Kandi grew up in a loving Christian home, an adoptee with one older sister who was biologically related to their parents. Kandi found her biological mother living in Gulf Port, Mississippi where she was lucky to spend time with the woman before losing her a few months later. Today, Kandi’s family reflects the structure of her own childhood—-she has 6 biological children, and one adopted daughter, who is actually her biological niece.
I’ve never faulted her for putting me up for adoption. Like I always kind of rationalized that it was because she was too young and that’s just kinda how I imagined it. You know, there was some circumstance that she loves me, but she wasn’t in a position to raise me. And so I just, that’s just kinda what I lived on. I never felt like I wasn’t wanted to her.
Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I really a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members?
I’m Damon Davis and on today’s show is Kandi with a K kandi called me from Laurel Mississippi. She’s a mother of seven children with a family composition, similar to her own as a child. One of her kiddos is adopted and the others are biological to herself. Kandi tells the tale of how that adoption came to be after guidance through prayer. Her good fortune to spend time with her birth mother before losing the woman and the forgiveness she holds in her heart for the man who forced her into this world. This is Kandi’s journey. Kandi was born in Gulf port on the coast of Mississippi, but her story starts well before her own birth with her adopted mother. Back when she was a child around sixth grade as a part of a church program called girls in action, her mother’s church took young girls to a home for unwed mothers. It’s not clear to Kandi what the purpose of the trip was for the girls, but she does know it was impactful on her mother.
And so my mom had gone and while she was visiting and looking around, she saw a baby in the nursery there. And, um, she promised God that when she grew up, she would adopt, she married her high school sweetheart. And they were told it would be very difficult for them to get pregnant, but they, um, tried anyway and finally had not oldest sister and no complications that the doctor was like, you know, you’re not going to be able to get pregnant again. And this was just a, a one on one shot thing. And then after several years of not being able to get pregnant, they decided to start looking at adoption. It took about five years for them to finally get their hands on me. So I was only about, I would say, I think I was about 14 days old when I came home and the older sister by that time was 13 years old. And she was actually the first person that got to hold me. So that was really special for her and a lot of people because I had blonde hair and my, my sister had blonde hair. They always assumed that I was hers. But, um, she, she babysat me a lot and she just loved it. Well, this in, by the time, I guess I was about nine or 10 months, maybe even older, my mom found out she was pregnant. And so then she had a little sister that, um, uh, sandwiched between two biological children.
Kandi always knew she was adopted. Her parents told her she was chosen special and God loved her. She remembers reading the book. Why was I adopted by Carolyn Eastman? Kandi said her mother did try to meet her curiosity about her adoption, but she thinks discussing it was hard on her mother. Sometimes
I think she had a lot of fear that I would find my adopted family and leave her and run off with them. I guess, just irrational thoughts like that. That was kind of, you know, I never wanted to hurt her feelings and make her feel like she wasn’t my mom or wasn’t important because she very much was she, you know, made me who, uh, had a big part in who I am today.
Kandi knew she was a little different from her sisters, but the siblings were all treated the same and their family had a lot of love. She noted that there were some things that fulfilled her, that her adoptive family wasn’t proficient at like art dance and music. Kandi said her mother had papers documenting her adoption from the Catholic diocese on the Gulf coast of Mississippi. So she suspected her birth mother was from that area whenever she was down there, she always looked around for someone who she thought looked like herself.
My mom had papers. I remember she pulled out every once in a while when we would kind of look through them. And really the only thing it said was that she was an attractive young woman, you know, and that she liked art. And so I was like, I like, I love art. And I think it said something about her having curly hair. And I was like, Oh, I’ve got curly hair. I was the only one that had curly hair. And so I was just kind of, I don’t know, identify with that, growing up. Um, my mother’s father had a fishing camp in Gochez down in that area. And so when we’d go, we would, we would drive to Gulf port where they had a mall and I would always have work around to see if I ever saw anybody that looked like me. You know, I’ve never had anybody say, wow, you don’t look like inviting your family.
