Tag Archives: infant memories

Searching for Eileen

Are you ready for a serious and intensely personal post? There’s mystery and intrigue and probably a little secret romance too, so I promise not to bore you. Why now? Well, it’s my birthday today and so I might as well tell the fragmented and shadowy story of my entrance into this world, adoption, and–47 years later–the search for my biological mother.

Boston City Hospital, 1966. I imagine it was a cold and typically dismal November day when a young woman, hugely pregnant, walked or was carried into the hospital and off to a delivery room. She had already arranged to have her baby put up for adoption with the Catholic Charities, and I can’t imagine what she might have been feeling at that moment. Fear? Is there any woman about to give birth who isn’t afraid? Shame? She was an unwed mother who was giving her child away, was she ashamed? Surely she felt the baby she had carried for nine months would be better taken care of with a nice married couple, or why would she give it up for adoption? These are questions that only she can answer, but it’s fun to imagine some of the images to fill in the narrative.

The messy details of my birth were no doubt carried out by the practiced nurses at the hospital, presided over by a one W. Perkins MD. He signed my original birth certificate four days later. It contained my mother’s name and place of birth, and the name she gave me. I don’t know if it was a routine birth or if there were any complications, but at the time I was apparently a healthy baby boy. At some point the Catholic Charities, who handled many adoptions in those days but have since ceased doing them, took me away to a place that in my childhood dreams was a big dark foreboding building right out of a horror movie.

I spent the first six months of my life here, and although there are no real memories from this time there is some kind of echo deep in my unconscious. It’s not a pleasant or warm echo, because there is a greyness there, images of strange green oxygen tanks and cribs and shadowy figures looming about. I became deeply attached to my mattress, and the smooth hard label underneath the worn sheets. I would rub them with my feet, or clutch onto the edges of the mattress. The dark figures would come and go, sometimes soothing me, sometimes mechanically performing some routine function of infant care. The mattress was always there, and so I clung to it like it was my mother.

The unsettling memories from this very early period in my childhood would shape my life and future in ways I could never have imagined. They are memories turned into dreams  turned into memories, and I held onto them for better or for worse.

Flash forward forty six years. The mother I have always known, my adoptive mother, has died. She never took very good care of herself. Although she ate well and exercised, she was a heavy drinker and even heavier smoker. I had taken her to the hospital four times in the past year-and-a-half and the doctor’s kept telling her, “you will die if you keep smoking”. She defiantly kept smoking. After the funeral we all gathered at a beautiful local restaurant and consoled each other and talked about my mother. A second cousin of mine, also adopted, approached me and offered his condolences. He told me the story of how he had located his biological parents, how easy it was, and how he now had a great relationship with his bio-mom. It was then that I seriously started the search for my biological mother, even though it had been a lingering and chronic nagging curiosity all my life.

My brother, two cousins, and two second-cousins and I were all adopted through the Catholic Charities. We always were told the truth and I respected my parents for that. But as anyone who was adopted early in life must know, there are those unanswered questions that you can try to push away but always come back up again. How can anyone not know their past? Their true ethnic heritage? The story of their birth?

There’s more to the my tale, and I’m afraid I’ll have to post part II next time. Until then, any readers who may have been adopted out there? What are your thoughts on finding your biological parents?

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