My birth mother named me David Robert.
She held me, fed me, and was very attached to me for two days. On April 28, I was moved to the DePaul Infant Home, where I would be cared for by nurses and nuns for the next six and a half months. They would report that I was an active child who did not cry a lot.
My birth mother's name was Judy. She was 23 years old, 5'3" tall and weighed 120 pounds. She had short, dark brown hair, hazel eyes and a medium compexion. She had dimples and wore glasses.
My birth father was Irish Catholic and married with three children. He studied engineering and repaired air conditioners. My birth mother never gave the agency his last name. They are not allowed to give me his first, though I've been assured it was neither David nor Robert.
While pregnant with me, Judy found an organization called Birthright who referred her to Catholic Charities and the DePaul Maternity Home. According to the report, Judy stated that she wanted me to have a stable life with two parents and that adoption was her wish. After my birth, she moved in with a friend and continued to miss and cancel appointments with the social worker. She could have signed the papers of relinquishment at any time during that period. On November 7, 1972 she was ordered to a court hearing where she signed me over to the permanent custody of Catholic Charities.
On November 16, 1972 I was placed with Norman and Patricia Gladish who would take me to my new home at 4753 E. 90th in Garfield Heights, OH. The report states that they thought I was the perfect baby. It also states that I was fascinated with the family dog.
This, in fact, has always been my earliest childhood memory.
After a number of satisfactory visits from a social worker, my adoption was finalized on October 10, 1973.
I can still hardly believe what I learned next...
My birth mother, Judy, was adopted as well and also spent time at the DePaul Infant Home when she was a baby. Catholic Charities had both of our files.
According to the report, Judy stayed at the infant home for 13 months after she was born. Her biological aunt had been diagnosed with a mental illness, and so she was kept in their custody for an extended period of time to ensure that she would be "adoptable." Had she failed to show signs of being a healthy child after a year, she would have been transferred to an orphanage. This is no longer standard practice.
Reportedly she was comfortable at the infant home and was very lovable with those she knew. She was one of their favorites. Her nickname was Teeny Weeny.
It is not known whether any of the nuns who cared for Judy also cared for me.
I don't know their names, but I know that my biological grandmother on Judy's side was Slovak. She was very interested in books and did a great deal of reading. The report states that she liked to talk to people on an "intellectual level." She was employed in a factory for a bookbinding company and hoped to work her way into a better position because of their involvement with books.
My biological grandfather was Polish. He was an accountant and was not informed of the pregnancy.
There is some confusion in the report as to how much Judy knew of her own adoption. She was raised as an only child in her adoptive home and was informed by her mother of her adoption at the age of 8. She was told, however, not to tell her father that she knew. In 1970, she called the agency to find out if she was really adopted. In 1972, when she was pregant, she called again to ask about it. In 1980, she wrote a letter asking yet again about her adoption. There is nothing in the file regarding what, if anything, they wrote back or told her.
When I spoke to the social worker at Catholic Charites who pulled my file, she was eager for me to find my birth mother. She wanted to be in touch with her, as she felt Judy had gotten the "short end of the stick" with her own adoption. She was sad to learn that Judy had died.
I have read the Catholic Charities report many times. It helps, though, for me to write out the story myself, to tell it as mine. In my mind, things tend to fade and blend together. None of the characters have faces yet, except in my own imagination. It still seems like a work of fiction written by a perfect stranger, and there is still a part of me that distrusts almost everything I am told. And yet, I know that this is closer to the truth than I have ever gotten.
I want to get even closer.
I don't know how I know this, but the DePaul Infant Home was a good place. Though I am sure I missed my mother very much, I know that I was cared for and loved there. Perhaps I simply want to believe this. Knowing that this place was a common thread between Judy and me is comforting. But I really believe it's true. Call it a hunch, an intuition, or a gut feeling. I'm working on listening more to such feelings. They rarely let me down..
The DePaul Maternity and Infant Home closed its doors in 1994. The pictures here are from the archives at the Adoption Network Cleveland. They were likely taken long before I arrived, but perhaps not before Judy did.
I will be visiting Cleveland next week and will be doing my research the old fashioned way: libraries, newspapers, microfiche. I will also be getting some help, as my birth family research trails have run cold. The numbers I've found have been disconnected. The emails no longer exist. But I'm not ready to give up yet. This is too good of a beginning to the story.
And it's my story...the story of how I came to be.