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034 – All My Life I Knew I Would Be Tested

Adam struggled with his adoption as a child. He didn’t realize how much it was impacting him until he experienced some intense emotions while studying abroad. That interaction was a huge trigger for his search. He’s one of many adoptees who struggled to retrieve their own information from the state of New York. In Adam’s journey, you’ll hear a 16-year struggle through his attempts at reunion while trying to overcome debilitating anxiety. You’ll hear his challenges navigating legal processes for a reunion, the rejection from his birth mother, and his change of heart about his birth father. 

The post 034 – All My Life I Knew I Would Be Tested appeared first on Who Am I…Really? Podcast.

Adam (00:04):

This entire period was also a test for me and growing up I always knew there’s going to be a moment in my life where I was going to be tested, where it was either going to be, I was going to sink or I was going to swim and pass with flying colors and this was my test.

Voices (00:26):

Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Damon (00:37):

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 Adam. He called me from New Jersey, but he says he remembers the drive his parents made from Texas to New Jersey when he was three years old. He struggled with his adoption as a child, but he didn’t realize that it was impacting him as deeply as it was until he experienced some intense emotions while studying abroad. That interaction was a huge trigger for his search, but he’s one of many adoptees who struggled to retrieve their own information from the state of New York. In Adam’s story, you’ll hear 16 years of struggle with himself overcoming his own anxiety as he navigates the legal processes for reunion and some rejection. Here’s Adam’s journey.

Damon (01:30):

Adam was born in New York, but they moved to Dallas, Texas until he was three when they drove all the way back to New Jersey where he grew up. He’s the kind of person who has really strong memory recall. He shared a story of returning to Dallas in his twenties and finding his way back to his childhood home on memory alone. He says his parents told him and his sister at early ages, they were adopted and Adam always had a desire to know more about his birth parents, but he also got picked on as an adoptee, which affected him very deeply. I asked him to tell me about his childhood as an adoptee.

Adam (02:05):

My parents told my sister and I from an early age that we were adopted, so I always knew that I was an adoptee. I have like very distinct memories. One of them was when I was, when I was four years old, we had just moved to our house in Chatham, it was early summer. And I remember my parents, I remember my sister and I were outside playing with the new tether ball that my father had set up for us. And I had turned to her at one point and I said, my real parents are going to come and get me soon. Not really understanding at the time what that meant or me comprehending fully that I had had two sets of parents, biological and adoptive. But I always knew. I did get picked on growing up. Or somebody, for people who would tell me that, Oh, you’re adopted, your real parents didn’t like you. And stuff like that. I managed to develop a very thick skin to that and one of the things that I wound up doing was isolating myself because I had developed also a very intense fear of rejection. And the one way to protect myself was to just isolate myself from other students. I did have a few friends, um, a few very close friends that I pretty much learned to trust and they, they pretty much knew that I had this intense fear but couldn’t explain why. And I just remember I couldn’t even explain to myself why I had this fear. And one of the things that my parents had done was had sent me to a child psychologist and I remember distinctly at one point the psychologist acting, I mean asking is adoption an issue for you? And one of the things I said was, no, I’m okay with it. I understand the reasons that for whatever it is that my biological parents couldn’t raise me and they made the best decision that was in my best interest. But I, it really never clicked fully for me that adoption was a major issue. I had managed to suppress the emotions of it so much that it was hidden, that it was hidden from me, except for periods where I would act out.

Damon (04:38):

Can you give me an example of that kind of inexplicably emotional outburst or acting out?

Adam (04:44):

I would basically make a fool of myself.

Damon (04:47):

Class clown or

Adam (04:49):

Class clown. It came out at very inappropriate times and I would say very inappropriate things.

Damon (04:57):

Were they personal attacks on other people, similar to what you had sort of felt from those who had made fun of you as an adoptee? That kind of thing?

Adam (05:05):

Yes, yes. As I put it, growing up, I’ve done things that I’m not proud of and I’ve, I’ve seen some of those people since and I’ve apologized to them. I am the type of person today where I make a mistake. I live up to it and I’ll step up to the plate and say, yeah, I made a mistake. I’m human.

Damon (05:23):

Adam went on to say, thinking back that he was probably trying to push people away before they hurt him. It was his coping mechanism, his defense system. He remembers intense feelings of abandonment when his parents sent him to summer camp despite feeling like he was okay with his adoption. When Adam was older and attending nursing school, he made an unexpected self discovery. His class was exploring psychology and personality disorders related to their patients, when one of the disorders stood out as his own condition.

Adam (05:55):

It was also at this point, my anxiety was showing its ugly face that I would just be dealing with anxiety, with the butterflies at full beat and my stomach with not being able to handle very stressful situations and that I was, and I was afraid to put myself into the unknown.

Damon (06:15):

When you say not able to handle stressful situations, what does that mean? Like what would it be like for you in the event?

Adam (06:23):

I would fall apart crying, emotional outbursts. Um, I literally just could not handle stress. As our professor started explaining, explaining what it is I remember in the middle of class, I just said out loud, Oh my God, that’s me.

Damon (06:39):

Really?

