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110 – We’ve Wanted This Our Whole Lives

Jessica is a rare native, born and raised, in Las Vegas, Nevada. She shares how she found her biological relatives through DNA testing despite her best attempts to get information from the Mormon church, an entity focused on global genealogy. Jessica discovered she looks like her birth families and has similar traits to them. But Jessica also learned that for all she has in common with her birth mother, and how much she wants to meet the woman, they are barred from seeing one another. This is Jessica’s journey.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Jessica (00:04): And have that validation, not only with my birth mom’s family saying that I was wanted and that I was loved. And to hear him say, even though he had no idea existed, that he would have wanted me with a really good feeling,

Damon (00:26): Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Damon (00:36): 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 is Jessica. She’s a rare native born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jessica shares how she found her biological relatives through DNA testing, despite her best attempts to get information from the Mormon church, an entity focused on global genealogy. She discovered she looks like her birth families and has similar traits to them. But Jessica learned that for all she has in common with her birth mother and regardless of how much she wants to meet the woman, they are barred from seeing one another. This is Jessica’s journey. Jessica said she and her sister also an adoptee had a really great upbringing and her parents were fantastic. Jessica is the sister of a prior, who am I really guest named Cindy from way back at episode eight, titled she knew she had to do this for me. Their mother was a stay at home mom and went to every school event for her kids. Jessica and Cindy felt special because they were chosen for adoption and they always knew they were adopted. It was never hidden.

Jessica (01:54): Anytime we ever had any questions about being adopted or how we should talk to people about being adopted, she’s like be open with it. It doesn’t matter, you know, where your parents that’s all it is. And it’s just special that you’re adopted.

Damon (02:06): Even though the sisters were raised to feel loved as adoptees, they each had different feelings about their adoptions. Jessica says their differing opinions were partially because of their differing levels of information about their respective adoptions.

Jessica (02:21): I was always a little bitter about it even growing up, even as a kid, because I always wanted to know, well, why didn’t, why didn’t she want me? Because we each got what my parents called book of remembrances. And in that book, we had a little piece of paper from it’s like the non identifying information about our biological parents. I had very, very little information compared to my sister, at least in reasons why I was put up for adoption. My sister had like a little blurb at the end that said, you know, she just wasn’t prepared to take care of a child. The father was older and it just wasn’t the right situation where I didn’t get anything. I just had her hair color, eye color, what she did like her hobbies which was piano and synchronized swimming. Funny enough, I hate swimming, but it was, I had very little information and I, that really stuck with me growing up that I just didn’t know. And the unknown for me, just in my own personality, very type a personality. I hated that I hated the unknown. So I grew up very angry and bitter about being adopted, loving my parents and loving that they chose me, but I did not like not knowing

Damon (03:42): Their parents are Mormon. And the girls were adopted through latter day saints. Social services. Genealogy is huge in the Mormon community. So family history about where the family roots took hold and therefore where an individual is from are highly regarded facts.

Jessica (03:59): I never really took my parents’ history as my own because it’s not, it’s not my own. It’s really interesting. And it’s beautiful. And it’s really cool to know that my great grandfather on my mom’s side, on my adoptive mom’s side was a servant with, for the Russians are, that’s really cool, but it’s not my history. And I, as a teen and then a young adult, it just, I was very, very bitter about it and why it wasn’t my right to know that information.

Damon (04:26): Do you recall any sort of confusion about the fact that the Mormon church into which you were adopted was so into genealogy yet? You could not know your own personal history. Was there, was there that sort of,

Jessica (04:44): Oh yeah. You know, it was, it was always a big struggle because I was about, probably about 24, 25 when I actually went to LDS social services to inquire about a reunion with my biological family and what information I was allowed to have, what was I legally allowed to have. And I remember sitting in that interview with, with a woman and she was like, I know your birth mom’s name. And I cannot legally tell you, I can tell you everything there is to know about her. And I have the information it’s in whatever corporate headquarters for LDS social services that I can not give it to you. And I just sat there thinking that was so unfair. You know, this church is all about family and, you know, eternal families and learning about your family history and genealogy being so important, but I can’t even have that. And that was part even growing up in the church and, you know, kids would tease. Were like, you’re probably adopted, well, I am, thank you.

Damon (05:51): Right. Nailed it. Now, what do you want to say?

Jessica (05:54): And it, and it was, it was hard to growing up because I don’t look like my family. My sister has her own biological kids and they’re little cookie cutters of her. I mean, even as babies, it’s insane to see, but I didn’t look like my family. My sister has blonde hair, blue eyes, and I’m dark hair, tan skin, dark eyes. And my parents are, you know, lighter hair. My dad has blue eyes. My mom has green eyes and I just didn’t have any of their same features. So it was very confusing growing up and not, not knowing my real history.

