My first contact with a biological relative was a telephone conversation with a maternal aunt. I found her name in a telephone book. She had the same last name as my birth mother. Pleading with strangers for assistance dredged up deep psychological wounds of abandonment and isolation I had never fully learned to overcome. I had a horrible feeling of anticipation that something bad might happen. My face was flush. I felt faint. It was difficult to constrain my fear. I wondered if the early part of my life was a dark place with evil people that I didn’t want to go to. I was poised like a track star, tensed and primed to sprint to the bedroom and jump under the blankets for security. It took tremendous willpower and internal strength to overcome my stage fright. I dialed the telephone number and listened intently. I held my breath for six slow rings—I panicked. I suddenly forgot how to breathe and speak.
“Hello! How may I help you?”
She sounded pleasant but cautious. I stopped breathing and held onto a kitchen chair to keep from fainting. The door to my cage was suddenly flung wide open. I panicked. I could fly into the unknown world outside, but I frantically clung to my perch instead. I was physically crippled and mentally paralyzed by the thought of exposing myself to others. I was having panicky second thoughts about cold-calling strangers to ask if we were biologically related. I felt guilty because I thought I might be violating legal adoption protocols, privacy laws, or causing unexpected problems for others who might be highly disapproving of my actions. I suddenly had cold feet. Was it really important and even appropriate for me to uncover my past? Was I about to cause problems for others by doing something unethical or immoral? What would this mean to my adoptive parents, if they found out I was searching for my roots? A thousand thoughts were racing through my mind, yet I couldn’t speak. Was this a classic case of selective mutism? My heart skipped a few extra beats as the enormous weight I was feeling was miraculously lifted when my curiosity finally got the best of me and pent-up words unexpectedly flowed out of my mouth.
“I am adopted and I am searching for my birth mother. Can you help me?”
“There is something I need to tell you right away. Your voice is giving me the chills. I was certain we were related as soon as you started speaking,” she said tenderly. “Your voice sounds so eerily similar to my niece’s voice that I was certain I was speaking with her.”
Chills shot up my spine. It was a provocative thought and an intriguing comment because I had never been aware of my own voice. Was the sound of my voice proof of a biological connection? The longer we talked, the more eager she was to assist me in any way she could to help me contact my birth mother. I was surprisingly proud of myself for successfully crossing such an enormous emotional chasm. It had been an epic moment, but I was now reeling from the aftereffects of total immersion and displaying classic symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. My eyes were wide open. My legs were weak. I was much too excited to act rationally. I dizzily twirled around the kitchen like a whirling dervish throwing my arms up in the air and yelling “twist and shout” as an expression of joy and celebration. Thinking about the ramifications of what I had done sent chills up my spine and caused my heart to race—I hoped my childhood dream of contacting my birth mother by telephone was about to become a reality.
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