Katelyn followed her older adopted sister into rebellion against their adopted mother’s rule. Years later her husband suggested they do DNA tests when she got pregnant. Seeing relationships online she hadn’t considered before, she searched for her birth parents, uncovering family secrets and helping other adoptees in the family tree find theirs. At times, the search left Katelyn very puzzled, even totally dejected. She found her birth mother and sisters happy to meet her, and her birth father in prison.
Katelyn: 00:05 I was never asked about my adoption in any depth it was mentioned, but I always feel like my therapies were like, how do we fix Katelyn now, to make her okay with her environment or how do we fix her so that she can go home and her parents can manage her? It was never like, what’s going on with you? How were you feeling? What can we do to make your life better?
Voices: 00:35 Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am? Who am I?
Damon: 00:47 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 Katelyn. When I spoke to her, she was living in New York City planning a move to northern Virginia. Well, what you’re about to hear is her story of rebellion against her mother’s rule when they lived in Pennsylvania and her eventual investigation into her roots in Florida and South Carolina. At times the search left, Katelyn very puzzled and even totally dejected. After an intensive search, she found her birth mother and sisters and her birth father in prison. I hope you’ll forgive the audio on this episode. This is Katelyn’s journey. The first five years of Katelyn’s life were picture perfect. Her parents had been married for quite a while and struggled with infertility when they decided to adopt through Catholic charities. Katelyn had an older adopted sister, but she wasn’t nearly as curious about adoption as Katelyn. Unfortunately, Katelyn’s parents divorced when she was about six.
Katelyn: 01:59 around the age of eight or so. My mom gave me an envelope. I had my non identifying information in it. I think I was about eight, yeah. My sister adoption was with a lawyer and her mother was a teenager. That’s literally all that we know, but my mother was older, and put in a lot of information apparently. Of course, you never know if that information is true or false. There was something that gave me a sense of what was possible. It was fairly detail.
Damon: 02:33 Do you know why? Why she gave it to you at the age of eight? Was it because you had been that inquisitive up until that point?
Katelyn: 02:40 I think it was to kind of shut me up because she, I would, I would pick her brain and even to this day I still asked her certain questions.
Damon: 02:49 Those pages were full of health information and a lot of background about her maternal side, but very little about her paternal side. One section described her birth mother as light complected and Katelyn’s caseworker told her adopted mother at the time that she and the birth mother resembled one another. Katelyn describes herself as having very curly hair. She says her skin tans very easily and her boyfriend growing up now, husband speculated that perhaps she was Puerto Rican. A best friend even asserted that her birth father was probably black, but Katelyn never knew for herself. She said during those early years, her parents began to fight. Their divorce was imminent, and even as a little girl, she could feel the tension between them. Katelyn, her mother and her sister had moved to central Pennsylvania back then and her maternal grandparents moved there too from the Midwest in order to help their daughter raise Katelyn and her older sister. Her mother studied in night school. So Katelyn spent the evenings at her grandparents and they got very attached to one another,
Katelyn: 03:58 I ended up spending a lot of time with them, I was very outgoing and active and my mother, you know my adopted mother, was under a lot stress and I don’t think she was prepared. She raised two girls on her own, Dad was still in the picture, but he was a pharmacist, he worked a lot, we only saw them every other weekend, so pretty much she had full responsibility for us. Living with my grandparents I developed an extraordinarily close relationship with my grandfather. Probably the only true father figure I had growing up. He’s my best friend. He was a quiet man, but he, one thing he always told me, is you’re not gonna learn anything if you don’t ask questions. My mom tried to raise me as being seen and not heard, and yet my grandpa, my grandfather, and my adopted aunt, my mom’s sister in law, they kind of embraced my personality and my, you know, my, my story, I guess
Damon: 04:54 Katelyn believes her adoptive mother was deeply impacted by her inability to have children naturally. She was raised on a pathway that would make her a good wife and mother. So when she couldn’t have children, she may have felt like she wasn’t good enough. Katelyn says her adoptive mother was very controlling and they’re opposing personalities, made their home life challenging
Katelyn: 05:17 from a very early age. I remember she, she controlled everything. Even down to the toys I played with. Like I had no choice in my own self expression. And I’m someone who, I’m someone who is artistic and musical and I don’t ever shut up. Very active and she’s just the complete opposite of all of that.
