In adoption, Julie grew up in the Midwest with a family of trans racial adoptees. Her brothers are adopted from Vietnam, and her sister is white. Each of them has a different perspective on searching for their biological families. Julie has always been curious. She told me that in the moments after her son was born and he was placed in her arms, she could forgive her biological mother, and release the anger she previously felt about her rejection. In that moment, she clearly understood the everlasting bond of a mother to her child.
Yeah. When I had my son, like the moment I gave birth to him, I will say like the second he was placed in my arm and my first thought was at my birth mom and I just, I, I let go of all the anger.
Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?
This is Who Am I Really, a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. Hey, it’s Damon and in this show. I had the great pleasure of catching up with my old friend Julie. We met over 10 years ago and as it often happens with me, we bonded over being adoptees, but she was already seeking her biological family and had been at it for a long time when we met. When we first knew one another, she had located her family of origin and her social worker had been in touch with them, but for some reason they had not actually made the connection. Julie moved away so I never got to hear what happened next for her. I’ve wondered about Julie for years. So today she finally satisfied my curiosity.
Thank you so much for taking time to join me for this. I have been so excited to talk to you for like years. Honestly. I mean, you’ll recall you and I first met back. What was that?
We bonded over being adoptees. I recall one of the conversations that we had around the fact that you had begun to search for your biological family. So I’m really excited to hear the update because I, I’ve honestly, I’ve thought about you off and on for years wondering how your story unfolded. So I, I can’t wait to get to the end, but for right now, what I’d love for you to do is just take me back to the beginning. Tell me a little bit about, you know, how you grew up, where you grew up, what your family structure was like, and just generally how it was being an adoptee in your family.
Sure. So I was born in Chicago and, and immediately placed into foster care because my birth mom knew that she wasn’t going to keep me. And I’ll give you some backstory and a little bit of on that side of the family. But in my, um, in my adoptive family, which I typically just refer to as my family, um, I’m the fourth, I’m the youngest, I’m the baby and I’m the fourth child and all four of the kids in my family are adopted. And so my oldest sister is white. And then my brother, my next oldest brother is, uh, black and Vietnamese. And then I have a brother who’s Vietnamese and probably something else. Um, we’re not entirely sure. Both of them were, uh, both of them were, were they, I mean the Vietnamese war orphans and so we don’t have accurate records on them and that includes like their age, their accurate birthdays. Um, so they were given records most likely as kids who already passed, which is typical. And so then
Thy were transferred records, they basically have someone else’s records, you think?
Yeah, because so because, um, so this is a story that’s like, you know, part of our family folklore. But, um, when my older brother came over and was finally having like, you know, immediately had his first doctor visit, the doctor was very clear with my parents that this child was at least six to nine months older than the age that they had reported to him, that they had been told.
Um, malnourished. Certainly him, both of my brothers were a malnourished when they came, um, and, and uh, and sick and so probably older than their actual years and maybe not a full year older, but definitely not that birthday that we have for them. Um, and so then, so they had those, those three, and they’re kind of, they’re stairstep and they’re, I think between like five and eight years older than me. And then it came time and my parents decided that they wanted to adopt again and again, like family folklore, there was a little girl in Dallas, Texas, and then there was me in Chicago.
And, um, my brother, my oldest brother, Jeff, is the one who decided that we should adopt me because we needed more brown skin in the family.
Ah, that’s so cute!
Um, yeah. Yeah. And so actually my first picture, um, that I keep on my fridge is that my brother Jeff holding me.
Oh, that’s really awesome.
On the day that the, yeah, on the day I was placed. And uh, and so yeah. So they went with me. And I also think because the other little girl had a lot of health issues too, and I was a healthy baby, so I think that that was worked in my favor certainly. Yup.
I see. Wow.
Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, you know, there’s like kind of the three months, three or four month waiting period rather than foster care. Um, and then on March 18th, I was placed with my adoptive family and have been with them since.
