Well last week I took the plunge and decided to hire a private detective. No, I don't think Ray is having an affair (he certainly is out sweating all day lately, but there is evidence to prove he was mowing, or weeding, or hacking back the jungle that's exploding out of the ground at present). But I hit a big fat dead-end with trying to find my birth mother and it's time to bring in the professionals!
Now the saga goes back years of course (nearly 50 to be precise), but the searching saga about five. A woman I was teaching with at the time told me how she had written to Familes Dept (Qld Govt) to get her original birth certificate. Once she received that, she then applied to find out if her birth mother had married at all in Queensland and that came through. She then had a name, searched the phone books and within a few months was playing happy families at Christmas time! She is in regular contact now with her 'other' family and they all get on fabulously. I was inspired of course, how amazing, how wondrous.. it all seemed so straight forward! I can do that!!
Needless to say my journey has not been quite like hers. I do know, of course, that for most adoptees, it isn't, that it's hard, difficult, uncomfortable, and even when it seems to work out, most folk don't end up meeting regularly and playing happy families in the long run. But I was just hoping mine might be a story with a (fairly immediate) happy ending.
There is such anticipation and hope at the launching of each stage of the journey - could it be just a matter of days, of weeks? Could I at last be able to answer all those doctors, hairdressers, kids at school, teachers, dieticians (and on it goes) who have asked about parental history, hereditary traits, did my parents also go grey young and where did I get those funny toes from!
So the letter went off (with the mandatory cheque of course as nothing is ever free in this game) and within weeks the birth certificate came back with letter, info on possible next steps and advice on counselling services! A name, two names actually, one for me and one for her... and a little of the tale is revealed. A 20 year old, from Melbourne, came to spend a few months in Brisbane, lived in a flat at New Farm and had a baby girl at the Royal Women's Hospital (in the private ward I recall my adoptive Mum telling me, inferring someone was paying her way). Stage I, Tick!
Stage 2, the letter to births, deaths, marriages, yes, with another cheque .. to find out whether the young woman from Melbourne ever married or died in Queensland. Not so easy. This time it was a 'sorry, we can't help you.'
Stage 3, so, she was from Melbourne, perhaps she went back there! So a few phone calls, more forms and another cheque later, off went the request to the Victorian Families folk. I must admit that time I was rather more hopeful and anxiously collected the post every day, feeling certain this time I'd find out something more. But you guessed it... a big fat NO again.
But someone sitting at their desk in administration heaven took pity on me that day and I received a phone call from a kind soul who said 'I'm not really supposed to do this, but I knew you'd be disappointed when you received our letter. I can't tell you any more, but perhaps do your next search in the ACT'. I was too shocked at the time to perhaps be as effusive in my thanks as I should have been - it was a very un-beaurocratic thing for someone to do, but such a wonderful humane action!
So.. more phone calls, another form and of course, don't forget the cheque... and off the letter went to the ACT. That time, a year, a place, a marriage and a name.... but what a name. Of all the men in the world, she married a man called .. wait for it .... John Smith. Yes, the very one, taking on not just a common name... but THE most common name and surname in the whole English language!
So I gave up for a while... months, years even - until the bug bit me again. More phone calls, web trawling, unexpected conversations with fellow adoptees and then I found myself at the state library... pouring over microfische looking through electoral records. Her complete name, even with a Smith on the end, wasn't quite as common as John Smith... and I was able to find one woman living in Melbourne at the time of the last federal elections. Within minutes the lovely lady at the desk on the state library (on the floor where heaps of folk do family searches.. so she's used to the joys and despairs of this whole painful process) found a phone number and wrote it out for me there and then. So close, I thought, could I perhaps be talking to her in just a minute or two??!! But no, I'd read all the websites and books that say don't ring, write first! The shock can be too great for the other person, a letter is better, be informative, let them know you're not after money and offer the possibility of a third person to mediate.
Now this search was turning into a bit of a saga (as is this post - not sure why I thought I could do this quite economically)! I went through several weeks of agonising, thinking through the alternatives, drafting the letter and redrafting... asking a friend (in Melbourne) to be a mediation person, asking Jigsaw in Brisbane to also be a contact point (yes just do it I hear you say) and finally i sent off the letter. Days, weeks, months went by... no response. So then I sent another letter, this time with a stamped, self addressed envelope and a request, if you are not this woman can you please let me know! Still no response.
So where to next - is it her and she doesn't want to talk - or is it not her?
So the next time we were in Melbourne - I worked up the courage ... to ask Ray to ring her. His recollection... it was a woman, yes she sounded 'older' but her response 'I'm sorry, I can't help you'. Her or not her?
So I left it again, a year or two have passed... but the questions remain. And they grow, every yeat they grow... and not just for me.. but for my boy too. I checked the phone number the other day - not connected anymore. And no listing for that name in any phone book now. MMmmmmm if it is her ... perhaps she doesn't want to be found.
So that's where we got to last week. Time to call in the professionals I thought - this is driving me crazy. If it is her I just would like to know.. even if she can't see me or talk to me... just some information, a few basics, and perhaps some inkling of why she is being so elusive. If it's not her, well then it's more forms and a few more cheques i guess. So is she or isn't she, that's the current question - I think she might be ... but I'll keep you posted!