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027 – I Got A Picture Of My Mother’s Sadness Though Other People

As a kid, Rebecca was considered quirky. Unbeknownst to her, that quirkiness was an after effect of fetal alcohol syndrome. She tells the story of learning her birth mother’s lonely and troubled past, and the closure she finally got after she learned of her mother’s death.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Rebecca (00:03): I went to bed that night and I woke up and I went back to the picture and I’m like, Oh my God. I was like, that’s exactly how I looked in high school.

Voices (00:16): Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Damon (00:28): This is Who Am I Really, a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I’m Damon Davis and on today’s show you’ll hear the story of Rebecca. She’s one of my people from Columbia, Maryland. She went to a rival high school Centennial, but that’s okay. Everyone knows Wilde Lake is the best. Rebecca’s parents told her very early that she was adopted and she loved it. As a kid, Rebecca was considered quirky. Unbeknownst to her, that quirkiness was an aftereffect of the alcoholism that plagued her mother’s life. She tells her story of learning her birth mother’s lonely and troubled past and the closure she finally got after she learned of her mother’s death and her quest to find answers about her paternal side of the family. Rebecca was adopted as an infant and she lauds her adoption as a positive experience with her family. But she had challenges with her brother, her parents’ biological son. And he admitted his feelings about Rebecca the night before her big day.

Rebecca (01:34): I was adopted at one month old, so my parents told me, I think when I was five or six, like as young as I could understand and um, they didn’t hide it from me and it was.. I mean I always felt like I belonged to them. I never felt different. Like I, I had written that I was quirky, but that turned out to be something totally different. So, um, it was cool. Like I loved it cause I loved the attention. Like my mom would tell the, you know, how they adopted me to her friends when they would go out and I just, it was awesome. And like nobody ever, from what I remember, nobody ever looked at my parents like, Oh poor you, you know, you had to go the adoption route. It was a very positive experience. My brother was biological and he was four years older than me.

Damon (02:26): He was biological to them?

Rebecca (02:28): Yeah, yup. So him and I constantly butted heads. I don’t know. I think part of that’s because my parents, after they had him, they had a daughter and she passed away at a week old due to being a preemie. So, um, that’s why they looked into adoption after that. So I think my brother felt a little like I replaced her, which I get. I get it.

Damon (02:55): Yeah.

Rebecca (02:55): I had asked him at one point, the night before my wedding actually, I had asked him if he ever resented me and he said there were times when he did. So I got it. I mean it’s, you know, it had to be, he was four it had to be hard.

Damon (03:10): Yeah, absolutely. Especially as a four year old part of the whole process for you to get used to another child coming in. There’s a nine month runway where you’re watching your mother’s belly grow. She’s talking to you about what a great big brother you’re going to be. And then, you know, kids can be challenged to really figure out what death means and understand it is even with grandparents who you kind of are, are taught are going to leave this world one day, but for your newborn sister to come and immediately go and it would be replaced by another child. That sounds so hard.

Rebecca (03:49): I know, I know. And he didn’t really get it. He, um, and he wouldn’t go to her grave. He, um, I don’t, it’s, it was hard and I feel bad. I do. I feel really bad. There was a horrible thing for everyone to go through.

Damon (04:01): If you don’t mind. Out of curiosity, did you get a little bit of closure for him to admit his resentment the night before your wedding?

Rebecca (04:09): Oh yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It made me understand that he’s, pardon my french, wasn’t, he wasn’t intentionally a ***. It made me realize that him and I had more sibling rivalry than other kids. I felt we constantly fought and it made me realize that I think he was just hurt and I wish I could’ve changed it, but it made me understand him better. Actually.

Damon (04:35): Rebecca’s adoption automatically put her in an interesting family dynamic with her brother’s grief over his lost sister. So I asked her how her parents made her feel comfortable in that same space. They had also lost a daughter, but Rebecca was their daughter too, and they made sure she knew she was theirs and that adoption was okay.

Rebecca (04:53): But they, yeah, they never made me feel like adoption was the second choice. Like I know it kind of was like, you know, they had a baby, she passed away. You can’t have kids, turn to adoption. But they never threw that in my face. They always said, you know, they’re happy they adopted me. I was meant for their family and they always made me feel wanted. So I never felt second.