Damon (06:27): I can only imagine. Yeah, the, the I’m always struck by how the visual cue that you are. One is not like the other can be a reminder, whether you want it to, or not, you’re going about your daily life. And everybody is perfectly happy and fine and things like that. And you know, you all walk past the storefront window or a mirror in a store and or whatever, you see your family portrait on the wall and you go, Oh yeah, look at that.

Jessica (06:54): Yeah. And then you’ll have, especially too, when people are like, Oh, you know, do you have any siblings? And I was like, yeah. And this is my sister. And they’re like, that’s your sister. Yes. I know we don’t look alike. And there is a reason for it we’re adopted, you know? And so it’s always kind of the, even when I would get introduced and people were like, that’s your sister. Yes. We look so different.

Damon (07:15): It’s such an, a snide remark unintentionally, right?

Jessica (07:20): Yeah. It’s like one of those weird backhand comments that people don’t realize like, Hey, that kind of kinda hurts I dont look like her, but she is my sister, no matter what.

Damon (07:31): In her teenage years, Jessica developed a few health issues. So naturally genetic medical information was very important to her around 18. She added her name to adoption reunion. Registries approached the state about obtaining more information and did everything she could short of hiring a private investigator, but information was scarce. So that’s why at 24, she approached the adoption agency again, to see what she could learn. Their hard line response was they could not assist in adoption reunions, but the representative was able to give Jessica more non identifying information than she ever had before it talked about aunts and uncles.

Jessica (08:13): And that I actually had an older sibling.

Damon (08:17): Really. What did you think when you saw that?

Jessica (08:20): I was very surprised. I, I always assumed I was the oldest because my birth mom was 18 when she had me. And you know, that’s, that’s young in my eyes. I just automatically assumed I was the oldest. But that finding out that I had a sibling, I didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl. I had no idea, but it was, it was uprooting. You know, it was just, I was like, Oh my gosh, I actually have a sibling out there. Someone, I am like someone like my sister. This is so strange. Yeah. It was very surreal.

Damon (08:56): It’s funny how you say that you say someone like my sister. So it’s in full acknowledgement of Cindy as your sister, but that this person is biologically your sister. It’s a really, it’s funny to hear you say it that way.

Jessica (09:10): It’s so strange because when my sister found her biological family, you know, there was an aunt or a relative who, who kept saying, it’s so nice that you finally met your real family. And I kept thinking but we are her real family. We were there with her through broken bones and medical issues and boyfriends and family and the birth of her children. We are her real family. And to not acknowledge that is, is almost a betrayal of what the bond we had growing up as a family unit. And I know when my sister told me that she found her biological family, she felt like she was betraying me in some way, because she found them first before I did. And I had always been searching and she just kind of on a whim was like, Oh, okay. I guess we’ll search. You know, it’s probably time with all of our medical issues, you know, I should know. And then she found him within 48 hours and she was like, I don’t want to do, I don’t want to betray my family. And even seeing on a piece of paper that I had a biological sibling, my family is my adopted family is my family. Blood doesn’t make family. I’ve learned. I learned that a long time ago

Damon (10:34): After she accumulated more background from the LDS adoption agency, Jessica turned to her sister, Cindy, who was already in reunion with her birth family. She was looking for suggestions about how to capitalize on this additional trove of information. Should she update the information on the various adoption reunion registries? Should she post the information on Facebook, even though it made her feel vulnerable. Jessica decided to shelf the whole thing for awhile. She was left in a state of wonder, because in a closed adoption, even with her additional information without people’s names, it would be tough for her, a novice to complete a search and initiate a reunion, finding people who might not be looking for her too,

Jessica (11:19): Even putting my toe in the pond or being on all these adoption registries and being registered with the state and no information coming back my way, no possibilities coming back my way. It definitely left me feeling like they just didn’t want me to find them.

Damon (11:34): A few years ago, Jessica got married. She said, she’s always told her wife that she wanted to find her birth family, but she didn’t know what to do or which way to turn. Jessica expressed some interest in DNA testing to at least learn about her cultural makeup. And maybe there could be a genetic match. One year for Christmas Jessica’s wife got her an ancestry DNA kit, which she says is a hugely popular tool in the Mormon community for genealogy research. After spitting in the tube and sending the kit away, Jessica checked the status of her test results. Online daily neurotically, it’s tiresome to stalk the status of something online obsessively. So Jessica took a break from it all for a few days. One Sunday morning, her wife said they had received an email that Jessica’s DNA test results were available. Jessica jumped straight to her ethnicity.

