“I was born in Utah in November of 1990. Two days later, I was adopted. I was placed with amazing parents who wanted me more than anything. I’ve had a great life. Yet I still battled a personal struggle, one I purposely hid so nobody would think I was any different because being adopted makes you feel different enough. For as long as I can remember, I was both grateful and conflicted about being adopted. I unconditionally love my parents, and I am so thankful for them and for my great life, but all the while I always had a deep desire to know my birth mom and biological family too, which always left me feeling very torn.
I’ve always loved that I was placed in the same family as my biological brother. Yep, that’s right, even though I was adopted, I was able to grow up with my actual blood brother. We have the same birth mom but separate birth fathers. She placed my brother for adoption in 1989 with, then in 1990, she was facing the same decision with the same social services with me. I’ve never taken this part of my life for granted. As an adopted child, feeling like you are ALONE is often just a part of the territory. So being able to have someone in the same house as me who was actually biologically related to me was something I always found comfort in.
While it did comfort me, it also brought its own set of challenges too. Because although related, we also have different reasons for being adopted and different scenarios which led to our adoptions. We shared blood, but we also had differing thoughts on meeting birth family which ultimately led me to searching for and meeting my birth mother without him. Differing circumstances aside, we were raised in what felt like a super normal family. Both adoptions were closed, so our life and our parents were all we ever knew. We knew we were adopted as kids, but I didn’t understand the gravity of how complex being adopted actually was until I was in my later childhood going into my teens.
The older I got, the more difficult all of it became. I was always grateful for the awesome life I’d been given, but I definitely felt the absence of my biological mother. Feeling that way when I’d been given so much was difficult and made me feel so guilty. I felt as though I was the problem for having those feelings. I had no idea it was a common thing for adoptees to feel. I was a master at hiding my feelings, and the last thing I wanted to do was seem ungrateful. The older I got, the more that hiding the feelings started to affect me. Constantly wondering about my birth mom grew to be more difficult each year.
Throughout the years, a common question I received was, ‘Do you want to meet your birth parents?’ Sometimes this question took me by surprise because, of course, I did! When I was younger, the thought of ever meeting them was a little frightening, to be honest. But for the most part, that answer was always a yes, ever since I was young. Now that I’ve reunited with my birth mom and while I was in the process of finding her, I’d often get asked, ‘How long have you wanted to?’
My first recollection of wanting to was when I was 8 years old. I remember sitting down with my mom in our kitchen getting baptism invites ready to send out. I was pretty proud of my very own little invite with my face on it. While I was excited, I remember wondering if my birth mom would come if we knew her and could give her an invite. It’s hard to look back at that photo and realize how little I was and that I’ve been longing to know my birth mom for so long.
I wanted to meet her for so many reasons but most importantly to thank her. That reasoning was always priority #1 when it came to my intention of why I wanted to meet her. Through the years the other reasons varied. Tough years, I wanted to show her some tough love, I had the mentality that I just wanted to show her ‘what she missed out on.’ Other years, I wanted to just know about her, like a fly on her wall without having to put forth my own effort of getting to know her because it sounded too difficult. But the older I got the more I truly longed for a relationship with her to get to truly know her. Good, bad, messy… all of it. I longed to thank her, hug her, talk to her, see her, laugh with her, get to know her friends and family, and her hobbies and dislikes.
Wanting to find your birth parents is one thing, but having the courage to actually follow through is another. It’s hard, it’s scary, it’s exciting, and it’s so emotional. But the inner peace I felt while solving my own puzzle was simply too fulfilling not to try. I can promise you that. Wanting so badly to meet your birth mom is hard because although I felt valid in that desire, I also felt so much pressure of not wanting to hurt or offend my parents in the process. This two-sided stress was with me in most everything I did growing up in one way or another. I always had the desire to meet my birth mom and my adoptive parents always knew this, but I don’t think they understood just how badly. But they always shared they would be supportive if I were to do so.
