Jacqui Robbertsen, 28, Adelaide, SA
Gathering around the tree on Christmas Eve surrounded by family is a double occasion. It's my birthday and often causes me to reflect on the day I came into the world. Growing up, my parents John, now 66, and Anne, 63, had never hidden the fact that I was adopted. For years, I'd asked the usual questions - where was my birth mum and who was she?
Mum and Dad told me as much as they knew. I'd spent the first six months of my life in hospital. Although my birth name was Jade, the midwives nicknamed me Suzie, after someone they all knew. Then, Mum and Dad adopted me as their own and called me Jacqueline. They didn't have any more information. 'Once you're 18, you can find out if you'd like to,' Mum assured me.
Where was my birth mum and who was she?
I was just grateful to have a loving family so I pushed the niggling curiosity to the back of my mind. 'You look different to your mum,' friends would comment. 'It's because I'm adopted,' I'd say. I was never ashamed, but such comments led to queries of my own. Did I look like my birth mum? Do we share the same mannerisms or values? But no matter how often I asked, I never got answers. My 18th birthday came and went and I still hadn't filled out the necessary paperwork. 'I'll do it one day,' I told Mum, daunted by the task.
Then in 2013, I met a man named Casey, now 32, online and we had an undeniable connection. Within a week, we were inseparable and I quickly opened up to him about my past. 'I'm adopted,' I confessed. 'And sometimes I wonder about my birth mum.' 'I don't blame you,' Casey agreed. He seemed curious about where I came from, too. My relationship with Casey moved quickly and we soon began discussing starting a family of our own. This made me think of my own birth mother - she could become a grandma and never know it!
One afternoon, in January 2014, a package arrived in the mail. 'What's this?' I frowned, ripping open the paper. Inside were official documents with details of my biological mother! Casey had secretly arranged it. 'I wanted it to be a surprise,' he said. It was so thoughtful. He'd wanted to give me the answers I'd been seeking my entire life. Reading the information, it felt like a light had been switched on.
I discovered I'd been born prematurely at just 27 weeks and my biological mother's name was Marianne. Being single, she felt I deserved to be raised by both a mother and father. But the best thing I discovered was our similarities. Like me, Marianne had naturally blonde curly hair and she also lived in Adelaide.
While going through all the papers, I found the phone number for her parents - my birth grandparents. Nerves churned in my stomach at the thought of calling, but what did I have to lose? I'd never forgive myself if I didn't try. So the next day, overwhelmed with excitement, I dialled. A woman answered, saying her name was Corrie. 'Hi,' I stammered, introducing myself. 'I'm looking for my birth mother.' She yelped in excitement, explaining Marianne was her daughter. 'I'll pass on your number,' Corrie promised.
I felt a mixture of anxiety and relief. Would my birth mum want to get to know me? The next morning, my phone rang. It was Marianne. 'I'm so glad you contacted me!' she said. I was swamped with emotions hearing her voice. Within seconds, we were chatting and joking as though we'd been best friends for years. I'd clearly inherited her sense of humour! Marianne said she enjoyed crocheting and knitting. 'I also love my Collingwood footy team,' she chuckled. Just then something seemed oddly familiar. Marianne and I had exactly the same laugh! 'We should meet,' I said. We'd already lost 26 years, why waste more time? Thankfully, my parents were completely supportive.
'Hi,' I stammered, introducing myself. 'I'm looking for my birth mother.'
Casey and I arrived early at the meeting place. 'I'm so nervous!' I told him. The moment Marianne arrived with her partner Lew, I threw my arms around her. She had my smile, my voice and my mannerisms! I felt an instant connection as we talked and laughed the entire afternoon. Not once did I blame her for putting me up for adoption. She'd wanted me to have a wonderful life and that's exactly what I've got. She explained she'd never had more children after me.
Following our meeting, Marianne and I caught up at least once a month, and in October, 2014, I delivered exciting news! 'There's another one of us on the way,' I grinned, explaining I was pregnant with a baby girl. She was thrilled!
I'd always known Casey and I would become parents at the right time and now that I had not one but two mums in my life, it was perfect. On April 4 2015, I gave birth to our daughter Asha. Like me, she was premature, arriving at just 29 weeks. We had a quick cuddle before she was taken to the NICU. The next day, Marianne and Corrie visited and that brought up some emotional memories. But instead of dwelling on the past, we focused on our exciting future together.
Today, Asha is eight months old and has already inherited the cheeky personality Marianne and I share. Our little girl is lucky to have so many people who love her. This Christmas, I'll be celebrating my birthday with both my mothers. I can't thank Casey enough for secretly sending off that paperwork. If he hadn't, I might never have met Marianne. It's such a wonderful gift!
Marianne, 54, says:
Since putting my baby girl up for adoption, thoughts of her have always been at the back of my mind. I'd hoped she'd get in touch one day and when she did, I was blown away! Because I didn't raise Jacqui, we're more like sisters than mother and daughter. It's incredible how alike we are. Often we'll text each other at exactly the same time or we'll both be wearing thongs in the middle of winter. I'm thrilled to have Jacqui, Casey and my adorable grand-daughter, Asha in my life.
Originally published in that's life! Issue 51, 2015, cover date 24 December 2015.