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161 – Dear Stephen Michael’s Mother, Kevin Barhydt

Kevin, from upstate New York, shares his journey to find his worthiness, to beat in this life. His search for his birth mother led him to the one woman who knew he existed and the unexpected sibling set that has fortified his own fight to carry on.

Kevin continues his search for his paternal connections. All with his angel Roz on his shoulder. Loving him as she loved her own birth children. This is Kevin’s journey.

Check out Kevin’s book: “Dear Stephen Michael’s Mother”


161 – Kevin Barhydt


IntroCold CutEpisode Intro

[00:00:00] Damon: I’m Damon Davis. And today you’re going to meet Kevin from upstate New York. Kevin shares his journey to find his worthiness, to beat in this life. His search for his birth mother led him to the one woman who knew he existed and the unexpected sibling set that has fortified his own fight to carry on.

Kevin continues his search for his paternal connections. All with his angel Roz on his shoulder. Loving him as she loved her own birth children. This is Kevin’s journey.


[00:00:30] Damon: kevin is from a small town called Rotterdam in upstate New York, near the Capitol Albany. He was born in Schenectady and told that his mother came from out of state 400 miles away to give birth to him. The narrative was that she loved him very much, but she couldn’t take care of him.

Growing up in blue collar Rotterdam, his father worked for general electric. Then the IRS, while his mother stayed at home and manage the family. [00:01:00] She stopped working as a lab assistant for the Knolls atomic power laboratory to take care of Kevin. He doesn’t remember a time when he didn’t know he was adopted.

As a baby scoop era adoptee of the 1960s Kevin’s parents did what they were told by Catholic charities. Disclosed kevin’s adoption to him don’t try to hide it.

[00:01:20] Kevin: And I’m grateful for that, that I think made a great deal of difference in my life of trust. Just the trust. I mean, I may not, you know, this, this may not be in, I’ll use the word, honest, this may not be an honest family in the way that, you know, no family is fully disclosive of about their, you know, their, their understanding of the world or their secrets or their lives.

, but at least there was a trust there that I was clearly informed at some point that these were not my biological parents. , but we love you now. They’re probably, and I say this many times would have been a real, , smooth ride from there. And many people, as you know, you’ve had a lot of [00:02:00] people on, on, uh, on a podcast and it was a lot of friends I have in people.

I know that would say I, you know, I love my family. I’ve never had any issues and, you know, adoption hasn’t affected me in many ways and that might’ve been true for me. I will say that quite honestly. , there’s just no telling, , but other things went off the rails, but we can get to that. , but yeah, my, my adoption history from the age of.

, you know, two months when I was, , when I was brought home, I was in the foster care system for about two months and I was born in June and I was brought home in August and, , my adoptive extended family, , from what I remember, and from what I’ve been told, uh, welcomed me, especially grandparents and things like that.

I think that where things got a little bit dicey was how it was communicated to, , the younger generation in the family. So I think the grandmother, grandfather, aunts, and uncles, everyone knew what was happening and they were aware of it. I don’t think everyone told their kids. So cousins, younger kids, my age, or a little older, a little bit.[00:03:00]

I don’t think they really understood. There was an assumption that, you know, , in general, Kevin was adopted, but now he’s just part of the family. So there was this kind of like what we put that behind us. And that got a little more complicated as I got older and I would disclose to cousins just in conversation.

You know, they would say something about, , maybe some genetic connection or some, you know, I look like my mother looked like Lando, people would say, oh, you look just like your mother, you have her samenose? And I said, yeah, but that’s not my that’s my Mo my real mother. That’s the way I would say it.

And I said, what do you mean? I said, well, I’m adopted. And they’d say no you’re not, I said, well, yeah, I am. And I say, no, you’re not. And I have a recollection of this at a party once. And I said, come here. And I ran halfway down the stairs and all the adults were downstairs that, Hey dad, dad said, yeah. And he had a beer in his hand and he looked up and I said, I’m adopted.

Right. The whole place just went quiet. Yeah. It’s just one of those awkward moments, I guess, in a huge hush, you know, this was [00:04:00] at my uncle and aunt’s house. And my dad just sat there with a beer, looked around him, got red in the face and looked up at me. He says, yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s right. And I looked at my cousins and I said, see, and my one cousin looked at her brother and looked back at me and said, well, then you’re not really our cousin.

That’s the first time anyone had ever said that to me made that differentiation. And I think that allowed me to really more deeply understand that no matter what I thought of my place in the family, others were going to have their own opinion about that. And that I think has been a marker of my relationships with certain family members.

I think they’re, they’re kind and they’re generous. And most of them accept me as, um, part of the family, , on the, on that technicality. And some of them actually just love me and don’t care. They just say, you know what, it’s a fact, and we’re going to have a relationship with you that we want. So I won’t judge anyone for how they view that.

Uh, I think that threw me a bit and that [00:05:00] made for different relationships as I was growing up. But that’s really the basis.

[00:05:05] Damon: Was that a, was that a sobering moment for you, Kevin? When, when someone says to you, oh, then you’re, wow. You’re not really our cousin. Where are you? Like, Hey, whoa, I wasn’t expecting that.

[00:05:16] Kevin: It made me bury it a bit. And, uh, that’s one thing I talk about, , not, not so often. , but when people do ask me that as you are now, the reaction I had you’re right. That’s a good word. It’s sobering. I also think it, it highlighted that sense of while I want to be honest, I am a son and these are my parents.

, I think there’s a sense of, I don’t want to be cash register, honest here. I don’t want to disclose that unless it comes out because it will be a topic and it will be uncomfortable for me. , I think it was the beginning, those moments where the beginning of me starting to realize that there was. You know, , there’s real.

And then there’s there’s , [00:06:00] magic. Uh, so I thought, I think as a young child, it’s hard to articulate this, but my understanding now, as I’ve thought back on my youth is that I started to really feel like my whole family unit and the life I was living. I’m not going to use the word fake. I won’t wear it, use the word pretend, but it was almost like, , slight of hand magic.

