‘I loved you and wanted a better life for you than I could provide.’: Adoptee shares emotional journey to finding biological family

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Early Life

“I don’t really remember when exactly I was told I was adopted, I just always remember it being common knowledge amongst our family. It had to have been at a very early age. I was signed over as a ward of the state of GA at birth, then placed with a foster family at 2 days old. They nicknamed me Tammy, and still call me that to this day.

I lived there until I was just shy of 3 months old, when while they were away on a vacation, they came and adopted me. The whole situation still puzzles me, but we continued a relationship with my foster parents. We went to visit every summer until I was around 12. They would have year’s worth of school and sports pictures on the walls as if I lived there, and I won’t lie, it always kind of freaked me out.

Baby photo
Courtesy of Leigh Mobley

I grew up in the small town of Carrollton, GA. A split-level house with a large front and back yard, it was the typical middle-class, suburban, two-parent household. Literally the American dream. I also had an older brother who was adopted too. Both of my parents were a part of large families. My dad was 1 of 13, and my mom 1 of 7. There was no doubt growing up I knew I was loved by my adoptive parents and extended family.

My dad treated me like a princess and spoiled me every chance he got. I don’t remember ever hearing the word NO from him. He worked nights, so he wasn’t home much. My mother was the disciplinarian in our home. She worked for the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), so that meant she was on call quite a bit.

Mental Health

Even though there were so many people in my life that loved me, I can recount times at 4 or 5 in my youth I was overwhelmingly lonely. Especially when around extended family. Family members would say things, normal things, that would just trigger emotions I couldn’t explain. Someone telling my cousin that she, ‘Looks just like her mother at that age,’ would make me want to cry. I wanted someone to say I looked like I belonged.

At family gatherings I would stay right up under my parents for as long as they would let me. I had a hard time interacting with people. I would get so nervous I couldn’t stop talking. I guess it was a form of social anxiety. It’s funny now, even our next-door neighbor at the time later told me she would go in the house when she’d see me come out because I would talk her head off. My brother was the opposite and made friends any and everywhere we’d go.

family photo
Courtesy of Leigh Mobley

As a preteen I remember always getting very upset if my mom was late picking me up from school or an activity. If she was 5 minutes late, I was imagining she had been in an accident and died. It was always an extreme fear my parents would leave me in some way.

Growing up, my brother got in trouble on a regular basis. It always attracted a lot of negative attention, and it embarrassed my parents, especially my mother. Because of this I became a people pleaser. I felt I had to be perfect and do everything right, or they would give me back. I had seen movies on TV of adopted kids being returned because they were bad.

Foster brother and Leigh as children
Courtesy of Leigh Mobley

I would beg my brother not to talk back or do things to get in trouble. I thought about it way more than I should have. As I got older, my anxiety grew and at 11. I was rambling while home alone when I found my adoption file. It was a manilla folder about a half inch thick, and full of paper with lots of blacked out information.

On one of the pages, it stated I had biological sisters and listed their birthdates. I was so shocked. I memorized the birthdates. I thought maybe they had been adopted too. It took a bit to muster up the courage, but a few weeks later riding home from church, I asked my mom about my sisters and if she knew what had happened to them.

‘Do you know the families they were adopted to?’ That’s when she told me, ‘Your parents were married, and they already had 2 girls. They weren’t adopted out. They kept them.’ I just sat there in a frozen silence, just in a state of utter disbelief. What was wrong with me? They didn’t want to keep me? I don’t think I was ever the same after that.

Motherhood

After graduating from high school and finishing my second year of college, that feeling was still there. I thought having my own child would make me feel like I finally belonged somewhere, so I got pregnant at 20 and dropped out of college. I was 21 when my first son was born. It was the best feeling in the world, and I had finally met someone with the same DNA as me.

I guarded him with my life. I went on to have another son, and even find my soulmate, but I still struggled hard with thinking I wasn’t worthy of love, or I wasn’t good enough. The void was still there. During a heated argument with my husband one day, I told him, ‘I could never expect you to love me, my own mother didn’t love me!’ That’s when I knew I had to do it, and after a long talk with my husband, I decided to look for my biological family.

family sitting at a restaurant
Courtesy of Leigh Mobley
husband and wife smiling
Courtesy of Leigh Mobley

Search For Biological Family

The file I had found years ago had been lost throughout the years, so I had to start from scratch. I joined ‘Search Squad’ and DNA Detectives on Facebook and read stories of other adoptees searching for their families as well. Some ended badly, and I second guessed if I was ready for more disappointment. I got up the courage to post my story and I received so many words of encouragement and sound advice.

After going the usual route, the GA Adoption Registry, I received my non identifying information, but it didn’t tell me much. I was devastated, and almost just gave up altogether. I was a pregnant stay-at-home wife at the time, so there wasn’t a lot of spare money. I penny pinched for a week or two, and bought an ancestry kit on sale. It was literally a last resort. I took the test and sent it off. About 4 weeks later, my results came back.