I had tried searching for my birth mother through my adoption agency in 2013. I requested her info which I was told she would leave for me at the time of placement, but when I got the letter back I was informed there was no info to receive. It was the ultimate rejection that took a lot of time to heal from. So, what can you do when one of the things you want most in this life blows up in your face? You do the only thing you can, and you try to move forward.
Life moved on, as it always does, but I still thought about her and wished it would have been different. So, with sadness and the ever-growing ‘birth family’ hole in my heart, I moved forward with my life. Time might have healed the initial sting of rejection, but it never healed my desire to know her. So, after 5 years of continued longing for her, I knew in my heart I needed to try searching again. Considering this was a huge decision, a difficult decision to make, and one I did not take lightly. It was hard to be willing to subject myself to the possibility of more rejection and more pain. It’s something I feared and hoped would not happen. But not knowing and constantly wondering about my missing story certainly outweighed the potential heartache.
So, in 2018, I made the move and started to really search again. The biggest problem was knowing where to start. I had no idea! Which was frustrating and overwhelming. I know now that starting with DiscoverFamily.net is the way to go, but at the time it wasn’t there and I was lost when it came to starting over. But I decided to try Ancestry.com, and I did their DNA kit after seeing it on commercials. When I got my results back, I was linked with many matches of distant relatives. It was daunting, to say the least.
Luckily after sending 135 emails to all of these matches I received a message back from a 3rd cousin, his wife, and his son who were all willing to help me search, they did so by putting in countless hours of searching. These ‘search angels’ did more for me than they will ever know. There truly is not enough I could say to thank them properly. I’m so grateful for them and so happy I’m related to them. After months of their help with exhausting searching, I was driving to my niece’s softball game. I was about 5 minutes away when I got a call from Troy, who is one of my Search Angels. He said something that I’d waited forever to hear. He told me he just got off of the phone with who we believed to be my birth mom, and he said she did in fact confirm with him she was my birth mom.
I will never forget listening to that call. The relief and elation were indescribable. It wasn’t what was said in that phone call that got me the most. It was her voice! To hear it for the first time made me shake and the tears immediately came streaming down my face. I spent hours trying to write my first email to her. There was so much I’d always wanted to say, but what would I say first? After our initial first emails to each other, we stayed in constant contact. Then a few weeks later, she asked if I’d be willing to meet her in person as she would be passing through my town, and of course, I jumped at the opportunity.
We chose to meet at a park near my home, I’ve never been more nervous in my entire life to meet somebody. I remember hearing her shut her car door. I could no longer breathe. I wanted to both run and hide in the bushes and sprint towards her at the same time because I couldn’t believe this moment was finally here. I will never forget seeing her come around the trees and seeing her actual self for the first time. I started walking towards her, and before we reached each other’s arms, we were both sobbing. We shared the world’s best hug!
Everything we’d missed out on for our entire lives was felt through that hug. No words would do justice to what we were feeling in that moment, and there are no words to accurately express it. It was a lifetime of build-up in one shaky, tear-filled hug. The thing I remember sensing the most is that she was immediately familiar. I knew her touch, and that was mind-blowing to me. We sat at a table with our husbands and we talked for 4 hours. I was star-struck, and I couldn’t stop staring at her. For the first time in my life, I even struggled to find the words.
Saying goodbye was the strangest feeling that day, but I was truly on cloud 9 after finally meeting her! A lifelong dream came true, and to have it come to life in such a positive way has far surpassed any dream I had. Meeting her was an unforgettable, emotional, life-changing moment that I feel so lucky to have experienced! We’ve stayed in contact ever since. She lives 2 hours away from me, and we made the best of the following months by meeting as often as possible and getting to meet her family. I’ve been able to meet additional family, and I’ve grown to love and enjoy relationships with them, too.
At times, the relationship between my birth mother and I can be hard because there are so many feelings attached to everything. Learning to adapt and get used to how each other processes and feels through things is a work in progress. But it’s work I continually want to put in because I’ve already missed out on so much of her life. I don’t think either of us will ever truly understand what we mean to the other, and I’m learning that’s OK. I actually think that’s what keeps us both coming back for more. I am so happy I even have the opportunity to have her in my and my family’s lives regardless of the highs and lows along the way.
