Part of me was running away. I needed to be far away from what I have always known. I wanted to be on my own. The other part was fulfilling childhood dreams and curiosities. This was the reason for moving to the other side of the world.
The process to move to Canada took six months. I had to save money, conjure up enough courage for change and tie up all my loose ends. Rarely have I been afraid of starting anew in a different city, landing a job or making friends. These things seem to come naturally to me.
After a few months of living with my Aunt and Uncle in Toronto, I once again became Miss Independent. It was comforting to have their support in this time. We had a fabulous summer.
For those that don’t know, I was born in Canada about two hours east of Toronto and adopted by the age of three. I have always known this. In my childhood, I had a lot of unanswered questions. There were also vivid memories that couldn’t be pinpointed or identified. My earliest memory (although never validated) was the time I cut my foot on some glass in an outdoor playhouse and was taken inside and lifted up onto the kitchen sink. I watched the blood flow from my foot down the into the drain.
I entered my new family with a gifted teddy bear which had my name “Barbie” across it’s tiny burnt orange t-shirt as well as a few photographs. One of the snaps is of me and my grandmother. Sometimes I would stare at the photo looking for clues of who I was and who she was. All I ever saw was an elderly lady’s face looking back at me. Someone who I couldn’t place or recognise. Even that tiny child, to me, was someone I felt I had never known.
There were times when I was deeply hurt about what happened to me. As I grew I learned of ways to cope. At high school doing genetics homework it was always awkward. I never could be sure why I had brown hair and blue eyes by comparing my parents and brothers to me. Also, I never knew the medical history of the family I was born into to fully know which ailments I could contract. For me, being adopted meant and felt like a lot of things. It most likely contributed to a lot of my personal issues such as fear of abandonment. More often than not, I had feelings of being unloved and unwanted, which then turned into not feeling “good enough”. I learnt to switch off these feelings and thoughts but it never made the hurt and curiosity go away. It just quietened it all down for a while.
I was around the age of 15 when my mum announced to me that my birth mother’s name was Lindy Vaughan. This was in a time before the internet and Facebook. I have always remembered. It was in the midst of an argument shortly after I told her that “she wasn’t my real mother”. I was putting all my hurt onto her. Now, I realise that she was only trying to help me and heal my heartache.
“I love you I’ll say one day just to see your face. Then I’ll slowly walk away gone without a trace.”
I wrote a lot of poetry in my adolescent years. It was one of the coping mechanisms I created for when I couldn’t speak up about how I felt.
Endlessly, I would fantasize about birth mother’s appearance. In my mind she was beautiful and I looked exactly like her. All I ever wanted was to see the resemblance. I had convinced myself this would give me a sense of belonging and ease all my pain.
So many scenarios would run through my mind about trying to find her. What if she had already died and there was only a gravestone to see? What if she had another family? Maybe I have more brothers and sisters? Maybe she never told anyone about me? Perhaps she doesn’t want to ever meet me again? The scenarios and possibilities kept playing and replaying over and over again for many years. Stuck on repeat.
My adoptive parents always gave me their blessing to find her. I never could decide on what I wanted to do. Deep down, not finding her didn’t sit well, nor did showing any sign of unappreciation towards my adoptive parents. It’s a difficult situation to be in. How could I possibly make the right choice when so many others could be affected? Ultimately, there wasn’t a “right” answer so I had to do something rather than nothing. Doing nothing meant I would remain stranded on this loop of internal and eternal thought.
When I learnt that the adoption records in Ontario have been open since 2009, the search began. My original birth certificate and adoption papers would be returned to me by post once I filled out the forms. Nervously, I filled them out and then forgot all about it.
One evening, at my Aunt and Uncle’s, I made my way to the creaky stairs to head on up to bed. Right before taking the stairs I spotted mail addressed to me on the hallway stand. I picked up the envelope, assuming it was a bank statement, and continued. I brushed my teeth, threw on my pajamas and jumped into bed. I reached across to the bedside table for the envelope and started opening… and there it was… my original birth certificate in front of my eyes. I felt strange. Like I never knew who I was. Jittery. I could not take my eyes off the piece of paper, scanning every single detail, over and over again. This was years of over-contemplating in one moment. It felt like time stood still. It also felt like all my years whooshing straight past me because I could have been a totally different person. Who am I?
For a moment, I felt completely alone and then disheartened. Normally I would share any exciting news with my mum, who is sadly no longer with us. I got up and looked at the crack beneath my Aunt’s bedroom door. Phew. The light was still on. I nervously knocked to ask if she was still awake and if I could talk to her in private. She followed me back into my bedroom and I showed her the piece of paper. Now she’s staring at the document just like I had done ten minutes earlier. I know my mum would have wanted my Aunt to be the person in her absence. It truly was a beautiful and remarkable moment together. We immediately started an internet search.
My name is Barbara and always has been. This was a relief because I feel it’s easier to understand than trying to believe you were somebody else your entire life. My birth mother was 23 when I was born and it’s not Lindy, but Carol. I thought I must of heard wrong all those years ago. No father listed.
For the next few weeks I didn’t do anything with information. I was too overwhelmed from all those years of wondering. Now I was holding something solid. Documented proof. Once the deep seeded feelings settled inside of me I was able to continue. On Facebook that first night, my Aunt and I found a lady with a similar name from the town I was born. It seemed too easy. As unsure as I was, I joined a “Search Angel” group for adopted children who are looking for parents, siblings or relatives. A Search Angel is a dedicated volunteer who takes your case and researches on your behalf. My Search Angel contacted me via messenger. I gave her some more details and she forwarded to me the link of the same Facebook profile that my Aunt and I had found earlier. Procrastination took hold again and I left it.
A day before my birthday I reached out via messenger to the mysterious lady, as follows;
“Hi Carol. I’ve thought about this message for many years and the time has come to take the first step. I was adopted. I received my original birth certificate and it states my name as Barbara Louise Vaughan. I’ve always known I was born in Picton and it shows my birth mom’s name as Carol Louise Vaughan. I thought this might be you? If it’s not, I’m sorry for bothering you. If it is, I am interested to know, understanding that you may not want to be in touch with me. Either ways, I had to reach out to fulfill my own heart. Please know that I do not wish to cause any harm, confusion or interruption to you or your current family. I hope you understand.”
Her response a day later, on my birthday;
“Yes it’s me. I’ve been thinking about where you are. I would like to get together sometime.”
I honestly thought that my message would go into a spam filter and never be seen or read. Also, I thought that my search would take months, even years to complete. Does she even know it’s my birthday? Of course she does, she’s my birth mother!! For the next week we talked every night by messenger. We swapped information and pictures from our lives. It made me smile and cry so much. I did in fact look a lot like her. I broke down when I saw a photo of me as a two year old standing right there with her. Oh my heart. Through the exchange of information this is when I learnt that her sister was Linda. So mum was right after all in the strangest way.
Carol and I agreed to meet. Not right now though as I need some more time and space to let everything sink in. I am feeling that summer would be the right time. When the sun is shining. I am always happier in the summer.
….. continued Over the Rainbow