Kandi grew up in a loving Christian home, an adoptee with one older sister who was biologically related to their parents. Kandi found her biological mother living in Gulf Port, Mississippi where she was lucky to spend time with the woman before losing her a few months later. Today, Kandi’s family reflects the structure of her own childhood—-she has 6 biological children, and one adopted daughter, who is actually her biological niece.
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I've never faulted her for putting me up for adoption. Like I always kind of rationalized that it was because she was too young and that's just kinda how I imagined it. You know, there was some circumstance that she loves me, but she wasn't in a position to raise me. And so I just, that's just kinda what I lived on. I never felt like I wasn't wanted to her.
Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? 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 Kandi with a K kandi called me from Laurel Mississippi. She's a mother of seven children with a family composition, similar to her own as a child. One of her kiddos is adopted and the others are biological to herself. Kandi tells the tale of how that adoption came to be after guidance through prayer. Her good fortune to spend time with her birth mother before losing the woman and the forgiveness she holds in her heart for the man who forced her into this world. This is Kandi's journey. Kandi was born in Gulf port on the coast of Mississippi, but her story starts well before her own birth with her adopted mother. Back when she was a child around sixth grade as a part of a church program called girls in action, her mother's church took young girls to a home for unwed mothers. It's not clear to Kandi what the purpose of the trip was for the girls, but she does know it was impactful on her mother.
And so my mom had gone and while she was visiting and looking around, she saw a baby in the nursery there. And, um, she promised God that when she grew up, she would adopt, she married her high school sweetheart. And they were told it would be very difficult for them to get pregnant, but they, um, tried anyway and finally had not oldest sister and no complications that the doctor was like, you know, you're not going to be able to get pregnant again. And this was just a, a one on one shot thing. And then after several years of not being able to get pregnant, they decided to start looking at adoption. It took about five years for them to finally get their hands on me. So I was only about, I would say, I think I was about 14 days old when I came home and the older sister by that time was 13 years old. And she was actually the first person that got to hold me. So that was really special for her and a lot of people because I had blonde hair and my, my sister had blonde hair. They always assumed that I was hers. But, um, she, she babysat me a lot and she just loved it. Well, this in, by the time, I guess I was about nine or 10 months, maybe even older, my mom found out she was pregnant. And so then she had a little sister that, um, uh, sandwiched between two biological children.
Kandi always knew she was adopted. Her parents told her she was chosen special and God loved her. She remembers reading the book. Why was I adopted by Carolyn Eastman? Kandi said her mother did try to meet her curiosity about her adoption, but she thinks discussing it was hard on her mother. Sometimes
I think she had a lot of fear that I would find my adopted family and leave her and run off with them. I guess, just irrational thoughts like that. That was kind of, you know, I never wanted to hurt her feelings and make her feel like she wasn't my mom or wasn't important because she very much was she, you know, made me who, uh, had a big part in who I am today.
Kandi knew she was a little different from her sisters, but the siblings were all treated the same and their family had a lot of love. She noted that there were some things that fulfilled her, that her adoptive family wasn't proficient at like art dance and music. Kandi said her mother had papers documenting her adoption from the Catholic diocese on the Gulf coast of Mississippi. So she suspected her birth mother was from that area whenever she was down there, she always looked around for someone who she thought looked like herself.
My mom had papers. I remember she pulled out every once in a while when we would kind of look through them. And really the only thing it said was that she was an attractive young woman, you know, and that she liked art. And so I was like, I like, I love art. And I think it said something about her having curly hair. And I was like, Oh, I've got curly hair. I was the only one that had curly hair. And so I was just kind of, I don't know, identify with that, growing up. Um, my mother's father had a fishing camp in Gochez down in that area. And so when we'd go, we would, we would drive to Gulf port where they had a mall and I would always have work around to see if I ever saw anybody that looked like me. You know, I've never had anybody say, wow, you don't look like inviting your family.
But I never saw anybody that really looked like me. And so I wanted to, to assume that like, you know, like what my family was like my birth family. And when I was in college, I worked at a, a Baptist camp. I was at the Western stretches because so, um, some friends of mine had come to the mall, but that same mall that I would always look for birth family and they came back and they were like, Hey, we can file your sister. I mean, she looked just like you, you know? And, and, um, and they're like, is your sister in town? And I was like, well, maybe, and I just kind of looked puzzled and explained to them that, that I was adopted. And there there's a high probability that, that, um, there was some birth family somewhere on the coast. I could have a sister, I could have a brother, you know, I don't really know. I know it will. This girl, it looked like he, she had dark curly hair, you know, just like yours and found out later, once I did meet my birth family, they live like within walking distance to the mall and, and my half sister would go to the mall frequently.
Is that right?
That was probably her. Yeah. Yeah.
Though, at the moment, did you, did you sort of cling to that? Like maybe they did see me. Did you have a feeling like an urge to run over?