Damon: 05:42 So that must have been stressful to be held back in that way.
Katelyn: 05:46 Yeah. And that turned me into a quote unquote problem child because she didn’t understand I guess what I needed and the, my adopted sister, she was quiet and kind of mousy and just kept to herself and likes to read books and you know, she was more like what I guess my mother expected out of a child. We were too and I think it was also hard for my sister growing up because I, I tended to get more attention or at least demand more attention, but yeah, no, it was definitely difficult. And then I was also raised in a really strict church and my mother being a divorced mom, the church kind of did look down on her and I just started seeing really weird things that didn’t feel right to me when I was at a fairly young age. It was just uncomfortable to me. And I remember my grandfather telling her that he felt that she believes that the church was basically causes like a cult and I remember him, you know, kind of just having her, there was not a good thing for us young kids to kind of be around that it was too intense. I kind of, I’ve, I’ve suffered from some pretty severe anxiety as of late and now reflecting back now I do realize that I had some pretty major anxiety.
Damon: 07:03 A lot of her anxiety stems from her mother
Katelyn: 07:05 threatening if I didn’t behave that I was going to burn in hell and to get my heart right with the Lord because if God comes back, I’m going to be left here on earth alone. A young child like, just horrible things, horrible things.
Damon: 07:18 Now, as a mother herself, she finds that she’s lost in her ability to guide her son spiritually to underscore how traumatic her young life was with religion. Katelyn shared that her mother used to read the book of revelations to her at bedtime. I’m not a spiritual person myself, so I took a few moments to read a little bit about it for myself to understand what that experience might be like for a child. I learned that revelation speaks of apocalypse, eternal hell and false prophets being cast into a lake of fire
Katelyn: 07:51 like you might as well put on a horror movie for a little kid.
Damon: 07:56 Kateyln’s older sister really rebelled when she became a teenager hanging out with boys and doing drugs. Her antics made Katelyn closer to her mother because her older sister was out of the house, leaving her mother less stressed in the house. They went antiquing and horseback riding together, bonding with one another, but as Kateyln grew up, her mother tried to hold her back, attempting to preserve her as a little girl. She tried to shelter Katelyn, never talking to her about boys. Then she rebelled in her teen years, too.
Katelyn: 08:30 Freshman Year of high school I moved out of her house.
Damon: 08:33 Wow. That’s early.
Katelyn: 08:36 Yeah I was young. My sister was actually in placement, you know, she had to go live in like a group home due to criminal things… underaged drinking, things like that. We grew up in a small town, there’s not much to do. So when you’re a teenager and you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd, you’re probably gonna get in trouble. So I also followed that path. I was getting in trouble and I was institutionalized twice as a teenager.
Damon: 09:03 Institutionalized how?
Katelyn: 09:05 um, I got, I got, I got some underage drinking charges in my freshman year of high school. I did get caught with marijuana, I got put on probation. Yeah, then what put me into like a group home or juvenile detention is, um, I got in an argument with my father because the thing was my adopted father and he never really intervened. Even back when he was still married to my mom would never argue about anything. He would never say what he thought was best for us. He kinda just went along with everything, until things came to a head, he was very well, okay, whatever, you know, whatever you girls want to do, there was never really any structure or guidance or fathering. It was like, yes, he’s these are my kids and I’m financially responsible for them, but that was pretty much the extent of it,
Damon: 09:56 so he and your mother were complete opposites in terms of their parenting style, she was a controller, and he was completely open and just whatever you say is fine with me. Katelyn’s adopted dad is also older than her mother, so he was more of a hippie and her adoptive mother grew up pretty conservative. Further painting the picture of how opposite her parents are. She revealed that her father is a nudist and an atheist, whereas her mother is a pentecostal evangelical, polar opposites. Katelyn said it was hard to grow up in such diametrically opposed households. It required managing endless boundaries in her mother’s house. Then complete freedom every other weekend in her father’s house. In her words, they couldn’t get an inch with her mother, but they could get a whole football field with their father. The inconsistent structure was very confusing for her, especially when her rebellious teen years began. So Katelyn is feeling out of control in high school and it was tough for her as an experiential learner to be bored to death by classes like ninth grade history. She skipped classes blatantly telling her history teacher she wasn’t attending when he asked, she said she had no goals in life and two underage drinking charges against her. Katelyn was on probation until she got into an argument at her dad’s house.
