080 – It’s Not About How You Got Here
Rachel is a Hispanic woman of Chilean descent, raised in a Jewish family. She shared her feelings of otherness trying to connect with other Spanish speaking children with her limited proficiency. Rachel describes her father’s blindness to her heritage, and her unbelievable luck to have strangers who went out of their way to help her meet her birth mother in Chile.
Read Full TranscriptRachel: 00:03 It took me a while to sort through it. I remember talking to my grandmother about it and she said, you know, Rachel, it’s not about how you get here, It’s about what you do with yourself once you’re here. So she was like focused less on that event that led to you being here and focus more on what you want to do with yourself and how you want to, you know, make a name for yourself. And that is something that I’ve always held onto
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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 Rachel. She called me from right here in Frederick, Maryland. Rachel is a Hispanic woman of Chilean descent, raised in a Jewish family. She shared her feelings of otherness, her father’s blindness to her heritage and her unbelievable luck to have strangers who went out of their way to help her meet her birth mother in Chile. This is Rachel’s journey. In Rachel’s family, adoption was a fairly open topic. Her brother was adopted three years before her and they always knew they were adopted from young ages. When they got older, they understood a little bit more what that meant.
Rachel: 01:37 I feel like I was my only like person in my group of friends that was adopted growing up. And I think that kind of felt a little bit strange sometimes.
Damon: 01:48 Do you remember mentioning it to other people or did you just, you just couldn’t see other adoptees so you figured you were the only one?
Rachel: 01:56 No, I think I always mentioned it like, I feel like it was something that I talked about a lot. Um, I know that I asked a million questions. My brother didn’t talk much about his biological family or didn’t really express like a lot of curiosity about it, but I was always asking questions like, can you tell me about my biological mom or why was I given up for adoption? Or Can we talk about this? And, um, my parents didn’t ever answer questions. It was kind of always like, when you turn 18, we’ll let you know. But I still was always asking. So it was definitely something that I would mention to friends or to, you know, people within my community. Um, I was always telling everybody like, I’m from Chile and I thought that was a, a pretty cool thing.
Damon: 02:43 Yeah. That’s really interesting. So what, what do you, why do you think you were always asking about it? It sounds like you were somewhat self-aware about it from a very early age. What do you think sparked your curiosity to want to ask about it? It sounds like from even the very beginning.
Rachel: 03:01 Um, I wish I knew the answer to that question. I don’t, I don’t necessarily know, um, when I look at myself, I look at myself as a person who’s like very in touch with who I am. And I think that adoption is such a big part of who I am. And it was something that I couldn’t, I didn’t have the answers to, I didn’t have explanations about and I couldn’t, I guess I couldn’t really figure out that part of me. So I was super inquisitive about it and I always wanted to ask about it. And, and try to kind of find that out. Um, maybe that’s why I was so curious. But my parents will like looking back on everything, they’ll always say to me like, we always knew you were going to find your biological family cause you were always asking, asking, asking.
Damon: 03:47 She asked questions about her start in life, her birth mother and why the woman couldn’t take care of Rachel herself. After a few vague answers, the end of the conversation was always, we’ll tell you when you’re 18. The promise was her parents would deliver her adoption papers to her at that age. But that was a long time to wait, especially in her teen years when Rachel wondered what the difference was between knowing her history at 15 versus learning it three years later. Still, She said she was always proud to tell people that she’s originally from Chile because she felt like it was a pretty cool thing. I asked about the makeup of her family.
Rachel: 04:24 So my brother is also from Chile. Um, like I said, he was adopted three years before I was. And I’ve always said to my parents that I feel like the greatest gift they’ve ever given us, cause they’ve given us the world, my parents are great, but the greatest gift we ever got with each other. Cause growing up with someone in my family, um, who could number one relate to being adopted, but number two, shared, you know, a cultural connection with me even though we weren’t biologically related. Um, was just super awesome.
Damon: 04:54 Rachel’s parents are white and Jewish and their community was similar. She and her brother were raised Jewish as well, going to Jewish summer camps, Hebrew school and her brother went to a Jewish day school. But Rachel didn’t go when she was offered the option when she was little, she went to public school where she saw more diversity in Montgomery County, Maryland. That exposure allowed Rachel to connect more with the minority shhe knew and she really wanted to feel that connection with other children of Spanish descent.