Damon (05:17): That’s amazing that they were able to do that given the adversity that they had come from. But then in unimagined to a huge degree, it’s absolutely true. They so badly wanted a daughter that they came after you. That’s really fantastic.

Rebecca (05:29): Yes. Yeah. I mean, they hurt a lot. They just didn’t show it. Or if they did, I was oblivious to it because I was young.

Damon (05:38): Conversely, I would imagine too, I mean you go through a period of mourning, but similarly you still like you had built up this love that you are ready to give to a child and then they adopted you and they are able to actually pour it on someone as opposed to like not any place to pour it or or um, you know, maybe overcompensating with your brother or what have you. They think you provided, I would imagine some kind of an outlet for the morning and the love and everything that coincides, right?

Rebecca (06:11): Yeah. Yup.

Damon (06:12): Rebecca went to college and it was there in her junior year that her search began. She had taken with her, the non identifying information her parents gave her when she was eight years old, she used a primitive online search engines of those days to casually look for her mother’s name. At the same time she used writing as an outlet for her feelings about adoption. Those early internet searches didn’t yield any results, but when she started her own family, the trigger flipped and Rebecca was ready to search more fervently, but it wasn’t her first son that motivated her.

Rebecca (06:43): And then I graduated and then the, I would say the switch was when I had, after I had my, um, my sec, my second son. Um, yeah, it was weird. It’s weird because I had my first son and that was really hard looking back because, um, due to that, I mean part of it’s the fetal alcohol. I had my son, I didn’t know, I mean any first time mom is scared and doesn’t know what to do and, but it was so overwhelming for me. I had to do everything I could just to focus on him and what I had to do.

Damon (07:16): When you say it was hard for you to focus would, what do you mean?

Rebecca (07:19): It was hard for me. Like I couldn’t, I became consumed with taking care of my son because my brain, it’s hard to take care of a kid. I mean, I didn’t really have the motherly instincts, I guess like it.. With my brain, everything was overwhelming. Like when just everything. Like when the baby cries, when does he need a diaper change? Does he need this? Does he need that? And my brain goes so fast and it was just, it consumed me.

Damon (07:49): This is because you had fetal alcohol syndrome?

Rebecca (07:54): Yes.

New Speaker (07:54): Okay.

Rebecca (07:55): So because it was so consumed with him, I didn’t even think of searching. Like he was born and he was really big and I’m really tiny. So yes. I was like, Oh my God. He got his height from my birth family because I knew they were tall. But beyond that I just focused on him. But then by the time my second kid came around, I was like, you know, I pretty much had it down. So he came out and I’m like, Hmm. He was big too. Not as big. And I’m like, I just, that was the switch. I’m like, I want to find her. I want all these pieces answered. My first son was huge. This kid’s big. I want to know who they look like. So that’s when I decided I was going to search until I found her. Um, and then it kind of, then I became consumed with the search because that’s what happens.

Damon (08:48): So you go from hyper focus on one thing to hyper focus on another.

Rebecca (08:56): Yeah. Yep.

Damon (08:57): Fascinating.

Rebecca (08:57): And that’s my brain. That’s the brain damage. It’s crazy. It’s, I didn’t understand why for so many years because I would become obsessed with things and some people do and it’s not because their mom drank. Some people just have that ingrained in them. Some people are just like that. But with me, that’s why it’s crazy. And I became hyper-focused and um, I found her, I found way more than I bargained for.

Damon (09:21): So you mentioned earlier you said something along the lines of people thought I was quirky and I found out later it was something else. Are you basically saying that the quirkiness that was, you know, a trait of your personality when you were younger was actually the signs of fetal alcohol?

Rebecca (09:38): Yeah. Yup. Yup.

Damon (09:41): Rebecca’s search resumed with the non identifying information. Fortunately she got several lucky breaks. One was she actually had some identifying information on the non identifying information form. Another was the help of a sympathetic conspirator in New Jersey where she was adopted. But the very first piece was the list of women named Joan, her birth mother’s name, that she was given by the Adoptees Liberty Movement Association or ALMA. They’re an adoptee rights organization that helps adopt these and birth families locate and connect with one another.

