Nicole was adopted into a military family, the structure of which ran against her freewheeling nature. She’s an interracial woman with interracial adopted parents, so they looked like a natural family. In reunion, Nicole is facing secondary rejection from her birth mother, but her maternal grandparents and uncle have accepted her with open arms. She’s learned that her birth father wanted to keep her, and her paternal family feels so natural, Nicole feels like she’s found her tribe.
Nicole: 00:05 I feel like I’ve found my tribe. These are, these are the people that like I fit. I feel like I’ve found peace within myself because it’s not who am I really? It’s it’s I am me and I’m who I’m always supposed to have been. It was just put in a different family.
Voices: 00:30 Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?
Damon: 00:42 This is who am I really a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I’m Damon Davis, and on today’s show is Nicole. She called me from the terrible rush hour traffic in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. She was raised in the south, but her mixed racial heritage partially originates from Germany by way of the Commonwealth of Virginia, a state we’re in adoptees. Legal rights to obtain their original birth information are extremely prohibitive in reunion. She’s exercising patience with her birth mother as she waits to be revealed to her maternal siblings, but she’s also surrounded by love and acceptance by other family members on both sides. This is Nicole’s journey.
Damon: 01:30 Nicole was born in Virginia, adopted after three months in foster care. She is a woman of mixed race and she was adopted into a mixed race family. Her mother is white from Germany, her father is African American from Boston, and she grew up in a military family.
Nicole: 01:46 You know, growing up it was, it was pretty normal. Adoption was like, you know, I was a typical day, you know, in the fog adoptee. That makes me special. And it was one of those things where, I mean, it was it really necessary to talk about, you know, it was, I’m adopted and that’s what it is. And you know, here’s our family.
Damon: 02:09 Did you have siblings?
Nicole: 02:10 No, I’m an only child. So my parents actually adopted me when they were both in their late thirties. Um, they just could not, could not have children. My mom had a lot of miscarriages and stillbirths. Um, so they went the adoption route and you know, growing up in a mixed race family it, it just seemed normal. I fit.
Damon: 02:34 Her father had been in the military for more than 20 years by the time they adopted Nicole. So they put down roots in Atlanta, ending the usual repetitive relocations that military families often endure. They wanted to give Nicole a place to feel grounded. They lived off base, but they were still surrounded by military families, which meant a wide array of family mixtures. Many of them with German spouses. Nicole’s parents sent her to the German School of Atlanta on Saturdays because her adopted grandmother really wanted to be able to speak with her granddaughter in her native language. Sometimes adopt these don’t necessarily identify with the culture they’re introduced to when they’re adopted. So I asked Nicole how she identified with Germany.
Nicole: 03:19 Oh, I am. I’m very proud German. It was never a thing. I mean obviously it was odd, you know, going to Germany and being the only brown skinned kid running around with all of the cousins. Very concentrated white area in the small villages. But other than that it was normal. I felt like I fit.
Damon: 03:48 Did you go to Germany often?
Nicole: 03:53 Every Summer my mother and I would go.
Damon: 03:54 What was it like for you there? Tell me more about being this brown child running around as the only person of color, Probably, in the in the area.
Nicole: 04:05 I guess to me, because like I said, for my family made it very normal. Um, I did have a cousin and she was also mixed race military as well, but she grew up in Germany rather than moving to the states. Her mom stayed in Germany, so like I said it, it was just boggling normal. I mean, I guess it was, I noticed that I kind of stuck out of. But it, to me it was like, Oh, you know, I’m the special kid, you know, I’m the one brown kid here, here in Germany. Of course everybody was fascinated with my hair and, and all of that, but it was, it was just very, very normal.
Damon: 04:43 Nicole’s interracial heredity meant she really looked like she could be the product of her adopted parents. They even have little inside jokes and the family about her resemblance to her father’s distant relatives who were also mixed race. Some of them passing for white. A lot of adoptees have that joke or sometimes irritation at the constant reminder that they couldn’t possibly look like their relatives because they were adopted. Of course, their families resemblance made it hard to convince her friends. She was telling the truth when she revealed she was an adoptee
Nicole: 05:14 and my friends, some of them just didn’t believe that I was adopted. You know, there’s no way you’re adopted. You look just like your family. And I’ve looked. My Dad told them that I’m adopted and he goes, oh, maybe she was. Maybe she was on. That was our joke.
Damon: 05:32 It’s funny in they’re ask. So you’ve talked a little bit about your German orientation, but tell me about your father. He’s black from Boston. What did he, what did he introduce for you in terms of culture and how did you deal with sort of racial identity growing up in general?
