Heidi, from Silicon Valley, California, grew up walking on eggshells, crying a lot and “staying small” in her world despite being gifted. She found her maternal family guided by a somewhat famous reunion specialist who helped the reunion along.
Heidi says reunion can be weird and awkward for how much time has passed while an adoptee tries to get to know their biological relatives in the present. Her reunions are further complicated by the emotions of her birth mother and birth father being the opposite reactions to her return than she expected. This is Heidi’s journey
Lyrics to Looking For Me (Lyrics)
Looking for Me (Heidi Frederick © 2021)
My life a blurry canvas, full of pain and sometimes numb
No voice, no choice, grasping for joy, yet slipping through my hands
So lost without direction, afraid to ask for help
full of fear and loneliness, days and nights all by myself
Silent struggle of a misfit, just trying to fit in
please tell me what to hope for, don’t let me down again
Missing peace, missing pieces, yet not a search for them,
I’m looking for me, to set me free, know who I truly am
Searching for places, strangers faces, no reflection found
was looking for them, yet searching for me
alone, yet in a crowd
If you could only know, my motive is so pure
Not looking to replace you, our relationship, secure
It’s not them I’m looking for, it’s me I long to know,
You chose me then, you choose me now, but I need to heal and grow
Can’t imagine, what they went through, so young and so alone
knowing she’s a part of you and suddenly she’s gone
They told you to move on, you’ll have more kids one day
It’s better not to hold her, just turn and walk away
Searching for places, strangers faces, no reflection found
was looking for you, but searching for me
still alone, yet in a crowd
Ties that bind, can’t be broken with false promised and empty words
After all this is your child, yet, she’s no longer yours
She’s spent her whole life wondering, if one day you would meet
no bitterness or resentment, not filled with rage or hate
With secrets and shame comes darkness, but courage and hope bring light
Walls come down, healing is found, not easy, but worth the fight.
My life, now a mosaic of brokenness and light
To rise and shine for all to see, to pass the torch of life
Searching for places, strangers faces, my reflection found
In my search for you, I’ve been set free
my soul no longer bound.
Searching for places, strangers faces, my reflection found
In my search for you, I’ve been set free
my soul no longer bound.
Who Am I Really?
- Who Am I Really? Website – http://www.whoamireallypodcast.com/
- Share Your Story – bit.ly/2imgrtv_Share
- Apple Podcasts – http://apple.co/2oOd25m
- Spotify – https://spoti.fi/2RN3jcB
- Google Play – http://bit.ly/2oEU7bH
- TuneIn – http://tun.in/piyg9
- Stitcher – http://bit.ly/2DsqBxk_Stitcher
- Player FM – https://player.fm/series/who-am-i-really
- Podbean – bit.ly/2I0ITeY_Podbean
- YouTube – http://bit.ly/2oF3yrH
Damon’s own story in print and audio:
- Damon’s story “Who Am I Really? An Adoptee Memoir” – https://amzn.to/2Y9RNf8
ADD MUSIC FROM YOUTUBE
[00:00:00] DAMON: The song you're hearing is written by today's guest, Heidi and her co-writer and the performer, Sean Farley. It's called looking for me. . And it's heidi's artistic expression for her feelings as an adoptee
COLD CUT INTRO
[00:00:17] HEIDI: whenever she talked about me, it was the situation. So she's like, I haven't she's like, my kids don't know about the situation. And like a lot of people could have probably been really hurt by that, but I don't know.
I guess I have like empathy or something and maybe just, with some help from Pamela, like. Just understanding, you know, that it's not like an attack against me or doesn't have anything to do with my worth, but that's just how she thought of it.
[00:00:43] DAMON: I'm Damon Davis and today's guest is Heidi. She spoke with me from Campbell or basically Silicon valley, California. Heidi grew up walking on eggshells, crying a lot and staying small in her world despite being gifted. [00:01:00] She found her maternal family guided by a somewhat famous reunion specialist who helped the reunion along.
