas conceived was the same time she had been sick in the hospital fromcomplications of yet another hopeful operation.

She had wanted to consider adoption, but my father was reluctant. Hehoped for a child that looked like they did, that didn't remind othersthat the baby wasn't theirs. It was a sore point, for both of them. Thetwo women liked each other immediately. From this conversation, a newthought was blooming in my biological mother's mind.

I was the first open adoption at the hospital in my community. I'mtold it was quite mind-expanding at the time. Two women, close in age,hand in hand, Lamaze partners, both discussing the future of the unbornchild that linked them. I'm told they were always together for themonths leading up to my birth. The papers were signed before I was evenborn. When the day finally came, my mother was there for every breathand moment, and she caught me as I finally became hers.

My story isn't perfect. Like all parents, my parents haveshortcomings. I've often wondered if my mother doesn't hold a littletoo tightly to me due to all those years of longing. But my story is abeautiful one. I love my parents who raised me, who are so wholly myparents we are as close as we can possibly be. People never believed megrowing up if I told them I was adopted. The answer was a standardsincere declaration of “What? No way.” Not only do I look like myparents, I belong to them. That's something people can see and feel,and us most of all.

The best thing is, I know my biological family now. As an adult, Icausally found them one by one. I was lucky that my parents were alwayshonest with me, growing up, about a history that started before I did.I now have this whole network of people who love me. A family inCalifornia, a biological mother in Saudi Arabia, half-siblings andnieces and nephews. It's lovely, all these people to know and seeksimilarities to. It doesn't touch what my parents and I have – it'sjust a nice bonus.

I feel like my heart has grown 10 sizes bigger to contain the love Ifeel for this family that just keeps growing the more people I meet.

I hope one day I get to talk to that room full of women. I know notall adoption stories are sunshine and rainbows, but I think it'simportant for people to know it can be really great. Maybe the idea ofthat grand gesture, the thought that you are giving someone somethingthat they can't possibly create themselves, will be a chance forsomeone else's life to blossom into something wonderful.

Joy Simpson The day of the Letter

For me, Tuesday, June 14, 2005, has now become the day of ‘theLetter.' When one gets a response to correspondence sent 20 years ago,needless to say it gets one's attention. Yes, this registered letterrequired a signature and it was about to set up a process of discoverythat would open emotional doors that had long been closed, for time haderoded hope that this letter would ever be answered.

Yet here it was on this ordinary Tuesday in the middle of ourretired lives – a letter that required my signature and it had theheading “Ontario Adoption Disclosure Registry.” Quickly my protectivemind rushed to soothe the rising wave of excitement that this couldindeed be it, that my search for my baby brother, last seen 48 yearsago when he was 4 and I was 6, would be headed to a reunion.

My mind reminded me that I had many of these letters in the past andthey involved that hurtful thud of the heart as I would read, “Weregret to inform you that no one has responded to your search at thepresent time.” However this time the letter was registered, and thiswas a first.

All this scrambled through my being as I scratched my signature onthe postal carrier's card. The emotions then rose to a high pitch as Itore it open, as if my heart was feeling the emotional puncture of theletter opener as well. My heart set into racing mode as my eyesdeciphered, “Your birth brother has also submitted an applicationindicating his interest to be reunited with you ... “ The remainder ofthe letter was a blur.

I ran to hug my husband, Brian. We both stared at the piece of paperas if to verify its contents. And then a new hug was needed, as Istated, “Now, I'm afraid.” It was simply a fear of “what now?” Anotherreassuring hug from my husband reminded me to enjoy the moment and thentackle the future when it became the present.

[…] Contact with the social worker the following day set the wheelsin motion. I was asked to formulate a “non-identifying information”letter of myself and my brother would be asked to do the same. Onceboth parties had received the information, one or both could decide todrop the process. Fortunately we moved on to the next step whichinvolved a phone call and then plans for the reunion. I had been warnedthat this process could take months and in some cases years. In ourcase the reunion came to be in a month's time from the delivery of theregistered letter For that I am grateful.