And so, um, I was raised in river falls, uh, which is a, which is a fairly small college town, about 16,000 in Wisconsin. Um, so it was definitely like my brothers and I were probably about half of the black kids in town or like, actually the color in general in town. We knew, I mean there were a couple kids who were biracial, but for the most part, any, any kids of color were adoptees or um, you know, that part of western Wisconsin also, uh, pulled in a lot of refugees. And so initially, you know, they were, the Vietnamese refugees came over and a lot of the churches around offer a lot of services and then eventually, you know, among refugees came over. So there were some times other people of color, um, who were with their, um, you know, families of origin, but for the most part students of color to be adoptees and we knew all of them cause the adoptive community was obviously small and um, and so we were all kind of well connected and so it didn’t seem, even though we were anomaly overall in my personal circle, it wasn’t anything too unique.
interesting. You know, I always think about folks in a interracial family and how it’s always awesome to see, but I always wonder about the adoptees feeling about looking anything like, or not at all alike, their parents. And what I’m hearing you say is that in your entire community, basically that was the norm, was that there were so many adoptees that didn’t look like their bylaws, their adopted parents, that, um, that it was, it was just normal.
Well, yeah, I would say it’s not that there was so many, it’s that there were probably like four other families who happened to be part of my parents that got through because they all had transracial adoption situation. Right. And so because we kind of kept together, that wasn’t, it didn’t, I wasn’t singled out in that way. I mean, I was almost always the only person of color in my classroom all the way through elementary and middle school and into high school. And there were other kids of color in my grade, but we just didn’t always end up in the same class. So I would say I was probably like one of five or six in my grade the whole way through.
Wow. So yeah, constant reminder to a degree that you are a little bit out of place. That’s fascinating. So how did your parents, do you feel comfortable with the fact that you are adoptees?
Um, it, for, in my household it was always on the table for discussion. And so, I mean obviously because we weren’t the same color as our parents, like it was clear. And even even for my sister who was white, it was just clear that none of us came from them. And so we could always talk about adoption and, um, I feel like I was, I was the most open about talking about mine. I remember, um, I remember when the movie, the land before time came out and little foot loses his mom at the beginning. And I was so sad and I remember sitting on my mom’s lap and you know, she was like, does this make you think about your mom? I was like, it doesn’t, I’m just, you know, I was crying, but that was never, I never got the sense from her that she was uncomfortable with me talking about my birth mom and my birth dad.
Um, and, and they had like in their file cabinet, they had records. And so I had a copy of my adoptive, of like my, my doctor’s records. So like my, um, my mom and dad’s information not identifying information. I had like first names, ages, ethnicities, eye color like height, weight, kind of as basic physical demographics I also knew how many siblings they each had, the first names of their parents. Um, and, and, and my mom made me my own copy of that so I could always have it and look at it when I wanted. I did find out years later that she had identified information she wasn’t allowed to give it to me until I was 21. I didn’t know that until I was 21 that she had even more info. But what she could give me, I could have at any time I was feeling sad or needed to talk, it was just always open for me. I would say I’ve probably been the most open of my siblings and the most comfortable talking about that.
That’s so interesting. And it’s fascinating too. I guess your parents probably would have had a lot of practice being that you were preceded by three siblings who were also adopted and they would have had questions and they would have had practice trying to help them feel comfortable. But the fact that you were so open about it personally and they provided you access to the information to say, listen, this is you and this is us. And uh, and he and we can talk about this anytime. I think that’s, that’s really incredible.
It fits my personality too. Um, and then, you know, with my brothers it’s more complicated because, um, there was no real way to share any specific information with my brothers. And so one thing my parents did years later that my parents took the boys over to Vietnam for three weeks or four weeks, one summer so that they could at least visit like their country of origin and see the orphanages and see the country where they were from. That was the closest they could do for my brothers to have a sense of identity as well.
That must be so hard for them to know that their personal history will always be at such a distance because the documentation from their home country, I mean was just completely fouled up from the beginning. It’s really kind of sad for them. But, um, I’m, I mean I hope that they, you know, feel very comfortable in the family that you all created together. So
I think we also like family. There’s moments obviously of like its just like any family, sometimes we don’t speak to each others. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we holler. Sometimes it’s all love.
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I would imagine the dynamic is the same. It doesn’t matter whether or not you guys consider yourselves brothers and sisters. You’re going to battle and have fun like sisters. That’s really it.
Exactly. We all know how to drive each other crazy and we all know how to lift each other up. So.
so you were really comfortable as an adoptee in your family, which is really awesome to hear. But there, there was a time at some point when you decided that you actually actively wanted to search. You wanted to find out or what? Tell me a little bit about how you reached that point. What were some of the triggers that just said, you know what, I think it might be interesting. All right. I got to know something.
