My name is Carole Sanguedolce. Almost 20 years ago I received the most amazing gift of a sister. I was born and raised an only child in Cobalt, a very small rural town in northern Ontario, Canada. You can imagine my surprise when in my thirties and pregnant with my first child I received a call from my mother telling me she had heard from someone she never ever expected to hear from. In the 1960’s my mother put a baby up for adoption after finding herself pregnant and unwed. She was born and raised in Cobalt with a catholic upbringing. In such a small town, mistakes or indiscretions would follow you. In secrecy arrangements were made, she left her small town and had her baby in New York. This situation was not to be talked about again when she returned.
My sister Jeannie Lachman was adopted as an infant. She had two wonderful parents and felt loved, accepted and cherished. Jeannie grew up always knowing she was adopted. She was always curious about her birth parents, but never wanted to hurt her adoptive parents feelings by searching. It was not until she gave birth to her first child that she felt an overwhelming need to know her medical history and where she came from. This is where her 8 year search for my mother began. It started with non identifying information provided by the adoption agency. It was a long emotional journey during a time when social media did not exist.
I will never forget the call I received from my mother telling me about Jeannie. When I woke up that day little did I know that I would have a sister at the end of it. Her voice was nervous and shaky when she said “I have something to tell you.” She proceeded to tell me that I would think she was a terrible person and that everyone was going to think she was a terrible person. I had never heard her so upset. I kept assuring her that I could never think that. Finally she told me that she had a baby six years before I was born and put her up for adoption. I was speechless. My hand dropped down and rested on my belly. I was pregnant with my first child and so in love with this being that I had never met. My heart broke for my mother. I could not even imagine what she had been through. So much was running through my mind at the same time. How could my mother keep such a secret all these years? I gathered my thoughts and pulled myself together. When I was finally able to speak I assured her that I loved her and that she is not a terrible person for making a choice that she thought was best for the circumstance she found herself in. We would get through this together and I would stand by her side. I would learn that I had a sister named Jeannie and that she lived in the states. We did not share the same father. The more questions I asked the more upset my mother became. She refused to talk about the birth father. Out of respect I would let things be. All she would tell me is that he was still alive and lived in Cobalt where my mother still resided. I have to admit I was curious, and I probably knew him. The thought of having a sister consumed me. Who was this woman? What did she want from my mother? Would she want to know me? would she resent me for being kept? I decided to write her a letter.
Over the next year Jeannie and my mother would get to know each other via phone calls and we were corresponding as well. Finally it was time to meet face to face. My husband and I opened our home for the reunion. We were all nervous. I was worried for my mom. She would now have to face the daughter she had given up. I could not help but wonder if all of this would bring back painful memories. I prayed it would all go well. As I watched my mother look out the window waiting for Jeannie’s arrival, I saw a frail looking woman. This had taken a toll on her. Witnessing their initial embrace was a beautiful sight. Both women had found a missing puzzle piece to their lives.
Jeannie was gentle and kind to my mother and this put me immediately at ease. Over the next few days our families would bond and share details of our lives that we had missed out on. We all felt mutually blessed to have found each other. I felt an instant connection with my new found sister.
Relationships developed quickly after our first meeting. Because we lived in two different countries we relied on modern technology to keep in touch. Instant messaging would become a daily thing between us. We would write about our lives and swap stories to get to know each other better. We also used used this as a way to talk and share feelings about events that we had shared together….what started out as journaling back and forth turned into our book.
Two peas in a Separated Pod – A True Story of Adoption was born.
Our story is one of adoption, search, and reunion. When our worlds collided we were forever changed.
Jeannie had found her birth mother and a sister, but there was still a lingering question. Who was Jeannie’s birth father? We often discussed her desire to find him. This would become yet another long emotional journey for her.
I felt truly honoured and connected as a sister when on my first visit to Jeannie’s home she shared with me a box of information that led her to my mother. It also contained non identifying information about her birthfather. My mother was still unwilling to reveal his name, even when on her death bed. There were family members who knew but followed suit. No one wanted to break a promise to a dying woman. This would be one of the biggest stumbling blocks my sister would face in her search. As I sat by my mothers bedside as she lay there in a coma during her final days, it was as if fate intervened. Someone in the room made a comment that caught my attention. My mind flashed back to information that I had read years before from the box my sister shared with me. I had just discovered a key clue that would lead me to Jeannie’s birth fathers name. I was now faced with a decision; Do I tell Jeannie or do I keep the secret that had been kept for so many years? Despite feelings of guilt and betrayal my sisterly bond was stronger and I embarked on a journey with Jeannie to help her discover the missing links to her identity.
Standing by my sister’s side as she made contact with her birth father and his family strengthened our bond as sisters, and I was able to make peace with my decision. In my heart I know that my mother is smiling down knowing that her girls will always be there for each other. She knew that I would do the right thing with the information that seemed to have fallen right into my lap.
My mother was from an era where adoption was not talked about. It was kept a secret.
It is a decision that affects so many: the birth mother, birth father, birth families, adoptee, and adoptive parents/families. It is a ripple effect.
It is our hope that by sharing our story we can encourage and inspire all those affected by adoption.
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