Growing up in Leah’s home everyone was comfortable with adoption. Her adopted mom is an adoptee, and her two siblings are adoptees, though they are biologically related to one another. The kids were made to feel special because her parents chose them. But no matter how much love an adoptee receives, sometimes knowing that their origins are with another set of parents can fuel undeniable desires to try to learn more about themself. In Leah’s story, she was at a moment in her life when she wasn’t actively searching when her c0-worker’s luck online changed everything in an instant.
The post 004 – Lucky Online, Connecting When You’re Not Even Looking appeared first on Who Am I...Really? Podcast.
Leah: 00:01 So my search kind of stopped there for some time. It really stopped for probably 10 years or so before I was even really looking again, I kind of decided at that point, look what I have in my fantasy is all I need. I don't necessarily want the truth. That truth may not be what I want to hear.
Voices: 00:24 Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?
Damon: 00:35 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 on today's show I'm joined by Leah. Now we've all been online and found ourselves going down what seems like a rabbit hole content that's automatically fed to us. But what if that rabbit hole led you straight to your family of origin? In Leah's case, after years of searching on and off for her relatives, it turned out that she just needed a little bit of luck online. I'm so glad that Andrea was able to connect us.
Damon: 01:19 So tell me a little bit about your family growing up, your family structure and you know, as an adoptee where you fell in your family and how it was in your community.
Leah: 01:31 Yeah. Well I was adopted at six months of age. I was the first child they adopted, so I was the oldest. Let's see, they adopted me in October of 1974, didn't know much information about any of the birth details or birth family, but they adopted me then. And then eventually I think I was about five, my brother and my sister who were natural siblings. So I was the oldest of three of us.
Damon: 01:57 So you're the oldest of three total adoptees, but the other two are biological siblings to each other?
Leah: 02:03 That is correct. Yup.
Damon: 02:04 Gotcha. And how did everybody get along? How was adoption perceived or talked about in your family? How did they make you feel comfortable with it?
Leah: 02:12 Yeah, it was actually always, I mean, I don't remember a time not knowing I was adopted. My adopted mother was also adopted as a baby and so she was really open about it. She always had told us from day one, but she made it like a really special thing. Like it was a special gift to be an adopted kid because my parents got to pick me and so like they chose me out of and it made it, you know, it made it seem like a special thing. So it was never something that I felt like I was, you know, rejected or abandoned. I always was always presented as, it was just amazing gift that they got to choose who and they chose me and that made me special somehow. It was a great way to kind of fall in through that because mom was just great about it. She was real open. She was talking about all that. She was talking about her own experience and she would talk about wanting to know her history. So she was pretty understanding of all of the feelings that we would have as we kind of grew up.
Damon: 03:08 What was her experience with her own adoption and wanting to know her own history? Had she launched her own search to try to locate her biological relatives or her family of origin.
Leah: 03:17 I don't think she searched herself. I tell the story of her birth father showing up one day randomly and knocking on her door and they talked. They didn't really ever develop any kind of relationship. Um, and I don't know that they ever even had contact after that. I think she was told that her family was a heavy Italian family and that it was in their culture that the first born, they didn't want a girl. They would want a boy. And so she had been given up because of that is, is my understanding of what she hold us. Um, so she didn't have as much feeling in wanting to reconnect with that family.
Damon: 03:52 Oh, that's really interesting. But you did. So tell me a little bit about growing up. When you first started to really feel like you were interested in locating somebody in your family of origin. What did it feel like and what were some of the triggers for that?
Leah: 04:06 Well, I think that probably came in my teens where I started really questioning, wanting to know where I came from, what was my family of origin like was I like them, was I like the family that raised me. How does all of that kind of work? You know, the whole nature versus nurture argument. I was questioning what parts of me were because I was raised where I was raised and what parts of me were for me, like the me that my genetics has provided. So I was, I started getting really curious. I also, I have very olive skin and different features that people would classify as ethnic, but we're asking him aside, biracial, and we're asking all these questions about, um, what my heritage was and I didn't know those answers and I really was curious. I wanted to know like where, where do I come from?
