I felt a strange combination of emotions whirling out of control. I looked at my belly, my unborn baby, while images of my own childhood raced through my head. My parents were devoted to me and worked tirelessly to provide me with everything they possibly could. They wanted me to have every opportunity in life. But what I longed for most in my early childhood was a bigger family—brothers and sisters. The birth of my sister Christina in 1989 was one of the happiest days of my life. I remember Mama bringing her home from the hospital and how everything instantly seemed sweeter. A baby sister—she was everything to me. We did everything together and today remain the closest of friends. How could it be that Mama had another baby before Christina? Another sister? This didn't make any sense.
"Mama, you have to tell me—is it true?" I pleaded.
"Yes, it's true," she said quietly in a voice I hardly recognized. I had been so close with my mother my entire life and truly thought that I knew everything about her. I suddenly felt a distance from her, and I didn't like it one bit. I couldn't understand how or why she would keep this from me and Christina. I'd expect something like this from my father, who is a born salesman and a master at gently twisting the truth when it suits his needs. He never had a real need to lie outright, since he could wrap you up in his stories in a heartbeat. What he omitted was oftentimes more telling and more important than what he actually said. But not my mother. Mama was a straight shooter, honest to the core.
Or at least, that's the Mama I knew.
"How could you have kept this from me?" I cried into the phone, both of us knowing there was no possible answer that would satisfy me. Tears flowed down my face; the floodgates had opened and I couldn't stop. I was a complete mess.
I heard my mother crying on the other end of the phone, too. Mama has always been my rock and confidante, and her pain has always been my pain. But at that moment, I felt a total disconnect, which made me feel confused, angry, and alone.
I had so many questions, so few answers. My emotions were running in every direction, moving so quickly I could barely keep up. The raindrops hit the car roof like little metal hammers.
I felt paralyzed, retracing the steps of my life. Every photo ever taken, every holiday spent, all of our childhood memories—there should've been three sisters. My life reshuffled, restructured in a matter of minutes.
Just like that, with the rip of an envelope, I had a sister and her name was Jennifer. She was born October 1, 1987, the day after my birthday. We are exactly six years and one day apart.
Jennifer would have been the middle sister. Why was she given up for adoption when Christina and I were allowed to stay?
Jennifer had provided contact information, and I was tempted to call her right away, but first I had to learn more. Anyway, I was in no mental state to talk at that point.
"I wanted to tell you, and I almost did many times. I just couldn't find the words," said Mama.
I was disappointed for so many reasons, but most of all I felt betrayed that she had kept this from me all these years. She had been the one I could trust and the one I relied on to always tell me the truth. I felt angry, sad, deceived, and vulnerable. I had always been open with Mama and confided in her things I have never shared with anyone else. And prior to receiving Jennifer's letter, I had thought she had done the same with me.