So it was this mystical magical kind of family I was in, but it wasn’t real. And I think that what really started to happen to me. And it’s interesting, you say it’s a sobering moment is I, I think I started to try to find ways to, , alter that. Discomfort, uh, because I don’t think that on a daily basis, I felt comfortable in that, fake or that unreal knowledge.

And because , if this was not my real family, , you know, if this was some kind of a manufactured family, where’s my real family and why didn’t they want. Where, where are they? And w [00:07:00] you know, are they doing, you know, the, the, it became very difficult not to think about them. It became more difficult not to wonder.

And it became very uncomfortable because I didn’t know who to talk to about that. There wasn’t a language that I had, or an understanding of, Hey, I can bring this up to my mom and dad, and they won’t cringe, or I can bring this up to cousins or friends on the playground. And those are the things I remember.

I was very careful about telling my local, even my good friends in the neighborhood. I was very careful about telling people that I may be met as new friends, because it differentiated me in a way that in the sixties, and then the seventies. There was a, you know, somewhat of a stigma related to some of that.

I won’t say that it was broad or that it was, , you know, , deep within my community and in specifically, but I think in, and we come from a much more conservative area and a much more, , family-based family values as maybe we would say it now. Um, religious upbringings. [00:08:00] I was raised Catholic. I didn’t know.

I don’t think I had any Protestant friends growing up and I didn’t know what a Jewish person was until I went to college. You know, there was this real identity that came from being in your family and then your family was extended into the community of other like families. And I just didn’t have that kind of family.

We were different. And I think that adoption , in my case, even though I was in a loving family, I didn’t have any other siblings. I didn’t have anyone else to really say, you know, this is my family. It was me and my mother and my father and the only other kids I knew the only other people I knew of my age were either, , cousins or, or friends.

, and they all have. None of them were adopted. So I didn’t have anyone else that looked like me physically. I didn’t have anyone that looked like me. , literally in the, in the, , aesthetic of, you know, being a child that’s raised by a family, I was raised in a different way. I didn’t know anyone that was adopted.

I had no one to talk to about it. And so I stopped talking about it. I think that’s what the , the [00:09:00] soberness of it.

[00:09:01] Damon: Kevin said his parents were loving people, but he and his dad had it out from time to time. His adoptive mother was more the disciplinarian. But Kevin’s adoptive father suffered from depression in adult life after enduring his own rough abusive childhood.

His father vowed not to raise a child the way he was raised by his parents.

Kevin said when he examines the nature versus nurture debate. He can definitely see how his father’s upbringing . Impacted how he nurtured Kevin. But how their family was formed was impactful too ,

[00:09:35] Kevin: he and my mother could not conceive. I really can see that that caused a lot of strife. And especially with my mother, as the woman who was , a barren woman. That that’s really what people felt like, especially in those days. , but with my father, it was real like, you know, I’m not a real man.

I can’t have a kid. I can’t sire. I can’t, you know, bring, bring, you know, the next generation into being. [00:10:00] And I think that was a real sense of loss for him. And when they did decide to adopt and he brought me home, I think he wanted to be the best father he could be. And one of the things that he really made a decision on was to not be the kind of father his father was not raise a child in an abusive environment and the loving and kind and gentle.

But I think that that went to a different place, which was a place of, not really feeling secure as a father, not feeling very competent and that he also suffered from depression and it was undiagnosed. And we would go through days or weeks of not talking days, sometimes weeks of him sitting in the chair sometimes with the TV, just not even on, , but him not being responsive so much of what the difference, you know, much of what really I struggled with in my family growing up was a father that wasn’t [00:11:00] as responsive.

Especially after a certain age, he got sick. He had a heart attack, he had heart surgery, things changed. , so a father that really couldn’t care for me very well. And a mother who was trying to care for the whole family as it was breaking.

And the acceptance for me has been, I may never really have a clear understanding of this. You know, I mentioned that my, this is my adoptive father, my adopted father suffered from depression little did I know that later I would find out that that ran in my biological family. So maybe we were more, maybe my, my adoptive father and my biological father were more alike than you would even.

Do you see

[00:11:34] Damon: what I mean? Yeah, that’s wild.

And it’s interesting. It strikes me, as you said this about something hit me when you were speaking and I’m not sure exactly what it was, but the idea that there’s this whole baby scoop era of individuals who were adopted and, and there was a whole framework around how you treated the adoption.

You, you were supposed to be open about it. There’s a blank slate to the infants. There’s all [00:12:00] these complexities there and, and interesting you fast forward now to folks that are, you know, in your, in my age group. And you’ve got all of these platforms for adopted people to open up and speak out about the.

Love and challenges that came from adoption. , and it’s almost this isn’t the right expression, but it feels like it was a big experiment where finally the results are coming out. If you, if that makes sense. It’s like when it’s like, when NASA sends something out into space, but it’s going to take 20 years for it to reach its destination.

And then you start to get the data about that distant planet, right? That, that now we’re starting to see in very real terms, through the expressions in adoptee written books, through the expressions on social media and through these, you know, other artistic expressions and group meetings and things that atoptees are speaking out on what adoption meant to them as they were growing up and what [00:13:00] it means now and how we struggle in many ways.

, to sort of manage who we are and how we’re dealing with the family structure that did or did not embrace us. The, the, the biological family that did or did not embrace us when we returned. It’s this weird moment , of coming together as adoptees, but also sort of openly expressing ourselves in a way that I think has not been available before.

And so I guess what I’m getting to is there’s all this new data about how challenging adoption is on an individual that I think we’ve never had before,

[00:13:32] Kevin: that’s really accurate. And a lot of times it’s, we’re looking at the data, but we’re looking at it from a lens or an angle.

And I think that that’s important as you’re right. And in a very solid way. A lot of it was. Trial and error, right? Cause that’s what experiments are. You’re trying things and all that trial and error. Some of it, , as we know, , very well-intended, , some organizations were, , very, , cognizant that, you know, these are children, these are babies, these are [00:14:00] humans and these are parents and it’s going to affect everyone, but they were trying different things they were trying to understand.

