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Finding Matt

The following search story was written in 2005 and recently shared with Adoption Network Cleveland by Mary Higgins, a birthmother, who writes, “Somehow, the end of my search was just the beginning for me…people kept telling me that it would provide closure, but for me it was an opening. An opening of my heart to the story that began more than 30 years ago. Finally, I am free to share this story with all of my friends and family and now to you out there who may relate in some way.”

I grew up in a big family, the youngest of nine kids. Life always seemed to me to be somewhere “out there” not here in my small mid-western town. But now as I look back across the miles and the years, that small town is life for me. This place I call home.

I gave birth to my son two days after my 16th birthday. It was a very difficult time for my parents, my family, the father’s family and myself. However, I was very fortunate to have everyone’s love and acceptance. The choice to place my child for adoption was not an easy one to make. His father

desperately wanted to raise him, but I know in my heart that we were not ready to be parents.

Not long after signing the release forms we were notified that my son was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (C.F.). It was a shock and a heart break!

The years passed and I rarely talked of my son. I married but never had any other children. Occasionally, I would search and post notices on various adoption websites. One summer while visiting the family, Mom showed me an article about Adoption Network Cleveland. As soon as I got back from vacation I contacted them and was welcomed with open arms and great advice on how to begin searching for my long lost son. We communicated through email and I felt a comfortable relationship with the Adoption Network search coordinator. I was contacted by the adoption agency after requesting non identifying information concerning my son, calling to inform me that he had passed away due to complications from C.F. around his 12th birthday. That was a very sad day!

At the time of his birth, children with C.F. had a life span of about 13 years. My search now revealed that patients were living into their 30’s. The dream of meeting my son and introducing him to his grandmother and large family was shattered. However, after considerable thought I realized I still wanted to continue searching for his adoptive family. I wanted to know something about him and his life. Surprisingly, with all of the information we had gathered during the search process, it did not take long to uncover a name that was very likely his adopted family!

After discussing with the search coordinator what to say and with much trepidation, I dialed the phone number of the woman who may have been my son’s Mother. After I introduced myself and asked if she had time to talk, I began telling my story and very quickly and with much feeling she said, “Yes, Yes, we loved him so much, he was such a great kid” and all of my fears dissolved! She confirmed that his name was Matthew and thanked me for the opportunity to love and raise him! This warm-hearted women extended herself to me by providing pictures of Matt and his family.

I learned that he grew up in a big family in the same small mid-western town as me. He walked the same streets and played in the same park as I did growing up. Someone pointed out to me recently that there is no reason to regret the decision I made 30 years ago. Everything I hoped for, my son was given. He lived a good life, not long but in a loving family and that is all I needed.

The first time I opened the email with photos attached, I was truly startled at the face staring back at me. A blond-haired boy who did not seem to resemble anyone I knew. But time passed and after comparing pictures of me as a young girl next to his on the fridge, I thought to myself “he looks like me” and I was sure he was my son. Now, as I show the pictures of my sweet-faced angel, I show them with the pride of any mother that has ever lived! It’s a feeling I am so unfamiliar with, but which comes natural to me. This is the most amazing thing to me. I am someone’s mother and this is what he looked like. I wish I could hug him and tell him that I love him, but I can only do that in my heart.

The other night I sat in our hot tub on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, Utah, where I now live. As I contemplated my story, it occurred to me this is no longer just my story. It’s the story of a brave young couple who had the courage and patience to adopt a boy in need. It’s the story of his brothers and sisters and friends who loved him and lost him. It’s a story of a family who spent a lifetime wondering and hoping for news of the boy they never knew. As I pondered this thought, I looked up into the cold dark moonless night just as one bright shooting star streaked across the horizon. I took it as a sign that

Matt’s spirit will continue to live on in all our hearts.

My deepest gratitude goes out to the folks at Adoption Network, as without their help I would still be wondering….

Before going to print on Mary’s story, we checked in with her to see if there were any updates she would like to share. Mary commented that she had since connected with her son Matt’s birthfather, and shared with him information about their son, which has provided healing for them both. Mary also shared why she has stayed connected with Adoption Network all these years, “I suppose that I have a tender spot for the organization and want to see it continue to be available for others affected by adoption. These days there are so many more options for finding biological family information. But I don’t know if there is emotional support system included in their products. The human contact provided through Adoption Network really helped me work through the process.”

For more information on our Search Assistance program, please contact Traci Onders, Program Coordinator, Adult Adoptees and Birthparents at traci.onders@adoptionnetwork.org or (216) 482-2323 or visit our Adult Adoptees and Birthparents Hub online.

Mary Higgins is a birthmother and member of Adoption Network Cleveland.