Well, I was always, I mean my mom and I used to always talk about like, as soon as I turned 21 and I could look, was I going to look? And so, um, and so it was like we were just kind of waiting for me to be old enough and then, yeah. And, um, and, and my, my oldest sister did not choose to look for her family. Um, and she still makes that choice not to look. Um, but for me, I was really excited to. Um, and part of that is, you know, there’s like the story that my parents told me, um, which I believe, which I believed and I, and now that I’ve known my birth parents, I do believe still was your parents loved you so much that they wanted you to have, um, a really good life and they couldn’t give that to you the way they wanted to.
And so they gave you to us as I bought him, you know what I mean? Like that was, that seemed to, that worked for me. And so, yeah. Um, and then I think, let’s see, I must have been then I think 23 by the time I actually got around to looking. And part of that was when I turned 21 and Undergrad. Um, and I would’ve like, I would’ve needed to get my records from home. I just really wasn’t like organized in my head enough to do it quite at that age in college. Yeah. Yeah. And then my first year out I was teaching. And so it wasn’t until I was, I was at the little school where we met that I finally felt like I had time and was ready to, to put some energy toward it. So like I registered on a website called cousins connect and I registered on some other website and then I was assigned a case worker to Catholic charities and now the case workers I was assigned, um, they’re interns essentially. And so I went through like four or five different interns because it did take me several years to actually locate, well actually it didn’t take me several years to locate my parents, it took me several years to meet my birth parents. But, um, my first case worker located my birth parents. And so from then the process is you write a letter again with no identifying information, you can send pictures and then they passed that onto the birth family. And then the birth family has to do certain things as well. And so finally you can exchange like a phone call or something. And so I did all this stuff on my end, but then my birth family didn’t do any of the steps. And so I just was waiting. And then I think like several months later, probably half a year later I called back to see where I was in the process.
I had a new caseworker. They started it again and same phone call like, yeah, yeah, your birth parents are so interested and blah blah blah. And then nothing. And so then I stopped looking for awhile.
And what did that feel like?
It’s so, okay. So, so the very first time my case worker said that they made contact with my birth parents and they were..no, no, they said they made contact with my birth mother and she was so excited. Um, I immediately like pulled all my pictures of me coming out so that she could see a visual timeline of what I look like from, from when I was adopted until, until then.
I remember that. You told me about a book that you had put together of like, this is my life. I thought that was so cute.
I did. I wrote something so that she kind of had a feeling for the family I was in and like what my life was like, what I liked and I sent it to the case worker.
So I just remember feeling, feeling joy and feeling wanted, feeling like I was about to kind of uncover this part of me that I didn’t really know. And you, especially after going to Howard, it’s kind of like opened up my mind to, in terms of culture, I just was ready for more my pieces of my stuff to kind of unveil, be revealed, um, to me. And then the waiting, it’s kind of like I was young and having fun in DC. So I wasn’t always conscious of the waiting. It really wasn’t until like a few months out I was like, oh, I haven’t heard from him I should check in.
Um, and then that was kind of like when the excuses started or when the information was like, yeah, we got ahold of them, we’re just waiting for them to fill this piece out. And then after awhile, like after maybe a year or two, I was finally like, okay, well then let’s look for my birth father because if my mom’s not interested, that’s fine, let’s look for him.
But then my case manager told me that we couldn’t because they were married to each other. And so if, so they had to assume that she had told him and then that they both were not ready to move forward.
Which was really interesting information for me because the other story that I had always been told by my mom or actually, not always, but when I was a little bit older, my mom started telling me like more pieces about my adoption and she said it seemed to her like the social worker told her that my dad had, didn’t know my mom was pregnant. And so it was a surprise to him that he needed to sign paperwork, signing me over to someone.
Wow. That was the impression that your mother got during the process.
Yeah. And yeah, and I can’t remember, and it might’ve been that she had a direct conversation with a social worker. Um, but it might’ve just been her impression and she was right like that, that was actually spot on.
But so then, so then I kind of was starting to be like, well fine, if not, first of all, my birth mom, she didn’t even tell my dad she was pregnant, so let’s find my dad. And then I found out they’re married to each other and then it was like, is she still being sneaky and why can’t you just call my dad? Cause maybe she hasn’t told him. She didn’t tell him once, you know, but it was kind of like a brick wall. There’s nothing more I could do. Um, and so I just put it to the side again for awhile and yeah.