Katelyn: 11:18 What tipped it over from being just being put on probation, was I was at my dads house and I don’t remember what we were arguing about, but I was out of control or something, you know, and I went out in our backyard and I was on the phone with my now husband, at the time and I was like, I don’t wont to live here anymore. I don’t know where Ima go. I can’t go to my mom’s house. I hate her. I hate my dad. I hate my stepmom. I hate everybody. I just don’t want to be here right now. And I couldn’t go to his house. So, my probation officer got on the phone with me and I remember the police officer coming out and asking me, do you want to stay here tonight because your only other option is to go to, there was a kid shelter. And I said, yeah, take me there because I don’t want to be here. So I basically Volunteered myself to be taken away. So I spent two nights in the shelter,
Damon: 12:09 she saw a girl in the shelter that she didn’t care for too much, so she decided she actually didn’t want to be there, but once you’re in residence with a facility of that sort, you can’t just leave, you have to proceed through proper channels to return home. Her exit was a violation, so she was then considered a runaway. A police officer who knew her family happened to pick her up, returned her to the shelter, but he confiscated her shoes.
Katelyn: 12:36 I left again in my bare feet and just tried to get a ride out to my house, like I just didn’t want to be there. Didn’t know where I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be at either of my parents house. I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to be controlled. I didn’t want anyone. Not even, not even. It’s not that I didn’t want anyone to tell me what to do. I just didn’t want to be in any of the environments that apparently I was only legally allowed to be in. Like I just wanted to get the hell out of there. After the second time I left, they took me out to the actual detention center, like lock up.
Damon: 13:14 Katelyn’s probation officer knew the whole situation. Of course she recognized Katelyn’s intelligence, but wondered what to do with her. Her PO found a great group home, 90 minutes from her hometown. They were in adoption and foster agency with a group home on campus. It was a more relaxed atmosphere, focused on therapy over discipline
Katelyn: 13:37 and I really started getting into counseling and therapy and things like that, but the one thing that stuck out to me now that I think about it is I was never asked about my adoption in any depth it was mentioned, but I always feel like my therapies were like, how do we fix Katelyn, now to make her okay with her environment or how do we fix her so that she can go home and her parents can manage her. It was never like, what’s going on with you? How are you feeling? What can we do to make your life better? It was like let’s put a bandaid on that and then we’ll send you home.
Damon: 14:11 Katelyn was a group leader, facilitating group meetings and giving motivational speeches to tamp down the other girls, rebellious outbursts, her leadership earned her, more of the highest privileges. She was in a place with structure, but she was allowed to be herself. They were embraced as individuals and the focus was on working on themselves. Katelyn is still in touch with some of the women from the program, today. As we talked, Katelyn mentioned that some of the other girls also didn’t know their parents. They were in jail. The girls had been in foster care and
Katelyn: 14:46 another friend of mine, her brothers were either adopted out or put in foster care, so she had these two little brothers but never had contact with them. And I remember thinking that was so sad because that’s not right. Those are your brothers. That’s not right that you can’t. You guys are kids. Like, what did you do that you can’t see? Because they weren’t allowed to see each other, which I didn’t understand. Um, you know, they share the same mother and to me they weren’t, you know, having no contact is ridiculous. One of the, one of the things in my non identifying information is that I have a half biological sister who’s six years older than me. She was about six years old at the time of my birth. And I always remember thinking about her and I was like, she was six. She would have had to have known her mom was pregnant. She has to know about me, you know, I always kind of held onto that, that, you know, not only did I have this information about my birth mother, but like I have a sister. There is another person out there that shares this maternal connection with me and I always used to, when I would talk about my adoption, I’d always include her as a detail. And. I don’t know who she is but I have a sister. You know, I didn’t know who she was until recently. So.
Damon: 16:02 that’s really interesting, that you felt that deep connection with her that you always wanted to mention her.