Now I know there was some organizations as, , you know, , we’ve read in, you know, American baby and some other books that we’ll talk about. Some of the organizations that work really making, having good experiments. , but you know, I, I’m just going to say that , my adoptive mother and father, I don’t think they saw what they were doing as they were experimenting.

I think they were really trying their best to work at developing. The best understanding they could with the information they had at that time of whether what they were doing was quote, unquote right or wrong, whether it was good or bad, whether it was pure and from love or whether it was evil and from some self-centered need, they worked through a lot of that with the tools that.

And a lot of us are in denial. Even if the data is staring us in the face. And we do know that adoption, not just the word adoption, not just the institution of adoption, but the act of a child and mother [00:15:00] being separated. Does have some ramifications, it does have some echo effect and it’s more than just a ripple in a pond, right? These are, these are genetic changes, really chemical alterations that can happen with , a lot of us, , and understanding those from the beginning and accepting them and having , more of a, , , willing to. To maybe not experiment in that way again, to really accept, there are some dangerous zones here.

There are some things that we can do that are going to affect people in a negative way. And we have to be very careful about what we do. There are people that won’t read my book because they’re friends of mine and there are people that know me, but one of them isn’t adoptive mother who I really respect a lot and she’s not ready to read this kind of information.

Another is , a gay couple who, , wanted to adopt and struggled with adopting. And they, haven’t been able to pull it off yet. They haven’t been able to make it happen yet. And so I think that there’s two things. We do experiment. We do try things and some things [00:16:00] become more clear to us over time, but the other thing is, are people willing to actually listen to us?

Like, we’re, it’s wonderful. We’re doing this podcast. Who’s listening. Are the people that really could use this information and maybe open their minds to it a little bit. Are they the ones that are listening and how great would that be? I’m not saying how do we get to them? How do we infiltrate?

How do we make it possible? But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could listen to each other a little bit more, and I think you’re right. The big part of the puzzle is the actual adoptees themselves. We haven’t spoken out for many years and it’s becoming much more clear because of the work you’re doing and many Haley’s doing, and many other people that this is becoming a whole new set of data.

[00:16:39] Damon: So let me Ask you now, tell me about when or what prompted you when you wanted to search him? Well, what prompted you to search what catalyzed your desire to reach out and try to find your biological family

[00:16:54] Kevin: it’s a, it’s a very meaningful story to me.

Um, I will say [00:17:00] that, you know, throughout my life, I had suffered and struggled with, a lot of different things. And I thought when I was young, , I think it did become, , much more obvious to me that I didn’t feel I belonged. I was molested when I was nine and that was really rough and drugs and alcohol entered my life when I was 11.

And throughout the years, until I was about 23, , my life really crashed and burned. And it was, it was a pretty hard existence, , high school dropout and a lot of, a lot of different things that we we read about. And don’t, don’t sometimes want to read about. When I got clean and sober, when I started to face some of the addiction issues.

And then later when I faced the, the, um, child sexual abuse and those pieces of my life that just, you know, don’t put, I’ll be honest. It put the idea of adoption on the back burner. I mean, I had a nut pardon the expression, but I had enough of a mess to clean up without having to look at that. But also as I got my life in order, and as I started to, you know, physically feel like I was on this planet and then mentally [00:18:00] and emotionally, and then even spiritually really started to come into my own.

, you know, I started feel better for goodness sakes. I mean, I, you know, there was, there was more joy in, and even with my adoptive family, I started to really find a different place, a place that maybe I remembered from when I was really little when everything was just okay.

And I started not to try to galvanize myself. Around that family unit. But I started to at least re introduce myself into my family because when all that damage is done through all those years of, uh, you know, just really mental health issues and substance abuse issues and life issues, you know, the broken family, isn’t easy to re-introduce yourself to, it’s just not, but over the years I was able to do that.

And yet I can, I, those are really two good words for me. And yet something was missing. Something was off. And over the years I several moments when people would really say to me, aha, cause they had maybe some insight you’re [00:19:00] adopted aren’t you? Or do you have any brothers or sisters?

I’d say no, I’m adopted. And they say, oh, and I said, what do you mean? Oh, and we would talk about it a little. But I wasn’t really ready.

[00:19:09] Damon: When Kevin’s life was back on track. He worked at the fashion Institute of technology for a woman named Roz pier. They never really talked about adoption while they worked,

they just had a good working relationship. When Kevin’s time at the Institute drew to a close, he was leaving to work for another university when Roz approached him and she wanted to talk. Kevin was concerned with the seriousness of her approach, fearing she had learned some less than complimentary part of his

past. .

[00:19:40] Kevin: Well, she was a birth mother who had relinquished her twins and she had searched for them and found them.

So that conversation is quite involved. , she disclosed to me, , she was in a lot of pain because the reunion was not going well. They were not receptive. Especially her son, Noah, her daughter was a little bit more receptive [00:20:00] and Noah who was her son.

Noah’s wife was a little more receptive to allowing her to at least get pictures of the grandchildren and things like that. But she was really hurting because of them. And in the moment that we were together, unbeknownst to either one of us, she became for the moment, like a surrogate, like a real surrogate mother for me.

And I became really, almost like Noah and I was able to express to her. , how I think, you know, I thought around, , how I felt in the moment about my biological mother, which was, I loved her. And I was saying that to her, I think in place of Noah. And she was able to look at me and, you know, help me to understand the, the world that she traversed.

And most likely, she said, you know, how many, , mothers who relinquished their children, , really have to navigate life and how painful it is to them. But she was clear to me. She said, you know, , we love you. And we think about you all the time. And words like that. I had not heard [00:21:00] before. No one had ever spoken to me.

Then of course my adoptive family couldn’t speak to me that way. They didn’t have that knowledge. They would just say things that were kind such as, , your mother was a nice person and you know, she loved you and they would say things like your mother loved you so much, but she couldn’t take care of you.

