Yesterday I wrote about my Adopted Mother (AM) and how she transformed my life to who I am today (thank you Loralee). Today I write about another special mother, my birth mom (Mom) who has also impacted my life in so many other ways.
My Mom gave birth to me when she was 16 years old. She too suffered greatly by her own childhood and Mother (amazing isn’t it?). When she found out she was pregnant she was scared, but elated. Finally, she would have something of her OWN (much the same way I felt when I had my firstborn).
My Father and Mother ran away together because in 1964 unwed Mother’s weren’t really allowed to keep their babies. So, off on an adventure they went. Their plan was to get married so they would be able to keep me. After 6 weeks on the ‘run’ our time together was over. After this my Mother only saw my Father once, they were both heartbroken.
With an insistent Mother she relented and gave me up for adoption, a situation that still haunts her to this day. After I was born my Father was allowed back into the state of Washington where he was told I had died at birth. This momentous event in his life is the ultimate reason he ended his own life in 1974 (you can read about this on Father’s Day).
During my childhood I always knew I was adopted. How couldn’t I when I was introduced as my AM daughter, BUT I was adopted. I was labeled with that dreaded word that I grew to hate. However, this fueled my desire to only find my own parents. During the horrors in the night I would often think “this is not my Mother”, over and over again. I felt a bond with my Mother in the only way I can describe…Heavenly. Truly sent from God above I was instilled with the great love and sacrifice my Mother made for me. I never once had anger towards her. I somehow knew she loved me and that was all I needed to get by.
I put my Mother on a celestial pedestal and not a single person could touch her. I protected her, loved her and looked forward to the day when we would be together. This was my only lifeline and I enveloped into the four corners of my heart.
Fast forward now to when I was 27. I missed the target age of 18 to find my Mom because being a young mother myself I was thrust into raising a small family, which left little time for anything but that. However, I did start my search for her when I was 24 and it took 3 years to find her. I had tried on my own for years, but with no luck, or so I thought, I relented and hired a third party organization to assist me with the search.
That no luck, turned out to be my ticket to finding her without the 3 year emotional upheaval I suffered. In my own search I had sent away for my adoption decree. I knew that they would hide all the identifying information and I thought I was prepared for that, however, when those simple two pages arrived in the mail I was struck with a force so great to see that someone had taken the time to cut out all the identifying information, or so I thought.
On this devastating paper in the upper left side where it says who v. who it said “Infant Pardon”. Now, this confused me for some time because Pardon is a legal term itself, so I called an attorney and asked for some advice and he told me that it was indeed a legal term, He lied. With that question answered sufficiently I put it aside and proceeded with my search.
On that first meeting in October of 1991 I showed that paper to my Mom and when she looked at it she said the unthinkable “Debbie, its right here”. She was right, staring now at me with full movie screen lights that “Infant Pardon” was my true given name. Yep, that is my Mother’s maiden name. Now, at the time of my own search I had had a dream where my Mom called me on the phone and told me her name. I still remember that dream vividly. It embraced such confusion in my mind that I went to my Bishop at the time and asked him to help me understand this dream. He said that it could me my Mother’s name. So, with faith in tow I set out to write a letter to all the Pamela S. in the Seattle area at the time. I, of course, didn’t receive any replies.
However, at that time in Tacoma was the lone name “Pardon” who if I had written to was my grandfather and bingo she would have been found. I look back on that run of errors as simply it wasn’t time for me to find her. However, when we discovered that I had the answer all along I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.
So, off we went to establish a relationship and in all honesty it was one of the hardest things we both went through. You can imagine all the questions from both of us, the vast array of emotions and the struggle to get to know each other as Mother and Daughter. We both gave up at times, but we have seemed to withstand the dark days of our lives and stayed true to that love that held us both up in difficult times in our life.
In 1994 my Mother was living in Tacoma (she moved to Washington after our reunion in 1991) and she ran across a non-profit organization called ‘We the People’. This was an awesome organization that gave legal advice for a fraction of the cost and after I had heard about an adult adoption my Mom pursued that matter for the two of us. What came out of that was a legal adult adoption in May of 1994 where she reclaimed her legal right as my Mom. All of their legal rights were removed from my adopted parents and were sent legal documents to prove it. We felt victorious and this is how we celebrated that day.
Prior to this day I had arranged a baby shower with some friends of hers to give her the baby shower she never had. That gift box contained the quilt Meagan and I made and the most soft, adorable teddy bear. I could see my grandfather give her something like that. I gave her a gift from Dad also, but at the moment that escapes me what it was.
While we were driving to the courthouse she put in a cassette tape of the song my Dad sang to me over and over again “Elizabeth” by the Statler brothers. One of the lines goes like this “Oh Elizabeth, I want to see your lovely face. I want to touch your lips; I want to feel your warm embrace. Don’t know if I could ever live my life without you. Oh Elizabeth, I’m sure missing you.” You can imagine the emotion I felt as sobs surfaced I could hear my Daddy singing this to me on the other side of the veil. The veil was very thin that day!