Rachel: 05:23 But I didn’t speak Spanish and I could be like, yeah, I’m from Chile. But then when they would start talking to me about cultural things or speaking to me in Spanish, I couldn’t respond. Um, so I feel like that kind of put me in a little place of isolation. Um, you know, but I, I think a lot of my inner circle of friends were, you know, minorities.
Damon: 05:45 I always wonder about a person’s connection to a culture or religion that’s not native to them. And from time to time guests will say that they didn’t feel a connection to the way they were raised. I asked Rachel about her connection to Judaism.
Rachel: 06:00 So I actually love being Jewish. Um, you know, I’ve explored a little bit of different stuff as far as religions go and I always feel like Judaism really has a lot of, uh, non artificial symbols I guess would be the best way to describe it. And not that I’m trying to knock that or anything. Um, but I just felt like when we would look at different things growing up, we didn’t have like the whole, like commercialized stuff going on. So it was, you know, Hanukkah time was about like oil and frying foods and this is why, because the oil lasted this amount of days and it was kind of a thing that I felt like there were, there was just explanations for everything. Whereas I would say to my friends who are Christian like, well, why do you have a Christmas tree? And they’re like, I don’t know, We just do. So I felt like a lot of that stuff made sense. Um, and they were, you know, explanations to things. You know, I was appreciative of that and I felt like I was connected to it, but I don’t necessarily feel like I fit in. Like I was always faking sick so that I didn’t have to go to Hebrew school cause I looked really different from everybody. And then my parents would say, OK, well you don’t have to go to Hebrew school, we’ll send you to like a private Hebrew tutor type thing. And then like I’d go to this woman’s house and there would be like eight kids in the class and I’d be like, Oh yeah, I’m so sick right now. And she’d be like, well go lay on the couch and be like, okay. I almost did like anything I could to like, you know, get away from that stuff.
Rachel: 07:32 Like they put me in these Jewish, um, like youth groups. So as a teenager you would go to these like meetings and talk about being Jewish and all these different things. And I would, my mom would like drop me off and I’d hop in the car with a group of kids that were a lot older than me and we’d go to like McDonald’s and skip out on the meeting. Um, so I was always like, you know, I, I liked the actual religion. I still like the religion but I don’t necessarily feel like I fit in socially. If that makes sense.
Damon: 08:04 Yeah, it does. I wonder then if you could switch gears for a minute and tell me a little bit about how your parents helped you to feel any kind of connection to Chile and your culture as a Hispanic woman.
Rachel: 08:20 They never helped with any of that. In fact, I think, I’m pretty sure that there were times where, you know, I would talk about being a Hispanic female cause I would check that box, you know, on standardized tests or whatever else, I would always check the Latina box. And I remember at some point my dad saying like, well, you have to understand like I don’t see you as Latina. Um, to me you’re Jewish and Caucasian. And I remember being like, what? I just couldn’t understand how he didn’t see me that way. And I guess when you get adopted you don’t necessarily want your parents to see you as different, like you want to be a part of the family. So in that regard it was really good. Um, but our parents took us all over the world. You know, we traveled to Israel, we traveled to France and Italy and you know, all throughout Europe and we went to Mexico and all these like, you know, different islands and my family are big, they’re big on traveling. So they took us everywhere, but they never took us to Chile.
Damon: 09:29 I thought back to Rachel’s father’s vision of her as his daughter. On one hand, he acknowledged and fully accepted her as his daughter, making sure she felt that they were family, but his vision was warped because he saw her in his own image, which could have the opposite, an alienating effect of not acknowledging who she actually is. He wants her to be one thing, but in fact she is very much someone else. At 18 years old, Rachel never got her papers. The finish line in her marathon to wait to get her adoption records was moved to when she turned 21 but at 18, Rachel got pregnant and she became a mother herself. She had those first intense feelings of knowing a biological relative for the first time.
Rachel: 10:16 After having my son, I spoke to my parents about, I really wanted medical history. Um, I talked about what it was like to, you know, give birth to my first kid and for the first time in my life I was seeing a biological relative. I had never met anybody that was related to me that had the same blood as me. Um, it was a really like intense moment in my life and I talk to them about that and I said, you know, I really need these papers. And at some point, maybe when my son was three, so I guess I would’ve been about 21. Um, I had just been asking and asking and being so much more aggressive, I guess in my desire to get those papers that my mom called me one day and said that they would give me my papers and my mom didn’t come. I was living on my own with my, at the time he was my fiance, now he’s my husband. And my mom said, you know, we’re going to give you the papers. And I said, okay. And My dad came by himself to my apartment and handed me a Manila envelope and he said, you know, the answers to all of your questions are in this envelope.