Heidi says reunion can be weird and awkward for how much time has passed as an adoptee tries to get to know their biological relatives in the present and for how the emotions of her birth mother and birth father we're not the reactions to her return. She expected. This is Heidi's journey
[00:01:23] DAMON: Heidi was born in 1965 in Buffalo, New York. According to the records. She was adopted by her parents a few months after her birth. When her parents adopted Heidi, she went home with them to Syracuse. New York. Heidi was raised with a sister two years older than herself and a brother one year older, all adopted no biological siblings when Heidi was three the family was moved to Saratoga, California, where her father got a job transfer. When I asked her what her family was like, Heidi said, it was a tough question. They lived in upper middle-class life the [00:02:00] children were well provided for went to good schools and were involved in sports
[00:02:04] HEIDI: I have no regrets about having been adopted for sure.
And who I was placed with. But, you know, as with all families, there's the stuff behind the scenes. And so having become an adult and looking back and through lots of counseling, and it's always even hard for me to talk about, cuz you never wanna speak ill of your parents or family, but I know like in order to heal, you have to acknowledge it and realize it's not, you're not attacking them.
It's just them knowing that, doing the best thing you at the time and that everyone has character defects and things they battle with. So having said that it was a very tumultuous walking on eggshells environment. My dad. I don't even know he had some kind of anger disorder. I would almost say So my parents fought every single night, like yelling matches. And my mom was just the sweetest, kindest person [00:03:00] you would ever meet, but she had a drinking problem. So the interesting thing is my brother's sister and I we were very different from each other, which, you know, isn't really surprised right.
You know, as you grow older and learn about adoptees, but so I, I didn't like have this tangible ball. I don't belong in this family feeling, but I was the baby. I was very guarded, very sad. My mom told me, like, when they brought me home, my hands were in little fists and. Stayed that way for a long time.
And I wouldn't let anyone hold me, but her and so yeah, it was just very, I just stayed really small, I would say just to like, stay out of the line of fire of things, but
[00:03:45] DAMON: can you gimme
an example of what staying small means? Obviously it was a as an infant with balded up fists. I can envision that.
Mm-hmm but what does it mean for a toddler or a child in middle school to stay small?
[00:03:58] HEIDI: Yeah, I guess[00:04:00] I really think about like elementary school and yeah, I mean, as far as like my parents or my dad even more like, just don't don't say anything, then he won't say the wrong thing, just try and do everything right.
And like, I mean, I love my dad and I know he loved me and he had things that I don't even know about that caused that. But I. Just yeah. Trying to do things right. I cried a lot, like if, if I ever did get yelled at, that was my response and that's how I felt. mm-hmm and just, I feel like I just, I dunno, it's hard to explain.
I just felt kind of invisible and not important in the world. But what's kind of ironic is like, in, in school I was always like put in the gifted programs. And so I was smart. Like, I knew that, but I just felt like I just didn't belong anywhere. Like I, sometimes I felt like I wasn't real. Yeah.
And I always, I always thought about a birth mom, but she was not a person in my mind. It was an idea.
[00:04:58] DAMON: A concept?
[00:05:07] DAMON: here, which is crazy. Yeah, really? Yeah. Oh yeah.
It's funny. It is. I, it's funny that you say it that way, because as I reflect on my own experience, my mother always told me my adopted mother, if you mm-hmm, ever wanna search, I'll help you. And I can remember this in middle school, I think like maybe even elementary school. And I just don't remember actually thinking, oh yeah, we should go search for that person.
You're talking about. As you've said it, it did feel kind of conceptual, like yeah, there's, there's a, there's a, something to be found out there. And who knows what it is. Like almost like an ex on a treasure map versus like an identity in the, in the world. .
[00:05:50] HEIDI: Yeah, definitely. And I think like, I mean, I knew that she was she was 16 when she had me and I knew that my birth father was 17 based on the [00:06:00] non-identifying stuff that I got at some point.
But yeah. And, and so I think any kind of like reality that she may have been a person. especially as I started my search, I didn't think like I'm looking for a woman who's 16 years old with me. I'm like, I'm looking for my birth mom, like, and probably thought of her in my head, if anything, as the teenager, you know, that had me
yeah. But one really kind of pivotal part of. Of my childhood kind of where we moved was that my best friend and my sister's best friend. So they lived in the court behind us. They were both adoptees and had adopted siblings as well. Oh wow. And so, yeah. And so we grew up well, my parents, first of all, always told us we were adopted, you know, they had the little book they read with us about being chosen and all that.