Rebecca (10:14): So I had that piece of paper and it had her first name on it and I had her date of birth, which I think was an error. I don’t think that was supposed to be on there.

Damon (10:22): Oh no. I guarantee that wasn’t supposed to be on there.

Rebecca (10:27): Exactly, it was crazy. So I, so what I did was I reached out to the, I was adopted through, um, Bethany Christian Services. So I reached out to them and I said, I gave, the one in New Jersey. I reached out and I said, here’s my story. I was adopted through you guys. Here’s my maiden name, I need your help. And they said, look, we can’t tell you anything. It’s a closed records. And I said, I know, I said, but is there anything you can tell me? And they said, well, for $100 we’ll give you your non identifying information. I’m like, Oh, I already have that.

Rebecca (11:02): Well I paid it anyway cause I was like, well maybe there’ll be something else on there.

Damon (11:06): Right.

Rebecca (11:06): So, um, they sent it to me again and it still had the date of birth on it, which is weird. So then after that I got in touch, I started communicating with a social worker who worked there and she had adopted her children. So she felt my frustration that I couldn’t find out any information. Like she had my birth mother’s file in front of her and she couldn’t give me anything. It killed me. So, so I would ask the social worker, I would email her and ask her yes or no questions and she would give me information that she shouldn’t. So it was horrible. I, um, I asked her, I said, well, it says I’m Polish, so can I assume she has a Polish last name? And then she wrote back, yes, you can assume that. And I’m like, wow.

Damon (11:53): That is so clever. And how awesome was it that you had a person who was, that you had a person that was so sensitive to your situation that you could just like ease your way into, all right, let me see if I can figure this out.

Rebecca (12:05): It was crazy.

Damon (12:06): That’s unreal.

Rebecca (12:08): And then like with all of her information, like she would help me, but then also behind the scenes, what I did was I went onto um, date of birth search.com and I would type in Joan and I would type in a date of birth and I would type in New Jersey and all these Jones will come up. So her name was on there like before I even knew who it was, but there was no other information like she was this just this little blip. She like, her name was there with all these other Jones, but there was no other information.

Damon (12:38): So she was a needle in haystack.

Rebecca (12:42): She was, it was insane. I reached out to A L M A, ALMA, and they were actually my, they were my first contact. I gave them my information and they gave me a list of those 43 Jones in the United States with her date of birth.

Damon (12:58): A target list.

Rebecca (12:59): So then yeah, so I targeted, I targeted each and every one. I found addresses, phone numbers and I sent letters. I called them. Um, it took me about God, a year, maybe not as long. I don’t even remember. And I got in touch with, honestly I think like 38, 38 of them.

Damon (13:21): Wow, that’s pretty good.

Rebecca (13:22): Yeah. Yeah. So mind you, those 43, not one of them on there was my birth mom though. She was on another list later on that I found. And then there were the leaks. This one poor man was married to this Joan. She had the baby. Then I thought that I was her daughter and I put her like, I thought she cheated on this poor guy and the guy’s like, no, she wouldn’t do that. And I’m like, I’m sorry. Needless to say she wasn’t my birth mom, but I, I had no qualms about like confronting people. So

Damon (13:55): That’s exactly the kind of thing. Many adoptees express trepidation over when starting their search. We don’t want to stir up trouble accidentally by forcing others to recall emotional elements of their distant past or in this case accidentally create a false narrative about an elderly couples history. Recognizing she needed some help with her search, Rebecca enlisted a search angel named Diane and like so many angels, she was good. But Rebecca kept searching on her own too. She used online resources and made a few assumptions about her birth mother to advance the search.

Rebecca (14:29): So then I reached out to, um a search angel and uh, there was one that would search Jones in New Jersey and then she had my picture and she would find pictures and yearbooks and put up the other Jones pictures and then she would compare and contrast like all the characteristics of whether or not we looked like.

Damon (14:47): Wow.

Rebecca (14:47): She made a whole spreadsheet. She was amazing. I love her.

Damon (14:52): What was her first name?