Katelyn: 16:07 Yeah. Um, and my birth mom now also says that, you know, she, because I was always a presence in her life. She, I don’t think he really understood the whole thing but she knew that, you know, our mom was having a baby and that the baby couldn’t come home. But she, didn’t, you know from an early age, I, I’ve talked to her about it and she doesn’t remember a lot around that time other than like mom couldn’t bring the baby home. But again she’s always known about me.
Damon: 16:34 When Katelyn turns 19 years old, she signed up with the Florida adoption reunion registry, but nothing happened. When she and her husband got pregnant, his curiosity for all things medical kicked in and he wanted to learn more about his genetic contribution to their son. They decided they would both take dna tests using 23 and me in the spring of 2015. Their results were returned and of course they revealed cousin matches for Katelyn.
Katelyn: 17:05 And I had a couple of second to fourth cousin matches and it immediately clicked to me like, Wait, I’m actually related to these people. Somewhere down the line. This person and I have someone in common.
Damon: 17:19 She started messaging her paternal cousins, Kimberly and Julia. Kimberly didn’t know who her own birth father was, but it was clear they were related on her paternal side. So kimberly couldn’t help. When she connected with Julia. Katelyn learned that she was adopted too, not in reunion, and therefore she couldn’t help. Katelyn began to wonder if she came from a long line of adopted people. Next, Katelyn’s cousin Bernice reached out to her to try to learn more her own European heritage as an African American woman. Bernice was helpful in explaining DNA matching to Katelyn, who was a novice at the time she obtained her results. Katelyn moved to jet match where she connected with her cousin Karen. Her closest match, Karen looped in her own father who knew a lot about the family’s history, leading her to more family tree information on the Russell family tree. She had so much research to do. It took her months. Bernice and Katelyn finally trace themselves back to Orangeburg, South Carolina. We’re one of their distant grandfathers with the last name Russell had 16 children, approximately 96 grandchildren and therefore hundreds of descendants. Katelyn knew she had to find a link back to someone who might have moved to Florida where she was born, in her distant past.
Katelyn: 18:41 Actually went to the national archives and did some research on Levi Russel and traced down. She finally found one of Levi’s kids Karen Russell. Had three children that actually left South Carolina and moved to Polk County, Florida, which is where I was born. And, it was far enough back that it was very possible that I came from one of those three. I spent probably three or four months there, tracking down every single descendant of Inez and Edward Russell, I tracked down so many people.
Damon: 19:20 She finally got connected to her cousin Margaret, who also didn’t know who her birth father was and has multiple siblings that her mother placed in adoption. Margaret did a DNA test to try to verify their tie to one another and the group of three people, Katelyn discovered, had moved to Florida. In July 2016, Margaret got her test results and Katelyn was devastated.
Katelyn: 19:45 I actually ended up in the hospital that night for a panic attack. Because she showed 54 standard mark. And the other three that I had contacted, didn’t know anything. I’m thinking we are back to square one here, I’m just devastated. For an hour I couldn’t breathe. I was visiting my adopted mom at the time. And they were both aware, both of my parents were aware that I was searching, and I kept them updated. I think she understood, I think she kind of, knowing how much I had emotionally invested in to this and the time and then to get this devastating result, um, that, you know, we weren’t as close as we thought, it was a kick in the gut. Margaret was crying because she thought maybe I was one of the children of one of the siblings that were lost, you know, we thought there was some type of connection there.
Damon: 20:36 Katelyn was completely discouraged. She had invested so much researching this one line of her family that yielded no results. A month later, Katelyn received an ancestry DNA test from Margaret as a gift because she didn’t know what else to do for Katelyn except offer her another way to continue searching. In mid September 2016, she got her DNA test results. What she found was an open tree profile for a man named Jerry, who was in his seventies, which seemed odd her prior trees had been so expansive, though she learned it wasn’t uncommon for cousins to have huge age gaps between them. Katelyn began searching the artifacts in his profile of relatives.
Katelyn: 21:20 And I looked at one of his aunts photos and it was of her when she was a little girl and my heart stopped. Because I saw my eyes, I saw the face I had when I was a teenager, in that photo.
