My adoptive mother died a few months ago. I have been slowly going through her belongings. Deciding what to keep and what to give away is a very difficult task.
I had already generally gone through a box of my mother’s old jewelry and set it aside for the “give away” pile. But a relative who was with me took a second look. She found a small plastic bag with a string of beads. She pulled it out and said, “This looks like a baby bracelet.”
I immediately swung around as my relative placed the beaded bracelet in my hands. I recognized the initials and last name as that of my natural mother. The beads were pink; this was my baby bracelet worn in the hospital after my birth.
How could I have missed this when going through the box the first time?
More importantly, why was this the first time I had seen this bracelet? My adoptive mother kept it in her jewelry box since bringing me home on April 22, 1956, four months after my birth. My natural father had given her this bracelet, along with my clothes and birth certificate and baptismal certificate. Why did my adoptive mother keep this bracelet all these years? She surely could have given it to me during the course of my reunion with my natural family from 1974 onward. But I discovered it and reclaimed it a few months after her death.
This is yet another reminder that for all I know about my birth and my adoption I shall never really know my life. I was a baby born to a dying mother; I was dying at birth. The conditions and events that surrounded the people who took care of me, especially my natural father, were tense. My future hung in the balance until my mother died. Nearly a month later, my father handed me to another couple to raise as their daughter. I grew up the only child of this couple. My former life ceased to exist.
I hold this bracelet now as a mere portion of my life before adoption. Those six weeks I lay in an incubator, clinging to life: this is what this bracelet symbolizes for me. It’s not my name on the bracelet, it’s my mother’s name, for I am my mother’s daughter and this is the way the hospital knew I belonged to her. My birth and those first few weeks of my life were not happy moments.
As I clear through the belongings of one mother recently deceased, I am reminded of another mother who died long ago. Her death changed the course of my life.
My baby bracelet brought me, not a moment of happiness, but a day of mourning a lifetime of loss.