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019 – Adoption Was Chapter Two Of My Life, I Had To Learn About Chapter One
Episode 1929th July 2017 • Who Am I Really? • Damon L. Davis
00:00:00 00:44:03

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Michael grew up in Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY. He led a comfortable life in the Williams loving home when he accidentally discovered, at 12 years old, that he was adopted. The discovery that he actually had another identity created conflict in him, especially during his teen aged years.

With spontaneity, tenacity, and a fair bit of luck Michael was able to track down the phone number for a long lost cousin in NY. She sounded the alarm to the family that Michael had found her, and a series of holiday season reunions ensued. But his reunification was not without its resentment. Over the course of two decades he satisfied his curiosity to uncover every detail he could about who he really is. It was an emotional journey of discovery that led him all they way to his family’s roots in the South.

The post 019 – Adoption Was Chapter Two Of My Life, I Had To Learn About Chapter One appeared first on Who Am I...Really? Podcast.

Michael (00:02):

The only thing I can think of was like going to the motherland. America is a nation of still with immigrants, but there is a mother country, ancestrally speaking, so whether you are going to come from Poland, Ireland, Africa or wherever. When you go back to those things, there's something grounding, something that anchors you and it did for me because I'm looking at this woman. I'm like my life story begin with this woman. It all started in her womb.

Voices (00:38):

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

Damon (00:49):

This is Who Am I, Really? A podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. Hey, I'm Damon Davis on today's show. I'm joined by Michael who grew up in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York. Michael was living a comfortable life in the Williams loving home when he accidentally discovered that he was adopted at 12 years old. The discovery that he actually had, another identity created conflict in him during his teenage years. With spontaneity, tenacity, and a fair bit of luck, Michael was able to track down the phone number for a long lost cousin in New York. Over the course of two decades, he satisfied his curiosity to uncover every detail he could about who he really is. It was an emotional journey of discovery all the way to his family's roots in the South. We pick up Michael's journey at the beginning, as a child. Michael was raised with six siblings, some biological to each other and many foster children who moved in and out of their home over the years. His parents cultivated a family environment for everyone, including him.

Michael (02:05):

In my world, I, I always, you know, thought that I was born in Brooklyn. That was my starting point and of course later on, I discovered that I had adopted into the family, but I was, I started as before as the Williams foster child and my adoption, wasn't made final until I was six years old. Even at that point, there was never any differentiation between, Oh these are the biological children, oh these are the adopted children, oh these are the foster children. Cause, I mean, growing up in a household, dad was still with foster kids coming in and out, not ever realizing that I had was in their shoes.

Damon (02:47):


Michael (02:49):

My parents did a really good job. It was an environment of openness and there was this sense of a family cohesion is that even though with the foster kids that were coming in and out, it was just a part of everyday life for us. That whole family environment was cultivated by both my father and my mother simply because that was the only child, his name, and yet I say this to honor my father because he's deceased freedom and black Williams, he was the only child and he never knew his father and there was an incredible burden in his heart to be a father to the fatherless. What I later discovered was that he actually had fostered nearly 65 inner city children.

Damon (03:37):

Wow. That's, that's a open-heart man. That's really incredible. So you were, you were made to feel so comfortable that it took you a while to figure out that at one point you had been a foster child who was in transition to another place. That's interesting. What did you think when you realized that?

Michael (03:58):

When I, well, the day that I realized that I had been adopted, I was about 12 or 13 years old and it turned everything on its head because it was confusing. It was confusing to me because I didn't understand why that information was withheld. Everything just kind of came out in an unexpected way. I'm mean, I was, I had, I was looking through the family photo albums and I discovered the summer day camp certificate of completion and it said Michael Harth and I was like somebody made a huge mistake and mom never caught, how could she not have caught this very noticeable mistake? I'm not Michael Harth, who is Michael Harth? I'm Michael Williams. I've always been Michael Williams. So then when I brought upstairs to go find my mother about it, she said, where did you find that certificate? I said, well mom, it was in the family photo album and she knew I had this habit of looking through the photo albums and just trying to make sense of who are these folks who are in these black and white photos.

