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Spirit Story

Twice blessed

By Janet Stobie

When the nurse handed you to me, you were sobbing. You wrapped your little arms around my neck and hung on tightly. I knew from that moment you were meant to be my little girl,” my adoptive mom told me. She cherished me always, and I her. At the age of 90, she died as I held her in my arms. God had blessed me with a wonderful mother. I was grateful.

After her funeral, I found a long white envelope labelled “Janet’s adoption papers” in Mom’s familiar script. With shaking fingers, I unfolded this flimsy bridge to my past. My birth name, Sharon Margaret, stared back at me. Is that me? Do I want to be this mystery person? No! I refolded the paper and tucked it into my purse. Back home, I filed it away, out of sight but not forgotten.

A year later, troubled by a doctor’s questions about medical history, I unfolded that paper a second time. Thus began a sacred journey. I found my birth mother in Arizona. We agreed to meet at a Niagara Falls hotel.

When my daughter, Connie, and I stepped into our hotel room, a tiny white stuffed lamb greeted us from a pile of gaily wrapped gifts on the dresser. As soon as my fingers touched its softness, my heart returned to the pain and fear of that abandoned child I had once been. Connie held me as I cried. That night we talked for hours, about my love for my adoptive mom, my fears in meeting this “birth mother,” and being moms ourselves.

My heart pounded as I walked into the hotel lobby the next morning. My birth mother stepped forward, arms outstretched. “My child, my daughter,” she said.

She looked like me, sounded like me. Never had I resembled anyone. I had come home.

For 12 years, we had phone calls and yearly visits. On our second visit, I mustered up the courage to ask, “Why? Why did you give me away?”

“It was 1944. I was 16, unwed and determined to keep you, so I brought you home to my family,” she said. “We had nothing. Dad drank. I had to work. One night, I came home to find you sitting in the corner of that room, sobbing, that room where Dad had abused me for years. You were 16 months old, and he had started on you. I loved you too much to let him destroy you. I called the Children’s Aid.” My adult heart melted as I listened.

Three years ago, I spent six weeks with my birth mom. For her, they were six weeks of excruciating physical pain as she battled the last stages of cancer. For me, they were six weeks of sleepless nights and days. I held her as her body shook with pain, read to her as she tried to sleep, held the pink bowl as she vomited every few hours, a side effect of the useless pain medication.

Yet, they were six precious weeks for us both. We laughed at funny movies, shared memories and cried. We were mother and daughter, loving and solid.

Today, I strive to be like both my moms — a blessing for my children.

Rev. Janet Stobie lives in Peterborough, Ont. Her latest book, Dipping Your Toes in Small Group Worship Planning, has just been released.

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