MARY LORRAINE DANROTH
Report on phone call from Margaret Michaels, natural mother of Laureen Hubachek: Collect call about 10 am, very angry: “Do not tell me about my daughter, I know all that. I want to tell you how totally insensitive and unethical it was of you to contact so many people–how many have you contacted? Tell me, how many!” I told her I had only spoken to 2 individuals. One was her mother Elle. She demanded: “Don’t contact anyone else! I had to do something very terrible! I had to lie to my mother!”
The investigator reminded her she had only used public information and records and that if she hadn’t kept her whereabouts unlisted and hidden, she could have found her without contacting anyone else. That didn’t sit well with Margaret. She lashed out at the investigator:
“Maybe that should tell you something! I didn’t want to be found!”
Margaret went on to explain to the investigator that the social worker, the good and great Mr. Witt, had already contacted her. But, Mr. Witt had to seek her out through other family members, as well, just like the investigator. Mr. Witt had also contacted Elle, Margaret’s mother. Elle told Mr. Witt the same thing she told the investigator: “My Margaret never had a child.” Margaret also told off the investigator–lots of colorful words were used. In the report I have, the conversation is described by the investigator as “hostile.” Margaret did, however, indicate that she was considering signing the waiver of confidentiality provided to her by the social worker, and if she did decide to contact me, she would do it through Mr. Witt. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic that Mr. Witt went to the trouble to find Margaret, tell her that I was looking for her, and I had signed the waiver, and solicit a signed waiver from her. Honestly, if I had thought the county social services would provide me with search services for free, I would have never paid money to an investigator to do the job. And remember, there was a clause in the waiver I signed that read:
I understand that the law prohibits the Department or licensed adoption agency from soliciting, directly or indirectly the execution of such a waiver.
In fact, I had read plenty of stories about waivers simply being ignored. Unfortunately, having a Waiver of Confidentiality on file is no guarantee that a social worker or clerk won’t ignore it (or be just too lazy to even look at the file to see whether there is a signed waiver in place) if a birth relative comes looking. In my family law classes, I had read about cases where an agency had had contact from both parties (adoptee and adoptive parent), but the worker or workers at the agency never let either of the parties know they were being sought. The waivers were just sitting in a file. That wasn’t going to happen to me. I hired the investigator because I wanted to move forward, not just sit and wait. The investigator called me to relay the information about the contact with my mother. I was at work at the university when she called. I was devastated that she did not want to be found. I was shattered that she did not want to know me. The conversation with the investigator left me feeling like I had been punched in the gut. My frustration overtook me after I hung up the phone. I didn’t even bother to leave my desk–I laid my head on the desk and wept quietly. How could she be so angry after all this time? It was her lie. Not mine. What did I do? I took a step back and waited for a while. I did what I did best. I processed the situation. How could I make this situation work for me? How could I fix it? In the back of my mind, I thought, perhaps, she’d eventually make contact through Mr. Witt. She’d cool off and figure out what to tell her family, then she’d sign the waiver. According to the investigator, who had interviewed several of Margaret’s family members, Margaret had never married (“ never had a man in her house”) and didn’t have any other children besides me, so it was just a matter of telling her mother and her siblings. I was hopeful that Margaret and I would at some point be able to meet (or at least talk on the phone) and I’d apologize. Wait. Apologize? But, what did I do wrong? She was upset, that’s for sure. But, if it wasn’t for her lie, her twenty-two-year-old secret, her denial of my mere existence, we wouldn’t be in this position in the first place. After twenty-two years, my near exposure of her secret might force her to deal with her own shame or whatever emotions she had suppressed over the years about giving birth and relinquishing her child for adoption. Maybe, she’d see it as an opportunity to heal. Keeping that secret for so many years must have been difficult, and maybe it was even painful. She spent her entire life hiding the truth and, more importantly, burying any emotions that may have surfaced from time to time. I had to believe she thought about me once in a while. Maybe once a year on my birthday? Anyway, this anger she was feeling now could coax her to deal with the truth and tell her family. Maybe everything would be okay… eventually. After Margaret’s initial anger wore off, surely my biological grandmother would be happy to know about me. Maybe, I’d get to know four new aunts and uncles. Maybe, some cousins. After all, it wasn’t my intention to be an intrusion or to burst into her life and claim her as my long-lost mother. I had a mother and a father and a whole family that were perfectly fine (okay, not perfect, but fine). She had to want to meet me, right? Wrong. I never heard from Mr. Witt or Margaret. I think Mr. Witt was offended that I had gotten a third-party private investigator involved. In my defense, I had no idea he was actively searching for Margaret, as well. A few weeks after the devastating phone call from the investigator, I received the complete written report on the search in the mail, along with a short letter:
Dear Laureen, At the request of our Director, I am enclosing your birthmother’s address. The telephone is not available, but we could get it with some expense.
The investigator provided Margaret’s address and confirmed through public records she was the owner of the home. Case closed. How did I feel? I’ll get the obvious out of the way: hurt and rejected, for starters. But, oddly, I also felt compassion. I really did want to apologize to Margaret. I wanted to apologize for disrupting her world. She was angry. It was my fault. I wanted to fix it. The eager-to-please adoptee. After a week or so though, I, too, became angry. I was obviously still hurting, but I came to realize and understand that I did nothing wrong. I realized that for Margaret, there was a double whammy of shame and guilt going on back in 1963–not only was she eighteen and pregnant, but she was serving a prison term. But, it had been over twenty-two years. Why hadn’t there been any soul-searching or healing going on during that time? Whether or not she had healed or buried her guilt and shame, lied, was successful in her life, or whether she was living in a dumpster behind the grocery store, I knew it wasn’t my fault. And, in my heart, I knew it wasn’t her fault, either. She was well into her “do-over,” as promised to her by the system. Enter me, like an unexpected and unwelcomed house guest. Either way, I still believed I had a right to information. Information about my birth, my ancestry, my heritage, other family, and even my birthfather. And, what about medical information? I needed to know my story.
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