Damon: 21:34 Katelyn learns that her birth father, like others in her family tree, didn’t know who his father was, either. She called it an NPE, a non paternal event, which was a term I hadn’t heard before.
Katelyn: 21:49 My dad is a NPE. He never knew who his dad was growing up, his dad never claimed him and his dad was the connection to that Russel side.
Damon: 21:58 Katelyn messaged Jerry to try to learn more about their shared connections. Her non identifying information told her that her grandparents had some specific ailments, one causing her grandmother to be confined to a wheelchair and she knew their causes of death, but she was never able to match those details up with anyone on any family tree. Turning to her supporters in the facebook group, random acts of genealogical kindness, she requested assistance in locating a death certificate for her grandmother. Someone found the death certificate for a woman they thought was Katelyn’s distant relative.
Katelyn: 22:34 I knew that if this was indeed my great grandmother that either one of her sonsof her son in law had to have died of cancer in their forties. The same person found a death certificate for her son in law and he died of lung cancer at the age of 47 and I remember thinking to myself, 45 and 47, and I was like does two years make a difference, is this the same person. And she was like, that’s your grandfather. And I remember just I, my son was in his room and I was standing out in the kitchen and I just started like laugh crying I was like cry laughing and he’s like, no no you’re okay, And I’m like, I’m soo happy!
Damon: 23:18 The next step was to try to find that man. Her supposedly grandfather’s children, Katelyn knew she had aunts, her birth mother’s sisters. She began searching for the siblings on facebook. Knowing one of her aunts had passed away, the search for her birth mother was narrowed to only two women.
Katelyn: 23:35 Beth and Kimberly. And one of them was like complected but I was dark like the other one. And you know, over time people change their looks. I really am like, it was not a dead giveaway who would be the mother. It was not like this is, you know, that’s obviously my mom, like I had no idea. And then also they’re so intertwined on facebook and their children were on their facebook. I couldn’t really sort out whose kids were, whose
Damon: 24:00 she reaches out to her cousin Jason introducing herself as either a half sibling or a cousin. Katelyn sent the details of her non-ID. She prepared herself for the worst as Jason reached out to his aunt Kim. But the waiting game wreaked havoc on Katelyn’s emotions.
Katelyn: 24:19 My emotions were so high, I could not function. I was a horrible mother that week, I exhausted my husband, I don’t think I cooked dinner. I was a mess.
Damon: 24:28 Jason got busy and hadn’t contacted his aunt. So when Katelyn messaged him a week later to check in, he apologized and stopped everything to go and call his aunt Kim.
Katelyn: 24:50 15 minutes probably passed by and he sent me a message on facebook and he said, Call me right now, your mom wants to talk to you. You’re real name is Julie. And he go, does it have to be at 9 oclock as night when I was trying to put my son to bed. I’m hysterical, my kids feeding off my energy. My husband is busy doing homework at the time. It was a mess it was a complete mess. People try to imagine how these things are going to turn out and like, nope, it happened all of a suddin. Like I wasn’t alone, I didn’t have time to prepare for this, and I’m like whatt?
Damon: 25:15 Of course it was 9:00 at night and as life would have it, her son just would not go to bed so she could speak with her birth mother. Late that night, Katelyn got her mom on the phone.
Katelyn: 25:29 Oh, this’ll be good. Like if I had to make that decision, I never kept a secret and kept quiet and maybe she didn’t have to keep us in the back of my mind. It’ll be exactly like me, but she actually talks more than me. She’s energetic and outgoing and nervous and frantic sometimes. She’s wonderful. So anyway, we started talking and he loves you. I’ve always loved you. I’ve hoped and prayed this day. Notice she was so excited. I talked to her now husband, and he’s like, your Mama has talked about you like, you know, we’ve been waiting for this. I’m like, your sister’s on Friday, Christine. My older sister, she’s going to be so excited. You know? I started getting facebook friend requests and messages from people and just it was, it blew up.