Adam (06:39):

Really. It suddenly made sense, uh, to me all the stuff that I did as a child and the intense fear of rejection.

Damon (06:52):

Adam was in therapy at the time and he took his diagnosis straight to his therapist. They developed strategies to overcome the disorder. Adam was going into nursing, a profession where he had to have the ability to interact with other people, accept criticism, and turn it into constructive input toward things he could work on himself. He moved away from self-centeredness to being an empathetic listener and accepting when his friends and colleagues tell him he needs to take it down a notch and back down from mania. Adam says he always had an urge to search for his birth family at some point in his life. His first intense feeling happened in college when he was living in Copenhagen, Denmark. He recalls a moment when he was exiting the main train station and an American couple approached him asking for directions to a specific restaurant, but Adam couldn’t shake the intense feeling of a familiarity he felt with a woman. He proceeded to walk home.

Adam (07:45):

As I was climbing the stairs into my host family’s house, I suddenly realized, I said, Oh my God, was that my birth mother? I quickly ran in, dropped off my my bags and caught the next bus back into Copenhagen and went to that restaurant, um, and looked around and couldn’t find them. I spent the next three days walking around Copenhagen and a lot of my friends there saw the change in me. They’re just like, what’s wrong? And even my, my host mother asked me what’s wrong? And I just said, I’m an adoptee and I think I just saw my birth mother.

Damon (08:24):

Wow.

Adam (08:25):

And it freaked me out. And the problem was I was far from home. I was 4,000 miles away from home. I couldn’t exactly pick up the phone and talk to my parents about it. And I really couldn’t talk to anybody about it there. And so I was very much alone with this. And I did the best thing that I could, I took my, I took what was going through my mind and just suppressed it as deep down as possible, but it was always there in the back of my mind and saying that, yeah, this is a major issue here. And I really didn’t bother to try to explore what had just happened and what my emotions were.

Damon (09:10):

On the Eve of his 22nd birthday in the middle 1990s he decided to follow his impulse to search for his birth mother. He eventually returned to the United States, but he had no idea how to begin. He got a job at a summer camp where a fellow adoptee told him about the International SounAex Reunion Registry and they talked about a few strategies he could employ.

Adam (09:32):

And I remember one thing that she said to me when she said, what state were you born in? I said, New York, and she, she just rolled her eyes and she said, good luck because you’re not going to get anything from them and not fully understanding what that meant.

Damon (09:47):

In 1996 Adam was trying to navigate the fledgling internet. He found adoption registries like Birth Quest, some that were specific to the state of New York and discovered the barriers the state had to adoptees getting their information. He says he graduated college feeling the world owed him something, but the burst of the biotech bubble and the ensuing economic downturn made jobs impossible to find. A situation that exacerbated his anxiety. He was having paralyzing anxiety attacks in almost every stressful situation and with no job, he had no money to contribute to paying the fee to obtain his own non identifying information. When he finally landed a job with IBM, he was able to send off for his info. It was the day after his 26th birthday when the non identifying information arrived. He knew his mother was young when she had him, but the letter revealed news Adam wasn’t ready for.

Adam (10:44):

I was still living at my parents’ house and I eagerly open the envelope. And at that time I had known that my birth mother was a teenager and I thought she was like 17 years old, 18 years old, 16 at them at a minimum. And I opened the letter and I started reading through it and I saw right at the top of it that it said that she was 13 to 14 years of age. And I looked at and it’s just like, and it, and I was just like, Oh, that’s a typo. And I just kept on reading down the information and when I got to the bottom it said that she was in eighth grade and I was like, huh?

Damon (11:28):

Wow.

Adam (11:29):

And it didn’t make sense to me. And then I went and started looking over my birth father’s information and it said that he was 25 to 26 years of age.

Damon (11:42):

Whoa.

Adam (11:43):

Oh my God. The shock. It sent me for a loop for a couple of days. As I struggled to understand this, and I wound up putting my search down for about a year as I tried to understand what it meant.

Damon (11:57):

At that same time, Adam was planning to leave his parents home, but his parents were one step ahead of him. They had bought a house and at first Adam wanted to move with them, but he changed his mind and decided to thrust himself into the anxiety inducing unknown, but he also decided to really dig into the search. Even without his parents’ approval, they weren’t feeling threatened, they just didn’t want to see him get hurt. Adam hired an agency to help search for his birth mother.

Adam (12:25):

The agency that I had hired to look for my birth parents or birth mother. Um, and it was, I had a choice. It was either both mother or both father first and I decided let’s do the birth mother. I’m not sure I want to find him based on the information. I basically at that point believed I was a product of rape and that was a very bitter pill to swallow.

Damon (12:51):

The firm that he hired encountered the same brick walls Adam had encountered. They suggested petitioning the courts using his medical history, but he really didn’t have any major health issues to speak of except for depression. But it was worth a shot. They warned him there was a slim chance this wouldn’t work out because depression doesn’t usually work for petitions in any state. Adam sent off a pack of information for the petition, including..

Adam (13:15):

A statement of support from my parents, um, that I had to beg and plead for.

