With extra time on her hands, Jennifer used a Search Angel to locate her biological relatives. She connected with her maternal Aunt over Facebook Messenger, simultaneously emailing her birth father using his contact info from LinkedIn. Hoping for a connection to her biological mother, the pendulum swung in the other direction after her mother rejected her. Jennifer recovered almost immediately with a loving connection to her biological father whom she has a natural bond with.
I hope you’ll remember David’s amazing story, in episode 15 “We Wish We Could Have Grown Up Together”. He remembered the day, when he was a boy, when his family brought home a baby girl. Jennifer is David’s lifetime sister.
The post 025 – I Feel So Lucky, I Got Way More Than I Bargained For appeared first on Who Am I…Really? Podcast.
I feel so lucky to have formed this connection and you know, I didn’t really go into it thinking that I was looking for a mother or a father. I was just looking for information to understand myself better and where I came from, but I got, you know, way more than I bargained for.
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. I’m Damon Davis and today you’re about to meet Jennifer who lives outside of Los Angeles. I’m excited to bring you her story because it’s the first time the Who Am I Really podcast brings you the sibling story of another guest. I hope you’ll remember the journey of David in episode 15 he said that he remembered the day when he was a boy, when his family brought home a baby girl.
My younger sister is Jennifer, and she was three and a half years younger than me and I actually remember going to pick her up. It was just kind of cool. Yeah. I just remember kind of getting out of the car in the parking lot and going somewhere. Next thing we know, I have a sister.
Just like David. Jennifer used a search angel to get started on her journey. The search angels team quickly returned information about both of Jennifer’s biological parents, so she sent them both introductory messages. Hoping for a connection to her biological mother, the pendulum swung completely in the other direction after her mother rejected her. However, she was able to recover almost immediately with a loving connection to her biological father who has been connected to her ever since. Jennifer’s parents were divorced when she was seven years old. When her curiosity about her history first struck her parents weren’t able to give her any concrete details. Her brother David’s search wasn’t going very well. So Jennifer kind of let it go for a while.
I knew from the time I was really young that I was adopted, so when I was young I wasn’t really interested in finding anything out. But like as you get older you want to know what the story was. And as my parents started to get older and then my parents kept forgetting or you know, whose story was what. And so as I became older, you know, I was more interested in, in finding that information out and I thought they would have some sort of backup, you know, but they didn’t. Then I was kind of at a loss. At that time, my brother was looking, you know, before the internet and it seemed like he wasn’t getting anywhere. So, you know, I just focused on finishing school, getting a job, you know, getting married.
Jennifer had wanted to know more about her history for a long time. She had written in for her non-identifying information in 2007. She had her parents’ ages at the time of her birth, their occupations, religious beliefs, and a few tidbits about some of their interests.
So I knew back then that they were into sailing and my dad was a surfer, so I thought, okay, they must have met somewhere on the coast. And since I live near a Marina Del Ray and I was born in Granada Hills, which you know, is the Valley of LA, not too far. I figured maybe I’ll run into him somewhere at the beach cause you know, I’m a coastal kid and grew up at the beach.
Jennifer said she was always on the lookout for someone that could have been one of her parents. Her choice of career placed her in a position to meet a lot of folks whom she evaluated for both their professional capabilities and her own potentially personal connection to them. But it wasn’t until she was unemployed that she had the time and opportunity to truly begin her search.
And I went into HR as a career, so I did a lot of interviewing and it’s kind of funny, I interview people almost seeing if I looked like anyone, you know what I’m saying?
Really? You had like an investigative eye basically on everybody you tried to come across?
Yeah. You know, because I knew, you know, they couldn’t have been that much older than me, but it wasn’t until, um, I was laid off from a job that I had time to go, okay, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it now
With extra time on her hands. She evaluated her possibilities for launching a search. David had already been on an internet search journey for a while that wasn’t yielding any results. She figured if she was going to get any results, she would have to pay for them.