Damon: 11:28 She grabbed the envelope and started going through the papers, but everything was in Spanish. She could speak basic conversational Spanish, but not at a level where she could understand court records about adoption. Immediately she got on the phone with her friend who asked that she scan everything for him so he could try his best to translate for her. In the meantime, she sat at her computer, opened Google translate and tried her to make sense of the documents. That’s incredibly laborious, but that’s, I mean it speaks to the power of the curiosity that an adoptee has about learning more about themselves. What did you learn as you translated?
Rachel: 12:06 Um, I learned that my mom was super young. I think she was 19 when I was born. Um, she had been raped, which resulted in my conception and uh, I guess she, I had an older sister at the time who was, we’re almost two years apart. So, you know, she already had a young child and then along she, you know, came this attack. She was attacked, leaving work, um, late one night and then ended up pregnant. So I think that just the stress of having a young kid at home already and then having this horrible thing that happened to her, she, I guess really couldn’t bear to raise a child that was the result of something like that. So she placed me for adoption. It talked about. I think one of the things that stuck out to me the most was they kept mentioning that she denied prostitution.
Rachel: 13:06 And I don’t know if that was like a thing in Chile at that time or, or what it was, but I kept being like, well why do they keep mentioning this? I mean, as I choose to believe my mom’s story, um, and everything that she said, I, I think it would take a really disturbed person to make something like that up. Um, but I remember like wrestling with that in my mind, like, well, could she have been a prostitute and just not wanted to say that she was prostituting. But I think, you know, like I said, I choose to believe her story. And as an adult now, I’m obviously much more mature than I was at 21, I feel like birth mothers can sometimes get like stereotyped or maybe like they automatically think like, oh, here’s this young chick who’s pregnant again with her second kid. She obviously was prostituting or she obviously was promiscuous. You know, I think that sometimes birth mothers can kind of get that bad rap, which is sad, but I couldn’t imagine her being pregnant, sitting in an office with a social worker who constantly was bringing up like, are you sure you weren’t, you weren’t prostituting? Um, but that stuck out to me a lot in those papers.
Damon: 14:17 How did it sit with you that you were the product of a rape?
Rachel: 14:21 So I think I cried a lot at first. So like I remember reading it and being so disturbed by it and I thought that it was like I felt dirty, I felt disgusting. I felt anger. And I thought about the fact that I would never know my biological father. And then I thought, well, why would I want to know him? But then I thought maybe I should know him. Like I just had all these random feelings going through me initially and it took me a while to sort through it. I remember talking to my grandmother about it and she said, you know, Rachel, it’s not about how you get here. It’s about what you do with yourself once you’re here. So she was like, focus less on that event that led to you being here and focus more on what you want to do with yourself and how you want to, you know, make a name for yourself. And that is something that I’ve always held on to, you know, for years ever since finding that out. But it was definitely, it’s a tough pill to swallow, you know, it’s definitely hard, even to this day, you know, and I’ve known about this for what, 14 years now,
Damon: 15:28 I loved Rachel’s grandmother’s advice to her, focus on moving forward, not on how you got into this life. Rachel admitted it’s still hard to reconcile her start in life in her own mind, but she agrees that she’s here and she has to do with this life what she can. Rachel said she always had a super special connection to her grandmother who traveled with her father to Chile to bring Rachel home. Like so many adoptees, Rachel was really curious about her paternal genetic heritage, regardless of how she was conceived. She decided to do ancestry DNA.
Rachel: 16:02 And I remember like when the results came I was like shaking cause I’m like what if he pops up on here? Like what if I have a match and it like comes up and says like parent child relationship and it’s a man like what would I even do with that?
Damon: 16:15 He didn’t show up as a match but she wondered sometimes about whether his relatives will show up as connections. She asks herself what the scenarios could have been. Was he drunk and didn’t even recall the attack anymore? What was the intentionality of the act? Of course all she could do was imagine. It was around 2006, so Rachel went on Myspace which allowed users to search for people regionally. She hoped she would see someone that looked like a friendly face, who might do her the favor of opening a phone book down there and trying to help her find her birth mother. One woman named Gabriela listed her occupation as a Spanish English translator. Gabriela was a pretty woman with a sweet face. So Rachel messaged her with her adoption story, asking if the woman would assist in her search. Within hours, Gabriela responded affirmatively that she would help. So Rachel shared her birth mother’s name in no time the woman messaged Rachel back with a phone number. And this woman you just selected her because she had a nice looking face and it said she could speak English basically?
