‘I believe I’m the woman you’re looking for.’ We’d reached out to EVERYONE in New York with her name.’: Adoptee finds biological family after 16 years

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“This is the story of my adoption. My name is Amanda and I was part of a transracial adoption; I am African American and the family who adopted me is Caucasian. My story begins in New York in January 1984 when, I would start my new life with my new family. My parents decided to adopt because they were unable to have their own children. When they made the decision to adopt, it didn’t matter where or who the child was coming from as long as they were able to become parents. My parents hired an attorney to assist them in the adoption process.

Towards the end of January 1984, my mother received a phone call from the attorney while she was at work advising her that a baby girl was born and she was going to be a mother. My mother was so overjoyed that she literally screamed at the top of her lungs, ‘I’m going to be a mother!’ Everyone knew how great she would be at motherhood and they shared her pleasure. My mother and my father were so excited to meet the new member of their family, they couldn’t wait to become parents.

Courtesy of Amanda Mckinstry

My parents made their way to the hospital to bring me pick me up but unfortunately there was a delay. The social worker from the hospital did not think the adoption was a good idea because of the racial difference. My parents were determined to bring me home with them that day so they waited for hours until the adoption was finalized and my birth mother made up her decision.

After my parents waited patiently and anxiously, I was finally ready to meet them for the first time. My biological mother wasn’t allowed to physically hand me over to my new parents, so the attorney had to go inside the hospital and bring me out. I was put in this cute snow suit with peter rabbit on it, which one of my new family members had bought for me to wear on my first day home. The attorney carried me outside in a car seat with a blanket covering the top. He made his way over to where my parents were waiting. They watched as he pulled the blanket back to reveal my face and said, ‘She’s a star.’ On the way home my mother sat in the back seat watching my every breathe to make sure I was ok. That night my father stayed up with me all night because he didn’t want to take his eyes off of me and also wanted to make sure I was still breathing. They were new to the parent thing and wanted to make sure everything they did was right. All the waiting and back and forth finally paid off, they were able to be the parents they dreamed of being and I had a loving new home and family.

Courtesy of Amanda Mckinstry

A little over a year later, my parents decided to expand our family so they adopted a boy from New Mexico. My new brother was about a week old when he came home. I was only one at the time, so my father stayed home with me while my mother took a flight by herself to New Mexico to pick up my new baby brother. We may have not been the average looking family back in the 80’s and 90’s, but we were now a family who was formed by two remarkable people.

Growing up my home was always filled with love, fun and adventure. My parents had many friends and the family was very close. By the age or 3 or 4, I started to realize I was different. I began asking questions about my skin color and my hair texture in comparison to theirs. My mother disclosed to me I was in fact, adopted. I do remember her telling me, but not completely understanding what adoption really meant. In my young mind, I didn’t fully understand someone else gave me life and now I was here with them, but it didn’t matter because I loved my family and they loved me back.

Courtesy of Amanda Mckinstry

My parents were both teachers, so our summers always involved traveling. In my younger years my grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins where always together traveling up and down the east coast from Florida to Canada. Some of the best memories of my childhood were our family vacations. My parents wanted to make sure my brother and I saw the world differently and expanded our knowledge and life experiences through travel. I still love to travel to this day.

Courtesy of Amanda Mckinstry

Around the age 10, my racial differences started to become more of a concern or question. I started to realize how cruel others could be in the real world. In preschool I was the only black child. There was one occasion when I was not invited to a birthday party because I was black. I didn’t know this at the time, but my mother and I had conversations about this incident when I was older. In elementary school, my classmates saw I had white parents, that’s when the uneasy questions started and whispers began. ‘Why are your parents white,’ or ‘Eeeww you’re adopted!’ I was uncomfortable answering these questions because I wasn’t really sure why my parents were white and I was black. I knew that I was adopted but for some reason I always thought it was a temporary thing, my ‘real’ mother would come to take me back. I know it seems a little silly, but adoptions were not as common in the 90’s as they are now. I didn’t know any other adopted children and if they were adopted, they at least looked like the family who adopted them. I actually kept a lot of the situations I dealt with to myself until I got a little older. I didn’t know how I should tell my parents I was confused and overwhelmed and uncomfortable in my own skin.

