Think about a favorite memory from your early childhood. Maybe you can see it in your mind, like an old family movie, images reinforced with the family stories told about it. I “remember” my first trip to Disneyland, even though I was not quite 3 years old. I’ve seen the home movies. I’ve heard the stories. So when I think about that trip, when I feel it in my body, the happy memories that are lodged in my bones, sinews, and cells are able to be trusted because of the other things I know.
I tell my children the story of their births, even though I know they can’t consciously remember that day. I want them to be able to access what their body has to tell them about the experience of their birth. I want them to be able to trust what their body has to tell them, of being born through pain, and hope, and love, and great expectation.
As a child of closed adoption, the story of my birth has been shrouded in unknowns and mystery. I’ve known the day, the hospital, and my birth weight. I know my adopted mom’s OB is the doctor who delivered me. That’s about it. I have a friend from childhood who shares my birthday and I think his mom might have had some interaction in the hospital with my birth mother. But I don’t know that for a fact.
I want to know the story of my birth. I want it put to words.
Words have power. They have power to speak truth.
In my Christmas card from my birth mother, which was a Christmas miracle in and of itself—a treasure from a woman reluctant to engage in relationship with me—she wrote a few short sentences in answer to a question I had asked her in a letter last year.
The content of the words is private, from her to me. It’s enough to say they were words I am thankful to have, offering me confirmation of something I’d felt in my body but wasn’t sure I could trust.
That’s the reality for those of us who don’t have access to our entire past. We can’t get external confirmation of what our bodies tell us is true. And so what she has given me is pure gift. A costly gift.
They weren’t easy words to read. I wonder if they were difficult to write. I wonder if putting pen to paper and writing those words came at a cost to her. I suspect she had filed the memory of my birth in an out of the way place, so she wouldn’t casually encounter it. Pulling that 48 year old memory from the deep interior vault of her memory possibly dislodged other memories, and stirred up the dust of old, silenced pain and shame. That’s pure speculation, of course. But if I’m right, I also hope that once she opened the memory up, a light of grace fell upon it, letting her see it in new ways, finding new words to tell the story of that night.