Rebecca (14:52): So then she searched, um, Diane. But um, yeah, she’s amazing. So, so then she, you know, found some Jones and then in the meantime I’m like, you know what, I’m going to go on classmates.com and given what I know that there’s a Polish last name that her, whatever her date of birth and her first name, I’m going to make assumptions that she stayed in New Jersey, that she graduated on time and I’ll start in Northern New Jersey because that’s where I was adopted.

Rebecca (15:17): So I’m flipping through the yearbooks and there was a class of 58 Bogota high school in Northern Jersey. So I’m flipping through and there’s a Joan Chanelski and I’m looking at her and I’m like, Oh, she’s manly. And I like, I kept looking and I’m like, that can’t be her so I kept flipping and then..

Damon (15:39): So you passed judgement on her? Haha!

Rebecca (15:39): I passed judgement on my own mother. It was horrible. So that was my, um, so then I went back to her and I was like, I asked my husband to come over and I was like, okay, you need to take a look at this picture. He’s like, eh, I don’t know. I don’t think so. Now he’s the type of person, he didn’t want me to get hurt, so he saw some similarities, but he’s like, I don’t want to until it’s proven that she is her mom. He decided he wasn’t going to be like, Oh yeah, that’s her.

Rebecca (16:11): So I went to bed that night and I woke up and I went back to the picture and I’m like, Oh my God. I was like, that’s exactly how I looked in high school Except she was in the late fifties so I mean, but the face, so I’m like, Oh my God, that’s her. So I sent it to my mom and I sent it to my brother and my mom and dad. My dad writes back and goes, son of a bitch I think she found her. And then my brother’s like, why are you dressing up in 1950s attire? I don’t understand.

Damon (16:39): Wow.

Rebecca (16:41): Yeah, it was crazy.

Damon (16:42): Saw it and they really saw the results.

Rebecca (16:44): Right, because they grew up with me and they knew how I looked in high school, so they saw it.

Damon (16:49): Rebecca has more clues now. She has her mother’s picture, her name and her date of birth, but she still had to figure out how to get in touch with her. She recruited another search angel named Elaine because Rebecca really wasn’t finding anything about Joan. Elaine used New Jersey online resources that revealed some unfortunate news.

Rebecca (17:11): So she managed to find like a death, um, not a death certificate, but something that showed up that showed that she died in 1999. So, um, yeah, so she called, she’s like, I need to talk to you. I’m like, okay. So I get her on the phone and she goes, you can’t tell that it’s her from a picture, you can’t be positive. And I said, no, it’s her. I said, I know it is. And she’s like, okay, she’s dead. And I’m like, well, I kind of thought maybe because I couldn’t find anything. So I found out she died. And um, I hung up the phone and I just stood there and I’m like, I had no emotion. Like none, none. I just, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t sad. I just, I didn’t know what to do. So the first thing I did, I called my mom and then I broke down. I’m like, she’s dead. And my mom’s like, I’m so sorry. I’m upset, but I’m not like devastated because I never knew her. But it’s all this searching. And along the way of course I was like, Oh my God, I want to meet her. I want to like ask her all these questions. And at this point I didn’t even know I had fetal alcohol that came later, like after I discovered who she was and what she did.

Damon (18:22): Her search had been a secret from her adopted parents. Rebecca says she felt weird asking about her adoption, so she just didn’t. One day when her mother was visiting, a phone call made Rebecca’s mother concerned about her daughter. So Rebecca decided it was time to come clean.

Rebecca (18:39): And all along, like when I first started searching, I didn’t tell my parents. I felt weird. So I wouldn’t ask any questions.

Rebecca (18:46): I see. I mean, you’ve talked to a lot of adoptees, you know that we sort of feel protective over our family and about our own search. And it’s like this weird space, the like you want to share, you know, big huge findings and things like that. But at the same time, you want to protect yourself against their emotions if they’re not exactly what you want. It’s a really hard thing to do to go about your search and, and truly recognize like everybody that’s going to be impacted along the way and try to predict how they’re gonna react. Cause some people you think are going to be supportive and they’re not. So yeah, I understand completely where you are.