Damon (13:21):

They never got delivery confirmation that the petition had been received. So they were about to resubmit when a letter finally came in the mail that looked at first glance like they weren’t going to open Adam’s records.

Adam (13:33):

On the surface it basically said, we’re not going to open your records. But if you read between the lines, it basically said we are going to open your records but you need to follow what we want in order to do this and this included having my parents re submit now a notarized um, letter of support and thinking back upon it, I today I go, wait a minute, I was 27 at the time. Why did I need my parents support to do this?

Damon (14:08):

Yeah, that’s a great question. I was thinking the same thing.

Adam (14:11):

And it’s something that, that the few adoptees that I have met who have petitioned, have said the exact same thing. That they would get this letter saying, no, we want your parents support. And I, it’s something that I didn’t understand.

Damon (14:26):

Yeah, that’s ludicrous to me.

Adam (14:27):

It’s, it’s, it is to me too. I think it’s completely and utterly ridiculous. At that point. I get a letter saying, we’re going to open your records, but you have to use our searcher. And I had already doled out all this money to this professional searcher. I submitted a letter saying, look, I’ve, I’ve been working with these people for the better part of a year and my original plan was I was going to be the one that made first contact with my birth mother that I wanted to be the one that did the initial contact, not somebody else.

Damon (15:03):

They’re robbing you of that opportunity to introduce yourself.

Adam (15:05):

Exactly.

Damon (15:07):

The court and Adam are going back and forth and the whole situation was very stressful for him. He went crashing into depression while trying to continue the battle to open his records. He told his therapist, he thought maybe he should just cease his search until he could calm down. But then Adam received some news that helped him press onward.

Adam (15:26):

Well, I got a call from the, from the my court appointed attorney who basically said that you do not know how unusual this is. If you, if you stop, you may not get the opportunity to do this again. And at that point when I inquired more, she started explaining the entire laws in New York and why New York was so difficult. They said, this is so unusual that she, and she said, don’t throw it away. So at that point I said, okay, but at the same time I lost full control of my search.

Damon (16:00):

So just for clarity, what she was saying was the fact that they had written between the lines and offered you a secondary option on their own terms was so unusual that it was, it would be silly for you to throw it away. That just doesn’t happen to people. Wow.

Adam (16:15):

Yeah.

Damon (16:15):

So Adam agreed to follow their rules. He got a letter in the spring of 2001 saying his records would be opened and he was assigned to an investigator named Bill, who reinforced how rare this opportunity that Adam was given really was. Adam had forewarned his boss at work that his adoption records were being opened in the middle of March, and she had experienced the prior employees, very emotional adoption search. So she knew this would be an emotionally charged time for Adam. On Monday, March 19th the records were scheduled to be opened and he figured he was within about a month of finding his birth mother from that date. After he returned from lunch that same day, he had a message from the investigator. They kept missing one another on the phone. So Adam didn’t even want to leave his desk to relieve himself in the bathroom, but he did. And when he got back..

Adam (17:02):

My phone rings and this is how the phone call went. And this was at exactly 1:47 PM and as I put it, this was the 60 seconds that turned my life upside down inside out and right side in. And I picked up the phone and this is how the conversation went. Adam. Hi, it’s Silver Seca. Are you sitting down? Yes. Why? Well, I found your birth mother. She’s alive and well and, and she wants to have contact with you.

Damon (17:31):

Man.

Adam (17:33):

At that point, my coworker who was sitting right across in the cube opposite of me, he just saw me slump over in my chair. All I remember is saying, Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. And I just remember sitting there as the emotions started exploding out of me and I refer to it as being the happiest day of my life, that I was so excited I had found my birth mother and I was just like, yes, yes, yes. And I was just like, she wants to have contact with me, this is going to be successful. We’re going to meet. So on and so forth. But it was funny. It was right after I hung up the phone with bill, my father called and I didn’t tell him what had just happened and I’m trying to hide it. And meanwhile I’m trying to figure myself out now because suddenly I no longer know who I am.

Damon (18:31):

Had it changed things for you? Why didn’t you tell him?

Adam (18:33):

I think I wanted to tell them in person.

Damon (18:36):

I see. Yeah.

Adam (18:38):

So, and the thing was I was still processing what had just happened. So I was in no way ready to tell them. The next day I went to meet my father for dinner. And at that point, the next day was basically, as I put it, it was the day of transition from the person I used to be going into this person that I was becoming and that’s when, Oh my God, the anxiety started as I put it. I was bananas are my comfort food. I was eating bananas like crazy.

Damon (19:11):

Wow.

Adam (19:12):

As I was going bananas.

Damon (19:14):

Right. There’s a metaphor there for sure.

Adam (19:17):

Oh my God. The anxiety was hitting me at full blast. That evening I went out to dinner with my father and I tried to get the words out saying that I found her and I just couldn’t get it out and he finally looks at me. He goes, you found her didn’t you. And I just nodded my head and he, and the next words out of his mouth were, how are you handling this? And I just said, I am nervous as can be my anxiety as it is at an all time high. And he looked at me and he just goes, he goes, why are you even functional then? And I said, I don’t know. I don’t understand how I’m able to handle this high of anxiety, this high amount of stress and still be functional. The thing was, what I didn’t realize at that time was that the release of the emotions was also causing me to change the way I was handling stress.