Nicole: 05:50 I think it was more so. He didn’t really touch on waste to entirely much, but his sister, he funny enough, his sisters also adopted. Their mother was a widow and they were adopted by my grandfather and they actually had the choice to be adopted and some of them decided to be adopted and others did not, but they were big on kind of bringing me into the African American culture. And they were very insistent that when it came time for college that, you know, we have to, you have to tour the black colleges in the area, um, you know, uh, you know, reminding me of how to take care of my hair because my mom tried to, but she wasn’t, she didn’t really know how to take care of my hair other than like let’s slap a relaxer in it and keep it straight so, you know, they, they were a big part of that as well as my grandmother because, you know, we would go to Germany every summer, but we also went up to Virginia and I would stay with her for two or three weeks. Um, so my dad’s mom, my grandmother was very big into kind of reminding me of embedded into the culture and going to the very typical black churches participating in a the choir and all of that. So I got it pretty good on bedside. Yeah, there is a reason I feel like there is a reason I was put into the family that I was in because there’s too many small little coincidences within my biological and adoptive family.
Damon: 07:20 It sounded to me like Nicole was perfectly comfortable right where she was so naturally. I was curious about what made her want to search. She said it’s always been something she wanted to do and her parents were well aware. Her mother used to joke with her and in certain situations that she must be just like her biological mother
Nicole: 07:39 because I was this loud boisterous child of in you know a very buttoned up military family and very strict rules and here’s this artsy kid and where is she getting it from?
Damon: 07:52 when Nicole turned 18, she was moving out of the house, but she also contacted Catholic charities to request the documents necessary to start her search. But listen to how she talks about the experience.
Nicole: 08:06 $500 fine that you have to get the paperwork moving out of the house. $500 is not something easily come by .
Damon: 08:18 It’s funny that you used the word fine also, right? They would call it a fee, but you very much feel like it’s a fine for finding your own identity, Huh?
Nicole: 08:27 Yeah. I mean that’s what it really feels like. And I had my first son when I was 19 years old, so that was the same age that my birth mother was when she had me so and I actually considered an adoption plan for him, but thinking about just to me, the hell that she went through and those feelings. I couldn’t do it because they’re going to make it work, we’re absolutely going to make it work.
Damon: 08:54 Over the years, Nicole requested the paperwork more than once. She repeatedly committed to herself that she would find the money to pay the fine, but finally on her birthday in 2017, she told her boyfriend she wanted to submit a sample for AncestryDNA. She had also listened to a Ted talk given by Catherine Robertson in Baltimore, Maryland. Catherine’s talk outlines the seven reasons and adopt these original identity should not be a state secret. In reason number six, she tells the story of how she found her birth family on her own outside of the unfair laws of the state of Virginia where Nicole was also born. In Virginia and adopt. He can petition to obtain their records, but the petition will only be accepted under one condition if both parents consent to have their identities revealed. To Recap Katherine’s point, that means if both parents are deceased, the petition is denied. If one is dead and one is alive and says yes, the petition is denied because the deceased parent didn’t have a chance to deny and even if both parents are alive but only one consents to the petition and the other rejects the requests.
Nicole: 10:06 The petition is denied. Apparently even after all of that of Virginia, judge can still deny the request even if both parents said yes because the judge can question whether an adopt these given reason for the petition was strong enough. Catherine completed her search on her own and Nicole knew she had to do the same. There was just no way she was going to pay Catholic charities. $500 when there was such a strong chance that petition would be rejected. Nicole’s birthday gift last year was an ancestry DNA kit. She had the kit delivered to her job, so she retrieved it from the mayor room, spat in the tube at her desk, then returned the sample.
Nicole: 10:48 The results came back pretty quickly. I’ll never forget, it was a Tuesday, but I got it. Why is it because I found my birth family that Saturday I had A. I had a hell of a search angel and I got in touch with her and when I opened that, the DNA of course, you know the circle of your genetic background and the first thing that I noticed biologically, I’m German, so I called my mom and I go, mom, I’m German, and she goes, we know this, and I’m like, no, it’s in my blood.
Nicole: 11:23 I’m actually German. That’s really funny. And what did she say? She just started to laugh. She was just like, okay, Nicole, I’m going to. I’m going to go back to work now. So for me, you know, being such a proud German, and that was one of the things that terrified me. I’m like, what if they met German? I can’t claim that anymore. My kids can’t claim that anymore. What if I’m not Durban and then seeing that I’m German, like those like, Yep, you know, I, I was meant to be in this family.
Damon: 12:00 So Nicole has a first cousin match. She and her search Angel Lauren start digging, creating a mirror tree, and they figure out he’s a great uncle. Nicole sent them a message to ask if he possibly had a niece who may have had a child in 1986. There was no reply. Nicole and her search angel find leads, but they can’t confirm them.
Nicole: 12:26 My great grandmother and at that point we get stuck because we can’t find my grandmother married name, maiden name, but we can’t find. We find information. And the thing is that we nearly went looking for. My biological mother had a brother that was younger than her, so we knew we were trying to find a man or woman that had just a boy and a girl and we, we knew that the daughter was going to be, you know, my mother. And at that point we got stuck and he’s not responding to me whatsoever. So I’m reaching out to people that are cousins. You know, trying to get some kind of information because one thing that I am is impatient, I didn’t get that from my adoptive parents because they are the most patient people in the world. So we’re trying to figure this out. And finally, you know, we were looking at my, I’m not identifying information that I had and it turns out that we’re on the right path because all of a sudden I get a message from, from Lauren, my transition is there it is.