Jessica (12:30): I’m like, Oh my gosh, I’m Italian. And I was like, I told you, I’m not Spanish. That’s not where I get my attitude from. It’s the Italian, you know, and I have German and Greek and Irish and Scottish, and I was like, this is so crazy. And it shows where the most of your DNA, where you are likely to originate from, and it’s from Sicily. And I was like, Oh my gosh, no wonder. I’ve always been so obsessed with Italy. I’ve always been obsessed with Italy, wanting to travel there, wanting to know about the culture, the art, everything. And you know, I was like, Oh, it must mean something. It’s in my genes.

Damon (13:14): That’s so fascinating. You had an obsession about the country.

Jessica (13:17): Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I just I’ve always wanted to go with art itself. The architecture, the Vatican city. I’ve always been obsessed with that city and Catholicism and all of it. It’s just, it’s beautiful.

Damon (13:31): Pause for a quick second, because you just said something really interesting. You were raised in a Mormon family, but you said you were fascinated with Catholicism. What do you,

Jessica (13:39): I, I just, I think I’ve always enjoyed learning about other religions and other cultures, anything other than my own, because I think finding commonalities and similarities between other people is really what helps you understand others? When you can find a common core or a common value with something that is so totally different, you kind of, you can finally sit back and be like, Oh, they are like me. We aren’t so different. Even if there’s slight differences, it’s not something that really others them and feeling so othered for so much of my life. I think that’s where it comes from

Damon (14:23): While Jessica was examining herself as a descendant of global cultures, her wife was digging into Jessica’s genetic relations, examining the list together. Jessica found something really interesting. A woman who was listed as a close relative, Jessica sent the person a message.

Jessica (14:41): It’s so weird to write to someone. You have no idea. If they know you exist or not.

Damon (14:47): Right.

Jessica (14:48): And I remember saying, hi, my name is Jessica. And I put my full name because if they wanted to, I don’t know, Facebook stalk me. It was out there. If they wanted to connect me to a real person, rather than a username, I was like, okay, maybe, maybe this will work. Maybe we’ll maybe I’ll find someone. Yeah. My name is Jessica.

Damon (15:09): There’s an element of being transparent in the beginning. Like it, that suggests I want you to find me. I want that. I don’t mind if you check me out because I’m legit. If I wasn’t legit, I would be hiding.

Jessica (15:21): And I just, I gave them the basic information. I was born May 5th. I was put up for adoption. Do you have any idea what your connection is to me, with anyone in your family, given up for adoption.

Damon (15:35): Now, while Jessica is trying to figure out who her birth mother might be, she’s in the middle of a big move. She’s a fingernail technician. So she gets a lot of calls from clients, checking her availability for her services, but in the middle of a big move, her client calls had to wait while they were packing and prepping for the move. Jessica was checking her phone periodically to see if the close family match had messaged her back. Nothing. Jessica got a phone call midday from a number she didn’t know. And the person left the most generic message possible. Hi, I’m calling for Jessica. Please give me a call back. She figured it had to be a client. So Jessica dismissed it. But later that night, the same number called again.

Jessica (16:22): We were finally kind of winding down for the night and it was probably about seven-thirty, eight o’clock I get another call from the same number. And I was like, dang, they really want their nails done. They’re really insistent on trying to get an appointment. I sent them to voicemail and this time it was a longer message. And I hit play on the message and it says, hi, I’m calling for Jessica. I think I may be your aunt. My grandparents got a message on their ancestry. Whenever you’re ready. Please give me a call.

Damon (17:05): Wow. What’d you think?

Jessica (17:07): I know I was floored. I was like, I yelled for my wife. I was like, babe you have to listen to this voicemail. And I let her listen to it. She goes, we’ll call her back. And I was like, but isn’t it too late? It’s like eight-thirty. Is it? Is it too late to call her back? I don’t know. She’s like she just called you called her back. And I was like, I don’t know. And I ended up calling my best friend Courtney and I was like, you will never believe what just happened. And she knew that I had gotten my DNA results. Cause I texted her and I showed her all of my ethnicities and all of that. And I told her, I just got a phone call from my aunt. I don’t know what to do. She goes, we’ll call her back. Stupid.

Damon (17:50): Jessica also called her sister Cindy to share the news. Cindy whom Jessica reports has always been protective of her, said she wanted to be on the phone with Jessica and the aunt when they spoke for the first time. She said she just wanted to make sure this aunt wasn’t crazy. Cindy had also been integral to the whole search. So Jessica agreed. Cindy could listen in on mute.