But I never saw anybody that really looked like me. And so I wanted to, to assume that like, you know, like what my family was like my birth family. And when I was in college, I worked at a, a Baptist camp. I was at the Western stretches because so, um, some friends of mine had come to the mall, but that same mall that I would always look for birth family and they came back and they were like, Hey, we can file your sister. I mean, she looked just like you, you know? And, and, um, and they’re like, is your sister in town? And I was like, well, maybe, and I just kind of looked puzzled and explained to them that, that I was adopted. And there there’s a high probability that, that, um, there was some birth family somewhere on the coast. I could have a sister, I could have a brother, you know, I don’t really know. I know it will. This girl, it looked like he, she had dark curly hair, you know, just like yours and found out later, once I did meet my birth family, they live like within walking distance to the mall and, and my half sister would go to the mall frequently.
Is that right?
That was probably her. Yeah. Yeah.
Though, at the moment, did you, did you sort of cling to that? Like maybe they did see me. Did you have a feeling like an urge to run over?
Yeah. I mean, I was, I was trying to always say, well, they, yeah, they probably did. I mean, I knew there was a possibility. So, you know, I was just telling you that probably. So
Kandi’s mother told her that when she turned 18, she could search for her birth family. The Catholic diocese told her mother way back when that when the baby turned 18, she could submit a letter to the diocese to seek her out. They said, if they also had a letter from her, the mother, they would connect to the pair. But Kandi was in college when she was 18 years old, a time when she was focused on her future. So she didn’t feel that urge to begin the search process. She said, when she was pregnant with her first child, she kind of started the search realizing that she didn’t know anything about her own biological contribution to the child. So she did submit a letter to the Catholic diocese, but there was no letter on file from her birth mother. Therefore the diocese sent a copy of her deidentified information with the identifiable data redacted
When I got it. Um, I had a very startling revelation that was included and I had no idea. My mom had no idea that my birth mother was only 17 and a junior in high school. And she was raped. It was that somebody in the military, well, he’d come through the back door of the home that she was staying in and he was intoxicated with something and raped her at knife point. And she was only 17. So when I read all this, you know, I was, I was pretty devastated, not so much for myself, but for her, you know, I just kept, I don’t know, like I always had a fear of being raped so much that I would kind of obsessed about it when I was in high school. I kind of got over it when I was older. But when I read that, I was like, well, I wonder if that’s why I was so obsessed with that fear or for, for a time when I was in high school. I just thought that was really odd.
That is interesting.
I mean, when I read that,
That is the same time frame that she was attacked and that’s what your fear was at its highest. And then it subsided.
Yes. Yeah. I was really broken hearted for her that she has it endure all of that. And so I got to the very last page of all the information that they had given me, and they accidentally left her full name on the very last page.
Wow. So in 2008, while pregnant with her first child Kandi obtained her full birth name, the story of how she came into the world and her birth mother’s full name. She already figured out her mother was probably from the Gulf coast. So she took to social media to look for the woman and started digging through online resources on a yearbook website. She found her birth mother’s name twice. Once for the year, she would have graduated. And once for the prior year, unsure which account to contact, she messaged them both. There was no response, but Kandi figured it had to be her mother suspecting that the woman may have dropped out of school. The year she was born, then re-enrolled after her birth Kandi found an online adoption registry that allowed her to identify herself and enter as much identifying information as possible. And she had a lot,
I remember finding something where I could put in my information and what I knew about her and that I wasn’t looking for her. And somehow my half brother found it. If he had been helping his mom look, you know, look too, and I guess he was just searching and found that I was looking for her for her. And the day I was born. And he was like, mom, I think this is her. She said, she looked at my name and was like, that’s the girl that messaged me on yearbook that she saw my message, that she thought that I was just saying that that was somebody, her age being nosy, because my question was, did she ever put a baby up for adoption? And that’s just kind of where I left it, you know? And so she messaged me back and was like, I did, you know, wait, when, when were you born? And so we, we started corresponding through yearbook and then we exchanged numbers. And so, um, that was a very exciting time to think, wow, I finally, I finally found her, you know, we found each other on Facebook and looking at her picture of like, wow, it looks so much like her, you know, it’s just crazy.
And you look just like her, what did that feel like for you?