Nicole: 13:32 And I’m like, what is, what, what are you seeing that I’m not. My great grandmother was a speech therapist and this was also listed in my non identifying information. Um, and we found an article on this woman that we assumed was my great grandmother on ancestry and she’s a speech therapist. We fought in her obituary because this was the key. We find her obituary and it has my grandmother married name, which now we have live biological mother’s maiden name. So once we find all this information, we find my grandmother’s phone number and we actually find my uncle’s phone number. We found, we found everybody’s got a number at this point and my thinking was, I’m going to reach out to my grandmother because in my non identifying information it states the three months that I was in foster care, they actually continued to visit me before I was placed. My biological mother and my grandmother both used to visit me at Catholic charities or there was an intermediary involved that they would visit and I actually have gifts from them and my first Christmas card from them really. I actually didn’t know that I had a, a wooden baby doll crib and you know, of course
Nicole: 14:52 as a kid, you know, you’re tearing up your room, you’re playing with stuff, you’re kind of rough. And my mom had always fuss at me anytime she would see this thing upside down in my room and I didn’t realize it until my daughter turned six. She brought it over and gave it to my daughter for her birthday and explained to me this was a gift from your biological mother and that’s why I was so firm with you when you know, I would find it in a disarray. In your room,
Damon: 15:17 Nicole’s mother never told her the significance of that baby crib because she knew she wanted to preserve it for Nicole’s kids. Nicole also said she has a christening gown and a Christmas card. Her birth mother and grandmother left her in that card. They address their holiday greetings to Nicole using her original name. Rachel. She’s always known her original name because she’s always had access to the card whenever she liked. Nicole decided that since she had found her maternal biological grandmother’s phone number and based on the facts of history, she wanted to reach out to her. She dove in,
Nicole: 15:54 so I make the phone call, not even five minutes. Upper finding the phone, the phone number, I call it. I’m like, you know what we’re calling it. That’s what we’re going to do because if I don’t do it now, I’m not going to do it. You know, like, like kids are. My kids are all gone for the day. I have a quiet minute. My cell phone is dying. I’ve got to plug in. I’m sitting on the floor and my grandfather answers the phone, so I immediately asked him like, I’m freaking out. I’m like, why? Why is he answering the phone? Men Don’t normally answer the house phone, so he calls for my grandmother to answer the fallen and of course you do the like, you know, I, I’m sorry to bother you, you know, but I just wondering if possibly you could be my, my maternal grandmother and she gets kinda quiet for a second. And she goes, yeah, that would be us. And I immediately burst into here. All I can say is, hi, I’m Nicole. It’s nice to finally find vehicles.
Damon: 17:06 She didn’t even say taken aback. She sounded like, no, that’s us.
Nicole: 17:10 Oh yeah. We’d been waiting for you.
Damon: 17:12 Nicole was messaging with Lauren during the exchange with her grandmother. Laurane reminded Nicole to ask what her birth father’s name was because their work didn’t give them any leads. She remembered the man’s last name. So she called out over her shoulder to her husband who remembered the man’s first name.
Nicole: 17:29 He’s really, really good. He is the third generation of. It’s not going to be hard to find him. I type it over to Laura and I started changeable and all of a sudden she’s pulling up old yearbook pictures of both of my biological parents and sending them to me as I’m the phone
Nicole: 17:50 with my grandmother.
Damon: 17:51 Gosh, the search is happening in real time while you’re.
Nicole: 17:57 But of course that first phone call she’s like, do you have any questions for us? And I’m like, well I have a ton, but right now I’m kind of drawing a blank.
Damon: 18:07 Yeah, right, I’ve got a thousand, but right now I’m in shock.
Nicole: 18:09 Right? Yeah. Right now I’m in shock because I’m actually speaking to and here I am thinking, you know, I’m going to have those together and no, I’m just, I’m an emotional mess and I’m just in tears.
Damon: 18:20 Oh Man. What were you thinking about?
Nicole: 18:24 Nothing I. Yeah, I was like, I can’t believe it took from a Tuesday to a Saturday afternoon and I’m speaking to my grandmother.
Damon: 18:36 Nicole’s grandmother lives in Pennsylvania and she revealed that her daughter, Nicole’s birth mother still lived in Virginia. Her grandmother made a phone call to her daughter telling Nicole she’d be sure to call back. Lauren, the search angel was still pulling up information as the call concluded. Lauren found what turned out to be Nicole’s birthfather’s ex wife on facebook. So Nicole contacted her
Nicole: 19:00 The second I pull up her facebook page, you know how they have the little pictures and memories that you can put up on your page. There’s a picture of… I had to do a double take because it was. And I was like, wait, what in the world is going that, that’s me. that looks like me when I was in high school and it turns out it’s my half sister.