Rachel: 17:22 Yes, that’s exactly what happened. And we’re still friendly to this day. Um, you know, I talked to her via social media. Um, I’ve never met her in person, but she’s a, she’s a critical part of my journey. I don’t think I could ever thank her enough for taking a chance on a complete stranger and helping me with that journey. But she, I mean she’s done so much. She helped me translate some of the first conversations with my mom. We called on like a three way call and she kind of did translation back and forth between my mother and I. And you know, she, she did a lot for somebody she didn’t know.
Damon: 17:59 That’s unbelievable. Rachel had no idea what was waiting for her on the other end of that phone number. She didn’t know if her mother was alive or not. Rachel called the Chilean police who confirmed her mother was living and had four children, but that’s all they could reveal. She wondered if her birth had been a secret and just what she might be walking into when she stepped forward to reveal herself to her birth mother. Rachel recalled that her adoption papers had her social workers name on them. So Gabby helped translate a call to that woman, who was still in the same profession, but she was working on helping adopted children reunite with their families now. The woman offered to locate and contact her birth mother for a fee. $600, 600. Sounds like a lot.
Rachel: 18:46 It was a lot of money and honestly, there’s been a lot of weird stories coming out in the news regarding this woman and the adoption agency. I guess that she was in charge of there, um, some of it kind of corrupt. Um, I think she denied all allegations against her, but there’s a lot of groups that they, that things just weren’t very, uh, I hate to accuse her of doing stuff that, you know, I really don’t know if she did, but I guess people are saying that she had falsified documents and a lot of stuff just wasn’t really legit. So
Damon: 19:22 yeah. And you know, in my experience, and I’m sure in yours like a lot of times when there is enough people giving an allegation about something, it’s usually true. You know, and just like the sheer, I don’t even know the situation, but for her to name a number as high and exorbitant as $600 smacks of just, you know, milking people unnecessarily. But Rachel was desperate. She was dealing in a foreign country with someone who had handled her own adoption and was offering the services she needed. She offered to pay $300 up front, the second half to be paid after Rachel was in contact with her birth mother. The woman knocked on her mother’s door, told her the situation, then said if she wanted to move forward with reuniting with her daughter, they would have to meet again the next day at the social worker’s Home Office. Her birth mother agreed. She met the social worker, shared some information about herself and her family and wrote Rachel an introductory letter. Gabby helped Rachel translate a response that she had poured her heart into. For awhile, they corresponded through their intermediaries until Rachel finally asked for her phone number. The one in the phone book that Gabby had originally found was no good.
Rachel: 20:38 So I asked for a good contact number and she gave it to me. And I think as soon as I got that number, I called the first time and I was so excited to call and hear her voice and, and finally connect with her. And then I couldn’t say anything because I didn’t know how to speak Spanish. And I realized like, man, she doesn’t speak a lick of English. So that became, and that’s when I went back to Gabby and was like, help, what do I do?
Damon: 21:04 So what kinds of things did you. Tell me, what was she able to communicate in your letters? Was it just like the high level and introductory stuff or did she say some things that were meaningful?
Rachel: 21:15 Um, I think a lot of it was just like small talk, you know, just getting to know each other, you know, thing. Talking about my siblings, you know, just saying that she never forgot about me. A couple of things like that, but none of them were too, like deep or detailed.
Damon: 21:35 I got you. So what happens with when you get Gabby on the phone with her, you’re now able to speak your mind and hear her words through Gabby’s voice. What did you guys talk about? How did it go?
Rachel: 21:49 Um, I was asking a lot of questions. Um, I, I remember asking about her being raped. Um, and if she, you know, like what she could tell me about that. Did she have any idea who, I think it was a group of men. Um, so it wasn’t just one single person that raped her, it was a couple of men together. Um, and I remembered asking did she know who the guys were? Did she know anything about them? And, um, she didn’t. I asked her about, you know, I asked about medical history. I think she had said that, you know, her mother, my grandmother had passed away recently, like maybe a year ahead of time from some type of cancer. And I asked about, um, my siblings, could I talk to them? Um, she told me that she really didn’t have much of a relationship with any of them except for one who lived with her.
