On my 18th birthday, my parents sat down with me. They gave me a file -- my adoption file -- which I had never seen before. It contained a draft of the letter they submitted to Jefferson County, CO explaining why they were good parents, worthy of adopting a child, as well as some of the paperwork regarding my adoption.
It also contained a one-page document with a few anonymous details about my birth parents -- age, height, weight, ethnicity, hobbies. Although I’d always known I was adopted, it was the first time I’d ever see anything related to my birth parents. My parents also handed me a Bible, which they said had come from my birth mother. I thanked my parents, took the file and Bible back to my room, closed the door, and cried.
It’s hard to describe how I felt seeing that information -- to feel, for the first time, connected to the two people who’d brought me into this world. Happy. Sad. Confused. Angry. Relieved. I felt overwhelmed. Despite some mild curiosity, I had never thought much about searching for my birth parents, and I was caught off-guard, feeling confronted by the reality of their existence.
Although I’ve never been particularly religious, I felt particularly touched to receive the Bible. To me, the gesture said my birth mother cared about me and wanted good things for me in my life. I kept it in a box for a number of years and finally put it out on a bookshelf so I could honor its place in my life.
In 2015, I submitted a form to Jefferson County to receive a copy of my adoption court papers. Based on the information in that file, I was able to find my birth mother, Darla. It’s been an amazing experience to get to know her and slowly build our relationship. I feel incredibly lucky!
During one of our calls, she asked me if I had received the Bible, and was glad to hear I had. She then asked if I’d found a secret message written inside. A secret message? She said she’d written a note on the inside cover and glued down the page for fear someone would find it. While we were on the phone, I got the Bible and gently tried to pull the glued page open but it started tearing, so I put it aside. Occasionally, I would pick up the Bible but hesitated to pry the pages apart for fear of ruining the message inside.
This past summer, Darla and my half-sister, Emeshea, came to visit for a long weekend, and we decided to try to reveal the secret message. Emeshea took charge. She researched online how to pull glued pages apart, boiled water in the tea kettle for steam, and used some rubbing alcohol with cotton swabs. She slowly, painstakingly pulled the pages apart, bit by bit. I watched anxiously, waiting to see what this 45-year-old message would say.
Finally, there it was. The message a young girl wanted to pass on to her newborn baby as she relinquished her for a different life:
To my baby girl.
You were too young to remember how much I loved you.
I know you will have a better life than I could ever give you.
All my love, Mother.
So many adoptees wonder… Why wasn’t I wanted? Why wasn’t I loved? When I read the hidden message, I thought: This is what every adoptee wants to hear from their birth mother. That they were loved.
I have always believed that my birth mother loved me, and it has been such a blessing to have that belief validated through our relationship today, as well as through this message written so many years ago.
The symbolism of this secret message wasn’t lost on me. I’ve heard so many stories of the role secrecy has played in adoption, especially for so many birth parents and children of my generation. The secrecy and shame young women faced because of their pregnancy. The closed records that still prevent birth parents and adopted children from finding each other. Although not every reunion goes well, I have also learned that knowing is better than not knowing. As we gently revealed this secret message in a Bible, it reminded me of how making secrets known can lead to healing.
Heidi serves as the ASRC Secretary. She was adopted at three months of age in 1972 and raised with an older brother in Denver. After learning through ASRC that she could access her legal adoption files and original birth certificate, Heidi found and connected with her birth mother in 2015 and has since met her two half-sisters, two aunts and a cousin. A former public relations manager, Heidi is currently an HR and leadership development director at an email data company.