Rebecca (19:26): So yes. So I didn’t, yeah, so I didn’t tell them right away, but then my parents visit a lot. So my mom was with me and the phone rang and it was one of the Jones that I had called. So I ran upstairs and then when I came back down, my mom’s like, Oh my God, are you okay? Was that a doctor? Are you sick? And I was like, Oh shit. So I told her, I told her it was like two months into it and I told her and she’s like, Oh. And she got all quiet. And I’m like, and she goes, I just don’t want you to get hurt. I’ll help you any way I can. Your father has a whole file, he’ll give it to you. So from then on they were, they knew what I was doing, um, and they knew when I found her. So

Damon (20:05): Did you regret not telling her sooner? Sort of more openly admitting it?

Rebecca (20:11): I feel bad. Yeah, I did. I, um, I felt guilty because I was like, I felt like I was holding a secret, which I was, but she never threw it in my face. So that was good. And my father was just really quiet about all of it. He actually made a comment to me that was very hurtful after I found her.

Damon (20:27): Rebecca realized that just because her mother was deceased, it didn’t mean she couldn’t learn more about her. She wanted to see information on her death certificate and any estate file from public records, which also came with a police report. The story the police report told broke Rebecca’s heart and drove her to want even more information.

Rebecca (20:47): So I get her death certificate and a police report and I’m reading it and apparently she fell down the stairs and broke her neck. Wow. So when I found that I started crying and my husband’s like, I’m so sorry. I said, you know, I never expected this. I thought maybe like she die of like a heart attack or something, but she like fell down the stairs and broke her neck. Um, and nobody was there to help her. Like she died alone. So yeah. So there’s that. And then from there, because my brain, I get hyper-focused. I’m like, okay, well now I want her autopsy report. I don’t know why, but I, I got that, that didn’t really tell me anything except that her liver was deteriorated and her blood alcohol level when they finally tested her was like way off the charts. After learning her mother was deceased, Rebecca started looking for other family members to connect with. A first cousin she found gave Rebecca her maternal uncles contact information and they chatted by phone. Rebecca learned some sad family history of her birth mother’s early life, her lonely teenage years. And the traumatic situation in her life that preceded Rebecca’s birth.

Rebecca (21:54): And he gave me her brother’s name and number. So my uncle, so then I sent him a letter and then he called me, cause I put my number on there. They stopped talking and like 1963, him and his sister, my mom. So he’s like, I never knew about you. He was, and I still talk to him. He’s ecstatic that he has a niece.

Damon (22:15): That’s great.

Rebecca (22:16): Yeah. Yeah. He’s an amazing guy. He, they had a falling out in 63. I had to tell him that she was dead cause he didn’t know that. Um, but his reaction wasn’t what I expected. Like he showed no, like it was on the phone, but he’s just like, Oh, okay. I’m like, Oh. So they lived in Patterson, New Jersey. He was, um, my uncle was born. He lived with the family. Uh, my grandmother and my grandfather, like she, my grandmother was loony, so she like ran away after she had her son. And then my grandfather met up with her again and then they had my mom, but she ran off again. So the grandmother couldn’t raise two kids because my grandfather was working a lot. So they put my birth mother in a orphanage. So she was an orphan and in foster care for 18 years.

Damon (23:06): Oh boy. Wow.

Rebecca (23:08): Yeah. So that just explains a lot and I never knew that. Like I found that out and I was like, I felt so sad for her.

Damon (23:15): Yeah. Oh man, that’s a hard and and potentially really lonely life. You could imagine how she got to a place of alcoholism unfortunately.

Rebecca (23:26): Oh, absolutely. So then somehow I got in contact with, it was coincidence. I got in contact with, um, a girl, a lady that used to live next door to the foster home that she was in during high school. So it was crazy. The circles that I got involved in were amazing because I got a true picture of her through a lot of people that I kind of fell into

Damon (23:50): And what did you learn as you develop this picture from other people?

Rebecca (23:53): That she was very lonely. Like I guess in high school she would smile and laugh, but sometimes she just, one lady said that she just looked so sad sometimes and she would walk with her head down a lot.

Damon (24:05): Wow.

Rebecca (24:06): Yeah. It’s just, it was sad. And then like she was never there for picture day. Somebody told me, except for the senior picture, she wasn’t in any clubs except art club and she was just quiet.

