Kathleen grew up with five siblings, and they were all biologically related to her parents–she was the only adoptee! As a child she was told that she was adopted, but it didn’t quite sink in until the topic of adoption came up in conversation and her mother reminded her, “you’re adopted too.” But what blew my mind was how the search for her first family wasn’t originated by her, her family found her and knew exactly where to look
The post 003 – When the Search Finds You appeared first on Who Am I...Really? Podcast.
Kathleen: 00:00 You meet people your whole life. You meet friends, you meet new family members, people are born, people die, but meeting someone who is your actual biological parent after you're already, you know, at this point I was 18 years old is a very, very strange thing.
Voices: 00:19 Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?
Damon: 00:30 This is "Who Am I, Really" a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. Hey, it's Damon on today's show. I'm joined by Kathleen. Her journey as an adoptee is amazing because while she wanted to search for her family of origin, the search actually came to her at a very young age. You're not going to believe how Kathleen's story unfolded and you'll hear just how fortunate she feels for how things turned out.
Damon: 01:09 I appreciate you taking time to do the show. Take me back to the beginning. I know you and I talked a little bit before, but take me back to the beginning. Tell me a little bit about your background, about growing up, where you were and what your community was like, what your family was like and your, your family structure.
Kathleen: 01:26 Okay. So I was raised mostly in Racine, Wisconsin, and I was the youngest of six children. Uh, it was a big Irish Catholic family and I was the only of the six to be adopted actually.
Damon: 01:40 Wow. So you had five biologicals and you were the sole adoptee.
Kathleen: 01:45 Right, exactly.
Damon: 01:47 So how was it?
Kathleen: 01:47 I was raised in a very, you know, culturally Irish family I would say. And what I always thought, looking back, what was so interesting about is the fact that I never, until I really knew that I was adopted, recognized the difference in our appearance, which to me today is very obvious. I mean, I, I have darker skin and darker complexion and they all look very, very Irish and have the, you know, the reddish hair and the freckles and green eyes. And I didn't have that at all. And when I was growing up, I just didn't notice it, which really says a lot about what children do and do not see as they're, as they're young.
Damon: 02:21 Absolutely. Yeah, I totally understand that. We just are kind of blinded to the differences between us because we're all kids and it's only when we get to be adults and we're taught what our differences might be that we really start to recognize them. So true. So now tell me a little bit about when you discovered you were adopted or when you were told, how did that go down in your family?
Kathleen: 02:41 So I talked to my mom about this not long ago and I asked her when she told me I was adopted because I remember her telling me when I was nine years old. And she very, very much remembers telling me earlier. But I think the way that she told me was not very direct, it was sort of in a story type way, not the, you know, Kathleen, I'm sitting you down today to tell you you're adopted, but you know, making references to adoption or making references to things that I guess as a kid I just didn't pick up on. And so when I, when I was nine years old, I remember having a conversation with my older brother and we were talking about someone else who was adopted and my mom threw out, you're adopted. And I was absolutely stunned.
Damon: 03:24 Wow. What did that change for you? How did, what did you think? Do you remember?
Kathleen: 03:28 Yeah, I started looking at things differently. I wanted to get as much information as possible. At the same time, I really didn't want to hurt my mom's feelings. So my first reaction was I didn't want to ask her many questions because I just felt that it might hurt her feelings. And so I did whatever I could back in the day to get information about, you know, being adopted and how I could get information about my biological parents. And really there, there just wasn't much out there in terms of avenues to get that information
Damon: 03:56 Not a lot of information at that time. What's, what's the year roughly that you feel like you started to search and what was the catalyst for your search in earnest?
Kathleen: 04:05 I would have to say that I started searching in the early eighties but it wasn't quite so earnest and what really happened was that my birth mother found me. And so that piece of course a lot easier and, and I was in high school at the time, so fortunately she found me. And you know, it's interesting, the way that she found me is because it was a, I was a private adoption apparently. And when she was signing the adoption papers she was able to see the names of my adoptive parents. And so she always sort of had that information and was waiting for the right time to seek out.
Damon: 04:40 That's incredible. So she is sitting there at the table, she's made your adoption plan. She's presumably signing the forms that are going to turn the rest of your caregiving and life over to another set of parents. And she's able to see on the form who you're going to and sat on the secret.
Kathleen: 04:59 Yeah. It's funny because I'm actually a lawyer now, so I look back at that and think about, that's kind of a malpractice situation, but I'm really happy about because it really worked out well for me.
Damon: 05:08 Yeah. Right. As a lawyer, the last thing that she wants someone to do, but I could see how it worked out very well for you. So how did that go? You said you were in high school and she reached out to you. How did it go?
Kathleen: 05:19 So, um, I, I think my family situation made it a little bit easier on everyone involved. So when I was in fourth grade, my adoptive parents divorced, which wasn't easy at all, but, um, by the time my birth mother reached out to me, I was living with my mom and two of my brothers and she always sort of instilled a great amount of independence in all of us. You know, we did our own laundry, you know, we made our own lunches for school and so I was, I was very independent and I don't think that, um, when she was first contacted by my birth mother that it was so much of a threat to her as it may be to other adoptive parents. And, and also, I mean, remember I'm the youngest of six, so I wasn't the only child that may have impacted things as well. So, um, she, she got the letter and I know she waited on in a little bit and then she talked to me about it and I was just thrilled because I always knew that I wanted to meet my birth mother.
Damon: 06:11 So your biological mother sends snail mail to your adopted mother and introduces herself. Do you know what it said? Have you had a chance to review the letter since?
Kathleen: 06:21 Yeah. You know, I do. The interesting thing is, is that I happen to get the mail that day and when I looked at the letter, I just really thought there was something interesting about it that the handwriting on it was perfect. It, it almost looked a little bit like mine, which is crazy. And it was from Iowa and I thought, you know, what is that? And I knew there was something coming, so I was waiting for it and I knew my mom was going to tell me. And so, you know, when we sat down and talked about it, the letter really just asked my mom's permission to kind of open the lines of communication between myself and my birth mother. and fortunately, she helped facilitate that. And so the first thing that happened afterwards was a phone call between myself and my birth mother, which was just unbelievable. It was such an interesting thing talking to someone for the first time and hearing the voice over the phone of a person that you know, you've always wondered about it for as long as you knew about that person.
Damon: 07:11 Right. So just take me back for a quick second just for clarity. You said, I knew something was coming. What do you mean by that? Did you mean that she reached out to you first?