Damon: 19:27 Wow. That must have been really freaky.
Nicole: 19:31 My son, at that point, he goes, mommy, because mommy, why is she, why does she have your face? Yeah. This whole time my kids have known that I was adopted and they knew that I was going on this search he goes, mom, she has your face.
Damon: 19:48 That’s amazing.
Nicole: 19:49 Yeah. So I, I messaged his wife and she has been the most wonderful part to me is the most wonderful part of this reading and other than finding my siblings, um, because she just, Oh, you know, I’ll get in touch with him, you know, it’s going to be okay. Every day from the time that I messaged her to the time that she knew I spoke to him, she was checking in with me, you know, it’s gonna be okay, just hang in there. You’re going to get a chance to talk to him. And we should was absolutely wonderful. And we, me and him corresponded through email first and told them, look, I’ve seen a picture of my sister. But if you’re unsure, I’m more than happy to pay for DNA test And his response back was just by looking at you, I know your mind.
Damon: 20:37 You were thinking the same thing.
Nicole: 20:39 yeah I was like, there’s no way I can’t think it, but just in case there’s any doubt I will pay for a DNA test. I know I don’t care.
Damon: 20:46 Of course, with adoption, there are at least two sides to a person’s birth family story. When she spoke to her birth father by phone, he made sure she knew he had a version of the story that he wanted to tell.
Nicole: 20:58 The next email I get back from him as if you want to know how your adoption went on my end, I’m more than happy to tell you.
Damon: 21:05 That’s interesting. Yeah. He sounds like there’s definitely two stories to be told.
Nicole: 21:11 Yeah, I did find that right. It took me three months to get placed because actually my maternal grandmother, she wanted to know how long before you went home to your adoptive family? And I said well It took about three months and she said that we were getting frustrated with the, uh, with Catholic charities because hadn’t taken it along. We’re going to bring you home. and we were goinna raise you ourselves.
Damon: 21:36 Wow. What did you think when you heard that?
Nicole: 21:40 It was, it was a mixed bag. It was nice to know that I was wanted. I had a really good life and I couldn’t picture not, you know, being with the family that I’m with. And then it turns out the reason it took three months for me to be placed, and unfortunately my birth mother hid her pregnancy until she was six months along. And when her parents found out they kind of, you know, took her home and said, we got to make a plan. And at that point she disappeared from my, my birthfather’s wife, she just disappeared. She broke up with him and just took off. And three months later he got paperwork in the mail from Catholic charities requesting him sign to sign over his rights.
Damon: 22:32 That was it, just out of the blue,
Nicole: 22:35 out of the blue, all, he knew that a baby girl was born and that’s all the information he had. Forthree months. He held onto those papers and for three months him and his parents tried to figure out how to bring me home.
Damon: 22:48 Interesting. So it was him. That was the holdup?
Nicole: 22:52 Yep. He wanted, they wanted to bring me home. Wow. Because they had no information other than a baby girl was born. He had no idea when, that uh he finally conceded and said, you know, I don’t want her to be in foster care anymore. I want her to. go home
Damon: 23:12 Yeah. It must have been further validating then. Right?
Nicole: 23:15 Yeah. I was wanted on both sides, you know, and I’m having one conversation that I did with my birth mother. She even said, you know, I was really immature and he was less mature and had he not filed those papers, I would have taken off to my grandparents house in Pennsylvania, so she was going to keep me as well. That’s great. As a teenager I went through that phase of, you know, why I wanted, you know, so to have that validation, to hear that everyone wanted me, it just was a bad time. You know, that that was, that was pretty impactful. It’s still is for me
Damon: 23:55 right before halloween, 2017, Nicole’s favorite holiday, she was out with her children and her boyfriend buying costumes for the kids. She said normally she would just make the children’s costumes, but last year to life just got away from her on the way back from the shopping trip, her phone rang and it was a Virginia phone number.
Nicole: 24:14 So I looked at my boyfriend and I kind of panicked and I go, I think it’s her. And he was like, where are you going to answer? (laughs) Like, Oh yeah, I should probably do that. So I answered the phone and she is, she’s very timid, you know, you can tell that she was kind of freaking out a little bit. I was freaking out a little bit and I, I wish I would’ve written things down. We talked for about 45 minutes and she was telling me, you know, medical background, I have three brothers on that side. So all in all I grew up an only child, but I’m the oldest of five. And she’s telling me about my siblings and you know, it, it was kind of hard to even remember that conversation.
Damon: 25:00 So you wish you had written things down in that first conversation. Are you still talking to her because you sound like it sounds very past tense?
Nicole: 25:07 No, Um, I, I let her know, like on, on Halloween I wished like right before Halloween I wished her a happy Halloween and she texted me back and sent me pictures of her house because she, they go all out for Halloween. She sent me a picture of the front of the house and you know, wished me happy Halloween back and, and I knew at that point when I spoke to her on the phone and she let me know that she’s going to need time because my siblings didn’t know about me, so she said she’s going to be time and it kind of got a little rocky because I was speaking to her parents and her brother on a weekly basis. I still do and I can request it. I asked them, I said, you know, I know she’s not ready, so if you could, you know, don’t bring me up unless she asks about me.