That must have been, so, I mean, the curiosity, your mind must’ve just reeled with the possibilities of what they could be thinking, what they had discussed, whether should they had discussed it at all or whether they were in the heat of a discussion about, I mean, I can only imagine my mind going wild.
Well for sure. I’m questioning character now and like what kind of people are these and this whole fable I’ve been told my whole life. What kind of BS is that?
And also I probably have siblings. And why did they get to be raised? Do they even know about me?
Um, yeah, like I, and I always wanted to have little siblings. I mean, I, I am pretty much like your standard baby sibling, but I also always want a younger and I’m like, man, I missed my chance to be a big sister too, you know.
Yeah. Right, right. Oh Wow. I didn’t even think of that. That’s true. So this is it. This is where you and I left off. So yeah, you were working at a school here in D. C. You were caring for my kids after school and we, our discussion ended at this point, so everything after this, I’m so excited to hear. So. Tell me everything.
Yeah, I will. So after, you know, after I lived in DC, um, I moved to Portland, Oregon. I, uh, had been there two years. I was working for a, a nonprofit out there. I have a dream foundation and I was working with my dreamers. I was in a school and I decided to start looking again. And I’m, so at this point, I’m probably like 27, I think that’s probably 23 when I first searched them out, I’m like 26, 27 and I decided I wanted to try again. I was in a good mental place to do it and a called back the numbers that I had. Of course I have a new case worker. Um, they very easily find my parents this time my parents are committed to doing the steps they have to do and I’m not actually clear what those steps are.
Um, and I did find out later my parents weren’t really clear. They felt like they really had to run around and didn’t understand what, like they were given a lot of misinformation too. Um, but then there are also some health issues going on from my parents that kind of sidetracked them from being able to be responsive the way I wanted them to be. But anyway, yeah. So, um, so we try again and then again it turns into this waiting game. Um, and then another like another year passes and I’m like, I’m just gonna try one more time, but then this is it I have to be done because I can’t keep just like, you know, like three strikes and you’re out essentially. That’s a good number. I’ve tried over the course of the decade essentially, or at least over the course of like seven, eight years. Um, but at this point if it doesn’t work then I have a really good life. I’m happy. I love my family, I love my cousins. My life is good. I don’t, I just need to let go of, or figure out how to just live with this one piece of not knowing cause I am actually really, really confident and certain in who I am. I need to let this go.
Yeah. And you’re probably feeling like you’re throwing yourselves at these people by this time. Like this is the tip number three and you found them on number one, right?
Yeah. I’m like, okay, so, and then you start to fall like suddenly, I start to fall back into that narrative of like, they didn’t want me, who doesn’t want a baby? Right? Who doesn’t want a baby.
And their own baby and their flesh and blood. Like we are programmed to want our babies. Genetically. Like biological is how we are programmed. So that’s how survival works. And, and so if they didn’t want me when I was at my cutest (inaudible) and now I’ve lived a little, some good and bad stories and like after three times I just can’t keep setting myself up for her. Yeah. Yeah. So third time didn’t work and it was the same thing where like, oh, your parents are so excited and then no movement forward. Although at that point I finally found out I had siblings. I knew I had two siblings, but I didn’t even know their gender. I just knew I had siblings. I didn’t know their ages. Nothing.
Um, yeah. And so that was it. I just like closed that chapter and continued living in Portland. And then, um, so while I was out there, the year I turned 30, I both got pregnant and had my son. Um, and unfortunately it wasn’t, like the situation with his father and I didn’t go the way that I wanted it to go and it didn’t go the way that we planned it going either. And so I realized that I would need to move back home to the Midwest to be close to my family so I can have support as a parent. But just quick backtrack for a second, when I had my son, like the moment I gave birth to him, I will say like the second he was placed in my arms and my first thought was on my birth mom and I just, I let go of all the anger because I didn’t even want to hand my son over to his father and didn’t want to hand him to my mom. I didn’t want to hand him to his dad’s mom. I just wanted him and he was mine and I couldn’t imagine not, not holding him, not having him. And it just made me think that unless this woman was a monster, this had to be the worst day of her life. Um, and people aren’t really, like, I feel like 99% of the people I meet are truly good hearted kind people that may, may be ignorant, may have some misguided things, but people typically, the ones I meet are kind and not and are not monsters. And so I just, I forgave her in that moment. I was like, this was the worst day of her life. She had to leave the hospital without me. And it also helped that another one of my friends from high school was pregnant about the same time I was, and she was placing her baby for adoption. And so we’d had a lot of conversations through Facebook, like through messenger about what she was going through and about what I had gone through. And she had a baby, I want to say two weeks after I had my son. And so she was on my mind a lot too. And I knew how hard, but right the decision was for her. Um, and so in that moment I just let go of all of it. And uh, and so I actually did have a lot of peace then.
