Jennifer learned that she was adopted when she was six years old. Interestingly, her adopted parents shared a letter with her that was written by her biological mother whose instructions were that Jennifer should have it when they felt she was ready. In fact, her parents had an entire package of detailed information about her adoption which satisfied some her curiosities and sparked new ones that she wanted answers to. Thanks to some clever sleuthing her biological mother was very easy to locate. Jennifer’s adopted father had calculated who her mother likely was and pinpointed where she probably lived based on some of the information they already had. But what began as a warm introduction turned cold when Jennifer was forced to repeatedly ask her biological mother for identifying information about her biological father. When she finally learned who he was, and traced his family to their home in Florida, she learned that her deepest connection on this journey was with the father she never knew.
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Basically every question that I had ever had was, you know like did they want me? Do they care about me? There was no doubt that I had been lied to and my entire world suddenly flipped because my mother who had told me that that they didn't want me, they wanted nothing to do with me and all this other kind of stuff was now a lie.
Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?
This is Who Am I Really, a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. Hey, it's Damon and today I spoke with Jen. She's a Marylander just like me and in her journey she learned that her biological family lived just one County away from her growing up. She's a rare case for adoptees because she was given a really comprehensive package of information about her adoption, including a letter written to her from her birth mother. Her biological mother was very easy to find and connect with thanks to her adoptive father's ability to calculate and pinpoint some of Jen's family based on the information they already had. But what began as a warm introduction turned cold when Jen persistently asked her biological mother for identifying information about her biological father. Here's Jen's journey.
Jennifer says she had a pretty typical middleclass upbringing, three kids and a dog. And the topic of adoption was always open for discussion at their house.
I was adopted at two months old and was the first in the adoptive parents family. They had tried for 10 years to have a child and just couldn't. So they went through Catholic charities and you know, ended up with me and when I was about 22 months old, they adopted two twin boys. So there was none of that conflict of biological mixed with adoption or anything like that. It was just strictly all adoption. So I had younger twin brothers, which was definitely an experience in growing up because it was always them against me, which I guess could be at any situation, whether you're adopted or biological. So in that aspect, you know, it was pretty normal family. My adoptive parents were really good about, you know, not treating us any different, but you know, even still I always kind of felt like the odd duck out. I was six was when I was told. And at that point, you know, six years old when you're told something this big, it's not something you'd kind of keep quiet about. It's something you've got to be prepared to, you know, rain with talking about it. And so I would allow to ask questions whenever I wanted to. And of course there's only so many answers they could give but they didn't have, you know, all the information. But it was open topic growing up.
She was given a letter, a very special letter that told her more about her adoption when she was six years old. It was a letter she would refer back to for years.
There was no big sit down. And you know, the somber conversation for me, it was a letter that my natural mother had written to me when I was a few weeks old. My mom just gave it to me and told me to read it and when I was done, if I had any questions I could talk to her about it. And so I sat down at six years old and read this nine page letter and when I was done went into my mom and I remember she was washing her face and she said, do you have any questions? I was like, no, I'm good. And then I left the letter with her and I went off and played and that was just how I was told. It was no big deal to me. It was included in the packet. My natural mother had asked if she could write me a letter to be given to me at whatever age was felt appropriate and as long as there was no identifying information in it.
What kinds of things did it say in it?
It explained her reasons for giving me up. She was so young, she was 14 when she got pregnant, 15 when she had me. But I don't think she thought of the fact that, no, it's not going to be that easy to find you when you know at the time comes. But in hindsight, actually it was easier. You know, there was just a lot of information that I was able to kind of get a glimpse of my family.
Jennifer says that she had a lot of information, notes about her family, notes from the social workers sessions that were therapeutic for her own mother, and just generally way more information than an adoptee normally receives about themselves. She says she always wanted to search for her natural mother and knew that she would do so one day. And that desire grew, especially as she got older in her teenage years, but then very definitively as she reached a point in her own life that was similar to that of her biological mother. So you're six years old, you get the news, you've got the letter. Tell me about when you began to start to feel like you wanted to find this person.