That was really cool. I don’t know. She’s beautiful as I was like, wow, you know, I have a lot to look forward to
At the time, Kandi didn’t know that it was her half-brother who found her online. Her birth mother told her that story. Sometime later Kandi said she saw elements of herself in her mother’s Facebook profile, like her creative nature. She dressed differently in outfits full of color, just like candy was known for in high school. After messaging back and forth, the mother and daughter pair arranged to meet halfway between their homes in Hattiesburg. Kandi lived in the Northern Delta. Her mother was still in Gulf port. Her birth mother brought her husband Kandi, brought her husband and her son, the woman’s one year old grandson.
It was just really kind of surreal. Right. When I, when I saw her for the first time in person and we hugged and it was just, it was really cool, you know, to see parts of me and her and her face and her smile and some of the gestures, like things that she does when she talks, you know, I do the same thing. It’s just really odd. It helps you to see how much is nature versus nurture, you know?
Yeah. Yeah. It’s really crazy. Kandi says she and her birth mother hit it off and got along. Well, she tried to be respectful of her own mom and not dive into a relationship with her birth mother. So they took things slowly. Kandi’s mom wanted to meet her birth mother, but her mom’s struggles with anxiety that she wasn’t able to work through. So she just wasn’t ready.
It was a lot of drama after I had met my birth mom, because my family was very possessive of me. They didn’t want to share me. And so, because I didn’t meet each other right off, there was a lot of irrational ideas in their heads about how my birth family was going to be and how they were gonna react. And, you know, just everything I guess. And so there was a lot of bickering amongst my, my family and my birth family is just misunderstanding. They thought they knew what somebody meant by a comment, you know? And so it was, you know, they had to eventually just stopped being friends on Facebook. So that everybody could get along. And so that was really, really hard because I mean, I could see where both sides were coming from and I wanted them all to get to know each other because I knew they would love each other. So that was hard. Um,
It is hard. You’ve got two different worlds. People who know you from different perspectives and folks who wouldn’t probably necessarily be friends, were it not for your presence? And so for you to be stuck in the middle in that way has gotta be tough. And I can understand your desire to sort of want them to get to know each other, but it’s also challenging to, you know, in any way sort of push people together or try to pull them together, um, when they wouldn’t normally be brought together. So, but I mean, it’s interesting that they tried, they tried to connect with them one another, on Facebook and things like that. So they made an effort.
Yeah. Yeah. And you know, my birth mom was like, I know I’m not your mom. And you know, she’s like, I just, I just want to have a relationship with you. And you know, I want to be able the, to be part of your life, but I know I’m not your mom, you know? And she’s like, I don’t want to take your place as your mom. You know, that’s like, I know that your mom is your mom and I gave birth to you. And she said that she told me that when she found out that she was pregnant, she didn’t tell anybody for a while. Um, cause she, she really wasn’t even sure she was. But, um, she said, she knew that God was using her to be a vessel for a couple to have a baby who couldnt
Kandi’s birth. Mother said very few people in her family knew that she placed a baby for adoption, but she, and Kandi’s maternal grandmother always remembered her
Every year on the calendar, on my birthday. They put LW which stood for a little who and they would always pray for me. She did get to hold me when, um, when I was born. And so she made sure that I was a girl, but that’s all she knew. They didn’t tell her anything. And in fact, I didn’t even tell her that she could send in a letter to help connect us. And so gave ended up with a thing and she had requested that I know that she was raped. And she was really upset when she found out that I had no idea what had happened. And because that was one of those kids, which I could imagine that would be kinda hard. You know what I mean? When the, when does when do you tell your child, it is the product of rape. You know what I mean? And how does I didn’t even go about talking about that. That would be very difficult. I had to sit down and explain that, but, um, maybe that I send information along.
Yeah. I can’t help, but wonder too how that impacts a person when they grow up with that knowledge from an early age. I mean, I would imagine that at the time that you learned that information about yourself, you were fairly well on your way to knowing who you were and what kind of person you were kind of having built the inner strength to accept something when it turned up in your search. So to learn that at an earlier age could be pretty traumatic. I would imagine for a person.