Our first phone call was surprisingly easy flowing. It had ahumorous beginning in that his name had been changed and hispresent-day name is the same as his second-oldest brother. Two brotherswith the same name. To me however his original name is etched in myheart and that is what I address him with today. It also saves on theconfusion of two siblings with the same name

We then conversed about the makeup of his biological family. He wassaddened to hear that both parents were now deceased. I went on toinform him that he was the baby of the family of four. (Ironically hewas the oldest in his adopted family of four.) The conversation thenshifted about the search. Mine was a 20-year saga, whereas my brotherhad simply decided a few months back, after the urging of a friend, topursue his roots. Fortunately for him my name was already in theadoption registry.

He did not know he was an Ojibwa and that all three of his siblingswere Status Indians. He had been teased as a child for being dark butnever did know his heritage. The unknown facts to him were the highincidence of diabetes in the family and addiction issues. He wasalready insulin-dependent. He was also unaware of the family dynamicsthat created the separation of the family unit. He was the only one tobe adopted for he was the youngest. The very young are sought after inadoption circles.

We then set about planning the reunion day He lived two provincesaway but had vacation time and together we planned the day. It wasdecided to keep the reunion simple. So the first encounter would bewith me and my husband and then we would proceed to a visit with histwo older brothers, and finally a few days later, a family barbequewith immediate family only.

That first encounter is etched in my mind. He pulled up in front ofour home on the roar of his beloved Harley Bike and upon removing hishelmet we flew into a hug for it was the most natural thing to do. Itwas instant recognition and instant brotherly and sisterly love. Wepulled apart and stared into a pair of eyes that were identical to theones I see in the mirror every day Our new journey had begun, the 28absent years long forgotten for what we had now.

In literature that I have read about reunions there is one line thathas, and still stays with me: “The reunion is an event – therelationship is a process”

The process is forever ongoing and it is good. My brother continuesto live two provinces away and we see one another at least once a year.We are in contact by phone and email and it has been indeed been aloving process as we all let it unfold in a natural way. Recently mybrother remarried and we were able to meet his adoptive family and thattoo was a warm and loving experience. I believe, as in all things, thatif we put false expectations and judgments aside and let reality be asit is, all those involved thrive.

As I read now that the adoption registry will be open in June, Ican't help but think how anxious I would be for that date, had I notfound my brother in 2005. I also struggle with the question of thosethat would rather not open the door to the searcher. I know in my caseit came to be as a result of two adults ready and willing to bereunited and that resulted in a wonderful experience for all members ofthe family.

My only advice is to remember to distance the event of the reunionand all its emotions to the one-day-at-a-time process of gettingfamiliar with the new (to you) being.

Elaine FieldingA 40-year ache

I lived in Nictaux West in the Annapolis County of Nova Scotia in1969. My dad was in the air force and he bought a hobby farm in 1963after moving from Comox, BC. I met Kenny when I was in high schoolalthough he did not attend Middleton High. Kenny was tall, dark andhandsome and I fell very much in love with him. I use to walk fivemiles on the weekend to see him with my dog Tinker.

Being an air-force kid and living in the country, I was very youngfor my age and did not know a whole lot about life. Back in those daysparents told you nothing. My life consisted of working on the farm andschool work. Not a whole lot of fun I was nervous as a teenager and hadlittle self esteem. My dad drank at times and was a moody person. Mymom was a quiet, English war bride. At home we had a schedule of cookedmeals, on time every day. I remember questioning my mom, “Why do wehave to have lunch exactly at noon?” I felt like we were in the airforce with all the rules.

I was in Grade 12 commercial class when I first suspected I waspregnant. I remember being at the typewriter in class and feelingnauseated. Then I noticed I had missed my period for a few months. Imade an appointment to see a doctor without anyone knowing, for I didlive in a small town where everyone seems to know your business. Heconfirmed I was three months along. I know I turned beet red for Inever had a doctor examine me like that before and he apologized.

Christmas was coming and I felt confused and alone. I knew I had totell my parents but how, I did not know. I decided to tell my Mom'sbest friend whom I babysat for and she could tell Mom. I went to thehospital where Bev worked as a nurse and I told her. She said she wasjust lucky she had not got pregnant when she was young. Soon after myMom said at the supper table that Bev wanted to talk to her andwondered why. My hand started shaking. I was scared I can't remember alot of details. I know my dad cried in his room, and I felt bad for thetrouble I'd caused.

