LOCATING BIRTH PARENTS
Jessica Eisner ’87, Shawna Mulay Suckow
’91, and Lisa Fry ’02 are grateful for the multitude
of benefits they have received being adopted. Yet
each acknowledges the tug—sometimes irrepressible—
for uncovering their origins.
“I am of mixed race, born in 1965 to a
Mexican-Filipina woman farmer in Indiana. I don’t
know much more, except that my father was
Scottish and I suspect my birth was out-of-wedlock,
surrounded by poverty and racism,”
says Eisner of Bellevue, Wash. “Being
adopted by a white American couple, I
feel I had a better chance to escape
my humble, if not doomed, beginnings.
Now I am a medical doctor and
filmmaker, married with two fine children.”
Along with her two adopted siblings, Eisner’s mother, grandmother, and
great-grandmother were also adopted.
When Eisner was 10, her mother asked all
three children if they wanted to find their birth
parents. She felt compelled to offer them this
chance since she had never had this opportunity. “We
held a kid-meeting and decided that it would just
hurt our adoptive parents’ feelings for nothing more
than satisfying our curiosity,” Eisner recalls.
“My mother cried in joy when we said
we didn’t need to look any further for
our ‘real’ mother. Although I am
incredibly curious for genetic/biological
reasons, I feel as though there is
more to be lost than gained from
such a quest.”
Suckow’s parents also promised
their full support should she decide
to locate her birth parents.
“Despite this, I was terrified to
proceed, afraid that they would
feel betrayed. My intention was
never to create an involved relationship;
I simply wanted more information—
health records, my birth story, and an explanation of
why I was given away,” explains Suckow, who lives in
Eagan, Minn. Her curiosity eventually “became
overwhelming.” She began her search without her
parents’ knowledge, concluding that if she never
located her birth parents she would not need to upset
her adoptive parents.
After six months she made contact with her birth
father. (Her birth mother wished no contact.) “Then I
had the agonizing task of telling my adoptive parents.
To my amazement, my parents hugged me, consoled
me, and supported me, just as they had promised. My
dad had some issues to face, however, and when I got
married years later, he asked if he would be the one to
walk me down the aisle! In my mind there was never
any question who my ‘real dad’ was. I only send
Father’s Day cards to one man, and that will never
Like Suckow’s parents, Gail Meyer Trenhaile ’64
of Omaha, Neb., has coped well with her daughter’s
desire to investigate her birth parents. She and husband
Curtis adopted Rebecca Lynn as an infant, just
four months after applying with the Nebraska
Children’s Home in Omaha. Trenhaile reveals, “There
was a time early on when I would have felt threatened
having contact with Becki’s birth family. In later years
I trusted her love for me. In fact, I was as devastated
as Becki when her search proved fruitless.” If Becki
resumes her search later, “I promise to be beside her
every step of the way,” Trenhaile says.
Barbara Lau is a poet, journalist, and teacher who has
taught composition and creative writing courses at Cornell.
Her book, The Long Surprise, won the 2000 X. J.
Kennedy Poetry Prize. Lau and husband Don Chamberlain,
associate professor of music at Cornell, have two daughters,
Grace and Lily. Lily was adopted as an infant through a
private agency in Texas.