Jessica (18:13): It was so awkward. I’m a very awkward person on the phone in general. And I remember telling her, hi, I’m Jessica. You said that you were my aunt. She laughed. And it was the strangest thing. It was like a laugh that I’ve heard before. And I was like, Oh my gosh. And my wife goes, you laugh like her. You guys laugh alike.

Damon (18:36): Oh, that’s crazy.

Jessica (18:40): Apparently we also sound alike on the phone. So that was, that was also interesting. It was, it was like listening to myself on the phone. The first thing she asked me aside from like, Oh my gosh, this is insane. Was what, what do you hope comes from this? And I was honest, you know, I don’t, I don’t expect a relationship. I’m not looking for my family because I feel like I’m missing family. Like I don’t belong to a family. I just want to know. I’ve wanted to know my whole life, where I come from, who I come from, where, where do I get the things, personality traits or mannerisms, where do they come from? You know? And I want to know why I want to know why I was put up for adoption. You know, what were the reasons, even if it was just purely, I just didn’t want you. I just wanted to know it. It was fortunate that I did get the answer later on, but my aunt was like, you know, this might come as disappointing news. I don’t really talk to your mom anymore. But that is because she is in prison.

Damon (19:59): Jessica said in that moment, there was a small sense of relief about her mother’s incarceration. Because another alternative was that the woman could have been dead. To her surprise her aunt offered to connect Jessica with her older sister. Jessica didn’t think she’d be offered such quick access to her new found family members with the names of her older sister and younger brother Jessica’s wife and best friend jumped on the internet and started researching everyone of the three of them. Jessica was the only one placed for adoption. She asked her aunt about the reason her birth mother was incarcerated.

Jessica (20:37): And I told her, I was like, could you tell me a little bit about what happened? I am sure it is something that’s going to bring up trauma because if you’re in prison, you did something wrong. And she and my uncle, they were sentenced to life in prison for conspiracy of murder. My birth mom’s husband at the time was murdered. And she said that there is, there’s a lot of trauma that goes along with it. It was when it happened when I was in high school. And I think I was a junior in high school when she went to prison. So she’s been in prison for 15, 16 years.

Damon (21:21): Was the murder victim, the father of your youngest sibling?

Jessica (21:26): No. Okay. He was, he did have a child of his own, but he was not the father of any of us. We do all have different dads.

Damon (21:38): Jessica said her aunt gave her so much information. She didn’t think she’d ever have her aunt invited Jessica to meet the family, grandparents and uncle whenever she wanted.

Jessica (21:50): It was so crazy to have to finally talk to someone and be able to ask all the questions I wanted. And it was so strange. I had names. I had, you know, who they were related to and all of this information. And she goes, you know, now we’re here. And it was like, just after that day, after that phone call, it was like, I was getting Facebook requests and Oh my gosh, we found you and Oh my gosh, you found us. And it was quite surreal. And it was for several months after that phone call, it was like, I kept finding family members and it was really crazy.

Damon (22:27): I can only imagine. Wow,

Jessica (22:29): Funny enough. When I got my sister’s name, my best friend was they were in a little group message trying to figure out who everyone was and like what they look like. My best friend sent a picture of my sister to my wife and mom was like, why are you sending a picture of, Jess to me, I have plenty of pictures of her. She goes, no, no, no, no. That’s Jessica’s sister. And I know her. Yeah. She goes, why do I know that name? And she looked on her friends list on Facebook and was like, Oh my God, I know her. I know Jessica’s sister. Oh my gosh. How did I never put it together? When you put a picture of me and my sister next to each other, it’s like, we’re twins.

Damon (23:22): That is so crazy.

Jessica (23:25): And she’s like, I never, I never would have put it together. I never would have thought like that. She was your sister. And I was like, well, I mean, unless you’re bringing up a conversation like, Oh, Hey, do you have any adopted siblings? We’ll probably never know. That’s just so crazy

Damon (23:41): How close are they? They know each other for lack of better words in real, they’re not just virtual friends, but they’ve actually met

Jessica (23:48): My best friend. Took my sister’s maternity pictures.

Damon (23:52): What?

Jessica (23:54): Yes. So my, my nephew is his little baby bump. Pictures were done by my best friend.

Damon (24:03): Oh my God. That’s crazy. How cool that is.