Damon (24:19): Sound like she really, truly felt very alone.

Rebecca (24:22): Yeah. Yeah. But yeah, so she was quiet. And then when she graduated she, um, uh, went to go work at a bar in New Jersey and the family that owned the bar kind of adopted her. They took her in, so she lived with them.

Damon (24:40): Oh, that’s nice.

Rebecca (24:41): Yeah. Yeah. And they had, um, two little girls. She was kind of a big sister to them. I wouldn’t say mom, but she was a big sister. And apparently it was nice and she felt loved and wanted.

Damon (24:55): Yeah. Yeah. That was late in life to start to get an attachment to people. Yep.

Rebecca (25:01): So then she ended up getting pregnant and she, uh, had the baby, like the people she was living with took her to the hospital. She had a baby. This was in 1970. This was before me. So I’ve, I’ll tell you, this is crazy cause I found this out from one of the daughters that she grew up with, but, um, she had the baby and put him up for adoption. So I didn’t even know I had a brother, but I do, a half brother, um, who’s like 10 years older than me. So once she had the baby though, she left that family, like she just up and left.

Damon (25:33): Really?

Rebecca (25:35): And, and the reason is, um, because the father of the baby was the, the husband of the family she was living with, it was his.

Damon (25:47): Oh man, is that right?

Rebecca (25:52): And I found this out from the husband’s daughter, like one of the little girls is all grown up now. And that’s how I found all this out is because she Facebook messaged me and said, your name was attached to Jones and I’ve been looking and looking for her because I loved her so much. And then she left our lives and you’re attached to some her name when I Googled it and then I, so she’s like, so I reached out to you and that’s how I found out the whole story that she lived with this family and yeah.

Damon (26:23): Oh my gosh. Her little sister, like a late adoption has missed her so much that she’d been searching for her online and she finds you and that’s how you find out these pieces of your own story.

Rebecca (26:37): Yeah, it was crazy. And I’m still in touch with the lady we are supposed to like meet. I’ve never met her and her mom, who was married to the guy that had the baby. Her and I have corresponded and she knew that her husband had an affair. She knew it and she knew, but she still didn’t blame Joan. She didn’t blame my mom. She’s like, my husband was a crazy angry alcoholic and your mom was lonely. And I had issues and it was crazy.

Damon (27:07): Oh man. On her maternal side, Rebecca made time to visit her uncle in Texas. She says she had an instant bond with her family and a great visit with them.

Damon (27:16): And how did it go?

Rebecca (27:18): And so I did, and thank God they were normal and very sweet. So I lied to my husband and then I got there and I’m like, Oh by the way, I’m staying with them. And he’s like, well, cause it wasn’t the safest thing, but it turned out thank God to be amazing and the link. Like they show up at the airport and my cousin comes out of the van and like it was just her and I had chatted, but it was just like this connection and I can’t explain it. It was like, it was like old friends being reunited. It was, there was a link. There was some definitely some like chemistry and I can’t explain it.

Damon (27:51): Yeah. It’s funny how family feels that amongst each other.

Rebecca (27:55): Yeah.

Damon (27:55): When you connect. You know, when I found my biological mother, we talked on the phone and I remember having this feeling of just an instant rapport, you know, that everything was okay and, and it was really fascinating how I was able to detect similarities between our personalities. Just in that initial conversation. It was really fascinating.

Rebecca (28:16): I know. Isn’t that amazing?

Damon (28:17): On her paternal side, Rebecca located some former friends that used to be friendly with her birth mother when they were younger. They had a picture of their group together and she felt like she looked like one of the men in the picture, but he wouldn’t admit to being her father. To confirm her suspicions, she connected with his daughter, explained her situation and tried to get some answers, but it’s not looking good for Rebecca to get answers from that side of the family.

Rebecca (28:44): I somehow hooked up with these, this couple that used to hang out with my birth mom and I have a picture of all of them and he’s Peruvian and I’m looking at his picture and I’m like, holy shit. And he’s the only one that knew she was pregnant with me.

Damon (29:00): Oh really?