Nicole: 25:57 But You know, my grandmother got a little bit pushy because she was frustrated that she wasn’t telling my siblings about. So she basically had to write them a strongly worded email saying if you know, if you don’t stop bringing her up, I’m going to cut you off so you know, and I, and I think she’s holding onto a lot of resentment because I believe it was my grandmother’s idea to place me for adoption and then, and then they were told never to speak of it because she was actually a social worker back during the baby scoop era.
Damon: 26:31 Your grandmother was.
Nicole: 26:32 Yes, she was a social worker during the baby scoop era where you told women, you know, just placed her baby for adoption. You’re going to go about your life, you’re going to move on, you know, you’ll forget and then you don’t talk about it to anyone. She was a social worker during that era.
Damon: 26:47 So it sounds like a facilitator of your adoption in terms of probably having like knowledge and resources in order to make it happen efficiently. But now that you’re back, she’s now pressing her own daughter to speak with you and speak with her own kids about it. Wow. Wow. That’s a real 180.
Damon: 27:09 It was only a few weeks after Nicole found everyone that her paternal grandfather unexpectedly passed away. He was gone before she got to meet him.
Nicole: 27:20 So I talked to my biological father and I said, I don’t want to be intrusive but would it be okay if I came to the funeral to paym my respects and he said, absolutely.
Damon: 27:32 So Nicole jumped in her car that Friday night after work drove eight hours from Georgia to Danville, Kentucky arriving at 2:00 AM. The last time Nicole text messaged with her birth mother was right before that trip.
Damon: 27:46 And you texted her before you went to say you were going in, did you? Did she reply?
Nicole: 28:00 I was so nervous that I, I’ve never actually been on a trip by myself and I’ve never been away from my kids for a whole weekend like that, you know? I mean, they were home, but for me it was, it was still very much like, okay, I’m doing this.
Damon: 28:22 Yeah. That’s a brave first separation.
Nicole: 28:23 Yeah and uh, she’s, she responded, she said, I’m so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you and him. Best of uck. Remember that they’re lucky to know you and to have you in their life.
Damon: 28:40 Wow… That was thoughtful
Nicole: 28:40 Yeah. And then when I got back I let her know that I had a good trip and she said, that’s great. Glad to hear that. And that was November eighth and that was the last time I’ve heard from her.
Damon: 28:49 And how are you feeling about the silences?
Nicole: 28:53 It’s maddening. It some days I’m really, really angry about it. Other days I try to be a really empathetic and to think about, you know, if I were in her shoes and just hearing from her family, um, about her personality, her and I are very, very similar and I think looking back at 19 had I had to make that tough decision and her words exactly where I put that in a box and I put that box away. And your birthdays, the only day I allow myself to feel it. I think to survive, I probably would’ve done the same thing.
Damon: 29:37 Yeah, and now the box sitting on the living room table. It’s right out in the open. Yep. And it’s open and it’s just a matter of digging through it to try to figure out how you feel about everything inside and.
Nicole: 29:49 Exactly.
Damon: 29:51 Wow. So as, as you empathize with her, what do you, what do you think about how you would react at this moment? You know, she’s however many decades older than you now, and here you are. What would you, what do you think when you empathize with her?
Nicole: 30:06 After reading the book “The Girls Who Went Away”, um before reading the book, “the girls who went away”, I was pissed. I was absolutely livid and I still kind of swing back and forth from the anger, but I think the anger is coming out because of sadness. Um, and I, I don’t like to feel sad so I revert to anger. But I think for me I with being as spontaneous as I am. I’d have to just rip the bandaid off, but she’s gonna have to process in her own way and you know, she still, you know her, she told me herself that that’s the biggest regret that she’s ever had is, is giving me up. So I think she’s still punishing herself. I think she’s not allowed herself to grieve and all I can do is hope that she’ll forgive herself. That’s the only thing I can do is is to hope and keep the door open.
Damon: 30:59 Nicole said she’s reached out a few times, but she thinks her birth mother has blocked her phone and she doesn’t want to use her work email address to contact her birth mother with such personal matters as their reunion. She also thinks that if her maternal grandfather had been the one to suggest that his daughter should proceed with reunion. Nicole’s mother would have received the suggestion better. However, Nicole seems to relish the silver lining of the relationships that she does have.
Nicole: 31:25 Ya know, The one thing that I’m looking at other of this is I have my brother and my sister on my dad’s side. I have my biological father. I have his ex wife who is absolutely amazing. Um, and you know, it’s been good. Like he, he even included me in the obituary when we went up and just because my sister and I look so much alike. It was funny to see everybody at the, during the service kind of do a double take and look over at me. Like, wait a minute?