Jessica (24:09): Yeah. It is very insane to see how many people, my sister and I have in mutual friends that we have hung out in the same circles that we know the same people, but we have never met

Damon (24:26): For two weeks after speaking with her aunt Jessica let everything sink in. Before reaching out to her sister, she sent her sibling a Facebook message that basically said,

Jessica (24:36): Hi, I don’t know if anyone’s told you, but you are my sister. And I’ve been looking my whole life. And she goes, Oh my God, I am so excited. I’ve been waiting for this my whole life. And when I got that message, I just cried the fact that she wanted to know who I was and that the fact that people knew who I was in this family, that I wasn’t a secret was even overwhelming.

Damon (25:09): Yeah, I can. I can certainly imagine. Cause you’ve felt like you were a secret and like you’ve been hanging in some back corner somewhere. When in fact they been shining lights all over the place, trying to find you. They just couldn’t. That’s crazy. Yes. She learned that her sister and uncle had been searching for her using the name, her birth mother intended for her Kendra. They were looking for her using the wrong identity a few days after their first Facebook message. The sisters met for the first time at Chipotle a place they both love. Jessica said when she met her sister for the first time, it was like looking in a mirror. They have similar hand movements. They make similar facial expressions, they fidget and they sit the same way. Jessica and her sister see one another, at least once a week, she sees her brother less frequently, but Jessica knows it’s not personal. He’s super busy with work. So they try to find time to catch up whenever they can. She says she can tell they’re both kind of nerdy and she can feel that she got her artistic capabilities from her maternal roots.

Jessica (26:19): It’s funny because my sister and my uncle both went looking for me, but they, they looked for me under a different name, not my name. My birth mom was going to name me Kendra. So they were looking for me as Kendra, whenever they would essentially do the same kind of search, I would would put it out there and be like, Oh, looking for Kendra, but never find me because that’s not my name.

Damon (26:51): Yeah. That’s the challenge of changing the child’s name. Isn’t it? Yeah. Wow. So when did you guys meet?

Jessica (27:00): We met probably a couple of days after our first Facebook message and we met, we met at a Chipotle. We both, we both loved. So we met at Chipotle lady and just started to get to know each other. And now I, I see her at least once a week. It’s been, it’s been almost a year and a half, maybe a little over. And I, I see her once a week.

Damon (27:28): And how about your younger brother?

Jessica (27:32): I did actually get to meet him and we don’t see each other as often, but he he’s super busy with work and I know it’s nothing personal. We just, we both are very busy with work and trying to find time to see each other, but it is very cool that he has as nerdy as I am.

Damon (27:51): That’s great. Some things are just in the blood, whether they’re sports or nerdy or whatever the thing is, you just, you can’t even avoid it.

Jessica (28:01): Yeah. Just like it’s crazy because art has always been my thing. I’ve always been very artistic and I’ve always wondered where I got it from and I definitely get it from my birth mom. Her job before she went to prison was actually as a nail tech.

Damon (28:23): That’s crazy of all the jobs

Jessica (28:25): That is. So any job she possibly could have, she did nails.

Damon (28:31): Amazing coincidence is aside Jessica’s birth. Mother is incarcerated. The circumstances for her arrest and prosecution were important for Jessica to know, despite the pain, her questions might bring up.

Jessica (28:44): I knew bringing up my birth mom would relive certain traumas and I didn’t want to do that for anyone. I didn’t want to bring up that trauma, but it was an important part of trying to understand my birth mom and the reasons why she was in prison. You know, my, my sister was very, very open. She would, she would tell me about how loving my birth mom was and is, you know, she, she still, even while in prison, she wants to know that her kids are happy and healthy and loves them so dearly. That it’s very, it’s a very strange thing that she is in prison. So my birth mom’s husband who was murdered, that was essentially the father figure for my sister. So when my birth mom went to prison and her dad passing away, she lost two parents. So it was a lot of trauma for her, but she, she was always very open about it and what she thinks really happened and everything that led up to that point. And so it was my brother, you know, and I have, I’m still kind of on the side of like, I, I just, after even talking to my birth mom on the phone for the first time, I just don’t see, like I can’t look at her like she’s an evil person and I can’t look at her. Anything other than a loving human being. It is very strange to hear her voice. She doesn’t sound like she’s in prison. She sounds like she is a mom next door, baking cookies, and waiting for her kids to come home.

Damon (30:33): That’s really interesting. That must be hard to reconcile.

Jessica (30:37): Yes. It’s, it’s strange because I don’t, I don’t think it, if she did conspired to murder her husband, I don’t think it was because doing something maliciously or you don’t, you don’t just wake up one day and say, Oh, I want to murder my husband. That just doesn’t happen. You know, psychologically there had to have been something going on in the background that no one knew about.