Damon (20:18):

Adam knew his birth mother lived in Florida, but he needed to learn her name and get her phone number so he could call her. His father told Adam that if he needed someone to go with him to meet her, he would be willing to go, but Adam really wanted to go on this journey alone. In the meantime, Bill had to go back to the courts to complete the process. Adam’s anxiety was at an all time high and he was still kind of freaking out. The next day, Bill called Adam again with his birth mother’s name and address. He said it was a surreal moment in his life, especially when he finally heard her name. Adam and his birth mother exchanged email messages. He was excited to learn of the synchronicity between them. They have the same middle name, Lee. They agreed to talk later that evening by phone. Adam went to yoga after work telling his instructor he just found his birth mother and the instructor knew just what to do to calm him down. By the end of the class, Adam had done his favorite yoga pose, a headstand upside down with his elbows in a tripod for seven minutes. An unusually long time. When he came down he was ready to call his birth mother. When he got home he made the call, a man answered the phone, then handed the phone to Adam’s birth mother.

Adam (21:35):

But she picked up the phone and I remember just saying, Linda. And she goes, yes and I go, hi, my name is Adam Davis, I’m your son. And it went into a two and a half hour, very intimate phone call and she told me basically what happened. She said, she just said it was basically rape, didn’t elaborate any further, refused to divulge his name, said that that he was a mechanic on her brother in laws racing team and which fit a lot of the stuff. But there is stuff that she said that also didn’t fit and she just didn’t elaborate any further. And I, at that point I didn’t want to go any further and say okay and just I left it as is.

Damon (22:30):

How did that hit you when she said out of her own mouth what you already basically had arrived at?

Adam (22:37):

It hurt. And as I put it, it hurt that she got hurt or I thought that she got hurt. And at that point I, I dealt with it and I was just like, okay. So it is that. And I ignored what it said at the bottom of the non identifying information. And she basically said, you can ask me at any time what happened and I will give you the information I said of what happened. And I said, okay. And I took her at face value.

Damon (23:10):

She revealed, Adam has three younger siblings and they were all aware of his existence, but he was starting to pick up on problems with Linda’s story.

Adam (23:19):

She told me that when they were getting a divorce, um, that she had lost custody of the kids. Red flag.

Damon (23:29):

Right.

Adam (23:30):

That she had lost custody of her kids and that I remember asking her, so how’s the relationship with your kids? And she goes, Oh, it couldn’t be better. And we had hung up the phone saying that we were going to meet in April, that I was going to fly down to Florida, that she would help me with the cost of the airfare and that she was looking forward to meeting me. So on and so forth. But I remember afterwards, some of the things that went through my head while I was waiting for the pictures to arrive by email, and one of the things was that I said was, how can you have it, have a good relationship with your kids if you’re not there?

Damon (24:07):

Adam was scratching his head and things didn’t feel right, but he refused to believe anything was wrong because he had put his mother on a high pedestal wanting her to be this perfect person, especially after the trauma she had been through with him. He waited for her to send pictures of him when he was an infant.

Adam (24:25):

So the photos that came in was the first photo that came in was the baby picture that she had of me at two days of age that she said that she had to beg for. And incidentally, she had told me that she didn’t hold me at birth and which is something that I suspected but didn’t have any proof until she said it. And I was just like, and I remember saying to her, well, you’ll be able to hold me soon, so we’ll get that moment. And she responded with, yes we will.

Damon (24:57):

That’s sweet.

Adam (24:58):

So the first photo comes in, which is my baby photo. And I remember looking at the photo and just being like, Oh, I was so cute. And it was the earliest photo of me. And on the back of that photo was my birth information as well as my birth name of Shane David that she had wrote onto it. Then came the final photo and I remember getting this photo and waiting and what felt like forever for this photo to download. And I opened it. I remember looking at this photo and the first thing that went through my mind was, who is this person next to me? Why do I have blonde hair? Why am I wearing a dress? And I’m sitting there trying to comprehend why I have, I have a purse slung over my shoulder. That was.. The photo wasn’t of me. The photo was of my birth mother, my birth mother, and I look alike.

Damon (25:55):

Wow.

Adam (25:55):

It was a shock to my system. I got so used to growing up or I was used to growing up of looking absolutely like nobody. And people would say, Oh, you look like your father, you look like your mother. And I would look at my parents, I’d be like, no, I don’t. I don’t look anything like them.

Damon (26:14):

Yeah, I know that feeling.

Adam (26:17):

So I was floored and I remember getting up from the chair and walking back to the futon in the back of my office and sitting on it and looking at at it from a far and just going, Oh my God.

Damon (26:32):

Anxiety was on full blast. Adam had barely slept in the three nights since his first contact with Linda. He was messaging her anxiously waiting for instantaneous responses, afraid he would lose her. In one exchange, she confirmed that she had never been to Copenhagen, so it was not Linda that Adam saw when he was overseas. He noticed that in her online exchanges she wasn’t asking him any questions about himself. No interest in where he went to college or why he lived in Europe, nothing. He was trying to find his way to Florida to meet her, but it was spring break and flights were limited. He was scared he wouldn’t be able to meet his birth mother.

