I started writing this post in 2015 on a different blog and never published it. I likely was afraid to and that fear can be exhausting. I fight that fear turned exhaustion often – today I’m fighting harder than normal to get this post out.
A question I’m often asked is “Have you met your birthmom?”. The answer is yes! Apparently some surrogate parent organization told my parents that 12 is the recommended age for surrogate babies to meet their birthmoms. I’d like to chat with that organization as I honestly think that number is complete bullshit and must be made up. Seeing as it’s hard to find research on surrogacy 10 years later (10 at the time – 13 years now), I can’t imagine there was a wealth of research pointing to the magic age of 12 when I was that age. Regardless, I met my birthmom when I was 12:
Whew – Camera quality was obviously lower then seeing how grainy these images are. Makes you appreciate how far technology has come since then!
I met my birthmom at some Disney resort area. I’m originally from Orlando and, from what I can remember, my birthmom’s daughter (& my half sister) were there for some sort of music audition as my half sister was and is into music. One of the many things I didn’t inherit from my birthmom was her singing abilities. This is something I still am bummed out about.
For everyone who actually knows me, please look at what I’m wearing. 25 year old Anne wouldn’t be thrilled about this outfit so imagine how 12 year old Anne felt. I do remember being very nervous though about what to wear beforehand. I probably went to my mom and had her dress me if I’m being honest. I remember walking up to meet her and my mom asking me “are you nervous?”. I don’t recall my response.
Most of my memories of that night consist of me basically staring at my birthmom. Have you ever seen those videos of puppies or kids looking in a mirror for the first time baffled and awestruck? That’s how it felt. I didn’t know really what to say and, at the age of 12, you’re not really a fully formed person yet with thoughts, opinions, hobbies, etc. Maybe I’m selling myself short but it’s not like I knew to ask how her job was going, whether she feels like she is living a meaningful life, or what her biggest fears are. Strangely, one of the strongest memories from that night is of the salad dressing we had at dinner. My mom used to buy it every once in a while from the same place we went and it always brought back a lot of memories when I ate it.
The evening essentially consisted of my collective parents talking and me staring. I genuinely do not remember what I said or if I ever said anything at all. I was running on pure adrenaline for what felt like the entire night. Before we parted, I remember standing with my mom and birthmom while my birthmom told me to “stay away from drinking and drugs”. She passed along a picture of my half sister as well that I still have. On the back was the most wonderful message of love and acceptance!
Looking back, I remember how intense she was. There was an energy about her that I hadn’t experienced with either of my parents. Years later when I met up with her again at the age of 19, the same intensity greeted me and made me feel at home in my own skin. We leaned across the table talking for 2 hours straight deep in conversation with my energy matched by hers. I spent years not knowing where I got the energy and intensity I did only to find it was so obviously from her. This major part of my personality that was a mystery to me now explained and welcomed. Point 1 for nature in the fight of nature vs nurture.
People have often asked me why I have sought digging into this relationship so much. I can tell they ask with some judgment and concern. The answer is very nebulous as it comes down to being able to see myself in another person in a way that goes beyond having something in common. I thrive on those moments of connection in my every day life with everyone I interact with – those amazing moments that are completely invisible. When it comes to my birthmom, there is just something eery and wonderful seeing someone who looks so much like me. I have this with my dad but why pass up a chance to see myself in someone else? More than anything, by seeing myself in another, it gives me a chance to reflect on my own being. I walk away drawing the lines of where our similarities end and our differences begin.
I have my own biology and social experiment with my life that I get to examine as much as I can bear. When I was 12, it was far too much for me to handle and, upon reflection, later led to me self harming less than a year later. The night came and passed with my parents asking little follow up questions about how meeting my birthmom might have impacted me. To be clear, I don’t blame them – they did everything in their power to normalize this part of my identity nearly to a fault. That normalization didn’t assuage my feelings of being thrown into the deep end of a huge part of my story. I don’t remember ever talking to them about meeting her or processing it with anyone – my friends included. I know I wrote about it on a private blog that I later deleted (curse you, Past Anne).
Now that I’m adult, I have better coping mechanisms and can recognize when something is gnawing at me. I credit much of my self insight and awareness to growing up experiencing such emotional situations like the one described here. I can now handle the examination of my own life as long as there are chances for breaks in between. I willingly create my own deep ends to jump into and run towards them despite the fear. This site is an example of a self created deep end.
As much as I see the similarities between myself and my genetic parents, the differences are starting to fascinate me more. Not everything can be seen when looking into a mirror after all.
Lovely and insightful post. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for reading!