Rebecca (29:02): Yeah. Yeah. And his wife told me that, well actually they never got married. His partner told me that whatever I common-law, because I got in touch with all them too. And she’s like, he’s, they were, and then I came straight out and I said, did they ever have anything like, and she’s like, no, they were just friends, but he’s the only one that knew about you. I’m like, okay, well, so then so I’m like, okay, well I think I look kind of Peruvian maybe. I don’t know. So I reached out to his daughter who doesn’t speak English, she speaks Spanish on Facebook.

Rebecca (29:37): So I had to get this translator app and I’m really trying to talk to her. And I was just like, look, here’s my situation. I need your opinion. I know you don’t know me. She’s like, I think you might be his daughter. She’s like, he’s not going to admit to it. And she’s like, so, um, why don’t you guys meet? So that never happened though because he’s an alcoholic and it’s just not, he doesn’t want to meet me. Like I’ve talked to him before, but so then I sent her a DNA test kit and I say, can you give this your father take it.

Damon (30:10): Right, right.

Rebecca (30:13): And she’s like um, no, he’s not going to do that. So I said, okay, well you can take it then, but I didn’t realize it’s not gonna prove anything if she takes it. So she never took it.

Damon (30:23): I feel like if she did do the test it would show a direct link, you know, have a high probability. I mean if she has his DNA and you have his DNA, you guys are going to get close match. That’s true.

Rebecca (30:37): I did ancestry recently and it came back with a first cousin and I’m like, wait a minute. If I have a first cousin that has to be on my dad’s side, because they already know everybody on my mom’s side. So anyway, I don’t know. So that’s in the works too. But my father, I think it’s this guy, but he’s like in his eighties, and honestly, I’m not going to find the answer. So I think he did have an affair with her. I do because right around the time when I would’ve been conceived, his common law wife never got married, was in a horrific car accident and paralyzed. So I just, I dunno.

Damon (31:18): May I ask you, you’ve got a lot of alcoholism in your history.

Rebecca (31:23): Yeah.

Damon (31:23): What do you think about when you think about your past as it relates to the alcoholism?

Rebecca (31:31): Um, as I get older and, uh, as I get stressed out and I, uh, I mean what, I’m 37, so like in college I did the wild, you know, I did the drink thing, let’s go out to drink, whatever. But now that I realize alcoholism is so prevalent, it scares me because I do like to drink and I mean, I don’t drink every day, but there’s a propensity for me to become an alcoholic easily. I was born addicted. So the smartest move and I just, I don’t, I’m not ready to do it yet. I think because I don’t want people asking me why is just not to drink at all.

Damon (32:07): Yeah, I hear you.

Rebecca (32:08): And I know that.

Damon (32:09): That’s very smart.

Rebecca (32:10): I know that and I just have to do it and just say screw everyone. If they’re like, Oh come on just one drink. Cause I have my kids too. And as I get older and life gets harder, I mean I can’t turn to that.

Damon (32:21): I think part of what you said is sort of screw what everybody thinks, but it also would probably be wise to help them be part of your network and support that knows that you should or choose not to engage too deeply with alcohol so that they can know not to offer you a drink. And you know, so you might want to lean on the people that are around you a little bit to just help them understand why it is that you’re making this choice so that they can be supportive in that choice. Otherwise they’re not. They’re going to be ignorant to what you’ve selected to do and any of the history that has gotten you this, this to this point and it’s going to, it might end up feeling like they’re not being good friends cause they keep offering you stuff and you, you could end up pushing them away for the wrong reasons. So yeah.

Rebecca (33:09): That’s a great idea. Yeah. I need to.

Damon (33:11): If you lean on a couple of folks who you go out with and just let them know, listen, this is, this is a choice I’ve had to make. I’m definitely trying to hang out with you guys, but I can’t, you can’t do this piece.

Rebecca (33:22): Right. Well that’s a great idea actually. That’s a good way to look at it. I mean, cause I got my kids and they are, they are my life. And my husband too, you know.

Damon (33:31): Rebecca has learned so much about her parents’ past and her own propensity for alcoholism. I asked her where she is with her feelings about her search journey. She sounds like she’s in a good place with closure and acceptance of how things have revealed themselves to her during her search. Rebecca closes with an interesting bit of luck that allowed her to come full circle with her mother’s passing.