Damon: 32:00 Like, wait. I thought there was only one of them. There’s two of them.
Nicole: 32:02 Yeah. Yeah. And it was. Oh, hi. Welcome to the family. There was no. Wow.
Damon: 32:11 And so that was your first time meeting him was at his own parents… at his it his own father’s funeral?
Nicole: 32:19 Yep. Funny enough, because it’s such a small town in Kentucky, there was really only two hotels in the area and we all ended up staying in the same hotel, so when we prepared to me downstairs and you know, the continental breakfast area, but I was such a wreck. I got up at like 7:00 in the morning and they didn’t have a chance to tell my great aunt about me. So she was already downstairs in the kitchen area when I walked downstairs and she wasn’t really paying much attention until she looked at her and she goes, wait a minute, who are you?
Damon: 32:54 Really?
Nicole: 32:56 Yeah. She goes, who are you? And I was like, oh, well I’m so and so’s other daughter. And she goes, who’s your mom?. And then she immediately handed me her phone and just put your number in my phone and add me on facebook
Damon: 33:12 after the services, Nicole’s 15 year old little brother announced he was riding with Nicole. The young man wanted to show her Danville, Kentucky, and all of the places their grandfather used to hang out. He took her everywhere. That was important to the boy when his grandfather was alive. Then Nicole got to visit her grandparents house.
Nicole: 33:32 When we went to the house, I actually got to go to my grandparents’ house to kind of help get the house cleared out. My sister had a box of jewelry and she goes, you know, I’ve already gone through all of it and gotten my favorite pieces out, but I feel like it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t let you get a couple of pieces of grandma’s jewelry too.
Damon: 33:52 Oh, that’s sweet.
Nicole: 33:54 And I literallyi burst into tears and just wrap my arms around her. And I’m like, that’s your grandmother. I had a grandmother, like those are your memories that you have with her, but they’ve immediately… It’s not skipped a beat. It’s like, okay, she’s here. We’ve missed her and here she is.
Damon: 34:13 Wow. How is this experience changed you?
Nicole: 34:20 (chuckles) Probably being able to look at somebody and go, “There’s my tribe” and actually my, my sister was here for her spring break for the last week. Um, and we had a picture of the three of us together and there’s no denying that we’re family and we even sent the picture to her dad and he goes, oh my God, you guys are sisters you’re twins. She was here for a week and it’s just, yeah, you can comfortably sit in silence with someone how it takes a very long time to develop a relationship with somebody that you can just sit in silence together and it’s not awkward? We have that. We both are just sitting on the couch doing nothing and just sitting there and each other’s presence.
Damon: 35:02 That’s amzaing
Nicole: 35:04 Like I said earlier, I grew up a military family, German mom, so it was speak my love language, if that makes sense. They were very vocal about, oh, you know, we love you, we care for you. But I’m a very tactile person and I don’t know if that has to do with the fact that I was in foster care for three months and I don’t know if I had that physical affection that as you know, a baby that I needed, but I’ve always been very physically affectionate and they’re the same way, but it’s. I feel like I found my tribe, these, these are the people that like I fit. I feel like I have found peace within myself because it’s not who am I really? It’s, it’s I am me and I’m who I’m always supposed to have been. I was just put in a different family.
Damon: 35:54 Nicole told me that her maternal grandparents insisted that she be adopted into a mixed family because they didn’t want her to have a trans racial adoption experience where she was not educated in her own background. Nicole is thankful for the life that she lived with her family. As a matter of fact, there are specific things that she doesn’t feel are coincidental about the family. She was placed in. Listen to this list of amazing dates.
Nicole: 36:20 The day that I was born, September 15th, 1986 was the day that my grandfather, my adoptive mom, his father passed away.
Damon: 36:28 Oh really?
Damon: 36:31 mmmhmmm… So I came into this earth the day that he left, um, as well as my birthday is the day before my maternal grandfather’s birthday, my oldest son’s birthday is the same day as would have been. My great grandmother’s birthday is January 15th and my adoptive mother and my biological mother has had the exact same birthday, only 20 years apart.
Damon: 36:59 Dang, that is a lot of birthday coincidences. That’s really surreal.
Nicole: 37:05 And both dads are born in February
Damon: 37:08 This summer Nicole’s planning a few day long trip to Pennsylvania to see her grandparents, a trip to Virginia to see her biological father and West Virginia. To see her siblings. She intends to reach out to her biological mother to see if the woman wants to have coffee with her while they’re in Virginia. Nicole figures, she’ll give her mother the option to walk through the open door, recognizing that if she doesn’t make the offer to her birth mother, she will regret it.
Damon: 37:32 Is it going to be hard for you to be right in her zone if she doesn’t respond?