Courtesy of Amanda Mckinstry

Although I was a child, I didn’t feel confident with who I was as a person. I always thought to myself, ‘Where did I come from?’ ‘Why didn’t my mother want me?’ ‘What did I do?’ ‘Would I ever see her?’ ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I remember sometimes I would stare at myself in the mirror and try to find flaws, as if it would give me some answers as to why she gave me up for adoption. I always fantasized about my birth mother. I wanted to know who she was and what she looked like. I wanted to know if we looked alike, if we had the same eyes or same smile. I wondered if I had siblings and if so, how many? Did I have a big family? Did they know about me? Are they looking for me? I always felt as if something was missing, like there was a void. As I got older, I realized that the void was my identity. My racial identity, my personal identity, my cultural identity.

My parents always kept my brother and I busy in after school activities whether it was dance, gymnastics or sports. I always admired the time my parents made to be involved in whatever my brother and I had going on. They were always there for us no matter what.

Courtesy of Amanda Mckinstry

As I got into my adolescent years my self-esteem and self-confidence was at a low. I was around more black children and this only made my oddity and self-assurance get the best of me. I had friends from all different ethnicities, but I felt as if I didn’t fit in anywhere. It was sort of like I was too black to be with the white kids and too white to be with the black kids. It was like tug of war and I just didn’t’ know where I fit in. Due to the teasing and bullying of others, the only place where I felt no judgement was home with my family, it was my safe place. I remember coming home from school in tears because of a comment made about the way I wore my hair or what I wore or how I wasn’t really black because I had white parents. Even if some comments were said in a joking manner, I still took offense to it. The ironic thing is that most of the oppression came from other black kids.

In the winter of 1998, I was about 14. My mother and I had a deep conversation about my adoption. I expressed to her I felt empty, and in order for me to continue on in life and help me find my identity, I had to know where I came from. After a long and thought-out discussion, she agreed to help me find my birth mother.

At the time I began searching for my birth mom I was 15 going on 16. My mother did remember my birth mother’s name and knew where I was born, so it was just a matter of finding her. We contacted a few agencies who helped long lost loved ones find each other. Woefully, my birth mother had a common name and we got back pages and pages of results. We decided to narrow the list down and reach out to all the women who were living in the state of New York. We just assumed she may still live in state. My mother went to the local post office and purchased a PO box so we could use it for the return address. She did all the work of writing the letters and mailing them one by one to every lady with my birth mother’s name who lived in New York. In the letter she stated she was looking for a woman who lived in the Bronx, NY in 1984. We received many responses but not from my birth mother. I was still hopeful that we would eventually find her.

Finally, my mother came home one day with a letter. The letter said, ‘I believe I am the woman you are looking for.’ The letter also stated that she did live in the Bronx in 1984, and left her phone number as a contact method. I was immediately elevated but at the same time nervous. My mother thought it would be a good idea for her to speak with her first, so that night she made the call. I remember waiting upstairs while they had their conversation, I was so nervous I felt sick. After about 15 minutes I hear, ‘Amanda, pick up the phone.’ Till this day I still remember how her voice sounded when I got on the phone, it was so soft and warm. We talked for a few minutes and then she told me that she had someone she would like me to meet. Another voice got on the phone, ‘Hi Amanda, I’m your sister.’ I was literally screaming internally, because I have always wanted a sister having grown up with a little brother. Come to find out, she was actually 3 1⁄2 years older than me, so she was about 19. The three of us stayed on the phone for about an hour, I didn’t want to get off. We made plans to meet in person a few weeks later.

In February 1999, the day I’ve been dreaming about arrived. It was time for me to meet my birth mother. My parents and I, along with my brother, got in the car to make the hour-long trip into the Bronx to meet my birth mother. An hour doesn’t seem that long, but that drive took forever. They closer we got my emotions and thoughts were so intense I literally felt sick once again. I hoped she liked me and was satisfied with the way my parents were raising me.