Rachel: 22:50 Um, but the other three, she didn’t speak with. A lot of dysfunctional family stuff that had went on, Like I think her oldest daughter like slept with her live in boyfriend who she had been with for like a long, long time period. And, um, her other two kids lived with their father and didn’t really speak to her much. So it was just a lot of dysfunction that she kind of talked about. And, um, you know, I guess at that point I realized that things were kind of messy and I didn’t know how much I could ask or, um, how much I, you know, I, I guess I was so afraid of her turning her back on me if I was like prying too much. But again, like going back to just my personality, I was so inquisitive and I was so curious and I had so many things that I wanted to learn about. So I, I asked some deep questions, but I didn’t necessarily dive deeper into those questions.
Damon: 23:50 I told Rachel that I thought it was really interesting that her birth mother divulged so many intimate family secrets so willingly. Rachel said the dysfunction didn’t seem to be a secret at all and she appreciated that there weren’t any secrets.
Rachel: 24:04 I guess if there’s one thing in my reunion that I’m super thankful for, it’s really her openness. Like I don’t feel like she’s ever hid anything from me. Um, she kind of put everything out there and didn’t really have any, I don’t know, there was no hesitation. Like she just kind of put it out there and I’m super thankful for that because I guess it, it gave me an opportunity to kind of jump ship if I felt like this was too much for me and there was too much drama going on there, I could have totally turned and gotten away from that.
Damon: 24:38 Did you ever feel like you wanted to?
Rachel: 24:40 it might’ve crossed my mind at some point, but I don’t think, you know, my life was kind of messy, you know what I mean? As far as growing up. And, um, like I said, I had great parents, but I just was kind of problematic as a teenager and I had gotten involved in some stuff. I was a teen mom. Like there was other things that were in my life that I’m like, you know, who am I to judge this woman when, you know, my ducks weren’t always in a row
Damon: 25:09 since their initial contact, Rachel has taught herself Spanish so she can communicate directly with her birth mother.
Rachel: 25:15 Um, my mom always jokes and says that I’m the Chilean Gringa like I’m Chilean but I’m white. Um, and so she, that’s like a big thing that she likes to joke about.
Damon: 25:27 They talk at least once a week, sometimes five times a week if there’s that much to say. With modern technology, they can video chat if they want to. But Rachel hates seeing herself on videos. So she joked that she sometimes denies her birth mother’s video chat requests. I shamed her for that one. In 2008, Rachel is at work talking to her birth mother on the phone when a coworker, a temp, and not someone Rachel was very tight with, asked who she had been chatting with. Rachel gave her the elevator version of her adoption journey. Her colleague was so fascinated by it all she went home and shared Rachel’s story with her fiance, Arnold. The guy asked a pretty logical question.
Rachel: 26:10 He, his first question was like, well, what happened when she met her mom? And you know, the woman was like, well, she hasn’t ever met her. She hasn’t ever gone back. And he’s like, what? And I guess he, he was probably like, why? And when she said, you know, here’s here I was a young mother and I couldn’t really afford to go back. Arnold who I had never met, said that he would buy me a ticket to go back if I wanted to go back. And so she tells me in my office, like, Arnold will pay for you to go back. And I was like, no. I was like, I don’t even know who Arnold is. Like, you’ve gotta be kidding me. And I think I was crying. Um, and she’s like, no. She’s like, he said that. So I was like, well, can I call him? Like, can I talk to him? Like what should I do? And she said, well, yeah, of course you can call him. And she dialed his number and I got on the phone with him and he basically was like, just let me know when you want to go. And I’ll book the ticket. And I, you know, was in shock and amazed. But a month later I was on a flight out to Chile at his expense.
Damon: 27:14 That’s unbelievable. Before you get to the reunion itself. Tell me a little bit about, did you get a sense for why he was so enamored with your story and so committed to helping you meet your mother?
Rachel: 27:26 No, I don’t. I mean, I know he has four children. Um, I think he had recently lost his wife. She had passed away. Um, he’s, you know, he’s a business owner. He has a successful company. Um, and I guess he’s, you know, probably financially had the means to help. Yeah. Um, I know he, you know, gives to charity and, um, you know, from what his fiance at the time had told me he was big into giving back. That was kind of his thing. Um, I’m sure he saw the relationship between his four children and their mother, which probably played a part in it. I never asked him that. You know, I’m in contact with him. We’re friends on social media, so I’ve never asked him that question directly. Um, but anytime I post like adoption stuff on social media, he’ll comment and say, you know, he’s so happy for me or, or whatever. And I, you know, I’m lucky to kind of have still some contact with him.