Damon (31:07): Yeah. There’s a buildup right there. And for it to include the uncle, your uncle, I mean, I mean, there’s a backstory, there’s a backstory to everything, so yeah.

Jessica (31:23): Wow. You know, and there’s, there’s, I think it’s, it’s something that I will have to live with never knowing one way or the other. And I’m okay with that. I don’t think anyone really is ever going to know the absolute truth, but it is a trauma for that for my biological family. And it, it hurts me that it hurts them. And I know that me finding them kind of opened up those old wounds, but it still felt like I needed, I needed to know either way. Good, bad. The ugly I’ve always just been, I’ve always just wanted to know.

Damon (32:02): Yeah. But, and it’s also though, it’s not your fault either. There’s no way you could have avoided this.

Jessica (32:12): Yeah.

Damon (32:17): But it’s true. There’s, there’s often some guilt that coincides with an adoptee’s return and how you make everyone else around. You feel as your return takes them back in time to the days when you would have been placed for adoption. And then they, you know, the natural course is to start to recount all of history and about, I know where this person is now. And of course, if they’re in prison, there’s no way to avoid contemplating all of the things that led up to them going there. So yeah, that is kind of, that is, that is tough. But like you said, you, you, you needed your answers. And in my opinion, you’ve got to write to them and I’m glad that they were not so hurt by everything that they didn’t shut down and say, we’re not going to talk about this. Cause that’s also one of a path that some people choose. So that’s good.

Jessica (33:09): And that’s something I’ve definitely appreciated about my biological family is that no matter how much it hurts for them to talk about it, they they’ve been totally open about everything. You know, where they stand, how they feel, what, what they think really happened. My sisters told me, my brother has told me, you know, it’s, everyone has been very, very open

Damon (33:33): Bare in mind. Jessica’s birth mother shared her birth. Father’s full name with her. And she was able to find him on Facebook. At the same time, she’s using ancestry to look through her connections, to see where she might have touchpoints with the man’s last name. She found the man living in Las Vegas. But as she looked at pictures of him and his relatives, she couldn’t see a resemblance

Jessica (33:56): That doesn’t look like he would be my dad. And that doesn’t look like that would be my grandmother. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t think that’s him and my sister, my sister, Cindy was sitting there. She goes, no, Jessica. That is definitely your dad. You need to message him.

Damon (34:12): So that’s what she did through Facebook messenger. Jessica asked the man, if he knew her birth mother shared that she was adopted and revealed her relation to her birth mother, making the connection that she might be his daughter. She offered that if he wanted to talk, she was interested in the conversation. Jessica said that was a really weird message to draft because there was a chance. He wasn’t the guy. What if this man was just someone, her birth mother was pinning her pregnancy on and her real birth father was someone else. The man didn’t respond to her message. A few weeks later, Jessica told her sister about the attempt to reach this man. Her sister offered to contact someone else on the paternal tree for Jessica locating one of the man’s cousins. Her sister told this cousin that Jessica had messaged the father asking if the cousin could flag that message for him. So he would at least see it and know that Jessica was trying to be in touch. That time of year was around Jessica’s birthday. She was on her way, home from work one evening. When her sister called to say,

Jessica (35:21): Happy late birthday, I got in contact with your birth dad. She goes, I talked to him on the phone. He’s expecting your phone call tonight. And I was like, what in the world? What? Wow. She goes, it was that person. He’s hopefully he’s going to message you on Facebook, but he wants to talk to you on the phone. He messaged me back on Facebook and then I called him that night. And it was the strangest most amazing conversation.

Damon (36:00): Really?

Jessica (36:01): Cause he goes, I had no idea about you, but I am so happy that you found me

Damon (36:06): Really. He had no idea.

Jessica (36:10): He has no idea.

Damon (36:12): Oh, so what happened? What did he tell you then?

Jessica (36:17): He did say he’s like, I knew your mom. And you know, that was a really rough part of my life because he was an addict and he was partying a lot and he did have a relationship with my birth mom. But you know, it obviously didn’t go anywhere, but he didn’t know that I was a product of their relationship. He goes, you know, I did have another situation like that before your birth mom and I have an older brother.

Damon (36:48): Wow. Also one is this another person that he didn’t also didn’t know he had fathered. Is that what he’s saying by situation?

Jessica (36:56): No, he knew. So he knew about my brother and it was an open adoption with him and my brother and my brother’s birth mom. But he had no idea with my birth mom that a child ever existed. And had he had known, he told me he would have been there, whether it was the decision to pursue adoption or to try to keep me,

Damon (37:21): How did you make it? How did it make you feel when you heard him say that he would have been there?