I went online and started searching for like private investigators out there and I thought, okay, I have severance. Maybe I’ll pay someone finally to do it. Cause I figured that was the only way it was going to happen to pay somebody. In the meantime, I had found these search angels and I thought, what’s that? And I thought, really they do it for free? I saw this woman and she, you know, she had a LinkedIn profile. She seemed to be very involved in the community. So I reached out to her and said, hey, you know, I have this non-identifying information. You know, I’ve also contacted these agencies that charge you, these detective agencies, what do you think? Can you help me? And she immediately was like, yes, I can help you. You know, you don’t need to pay these folks to do it. Apparently there were a lot of agencies out there that will just take your money and not even find your family.
Jennifer provided her non identifying information to the search angel and the angels team went to work. Jennifer was amazed at the results the team achieved using their access to resources and social media sites.
She has like a team of people who do this throughout the country. You know, I don’t know what they have access to, but they have access to a lot of stuff because within a day, you know, they thought they knew who the parents were, the names and they had identified who was probably my first mother’s sister who was like, you know, 18 months younger. They found her Facebook account and I was able to contact her on Facebook by essentially paying a dollar to make sure that my email was seen and it wasn’t, it didn’t go to a junk mail folder or anything.
What did you say? If you don’t mind, just, just pause for a second. Like you’re reaching out to this aunt and you have no idea if she knows that you exist. If she doesn’t know if she wants to meet you, if she doesn’t like what did you even say?
Yeah. So I kind of struggled with that and you know, read some blogs and looked online to see what I should do. And I ended up just saying, this is my name, this is where I live. I’m looking for this person, which is the birth mother’s name. You know, I knew her in and I gave that year that I was born and she actually responded fairly quickly. She had contacted her sister, my birth mother, and gotten back to me and said, she doesn’t know who you are. And so when she said that, I said, okay, I have a confession to make. I believe I’m her daughter who she gave up for adoption and when I said that to her, she, she basically really opened up and she did know about me and she started really sharing stuff about the family and what was going on. You know, one of the things she also made clear though was that my mother did not want to talk to me. Maybe she would in the future, but you know, she wasn’t really interested in having a relationship.
What did you think? It sounds like she was, she was fairly declarative about that. What did you think?
Oh yeah, I was definitely shocked cause I’m like really? Like you don’t even want to talk over the phone?
Even though her mother wasn’t interested in having a relationship. Jennifer’s biological aunt was still very helpful to her. She gave Jennifer some details about the family, medical information and pictures of the sisters at about the time that Jennifer was born.
Right then I could see the resemblance of me to that family.
Wow. What did that feel like for you?
I mean really it’s the first time, like here I say, you know, I’d be interviewing people and trying to figure out if I look like anyone. And that was one of the shockers when a search angel sent me a picture and we exchanged them to see if this was the right family. They were like, Oh yeah, you totally look like you know your dad or, or your mom. And I’m like, do I? Because I had never, um, look like anyone in my family, you know, my brother and I are both adopted from different families. So you know, people used to say we looked alike but we just laugh cause we’re like, yeah, that’s not possible.
I know that trick very well. I wondered about Jennifer’s connection back to her adopted parents. She said she and David didn’t look like their family, which is pretty common with adoptees, but I wanted to know what their connection was and what they had in common. How about, how about just in general, if you don’t mind, just going back to you like your mom and how did you get along with her and did you have commonalities between your personality and hers or were you different? What was your sort of family like back then?
Well, I would say my mother is great. She’s always supported me, my adopted mother. However, we don’t have any interests pretty much that are similar. You know, my body type was much, you know, like bigger boned and she was, you know, always very thin. So when I was growing up, you know, I’m, Oh my God, I feel like an Amazon compared to her. And really I wasn’t that much of an Amazon. It’s just compared to her at that age, when you’re going through those changes and everything that you’re like, Oh,
You look at every inch of your own body as compared with every person around you.
