Phone Call From a Birth Mother

"Oh my God." I whispered, receiver clutched in hand. Tears sprang to my eyes as I made my way to a chair. A pause. My birth mother started to speak, her voice soft and shaky, but forthright. She didn't sound like a New Yorker, an uptight urban dweller; underneath the surface unease, I sensed a core of calmness.

"I'm sorry to startle you by calling you on the phone." Hannah hesitantly began, "but I worried that if I sent a letter and got no answer, I wouldn't know if you had gotten the letter and didn't want to write back, or if you hadn't gotten the letter, because I'd written to the wrong person."

"Mm hm." I answered, reduced for a while to one-word or one-sound responses. I was so preoccupied with the fact that we were speaking at all, it was difficult to concentrate on what we were speaking about. To ground myself, I grabbed a scrap of notepaper off my desk and scribbled down key facts while we talked?

"I have another shock for you," she said. "I'm married to your birth father, and we have three other children." Renee, age 14, Lucy, 10, and Samuel, 6 -- my full biological siblings?

I carefully returned the receiver to its cradle and fixated on it for a beat. Still sitting, I took a deep breath and switched my gaze to a point on the wall for several seconds. The room was very quiet, in that palpable way that comes after there has been a loud noise. Unclear of my own emotions in this moment -- shock? confusion? loss? -- I nonetheless felt them physically, tingling through me. After several minutes, not knowing what else to do, I wiped my eyes, pulled on my backpack and headed out into the cold bright day.

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