As I look back on my journey as a whole, from growing up, to reuniting with my birth family, I think what I’ve come to acknowledge within myself the most is the fact that I am finally free to just be. What I mean by that is I am no longer living for everyone else and what I assume they want me to be. For the majority of my life, I’ve spent all of my time trying to be what I thought everyone else would want or expect me to be. I tried to be successful in school and as a person so I would make my adoptive parents proud. I wanted to show them taking a chance on me and adopting me was worth their investment, time, and love.
While at the same time, I was making sure the core of who I was would also be loving and accepting of my birth family if I were ever to meet them. I wanted to be someone who would fit in with whatever they were like and I wanted to be accepted by them too. If I ever met them I wanted them to be proud as well. Reunification was more difficult than I thought it would be, as there are so many unfamiliar emotions to work through, and on top of that stress, my parents’ level of support was not what I ever thought it would be. There was a rift between us, and that added in a lot of stress and heartache. They felt they should have been included more in the process, and I felt it was my journey to take. It was a definite challenge in the journey. I was completely torn at every angle.
I was still trying to make both sides proud. I was more concerned about what they all thought of me and the choice I was making than for myself. My heart was being tugged in multiple directions, and for a year, this turmoil overtook me and consumed my every thought and move. It wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t sure how to proceed, but life surprised me with an unexpected wake-up call.
One morning, I woke up as a mom doing my daily duties, and by the end of the day, I was in the ER fighting for my life. A staph infection overtook my leg and body. I spent a week in the ICU with a staph infection, but thankfully, doctors and surgeons saved me. But there was much to heal from both physically and emotionally. Through the healing, I can look back and now see what I learned. It reminded me who and what I was living for. Which was the beautiful little family my husband and I had created.
I no longer feel the need to be what everyone else expects or wants me to be. All I need to do is be me. By doing so and being myself, I can in return be who I want to be for those around me. Finding my birth family caused me to truly look within. It gave me personal answers I could not have ever received in any other way. I’m beyond grateful to be where I am now, and I only hope to uncover more of myself.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the TV show A Million Little Things: ‘You can’t change the past. You can only change your reaction to it. Because even if the past is painful. You never know when it will lead to something wonderful.’ There have been times in my life that being adopted was hard and painful. I didn’t recognize or appreciate it when I was younger and struggling, but I now fully believe there is a reason your birth mom chooses to give you a better life. There is a big purpose behind that painful decision. So whether you’ve found the thing that makes you happy or you’re lost in the painful dark, keep looking, because just like the quote – you never know when it will lead to something wonderful. My wonderful is my husband and my girls. I’d be adopted ten times over if it meant I got them out of it all over again.
I was always told how lucky I was to be adopted and how lucky I was to have my parents for parents. But I don’t ever remember being told that it was okay to feel sad, mad, confused, and unwanted for being adopted. Without hearing other adoptee experiences, I often felt like I was the problem or I must be ungrateful. I felt like my pain and anger were unjust because I ‘was lucky.’ For the record: I do consider myself lucky to be adopted and lucky to be raised by my parents. But I also feel lucky to now finally as an adult, realize it’s good to recognize I also went through real trauma and loss. And it’s ok to mourn and process all the feelings that come with that. And by doing so, it doesn’t mean I love my parents any less, and it’s not me being ungrateful, it just means I’m a human processing the complex life I’ve luckily been given.
That is the education I would have loved to have had as a growing kid. Better late than never right? That is the reason why I started my blog. This past year has taught me valuable lessons I hope will be beneficial for other people to hear about. Especially if you’re going to search for your biological family. I hope it may shed some light and help others who are also on this crazy ride called adoption.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jenni B of The Adopted Ride. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Jenni’s ‘search angels’ now help DiscoverFamily.net, which helps adoptees find their birth families free of charge. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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