I got mixed messages. My mom was saying, “If you keep the baby, yourfather will just throw it up to your face.” My dad was bad for that –if there was a problem, Mom would hear about it. My mom did not have aneasy life with him.

I felt embarrassed to be pregnant and starting to show. The shamewas already kicking in. I knew I had to go away and have my baby for Ifelt so uncomfortable Arrangements were made with the Salvation Armyfor me to go to the Halifax Home for Unwed Mothers.

When I was telling Bev, my mother's friend, that I was pregnant, Ifelt happy that I was having a baby. I was going to this place to feelsafe – I had not a clue this was where girls' babies were taken fromthem. I dropped out of school and went to Halifax in early April. Thebaby was due in July. No one approached me to stay in school.

My Mom was baking bread the morning I was leaving and she hugged me.Hugs were rare in our family. I arrived at this old house in Halifaxnear a park where I walked with my brother Ted and his girlfriend. Ishared a room with another girl. Our meals were cooked with no salt.Once in a while we went to a restaurant or on a walk, but only as agroup. My mom called a few times wondering when I was coming home. Sheworked, and missed me doing the cooking and housework at home.

I never got phone calls from my friends and Kenny said he came tothe door and was refused entry. I found this out four months after Ihad my son. It was isolation for sure. The social worker came to seeme, and my sister wrote me a letter encouraging me to give up my babyso that I could come to Vancouver and live with her. I saw girls comeand go. It was doing time, like you were in a prison. You had a routineand rules. No one questioned anything back in those days. The adultsknew better

No one came to you and asked about your home life, gave you optionsor asked how you felt. You were an unwed mother, case closed. Onenight, lying in bed, feeling the baby kick me with his big foot, Iheard shouting outside my window. Male university students werescreaming at us, calling us whores. I wonder whatever happened to thoseeducated males?

I went to say goodbye to a friend I had made. She had come back fromhaving her baby. She said very little but was using Noxema on her faceand to this day I could never come near using that on my face. I brokedown crying in the chapel one Sunday: What happened to my fairy-talelife of a handsome prince and our baby in our arms? Instead I am inprison feeling shamed for having loved.

I went to a class of sorts on giving birth but I was so green, I didnot know how the baby would come out. Not one girl talked about buyingbaby clothes and going home with her baby. There was no joy inpregnancy, just depression and shame .I was brainwashed to believe thatmy baby would have a wonderful life and home that I could not give him.After all, I did not know what is was like to work.

It was like it was not my baby – I did not deserve to have my baby,but a couple with all the material wealth did. (Step on me some more,sick society.) By being pregnant and staying in that prison I felt likea failure. I had not finished my Grade 12 and I was not married.

I was due in July. I vaguely remember having pain and being drivento the hospital by someone in the early hours of the morning. I wasprepped – the nurse apologized but it was part of the procedure. I hadno friends and family as I suffered through contractions. I vaguelyremember the nurse coming and going. It all seemed like a badnightmare. Finally, my baby was born around 4 pm . They did not showhim to me. They never even asked me if I would like to see him. Whywould they want to communicate with an unwed mother?

After being wheeled to my room I felt nauseated and I did feel a lotof fluid flowing but I did not have a clue what was happening to me.The patient beside me called the nurse. The nurse says “Are younauseated?” I did not know what nauseated meant only I felt very sickand something was very wrong.

The next thing I knew, the doctors were around and I passed out. Iremember a stabbing pain in my foot. I woke up in the morning to findmyself hooked up to blood and an IV. The nurse was pulling the curtainback and said, “You nearly didn't make it.” She did not explainanything to me and I never saw a doctor. Why would they want to wastethere time on an unwed mother?

The doctors screwed up delivering my baby for I should never havehemorrhaged. The baby was brought in to me the next morning and I heldhim for the few days I was in the hospital. When someone said I couldname him, it was like, “Oh, I can name him?” It was like he was not mybaby.

One visitor saw Scott that I can remember. My brother picked me upto take me home. I had three months to make my decision but I know bythen I was brainwashed to believe he would have a better life withoutme. I looked him in the eyes and said, “We will meet again.”