Yeah. And you’re like, I don’t look like anybody. Like, you know, I grew up in Southern California and I didn’t look like any of those people. I wasn’t blonde, blue eyed or anything like that. So I always kind of felt like, you know, an outsider, even though, you know, my mother cared for me, you know, and still does. She’s very important part of my life. But I definitely felt that distance of not fitting in. Like I started doing Girl Scouts and camping and loved all that stuff. She didn’t like any of that stuff. You know, she’s a designer and very artistic, which you know, I enjoyed. But you know, some of those things that I realized I gravitated towards naturally. I found out later that like my dad was into that kind of stuff.
Jennifer continued to have conversations with her Aunt, pulling bits and pieces about her biological mother from each conversation. Over time, she assembled what would normally be an assortment of de-identified information into a mosaic about her birth mother.
My aunt did not tell me her last name, so I still had no way of getting in touch with her on my own. And I knew she didn’t want me to, but I’m kind of persistent. So through multiple conversations with my aunt, she gave me enough basic information without realizing it that I was able to figure out my mother’s last name and find her on the internet, on Facebook with her new married name.
That’s amazing. What kinds of information did you pick up in general? I mean that’s a hard thing to do.
So basically, you know, she gave me the name of her husband, the first name, which was a unique name. She told me where they had gone to college. She told me the city they lived in and I did a Google search and found that they had contributed towards a scholarship fund at the school in their area. And there was an article about them and in the article it described where she’d gone to school, how they’d met, and it all matched what my aunt had told me.
Jennifer reached out to her biological mother over social media in a low key message to introduce herself. The woman responded, but she wasn’t necessarily happy to have been found and contacted. Jennifer had been forewarned that her mother didn’t want to talk, but she hoped she changed her mind.
And she did respond.
But really like basic, like she didn’t want to get on the phone with me. She didn’t, you know, really want to have a broader conversation. So this is over like a year. This is happening.
What were you feeling along that year? You found her, you’ve kind of contacted her, you’ve reached out, you’re hopeful and nothing’s happening. What do you, what is going through your mind?
Yeah, I mean I was frustrated, you know, and couldn’t understand. Even though I, I kind of picked up from my aunt that that side of the family is pretty like once they make up their mind that’s what their mind is and you’re not gonna be able to convince them. Cause she had told me her observations of her sister and her personality. So it kinda made sense. So I kind of knew some of the background, but at the same time I’m like, really? You don’t even want to just say hi over the phone, you know? So I pushed it.
Jennifer pushed gently though. She reached out from time to time with short messages to say hello, to wish her birth mother well, but mostly to maintain contact in the hopes her birth mother would relent and agree to talk to Jennifer.
Whatever the holiday was, you know, I would just say just happy holidays or you know, whatever. Hope you’re doing well, like really short messages. This is all over Facebook like I had, no, I didn’t have her phone number. I mean I knew where she lived. I looked up her house on Google. I had all that information, but I wasn’t going to break that trust and send her a letter or anything because I knew she would not be open to it because she was kind of annoyed that I’d found her on Facebook. She eventually said she’d send me a letter. Three months went by, no letter. And I thought, yeah, I thought that’s what was gonna happen. And then I reached out to her one more time and she said, Oh yeah, I have that letter. I wrote it. I just came across it the other day. I’ll put it in the mail.
And so I finally did get the letter about a year after I first started searching for the family. And the letter was like, she is very direct. It gave some background of how it happened, but it was very direct in that if abortion was legal at that time, I would have aborted you. I dealt with this when you were born. I have no desire to meet you or have a relationship with you. So, so it was really kind of harsh and I showed it to my biological dad and at first he was like, Oh, I don’t think that’s such a big deal. And then he showed it to his wife and his wife was like, no, no, that’s kind of harsh.
Yeah. Yeah. Guys, guys can can be a little emotionally obtuse.
So it was nice to get the letter. I mean, it pretty much solidified what I thought, you know, because I knew from talking to my biological dad that once they’d gotten pregnant, he was cut out of the equation. He didn’t know when I was born, you know, he didn’t know what hospital. They wouldn’t let him basically see her after she got pregnant.