Leah: 04:53 Where do I sit? And all that. So it was, it was mostly just a curiosity and it kind of developed as I was just trying to figure out who was at that time in your life and your teens and early twenties where you're just trying to kind of figure out where in this world you fit and where did I come from, how am I this, you know? So it was really just curiosity more than anything and wanting, I really wanted to know about my heritage. I wanted to understand what that was. That was, that was my intrigue I guess.
Damon: 05:20 Yeah, that makes sense. If you feel like you possibly don't necessarily look exactly like your adopted family, I could definitely see how that could be. One of the triggers in my own story, I was very fortunate that my mother is somewhat light-skinned, African-American in my adopted family. My dad is somewhat dark skinned and I'm right in the middle, so I kind of look like I'm the product of them, so I didn't necessarily have that visual trigger like some other adoptees do who are cross culturally adopted. So you're in your teenage years, you're reaching young adulthood. I would imagine at some point you just said, let me see what I can find out. How did you go about that?
Leah: 05:57 I definitely in my early twenties kind of started looking as much as I could. By law in Ohio, the records up to a certain date were sealed and you were unable to access any information at all. So I really had very little to go on. Um, I had a piece of paper that my adopted mom had taken notes down when she got them, they were basically like scribbles of information, um, hard to read, not even complete sentences, just kind of scribbled pieces of information that, you know, my mom was a, a young mom and my grandfather was a principal of some school and a pastor and just little bits and pieces, but nothing, nothing that was real concrete. So I started searching. I actually, I was a teacher at a preschool and my, one of my coworker's daughter had found her. And so she was telling me how she had connected with her daughter.
Leah: 06:48 And so I started trying to figure out, well, how can I get these pieces of information and where do I go? Started searching, uh, called, I think it was the Clark County children's home, which is where I had been adopted out of, you know, they told me basically, look, your stuff is sealed. We can't give you any information. I tried to get even just some identifying information. They were like, we don't have anything. We can't give you anything. So basically that's where my search stopped. I did consider several times looking at possibly hiring a detective or someone to kind of do the research and see what they can find. But I never did that. And quite frankly, I think it was probably a little scared of what I might find. I had been brought up that adoption was okay and that, um, it was, I was special because I was adopted and so I had this, you know, kind of background of that.
Leah: 07:32 And I had these fantasy idea of what my birth parents looked like and who they were. And I was afraid I would get disappointed if I found out for sure who, who they were. And maybe they, I guess in my fantasy it was like, well, my mom, you know, the young mom, she was scared. She did what she thought was the right thing for me. It was unselfish thing to get me out, blah, blah, blah. But what if that wasn't true? What if I found out that my mom really didn't want me and she really didn't want me to find her? And so my search kind of stopped there for some time. It really stopped for probably 10 years or so before I was even really looking again. I kind of decided at that point, look, you know what I have in my fantasy is all I need. I don't, I don't necessarily want the truth. That truth may not be what I want to hear.
Damon: 08:16 Yeah. After 10 years of thinking about it, you really have probably comforted yourself into realizing you have a great life and there might not be any reason to rock the boat. So then what happened after 10 years?
Leah: 08:28 I was coming upon my 40th birthday. And I think that's a time in people's lives where we start again hitting that who am I again, period in our life where we're trying to really explore, you know, where we came from, why we're here, where we're going. And it was November of 2013 and I ordered a DNA test from family finder's website, which was one of those ancestry websites. And I was mostly just to find out against an ethnic background. I also was curious about some medical things. My son, who was 8 at the time was having some medical problems and we were trying to get some answers on what was going on with him. So there were a couple of reasons where I started going, you know, Hmm, I really truly want to know something, whatever I can find. And I knew I couldn't access my records. So I thought, well, I'll try the DNA route. Never took the test. I got it in the mail. It went in...