Jessica (37:28): You know, I spent my whole life thinking that I just wasn’t wanted. And to have that validation, not only with my birth mom’s family saying that I was wanted and that I was loved. And to hear him say, even though he had no idea existed, that he would have wanted me was a really good feeling. I don’t think there’s enough words to quantify that feeling,

Damon (37:49): I bet not Jessica’s birth father lived right there in Las Vegas, too. They met at Chili’s for dinner.

Jessica (37:57): I remember seeing him walk across the parking lot. And I was like, that’s where I get my legs, those little chicken legs. That’s where I get them. And both families are very emotional people, but no one, it was strange when, when I met anyone, no one cried. I think we all were just so excited. And so it was a very surreal moment that there just wasn’t time for tears. I met him and I was like, I know where I get everything. This man that’s sitting in front of me is so much like me. So funny. And my wife she’d been there with every reunion aside from my sister and my brother she’d been there when I’ve met all of my family. And she goes, it is so strange to kind of finally see like your people where you come from, who you’re like, and these personalities it’s so amazing.

Jessica (39:00): And it was just like, I dunno, almost like we didn’t miss a beat. So it was like, Oh, this is a person I’ve known my entire life. It’s very strange. And that’s how it is with my aunt and my uncle and my family in general. Just, it’s so strange. It’s like, Oh, we’ve been family forever. And we just, we didn’t know, you put me next to my birth mom’s side. And I look just like them. You put me next to my birth dad’s side. And I look just like them. When I met my older brother, it was the first time my dad was meeting my older brother and I was meeting my older brother. Oh really? Yes. So it was like our first meet for everyone.

Damon (39:42): That’s crazy. That must have been really cool.

Jessica (39:44): It was so awesome. He is such a cool guy. And he looks just like my birth dad and they act exactly the same. And it was funny when we all ordered drinks for dinner, my brother and I ordered the exact same drink. They’re like, Oh, I’ll have this one. I’ll have that too. And he’s just as nerdy as I am too. I was like, Oh, they runs in both sides. Third is very powerful.

Damon (40:13): Herd of nerds. Good for you guys.

Jessica (40:18): And when we took a picture after we met, I was like, it is so strange to be in a family that I look a part of. It’s it’s still strange. I take pictures with my biological sister and I’m like, Oh my gosh, this is weird. We look alike. We all look like this is so strange to me.

Damon (40:40): I was curious to know whether Jessica is allowed to see her birth mother behind bars and whether she would go meet her. If she is allowed, she said she has filed an application for visitation rights, but there has been some complexity getting the application approved because her married last name and legal last name don’t match for some complex reason. So she’s working through the bureaucracy on that, but she continues to speak with her birth mother by phone and write letters. She says, she looks identical to her birth mother’s pictures. Which if you recall, she just said about seeing her birth father. She looks like him too Jessica said there was about a three year time span between when her sister found her biological family and her finding her own. She said the experience meeting Cindy’s first family felt so weird to her. She almost didn’t want to embark on her own search meeting, her adopted sister’s birth mother and sister was a massive emotional adventure that she wasn’t sure she wanted for herself.

Jessica (41:44): And I was like, I don’t, I don’t know if I can do this. This is, this is so much, and this is, so this is a lot of emotional upheaval for everyone, you know, not just for my sister, but for our parents, they knew that we wanted to search or that I wanted to search, but I don’t know because it was a closed adoption. If I ever thought it was really going to happen, that we would find any of our biological families. Right. So it’s, it’s almost like, Oh, maybe this is too much for my parents to handle. Maybe this is too much for me to handle. I don’t know if I should search, but it was still always in the back of my mind. It’s like, Oh, I kind of want to know.

Damon (42:27): Yeah. It never goes all the way away. It’s true. Yeah. Let me ask you another question, going back just a little bit. You said that your, you can’t change your last name as in marriage. Why’s that?

Jessica (42:40): I was married. I got married at 19 the first time. And unfortunately my divorce decree kind of screwed me over on changing my last name. Oh really? So my last name is still, still have my ex husband’s last name in it. And when my wife and I get, when my wife and I went to change their last names, I was told that I cannot. So everyone knows me as her last name, but it’s actually legally my ex husband’s last name.

Damon (43:09): Oh, that’s so fascinating. Wow. Total sidebar. But like, why would you block someone from changing their last name? If you’re getting a divorce? I don’t, I don’t know why I can’t even conceive of why I would do that.

Jessica (43:25): I don’t know. And I, my aunt’s husband is actually a lawyer and I sent her my divorce. I was like, does this really mean I cannot change my last name? And she asked her husband and she was like, yeah, you’re kind of screwed. And I was like, Oh, that sucks.

