In the early 1990s, my mom began a process of trying to obtain her adoption file in the hopes of reuniting with her original mother. The state of Tennessee was uncooperative but did tell her that her mother had died several years before. My mom was devastated.
The story of Georgia Tann’s baby stealing and selling scandal of the early 1950s had re-emerged in public awareness. There were programs on 60 Minutes and Oprah and even a movie about the woman’s life starring Mary Tyler Moore. Tennessee was compelled by an overwhelming demand for justice to unsealed the adoption files of those directly affected by Tann’s corrupt practices but no one told my mom.
After she died in 2015, my cousin told me that it was possible to obtain the file. She had managed to get her dad’s (my mom’s brother who was adopted from the same agency a few years before my mom was). In October 2017, I was able to obtain this and learned the truth that we never knew about our original grandparents.
Both of my sisters surrendered babies to adoption and they have been reunited in the sense that they know us now as their biological, genetic relatives. I have also reunited with cousins for each of my parents original family lines and so I have some sense of the complicated experience of growing up in adoptive families and then discovering the original ones.
I will be writing more generally about reunions in the coming days but this part is my own story.