But he was aware.
He was aware. You know what I found out in the letter, which I kinda had guessed was that it was her first time as well.
It was her first time being intimate with someone?
And she got pregnant.
She got pregnant. Yeah.
Pretty traumatic. And I kind of, I dunno, I wasn’t surprised when I heard that. Um, and so you can see it was, you know, she said she was kicked out of her high school, had to go to a special school for mothers. She still went to college after that. And ironically, both of my biological parents were at the same college at the same time and they did not know that. So they went to the same college and graduated college. And my dad did not know that until I told him, you know, after getting all the information.
Jennifer said that the tone of the letter clearly delineated the end of her contact with her biological mother. Her mother also indicated that she had daughters after Jennifer was born, but forbade Jennifer from reaching out to them.
However, my aunt was telling me, oh, I think this one would be open. Six months later after I got that letter, I sent an email to the one that my aunt thought would be more open, just real casual, hey, this is who I am. If you’re interested in, you know, talking or getting to know me, you know, this is my information. You know, she had told me not to contact them, but they’re adults. So apparently she let her mom know right away. And then immediately my mother contacted me on Facebook and told me she immediately told her sister to cut me off. And so that’s what happened. So I couldn’t even apologize to her. She cut me off. The aunt did. And apparently what I found out and cause my aunt didn’t know either, that the girls really didn’t know that that had ever happened. So I kind of let the cat out of the bag. You know, I did what you’re not supposed to do, but I just wanted to see. I was going through a divorce, so I probably wasn’t in my right mind.
You needed more connections. Yeah, yeah.
Yeah. I was looking for more connections.
Jennifer was on an emotional roller coaster, finding her way through divorce while trying to build a connection to her biological mother. Unfortunately, she made a misstep that cost her the relationships with her maternal side of the family. But in the aftermath her life took quite a turn for the better.
Then a week later I connected with my dad and he and I have been really close friends and he’s been my support ever since then. So.
So how did that happen? I know you mentioned before that you sent them letters at the same time, so how did your connection with him happen?
So my dad was more, uh, easily accessible. He was, you know, in a business where he was on LinkedIn. He had his work email very at his phone number. So here’s where my persistence comes in because I’d sent him an email at the same time and I found on his bio for his company that he did volunteer work in the community. He was like a community leader. He worked with kids and I’m like, Oh wow this is really cool. I’m sure he’ll want to connect with me. And then I didn’t hear back from him for like a week and I thought that is really strange. So I ended up sending another email with a picture of myself and my daughter cause you know then you could see what we look like and I’m not crazy. Here’s my LinkedIn profile, I’m legit and you know this is the story. And he then immediately called me and then it took a while to connect that day. But we finally talked on the phone that night and what I had realized is that my first email did not go through cause I was like, you didn’t get my first email? And he’s like no. And I’m like, Oh my God, thank God I sent another one.
Yeah for real. You’re there hoping that your IT systems and all of your connections are working as they have probably so many times consistently before and now the one email that you need to go through, it doesn’t go through.
That night, they spoke for over an hour. Conversation between Jennifer and her biological father was very easy, but there was a special, someone who really wanted to be the first to speak to Jennifer. And the funny thing is is that he said his dad, who was, who was still alive at that point wanted to talk to me first.
His 91 year old dad and he’s like, no dad, I’m going to call her first. So his dad was super excited to meet me, so I talked to him on a Monday night and then Friday he ended up coming down to LA for a conference or something. And so I met him before just by myself. I met my dad before his conference and then the next day my family and I went up to visit him at his house in Ventura. And then we went immediately over to his parents’ house, which was near there. And I met his parents at the house he grew up in. That they were still living in.
Wow. Were you able to uncover why he was so excited to meet you?
He just is really a big family man, you know. And he’s older and like they knew this had happened and they probably never in a million years thought.
Right, right. The whole situation had been presented to their family too, so they knew, Oh wow. He had thought about this for years.