Katelyn: 27:16 Caitlin got a moment to ask about her birth father. Her mother said,
Katelyn: 27:21 yeah, that’s something I really want you to talk to your uncle Ernest. She’s like, I don’t want to paint your dad a bad light because I only memories I have of him dating him. We’re all good. Up until I told them I was pregnant with you and you know, she basically told me that she told him she was pregnant and he basically left the room. He was, they were at his mom’s house at the time and he just up and left a couple of weeks later. He had a girlfriend, he wouldn’t talk to. My mom, wouldn’t have a conversation with her about it. She, you know, she talked to his brother and my uncle Ernest and it was just like, I don’t know what to do. Like she was already a single mom of six year olds and here she is 22 pregnant again and you know, this man that she loved and thought things were going well with just straight up and peeked out.
Katelyn: 28:11 That’s not even saying anything. There was no closure. There was no. Okay. Yeah, I’ll give it to that for adoption. There was nothing. There was no communication and there was actually a guy that took an interest in her while she was pregnant with me and he was going to try to convince her to keep, keep me and he would raise me. I’ve spoken with him. I’m like, Hey, I’m not baby. You know, that was in stomach back when these. Yeah, but she just, she wouldn’t have felt right doing that because it would’ve been, it would’ve been good. And you know, now that I know more about my dad’s history, he didn’t grow up knowing his father and his mom that raised him. It was a very abusive home. His mother actually lost her leg due to an accident that her husband, cause he, I mean she lost her leg because he basically ran her over with a truck, alcoholism, abuse, sexual abuse.
Katelyn: 29:08 It hasn’t been talked about, but my uncle, he was a big 300 pound, big burly there man. And like he broke down in tears when I would ask the questions. It was just too painful for him. Um, he loves my dad, his half brother, but my dad is actually in jail for life. You will not be getting out due to sexual offenses on children. Um, and of course I did start corresponding with him and he claims my mom never told him and he’s so excited and you know, he loves me and that he’s such a good dad to my other two siblings who, one of them actually does not know who he is. Her father, she’s only 13. Um, I’m friends with her on facebook and I can’t, I’m so frustrated because the child in me wants to be like, I’m your sister. We share a father that’d be about me, is like I would probably screw this up if I told her and then I have another sister who’s 21 or 22 that I think thought she was an only child and she’s the only one who ever really had any contact with her dad.
Katelyn: 30:18 But again, he was out of her life by the time she was like four or something. It’s just, it’s, it’s, it’s very bittersweet. And like, again to extremes, um, you know, my brother’s life hasn’t been easy, but again, she is a loving mother and has tried her best to take care of, you know, my, my three sisters and she takes care of her grandkids and you know, she’s in a loving relationship and she’s finally, I think, found some peace in her life. Whereas my dad, he’s just shredded everything he’s ever touched and that’s been a pattern of behavior since he was a teenager. I’ve come to the understanding and he’s never told me straight out. I’d actually been stopped. I’ve stopped contact with them just because I’m at a point right now with him that I don’t know how to get closure on that and until I can figure out what that looks like and what that is, I can’t put myself through that because he’s not honest with me. And he, he tries to manipulate, you know, the things that he says he put himself in a good light. When I know the truth,
Katelyn: 31:24 Caitlin says she’s done her research on her birth father, spoken to witnesses in cases against him, and she won’t be influenced by his charm offensive into misunderstanding his true character. She’s acknowledged that he was put into a terrible situation from an early age.
Katelyn: 31:40 I know that he was not put in a nurturing environment. He was lied to about who his father was, his stepfather, you know the man that raised him with a decent towards him because he was darker than the rest of the blatantly obvious that his father was dying father and he basically tortured for that. It’s just sad. He didn’t have a chance. He didn’t have a chance from an early age. I don’t think he was ever shown love and I think the one time in his life that he did feel any type of law that scared the shit out of him and he ran the opposite direction. And by doing that it affected my life. It affected my mother’s life, and every time that did happen, it affects, infects both of my younger sisters live too. It affects his grandchildren. Three grandchildren that he’s never met and never will meet because he can’t. It’s weird to me because like things are so positive on one side and then like, yeah, there’s a tragedy and loss and you no closure on this other side.
Katelyn: 32:37 Caitlin said one good thing that came out of her reunion was her ability to finally find links into the Russell side of the family tree. While her birth mother was dating her birth father, he finally figured out who his own birth father was.