Yeah. I mean, I was, I was trying to always say, well, they, yeah, they probably did. I mean, I knew there was a possibility. So, you know, I was just telling you that probably. So
Kandi's mother told her that when she turned 18, she could search for her birth family. The Catholic diocese told her mother way back when that when the baby turned 18, she could submit a letter to the diocese to seek her out. They said, if they also had a letter from her, the mother, they would connect to the pair. But Kandi was in college when she was 18 years old, a time when she was focused on her future. So she didn't feel that urge to begin the search process. She said, when she was pregnant with her first child, she kind of started the search realizing that she didn't know anything about her own biological contribution to the child. So she did submit a letter to the Catholic diocese, but there was no letter on file from her birth mother. Therefore the diocese sent a copy of her deidentified information with the identifiable data redacted
When I got it. Um, I had a very startling revelation that was included and I had no idea. My mom had no idea that my birth mother was only 17 and a junior in high school. And she was raped. It was that somebody in the military, well, he'd come through the back door of the home that she was staying in and he was intoxicated with something and raped her at knife point. And she was only 17. So when I read all this, you know, I was, I was pretty devastated, not so much for myself, but for her, you know, I just kept, I don't know, like I always had a fear of being raped so much that I would kind of obsessed about it when I was in high school. I kind of got over it when I was older. But when I read that, I was like, well, I wonder if that's why I was so obsessed with that fear or for, for a time when I was in high school. I just thought that was really odd.
That is interesting.
I mean, when I read that,
That is the same time frame that she was attacked and that's what your fear was at its highest. And then it subsided.
Yes. Yeah. I was really broken hearted for her that she has it endure all of that. And so I got to the very last page of all the information that they had given me, and they accidentally left her full name on the very last page.
Wow. So in 2008, while pregnant with her first child Kandi obtained her full birth name, the story of how she came into the world and her birth mother's full name. She already figured out her mother was probably from the Gulf coast. So she took to social media to look for the woman and started digging through online resources on a yearbook website. She found her birth mother's name twice. Once for the year, she would have graduated. And once for the prior year, unsure which account to contact, she messaged them both. There was no response, but Kandi figured it had to be her mother suspecting that the woman may have dropped out of school. The year she was born, then re-enrolled after her birth Kandi found an online adoption registry that allowed her to identify herself and enter as much identifying information as possible. And she had a lot,
I remember finding something where I could put in my information and what I knew about her and that I wasn't looking for her. And somehow my half brother found it. If he had been helping his mom look, you know, look too, and I guess he was just searching and found that I was looking for her for her. And the day I was born. And he was like, mom, I think this is her. She said, she looked at my name and was like, that's the girl that messaged me on yearbook that she saw my message, that she thought that I was just saying that that was somebody, her age being nosy, because my question was, did she ever put a baby up for adoption? And that's just kind of where I left it, you know? And so she messaged me back and was like, I did, you know, wait, when, when were you born? And so we, we started corresponding through yearbook and then we exchanged numbers. And so, um, that was a very exciting time to think, wow, I finally, I finally found her, you know, we found each other on Facebook and looking at her picture of like, wow, it looks so much like her, you know, it's just crazy.
And you look just like her, what did that feel like for you?
That was really cool. I don't know. She's beautiful as I was like, wow, you know, I have a lot to look forward to
At the time, Kandi didn't know that it was her half-brother who found her online. Her birth mother told her that story. Sometime later Kandi said she saw elements of herself in her mother's Facebook profile, like her creative nature. She dressed differently in outfits full of color, just like candy was known for in high school. After messaging back and forth, the mother and daughter pair arranged to meet halfway between their homes in Hattiesburg. Kandi lived in the Northern Delta. Her mother was still in Gulf port. Her birth mother brought her husband Kandi, brought her husband and her son, the woman's one year old grandson.
It was just really kind of surreal. Right. When I, when I saw her for the first time in person and we hugged and it was just, it was really cool, you know, to see parts of me and her and her face and her smile and some of the gestures, like things that she does when she talks, you know, I do the same thing. It's just really odd. It helps you to see how much is nature versus nurture, you know?
Yeah. Yeah. It's really crazy. Kandi says she and her birth mother hit it off and got along. Well, she tried to be respectful of her own mom and not dive into a relationship with her birth mother. So they took things slowly. Kandi's mom wanted to meet her birth mother, but her mom's struggles with anxiety that she wasn't able to work through. So she just wasn't ready.
It was a lot of drama after I had met my birth mom, because my family was very possessive of me. They didn't want to share me. And so, because I didn't meet each other right off, there was a lot of irrational ideas in their heads about how my birth family was going to be and how they were gonna react. And, you know, just everything I guess. And so there was a lot of bickering amongst my, my family and my birth family is just misunderstanding. They thought they knew what somebody meant by a comment, you know? And so it was, you know, they had to eventually just stopped being friends on Facebook. So that everybody could get along. And so that was really, really hard because I mean, I could see where both sides were coming from and I wanted them all to get to know each other because I knew they would love each other. So that was hard. Um,