And so I always felt really good about being adopted. I was proud of it. And my sister felt very opposite of that. She would get really upset when I would tell people. And I think too, because we didn't look alike at all. I mean, we were both like [00:07:00] Caucasian, but she had dark hair. She's a tomboy. I was blonde and kindy little, you know, timid girl
And so when people say you guys, aren't sisters, you don't even look alike and I'm like, oh, we're adopted. Like I was proud. And she's like, don't tell people that. Mm. So we all kind of had different, like my brother just didn't talk about it. My sister kind of, it was like a negative. And then but my best friend and I, I mean, it was like safe to talk to her about it.
Like we would talk about it all the time. And so really growing up, I would say I was closer to my best friend than my siblings, but I mean, that's changed over time. I just thought that was really cool. Like, I kind of see that as a divine move to place us all. You know, so we could kind of share that experience together.
[00:07:39] DAMON: I mean, you basically grew up with a support network right there in your community, which a lot of people don't get, you know, one of my best friends in life says, you know, I didn't really speak openly about adoption until I heard you speaking about it and that bonded us. And I, I think a lot of people do not get that experience of [00:08:00] being able to share it openly with someone else that's close to them.
Heidi said after she was read the book about adoption when she was about five years old. The family didn't really talk about adoption anymore. She characterized herself as a lifelong inquisitive person. So she did the thing. So many kids do Snoop through her parents' papers in their office.
Heidi found her amended birth certificate. She said she was always curious about her origins and she was frequently told she resembled an actress
[00:08:29] HEIDI: I fantasized a lot cuz I would get told that, oh, you look like this actress, like that happened all the time. So then I'd be like, and I, I was into acting. Actually oddly enough, I did a lot of acting in my own room I was like at the little play books from the library and cuz The whole being small thing, I should add growing up, there was very few people I actually like spoke to as far as like verbally, I was like, so self-conscious so shy. So I guess that kind of stemmed out. [00:09:00] Like I had zero confidence. So like my best friend, she'd be like, I wish you would act like this. Like everyone you're so funny and so nice.
And nobody knows that, you know, and I try and tell 'em and I mean, I don't, I don't know how other people viewed me, but
[00:09:13] DAMON: But you could feel it though, that you were traversing this life tight lipped and reserved in your self expression, but in your room and with your best friend, you're this gregarious actress like super good friend.
Is that right?
Yes. Yes, exactly. Wow.
that's really fascinating. So you could feel yourself sort of going through life and just saying, let me just, let me not say anything.
[00:09:38] HEIDI: Yeah. In fact, as I got older you know, like dating age, like high school, the times that I would go on dates, like would have the courage to, to actually say yes or go, or, or even if I was out like with a group of friends and like a guy that I liked was there.
I literally would say nothing. I would in my head practice, like, [00:10:00] oh, I should say this right now. And I'm like, no, that sounds stupid. Don't say anything. And people are like, why do you, why don't you talk? Which of course makes it horribly worse for a shy person who's already self-conscious. Cause then they're like, you know, kind of shining the spotlight on.
Yeah. Okay. She's gonna say a word, they've . So they've pointed out
[00:10:16] DAMON: that they've noticed, right?
[00:10:17] HEIDI: Yeah. And I think I'm, I think God, because I am. I so easily could have become like addicted I partied in high school, like all my friends did, you know depending on who you talk to, like, I felt like it was pretty normal level.
I was always very controlled about it, but when I had the little something to drink or something, then I started to let down my guard. So I just see, I could have easily gone down another path, which is interesting to me kind of jumping ahead a little bit is the whole, you know, nurture versus nature and genetics and addiction and all that.
You know, that both of my parents drank my adopted parents. I don't, I mean, my mom was definitely an alcoholic. My dad drank a lot, so I don't know. [00:11:00] I mean, my mom drank to the point of passing out every night, so definitely you know, full blown there, but mm-hmm I, it's just kind of surprising to see.
