In addition to posts about mental illness, I'll also be featuring posts about loss and grief this month. Lindsay has been a huge supporter of the Life is Sweet project and show from its inception, which I am so thankful for. I was really proud when she told me that she wanted to write something for the blog and I am grateful for her support and willingness to share.
Ever since I was little, I’ve known that I was adopted at birth. The easy explanation came when I was really young: “You came from another mummy’s tummy.” And the more complex explanations came over the years: “She wanted a better life for you than she could have given you.” And “We couldn’t have our own kids and we were so lucky to be able to love you.”
Whenever I tell people that I’m adopted, one of their first questions is always to ask if I know my biological mother. The short answer is no. And the longer answer is a little more complicated.
Back when I was in high school, it was really important to me to know where I came from. We all define ourselves based on elements of our genetic code. People always ask me where I got my musical abilities from, my mum or my dad. I’d say that there was always a lot of music in my house growing up. And they’d ask if I looked more like my mum or my dad… well, I just don’t know. My friends could say they had their dad’s nose and their mum’s eyes, and their grandmother’s passion for painting. But it was impossible for me to define myself like that.
I felt like I was incomplete as a person without an explanation of what genes I’d inherited. I was intrigued to find out more about my biological parents, but couldn’t legally until I was 18, and so put it aside.
And when I went off to university, I had more important priorities, and so I waited to find out more.
In May 2008, Ontario legislation changed around adoption. Our government passed a law that allows adult adoptees to request their original birth certificates, which would indicate the names of their birth parents. I applied for my original birth certificate, so I could find out the names of my birth parents and then do some research before deciding whether or not I wanted to meet them. Once I sent off the letter, there was going to be a wait. So I waited. And waited. And waited.
On Christmas Eve, I received a letter in the mail – and I knew just what it was without having to open the envelope. So I sat down with my partner, and opened up the letter. Inside was the name of my birth mother and her date of birth! It was exciting and scary, and wonderful.
And of course, curiosity got the cat. So I typed her full name into Google, and immediately saw the result: a memorial tribute page to her after her death in 2005. She had passed away suddenly from ovarian cancer.
The memorial site was full of photos of her, and for the first time in my life I looked like someone! It was the most bizarre thing to me to be able to look in the mirror and see someone else’s lips and eyes reflected in my own face. So fascinating, and because of what had happened, so sad.
And so I lost someone I had never known. I was grieving for someone I hadn’t even met, and for the potential of ever meeting her.
Throughout the years, I’d had daydreams about introducing my biological mother to my one-day-husband and one-day-children. I’d dreamed of telling her all about my career and hobbies, and seeing what had come from her and what I’d developed on my own. I wanted her to be proud of me, and the choices I’d made, and what I had become. And I really wanted to be able to define myself based on those genes I’d inherited from her: I know from some information from the adoption agency that she loved knitting, and I love knitting. She loved music, and I love music and have even made my life’s work around it.
But there are things I do that I’ve come up with on my own. I love cooking and baking with a fiery passion. And I have recently fallen into cycling, running, and weight-lifting, and am getting so much joy from these activities. Would she have enjoyed them? Because she passed away, I can’t ask her that.
But what I can do is work to define myself based on my actions and my experiences. I’m going to do the things I love and that I am passionate about. I’m going to sing, teach, knit, drink tea, run, read, bake, and travel. It’s what makes me the person I am – and writing my own destiny allows me to spread love and joy to others.
Lindsay is a singer and voice teacher, with a passion for food. You can follow her adventures by visiting her blog or by following her on Twitter.