Rebecca (33:52): For the birth mom’s side, I have closure. From the birth dad’s side, I searched and honestly I’m okay with it because for whatever reason, and I know a lot of adoptees feel this way and I don’t know if it’s women adoptees more so than guy adoptees, but I searched for her and then I searched for him and I was, I’m okay that I don’t know who he is. I mean, I would love to know, but I don’t have that yearning that I did for her.

Damon (34:18): Right.

Rebecca (34:19): It’s weird. I don’t know if it’s, I don’t know. I don’t.

Damon (34:22): Well, I suspect that that’s probably pretty typical from what I’ve heard amongst all of the adoptees that I’ve spoken with, that’s pretty classic and I think it’s just a natural biological thing that the father was there, but in fact the mother carried you for nine months, like she did the work. To bring you into this world. And, and I just think we all male or female as children feel an attachment to our mothers first. And so when you start to search for someone that you’re biologically related to, you know, you don’t look for cousins, you don’t look for even the father necessarily. A lot of times your first inclination is to look for the mother.

Rebecca (35:05): True. That’s true. So, yeah. So no, I feel I’m good. And then when I got diagnosed with fetal alcohol, um, I became hyper focused on that, but so now I’m good with it. So a lot of my energy now is actually in educating people and speaking and I want to give back. So I’m at peace. I did find my birth mom, she did die. And, um, she, uh, got cremated in 1999 by the people of the bar she worked at. And, um, it was a different bar than their original bar and the people got her cremated but never did anything with her ashes. So I called the crematory in 2013 and they sent them to me.

Damon (35:46): Wow. Really?

Rebecca (35:47): So I have them. Yes.

Damon (35:50): Oh my gosh, that’s really amazing. Tell me about that. When you receive those, like what did you think, how did you.

Rebecca (35:55): It was weird. I had to go pick her up at the post office and it was like, it’s a huge canister. She was 5’10” so it was huge. So I didn’t do anything with it. Like I opened it and I like played some music and I like, I cried and I kept the canister though. Like I didn’t know what to do with it for like two years and it was in my closet. So finally she loved horses. So I spread her ashes at a horse farm last year and I kept a little urn.

Damon (36:26): Wow, that’s really thoughtful of you.

Rebecca (36:27): It was crazy. It was crazy.

Damon (36:30): But that’s cool that you got to be able to do that. That must’ve been some real serious closure there too.

Rebecca (36:34): It was. It was amazing. It was. It was awesome closure and I did it by myself because that’s what I wanted.

Damon (36:41): Rebecca, I’ll let you go. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you telling your story. I mean you’ve come a long way and it has been, you know, quite an unbelievable journey for you. I’m glad you find yourself in a place of health and you know certainly with spirits, despite all of the news that you’ve heard and I wish you guys the best of luck going forward.

Rebecca (37:01): Bye Damon.

Damon (37:01): Take care. Bye bye.

Damon (37:05): Hey, it’s me. Rebecca has some really interesting elements to her journey. Something adoptees often wonder is who we get our traits from, but her quirkiness as a kid, a trait she could have gotten from either parent, turned out to be the result of how she came into the world. She was born addicted to alcohol and now knows she had fetal alcohol syndrome. She’s gotten some answers from people who knew her mother, learned the backstory of her mother’s alcoholism and heard from her birth father’s daughter that he suffers from the disease as well. Thankfully, Rebecca now focuses her energy on speaking about adoption and using her own experiences to help others. I’m Damon Davis and I hope you’ll find something in Rebecca’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am I really? If you would like to share your story of locating and connecting to your biological family visit, whoamireallypodcast.com/share. You can also find this show at facebook.com/whoamIreally or follow me on Twitter at @waireally and please, if you like the show, take a moment to rate. Who am I really on iTunes, Google play or wherever you get your podcasts. Those ratings can help others find the show too. And just one more thing. At the top of the show, I mentioned my Alma mater, Wilde Lake high school in Columbia, Maryland recently to school, tragically lost one of their amazing teachers. Laura Wallen. I just want to let all of the faculty and students know that the Wildcat community is with you as you heal.

Who Am I Really?

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