That I didn't follow that path. Yeah. And then, you know, meeting my birth mom yeah, I'm, I'm a lot more like her personality wise,
[00:11:18] DAMON: It's always really interesting to me to hear about and adopt these teenaged years. It can be a challenging time in life as we search for our own personality and our place among our friends and in our community. Heidi said that her birth mother was a bit of an anonymous figure in her life.
She said, she always wondered about this person, but she never thought about searching and her parents never discouraged the search. Heidi arrived at the idea that it would be disrespectful to search on her own. She said sometimes she gets to talk to adoptive parents about adoption and she offers this advice
[00:11:53] HEIDI: I encourage them just cuz your kid's not saying anything doesn't mean that you shouldn't bring it up . And just [00:12:00] sharing how sometimes they don't even know it's like, you know, you might be the one to bring it up and they might realize that they're, you know needing healing from the trauma and.
it just, you know, manifests later as we all know, mm-hmm and so many people, but but I think, I mean, kind of timeline wise. So I graduated in high school in 1983. My parents divorced in 1976, which was a, a big transition for me, with my parents, not having to listen to them fight every night. It was actually a relief for me.
But at that point, you know, my mom had to work away from home and basically, you know, latchkey kid kind of thing. And wasn't like a terrible rebellious teenager, but definitely made a lot of bad choices and that whole you know, looking for love, not having any clue, what a boundary would be. And in our home too, I should add that, like, there was never the talk, you know, whether it was about the birds and the bees, or like.
You're a teenage girl, this is what's gonna happen to your body kind of stuff. [00:13:00] Mm-hmm so mm-hmm even though, yeah, it was just it's like, you don't know what you're not receiving until you receive or realize what you should have received, kinda. Yeah. But right.
Until it smacks you into face.
Yeah. And you, yeah, you've made a mistake and you're like, oh, we never talked about this, but, and then also I think it's important to mention that I never heard anyone tell me they loved me until my first boyfriend when I was 16.
It just was not said in our house, like I knew they did, but also there wasn't like physical affection very much. Like it wasn't like, oh, you're home hug kind of stuff. And I, I think I always craved that. I think I like truth to be told. getting really real Kinda makes me emotional.
I remember being a little girl and like always like sleeping with my pillow next to me and like hugging it just like for comfort. So I think I've always really craved that. And then as I entered into teenage hood and adulthood, I just, I wanted that so bad was so scared of it. So yeah, and honestly still kinda scared of it now.[00:14:00]
yeah, I'm working, doing a lot of work on that, , and , the more that I learned about adoption and the, you know, the, the trauma and the primal wound and all of that, I yeah, it just a lot of things you're making sense now of, you know, no, you, weren't crazy, you know, as a child growing up and all the thoughts you had, it's like, it's real.
[00:14:17] DAMON: Heidi said she never would have searched while her adoptive mother was alive. She and her adoptive mother had the same birthday, which bonded them in a unique way,
Heidi knew that her mother loved her, believed in her, through all of her awkward shyness and always told her how beautiful she was. Heidi's mom helped her look ahead in life telling her she would reach her full potential in her thirties. Unfortunately, her mother died in 1990. When Heidi was 24 years old, she never got to experience Heidi as an adult.
. Or as a mother
[00:14:53] HEIDI: I got pregnant with my son two weeks after my mom passed away.
And again, that [00:15:00] was another divine thing because I literally had a, a one chance yeah, it was like, there was only one opportunity for that to happen and it happened. And so I think the combination of losing my adopted mom and becoming a mom started that the juices flowing of, okay. I just like the reality of, now I have this son and, oh my gosh, there's someone in the world that looks a little bit like me.
And so I think it just really kind of started really going at that point.
Yeah, it really does. It's it's remarkable when you produce another person. And as I've said before, my son, Seth was the first leaf on my family tree that I actually knew. Yeah. And he was just incredibly eye opening to have this little kid in front of me that we created be the first blood relative I had ever known my entire life.