So at the same time that you are pregnant and about to give birth to your own son, one of your peers is going through basically the same process that your mother went through with you at almost the same time.
Wow. So you’ve moved home…
Mmhmm. And shortly after I moved home I started getting these really weird emails and they were saying things like, we found you on cousin connect and you say that your name was this. Um, what else can you tell us? And so, and I had forgotten and I was like, they found me on cousin connect? What was that? So I like scale back and I’m like, oh, I remember, I remember filling this out like decades. I mean, it felt like that was, you know, at this point I’m 30 and a mom and I filled that out when I was in my early twenties with no sense. Um, and uh, I was like, that’s right. Okay. And so I sent some information back, like, well, this is the information that I know, and I know my last name is, is it might be Pennyagua. Uh, these are the names of my parents. This is my ethnicity, this is the information that I have essentially.
And like some of my cousin that’s one of my moms and dads, you know, cousins or siblings or whatever. And then so we’re emailing back and forth and the people emailing me and I, I don’t know who these people are, they set up a fake email, um, because those are not the names of anyone in my family now that I know. And they’re saying things like, well, you’re giving us some really specific details, but some of them are wrong, but there’s enough here that’s right, that like, what else can you tell us? And at this point, and I’m like, well, what can you tell me? You’re not giving me anything and how do I know who you are? And so we went back and forth like that for a while until finally, um, one of the, and I figured out, I was talking to two of my aunts, my dad’s two sisters and, um, yeah.
And so they were like, how do we know you’re not trying to harm our brother? And I was responding like, how do I know? I don’t know who you say, who you are, who you say you are. You obviously kind of pulling the cards here. So they sent me the name of my younger sister, I found out I had a sister. So they sent me the name of my sister and of course thanks to Facebook, um, I looked her up and I looked her up when my best friend was with me. And, um, one of my best friends is a white woman and we, so we’re standing in my dad’s sister’s kitchen and I’m, you know, if we have to, let’s look. So we look and her profile picture, my sister’s profile picture is a picture of her and one of her best friends who, um, is, I think she was maybe Colombian or something, but kind of presents white and they are wearing wigs and at Coachella and I’m a music head and my best friend is also a music head.
But I’m looking at the picture and how was like, Huh, we never went to Coachella because you know what I’m saying, almost like I do some glancing at it and she looks closer, she’s like, Julie, that’s not you and me. But that is for sure your sister and I was like, oh my God.
Yeah. She was like, yeah, these people are like, that is definitely your sister. And my younger sister and I do look a lot alike. And so then of course we’re like looking at all her Facebook pictures and now I’m seeing pictures of my family for the first time that my sister, my little sister is the first family member that I saw. Yeah. So then I email my aunts back and I’m like, I am, this is definitely my sister for sure. We look just alike. And so then we’re able to kind of now have a slightly more open communication, but now here is where the challenge is.
Um, my, my biological father and his siblings had had a falling out and so they really were not fans of my biological mother.
Um, and so they were saying things and I’m just listening with an open mind at this point. I’m not, I’m not, I’m just listening, um, to what sounds to be like a lot of her and a lot of anger on their part because nobody in my family knew about me and, and it is treating that my mom didn’t tell anyone she was pregnant when she was pregnant with me. And part of that is because, um, at that time in my mom’s family, there was a history of abuse and that’s why she placed me for adoption. She didn’t want me in that environment, but she would have been a single parent and a very Catholic, you know, Mexican family.
She placed you to protect you.
Yeah. And she didn’t tell my dad. Now at that point, my dad was separated from his first wife and he had a, he had a daughter with her. So, so me and my two younger siblings, we have an older half sister, um, who was raised with her mom and, and she was one where my, my brothers and sister didn’t know about her until they were older didn’t meet her until my sister was a teen. My younger sister was a teenager.