Not for a second did I realize what I was doing. It is like anabused women who keeps coming back to the abuser. There was no supportfor me keeping my baby or bringing him home. I remember stopping by arestaurant and relatives were there and all I could think was, “Get methe hell out of here.”

My anxiety level started rising the closer I got to home. No one satme down and talked about my experience and leaving my baby. Mygrandfather said, “Your father will never say anything to you.”

I knew my life had changed forever when I walked out of thathospital. Physically I never felt the same and a person who had lookedforward to life and living was now a very confused, depressed humanbeing. Life went on as usual at home and I was just existing. My Momdid say, “Why don't you go get him?” I was hurt and angry and told herI would never bring him into that house. My dad drank and I saw toomany scary things.

The child was in a foster home for seven months – the doctorsthought he may have a heart condition. No one said I could visit him. Iwent to Montreal to babysit for a few weeks and when I came back,Halifax called my mom about me signing the papers. The caller did nottalk to me, though I would soon be 19 years old. I have only realizednow that I wasn't actually given three months to sign the papers for inthree months I was living in Vancouver wondering what had happened.

Like a walking statue, I was driven into Halifax and walked into theoffice by myself. I signed the papers. “He will call you when he is 19years old.” I am still waiting for that call and he soon will be 40years old. I walked away alone and the tears started and would notstop. The other side of my brain said but he will have a wonderful,happy home and he will get the music lessons his father never got – allthe things you can't give him.

I went home and soon after flew to Vancouver. I was alone anddepressed after my move and I missed my baby. I wrote the social workerfor a picture for he was still in foster care. I did not have any moneyfor pictures and I was not sure if that was my right to have hisnewborn picture. Scott's picture is on my wall today, with his brotherand sister.

I find I am the type of person that when something happens to me theeffect is much later. Scott was adopted when he was seven months old toa couple who had a business and building a home. When he did not callwhen he was 19 years old I thought because he was to busy having afairy-tale life.

After talking to a mom, I think in 2003, I decided to call thesearcher in Halifax. I had waited long enough. I waited another year ormore before the search came up empty handed. They could not find him.Finally they called the parents – Scott had little contact with them. Idid find out information about Scott and his life has not been a fairytale. My son Carson looked at me one Christmas and said, “Let's make avideo.”

The search was on and my higher power kept telling me to do this andwould not let me give up when I had many a day that I was exhausted. Ikept in contact with the social worker or searcher's office. Finally,Scott's doctor wanted his medical history. I sent it via social worker.The doctor asked him if he would like to meet me. He said he was notinterested. I hope with time and healing himself, he changes his mind.

I have a Myspace site with videos and a blog, all about my search .The reality of how many other women had their babies taken from themand the fact that adoptees have no right to their birth records is likea bad nightmare. Today I have support all over the world for Scott andI to be reunited. I don't feel alone any more, but my heart will alwaysbe empty until I feel my arms around my son Scott. Rhetty Frank Friesen, Discovering Kassie

Immediately after my birth, I had been given up for adoption and soJanuary 11, 2002, marked a very significant day in my life. After asix-year wait, the Adoption Disclosure Unit in Toronto phoned to informme they had located information about my biological mother.

A letter followed the call, giving me her maiden name KassieCameron, her married name, names of family members, her date of deathand where she was buried. With that information, I made calls tonewspapers, a funeral home and of course Bell Canada, hoping to findthe family members who were still alive.

The first call was to Larry, Kassie's son. Larry, my half brother ismarried and is living in Calgary. He has no children of his own. Hethought his only relatives were aunts, uncles and cousins. Now, he hasa half-sister and two nieces. (It makes one leery about answering thephone) I visited Larry and his wife three weeks later.

My second call was to Kassie's brother, Bert. He was not well enoughto come to the phone, so I talked to his wife, Sadie. She wasflabbergasted. No one in the family knew. A few days later Pam, acousin, Sadie's daughter, called me to welcome me to the family. I alsolearned that John Hamm, the Premier of Nova Scotia, is my first cousin.

Last June, Bob and I visited New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, where Kassiewas born, lived most of her life and died. While in New Glasgow, thePremier hosted a barbecue for us at his summer home and invited manyfamily members to attend. He arranged for a piper to pipe me into theCameron Clan and also took us on a tour of New Glasgow, showing uswhere my mother was born, lived, went to school, worked and was buried.