Damon (43:44): Yeah. Oh, well, listen, it’s only a name you found love and you’re in a good place anyway. So it doesn’t really matter to us.

Jessica (43:52): Nope. I guess that’s, that’s also a kind of a funny segue since I did have an ex husband and now I’m married to a woman and I am bisexual my birth mom. That was something that my aunt told me. She goes, so I saw that you’re married to a woman. Well, so is your mom. And I was like, my mom is gay. She goes, yeah, she’s gay. And I was like, Oh, she goes well. And so was your brother. I was like, Oh my goodness. Really? Yeah. That was like, see, I knew it was genetic. There’s something there.

Damon (44:32): Did your mother, did your aunt tell you anything about how the family reacted to her own sister and her sexuality at all?

Jessica (44:41): You know, I mean, they are Mormon family, so we were all within the church. You’re brought up to think that homosexuality is wrong. And my birth mom did not have an easy coming out to her family. I know that, but I think along the lines, they just, you just kind of learn to accept that you are who you are and it’s a matter of who you love. And they had zero problem accepting me as who I am and me being married to my wife. And, you know, it’s kind of like, they were like, Oh, we just have another granddaughter.

Jessica (45:21): And that’s how my biological dad was too. My sister was very concerned after seeing how religious they were on their Facebooks. And they were like, she’s like, I don’t want them to not accept you because you’re gay. I’m really worried. And I was like, well, I mean, if they don’t, they don’t, there’s not, I can’t change how people accept me. Right. I can’t do anything about that. I mean, that would suck. I mean, I hope that they’re open to me being gay. And my, when I met my grandmother on my dad’s side for the first time she goes, I have two beautiful granddaughters. So I was like, that’s the sweetest thing ever that they just automatically accepted us no matter what. Yeah.

Damon (46:08): That’s really cool. I love that. That’s great. Yeah. There’s no use judging people over silly stuff like that. When they give you a reason to judge them or give you a reason to, you know, not like him then fine, but you know, don’t really judge people because of, you know, race, religion, skin tone, or other things, you know, sexuality. That’s none of your business, as long as they’re happy and they’re not messing with you, you don’t mess with them. Right. Yeah. That’s cool. Well, Jessica, this sounds like, this sounds like an amazing story. I just, I, I Marvel at the fact that you had so many commonalities between your biological family. I mean everything down to her being, you know, a nail technician like yourself. I mean, it’s just unbelievable. I mean, and, and I think that it, must’ve been really tough to hear, you know, that your birth mother was in prison because there’s this thing that happens when you find a person is you reach a point where you’ve talked enough and you’ve communicated enough and you want to meet them. And and she finds herself in a position where the entire world is blocked off from her access and that’s gotta be really challenging. So I wish you luck with your application to try to visit her. I hope it goes through and I’d love to hear how it goes when you do get to meet her.

Jessica (47:27): Thank you. I will definitely let you know how it goes

Jessica (47:30): Yeah, that sounds good.

Damon (47:31): Thanks so much for being here. I appreciate it. Thanks for the call, Jessica. Thank you so much. Take care all the best. Bye bye. Hey, it’s me, Jessica. First experience the reunion through the journey of her adopted sister Cindy, and it almost turned her away from trying to find her own birth family. When she did find her birth mother, it was clear. She looks just like her, but the woman is behind bars. So they haven’t met face to face. When I first thought about their pending reunion, I thought it would be tough because they might not be able to have direct contact if they have to speak through a phone behind a security glass or something. But I realized they may still have a chance to hug and look eye to eye, which is more than some adoptees receive after secondary rejection, when geography prevents convenient connection, or they find a deceased relative.

Damon (48:28): I loved hearing that Jessica, I loved hearing that Jessica’s nerdiness is inherited from both sides of her family. She looks like both sides and she’s even inherited her sexuality. All of these things can be really important for reaffirming your place in the world. Even when your adopted family is as loving and supportive as Jessica was fortunate to have, there’s just something about mirroring that we all can relate to. I’m Damon Davis, and I hope you’ll find something in Jessica’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? Thanks for listening. If you’re interested, you can find who am I really an adoptee memoir on amazon.com. You can find the show at facebook.com/waireally for follow me on Twitter and Instagram at waireally. And please, if you like the show, you can support me at patrion.com/waireally thank you so much to everyone. Who’s made a donation. It means so much to me. Honestly, you can subscribe to who am I really on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. And while you’re there, it would mean so much to me. If you took a moment to share a rating or left a comment, those ratings really do help others to find the podcast too.

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