So she loved you so much that she relinquished, which of course set me up for a real negative, which is well, but you love me. So are you going to relinquish me? You know, there’s that real sense of, you know, somebody loves you, they’re going to let you go. But that Roz wasn’t saying that to me, you know, she was saying, yeah, even though we, we, we relinquished you and we never stopped loving you.

And it broke us into and she asked me if, uh, I had ever searched. And I said, well, I’d thought about it. I had looked for the non identifiable information and I put my name on a registry, but gotten no response. And she said, if you ever want to search, I’d be glad to help you.

And she goes, there’s no rush on this. And she was right. There was no rush. , she said something that was really [00:22:00] important and other search angels talk to me about along the lines, when I was searching, they said part of the important part of the search is for you to get ready to find. And, you know, sometimes I think it’s almost a danger zone these days because Facebook makes it so easy to find people.

And there’s a lot of easier ways to find people, but sometimes that’s so fast, you’re almost not ready. You know, you trip over it. I I’m, I’m still discovering biological family. Now, and I, you know, gosh, it can happen so fast that you can really trip over it and you have to be really supported by people in the community, in the adoption community and in the, , you know, the constellation, the adoption constellation community.

And it’s really important to have for me to have a real community around me was I’m doing this. And I, I just had Roz, but that’s how it started. And I decided when I came upstate that, uh, it just kept popping around in my head. And the new job I had was at a college in [00:23:00] Saratoga, New York. And one day I walked out the back door of that college going out to my car.

And I looked at a house that was across the street. One of the houses had a little shingle on it, a little sign and the sign said, Catholic family charities. And it was the adoption agency. Now the one where I was adopted, but of course the well-known adoption agency

and it was just like a neon sign blinking at me. And so that’s kind of the short story or the little long story about how it started. Roz peer I say her name publicly because, , she has passed away. She did survive cancer long enough , for me to tell her about the conclusion of my search.

So she did share that that would me and I was grateful for that, but she died within I think, six months to a year after that. And it was a great loss for me. It still is a great loss for me.

But what an angel to have come along and be this surrogate voice for your and other birth mothers out there to say, we’ve always loved you.

Like we’ve always [00:24:00] missed you and wondered where you are. That’s really powerful. And, and so kind of her and prob she probably needed it too because her own reunion union wasn’t going as well as she would have liked. So here you are this person who might be more receptive because there’s a little bit of distance.

It’s not. Intimately personal between you it’s it’s personal because you’re both in this adoption constellation, so, wow. That’s,

there’s, , you know, reasons. I use names sometimes. Noah, for instance, I’m not going to give the last name there. Of course just doesn’t have the same name as, as Roz does.

And you know, but Roz PPieris it I’m in tears now just, um, because I don’t talk about it too often, but she’s on my shoulder right now and I’m on hers and I wish that Noah would hear this. And, , his sister and I wish they would know that she’s their angel too. She, she loved them. She loved them beyond all measure and still does today.

And she’s right here and she’s, she doesn’t have pancreatic cancer now, and she’s [00:25:00] not, she’s not gone. She’s our angel and she’s smiling and holding us and lifting us up. I count on her every single day. Oh, that’s really

[00:25:08] Damon: beautiful. Wow. It’s great to have somebody that anchors you in that way, too, especially given what you’ve been through.

You, you very casually sort of smoothed over the parts of addiction and, , you know, sort of a darker time in your life, but I can see how has. Traversed all of that to get to a point where, you know, , you’re gainfully employed and making employment moves, and someone is reaching out to you to be this kind soul and, and express her own inner challenges with you that she thinks will resonate with you and build you up, give you strength to move forward.

Um, it’s really awesome. Wow.

Kevin said the hardest part for him was how his search ended in what he called a double whammy. The search began in 2005 lasting two [00:26:00] years until 2007. The whole time Kevin didn’t want to intrude on anyone’s life. He felt like what he really wanted was a picture of his birth mother. And in some ways Kevin thought that was all he really deserved. Unfortunately that was all he ever got

[00:26:17] Kevin: I found out that she had passed away on the 4th of July, 1997. And so as they, as we say in our community, I found a grave and I’ll never meet her and I’ll never know her.

So one of the real double whammies for me was that I. I found that my mother was gone and I would never know her. , and about six months later, uh, Roz died. So, yeah, I, I don’t deal with grief too. Well, you know, my friend kind of, it’s kind of, it’s kind of a rough road for me. Um, and that was significant and very painful.

And again, I will say that there were other search angels, , and other adoptees that were in my circle. And of [00:27:00] course my family, my wife and my. I needed that community in place because we don’t know what information we’re going to find. I thought, you know, worst case scenario I’d find that my mother was, a victim of rape and I was a product of that.

Or, you know, the stories that most of us struggle with conceiving, just thinking of how we were conceived and how we were brought into this world. were the world, the circumstance is so negative that , I will wish that I did not search, but I, I guess in a lot of ways, I’d never really even.

pondered the idea that, you know, she would be dead. I knew that was a possibility, but it was how she died. She, , she died on the 4th of July in 1997. , her husband, not my father, we don’t really know what happened, but he swerved off the road and they ran into a bridge embankment.

Uh, she died instantly and a tragic car accident and he, , had a head injury also and went into a coma. , and what I did find out though, when I found out that she had died, because [00:28:00] there were two obituaries that were, of course, what I found, , was that, , you know, , she had died and he had died. , and there were three.

And sort of, I found out that I was never going to see my mother, but now I had a new dilemma on my hands. I’ve got siblings. Oh no. And again, you know, I really hadn’t pondered that too much. Like what would that be like? Uh, and the, the journey, it’s almost like I had five. To process, you know, the grief. And then I had to think now, what do I do?

And of course it really wasn’t that I had five minutes to, you know, grapple with the grief and I’ve been processing it ever since. , but I’ve, I had five minutes per ride to say, well, geez, what do I do? And I, you know, I had the real beauty and honor to be able to reach out to them and get to know them.

