Montreal·First Person

I was 18 when I found my birth mother. I waited for the day my son would do the same

A survivor of the Sixties Scoop, Marie Missyabit writes about the work she's done to fill in the blanks in her family tree, including the son she put up for adoption.

As a child, I wondered why my birth mother gave me up for adoption

Illustration of two adults around a child, all blacked out and surrounded by colour.
Marie Missyabit has filled some holes in her family tree, but others remain. (Photo Illustration: CBC; Images: Shutterstock)

This First Person column was written by Marie Missyabit, who lives in Bowman, Que. For more information about CBC's First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

When I read my birth mother's first letter to me, I cried like a baby. Several factors weighed so heavily on her that she basically had no other choice — not only for me, but also for the others born after me.

I was given up for adoption in 1959 when I was 10 weeks old. So were my sisters. We were all part of the Sixties Scoop.

The main reason why I wanted to meet my birth mother was quite simple: to see if I looked like her. Raised in a white family, I stood out with my long black hair, brown eyes and brown skin and looked different from my three adoptive older brothers and younger sister.

When I was 18, I was given access to the name of my birth mother and I located my birth family.

I was overjoyed to meet my birth mother in person and immediately felt a sense of belonging. I looked the same as my birth mother, but with a smaller stature. It was by meeting her that I also discovered I had an older brother and a younger sister. Both were spared the foster care experience.

I often wondered who fared the best — the ones that were given up and raised with foster families or our two siblings that were raised by their own mother?

A woman sits down.
Marie Missyabit met her birth mother Ida, pictured here, when she was 18. (Submitted by Marie Missyabit)

I don't know if that question will ever be answered to my full satisfaction. One birth sister who was given up for adoption is still missing, and no one knows what happened to her.

But these are not the only adoptions that shaped my life.

A year before I met my birth mother, I was with my first serious boyfriend and became pregnant. I was in Grade 11, and we both lived with our respective parents and were most definitely not ready for parenthood. 

I left school just after Christmas exams to be tutored from home, and delivered a healthy baby boy on a Tuesday in April 1976. I arrived home after a few days in the hospital, and returned to school the following Monday as if nothing had ever happened.

The kids at school eyed me suspiciously, but I thought I did a good job of hiding the whole thing. I just wanted to get back to my pre-pregnancy life of being a high school student with relatively few ambitions or dreams of the future.

If I wanted my son to have a happy life, it wasn't going to be in the home where I was raised. I wanted my son to have all the advantages that I never had. I wanted him to be raised in a family where he would be unconditionally loved and cherished, unlike me. And I hoped that adoption would give him a more loving home than I had with my adoptive family.

A woman's portrait.
Marie Missyabit at 18 — a year after she put her son up for adoption. (Submitted by Marie Missyabit)

In 1994, when my son turned 18, I made a conscious effort to send my contact information to the provincial adoption registry. I hoped that like me, he would want to know where he came from. However, it would be a long 28 years before I heard from him.

Last March, I opened an email from a man telling me he was my son that I had given up for adoption. Within minutes, I told my husband and daughter. I contacted his birth father, who had told me many years ago that he would like to meet him if he ever came forward.

The next month, my son and I met for brunch and it was a surreal experience. I had moved to western Quebec, but we had both lived in Ottawa for many years. He resembled me and it wasn't long before we were rhyming off other similarities, asking about childhood illnesses and memories.

My proudest moment was when my two children met for the first time. My daughter had always known about his existence and had asked me over the years to find him. We were all together on Mother's Day in 2022 at my daughter's house and it was one of the best days of my life.

However, this story of reunification is not without heartbreak. He would never meet my birth mother or my wonderful uncle who had welcomed me to my birth family with open arms. He already has a full life — a wife, children and a career — so I don't know if he will ever meet my siblings that are spread across the country or even get the chance to visit our traditional territory in Lake Manitoba. And all of my siblings have still never been in the same room at the same time.

It will be almost impossible to make up for the lost years. But our family has grown larger, and I can only hope that with time, and my prayers to the Creator, our collective wounds will heal.

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Marie Missyabit

Freelance contributor

Marie Missyabit is a member of Lake Manitoba First Nation and was raised in Ottawa. She has a master's degree in library and information studies from McGill University, and retired from federal public service in 2019. When Missyabit isn't playing golf or travelling, she's spending time with her grandchildren.