Adam (27:11):

Also, I suggested let’s talk again coming up. And she was just like evasive at that and said, look, I’m not ready to talk to you again. And I found it very odd and I felt like things immediately were starting to get very tense and very difficult and very strained. And I didn’t understand why. And so I said, okay, let’s take my foot off the accelerator.

Damon (27:37):

Yeah.

Adam (27:39):

Let’s try that. But she’s feeling uncomfortable with the speed and, and so I suggested to her, I said, well, why don’t we go to snail mail and take this at a much slower pace. And the response back that I got was I was, I’d rather send snail mail to my kids than to you. Another red flag. So all these red flags are coming up and I’m sitting there in a panic. My birthday is, is just a couple of days away. My first day is the 27th and I’m just like, Oh my God, my birthday is going to be ruined. And I’m the type of person that one of those adoptees that loves their birthday, that I look forward to it every year. And she had also told me that my birthday was a day of solitude for her and I understood what she meant and she said that she would just take, take what had happened and put it to the back of her mind. And I understood that that’s what she meant. Um, so here I am almost in a panic that I’m finding myself losing my birth mother. I, one of the things that I came out and said to her, I said, look Linda, I’m not going to, I’m not the type of person that’s going to show up at your door unannounced. I’m the type of person that will wait for an invitation and you’ve invited me. And she responded, yes, I have invited you and I want to meet you. And I was just like, okay. In that sense it’s, it’s going fine. But I was trying to figure out what the heck was going on. And meanwhile I felt very much alone.

Damon (29:17):

Adam didn’t know anyone else that had gone through an adoption reunion. He had no experiences to even compare this to. And his emotions were bursting like a volcano. And he didn’t know how to control it. His birthday was very difficult because of his interactions with his birth mother. His parents wanted to celebrate his birthday with him.

Adam (29:36):

And my parents had made this big thing that they wanted me to celebrate my birthday and I was just like, don’t want to celebrate my birthday this year. And I sort of got pushed into it. I was just like, I want to sit by the telephone waiting for her to call me because I so much wanted to hear her say happy birthday to me. I get home from work before heading to my parents’ house and I remember opening my mailbox and there’s a birthday card from her and it’s a birthday card I treasure even though she didn’t write happy birthday in it. That birthday card means the world to me.

Damon (30:10):

Tell me why.

Adam (30:11):

It’s the only birthday card that she sent me and it’s just that she, it was the thoughts that she had to send me a birthday card and it was almost like she was saying in that card, everything’s gonna be all right. Um, ironically, things weren’t.

Damon (30:30):

Things were starting to go downhill. Adam was emailing Linda potential dates for his visit, but nothing worked for her. She finally admitted that she was dreading meeting him. Adam felt guilty for what he might be putting his birth mother through, so he suggested they wait a while to meet. He wanted her to feel comfortable with who he is and get to know one another more. Postponing their meeting relieved his stress, too. Adam reminded Linda that she agreed to tell him what had happened and said he was ready to listen. He felt like he needed it.

Adam (31:04):

I was expecting her to say how they met, so on and so forth and nothing else. She exploded in a rage of basically saying that how dare you ask me this question. This is a private matter, blah, blah, this blah blah that that this was one mistake that I made that is haunting me for my life. That I made a mistake that evening that I should have never have done. And the thing is, at the time I didn’t read into what she was saying because that she gave me a lot of information in that I, I took a step back and I was just like, okay. Never ever asked her about my birth father again.

Damon (31:45):

Right.

Adam (31:46):

And I, at that point I was unsure whether I wanted to find him. And in a way I wanted to find him at that point to quote let him have it end quote, because again, I believed I was concieved by rape. She had told me that basically I was conceived at a race track and ironically, I should’ve paid attention to it, but the things that I had told her that I had thought had happened, she had incorporated it into the story that she told me the night that we spoke. So I really never paid attention to what she was saying or and what she wasn’t saying.

Damon (32:25):

Okay. So you feel like you missed some clues in the beginning?

Adam (32:29):

I, yeah, I missed, I definitely missed a lot of clues. Ironically, I did write them down.

Damon (32:34):

Adam felt like he was in unknown territory. His confusion made him go back to the journals he was keeping and he reviewed the things that Linda had disclosed. He found some clues about the truth that he hadn’t paid attention to when they first connected. On September 11th, 2001 Adam was supposed to be in the immediate vicinity of the world trade center towers, but he wasn’t. He emailed Linda to let her know he was okay and she responded, thanking him for letting her know. After the tragedy, Adam sank into what he later learned was a rapid bipolar cycle comprised of the highest of highs and the deepest depression. Crying every day. Adam started attending adoption conferences, gaining perspective on who he was as an adoptee. At that same time, Linda had disappeared with no further contact for about six months. In that time, Adam bought a house and lost his job, but he wasn’t in contact with Linda, so he didn’t bother sharing the news. He figured he’d relay the whole thing when he did find a job. He reached out after his birthday with a simple little card saying he was thinking about her.