When we pulled up to her home, it was a little hard for me to get out of the car. I felt overwhelmed. It was so surreal. My parents encouraged me to finally get out and we all walked up the stairs to her apartment. As we reached the top of the stairs a young woman opens the door, walks out, and meets me at the top of the staircase. As she started to walk towards me, I knew it was her. She was gorgeous! Her smile was welcoming and her eyes were bright. She leaned in and hugged me, literally squeezing me as if she never wanted to let go. Our hug felt as if it lasted for hours, I instantly felt a sense of relief. When we eventually unlocked, we made our way into her apartment and were immediately greeted by my sister, my grandmother, my cousins and aunts. I instantly noticed many resemblances. Everyone welcomed me with opened arms as we got to know each other.

Over the years after meeting my birth mother, we struggled with building a firm relationship. Our relationship was pretty good at times and then we would go months even years without talking to each other. She was constantly in and out of my life. The relationship with my sister was the same. My grandmother, who is her mother, has always remained supportive and in my life along with my aunts and my cousins. I never really understood why I had good relationships with the rest of my family but my sister and mother where a whole different story. My birth mother and I were really close at one point but our relationship lacked stability. We have attempted to establish a better relationship numerous times over the last 20 plus years but it never worked out. The relationship with my birth mother made me feel like I did when I was younger, when I just wanted to be accepted. I still don’t know to this day the real reason why she gave me up for adoption. I asked, but was never given a direct answer, the subject was always changed or redirected. I spent years in and out of therapy trying to make sense of all that occurred. Trying to find meaning, trying to find my purpose. I just wanted to understand why my mother wouldn’t accept me for me.

In the summer of 2020, during the midst of the pandemic, I did some real soul searching. It gave me time to reflect on my past, and think about my future. I was emotionally drained with the back-and-forth relationships with my mother and sister. I decided that I didn’t’ deserve to be treated so poorly. I sought out a new therapist who specialized in transracial adoptions, racial identity and self-acceptance issues. It was with her I gained the courage and strength to live my true self and worth getting to know and love. Ironically, my parents gave me the name Amanda because it means ‘beloved, or worthy of love.’ I decided to live up to my name, and I had to believe I was worthy in order for others to realize it, too. Although I still have questions that may never be answered, I don’t’ have a relationship with my mother or sister. All of my experiences in life up until now have shaped me into the woman I am today. I know I can overcome anything life has to offer. I have an amazing 15-year daughter who is loving, understanding and caring. My parents and I have an outstanding relationship, and I’m surrounded by friends and family who have been and will be there for me at my worst and my best. I am content with the relationships I have maintained throughout the years.

Courtesy of Amanda Mckinstry

For the past 20 years I lived with guilt, anxiety and periods of depression causing me to feel incomplete and worthless. It took two decades for me to take control of my own happiness and well-being. I hope my story inspires others to be strong, courageous and live their life with meaning and purpose. I will continue to share my story so others can learn from my own mistakes and experiences. I have accepted my adoption so I can move forward and I’m doing it with no regrets. We only get one life, so make the best of it.”

Courtesy of Amanda Mckinstry

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amanda Mckinstry. You can follow her on Instagram and YouTube. Submit your own story here and sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more amazing stories by adoptees here:

‘I got an alert on my DNA app. It was my birth father! He didn’t even know I existed.’: Adoptee shares search for birth family, pursues adoption, ‘My story is still being written’

‘If you were MY kid and got that grade, I’d send you back to where you came from.’ My mother never waivered.’: Transracial adoptee finds identity, ‘I feel nothing but admiration and empathy for my birth mother’

‘You have to work harder because of skin color.’ There was NO ONE like me in my classes. I’m changing the narrative.’: Transracial adoptee reflects on ‘reclaiming’ her culture, ‘I’m not alone anymore’

‘Where do YOU come from?’ I hated those questions. I was the ‘token brown girl.’ THIS is why representation matters.’: Adoptee finds strength in sharing story, ‘Families can look different’

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