Michael (05:05):

So then it turns out that was the day of discovery. But it was also the day of discovery of my two younger siblings because all the way up until that time well I thought I was born into the family and the foster kids that I knew, they were the ones who were foster kids and then now I'm confronted with the realities. Had no idea, I was once in their shoes and, but I was the one that they, and one of the few that they ended up keeping. So cause there was a whole other history that I was connected to that I just had to know about and that was very traumatic and confusing.

Damon (05:43):

How did your mom make you feel? How did she address your confusion?

Michael (05:48):

I assumed that she was ill prepared for that day.

Damon (05:51):

That was a surprise.

Michael (05:53):

She was very, very taken aback by the that I even discovered the certificate. I think it was one of those things that, because it was a closed adoption, you know, that was one document that I guess she didn't file away good enough, you know, and somehow I ended up just in there and I wasn't supposed to find out cause she was completely unprepared. I think she did. In retrospect, I think that she did the best she could and giving us some general information. Like for example, she was able to tell me that my full name was Michael Raymond Harth. I eventually learned about the significance of my first and my middle name.

Damon (06:36):

And what are they?

Michael (06:37):

Um, and my birth mother named me after my uncles.

Damon (06:40):

Oh that's nice.

Michael (06:41):

So I, so I had an uncle Michael and I had an uncle Raymond.

Damon (06:44):

So you retained name ownership and connection back to your biological family. That's kind of fascinating. Michael said that their home had established such a strong sense of family. The news that he was also an adoptee didn't change anything with his older siblings. That news bonded him more closely to his younger siblings who were foster kids like himself. But as he got older, he began to question his identity much more than he had before. And that sparked the deep curiosity about how his personal story had begun.

Damon (07:16):

So you found the family photo album and in it it has a camp document that basically says a different name for a child that you don't think is you. Tell me about what happened next.

Michael (07:29):

Well, what happened was I confronted my, my mother and I said, well mom, they, there must be some terrible mistake here because I don't know who Michael Harth is. She said, that's your real name. And that was the day I discovered that I had been adopted.

Damon (07:50):

And, and just what did you think when you, when you, she said that was your real name. What, what did that mean for you?

Michael (07:57):

I didn't believe her. I thought she was lying for some reason. I thought she was like playing this really horrible joke. I've gotten all my punishment, but really, mom, this is a really uncool, you know, but she said, no. She goes, you see, now she calls my younger siblings, all three of us now. Yeah. Well if something happened, I'll tell you all. And that's when she told each and every one of us that we had come through the foster care system and then we had been adopted into the family and that's how we became WIlliams', so being the oldest of the of, you know, the last you know set of kids I had, you know, a myriad of questions and I would just spouting them off, you know, and my mother said I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I just don't know.

Damon (08:46):


Michael (08:47):

And that didn't sit well with me because I'm like, well I got to get these answers. I got to know, I have to know. And it got me closer to my two younger siblings because now we're looking at each other saying all of us, all three of us were foster kids and were adopted and now we're kind of wondering and wishing together. Maybe one day we could get some answers and spin a recconnect with our biological families at some point in our lives. To me as I got older, I've moved into the adolescent years of age. It became a challenge for me because now I started, you know, really grappling kind of grapples with some identity issues. So in the household there wasn't this assurance that I was a part of this family continuum. I knew who my immediate family were, but who are my grandparents, who are my great-grandparents, sort of where did they come from? There really wasn't much of that. Finding out that I had been adopted, it was right before I went right into the adolescent phase of my life. You know, I really struggled with trying to, you know, really gain some sense about my identity, ancestrally speaking. Um, I always knew that my, my immediate family members, they were my kinfolk, you know, because of that love and that bond. But there was really no sense of belonging to a family continuum beyond that. And I had to, I had to search for that. I had to reconnect with that because what that meant to me, and I quickly began to understand that, wait a minute, Michael Hart, that's a part of chapter one of my life.

Damon (10:32):


Michael (10:34):

What history proceeded me, that led me to be born as Michael Raymond Harth? I need to know that history because in my mind at that time, Michael Williams represented, uh, and still represents to me as chapter two of my life. And I had, and I, and I knew that part well enough to, to not have any insecurities there. Um, what really exacerbated the, the feeling of maybe wanting to pursue the family, my biological family was, um, I guess after a couple of viewings of, um, of roots and being a man of African Americans, the same know, the only things that I had to go off of in terms of the history that I come from in America was enslavement and other period of enslavement. And then the process of, of, of trying to become free again. And...



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