At that time, I also discovered the name of the man whom Sadie andother older family members said must be my biological father. His namewas John Kingsley (Kink) MacDonald. He died in 1988. I was given thename of Kink's long time friend, Hughie. We had a wonderful visit withHughie, listening as he told us many, many stories of his times andadventures with Kink. They had played hockey together for severalyears.

Many years previous, Hughie had heard a rumour about a baby but,because Kink never confided in him, he'd forgotten all about it until Iappeared on the scene. Hughie then gave me the name of a very close andlong-time friend of Kassie's, Jean. I was able to locate a very shockedand surprised Jean who related the whole story to me.

On September 15, 1943, Kassie (then 23), Jean and Jean's parentsleft New Glasgow by train and travelled to St. Catharines, Ont., whereKassie and Jean found jobs working in McKinnon's munitions factory.There, Kassie visited the doctor and was told she was pregnant. Sheworked (wearing a smock) until March. Then Jean's mother took Kassie tothe Salvation Army Home for Unwed Mothers in Hamilton. Kassie stayedthere until I was born in May.

She made two requests: First, she did not want to see me. Second, Iwas to be adopted out to a Protestant family. Kassie belonged to theTrinity United Church in New Glasgow. Kink, then 25, knew of herpregnancy. The letter from the Adoption Disclosure Agency stated theamount of money he sent to pay for Kassie's stay in Hamilton. Jean toldme Kassie was very bitter and ashamed. Kink and Kassie could nevermarry because he was a strong devout Catholic and Kassie was a memberof the Protestant faith. Kassie's family never would have allowed themarriage and Kink never would have crossed the Roman Catholic Church.In the 1940s in New Glasgow, a Protestant and a Catholic marrying wasworse than murder.

Later in May, Kassie returned to New Glasgow. She told no one aboutthe baby. Her parents, sister and brothers knew nothing of myexistence. Four months later, Kassie entered the School of Nursing atthe Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow, started calling herself Kay, andcarried on with her life, never to mention me again – not even to Jean.

On January 10, 2003, exactly one year later, I received a call fromthe same woman at the Adoption Disclosure Agency verifying that JohnKingsley MacDonald was indeed my biological father. From his obituary,I discovered the names of his widow and children. Most lived in SaintJohn, NB. A friend who had access to a phone book from that cityprovided me with the phone numbers of possible brothers. The firstbrother I reached was Kevin. He was stunned. After a lengthyconversation, he asked if he could be the one to tell his brothers andsister. He wanted to “lay it on them.” He would have them call me.

I have spoken to all of them. In February I visited my one sister,Lynn, in Vancouver. We talked for four hours. I had to leave to getready for a wedding we were attending while in Vancouver. I talked toher again the next day. Lynn told me Kevin did not tell her about me –her mother, Rita (Kink's widow), did. Rita started the conversation:“Do you remember the sister you always wanted?”

I have spoken to Rita as well. She told me she had had hersuspicions about my existence, but Kink denied it. Rita said she wascertain Kink loved Kassie, but they could never be together. I have twomore brothers. One of them, Alan, lived in Cambridge (akilometre-and-a-half from where we live) for three years in the late1980s and now lives in Clarington, Ont. The other, Keith, lives inSaint John. In June of 2003, we went to visit all the Saint Johnrelatives for Father's Day.

One story was told to me by both Hughie and Jean, though neitherrealized the other one knew it. In the fall of 1988, Kink drove to NewGlasgow and waited outside Kassie's church for her to finish choirpractice. He asked her to get in the car as he had something to tellher. At first she refused but then agreed. Kink told her he was dyingof cancer. They talked and then he asked if he could kiss her. It was agoodbye between two people who shared a baby girl they never knew. Ihope that in their hearts they loved me. They never saw each otheragain.

It was an exciting year. One day I was an only child; 366 days laterI had four half-brothers and a half sister. When I was talking tosomeone I hadn't spoken to for a while and they asked me, “What's new?”I reply – using the phrase Kevin did when he told his brothers about me– “Grab yourself a cold one, and sit down.”

Gail Pettitt