Our next stop was to Dad’s grave. There we placed a single yellow rose, both of Mom’s and I favorite color. The things that were said are private, but it was goose bump chilling. The spirit was so strong.
Our next stop was the courthouse. We waited what seemed like hours and then our time to see the judge. The outcome was the judge denied the adoption and we left the courthouse so distraught. Mom made a phone call from the courthouse to ‘We the People’ and they assured us that it would get done if they even had to go to a different county, which they did and it went through several weeks later. With that not dampening our day, we set out for the rest of it.
Because she had told me about my labor and birth I set out to make this day a day of symbolic actions to finally put that past behind us and move forward as Mother and Daughter. My oldest daughter and I made a blanket for her which symbolized the baby blankets she would have received. I then put together a ‘New Mom’ basket filled with everything a new Mom gets and uses during her hospital stay. Things like magazines, pop, candy, lotion, her favorite perfume etc.
So after the court hearing I told her that we needed to go to the hospital I was born at. She didn’t have any questions, she just did as I requested. Once we got to the hospital I told her to do exactly what she did that day she went into labor, which was she was dropped off at the hospital entrance. So, off she went and I told her that I would right behind her in about 5-10 minutes. I told her to go to Labor/Delivery I would meet her there.
In the meantime I got out my huge basket (it was in her trunk) and hauled it into the hospital gift shop. There I purchased balloons and fun pink new Mom stuff to announce the arrival of her baby girl. After that, I headed up to labor and delivery where I found my Mom sitting in the waiting area. Because of security they no longer allowed anyone that wasn’t family to go back to the area where the babies were, so we sat down content in the Labor/Delivery waiting area for our celebration.
In her basket of goodies I had also made adult size t-shirts that said “My daughter was born at Tacoma General Hospital” and mine said “I was born at Tacoma General Hospital”. This, of course, to symbolize the tiny t-shirts that new babies get after they are born. With pure love and enjoyment we opened our gifts to each other. Another one of those gifts I had made were ID bracelets, gold bracelets with an inscription on them for each of us. Unknown to me she gave me a similar bracelet that said “Beth” and the date of our adoption.
The other gift in that basket was an adorable brown teddy bear, ultra soft and just too darn cute. This was a gift from my grandfather as I could have seen him giving her something like this.
My parents were going to name me Elisabeth Ann, so they would have called me Beth. During that legal paper work was also a petition for a legal name change where I changed my name from Debra Jeanne K. to Debra Elisabeth Ann Cartwright. I took the name Cartwright in honor of my father. In special times between Mother and Daughter she calls me Beth and I cherish that name.
My mother had thoughtful gifts for me as well. The bracelet which I after that day I never took off until I lost it in Washington D.C. several years ago, I was heartbroken. She gave me a musical water globe with the most precious Mother hold a new born baby. The mother was wearing Peach, which was a similar color to the dress I was wearing.
We then left the hospital together. This symbolized us leaving the hospital together when she took me home, instead of her leaving by herself. It was such a great experience for both of us, but I wanted it to be for her to help ease her pain of that most horrible time of her life.
Our next stop was Sears, where we had our picture taken. Of course, another symbolic gesture of new baby pictures with the Mommy. After this visit we went to eat Chinese food, her plan and also one of our favorite foods. It was so delicious. After an emotional day we went home and rested.
That day was a pivotal day in both of our life. It saw us through some pretty tough times, which took years to work through. We made it through and now we are very close, something we both cherish immensely. She lives about 4 hours from me in a small town in Kentucky and even though we don’t see each other often, we talk on the phone and we both know we love each other. She is my Mother and today I honor her.
I honor her courage, her long-suffering, her strength and her unending love and devotion to me all those years apart. I love her not because she’s my Mom, but because she is a woman who has bruises on her heart for the heartache that happened that dreadful day in August 1964. I admire her ability to withstand the tests of time and how she gracefully pushes onward in her quest to keep her sanity when everything else is falling apart around her.
I delight in her free spirit, not afraid to say what’s on her mind and fights so hard that her enemy runs in fear. I love her for the intensity she loves all her children and for protecting them from scraps and booboo’s we each get along life’s path. I love that she has instilled in me the same strength she has at fighting to the end, for never giving up hope and for loving so intensely that it sometimes hurts.
Today, I am so thankful for this wonderful Mom I have. I am so eternally grateful for her and the massive part she plays in my life. I feel an abundance of gratitude this day for the two Mom’s that shaped me into the person I am today. There’s an old question in the adoption world “Environment or Hereditary?” both is the answer. I am blessed that I know where the blood that courses through my veins comes from and the entire heritage it holds. I am blessed to have been raised in an environment that gave me strengths I didn’t know I had until my post yesterday. Each gave me something priceless and I love the dramatic differences both have played in my life.
Today on the true Mother’s Day I honor my true Mom! Happy Mother’s Day Mom, I love you…Beth
This picture was taken during a surprise trip to Kentucky for Mother's Day