Yeah. Yeah. I’m, I am glad that I found that when I was older, you know, I never, I never faulted her for, for putting me up for adoption, like in my mind. I always kind of rationalized that it was because she was too young and I was just kind of how I imagined it, that it was just, you know, there was just some circumstance that she loves me, but she was not in the in position to raise me. And so I just, that’s just kind of what I lived on. I never felt like I wasn’t wanted to her. And I think that was her fear that she didn’t want me to think that she just threw me away. And I never, I never thought that that was never anything in our minds. So, um, I was very grateful to her for what she did and given me a, um, a mother and a father. And that’s what she wanted was for me to have those. And one fear that I had was that when she saw me that she would see the perpetrator and I was afraid that that would bring back painful memories for her, if it did, she never said did it did
Being the product of a rape is extremely difficult territory in reunion, as Kandi said, she didn’t want her re-emergence to trigger haunting memories from her birth mother’s past, thankfully that didn’t happen, but something else did cause her mother to pull back to have heard from your parents, that you were the product of a rape, did you find that you were able to talk to her about the incident? Did she give you the details of being raped at knife point or were you able, ever able to discuss it with her? And did you have any reasons?
Well, she did tell me, I mean, what I know was from her, I wanted to talk more in depth. And in fact, um, I had talked to a couple that they do a lot of videography and, and, um, my husband and I wanted to, um, have our story on video and we wanted to tell our stories, but we could pass it down to our children. It’s just our love story. And then it turned into so much more because, I mean, when you talk about how we met, you also had to talk about God’s hand in my adoption to even bring about the fact, you know, being about those meetings. And so then it turns into a story about our adoption, about my adoption as well. And so I wanted to know, I wanted to make sure I had all my facts straight. And so when I approached her with, with that, it scared her because I think she thought I wanted all the details and I didn’t, I just wanted to make sure that I, what I said was accurate and then I didn’t tell the wrong story. And so she really backed up and was like, but I don’t know. Um, I’m not ready to talk about that yet, but it just seemed like she really didn’t want to just wasn’t really ready to go there. And maybe hasn’t even, hadn’t even processed it well enough to talk about it in depth. And so I never wanted to push her into, you know, having to relive that.
So are things still good with you guys?
Well, um, actually, um, March 29th of last year, she died, um, was going home. I’m not sure where she was coming from. Exactly. Haven’t tried to ask me a question because I don’t want to pry. Um, but that she had, she was on her way home and the intersection was very confusing and she actually went up the wrong ramp and was going the wrong way on the interstate and hit a truck and on, and it killed her instantly. And so that was, it was almost a year ago. And so it was good. And, um, uh, there’s another twist to the story.
She learned that her half sister had just gotten engaged since Kandi wanted to have a deeper relationship with her sister. She and her husband went to the wedding shower. They also learned her sister was pregnant and the family was expanding, but then Kandi had a weird feeling. So she chatted with her birth mother who was alive at the time
After a while. I had not heard anything about the baby. And so, um, so I contacted my birth mom and I was like, Hey, um, is everything okay? I haven’t heard anything about the baby. And she said, well, you know, I don’t want you to say anything, but she’s thinking about putting the baby up for adoption. And so come to find out like the guy she married was she had dated in high school. And, um, she didn’t even know the depth of his, his drinking problem. And so she, after she got pregnant, which was a, it wasn’t a planned pregnancy, but they were excited. But then she found out that he had this issue with alcohol and he had already been through a relationship where, uh, her husband was on, I think some, some kind of drugs or something, and she didn’t want to do it again.
She didn’t want to have to do the co-parenting thing right. And deal with that. And so she really felt like it was best to put the baby up for adoption. And they had picked, um, a couple, you know, to be that. And so, you know, I contacted her and I was like, look, you know, if that doesn’t work out, we’d be glad to take her that way. You know, she’d be in the family and say, after some prayers, she was like, yes, I definitely want you to have the baby. And that way, you know, she can be aunt and see the baby that the problem was convincing the dad, because they were married in Mississippi. If you’re pregnant, you can’t get a divorce. He was really wanting to keep the baby a long story short. I mean, we just, we called them and we just said, look, we just want what’s best for the baby. You know? And so we prayed with him and just tell them that we’re here. You know, we’re not his enemy. You know, we want what is best for everybody. And he called us and told us he wanted us to have that. You would not have to throw like amazed because she thought that he would never change his mind. She thought she would have to go to court and battle him for, for the baby,
The baby’s father, wasn’t really in a position to take care of a newborn himself. He moved back in with his parents and went to rehab in January, 2017 It seemed like the baby was coming any minute. So Kandi went down to the Gulf coast to be with her sister, but the little girl took her time coming into the world.