I always did, you know? But of course that grew as time went on, especially in my teen years when it would be typical teenage angst and you're fighting with your parents. There was that whole going back to connection, you know, it's like, why did you give me up? And you know, would it really has been that difficult and especially when I became a mother at 18 I was only three years older than my mother was when she had me and it's like it could have been done because she had even told me in the letter that if she had wanted to keep me, her mother would have allowed it. But at the same time she was saying that she didn't want to be that one that would go off to party and leave her mom to raise me. So there was, you just, it was like a lot of conflicting stuff started happening as a teenager because you know, I understood why she gave me up, but at the same time I didn't. And that made it, that started to make it difficult.
You were in a similar but different situation as an 18 year old who was having her own child, that must've just immediately resonated with you and you got pregnant. It sounds like you just started thinking about her at a similar age.
That's fascinating. When Jennifer decided to search, her dad began helping her to calculate who this person was, reverse engineering information that she had received in that initial package and then he was able to give her plenty of clues that she needed to make that very first call.
In the letter that my mother had written to me, she wrote it on her personal letterhead so it had her initials and I had known her first and middle name, but I didn't know her last name, but based on her letterhead, I knew it started with an S or I should say my father did cause he started, I was born in 77 and he started this in like the early eighties and we knew her mother's name. We knew her parents were divorced. We knew that her mother lives in the general vicinity of, of Maryland. She had talked about in one of her counseling sessions a place that she would go hang out. Well, there was only one of those, so my dad was able to kind of narrow down a woman with the same initials and last name. Well, for the last name, he figured out that, you know, start with an S and in the paperwork there were so many letters missing in the name because everything was typewriter. And so he was able to kind of figure this out, thid one person. Same initials, similar, let number of them that letters in the last name that lived across the street from this one particular place as she indicated she did. And then every year he tracked her in the phone book.
What a sleuth!
Oh yeah. My dad, my dad's an engineer and he's just, he's very super smart.
Yeah. It sounds like a very, very calculated approach to this.
Oh yeah. And so when I turned 18 as I was eight months pregnant and I was living with my now ex husband, but my, my oldest child's father and I knew the time was coming. I was very excited. I was like, okay, I know I'm going to make this phone call. But when the time came I froze. And for two weeks I was just like, you know, going back and forth. And finally he was like, okay, I'm done with this. We are making the call today, sit down. So he called my grandmother and told her who he was and who I was and she immediately gave me my mother's phone number.
So this was your biological grandmother's house?
Yup. And I live at the time I lived in Southern Calvert County and she lived in Charles County 45 minutes from me. And I grew up in Calvert County. So he calls my mother's house who also lives in Charles County. And he just, he was like, okay, this is ridiculous. I'm just gonna put you on the phone with her. And I get on the phone and my mother of course is confused about why is this guy calling just putting some random girl on the phone. And as soon as I told her who I was, she broke down into tears and we talked for a few minutes and set up a date to get together. And it was that simple. Within a half hour, I went from not having contact with anybody and being super nervous to having a date to go meet my mother. Before I got the phone, I had to tell her, Oh, by the way, just so you know, I'm about ready to give birth to my first child. And she's like, that's okay. That's okay. You know? And so we set up a time to meet and get together. So I went to her house.
In that very first call, you let her know that she was about to be a grandmother.
Yeah. At 33 years old, she was going to become a grandmother.
Our mother to be and her long lost biological mother arranged to meet at the mother's house. The meeting went very well. In fact, it felt very familiar.
So, uh, we get there and she was waiting on the front steps for me and I immediately recognized her. People think I'm nuts when I say it cause I was sent to the infant home at just a few days old and for the first like week or two she would come to see me on, I think it was Sundays and just spend a little bit of time with me. But after that, after I was, you know, three or four weeks old, I had never seen her again. But when I saw her that day I immediately recognized her cause for 18 years I had this vision of a girl, young girl in my head looking down at me like shoulder length, brown hair. And when I met my mother it...