Yeah, and since then he’s passed, but I was lucky to be able to meet him and my grandmother is still alive as well, so, but I got to see that and see where he grew up and so that was just amazing.
Yeah, that’s really, really incredible to get the opportunity to meet your biological grandparents and see the house where your biological dad grew up. That’s surreal.
I’ve heard stories where people found a person they thought was their birth parent, but somehow the reunion had returned a false positive for them. I asked Jennifer if she and her father had done a DNA test to verify their connection. I was also curious what her father revealed to her about her conception and whether she had siblings on his side.
You know, I’ll tell you we did not, honestly, when his mom saw the picture of me and him, we look really alike. There’s a huge resemblance of me to him from like the nose down and it’s just so amazing. You know, she would still say later, Oh yeah, you’re his, you know, she felt like the pictures were so amazing that we never felt the need to do any of that.
What did he tell you about the situation that brought you to life and how you went into adoption? What did he reveal? Anything about his feelings at that time?
Well, yeah, I mean, you know, this is what I hear is like the summer of love and they’re having fun. They were dating and you know, birth control wasn’t really something people did at that time. And the funny thing is, is that he had a VW bug at that time. So what’s the first car I get when I’m 16? An old VW bug.
Are you serious? That’s so cool.
From the 70s, you know, basically, I’m a summer of love baby from a Volkswagen bug.
You’ve got to love that. Did you, uh, you sound like you have a lot of family on your paternal side. Did you find siblings over there too?
So lots of cousins. He never had any other kids. So I’m his only kid.
Wow. The one child that he made by accident.
Yeah. You know, he’s been married for like 30 years and when him and his wife got together, you know, they wanted kids and it just didn’t work out. They thought about adopting, you know, decided for whatever reason not to do that. But they both are huge supporters in the community and supporting kids. And so they interacted with kids quite a bit. So he had told me at one time, he thought I would come find him at one point.
Yeah. So that’s the most amazing thing. So he was ready and receptive from the beginning and he had no information to find me. So it had to be me.
That’s, that’s really incredible. And I can’t help but think too, if your biological grandfather never had any grandkids through this one son, that had to be a factor in why he was so excited to talk to you right? He knew you were out there.
Yeah. And all the other siblings had kids.
Jennifer describes her innate connection to her biological father as a unique feeling she hadn’t had before. I asked her how things are in her family now and I wanted to know more about how she and her adopted mother have done navigating this situation together.
Um, it’s great. As I said, you know, ever since I met my dad, we have communicated every day either like sending pictures to each other, texting, talking on the phone. I mean there’s, I don’t think there’s one day that we’ve missed and that’s two and a half years now. So I went through a divorce. He was a huge support during all of that and, and his wife as well. And they just are my family now. I mean, my daughter and I go up and visit them and you know, they’ve come down here, we’ve gone on camping trips together, you know, so it’s the first time I think that I’ve felt like I belonged in a family fully. Not that I didn’t belong in my other family, you know, they love me and care for me. But my connection with my dad when I first met him, he’s like, do you want to sit down and have coffee or do you want to take a walk? I’m like, let’s take a walk. And he’s like, I knew you would say that cause we’re both very like athletic and like to keep moving and have lots of energy. And so that was the connection. It’s like I didn’t have that connection with anyone really.
Take me back to your mom. You said your parents are divorced and that happened when you were very young, seven years old. But is your mom still alive and has she been with you along this reunion process and how, how is she doing and how are you making her feel comfortable in this whole thing?
Oh yeah, she’s definitely been supportive the whole time. You know, she’s met them both and you know, my dad and his wife will try to do things together if we can. So no, she’s very open to it. And because she knows, you know that my adopted dad was not really that father figure so I missed out on that. So it kind of works out, you know, pretty perfectly in terms of, you know, the family dynamics and I, I’m not gonna say there weren’t times when, you know, I think she was a little hesitant about what was going on and thinking she would, you know, lose me entirely. But, so, yeah, I mean it’s not totally smooth sailing, but pretty much.
