Hey, it’s Damon and I’m launching a new podcast series called “Who Am I Really?”
I’m devoting this program dedicated to helping people placed into adoption to explore their own emotions, desires, and questions about reuniting with their biological family by asking others like us to tell their own true stories.
You’re probably asking yourself who I am and why I launched this podcast? First, let me say I grew up in a very loving home with my adopted mother Veronica supported, by my adopted father Willie. They’re just “Mom” & “Dad” to me and I love them dearly for everything they did, large and small that gave me the opportunities to be the man I am today!
But I also had the incredibly good fortune to be reunited with my biological mother in 2009. Our story is amazing to me because our reunification unfolded in a way that I never could have predicted.
A few things happened to me that really sparked my desire to search. One of the first influences happened during a visit with my in-laws in Baltimore, MD. My wife’s distant aunt welcomed us into her home one day. This lovely elderly woman opened the door to greet us, toting her small wheeled oxygen tank behind her. As we sat at in her living room she spread pictures, newspaper clippings, and letters on the coffee table. She told stories about their family’s history in a way that only she could recount them as what I viewed as the unofficial family historian.
But that experience made me realize that one day she would no longer be with us, and if another person tried to spread the same family historical artifacts in the same way, they could not tell the family’s story the way she had. It dawned on me that when she passed away the ability to weave the family history that she knew would be lost, and I should act quickly if I didn’t want the same to happen in biological family.
When I decided to launch the search, my social worker in Baltimore shared something from her experience that I hadn’t thought about before — she said that women tend to search for their family of origin sooner than men do, and that men search most often after they had their own children. That was me…
A short time after my wife gave birth our son, I was at home alone with him, gazing on him with sheer amazement at this little dude we had created. He lay there on his back, kicked his little legs, waved his arms, and stared up at me. In that moment, by ourselves, I whispered to Seth with tears in my eyes, “You’re the first blood relative I have EVER known”.
As I talk to more and more people about their stories of searching and discovery I’ve learned so much about each individual, and about the commonalities between many of us adoptees.
We have basic questions about how we came to be:
“What happened with my biological mother and father when I was conceived?”
“Why couldn’t they take care of me themselves when I was born?”
“What was the story of my adoption?”
We try to figure it out for ourselves by imagining all kinds of scenarios for why our parents made the choice to place us into adoption. But it’s almost impossible to form a complete picture about yourself if you don’t know you’re own personal history— the puzzle has too many missing pieces.
I’ve learned that some adoptees live with significant doubts about how much they were truly accepted by their adopted parents. Some question their place in their family among biological siblings, multiple adoptees, interracial families, or a mix of religious beliefs. Others live well adjusted lives of doting parental love, but still feel a longing to understand their biological past, like I did.
Whether a child grows up well adjusted in a loving family or was reared in a less favorable home, they will likely have questions about their biological origin and those questions can vary widely:
“Who do I look like?”
“What health conditions should I be aware of?”
“Do I have siblings I don’t now about?”
Many times that curiosity is too much to contain, the desire for deeper understanding is too strong, and we think we really should look for some answers. More often than you might think, fear sets in and the questions turn to doubt that might delay a person’s search for their family of origin for years. Those doubts are expressed in concerns that might sound like “I’ve had a great life, why would I expose myself to a potentially painful truth?”;
“What if they still don’t want me?”; or “What if whomever I find didn’t even know I exist?”
All of those emotions can be difficult to overcome. But in some definitive moment, we decide we have the strength to face whatever the truth may be and we begin the search for answers…and hope for the best. We feel like knowing a little something must be better than knowing nothing at all?
The journey to find just one person with a biological relation can take many forms, take a very long time, and have varying results. Adoptees go online and type the facts they know about themselves into search engines, scour social media for clues, add our names to reunification registries, and hope for evidence of links to biological relatives through DNA tests.
News of a potential clue is incredibly exciting! We ask ourselves, “Could this really be someone that I’m related too?”, examining the evidence from different perspectives repeatedly in order to affirm or dismiss it’s potential to bring us one step closer.
“Why would you try to dismiss a clue that seem to be leading to your truth”, you ask?
Because we are trying to protect ourselves from heartbreak if it’s a false lead. But eventually many people who search make some kind of connection with varying success. Some adoptees are welcomed “home” to their family of origin with open arms by relatives that have longed for the day their child would return.
Other biological family members may feel that the chapter of their life, where adoption plans were made for the child’s future, is closed and they aren’t receptive to adoptees stepping forward to identify themselves. And others begin their search, or reach success, just a little too late to connect with biological family members that have passed on.
Sometimes we reach out because we just want someone to know that we’re ok, to thank someone for the chance to live, or to feel some kind of connection to the people who are the very reason that we’re here today.
At the end of my search, my wonderful social worker Lee called me to read my biological mother’s letter to me that she had received.
She opened by introducing herself to me and I finally learned my biological mother’s name, Ann Sullivan. Incredibly coincidentally, the letter told me that the very next day was Ann’s birthday! I spoke to Ann by phone that same night where I learned so much about where she had been and how she was feeling about us.
Amazingly I learned that we shared the same metro station during our morning commute to work and her building was only two blocks from mine in Washington, DC. Knowing that our offices were so close, I decided to surprise her at her office on her birthday the next day for what she said was the best birthday gift ever!
As I got to know her more I was astonished to learn that we had lived our lives on parallel tracks. For example, in an incredible coincidence we both attended what is now Hampton University, it turns out that school runs in the family! I was fascinated to learn that while I was growing up in Columbia, Maryland she was living right down the road in Laurel, a short 15 minutes from one another.
I’ll tell the full story another time because the details and range of emotions are extraordinary and too much for my time with you now. But I will say this: The journey to locate and connect with biological family members can be an emotional roller coaster with ups and downs, jarring twists, and unexpected turns.
So this podcast is intended to do two things:
First to my fellow adoptees my hope is that the stories told here will help you explore your own feelings about adoption, accept your desire to try to understand your own personal history, and decide for yourself whether a search to connect with biological relatives is right for you. For example, it will help you understand how others have dealt with issues related to protecting the feelings of their adopted families who may be supportive of your search, or question your motives and present challenges.
And for for those who are not adoptees, this podcast will help you understand some of what is in the minds of your friends, family members, or others who are adopted, but you didn’t know if you should ask some of the questions that will be answered here.
The stories will make you smile or bring you to tears, but they’re all true as told by the people who lived them. In each one, I hope you’ll find something 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’d like to share your story of searching for and connecting with biological family members go online toWhoAmIReallypodcast.com/share and tell me just a little about your journey.
If you’re not quite ready to be on the show, but you just wanna chat and share experiences, that’s ok too.
Off Mic: One of the interesting things about interviewing people is sometimes they say the most interesting things when the microphones aren’t even recording! In future blogs you’ll get to read some of those “Off Mic” moments where my guest(s) shared something that intrigued me or that I think you’ll be interested in. Look for the Off Mic section in the future blog posts.