Adam (33:42):

I celebrated my 29th birthday, which was a very quiet birthday compared to my 28th and I was perfectly happy with that. I celebrated it and she didn’t send me a card and I was disappointed but okay by that. So in April of that year, I got laid off from my job at IBM and I made the conscious decision not to tell Linda at that time. And also during this point became what I refer to as the nursing question. Because I had started saying, if I had to do it again, I’d think I’d be a nurse. Well, I had the chance to do everything all over again. Um, and here I am in this house and not sure if I’m going to be able to hold onto it. Well, my parents stepped in to help me with that. And in this house I had gone to an AAC Conference and gained even more insight.

Damon (34:39):

Mhmm.

Adam (34:40):

But I’m also dealing with my anxiety. But this time I have it very much under control. Even my therapist is going, no, this is under control. This is a far cry for the person you were a year ago.

Damon (34:53):

That’s excellent.

Adam (34:54):

And so as I was moving forward, I was continuing my relationship with Linda and finally at the end of July, I just said to her a simple little card just saying hi, thinking about you. Just want to say hi. And she, and for somebody that said she was never going to write, take the time to write me a letter. Well I get a letter back in the mail, which blew me away. And I said, Oh my God, this is strengthening. Okay, take it slow. Don’t push her. And so I said, well wait a month. And then I finally just decided I have to tell Linda that I lost my job. I send it in November and I did it in like three sentences of Linda, I found a job. I’m okay, I didn’t panic. And then I just jumped over to the next part. Well, she didn’t respond back and I, so I’ll send a letter to her in a couple of weeks. Sent another letter to her, no response, sent an email, no response. And I’m going, what the heck is going on here?

Damon (35:58):

Adam went to nursing school, but he and Linda weren’t in contact the whole time. He graduated nursing school, sent her a letter but still nothing from her. At the end of 2005, he sent another letter basically asking what he had done to deserve the silent treatment from her.

Adam (36:15):

Well, what I got back was I opened the letter, was a vile, nasty mail. And I remember seeing her name then I’m just like, Oh my God. Finally. And she broke my heart basically.

Damon (36:28):

What’d she say?

Adam (36:29):

She said, well for starters, the fact that you didn’t go after your, that you’ve contacted me under false pretenses that you didn’t, um, search for your father the same way that you’ve found me. And honestly, I left this out but a year after I had searched for Linda, I had sent information to the courts again to open my records to find my birth father and just to show you how difficult it is this time around, you’d figure same excuse, same reason, it should work, right?

Damon (37:03):

Yeah, hey it’s me again!

Adam (37:03):

It failed. So it was just a very vile email and it was just like, it was just like, don’t ever contact me for this address again. And I, at that point I knew it was over. I never responded to that email. At that point I knew I was alone.

Damon (37:18):

He pushed through various states of dealing with the loss of his birth mother. He refused to refer to the experience as a failure. He started to say in the past tense that he wanted to meet his birth mother, trying to make the feeling pass and he worked through all of it in therapy.

Adam (37:34):

I just looked at it and went through at that point, a period of intense anger for, I can’t tell you how many letters, angry letters I wrote to her that just went into the fireplace and got burned. But there were a number of them. Some of it was, it was just pure anger. And I had to work through my anger. I had to be the angry adoptee. Um, and at that point I stopped going to my support group because I needed to deal with this alone and with my therapist. And we worked through it for months and years.

Damon (38:10):

10 years later, Adam’s anger had subsided. He decided to bury it, choosing to take his experience all the way back to the simplest time before the hurt. The moment when he came into this world, he opened up on social media to publicly declare his new stance.

Adam (38:27):

And at that point, my stance on Linda started to soften to the point where I started looking at her in a different light. And I started to say, say, I’m honoring Linda’s courage and sacrifice to the point where finally on my 39th birthday, I just came out on Facebook and said, guys, I’m an adoptee. I found my birth mother. And while the relationship doesn’t exist, I honor her courage and sacrifice. And that’s how we decided to handle it. And that’s why I decided to deal with it’s my birthday and that 11:26 AM was a private moment between the two of us. But that’s how I dealt with it.

Damon (39:09):

That’s a smart way to go about it too. To sort of calm it into, you know, take it back to what it was at that moment and not try to encapsulate every emotion from all of these years of trying to, you know, find her, connect with her, re-establish connections its probably best to take it back to its simplest form at its earliest moment and leave it at that.

Adam (39:32):

And that’s how I left it and that’s how I decided to deal with it. And to the point, um, one of the things on my birthday is I wear a sash and the following year on the sash I had a sash made. And on the bottom of it I just had honoring Linda’s courage and sacrifice March 27th, 1973 embroidered on it. And that just became something, a part of it.

Damon (39:57):

In 2015 it was the 10th anniversary of what Adam was then calling the failure of his reunion. He finally sent a letter to Linda basically asking her what happened and thanking her, but he also called her out on challenging him for not finding his birth father on the one hand, but not giving him any information to do so on the other hand. She didn’t respond, but Adam expected that.