And we are extraordinarily close and I love them and they love me. And I was just out in Colorado, which is where our mother died and I saw them this summer. And, , my wife and our sons went [00:29:00] out there and we all had a great reunion of sorts. But yeah, I,

[00:29:04] Damon: uh, um, let me, let me jump in real quick here, because we’ve, we’ve jumped past some really important things.

You’ve discovered your mother’s passing in this tragic way and you were hoping probably to meet her. And now you’ve found that you’re not going to. Where did that leave you as a person who was on this journey, making progress, and then suddenly there’s this, this full stop? How, how was that for you?

[00:29:31] Kevin: I didn’t have any regrets.

And that’s one thing that I will say being in the process of having the search angels. , Beth and Judy were the two that were primary and of course, Roz and other people in my circle, I think it made it really possible for me to face that fact and know that I had a choice of what to do next.

I think my first real inclination was not to [00:30:00] regret that I had done it, but to stop and say, I can’t take anymore. I can’t do this anymore. Not that I shouldn’t have done it, but maybe I shouldn’t take the next step. The idea of finding that my mother had died. Was was a tragic loss and you know, what I’m going to say now is hard to say, but a big part of it felt like I was being punished, that I that’s what I deserved, that I never deserved to have my mother.

And I think that was the biggest tragedy for me, the real tragedy was not just that I would never meet her. , but that I had never met her, that she had relinquished me and that was a sense that I had struggled with all my life of unworthiness and that after all these years of cleaning up from the addiction healing, from the abuse and now searching, which took an awful lot of, mental, physical, [00:31:00] emotional, and spiritual, , energy.

, and to have this Loss be handed to me. , I had to grapple more than anything else with that sense of unworthiness. I was never worthy of my mother. That’s why I never, that’s why I was given away. That’s why I was relinquished. That’s why I was, um, abandoned and it felt like another profound abandonment.

And if I had not been prepared for that sense, it did overtake me. It was devastating, but if I hadn’t been prepared for it by the time I had spent really understanding and grappling with. My worth my sense of worth in life. My sense of value. , if I didn’t have any foundation to stand on, especially within our constellation, within the community of adoptees and search angels, birth mothers that I knew and people that I knew, I may not have fared as well, but I think I fared fairly well.

, it did take some [00:32:00] time because grief is grief, but that kind of grief combined with a, I deserved this grief, that kind of loss combined with I’m. I just deserve loss. I have no value as it is anyway, without that foundation underneath me, I, I don’t know what would have happened. And I, I would hesitate to say that it would have been dramatic, but it could have, led to something like self harm or suicide.

, and it definitely, , did bring up those, those things. Because that’s something I’m more prone to, , is, , self-harm, , low self-worth. I, sometimes I say it it’s on the, on the minus scale, you know, it’s below zero sometimes not now, but it was, and I don’t think I could have really, , navigated that as well without, , the people in my life and the, the foundations I had met much of them, of course, being, you know, physical and emotional and psychological, but also [00:33:00] spiritual foundation.

So yeah, it was very difficult. , not something I would want to, , I would want, I wouldn’t want to wish it on anyone. However, the process was very healing and was very rewarding, I would say, uh, because it put me on a place where loss is going to happen. I’m going to continue to, to experience loss. My adoptive father died 11 years ago this month.

And when he died, I struggled terribly with it. It did send me into a depression that I was an unbeknownst to me. It really threw me. , and I did have suicidal thoughts from that. And that is a part of part of my makeup. And I understand that it’s very difficult. , Based on a lot of the factors involved in how I was raised in the adoption and also genetic factors and predispositions.

, but I also know I survived that and I also know that I feel stronger because of that. And I also know that I have hope that that will, if not be lessened, , as an impact for future loss, uh, that I will navigate it in [00:34:00] a more healthy way. And I will be able to navigate it in a way that again has a support system in place.

And it has a foundation that is strong. So it was awful. It was terrible. , I will say on the positive, on a very positive note, , knowing that I had three siblings Gave me something also to aspire to, because I had never, I, well, honestly, Damon, I had aspired to be a son to my, to my birth mother, but I was an only child.

I never, I never aspired to be a sibling. I never even knew how to. I never knew how to be one. So I think I need aspirations. I think I need things to aspire to. And that, that was a really healthy, wonderful new companion for me to have in my life was the, well, I’m going to be a brother now,

[00:34:43] Damon: Kevin found out he was a big brother. A relationship he hadn’t thought about and wasn’t prepared for. It was a new positive trajectory that could anchor his life in an unexpectedly meaningful way. I wondered how he prepared himself for the moment to reach [00:35:00] out to his siblings on his search he had found a grave. So his birth mother, their mother was deceased, which could make reaching out to his siblings, a painful experience for them.

To build himself, Kevin consulted his search angels to get input on what he should say and how he could react. Acknowledging there was no way to script what could actually happen. He wasn’t looking for the exact approach to reach out. Kevin needed a framework to operate from. It was 2007 when Kevin was trying to reach out.

Facebook was still young. So Kevin searched for phone numbers to get in touch with his siblings. But it was tough to find his siblings phone numbers

[00:35:40] Kevin: I have two brothers and a sister and, uh, one of my brothers and one of my sisters couldn’t find anything on them.

We knew their names, but couldn’t find there. And we think we found their addresses of everyone, but we couldn’t find phone numbers. And my other brother, , John, we couldn’t find his phone number. , but, , we found a phone number of his wife. [00:36:00] So his wife, who is my sister-in-law, they had a home phone, but it wasn’t her name.

And so I took the risk and I’ll say this out loud, because they now know that I, I used a little deception in this. Um, but I, I called up that phone because it was my brother’s phone. But, you know, I gotta be honest with you. For some reason, I really, really wanted to talk to my sister. I think it was because if I couldn’t speak to my mother, I wanted to talk to another woman.