Damon: 28:33 Yeah, that’s really amazing.
Damon: 28:37 What a big heart and you’ve had some great people helping you along here.
Rachel: 28:41 I know. I’m like, how did I get so lucky to come across all these people that were so willing to help me without knowing a single thing about me.
Damon: 28:50 Rachel made the long journey from Baltimore to Miami to Santiago, Chile. Meeting a birth parent face to face is a nerve racking experience no matter how you slice it but to have to fly nine hours to do it.
Rachel: 29:05 So like I have anxiety to begin with but my anxiety was on like drugs. Like I was like totally off the wall. I was so nervous. And if you’ve ever been on a flight and heard them like come on the loudspeaker and be like, is there any doctors on the flight? Like I was that girl, they totally had to get on the speaker system and call for a doctor cause I like had a straight panic attack and it was horrible.
Damon: 29:30 Was it the combination of the flight and why you were flying, or was it just the flying for you?
Rachel: 29:36 Oh No, it was a combination of, well I don’t love flying, but I really didn’t love flying for this reason. Um, I was so nervous about it and you know, wondering, they had seen pictures of me and they had, you know, spoken to me. It’s not like I was meeting strangers. Um, cause at this point we had been in reunion for two years, a little over two years. Um, but I was so nervous. Like I just couldn’t, I couldn’t even handle it. So I think, uh, you know, they knocked me out with some Xanax on that flight. And then I landed in Chile and came off the plane and my biological mother was there with my aunts and my uncles and my cousins. There had to have been at least like 20 people at the airport.
Damon: 30:21 Oh my gosh, are you serious?
Rachel: 30:24 Yeah. And when I came off the plane, I saw them and I, you know, went around to different people, but I didn’t see my mother. Like, I didn’t know where she was. Um, and I, everybody else was like hugging me and I’m like looking all over for her. Um, and then she like, you know, came around from behind some other people and I saw her and you know, hugged her and we were both like bawling, crying and just hugging and hugging and people are snapping pictures. And it was a moment that even though I lived it and I have pictures of it and I talk about it, I don’t think I could ever, it still doesn’t feel real. You know what I mean? Like the whole thing is so surreal,
Damon: 31:06 God, that’s unbelievable. What a huge moment, man. That’s crazy. And to have all those people there with you too.
Rachel: 31:15 Yeah. A lot of people like looking and watching and um, my husband came with me on the plane so he, you know, he was there, but he was the only person there with me. She had like a huge support system there with her. Um, whereas for us it was just the two of us,
Damon: 31:33 Rachel and her husband stayed in a hotel, a recommendation from her therapist who recognized that she might need a safe space to return to where she and her husband could be away from the gravity of the trip and decompress. They stayed in Chile for three weeks
Rachel: 31:49 and we spent every day kind of like sitting around my family’s house. We, you know, ate, they taught me how to cook some of the like native foods. Um, we saw some little like tourist attractions and stuff and basically just went around to like different family members houses, um, eating and talking and dancing, kind of catching up. My brother actually flew out after we had been there for maybe 10 days. My brother flew out for a week.
Damon: 32:17 Your adopted brother from your family in the states? Wow.
Rachel: 32:21 Yeah. He came out and you know, he called my biological mom, mom, and um, he spent time with us. So we kind of toured around, walked around the streets a little bit. We had these plans of like, I got an international driver’s license and I thought that I was gonna, you know, drive up to other parts, beaches and other parts of the country. But I didn’t do any of that. Like I literally sat around the House with my family the entire time.
Damon: 32:49 Just soaked it all in.
Rachel: 32:51 Yeah. Just kind of put myself like in the family, you know, like I wanted to be with them and there were so many times that I would like sit on my mom’s lap and we have pictures of it and they probably look ridiculous, but I just wanted to like sit on her and you know, be with her. And that was it.
Damon: 33:11 That’s amazing. So you were, you were completely accepted back into the family and you connected with her.