Adam (40:21):

And told her that on the day that I found her, I found two people that day, her and myself. But I also called her out on the entire bit with my birth father of her saying that she ended it because I didn’t contact my birth father. But you’re telling me that that you won’t give me any information on who my birth father is.

Damon (40:43):

It’s a little bit of a hypocrisy there.

Adam (40:45):

Yeah, so I called her out on that and I sent it out the day before I left for my vacation to Myanmar and I should add that I’m a world traveler, so me going to exotic locations around the world is not unusual.

Damon (40:58):

That’s awesome.

Adam (40:59):

Come back. No letter from Linda and at that point I was okay with that.

Damon (41:03):

Adam continued to look for his birth father. Still thinking he was a product of rape. He was piecing together information here and there in his support group. He learned that other adoptees had their documents saying they were approved for adoption and he wanted a similar memento from his own adoption. He sent off for his own documentation and asked his adoption agency if he could have a copy of the letter Linda told him she wrote to him when she was carrying him. He got a thick envelope back from the agency, but he couldn’t bring himself open it for hours. When he did, he discovered it was a summary of the social workers notes from the meetings with his birth family before his adoption and the information changed everything.

Adam (41:45):

Oh my God. It turned my entire thought on my birth father around from him being this person that raped her to him possibly being tricked by her.

Damon (42:00):

Wow. Really?

Adam (42:01):

Really. It opened my eyes wide open because one of the, it said, it said in her own words that they were dating and that she had wanted my, she had did not want me to be the, to feel like I was the youngest person in a family of now of six other children. She wanted me to have a life basically.

Damon (42:25):

Uh huh. Yeah.

Adam (42:27):

And as a, as I read through this, it basically said that she hadn’t told my birth father that she was pregnant with me and the adoption agency says, you need to tell him he needs to sign away his rights as a parent as well. It came back and she basically bragged about having another 25 year old boyfriend. And when I read that I was just like, wait a minute. Somebody that is raped by a much older guy does not go and get another boyfriend of that same age, which told me that there’s a lot more than meets the eye. And then when I read on what my birth father was, it basically said that my birth father was, he was embarrassed about it. Which told me that he showed remorse about what had happened. Which told me that this is a lot different than what I had imagined, but it also said that she looked and acted like she was…she looked like she was in her late teens, like an 18 year old and she acted like she was 20.

Damon (43:35):

The documents seem to suggest that Linda had turmoil at home, may have gotten lost in the shuffle as a teen and the story was more complex than she led on. Adam’s own adopted sister had reunited with her birth mother and sister too, so Adam decided to contact his own biological sister, Jackie. Jackie reached out to Adam sharing that she knew of his existence. Jackie told Adam Linda’s story about his conception, which was inconsistent with what Linda had told him and what he read in the adoption agency summary. Jackie convinced Adam that she should talk with Linda about him but Adam fore warned her that Linda wouldn’t be receptive. He was right. She went ballistic that Adam had contacted Jackie. Jackie then pulls back with contact from Adam, shortly thereafter, unfriended him and blocked him on Facebook. In the meantime, he was still looking for his birth father. And he’s really focused on a 47 year old great grandfather of his mentioned in the huge packet of information he received. In addition, Adam submitted samples to ancestry DNA and 23 and Me. His first few connections fail to yield anything meaningful even though he found some connections on his paternal side. Then some names showed up repeatedly in his search like this woman Ashley, but there was nothing solid to work with. One day while on vacation in Florida, he decides to check on his DNA matches online. He finds the closest match he’s encountered yet, but something doesn’t make sense. So he really digs into his research.

Adam (45:06):

So when I stopped for lunch up in Flagler beach, I look at I for some reasons, I go and check my ancestry results again. And there’s two new cousins. One of them is a lot closer than anybody else. And I look at the information and I go to immediately sort and I immediately say related to Ashley maternal, but I’m looking at the last names associate and like I don’t recognize these names in my maternal tree and I had made an extensive maternal tree at that point. So I get back into my car and I start driving and I’m going, you know, there’s something just not right about this person that I can’t put my finger on it. There’s something not right. I start creating the offspring of this one person and almost immediately there’s something that stops me cold. And I’ve come across throughout other trees that I’ve created, 47 year olds. And I come across the stop at this 47 year old and I’m talking with my friend Jody through messenger and I’m like, wait Jody, I’ve got something weird going on here with a 47 year old that doesn’t make sense.

Adam (46:23):

It stood out, born in 1920 died in 1967 and and got married in 1945 and as far as I can tell, they only had one kid and she starts pulling up names and she pulls up a name Michael and that they had a kid named Michael born in 1947 and I’m suddenly going, did I just find my paternal grandfather?

Damon (46:48):

Haha, cool!

Adam (46:52):

And I’m sitting there not believing it and I’m suddenly going, wait, this is paternal I think. And the second I saw the age, I was like, that’s him. I send a message over to my search angels, Jama and Kelly and I go to bed that night and I’m like, I think I found my birth father. And the next morning I’m at work and just sent the quick information to Jama and Kelly and I’m just going so what if the information that the adoption agency had given me is incorrect that they took my birth father’s grandfather instead of it being his father and that they took as being my great grandfather. And I then just said, by any chance did this guy live on the same street as Linda in 1973 about 15 minutes later, Jama comes back with just, OMG Adam, you’re right.