I wanted to talk to my sister, but I didn’t have her number, Julie. So I called up kyung, who is my sister-in-law. I called that phone number and thinking, I hope this is my brother’s house. And I hope that, you know, they have some information. And, I heard the phone and somebody answered. Hello?

And I said, hi, , my names, I, I made up a fake name. I don’t even want to tell you the name. My name is my name is John Akins. I think I said, my name is John Akins. I’m from Phoenix university. I have the resume of Julie McCutcheon, [00:37:00] but we don’t have a phone number. We can reach her at, do you have a phone number we can have, I basically lied to my sister-in-law to try to get my sister’s phone number.

And of course she was so surprised by the call and she said, oh, Julie. Yeah, I have her cell phone. Is that okay? I got my sister’s cell phone. Oh yeah. I know, I know saying that publicly feels almost almost silly. I don’t feel ashamed of it, but I do feel silly,

but it’s hilarious too, that you sort of took on this like salesman approach of fast talking surprise.

Like it’s got a comical. I mean, you know,

it is, it is. I honestly, I honestly had the script in front of me and I said, okay, just do this. Well, that’s how I gotten my baptismal, I had called the Catholic church that where I was baptized and they gave me my name, which is Steven, Michael Waguespack.

That’s how I found. So, you know, we have some of these tricks of the trade that we, we do just, you know, to try to get information, but this one was a cute one because, you know, unfortunately I felt like I needed to be sneaky about it. Maybe I didn’t, maybe I could have [00:38:00] been forthright, but again, I didn’t want to talk to anybody, but my sister who was something that told me to talk to my sister, now, I’m going to tell you why Damon.

So I got the phone number and I finally got the courage up to make the call. And it took a couple of times to get her to stay on the phone. But finally she said, yeah, well, what’s this about? And I said, , I have a couple questions for you, but before I ask you, are you driving? And she said, yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m driving.

And I said, well, you might want to pull over to the side of the road. And she said, oh my God, did somebody die? And I said, no, no, no one, no one died. I said, but this is a family matter. She said really? And I said, yes. And she said, okay. So she pulled over and I said, are you pulled over? She said, yes. I said, is the car running?

She said, yes. And I said, can you please turn the car off? She’s only God. So she turned the car off . And she said, what’s going on? And I said, well, , before I start, , let me just ask you to make sure you’re the right person or your name, Julie. She said, yeah. I said, Julian McCutcheon.

She said, yeah. I said, but your, your maiden name is [00:39:00] Buchanan. She says, yes. And I said, and your mother’s name was Waguesback. She said yes. I said, her name was Elizabeth. She said, yes. I said, but they called her Betty Ann she said, yes. And I said, okay. I said, you are who you are. I said, I want to tell you who I am now I’m reading off a script now, Damon.

So the next line of the script was Julie. I’ve been waiting all my life to talk to you. And the next line after that was pause so that she could say, what are you talking about? And then I would explain to her, and the next thing that happened was I said, Julie, I’ve been waiting all my life to talk to you.

And she screamed into the phone. Oh my God, are you my brother? And I looked at the script and that wasn’t in the script. So, so I went to my next line in the script and I said, my name is Kevin Barhydte. I was born in Schenectady, New York on June 27th, [00:40:00] 1962. And then the next line. Pause. And she screamed into the phone again, oh my, my brother and I said yes.

And she just started crying. She started sobbing and it was that moment that I realized I had made the right decision in calling her like that I had made the right decision and it really turned into one of those moments. When I recognized, as you say, how do you do this? Well, you just do it. How do you make this call?

You just make it, how do you transfer all these years of expectation? Maybe sadness, maybe joy, maybe fear you just do. But you don’t do it alone.[00:41:00] I was so grateful in that moment that I had done it with all the help of Roz and Judy and Beth and the people, Michael, all these people in my life.

Does that make sense to you? Oh my

[00:41:10] Damon: gosh. Does it ever? Yes. Cause this is one of those things, as you’ve said, like you try to script it out and no matter what you say, they’re going to say something. Appropriate for them. And it goes off your script. I mean, you didn’t write. And then she’ll scream in your scripts, like there’s no way you could’ve

[00:41:30] Kevin: gotten there.

Right. I had scripted it. I wouldn’t have, maybe that would be good. You know, I could script that as a scenario and that’s, I think important, right? You don’t have to play out every scenario because the one that you don’t play out to the one that’s going to happen again. So the rest of the story was pretty beautiful.

We cried, we laughed, we talked, but there was a moment when she realized right early on that, you know, , that I knew everything [00:42:00] that if I had found her and I already knew about our mother, that I already knew so much, this was new to her, but she recognized in that second and she caught her breath and she said, oh my God, Kevin, our mother loved you so much.

And that’s, that was it. I just fell to the floor, And she said she always wanted to meet you. She just didn’t feel it was her right to come find you now without going through the whole conversation I had with my sister. Remember I told you that I felt like for some reason I wanted to talk to my sister, not my brothers.

[00:42:40] Damon: Yes.

[00:42:41] Kevin: Julie was the only person alive that knew about me. Our mother had told her and, and her husband who is now deceased. So Julie had only told her and no one else, my brothers didn’t know, my uncles didn’t know about me. No one knew about me. So the fact [00:43:00] that I somehow knew to call my sister and she knew that I existed.

She didn’t know who I was. She didn’t know where I was from the details. Weren’t all there. She was the right person for me to talk to. So it was absolutely tremendously perfect in the end it was completely… I walked into a very broken family. Our mother had died in that car accident. Their father had come out of the coma, but he was blind.

And three years later in a depression, he shot himself. By the time I found them there, their entire lives, their family had been destroyed. , my, , I have three, two brothers and a sister, John I’m the oldest, but then there’s John Julian, James, and, , Julie is a recovering meth addict. So I’m talking to my sister and, and Julie’s, Julie’s not here.

She doesn’t even have a relationship really at this point with our brothers, because she’s fairly estranged from the family. Uh, [00:44:00] as I wrote in my book, even her. Parts were broken. She had gone through a great deal of suffering, but the fact that I reached out to her, and this is where we, I say, just do it.

