A Little of Life’s Magic

A Little of Life’s Magic by Susan Ferguson, Birth Mother and Adoptee

My name is Susan Lynn Ferguson, or so it’s been since my parents adopted me 24 years ago. I just recently discovered that my birth name was Valerie Vanessa Edmonds, given to me by my birth mom, Carolyn Edmonds.

Until that very memorable day when I discovered who my birth mom is, I had only known that she had brown hair, hazel eyes, was Irish and Indian, and only 15 years old. The fact that she was only 15 had always been enough for me to know and understand why she placed me for adoption. It wasn’t until I became  a birth mother myself that the desire to find her grew strong enough to finally act on it.

It’s not easy to explain how it feels to be adopted. In a closed adoption like mine, it is the absence of the knowledge that’s the hardest part, because along with that comes the desire to know and the fear of finding out.

How do you explain what it feels like to have only an “outine” in your head, a rough draft of your birth parents handed down to you by some unknown social worker. To spend years filling in this picture with images of everything from the mean and ugly to the beautiful and perfect, but always knowing that they are only images that you’ve created; that the only thing real that you have is the outline of a human being and the knowledge that your very own existence once depended on that outline.

For years I thought of my birth mother every time my birthday came around. I wondered who and where she was, what she looked like, what she did, if I had brothers or sisters. I wondered if she was thinking of me. Did she remember my birthday?  Many times I thought of how much worse it must be for her than it is for me. How horrible it must be to wonder if she did the right thing, if I had good parents, if I knew I was adopted, if I resented her, if I was happy.

Later on in life, it became one of my goals to tell her, in my own words, that what she did was right, that the life she gave me is good, and that I love her for giving it to me.

There are no words to describe how I felt when I sent her my first letter. Nothing else mattered to me more than being able to say these things and know that she had heard. Whatever was to come after that, I couldn’t allow myself to think of, because that was where my fear came in. Fear of what her response would be. But mostly, the fear that she wouldn’t respond at all. That I would be denied, rejected, unwanted. A secret intended to be kept.

I knew from experience, and from the length of time it took her to respond, when I received my first phone call from my birth mother, that perhaps her courage was even more significant than my own. When she told me who she was, tears  rolled down my face, and I knew by the sound of her voice that tears were rolling down hers.

In that first conversation, the words that we spoke were unimportant, and I can hardly remember them now. It was the fact that I was talking to “her.” That nameless, faceless shadow of a woman that I’d thought about for so long was finally someone real.

During the course of our conversation, I learned about my Aunt and Uncle, my two sisters, and that most of my cousins all live, believe it or not, only blocks away from my adoptive family in Ohio. I was overwhelmed with information and answers to questions I’d had for years.

It was like a dream, more surreal than any of my imaginings, and yet none of what I had learned meant as much to me as the simple sound of “her” voice. The biological connection seemed insignificant. We were kindred spirits who experienced each other only in our minds for twenty three years. Now we could experience each other not in our dreams, but in reality. (Spring 1996)