The Story Behind The Photo: This Way to Your Birth Family

carmen

This photo shows the sign on the side of the highway listing “Campina Grande” that we — me, my mother and our three family friends — saw as we drove to meet my birth family. This was the sign that literally pointed us in the direction of our most unbelievable, loving and fulfilling adoption reunion.

I searched for my birth family for 22 years before locating them. One year after that, my mother and I, along with our family friends, embarked on the journey to come face to face with as many birth family members as possible.

When I look at this picture, I remember the vast stretch of land that represents the daunting journey we took just to get there. A journey that included its share of literal bumps in the road, along with the overwhelming feeling of wonder about whether we would truly reach our destination or if we would face rejection in the end.

My mother snapped the photo of this sign from the car as our friend drove because it was the first real sign we had to show that we were drawing nearer and nearer to my birth place, to the realness of it all. The years and years of unanswered questions, hard work and an endless waiting game had finally paid off. We were in the final stretch. Now the sign stared back at us as we drove, seemingly saying, “This way to your adoption reunion.”

It also confirmed to me that I didn’t want to turn back. Since the time my mother and I arrived in Brazil, our friends had told me that, if at any point in the journey I felt uncomfortable or no longer wanted to follow through with the reunion, we would turn around. It seemed an impossible decision to make. We had come this far and would I really consider turning around and not seeing it through? I couldn’t imagine that. Seeing the sign to Campina Grande further confirmed that this would be the most important day of my life, that we would keep on driving, and that our lives would change forever.

I felt a sense of reassurance as we moved closer to our goal with every mile we drove, a symbol that our determination was worth every moment. This magical place was real, it no longer existed only in our imaginations or in my adoption records or in an email conversation across an ocean. Now we were fast approaching and we would soon be within city limits.

Twenty-two years of searching on and off for my birth family, one year of email communication, two lengthy plane rides and here we were, traveling down the road, past a sign with my birth place’s name on it.

Carmen Hinckley | Portland, Oregon

Read more about Carmen’s birth search and reunion here. 

To start a birth search or learn about other post-adoption services, visit holtinternational.org/pas.

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