Nicole: 37:38 I think so. I think so, but it’s one of those things where I have to, I can’t keep beating myself up and my uncle, her brother and his wife, you know, they keep reminding me, you know, stop apologizing for wanting to know her. You know, this is, this is her stuff that she’s going through and has nothing, you know, it’s not your fault that she hasn’t processed it in 31 years. Stop apologizing for wanting to know your biological mother. Yeah, I mean honestly the most frustrating part is I have three siblings that don’t know about me and you know, I, I have, I’ve respected her request to be the one to tell them, but I’m trying to kind of give myself a deadline of if it’s been this long since I’ve reached out and she’s not said anything, you know, when am I going to reach out? Because being able to look up my brother was on facebook you know and see their pictures is frustrating. The joke, my my grandfather and even my uncle, I always joke around about, you know, she always said we couldn’t tell her, tell the boys, but she never said we couldn’t get them ancestry DNA tests.
Nicole: 38:55 That’s the, that’s the joke. And you know, from what I understand, my, my middle brother, um, he’s 21 and he’s in college and he’s always made comments about wanting to do an AncestryDNA test, but you know, college kid, $100 is money for gas and books and all that he has. So he has expressed interest in wanting to do an ancestry DNA test and his father actually lives down in Florida, so he drives through Atlanta frequently. Um, and I’ve been warned that the minute he finds out about me to expect a phone call because that’s just the type of person that he is.
Damon: 39:33 The type of person that you are apparently too, right? (laughs!)
Nicole: 39:36 Yeah. Oh yeah. I have to, I just, I pick up the phone and I do it. Otherwise I’m going to chicken out and then I’m going to put it off
Damon: 39:43 Nicole’s youngest brother on her maternal side is a minor, so she’s definitely not reaching out to him either. She credits her adopted mother for trying to help her hold a connection to her birth family. Her mother enrolled Nicole in dance and interest of her birth mother’s. She kept that baby doll crib, which is lucky because Nicole’s grandmother has a matching crib, Nicole plants to carry her crib to Pennsylvania to reunite it with the companion piece owned by her grandmother, but the family traditions of inclusion have already begun
Nicole: 40:16 for Christmas. Every one of the grandchildren has a letter on the tree. They have a really small Christmas tree that sits on the table and every one of the grandchildren has a letter and they sent me a picture of this past Christmas of them putting the “N” on the tree.
Damon: 40:30 Oh my gosh.
Nicole: 40:32 Yeah. I’m trying not to cry and you know, for around Thanksgiving they sent me an email. You know, your grandmother wants to know if she can send the kids Christmas gifts and she’s so excited to be a great grandmother and you know, the same thing with my biological father. He, I’ll get a text from him and you know, how are my grandchildren doing? Like he’s so excited to be a grandpa.
Damon: 40:56 That’s awesome.
Nicole: 40:58 Yeah. So even with my biological mother not coming around yet, I have this village of love surrounding me and it could have been so much worse. Like my adoptive parents and meeting my half sister this past week was beyond amazing. My Dad cracking up going, you guys even have the same smile laugh, what the heck, you know, (laughs) and you know, my mom giving my sister a big squeeze and tell her, you know, don’t be a stranger, please come back and visit us again. You know, my kids were upset about her leaving because they wanted her to stay. So, you know, there’s so looking forward to seeing them the summer and even my daughter is very shy but she connected to my sister and clung to her. So as much as it hurts that my, my bio mom is still needing time, like I have so much love and so many relationships to develop that, you know, 10 years ago had I found her, her silence would have absolutely devastated me and you know, now it still hurts, but I can process that hurt and if I get angry I can allow myself to be angry and feel that. But how much can one person get right? Like there’s never too much of it.
Damon: 42:22 I asked how Nicole’s adoptive parents were doing with all of this. She told me that her mother is very protective of her as she is of her mother.
Nicole: 42:31 The day that I found everyone and found all of the pictures, she I called her and told her, she came rushing over after work and I was like, I can text message them to you. She goes, no, I’m coming over and, you know, just checking in with my feeling. How are you feeling? Are you okay? And my daughter looking exactly like my biological mother was insane and she just, you know, pointing out the differences. But she is very, you know, be careful, you know, she’s, she’s very worried about my feelings because she knows I take everything to heart so she knows that that little bit of rejection will kind of take me out for a little bit. So once she got to, I think once she actually got to meet my sister and to see how connected we already are, I think she was able to relax a little bit.
Damon: 43:20 And how about your dad? Because it can be really different. I had this in my own reunion where I found my biological mother but didn’t know who my biological father was and I was only still in touch really with my bio, my adopted dad because my mother suffers mental illness, so she wasn’t part of my reunion at all. So I didn’t find, you know, I found the opposing sex parent. So how was your dad with your, with you finding your, your biological father?