Rachel: 33:17 Yeah, it was, I’ve always been, I feel like accepted by, you know, all of them. Um, my siblings, um, my aunts and my uncles even, you know, my aunt who doesn’t have a good relationship with my mother, um, she still talks to me, she reaches out, asks how I’m doing. Some of my cousins who also don’t really have the greatest relationship with my mother, you know, they still are in contact with me. Everybody was warm and welcoming and even though some of them hadn’t spoken for probably years, they all team together during that time to kind of be there for me, which was super awesome.
Damon: 33:55 That is incredible. It really is. Because they are, I’ve seen some family rifts where, I mean it would take a shift of the continents to bring the people together. They are just not coming together. And so for them to do that is really spectacular. How, how cool. I asked Rachel what she saw of herself in her birth mother. She said when she first saw pictures of the woman, she thought they looked so much alike, but now that they’ve been face to face, she doesn’t think so as much.
Rachel: 34:21 I think we look a little bit the same, a little bit different. Um, but I remember sitting with my sister and my older sisters, so my mom’s first child and we were sitting and taking a picture and my sister’s husband at the time, you know, pointed at our hands and we like looked at our hands and both of us have these like, like our hands are like identical. We have these like super long, skinny fingers. Um, and everybody’s like laughing. And then my sister’s like, well, what are your feet look like? And I take my shoes off and both of us have like these long finger toes. Um, so I remember like, thinking that that was kind of a funny, but I don’t really look like you can see similarities between my biological mother and myself. And then some of my siblings. Um, but we have different fathers. Um, so a lot of us, you know, we don’t, none of us are like looking in a mirror, you know what I mean? We don’t have any of that.
Damon: 35:21 Yeah. How were your adoptive parents with your reunion? Like did you tell them? How did you share your journey with them and how did they react?
Rachel: 35:31 So I’m not sure that I talked, I know I talked to them about stuff. Um, but I don’t think that I’ve put it, put everything out there maybe or spoke to them a ton about it. They, I think they were both probably a little bit nervous about me going, you know, but once I got there, I would basically leave my mom’s house every day and go back to the hotel and cry. And I’m not a crier. Like I might cry a couple of times every few years. Um, but I pretty much cried every single night of that trip. And I remember sitting in the bathroom and just crying, crying, crying, and wanting to call my parents. So I would call, my parents are divorced, so I would call my mom and talk to her for a little bit. And then I would call my dad and I would talk to him.
Rachel: 36:17 And I think that’s probably the most that I spoke to them about my reunion. Um, kind of like the legwork phase. I didn’t talk to them that much. Now, It’s not something that I mentioned that often, although I’ve been doing some like public speaking events recently for an organization that, uh, I don’t want to say I work with them, but they, I wrote a little excerpt on like being different, feeling different about adoption and it was published in a book that they put out. So that is all very recent and I’ve been kind of going and doing these different public speaking things for them. Um, and that’s been awesome for me and that it’s branched out my communication with my parents.
Rachel: 36:59 Um, I’ll come home from these speaking engagements and I’ll call and talk to my parents, sometimes for hours, about things that I discussed or you know, things that I talked about publicly to these mental health professionals that are trying to learn about adopted people. And I’ll tell my parents about that stuff. And I think some of the things are maybe things that I’ve never said to them before. So I think that they’ve been hearing a lot of that stuff for the first time and obviously the reunion comes up in a lot of these conversations. So it’s opened a really cool avenue of communication between my parents and I regarding not only my adoption but my reunion and everything that’s kind of come along with it.
Damon: 37:41 Yeah. That ability to speak openly is liberating.
Rachel: 37:46 It is. It’s, it’s so freeing and it’s such a cool thing to be able to do. And I think my, my 21 year old self thought that I had dealt with all my adoption issues that, you know, I went through my adolescent years and my problematic years and I got these papers and I had kind of worked through it, but I guess at 35, um, I do these talks and I realized like, man, the way that I saw things then are super different than how I see them now and kind of as a, as an adult adult, um, I can kind of start processing and working through things a little bit deeper, I guess.
Damon: 38:26 I thought it was really cool that Rachel’s brother called her birth mother mom too. So I asked about where he is on his journey and how Rachel’s story impacted him.
Rachel: 38:36 He did not search before I did. Um, in fact, he always said that it was something that he wasn’t really interested in doing. He had no interest. It wasn’t something that he had planned on doing. Um, very recently. He, I guess a couple of years back, you know, he had gotten involved with somebody who’s now his wife and I think that she was super curious about him being adopted. So she was always asking questions and of course he didn’t know the answers. Um, and at some point I guess he decided to ask my parents for his paperwork, which they gave to him right away. It wasn’t like, oh wait until you’re 40, like they gave it to him cause he’s, you know, he’s older than me and he obviously could get those papers. So they gave him his paperwork and he went through it. Um, you know, I helped him with some of the translation and stuff.