And so right before the baby was born, I had gone down to the coast to spend some time with, with all my family, without any children of my own, down there by myself, and just got to kinda hang out during their daily grind, you know? And because we thought that the baby was coming soon. So I had gone down there and hung out for a couple of days. I got just my biological grandmother and visit with her and see my brother. And, and so, um, I got to do that for a couple of days, which January, and then she passed in March. So I got, I was so thankful that the Lord gave me the opportunity to, just, to, just to go be around her for that period of time and see her and talk with her. Um, the baby was born in January last year. And so I was right there right after she was born. My birth mom, actually, this is the only birth that she was able to attend.
Kandi birth mother was present for her grandchild to be born. The baby would soon be adopted by her own child. Given up for adoption long ago, Kandi said the waiting period, 72 hours was hard to wait because they could have changed their mind about relinquishing the child. But she said, again, she only wanted what was best for the child. And if her sister changed her mind, Kandi would have accepted their decision and supported them. However, she could. The baby’s adoption sets up an interesting dynamic within the family though. So may I ask the, child’s not that old and the child’s mother is your half sister, but she did child knows the mother as the aunt. Have you thought about how you’re going to explain to her who her mother is in adoption?
Yes. Um, uh, right now, you know, like I try to give them, give the biological family every opportunity they, they want to become and spend time with her. Um, a little bit difficult for me. I know we haven’t talked about this, but, um, we actually have seven kids including her. And, um, and so it’s difficult for me to just kinda up and go meet them on the coast or something like that. So, but, um, I’m willing to, you know, halfway and, you know, whatever they want to do, you know, I’ve been, letting them see her, you know, coming from the other side. I know what that’s like. And so, um, we try to do like some facetime so that she can see her aunt that, um, kind of the storyline that we’re gonna kinda start telling her as she’s older of course tell her now, but she doesn’t really understand, um, she’s 13, 14 months old.
Um, but that, um, that she grew in her aunts, tummy, you know, she’s ours. And so, um, it’s kind of, I don’t want to be disrespectful, you know, to my half sister. Right? No, but she’s ours now. And so, you know, it seems kinda harsh, but I don’t know. I’m sure there were a couple, you know, it was really hard decision to make like here we are, at the time we had five children, like what, what business do we have adopting? And other one, I don’t know. We just we’ve always wanted to adopt. And so this just kinda fell in our lap. And we were like, well, is this, is this God’s plan? Or is it not? And, and so my husband and I really got on our faces and we were praying like, Lord, is this, is this what we’re supposed to do? If it’s not, you know, I even contacted one of my friends who has had no children.
And I was like offering the baby to her first. Like, I don’t want to miss it if I was supposed to just be a connection. I didn’t want to take the baby for myself being selfish and not make sure I looked around to see if there were so much, she was somewhere else she was supposed to be. And my friend was like, no, we don’t feel like it’s time for us to adopt yet. You know, we were praying. And prior to this, like months ago, before we even knew that there was a possibility that adopting the baby a friend had delivered a word us. And what I mean by that, like the Lord had told him to tell us that we were going to receive a gift that we felt like we didn’t deserve. And so we’re thinking, what could this be? What could this get to be that we feel like we don’t deserve, you know, w what is it?
And so when we were praying, my husband had a vision of my half sister handing him the baby wrapped up in a red bow. And then when he saw that, it just clicked, like, this was the gift. This is the gift that God had told us months ago that he was going to give us that we didn’t feel like we deserved. And, um, yeah. And also while there, while he’s having that vision, um, I also had a vision and mine was, um, I was holding the baby and she was too little to have any kind of motor skills at that time and my vision. But when my husband walked up behind me, while I’m holding her, she reached out for him. And, um, you know, that just let me know in my mind, I’m just thinking. Yeah. And she needs, she needs her daddy and this little girl is a daddy’s girl. She is all about her daddy.
So are the other six biological to you?
She’s the only adopted.
She is the only one. And so, yeah, so that’s kind of neat too. You know, she’s kinda in the same situation. I was, she’s the only adopted one. They love her tremendously. And she, she follows, she follows daddy around, you know, she is so sweet. She loves her daddy, definitely has a connection with him.