I honestly wasn’t expecting to find out much, maybe a distant cousin. I was not prepared to see what I saw when I opened my results. My very first match was a parent/child. I began to sob. I couldn’t believe what was on the screen in front of me. I cried for a few hours, then with hands shaking, I opened the match. It showed me the match was my mother, but it only had a screen name. I immediately went into FBI mode and did a google search on her screen name.

woman sitting in chair smiling
Courtesy of Leigh Mobley

Finally, I had a name! It was Washington. I then immediately went to Facebook to search for her even though I had no idea what she looked like. I scrolled until ultimately telling my husband I gave up. He took over scrolling and found her within 2 minutes. I heard a, ‘Quick, this is her!’ I asked how he was so sure. He then showed me a picture of her saying, ‘Because this is exactly how I envision you looking when you get older.’

My husband wrote her a Facebook message immediately because I was way too nervous. Days went by with no response. I was hurt. I decided I wouldn’t be a secret, so I wrote to her again, this time from my own profile. More days went by with still no response. I was angry at this point. How could she ignore me? I found what looked like a daughter on Sharon’s profile. I wrote her a long-detailed message explaining who I was and how I didn’t want anything from them. Even more days went by. I still did not get a response. I saw the daughter was online about a week later, so I messaged again. This time the message was a lot shorter.

‘I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be a stalker. I just really need to talk to your mother. I have a few questions I need answers to. I realize all of this is kind of crazy, but I have to try. If she doesn’t want to hear from me I guess I’ll have to accept that. I want to know who my father is and if there is anything I need to know medically or my children need to be aware of or screened for.’

woman, husband and children
Courtesy of Leigh Mobley

I heard a ding and read a sentence, ‘Is this some kind of joke?’ I told her no and I couldn’t believe she responded! She said she almost didn’t. She got my number and we talked that day. My southern accent was so heavy I had to repeat myself several times so she could understand me. I couldn’t believe I was talking to my sister/sisters on the phone.

There were indeed 3 of us. Same mom, same dad, 3 full-blooded siblings. My sisters told me a little about my mother, but they were extremely protective of her. It turns out she had been battling cancer, and they weren’t sure how she would take the news. That devastated me again. A few days later I received my first Facebook message from my mother Sharon.

‘Hello. I am really sorry it has taken so long for me to respond. I didn’t have the messenger installed on my phone and I don’t come on FB much..but yes I am your biological mother! Your sisters told me today they have spoken with you. I didn’t want you to have to wait another minute.’ I just held the phone and cried.

She went on to tell me she was sorry for any pain she might have caused, as it was never her intention. ‘I loved you and wanted you to have a better life than I could provide for you. But please know it had nothing to do with you. God answers prayers.’ I never knew how bad I needed to hear that. I had been waiting my entire life to hear those words.

biological sisters
Courtesy of Leigh Mobley

She explained to me she felt she was out of options. At the time she was 21 with two girls already and was miles away from her family. Them being from Philadelphia and stationed in GA, a lot of family members never even knew she was pregnant. She explained she never even held me.

They took me as soon as I was born. My biological father was very abusive and did not want any more kids. He supposedly arranged with the military for me to be adopted into a military family. This was not the case, as I was ultimately signed into foster care. She was shocked and saddened to hear that.

Meeting My Biological Family

My mother made plans to come and meet me in person, and within 2 months she and my sisters flew down to meet me, my husband, and my youngest son at the time. They brought me gifts as it was 2 days after my birthday. The hug she gave me seemed to last forever.

She looked just like me. I spent so much time just staring at her in disbelief. I can’t believe we really did it. We found them. My life finally felt complete. A year later I took all 3 boys,  (I was pregnant with the 4th) and my husband and we drove to Philly to meet all the extended family. It was truly out of a Lifetime movie.

biological sisters
Courtesy of Leigh Mobley
woman hugging biological mother
Courtesy of Leigh Mobley
biological mom and daughter
Courtesy of Leigh Mobley

Everyone accepted me with open arms. It was literally more than I could have expected in my wildest dreams. I had the best week there with my bio family. We talked and cried and talked some more. They had a baby shower for me, and even had a big cookout to introduce me to the family. It was awkward, but I loved every minute of it.

I had never seen so many people that looked like me. A day before we left my mother gave me a copy of her house key. I will never forget the words she said to me, ‘Baby girl I love you, and I always want you to know you are welcome here. This is home.’ We both cried and I thanked her for showing me and my family so much love.

My biological mother has since passed away, but I learned so much on my adoption journey so far. My advice to other adoptees would be to never let your fear decide your fate. Everyday you may struggle, but every morning when you wake up is a new day. Ask all the questions you can. You have a right to know who you are. Don’t let anyone shame you about finding out your truth. Surround yourself with people who love you, and build your own family.”

woman in car smiling
Courtesy of Leigh Mobley

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Leigh Mobley of Bowdon, GA. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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