Dedication: I'd like to dedicate this to my birth mother Claire
Being adopted didn’t give me a better life, but it changed the route of my life journey and I’d like to share a little bit about that with all of you this evening.
One day when I was 8 years old and sitting in the back seat of our beige volkswagen my adoptive mom said to me “do you know what adoption means?” How could I know what that meant, I was only 8 years old and in grade 3. She said to me “YOU are adopted”…and this was never talked about again.
From that day on I wanted to know more, I wanted to know what adoption meant. Did not looking like anyone in my family mean I was this word I had just learned , this new word “adopted” ?
During the next 6 years up until the age of 14 years old I would spend every chance I could, sneaking into my adoptive mom’s armoire and reading my adoption papers. The documents provided a small glimpse into who I was and what adoption meant. Although the documents had non identifying information the name Claire was mentioned throughout the documents. Claire..that was my birth mother.
During those same years, my adoptive parents’ marriage fell apart due to alcohol addiction and that caused me to become a very sad and anxious child. I was removed from a birth family who struggled to take care of their children and placed into an adoptive family who also struggled with taking care of their children. While falling asleep at night and hearing my adoptive parents fight, I prayed Claire, this new name I had learned would come get me.
At the age of 18 years old, when I was of legal age, my best friend and I went to the Children’s Aid office…now that I’m an adult, I know I was too young to have made that decision but at that time I was going to find Claire my birth mother. I had an image of what she looked like in my mind, she was tall and beautiful, she had blue eyes like mine and spoke very gently.
While at Children’s Aid, I filled out all the documents, with my best friend sitting right next to me. There was no adult and no preparation for what would come next. There was no plan for counselling or for ongoing support. The documents were signed and CAS started their search.
3 years passed and at the age of 21 years old, I received the call. The call that would forever change me and change how I looked at life, how I dealt with relationships and how I looked at myself.
I answered the phone and was asked to sit down, the CAS worker said “ we have information for you, we have a match in our system”. A “match” that’s the term used in adoptions when the system recognizes biological family members when they register a search.
The match.. was Claire, they found her. They found my birth mother. My mind raced and my anxiety went to a place I had never experienced even throughout my years of childhood trauma.
They found her, they found Claire.
What came next on the call, would shape my 20’s in ways I was not ready for. The CAS worker said “ Your birth mother has been living on the streets for the past 25 years, her name is Claire and we are sure you know who she is because many people do”.
My anxiety continued to reach a place that was beyond anything I knew. I didn’t know what they were talking about. “the worker proceeded to say “Your birth mother is a homeless woman and is known as the bag lady” ….I knew the bag lady, she was a homeless woman who used to yell and scream at people. She had many many bags. I later learned her kids’ belongings were in those bags. My baby belongings were in those bags.
Claire was not the tall, beautiful and soft spoken woman I imagined that would come to save me from the pain. She was a homeless woman and had Schizophrenia. Although she wasn’t what I had imagined, she was a light in many people’s lives and her will to survive has helped me to overcome my own pain.
Now I use my pain in helping raise awareness on mental health, our homelessness crisis and on adoption awareness. This gives me a sense of purpose.
Les Brown once said “ Ask for help. Not because you are weak, but because you want to remain strong”.