How did you make her feel more secure in those times?
Um, I think just telling her what was going on. I mean, as soon as I found him, I told her, you know, I kept her apprised of kind of what was going on the whole time, you know, and then she met them. It’s not like, you know, anything’s being hidden or anything like that. And so she was a part of it. I don’t, I can’t think of what I’ve specifically done, but it’s, it’s just really communicating.
How was she there for you when your mother, your biological mother’s response came back?
Um, you know, I know I shared it with her and you know, I think for her, obviously with a mother and mother, it’s a little different. Like, I think that’s a little harder for her. So, you know, honestly I think she was relieved that there wasn’t going to be anything going on there. So I mean, you never know what you’re going to find. But I shared the letter with her and, and all of that as well.
Yeah. It’s a careful thing that we adoptees have to balance the idea that you might potentially replace a parent accidentally in many ways. Like you’ve got this amazing connection with your biological father that is unmistakable and something you actually can’t help. And you know, had you had a father figure from your early days, that guy could feel fairly threatened by your deep connection to this other dude. And, and, and I just, I hear these stories of adoptees finding people that they’re related to and really having to strike a balance between making sure that the adoptive family feels comfortable, loved, apprised, as you’ve said. Um, but also leaving themself enough space as an individual to connect with these other people. It can be really challenging.
Yeah. And I was kind of lucky when I first met my dad because I had gone through a layoff with a position and I had time to get to know him on my own so we could get together once a week and go on a hike and talk and really get to know each other without any other family members around. That was really special time. So I feel so lucky to have formed this connection. And you know, I didn’t really go into it thinking that I was looking for a mother or a father. I was just looking for information to understand myself better and where I came from. But I got way more than I bargained for. So, you know, it’s definitely been one of the key events in my life.
That’s amazing. Well, I’m so happy for you. These reunions can be filled with such fulfillment and it sounds like you got a lot of that on your paternal side and I’m really ecstatic for you. I’m so glad for you too, that you and your brother are in reunion. It would be very hard if both of you wanted it and one of you had reunion and the other didn’t. So it’s really cool that I got to speak with David and uh, and I get to speak with you too. And you guys both have some really amazing stories, so thank you so much for sharing. I really appreciate it.
Yeah, super excited for him. It took a little longer, but I’m so excited that you know, he connected with his sister as well.
Yeah. So cool. That’s awesome. All right, Jennifer, hopefully I’ll see you one day in the outdoors in LA.
Take care. All the best to you and your family. Bye bye.
Thank you. Bye bye.
Hey, it’s me. Jennifer’s journey has many of the elements that adopt these things so hard about when we imagine how our journeys will unfold. We try to prepare ourselves for the possibility of being rejected, but I don’t think you can ever fully be ready if it happens. We hope so hard that we don’t make a misstep that will challenge the relationships we’re trying to build. And ultimately we hope that we’ll find a bond that we knew was possible and always longed for. Jennifer’s mother had really made up her mind that she didn’t want anything to do with her and that’s okay, but it was particularly harsh for her mother to say that she would have aborted her. I’d like to think that her mother didn’t realize how insensitive a statement like that could be to Jennifer who was simply trying to get to know her biological mother in order to better understand herself. Needless to say, crossing the forbidden line to reach out to her half siblings turned out to be the death knell for her relationship with her maternal side of the family and that’s a move Jennifer wishes she could take back. However, as you’ve heard in so many reunion stories, sometimes the person adoptees think they really wanted to meet isn’t where their deepest bond lies. Jennifer’s search led her to make amazing connections with her biological father, grandparents, and the whole extended family. She’s so grateful for her biological father and her adoptive mother’s love and support. I’m Damon Davis and I hope you’ll find something in Jennifer’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am I really? If you would like to share your story of locating and connecting to your biological family visit, whoamireallypodcast.com/share. You can also find this show on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @waireally, and please, if you liked the show, take a moment to rate Who Am I Really on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts. Those ratings can help others find this podcast too.