You don’t know what the script’s going to play out, but just do it because the fact that I reached out to her and she was the only person alive that knew about me, it gave her the responsibility that she took on, but it also gave her the opportunity to be the one to tell our brothers about us. And they, she did.

And she called them that day and said, I know you’re not going to believe this. But mom told me about, a son that she had and he reached out to me. And of course, both of them were somewhat skeptical, but I had a letter, I had a two page handwritten letter and it’s literally titled to Stephen Michael’s mother because it was a letter that my mother wrote to whoever would adopt me.

And when I showed them a letter, they said, that’s mom’s handwriting. So there was just no. You know, there was no question about it eventually, but [00:45:00] Julie got to reach out to our brothers. And I will say that I’ll never forget after I talked to Julie, I talked to my uncle, Bob, that was really fun. And then, uh, you know, cause he’s a hoot.

And then the next day Julie had arranged where I could talk to both James and John. And I remember at the end of two weeks, they were both two hour conversations. And at the end of each conversation, I said, you know, I don’t know where this is going to go next, but I hope that we can get to know each other more.

And both of them were open to that. But John, I remember John said, Kevin, you have to understand our family was just getting smaller and smaller. He said, we didn’t think it was going to get bigger. And then he said, these words to me, he said, Kevin, we not only got our brother. We got our sister back too.

I know. Uh, you know, again, we’re talking about this. I couldn’t write the script. I couldn’t plan for this Damon. I had no idea. I [00:46:00] had this, my search, my reaching out to them would be a catalyst for healing, a catalyst for them healing for all of us feeling how I wouldn’t, I don’t want to use the word how rewarding that is.

That’s such, that seems almost like trite to say that that was rewarding for me, but how unbelievably fulfilling that was for me, you know, for a guy that spent most of his life really questioning whether he had worth their value and finding like, that’s the moment that’s, that’s one of the, I guess, many moments now when I’ve been able to say, oh, that’s why I’m here.

That’s why I was born. That’s why I exist. And I get to have that. Now I get to have that understanding and a very spiritual sense in a very, you know, mystical sense if you want, but in a very real sense, No, I have purpose. , and I’m determined to, to stay here, uh, to be a part of this world, to have conversations like this.

I didn’t know I was going to share some of these moments with you today. I [00:47:00] really didn’t. , but they are so meaningful to other people that I’m not going to keep them to myself for goodness sakes. I don’t want to do that anymore. , because there were many people who didn’t keep their moments to themselves.

They shared them with me. One-on-one holding hands, sometimes crying many times laughing. And they’re the ones that gave me the courage to search or not search to make the choice, but to do it because I was more grounded in who I was and what was right for me and what was healthy for me rather than making fear-based choices.

I wanted to make healthy choices for myself. Yeah.

[00:47:38] Damon: He probably thought I was just quiet because I was listening so intently. I was quiet because my jaw was wide open. I mean, you have just said so many amazing things about finding your siblings, both for yourself and for them, the fact that she knows someone said that their family was just getting smaller and your return [00:48:00] reversed that trend.

That is unbelievable. And the fact that your mother had only told her daughter about you, such that your sense that you wanted to speak with her was then validated because she was the only one that knew you had. There’s so much in there. It’s really unbelievable.

[00:48:17] Kevin: Wow. Well, and I’m going to disclose something, but, um, I don’t know my paternal side or I haven’t known because my mother had died.

, so I really had no idea. Uh, and, and, you know, I searched on and off, but I, that’s a, that’s a lot to ask right. To, to continue that search process. And it’s been very difficult, but through in 23 and me and a lot of research that I’ve done, and some of it’s been haphazard, but trying to move forward, I believe I’m getting.

I believe I’ve narrowed it down. And, , I think that my biological father is quite, quite likely deceased, unfortunately. So another, another grave. , but I do believe that he sired more than me outside of marriage, , or, you know, , children that were either adopted or [00:49:00] were, were not raised by him, let’s say.

And quite recently in the last, just in the last week. , and the last two weeks, , I’ve discovered possibly two, two sisters, and , one has recently, uh, reciprocated and we’d been chatting. I won’t give any names here. I don’t want to, you know, I want to be very, very protective of people’s identity there and the life there.

But the important thing is that recently she did tell me something that was, you know, her, her, her sense of kind of like fear about this. And I won’t disclose all the details cause it doesn’t feel right to do that, but it is about that kind of sense of how this will change my life and how it will change, not my life, but her life and how it will change her life for the other people in her life.

And it was really important for me to go. Yeah, I understand boy. Oh boy. Do I understand because with these changes and you know, it I’ve just described it in so many different ways comes a lot of loss. Sometimes [00:50:00] these, this knowledge can bring loss. It can also bring great joy and an additional, , I guess meaning is the best way I would put it, that doesn’t exist.

So the loss and the gain is a very simplistic way to put it. But look at everything I just talked about. There was great loss. I found a grave, you know, family that was broken, , you know, a lot of different things, a lot of loss, terrible loss, , and yet look at all the game, look at all the positive, look at all the possibilities.

And when we connect and my brothers and my sister and I have all connected on this, when we connect whatever the loss and the games are, we get to navigate them together and we get to grow together. And the beautiful thing about it is, and this is why I think it’s really important in the adoption community to talk about.

Uh, what do you want to call it an open adoption or whatever you want to call it? Just knowledge is not just [00:51:00] power, it’s honest it’s truth. And then we can navigate from truth. But without that truth, and I talked early on about this, you know, I felt like I was raised by a bunch of honest people, but they weren’t cash register on as well.

I certainly would love to be at least knowledgeable of my heritage, at least knowledgeable of my answers, because that’s an honesty I need, it doesn’t sound like something that I should have to negotiate with. It’s something that I think that I should have the option of having. And I think we all can really agree on that.