Now this is a repeated process.
well on my dad, yes. Yeah. So when my mom had me, my dad found out later and had to sign paperwork. Um, they didn’t tell anyone in the family. And by chance, my mom is the second oldest in her family. Her older sister as a social was a social worker, I believe. Um, she’s, she’s retiring this year, but the paperwork came across her desk. And so she was just like, is there something you would like to tell me? So my, my aunt is, yeah. Is the only other one in the family who knew. So like my, my Abuela, she didn’t know my Abuelo, he didn’t know, nobody knew except for my mom and my older aunt and then eventually my dad and it’s, and then they weren’t together at that point.
She found out because the paperwork came across her desk.
Yeah. Otherwise nobody would have known, yeah, right. Everything, you know. So I’m placed, everything is fine. And then I start looking for them in my twenties and that’s when they had to tell my younger siblings that there was another child. And so this was the second time my younger siblings are being told there’s another child and it’s another girl. My brother is always like, couldn’t it be a boy? Couldn’t there just have been a boy somewhere.
And so and and so that was part of the challenge and there was still kind of a lot of family drama going on when I originally was looking for them in my early twenties, which just got in the way of them being in a place to be receptive to me, you know. So I reached out to my sister on Facebook, um, and she came back with a beautiful letter just like detailing the family history and she’s looking at my page too and like, yes we are definitely related. Wow. And then I had a couple phone calls with my aunt and then I finally had a phone call with my birth parents and it was clear my aunts were really mad because I have two cousins who our birthdays are just a couple of days apart. But my aunts are angry because first of all, how come they didn’t even know I existed? And then also you don’t place babies for adoption in like Mexican and Dominican families. Um, there’s always an auntie or someone who can take care of them. And why wasn’t I just sent to New York to be raised with my cousins because we were all babies together. We were all babies anyway.
Yeah, in the Latino community, there’s always someplace to go. Huh. Wow.
Yeah. Yeah. So they were really angry and they were already angry. And so this just like fuels their angry fire.
But I was just like, I don’t have anything to do with any of that. Decisions are made because they’re made and I can make this and I can kind of maybe see you though.
How was this call with your parents?
Um, it was weird. It was weird and I could tell that they were unsure had I, if I had been poisoned to them already, but also was I angry. I even now, sometimes I think they kind of dance around me cause they’re not sure if I’m angry or not. They don’t want to upset me.
And I make it clear over and over that I, the moment I had ill will, um, at least for my mom, I’m finding I have some more issues with my dad, but I forgave her. I mean, she had to have done what she had to do. She must have felt like she had to do it. You just can’t leave a baby. So they don’t always believe me on that still. Just kind of I’m in a really thankful, grateful place. And I’m like, Oh, you could just be my parents and be frustrated when I act like a jerk. That’d be okay too.
Well, you know, no, I mean, in their own sort of defense, this has been years and years of drama, you know, anger in the family, of secrecy, of all these things. I mean, it’s got to be hard for them to feel comfortable with the fact that you’ve just come back and that there’s no anger. Um, but I totally understand your perspective. Like when you have your own child, you just look down at them and you’re like, oh my God, this is amazing. And you really find a way to love in a way that you’ve never loved anybody before. And to forgive a lot of things that you know, you may have harbored for a long time. You just realize the value of your own life and I can see how it would give you the ability to forgive unconditionally.
Yeah. Well and also, um, you know, as a, as a woman, after you give birth, your body has a long time before it’s back to normal. So you like, you wake up every morning in the skin where you know, you still have, you still have a belly and you are still producing milk and it’s painful for that process to end. And you know what I mean? So it’s like you have a physical reminder for that first year for sure of what you don’t have everyday as soon as you wake up.
Yeah. Yeah. I found out that I was born by a Cesarean section and it’s my understanding that in 1972, they were not a horizontal bikini line. It’s my understanding that they used to be vertical. So do you imagine that you walk around with this mark of having given birth to a person that you can’t find, have given up and have offered to another family to raise? I mean just so I hear you on, on the changes to your body and the mark on your being so, so you’ve had this awkward conversation with your biological family. They’ve, I assume told their siblings, your siblings that you exist. Tell me about the meeting.
Okay, so I moved back to St Paul and uh, on June 30th of 2011. So I have this baby now, right? He’s baby like seven, eight months old. I was, we decided that I would go visit in October. I would come down for a weekend. It was a weekend my parents, my adopted parents were busy and so it just became clear like I’m about to go down to Chicago by myself with my child to meet my birth family. And in this time, like my sister and I had been kind of, I think on Facebook back and forth and she seemed really cool. She and I seemed to have just a ton in common. So my son and I load up the car and drive down to Chicago and that was fine. He’s a good little road dog. So that was fun. But when we got there, I was not quite ready. And so I just remember like driving and like I drove past the house and then I drove around the block and parked nursed my son just like, kind of trying to buy some time, changed him up, sat in the car for a second and was debating if I was going to drive back up to the cities or like actually go through it.