Damon (47:45):

Wow, that’s awesome.

Adam (47:48):

And the next line out of me was a classic that I just put, did I just find my birth father? And as the story stands now, a letter was sent to him a week ago. We’re just waiting for the response. And what’s really interesting is both my birth father and birth mother were born on the same day, 12 years apart.

Damon (48:08):

Really? Oh my gosh.

Adam (48:11):

It’s just the amount of synchronicity and it’s, it kills me that they were both born on the same day.

Speaker 4 (48:17):

Adam told me that his mother’s six month disappearance happened at a challenging time for her. One of her other sons had been stopped by police for drunk driving. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Adam (48:29):

That is what probably destroyed the reunion, but that’s not to say that it wouldn’t have failed. I have come to the term basic realization that it would have failed no matter what happened. That, that there was no way that this was going to be able to survive.

Damon (48:48):

Yeah. If that event was a trigger, a trigger was going to happen regardless is what it sounds like you’re saying.

Adam (48:55):

Exactly that something was going to cause it to fail, but when I look at my adoption fully. Based on what it is, it was adoption not only was it the right choice, it was the only choice for the both of them. If I had stayed with my birth mother, I peeled back enough layers of the onion to realize how screwed up my life would’ve been if I had grown up based on what I’ve seen with my siblings.

Damon (49:24):

Adam holds out hope that Jackie will be back in touch with him one day, but right now he considers their reunion a failure. At the time of our interview, Adam was waiting to hear from his birth father. He speculates that his life could have been better with him, but he recognizes that growing up in that same town wouldn’t have helped him escape the drama in Linda’s life

Adam (49:45):

And as I put it, this saga is still going.

Damon (49:48):

Yeah, that’s what it sounds like.

Adam (49:50):

And I don’t know how it’s going to end.

Damon (49:53):

No, no you don’t. You, you can try to predict these things and as I’ve said before, you can make some assumptions. You could try to make predictions and I can almost guarantee you that whatever you think is not going to be right and so you really just have to be as open as possible, which is though so incredibly hard because your brain wants to attach to something.

Adam (50:15):

It’s as I put it with my adoption, I’ve come a long way since those first few days, more than 16 and a half years ago. Today I’m someone that can handle very high amounts of stress. Look at what I do for a living. I’m a nurse.

Damon (50:32):

Yeah.

Adam (50:33):

I can handle rejection. My sister rejected me and my response to it was, well, it is what it is. Instead I choose to live my life and here I am. I, every birthday I walk around wearing a sash on my birthday and I’ll just be like, guys, this is how I celebrate. I celebrate my life and that’s, and this is what my life is.

Damon (50:56):

That’s awesome. I’m glad you’re able to find positivity out of what sounds like it was a very stressful situation.

Adam (51:03):

I keep my sense of humor through this.

Damon (51:06):

That’s good. That’s really good.

Adam (51:10):

As someone else put it and I’ll agree with this. I’m not nuts. I’m just adopted.

Damon (51:18):

I like that. I like that. Very good Adam. Wow. You’ve got quite a story. I’m really glad to hear that you were able to, one, sort of seek help and get to a place where you were able to look yourself in the mirror and say, I’m not going to be beaten by the things that are happening inside my head and you, you sound like you’ve come a really long way in that regard. But also just to take a step back from the situation with your birth mother and your your half sister and say, you know, they’ve got their own lives, their own situation and I can’t really help that this relationship has fallen apart. I mean you can’t force it in the end. There’s multiple people involved in this reunion and you can only do what you can do to control how it goes and you sell it. You’re in a healthy place.

Adam (52:09):

Exactly. The potential reunion with my birth father, I’m doing it the way it should have been done 16 and a half years ago.

Damon (52:18):

Mhmm. That’s really fascinating and I got to say, I wish you all the best in connecting with your birth father. I hope that you get some good information out of it and that’s all I’m going to say because it can go any way and you just never know. So thank you so much for sharing your story Adam. This has been amazing to hear. Take care man. All the best to you.

Adam (52:41):

It was a pleasure.

Damon (52:47):

Hey, it’s me. Adam’s journey has some real triumph that Adam should really be proud of. His ability to work through his reunion, overcome debilitating anxiety and managing bipolar disorder is amazing, but I was sorry to hear that his birth mother wasn’t able to overcome her own challenges to make a deeper connection and meet him. Adam said that he consulted another therapist showing the professional some of his interactions with her and she does seem to have some very real issues of her own. Still, Adam’s perseverance helped him reach a point where he identified his own biological father. I think we all hope that something more positive will come from his attempt to reunite with his paternal side of the family. I’m Damon Davis and I hope you’ll find something in Adam’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 own story of locating and connecting to your biological family visit, whoamIreallypodcast.com/share. You can also find the show on facebook.com/waireally, or follow me on Twitter @waireally. And please, if you like the show, take a moment to rate Who Am I Really on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts. Those ratings can help others find the show too.

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