Authors: Chevy Stevens
I thought I could handle it, Nadine. After all those years of seeing you, all those times I talked about whether I should look for my birth mother, I finally did it. I took that step. You were a part of it—I wanted to show you what an impact you had on my life, how much I’ve grown, how stable I am now, how balanced. That’s what you always told me, “Balance is the key.” But I forgot the other thing you used to say: “Slowly, Sara.”
I’ve missed this, being here. Remember how uncomfortable I was when I first started seeing you? Especially when I told you why I needed help. But you were down-to-earth and funny—not at all how I imagined a psychiatrist would be. This office was so bright and pretty that, no matter what I was worried about, as soon as I walked in here felt better. Some days, especially in the beginning, I didn’t want to leave.
You told me once that when you didn’t hear from me you knew things were going well, that when I stopped coming altogether you’d know you did your job. And you did. The last couple of years have been the happiest of my life. That’s why I thought it was the right time. I thought I could withstand anything that came my way. I was solid, grounded.
could send me back to the nervous wreck I was when I first met you.
Then she lied to me—my birth mother—when I finally forced her to talk to me. She lied about my real father. It felt like when Ally used to kick my ribs when I was pregnant with her—a sudden blow from the inside that left me breathless. But it was my birth mother’s fear that got me the most. She was
of me. I’m sure of it. What I don’t know is why.
* * *
It started about six weeks ago, around the end of December, with an online article. I was up stupidly early this one Sunday—no need for a rooster when you have a six-year-old—and while I inhaled my first coffee I answered e-mails. I get requests to restore furniture from all over the island now. That morning I was trying to research a desk from the 1920s, when I wasn’t laughing at Ally. She was supposed to be watching cartoons downstairs, but I could hear her scolding Moose, our brindle French bulldog, for molesting her stuffed rabbit. Suffice it to say, Moose has a weaning issue. No tail’s safe.
Then somehow or another I got this pop-up advertising Viagra, which I finally got closed, only to accidentally click on this other link and find myself staring at a headline:
Adoption: The Other Side of the Story
I scrolled through letters people had sent in response to a
Globe and Mail
piece, read stories of birth parents who’ve been trying to find their children for years, birth parents who didn’t want to be found. Adopted children growing up feeling they never belonged. Tragic tales of doors slammed in faces. Joyful stories of mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters reuniting and living happily ever after.
My head started to pound. What if I found my mother? Would we instantly connect? What if she wanted nothing to do with me? What if I found out she was dead? What if I had siblings who never knew about me?
I didn’t realize Evan was up until he kissed the back of my neck and made a grunting noise—a sound we picked up from Moose and now use to signal everything from
I’m pissed off
I closed down the screen and spun my chair around. Evan raised his eyebrows and smiled.
“Talking to your online boyfriend again?”
I smiled back. “Which one?”
Evan clutched at his chest, collapsed into his office chair, and sighed.
“Sure hope he has lots of clothes.”
I laughed. I was forever raiding Evan’s shirts, especially if he had to stay with a group at his wilderness lodge in Tofino—three hours from our house in Nanaimo and right smack on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Those weeks I often wore his shirts around the clock. I’d get caught up working on a new piece of furniture, and by the time he was home the shirt would be covered in stains and I’d be exchanging all sorts of favors for his forgiveness.
“Sorry to break it to you, honey, but you’re the only man for me—no one else would put up with my craziness.” I rested my foot on his lap. With his sable hair spiked in all directions and his usual outfit of cargo pants and polo shirt, he looked like a college student. A lot of people don’t realize Evan actually owns the lodge.
He smiled. “Oh, I’m sure there’s a doctor somewhere with a straitjacket who’d think you’re cute.”
I pretended to kick at him, then said, “I was reading an article,” as I started to massage the throbbing pain on the left side of my head.
“Getting a migraine, baby?”
I dropped my hand down to my lap. “Just a little one, it’ll go away.”
He gave me a look.
“Okay, I forgot my pill yesterday.” After years of trying various medications I was now on beta blockers and my migraines were finally under control. The trick was remembering to take them.
He shook his head. “So what was the article about?”
“Ontario’s opening up their adoption records, and…” I groaned as Evan worked a pressure point on my foot. “There were all these letters from people who were adopted or who gave up their children.” Downstairs, Ally’s giggle rang out.
“Thinking about finding your birth mother?”