And I decided to go through with it. And so I drove over to the house and I remember like I knocked on the door and my mom was the only one home and she came out. And I don’t think I look, at in that moment, I’m just looking at her like, I don’t look, I don’t think I look like this woman whatsoever. And I’d only seen pictures of her on Facebook, but I didn’t, I guess, I don’t know if I was like thinking I would feel like I belong to her. Um, but it was, it was a little awkward and not in a bad way, but just in like a, this woman gave me birth. I’ve been thinking about her most days, my whole life. And here she is and she’s tiny. She’s like five four. So I’m also, I was thinking like thank God I’m five, eight too, and yeah, we just, we don’t look alike, but we actually, we do look quite a bit of like, I have pictures of her, she gave me some pictures of her when she’s younger and we make a lot of the same faces. Yeah, yeah. It’s just, I’m darker, have different hair, but our eyes are very similar. But the best thing I think was she was the only one home. For me, that was really good. So, you know, I gave her a hug and she was a little teary. I could tell that she was trying to see how I was and like, and not trying to be overwhelming. And she, that that is my mom. Like she’s very intuitive and, and aware and wanting other people to be comfortable and, and I could tell that she was doing that for me, which I appreciated. And I will say that in a lot of ways this was, this actually was like the best possible timing. I was done being mad at her and also I was bringing their first grandchild.
And so I have this little ambassador with me and people are on their best behavior around kids. Right. And he also gave me an excuse to take like moments alone if I needed to because I was still nursing and, and whatever. And we could focus the attention on him if we needed to. He was just like the perfect ambassador.
Yeah, I bet.
Yeah. And so we went in the kitchen and talked, I told her a little bit about myself and she told me a little bit about the family and we were just kind of getting to know how each other was. You know, it was like the small talk that was more that, um, like the small talk was the vehicle for us to kind of get to know each other’s personalities and what our speech patterns were and who we identified as.
Right. Just generally trying to learn one another on the fly.
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And then I want to say my uncle, one of her brothers came home first and so I met him and he reminds me so much of my uncles I was raised with, but I just definitely immediately felt comfortable with him and he was loving up my son like in that family that I have some male cousins who are like my age. Then there was just like years of females. My family is really girl heavy, so this was like finally we have another boy in the family, which is great. So he just was loving him up.
And uncles tend o be really good at that kind of stuff
Yeah, they totally do. They totally do. Then My, my dad was definitely more like, you know, mija and, and wanting hugs and stuff and excited to meet his grandson and then my sister and brother came home and she and I had been chatting and so I was, she was just like I’m so excited to meet you! We are really similar. I mean she’s the baby in that family, but she and I are both like rough, like the baby run everything. We can handle all of this stuff like multitaskers, music heads, all of it. And so she’s we get along well. I’m really similar though to my brother and also our older half sister. Like I’m a good blend of all three of them.
Yeah. And so it was great. We, we just sat down and my sister, my actually, my older sister came too and she did not know about me until like the month or two before.
She had no idea I existed and that’s a much harder thing for her because um like her mom and our dad were actually married to each other. And so there’s a lot of other um, family dynamics and like father daughter dynamics that go on there that I don’t really know too much about. Um, and she’d been kind of coming back and forth between this, like our family that we share and her mom and grandparents since she was a, like an older teenager and it wasn’t always good. And I think there were times when she didn’t come and see them at all. She has no ill will towards me. She asks me, visits me to summer. I think that it was challenging that there was this other hidden child and that I probably like the fact of me and the fact and definitely like my mom who she also calls mom to cause challenges for her by her mom, you know?
Yeah. So there are dynamics there that we’re all kind of still uncovering and unpacking, but it was great. And so we intentionally spent that first night just as a, just as a nuclear family. And I remember we stayed up until like 2:00 AM at the table talking and eating and drinking, um, Cuban espresso, Cuban coffee, which I love. And just getting to know each other and telling stories. And they brought out pictures so I could see it. And that’s when I was like, Oh man, I do look a lot like my mom where I did like when she was younger, we look real, there’s one picture again, I was looking at it like this could be me, you know, she’s making a face. I’m like doing a hand gesture that I do.
