"Why don't we just look up a Filipino last names database and see what comes up?"
That was the question that would lead me to my birth parents' marriage record on Ancestry.com and, ultimately, change my life.
I hadn't thought about searching in a long time. The last time I had tried, I was about 18, and the lady on the phone with the adoption agency told me it would cost me $500 for them to facilitate the search with possibly more fees if I wanted a mediator to assist with reunion. We'll call her Tina.
I didn't have $500. I was also scared about people finding out I was interested in searching - what they would think, what I would look like, how ungrateful I would seem.
How ungrateful I would feel.
There's an overwhelming guilt many adoptees carry for wanting to know who and where we came from. Not only are grief, trauma, and loss implanted deep in our psyche at separation, we grow up living under the expectation of gratitude - that of others and also our own.
Regardless of what the rest of society wants to believe, when we're talking about the psychobiological, neurological, psychological, physiological (the list goes on) affects of adoption trauma, the primal wound of relinquishment and family separation - knowing and/or not knowing these answers affects every aspect of how we relate to the world and ourselves.
And relationships are everything.
So I stepped down from the place of hope and excitement and retreated where pain, grief and loss were home and familiar. It felt safer in the moment. Searching felt too big. Maybe I wasn't meant to know. It'd probably be nearly impossible to find my birth parents after all this time anyway. They were both young, but what if something happened and they weren't alive anymore? What if they didn't even want to hear from me?
I hung up with Tina. I had no idea I'd be calling her back in another seven years.
Ready or not, this was the day.
It was the summer of 2008, ten years after my mom had taken me to the adoption agency to get my file folder that I mention in Part 1.
I was sitting in the living room of my tiny apartment with my then-boyfriend who I'd been dating for a couple of years. We'll call him Sam. I'd been cleaning because my apartment was a mess, and there it was, the folder I took out once every few months or so. I showed all the documents to Sam as if it were the first time ever (he’d seen those papers several times) yet he participated with the equal interest and curiosity.
Then I handed him the poem my birth other had written to me titled 'Never Forgotten.'
It was a closed adoption, so the last names had been whited out on all the documents for privacy, but on this particular poem, whoever was whiting stuff out left the first three letters visible. I'd seen those first three letters countless times before, never thinking anything of it other than, oh, look, they forgot to white-out those three letters. But that's when Sam said, "Why don't we just look up a Filipino last names database and see what comes up?"
I had never thought about doing that before. There are a million different last names in the world, quite possibly. I wasn't sure about Filipino ones, but I knew a large number of them were Spanish, and some Filipino, depending on your family tree.
But his idea seemed worth a try. Her last name started with an 'A'.
With our laptops set up back to back on the kitchen table, we were on a mission. Searching simultaneously, to my surprise, a database came up where there were only a handful of names hers could have been!
I took a guess as to which one was hers, picking the one that felt most familiar. Somehow, I knew it would be hers.
I had both of their first names, so I signed up for a free trial on Ancestry.com.
Literally, within minutes of searching that last name, my birth parents' marriage license popped up on my screen, and my heart stopped.
I screamed. There they were. Inside of my laptop.
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