Katelyn: 32:50 This is funny because my, my grandfather’s surname is Russell, my father’s mother’s name, my grandmother’s name. I’m a fossil Russell and they were neighbors and they had an affair and my father was conceived and my grandfather did say something along the lines of he never said anything about it because he was afraid for my grandmother’s life, like she would have either been killed or beat up like that stuff. What happened to her if it was ever said that my father was not my, my grandmother’s husband child. It was blatantly obvious just looking at him, but it was never talked about and God forbid it was sad because then it would make it real.
Katelyn: 33:33 The madness with those family members was one of the main reasons her birth mother placed Caitlin for adoption, given their history of violent behavior. Her Birth Mother didn’t want her birth father nor any of his relatives trying to take custody of her lawfully or forcefully. Caitlin pointed out an odd irony that her birth father was in reunion with his own birth father this senior year that she was given up for adoption, has an infant. Naturally. I wanted to go back and hear more about her birth mother. I asked Caitlin to tell me what things were like leading into their first meeting. She said they talked for a few hours during that first phone conversation
Katelyn: 34:14 and we were texting back and forth constantly and she’s like, I just have to see because you know, she’s been craving at the time it was 28 years. She’s like, I just need to touch you. I told you, I just, you know, and this isn’t going to feel about that.
Katelyn: 34:30 Caitlin’s adopted, father was retired down in Florida, so she got herself a cheap flight on a Friday. He picked her up at the airport and she spent the night at his place. She felt like she wanted to vomit. She figures she probably got one hour of sleep and she was generally a nervous wreck.
Katelyn: 34:48 My Dad picked me up. I threw up like a million times. I stayed the night with him, didn’t sleep. I think I got maybe an hour of sleep and then he left me, you know, my dad, my dad, his dad was really supportive of that. My adopted mom didn’t talk to me for a month after I found them, but isn’t she understands that it is something she’s not getting replaced. We have a lot to work on it, our relationship, but I have lots of work on him in my relationship with my bio’s too, so it was like three weeks after I found my birth mother was able to get the money for a ticket and fly down there and I drove myself over to her house, which is only like 10 minutes from my adoptive dad’s house up on the way over there. I did record it though because I’ve watched so many adoption reunion videos.
Katelyn: 35:29 I wanted one, I want one. So he was recording and Scott of the car and just gave me the biggest hug. Biggest. It wasn’t awkward. I already knew what she looked like obviously. And I talked to her and what she sounded like, but to actually see her five minutes after we met, we were sitting down and she drinks more coffee than I do. I love coffee, but she drinks. She lives off coffee. Um, we were talking and there’s definitely a resemblance is. But she was talking and I stopped her ms dot sentences. Like, oh my God. I was like, you have my. We have the same tooth on the bottom, it’s like a third over. It’s crooked, it’s awesome at the same exact angle, and she looked at my. Now she’s like, oh my God.
Katelyn: 36:15 Of course. That started a full body scan of hands, elbows, legs and feet. They have the same bone structure, but Kaitlyn’s darker like her birth father who was about one quarter African American, Caitlin said, she’s also realized that her biological sister, Denise’s daughter, looks like a twin to her own son. Even Caitlin’s mother-in-law admits her own grandson, looks like Katelyn’s biological family, but Caitlin is a little disappointed that she doesn’t look quite like anyone at the time of their reunion. Caitlin was living in New York and the second time she met her birth mother was up north at Caitlin’s home.
Katelyn: 36:53 Two thousand 17. She came to visit me for the weekend. She’d never been to New York, so that was exciting, you know, and she hit it off with my husband. My husband got to meter. This is the first time my met her and was like, they never knew that each other didn’t exist. Like they hit it off. Perfect. My son’s very, you know, outgoing. Anyway, so he was like, hey man, all your homies, mom, like, welcome to my house. Let’s be friends
Katelyn: 37:18 for their third visit. Caitlin drove down to Florida, but she timed it so that she could attend the Russell family reunion in South Carolina. She talked to so many people whom she had researched and shared how everyone was related.
Katelyn: 37:32 I got to, me and my grandfather, the original person I had to research Florida to meet Margret. I hadn’t met Margaret. Yeah, and Margaret plays such an important role. I ended up helping her find her birth father. We’ve found one of her last sibling, you know, there’s still progress in that, but I’ve not only have. I found my answers that I found fulfillment in helping other people
Katelyn: 37:58 win the long drive down the east coast was over. Caitlin was in Florida at her birth mother’s house. She spent a week with her relatives and things went really well, but she said it was really hard to end that third visit.