“Not exactly, it was just interesting.” But I
thinking about finding her. I just wasn’t sure if I was ready. I’ve always known I was adopted, but I didn’t realize that meant I was different until Mom sat me down and told me they were having a baby. I was four at the time. As Mom grew bigger and Dad prouder, I started worrying they were going to give me back. I didn’t know just how different I was until I saw the way my father looked at Lauren when they brought her home, then the way he looked at me when I asked to hold her. They had Melanie two years later. He didn’t let me hold her either.
Evan, willing to drop things long before me, nodded.
“What time do you want to leave for brunch?”
“A quarter past never.” I sighed. “Thank God Lauren and Greg are coming, because Melanie’s bringing
“Brave of her.” As much as my father loves Evan—they’d probably spend the entire brunch planning their next fishing trip—he despises Kyle. I can’t say I blame him. Kyle’s a wannabe rock star, but as far as I’m concerned the only thing he’s playing is my sister. Dad always hated our boyfriends, though. I’m still shocked he likes Evan. All it took was one trip to the lodge and he was talking about him like he was the son he never had. He’s still bragging about the salmon they caught.
“It’s like she thinks if they’re around each other more Dad will see all his good qualities.” I snorted.
“Be nice, Melanie loves him.”
I gave a mock shudder. “Last week she told me I better start working on my tan if I didn’t want to be the same color as my dress. Our wedding’s nine months away!”
“She’s just jealous—you can’t take it personally.”
“It sure feels personal.”
Ally came barreling into the room with Moose in fast pursuit and threw herself into my arms.
“Mommy, Moose ate all my cereal!”
“Did you leave the bowl on the floor again, silly?”
She giggled against my neck and I inhaled her fresh scent as her hair tickled my nose. With her dark coloring and compact body, Ally looks more like Evan than me even though he’s not her biological father, but she has my green eyes—cat’s eyes, Evan calls them. And she got my curls, though at thirty-three mine have relaxed while Ally’s are still tight ringlets.
Evan stood up and clapped his hands.
“Okay, family, time to get dressed.”
* * *
A week later, just after New Year’s, Evan headed back to his lodge for a few days. I’d read a few more adoption stories online, and the night before he left I told him I was considering looking for my birth mother while he was gone.
“Are you sure it’s a good idea right now? You have so much going on with the wedding.”
“But that’s part of it—we’re getting married and for all I know I was dropped here from outer space.”
“You know, that might explain a few things.…”
“Ha, ha, very funny.”
He smiled, then said, “Seriously, Sara, how are you going to feel if you can’t find her? Or if she doesn’t want to see you?”
How was I going to feel? I pushed the thought to the side and shrugged.
“I’ll just have to accept it. Things don’t get to me like they used to. But I really feel like I need to do this—especially if we’re going to have kids.” The entire time I was pregnant with Ally I was afraid of what I might be passing on to her. Thankfully she’s healthy, but whenever Evan and I talk about having a child the fear starts up again.
I said, “I’m more worried about upsetting Mom and Dad.”
“You don’t have to tell them—it’s your life. But I still don’t think it’s the best timing.”
Maybe he was right. It was stressful enough trying to take care of Ally and run my business, let alone plan a wedding.
“I’ll think about putting it off, okay?”
Evan smiled. “Riiight. I know you, baby—once your mind is made up you’re full speed ahead.”
I laughed. “I promise.”
* * *
I did think about waiting, especially when I imagined my mom’s face if she found out. Mom used to say being adopted meant I was special because they chose me. When I was twelve Melanie gave me her version. She said our parents adopted me because Mom couldn’t have babies, but they didn’t need me now. Mom found me in my room packing my clothes. When I told her I was going to find my “real” parents she started crying, then she said, “Your birth parents couldn’t take care of you properly, but they wanted you to have the best home possible. So now we take care of you and we love you very much.” I never forgot the hurt in her eyes, or how thin her body felt as she hugged me.
The next time I seriously thought about looking for my birth parents was when I graduated, then when I found out I was pregnant, and then seven months later when I held Ally for the first time. But I’d put myself in Mom’s shoes and imagine what it would feel like if my child wanted to find her birth mother, how hurt and scared I’d be, and I could never go through with it. I might not have this time either, if Dad hadn’t phoned to ask Evan to go fishing.
“Sorry, Dad, he just left yesterday. Maybe you can take Greg?”
“Greg talks too much.” I felt bad for Lauren’s husband. Where Dad despised Kyle, he had no use for Greg. I’d seen him walk away when Greg was in midsentence.