I had one final question for Kandi concerning DNA testing, as prevalent as commercialized DNA testing is Kandi, or her children might decide to submit their own samples for testing to learn more about their own genetic makeup or to find more relatives. Of course, since her birth mother was raped, it’s a challenging option for her to ponder. You know, a lot of adoptees have found their biological parents intentionally or accidentally through DNA testing. And obviously DNA testing could have some serious ramifications for you. And who knew or identified with online. Have you thought about an occasion that might come up where you might decide, you might have to make a decision to do DNA testing or not, and what you think you would do?
Yeah, I’ve actually been kind of looking into that. I have a, a close friend whose daughter just did the DNA test. And so I was just watching very carefully what she’s found and things like that. But for some people it might seem kind of ridiculous. I don’t know, but I do want to find my birth father and he might not be the guy that he was, and maybe he could be in jail somewhere. He might not be alive. I don’t know. But, um, I mean, he probably has no idea I exist.
New Speaker (34:41):
And so, I don’t know. I am really curious about that because I don’t know why. I just, I felt like I have a lot of grace to give. And so I’ve thought about that data into the DNA test to see if there was a possibility that could find somebody on that side of the family.
No, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it at all. I’m sure some people might find it, you know, weird, but regardless, I think one of the things that you said is important, he might not be the guy that he was back then. Right. So, you know, his past his life could have gone on multiple different trajectories. And if he is remotely in a positive space, it might not be a terrible thing to have tracked him down. But, you know, you’ll, you’ll, you’ll be able to figure those things out as cross as you cross each bridge. Right. And one, it might not ever find him in which case it’s a moot point, but if he ever did, I mean, one would hope that he’s not still the guy that he was back then.
That’s a whole other maze of emotions and sort of a tactical journey to navigate, to even try to find him, let alone whether he’s interested in connecting, etc. So, and, and I totally understand why you would want to do it because in fact, he is the other half of why you’re on this earth and that’s undeniable.
Yeah. His parents might be great. I mean, you know, I don’t, you know, it might not have anything to do with, with him and his choices, right?
Half siblings and aunts or uncles who are, are awesome or whatever, you know, there’s all kinds of possibilities out there, but also steal yourself against the fact that, you know, he might still be that guy. And, uh, and, and it’s, it’s a lot to face, but I wish you luck and trying to find him and making a connection. I think if you do, I hope you’ll let me know.
Speaker 3 (36:54):
Well, Kandi, thanks so much for sharing your story. I think it’s really amazing that you both were in adoptee in a family of biological children and have sort of transfered that to your own family in order to give somebody else a loving home. I think that’s really awesome. And I’m glad you were able to find your biological mother cause you know, the fact that she was searching for you, um, really means, and you know, they were writing your birth day on their calendar. It means they were, she was really thinking about, you know, who his baby was that she sent off into the world. And I’m glad you guys were able to connect for the short time that you did.
Yeah, me too.
Speaker 3 (37:37):
Well, thank you for sharing your story today. Kandi. I appreciate it.
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. Bye bye.
Hey, it’s me. I’m sure you can hearing Kandi’s voice. How truly thankful she was to have a chance to spend time with her birth mother before adopting her sister’s baby, then tragically losing her mother in a head on collision. It was also interesting to hear Kandi describe her desire to know her biological mother, but not wanting to resurrect terrible memories of the violent act that brought Kandi into this world. I’m glad her birth mother was in a place of acceptance to allow Kandi into her life. I’m sure that must’ve been hard to separate candy from the perpetrator. I wish Kandi luck and finding man, hopefully he’s in a much more positive place than was decades ago when Kandi was conceived. I’m Damon Davis and I hope you’ll find something in Kandi’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 adoption journey and your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit whoamIreallypodcast.com/share. You can choose to share your whole story, maintain some privacy about parts of your story or tell your tale completely anonymous. It’s totally up to you. You can also find the show at facebook.com/waireally, or follow me on Twitter at waireally. And please, if you like the show, you can subscribe to who am I really on? Apple podcasts, Google play tune in radio or wherever you get your podcasts. And while you’re there, take a moment to share a rating or leave a comment. Those ratings can help others to find the podcast too.