Nicole: 43:53 He’s not very vocal. (laughs) Typical retired colonel, you know, for him it’s just like, “hmph, oh cool” and you know, I think when he actually got to see me and my sister together, like that was the first real emotion I saw him. Yeah, he was very nonchalant about it and whatever, which I think is hilarious. But for my mom she’s, she’s more concerned about me not getting my feelings hurt and, and I’m the same way with her. What I noticed know I was reaching out and finding everyone. I was kind of like, mom, you know, this is what’s happening. And sh’d be very quiet. So I pulled a little bit about sharing information with her and would only share bits and pieces that I felt were necessary for her to know. Like my, my grandmother will always asking, how’s your mother doing? You know, she’s very concerned of course. Again, coming from the baby scoop era, you know, she always likes to remind me, you know, you have parents, we’re just, we’re just extended family. And I’m like, you know what, you guys are not getting rid of. Our joke is, you know, I found you and I’m not letting go.
Damon: 45:00 Nicole is biding her time trying to be patient and giving her birth mother the space to come around. She knows it can take a long time for a birth mother to face the past and reveal her long held secret, but she’s not going to wait forever for her birth mother to reveal her existence to her other children
Nicole: 45:18 as an adoptee to you in me. It’s like, okay, you hear that saying blood is thicker than water, but you know, we, we didn’t have that option. It was, you know, family is who I make and you know, my mom’s best friend growing up, that wasn’t my other mom, my other mom. And so now you know, my siblings mother has become other mom and you know, that’s, that’s why we’re actually making the trip in that direction because we could stop in West Virginia first. But for me, that relationship has already been developed because I talked to her all the time. I actually talked to my siblings, mom one I do my bio dad. but you know to me that already feels like home. So I feel like, you know, it’s going to be very emotional visiting my grandparents. So coming back through to West Virginia and you know, landing home, you know, where I’m already feel safe and comfortable, you know, to kind of wind down after all of that is going to be really good.
Damon: 46:19 That sounds amazing. You’ve got a big set of trips and adventures and reunions and it’s going to be emotional. You’re, you’ve got a lot coming your way, but I’m really thankful for you that you’ve gotten all of this. Love this tribe surrounding you, you know, seemingly hugging you all at the same time. It’s really spectacular. And I hope your mom comes around too.
Nicole: 46:42 I do too you know, I’ve, I’ve heard listening to your podcast and listening to Haley Radke’s podcast and sometimes it takes years. I’m, I’m willing to wait the long for her to come around, but you know, I still have that clock ticking going you know, one day, I don’t know when, because of how impulsive I one day I’m gonna contact my brothers.
Damon: 47:03 Yeah, well you’ve probably heard on many of those stories. You know, sometimes you break the trust when you go around, so just trying to have patients and take solace in the fact that you guys have actually been in touch, you’ve talked and there was something there and that positivity is something that actually can evolve over time.
Nicole: 47:22 Yeah. And that’s my biggest thing is why I haven’t reached out to my brothers because I have two sons and my oldest son is incredibly overprotective of me, you know, and so I can, I don’t want it to be a point where, you know, the boys go, no, mom doesn’t like this, we’re not having contact, you know, because that’s how you are with your mom. It’s like, no, protect her at all costs.
Damon: 47:49 That’s right.
Nicole: 47:49 So, so I, you know, I, I expect that. So for me it’s, you know, I’ve respected her wishes but I don’t know how long I’m going to remain a secret. I’m not going to pretend like I don’t exist. I’ve, I’ve finally found them and I’ll give her time, you know, and I’ll give her a respectable amount of time. But the next three, four years, she still hasn’t said anything, you know, I’ll reach out.
Damon: 48:13 Yeah. Yeah. Hold on til it hurts. Right. See what happens at that point. But hopefully she’ll turn around before that time. Right?
Nicole: 48:22 Yeah, I hope so.
Damon: 48:23 All right, Nicole, thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m really glad you got the tribe around. Take care. All the best to you. All right, you
Nicole: 48:31 You too. Bye bye.
Damon: 48:32 Bye Bye.
Damon: 48:36 Hey, it’s me. Nicole’s got a lot of love around her and that’s got to be an incredible feeling. Still not having her birth. Mother’s full acceptance has to be tough. Nicole and I talked a while back, so I emailed her recently to check in asking about her birth mother. She replied, “no update on birth mom, yet I’m still holding out hope, but I’m really looking forward to seeing her parents and brother next month. I’ve been feeling very nervous, but I’m looking forward to seeing my grandmother’s garden. Last week I got the most amazing news. I didn’t talk about it before because I didn’t want to paint the devil on the wall, but Tom, my birth father is officially cancer free. Now. We really have cause to celebrate when I visit in June. Thanks so much for this podcast. It means so much to have those me too. moments when listening to everyone else’s stories.
Damon: 49:30 I’m Damon Davis and I hope you’ll find something in Nicole’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am I really? If you would like to share your adoption journey and your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit who am I really podcast.com/share. You can choose to share your whole story, maintain some privacy about parts of your story, or share completely anonymously. You can find the show at facebook.com/waireally or follow me on twitter @WAIReally. And please, if you like to show, you can subscribe to who am I really on apple podcasts, Google play, stitcher, tune in radio or wherever you get your podcasts. And while you’re there, it would mean so much if you took a moment to share a rating or leave a comment. Those ratings can help others find the podcast too.