Rachel: 39:30 Um, but he’s still didn’t have a desire to search. I think he was like, this is enough. Like I know her name and I know like some background story and that was enough for him. Um, he just had his first kid like almost two years ago and I think that his wife then started asking a lot more, you know, maybe you should search, maybe you should try to find out more information. And, uh, I, I think to the best of my knowledge, he kind of was like, yeah, I’m not that interested, but if you want to do it, here’s my paperwork. And she got in touch with somebody on Facebook that I guess like specializes and adoption reunions, like finding biological family members, um, and gave this person, you know, some information and got my brother in touch with this person and that person came back and you know, told my brother that, uh, his biological mother was deceased, but that he had, um, a sibling that was, that was alive. And my brother has reconnected with that sibling. I don’t really think they’re in contact, you know, their friends on social media and they’ve spoken maybe a dozen times I’d say, but I don’t think that they’re in regular contact.
Damon: 40:50 Yeah, I got it. That’s fascinating though, that your journey sparked his curiosity to a degree and obviously more his wife’s curiosity was, was sparked as well. That’s fascinating.
Rachel: 41:04 I think she was the driving force behind it. Um, but you know, he kind of, I’m sure I, I don’t talk to him too much about it. If, you know, if he wants to talk about it then we do. Um, I think it’s something he’s glad that he did, but you know, he, he still calls my biological mom, mom. Um, and you know, anytime I, I talked to my mom, she always says like, well, how’s my son referring to my brother? You know, she’s taken him in with open arms. She loves him.
Damon: 41:32 That’s really cute. That’s amazing. Wow. Rachel, your story has been really interesting. I’m, I always am so curious about those who find out that they are the product of a rape and how they dealt with it and your grandmother’s words, It sounds like anchored everything that you did from that point forward. But it was really interesting to hear how you’ve had all of these good Samaritans along the way who have helped you to get to a point where you can meet her. That’s so fascinating.
Rachel: 42:04 Yeah, it’s been awesome. And you know, I think, um, the world is a little bit frightening and I definitely know that there are times where I’m watching the news or I’m listening to this kind of stuff that’s going on in this world. And I think like this worlds a terrible place. But I always look back to my own personal journey and I think to myself, like, there’s not only bad people in this world, you know, there’s some really good people, people that I’ve been blessed enough to come in contact with that are a part of my life. And, you know, I feel like my faith is constantly being restored in humanity. That there, there are good people around. And if I’m ever questioning it, I look at my life and I think about this crazy journey that I’ve been on and I know that good people exist and that’s a cool thing to know.
Damon: 42:53 Yeah, it’s true. That’s amazing. Rachel, thanks so much for taking time to share your story. I really appreciate your time today.
Rachel: 43:00 Well, thanks for having me. I’m glad that I got to talk to you and uh, you know, I appreciate you hopefully sharing my story and getting it out there.
Damon: 43:08 Yeah, all the best to you. Okay. Take care.
Rachel: 43:11 All right, thanks Damon.
Damon: 43:12 Sure, Rachel. Bye. Bye.
Damon: 43:18 Hey, it’s me. I can’t even imagine how it must feel to learn that you are conceived from rape. Rachel said that was a tough pill to swallow and she still struggles with it today, but I’m still stuck on what Rachel’s grandmother told her about focusing less on how she got here and focusing more on what she does with her time while she’s here. Her grandmother is gone now, but her sound advice still sticks with Rachel. It’s amazing how our elders can share wisdom that’s so poignant for how we’re feeling in almost any situation. I hope every adoptee can find a way to latch onto that mantra to get through your journey. I’m Damon Davis and I hope you’ll find something in Rachel’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have this strength along your journey to learn who am I really?
Damon: 44:13 If you would like to share your adoption journey and your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit WhoAmIReallypodcast.com/share you can choose to share your whole story, maintain some privacy about parts of your journey or share completely anonymously. You can find the show, facebook.com/WAIReally, or follow me on Twitter at WAIReally, and please, if you like the show, you can support me at patrion.com/WAIReally, you can subscribe to Who Am I Really? On apple podcasts, Google play 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 to find the podcast too.
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