Katelyn: 38:14 I was driving home and I was almost back up to my mother in law’s house and I had to go to the hospital for another panic attack. I just, for some reason I felt so comfortable being there for a week and I saw all my nieces and nephews and you know, she’s wonderful. Edison had a blast and they’re like, I don’t know what it was, but I just was circle and I couldn’t. I had to pull a car over is awful. And then I, I, I told, you know, my birth mom, she also has panic attacks and anxiety and depression and you know, we have some in the same day. Like I said, she’s exactly like me. I was right. And um, you know, I was open and honest with her and I said, I’m like, I’m in a really bad spot right now. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do.
Katelyn: 39:03 I don’t know what this means. I don’t know where to go from this. So I was struggling with stuff that know with my dad. It was just so much, so much and I didn’t want to leave. Actually ended up staying an extra day there and then finally forced myself to get in the car and leave and it’s awful, horrible. So it always felt like someone died even though are still very alive and well in Florida. It was just like one of the umbilical cord apart again. Horrible. Um, but they took a break and, you know, living in New York City at the time I was able to find a therapist that specialized in adult adoptees and I started paying her and talking to her and unfortunately we moved again. So, you know, I only got a couple of months sessions with her, but um, it’s something I’m definitely going to pursue. I feel like I never really took care of myself mentally or emotionally. I, it was always slapping a bandaid on it, get into the next point in life. But this is something that I need to deal with and understand. And even though things are great with my mother, they, you know, we both weren’t contacted wanting to that. But because she’s in Florida and I lived here, it’s like dangling a carrot or a bone.
Katelyn: 40:15 The need for contact. And physically seeing each other is there, but yet you can’t facilitate that and texts and phone calls aren’t good enough. She feels bad because she complains about it and I feel bad because I can’t be closer and what we are talking about it and we’re honest about how we feel and I think that has been the best thing
Katelyn: 40:41 really challenging and you know, you find somebody and you want to meet them and you want to talk to him if you want to think about them all the time, want be in touch and distance. Making it so hard is a really, really tough. But thankfully you’re moving to Virginia, so at some point, so
Katelyn: 40:59 three hours, three hours closer. But my husband got a job so I can get a plane ticket.
Katelyn: 41:06 Wow. This has been really amazing. I’m really glad for you that you were able to track down your biological mother. I mean that path that you took sounds like it was so tedious, but you sound like you’re a real strong researcher based on your ability to target those people. That’s unreal. I’m sorry too though, that you’re not able to sort of create a bond with your biological father. I mean his incarceration. Yeah.
Katelyn: 41:36 You know, I just want him to be responsible for the things that he’s done that that’s, that’s I think what closure would be for me is him owning up to everything that he has done and how it affected everybody. I hear stuff all I probably could get from him, so.
Katelyn: 41:52 Okay. Caitlin, I gotta go take care. Thank you so much for sharing your stories. Thank you. Good to hear from you. Bye. All the best. Bye. Hey, it’s me, Caitlin. Search to find her birth family had some of those disappointing ups and downs. So many of us experience. We Invest Heavily in a research angle that we hope will yield results only to find a dead end. Thankfully she was able to track down and open ancestry family tree and her mother’s and odds profiles on facebook. It was really cute to hear that she was having such a great time connecting with her birth family that she didn’t want to leave Florida. I was sorry to hear that our birth father was incarcerated and it’s sad to think that the closer she wants him taking ownership of his actions and they’re cascading impacts is unlikely to happen still.
Katelyn: 42:44 She figured out who he is and sometimes that’s all we get from a search. I’m Damon Davis and I hope you’ll find something in Katelyn’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/Woai. Really or follow me on twitter at w a I really and please, if you’d like to show, you can subscribe to who am I really on apple podcasts, Google play, stitcher radio, tune in radio or wherever you get your podcasts and while you’re there it would mean so much to me. If you would take a moment to share a rating or leave a comment, those ratings can help others find the podcast too.
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