That there’s a real, uh, a real important, some people may not be interested in their family tree, but they certainly wouldn’t want it hidden from them. Right, right, right,

right. That’s exactly right. I want to, I want to touch on one more thing before we go. Cause you said something really fascinating. Your birth mother wrote a letter.

To your adoptive mother, without knowing who this woman was going to be. Can you share a little bit about [00:52:00] what was expressed in that letter?

, I can share a little bit about what, what was expressed. , yeah, that’s a good question. Sorry. You throw me a little bit with that. I don’t think anyone’s asked me that for a bit. , yeah, I’ll tell you quickly how I found it. Um, that letter was at the adoption agency and had never been given to my, my adoptive family.

Now I don’t want to blame anyone. I don’t know why. I don’t know how that actually worked out that way. I can do one of two things. Damon. I can tell you a little bit about it or I could read it to you. It’s up to you

[00:52:35] Damon: truthfully. It’s up to you, Kevin,

[00:52:40] Kevin: to Stephen Michael’s mother. As you see I’ve named your child after Saint Stephen to give him courage and Saint Michael to protect him. I know that you will probably want to give him another name along with your surname, but I will always think of him as Stephen, Michael. [00:53:00] I want you and your child to know that I am not an evil person.

I did something very wrong, but I have and will continue to pay for it. I know that a great deal of good has come from my having Steven for, I know that he will bring a great deal of happiness into your home. You will note that I do not refer to him as being my child. God has created him in my body, but you will make him into the kind of man that God wants him to be.

Therefore, you are his mother more than I have been your accepting a great task for which you will receive my eternal gratitude and prayers. I have loved your child very deeply through these past nine months. And it hurts me very deeply to give him up, but I know that you will love him as much as I do, and that you will be able to give him a normal and happy life.

He will always have my [00:54:00] love and my prayers as he has had in these past months. I will pray also for you and your husband, that you will be able to raise your son in the light of God’s graces, may God shed an abundance of his graces on both you and your husband forever. Thank you. And it was unsigned. And as you know, I read that and I never do that first time ever aloud. and you know, boy, it would have been a nice if that was a letter to me, but it is the closest statement that I’ve ever come from. Knowing from hearing my mother say, I love you. And it was fairly devastating to me because I thought it was a letter to me because, um, I, I won’t disclose it’s a long story, but the right I found out about it was through a locked door while someone was on the phone, I heard them reference a letter.

And, unfortunately, you know they weren’t going to give me that letter and they [00:55:00] told me it’s not to you. And I said, what do you mean it’s not to me? And they said, it’s a letter to your, your adoptive mother. And so luckily I was immediately able to go to my, my mother, my adoptive mother, and say, mom, there’s a letter.

Did you get it? No. And I believe her either. She never got it or they never, you know, they got put in a file somewhere. But, , I said here, I had already typed up a letter, you know, for her to notarize. And I said, sign that, notarize it, send it off. And they did send the copy of the letter and I have the physical copy of.

But that’s what the letter says and, um, what it means to me, of course, it’s, , helpful. I would say in a way that I at least got to hear her words the only time ever. And I, I love the written word. So it’s important for me to have those written words for me to, I wouldn’t use the word parse, but for me to mull over or to meditate on and, um, to take it as, [00:56:00] and understanding that, um, Roz was right.

Roz was right. She loved me. She loved me dearly. And she did. She thought about me every single day.

[00:56:14] Damon: That’s really incredible. I don’t know how you made it through reading that because I was only listening and I didn’t make it through. I was, I’ve been wiping my eyes ever since you started.

[00:56:25] Kevin: Wow. Well, I think it’s important.

I make it through these things, you know, because I think that for me, I’ve healed at a level that was unpredictable at times. , but also has been beyond my wildest dreams. And so while this does hurt or at least bring up emotions, it’s not the PTSD kind of emotions. It’s not the sense of I’m still, you know, falling on the floor and pain over this.

I am, you know, of course reading my mother’s words. I’m [00:57:00] also recognizing as I’m reading them that someone who might be listening to this might also have that feel like an arrow, just being shot through their heart and. I wanted to read it out loud if possible today, because of the value it may have for us in community.

Not because I want it to be self disclosive, not because I thought it would be a good, you know, an emotional trite thing to do. I think that the more we share these things, when we’re ready and the best we can, the more we grow and that strength is that that’s the foundation that I want to build my future on.

[00:57:36] Damon: That’s amazing. Kevin, I really appreciate you taking time today to sort of open up your self, your heart, your family story, and to read your birth mother’s words, that was really special. And it’s special that you even have them that you accidentally heard that they exist and were able to officially request them and actually got [00:58:00] it.

I mean, there’s so much. That has gone right. In certain areas of your journey. Um, I know that there were some very dark places, but you sound like you have reached a much more positive place than ever before. And I’m just so grateful that you’re here to tell the story, man. Thank you so much for taking time.

I appreciate it.

[00:58:18] Kevin: Thank you. It’s very kind of you. I appreciate that. Thanks for your

[00:58:20] Damon: time. Yeah. Take care, Kevin. All the best to you. Okay.

[00:58:25] Kevin: Take care. All right, man. Bye-bye



[00:58:31] Damon: Hey, it’s me. Kevin experienced an adoptee life where he felt unsettled and unworthy of his life. His feelings were exasperated when he found a grave instead of a relationship with his birth mother. But the notion that he felt an urge inside him to speak with his sister, Julie, and she was the only one alive that knew he existed is unbelievable.

But also remarkable is how broken his maternal family had become after so [00:59:00] much loss and that Kevin’s return could help expand the family, reconnect the siblings and ground Kevin’s own strength to decide he wants to be here and forge ahead with his own life. I just kind of shake my head in disbelief and happiness for their family to have found one another.

And of course I wish Kevin luck in his journey to make connections to his paternal family. I’m Damon Davis, and I hope you found something in Kevin’s journey that inspired you. Validated your feelings about wanting to search or motivated you to have the strength along your journey to learn. Who am i really



Who Am I Really?

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