Wow. That’s really really amazing.
That was the first night. The second day, they had a party for all the family. So at this point everybody knows about me, but it’s only known about me now for about a month, like the fact that I exist. So I’m also stepping into situations where people, I really in all their feelings, like how did they not know that their sister was pregnant for my, for my abuela she was really hurt. How come you couldn’t tell me that you were pregnant? Um, this like, this is a grand, this is a baby that we all we would have wanted, you know. So there was a lot of hurt feelings and I think anger and, and they, they didn’t, I don’t know the details of all of that. They have definitely kept me out of that loop. But, so it’s like I’m meeting everyone in the family and again, I have a baby, so there’s a new baby in the family.
So like he’s a great ambassador. But I did meet all my aunts and uncles and cousins the next day. And then, you know, my, my dad’s family, my dad’s side of the family doesn’t really interact with my dad. But my two cousins who were in Chicago definitely came over and met me and they’re great and they have kids my son’s age. And so we’re like, oh man, we’re the same age. And we got babies the same age, so it was beautiful. So anyway, we kept in touch and I visited probably like four or five times that first year, but that following summer, so every year my adoptive family, they built the lake house and they did the basement, just like all beds and it was like several bathrooms. And so we all go up to the lake for a week in the summer and all my aunts and uncles and cousins come through.
Um, and so we invited my birth parents and my birth family to come up. So they came up for two nights and met all my extended family as well. And at this point, my brother, my mom and my birth mom had talked on the phone a few times too. So they all came up and met everybody else that I was raised with. And like my biological dad was on the grill for a while and they got to meet, um, my brothers and sisters, one of my brothers lives in Alaska and he always brings his family down for like a month in the summer. So they got to meet my brother and that’s the brother that chose me now. It was, it was really fun. It was weird. My biological dad is definitely a musician. Um He’s a social worker as well. But I come from a really, that my adopted family is musical and this is, this has probably been, I feel like the real blessing in my, in my own personal story is that my adopted family and my biological family are very, very similar. They are all in human service, teaching, social work types of fields. Family’s really important and kind of clannish, you know, both my family are a little clannish and that like we get together all the time, aunts and uncles always want to be together. They want us cousins together. I have a ton in common naturally with my biological family because my baptist family is so similar.
Mm. That’s so amazing and really, as you’ve said, kind of lucky and I mean, I just can’t even imagine that you would find the qualities in your biological family that are so similar to those of your adoptive family. That’s really bizarre and kind of awesome.
It is really bizzare!
Uh, Julie, you have made my day after you’re thinking about your story for so long. Gosh, I’m so happy for you that you were finally able to connect with your biological family. I hope that the unpacking and, uh, the emotional journey that you guys continue to go through will unfold in healthy ways, but I’m just so happy for you that you were finally able to make that book of my life. Turn into an actual meeting with, with those folks. And I’m really glad that your adopted family was able to meet your biologicals too. That’s just, that’s really cool. Yeah.
Yeah. You know, I laugh now cause I’m like, ma’am, I’m gonna if I ever were to get married, I’d have to elope. Otherwise, like family alone, I’m both, I had to be insane. I can’t even imagine like for big family event, everybody’s invited. So I’m like, I’m gonna..there’s a lot of family at this point.
Well, thank you so much for taking time to get on the phone with me. I really appreciate it. I was, I was so excited to find you and connect with you again and I’m glad we were finally able to to share your story, so thank you. Yeah, thanks for asking me. This was really good. No, I appreciate it so much. Take care of Julie. All the best.
Hey, it’s me and I’m so happy for Julie right now. When I knew her before, she seemed pretty sad that her family of origin had been contacted, but they weren’t reciprocating contact with her. Now we know that they had some challenges in reconnecting with her from misinformation from the social workers about what steps the family had to take to welcome Julie home to medical issues in the family that made it such that the timing wasn’t quite right for them to complete the connection. One of the most poignant parts of Julie’s story for me was when she described holding her son for the first time after his birth. She said that in that moment she let go of all of her anger, which is a really important step forward, but sometimes challenging to reach for many of us. I hope you’ll find something in Julie’s story that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am I really? If you would like to share your story of locating and connecting to your biological family visit, whoamireallypodcast.com/share.