You know, there's a, there a very strong weirdness to [00:16:00] that, , thing that other people have that they grow up on their family tree. But as they adoptee you're transplanted to another tree and sort of attached when yeah. And you have your offspring and you're like, oh wow. You know? Yeah. It's really motivational.
Yeah. I I also noticed, I, I parented out of complete fear of losing him. Like all the time, like every time he left the house, I'm like, he's never coming back. Like, I mean, I didn't say it out loud, cuz his dad and I separated after a few years, all my son was a few years old and every time he went to go stay at his dad's house, just like dread and I'm like like until I talked to him on the phone, I'm like, okay.
He's okay. So I don't know. I mean, I know all of that is based in, that fear of losing that one person,
[00:16:45] DAMON: Heidi's father passed away in December of 2021. But going back after her adoptive mother's death, he gave her a clip of an old Ann Landers advice column. Back in the day, you could write into Ann [00:17:00] Landers and other advice columnists with your questions about life love and the pursuit of happiness. And they would select letters to respond to publicly in their written newspaper column.
Of course today, you can go on social media and ask opinions for anything you want and get tens to thousands of answers, some supportive and some venomous. The clip her dad gave her was one highlighting and adoptees use of the sound decks reunion registry. Heidi and her father didn't discuss the column.
He just handed her the newspaper clip without further discussion. As the internet developed, Heidi did searches for the last name Kimball whenever she was in New York to see who she could find with that last name. Later adoption.com came to life and Heidi added her name to the growing list of adoptees who hoped to make a meaningful connection online. One woman reached out to heidi thinking they were sisters but it turned out not to be so. Still it was a moment of realization that her search could possibly find [00:18:00] someone real one day
[00:18:01] HEIDI: But that was like the first kind of, oh my gosh, this could be a real thing that happens. And then I think I was at a job probably about 2009. And our receptionist there. We had shared that she was adopted to, so we kinda had that little bond, you know, to talk about. And then one day she like came in my office.
She's like, oh my gosh, I just got a call that someone is looking for their daughter, they put up for adoption and they think it's me. She's like, so they think it's my birth mom looking for me. I'm like, oh my gosh, that's so exciting. And she's like, yeah, it's for a TV show. And they went through this whole thing and it turned out not being a match, but then I think she ended up hiring the woman that did the TV show.
And I think she, she did end up finding her birth family through that. So I was just, you know, I think it's any adoptees. We're just like, we could listen to other people's stories all day long, you know? Right, right. Like we're, we're our own special club, you know, of people. right. So and she's like, yeah, the, the lady [00:19:00] lives in New Jersey, but she specializes in cases in New York and I'm like, oh my gosh, I was born in New York.
[00:19:05] DAMON: Heidi noted the New York search professionals name, but didn't take action immediately. She started attending adoptee support groups and listening to other adoptees stories. One of the ladies in the group started talking about a searcher who specializes in New York adoption searches.
Heidi thought to herself, this can't be a coincidence and it wasn't. The searcher's name was Pamela Slayton. She achieved notoriety for her work on the Oprah Winfrey network and for some of her celebrity searches. Heidi red pamela's website which indicated pamela wouldn't charge an adoptee for their search unless she finds who they were looking for.
[00:19:43] HEIDI: And so I thought, well, there's nothing to lose here. And so I contacted her and she's like, are you ready for this? I'm like, yeah.
And so I. I think her fee was $2,000 and I thought, okay, that's a lot of money, [00:20:00] but you know, this is a priceless situation. So I signed the contract with her and promptly got laid off for, oh, no, the
Yeah. And so she's like, do you want me to postpone it? I'm like, Nope, let's just do it. And I think probably within two weeks, she called and left me a message and said, your search is complete.
I was just, I did not expect it to even happen or for it to happen that fast. And I kind of freaked out a little bit.
Mm-hmm So what, what did complete mean? What did she find?
So she found my birth mother and so we were on the phone for a while and she, she basically had my entire maternal family tree as far as My birth mother.
And she said, you know, your grandparents on your maternal side have both passed away. Your birth mom definitely has a son and she's like, and there's a, a female with the same last name. So that's either your half sister or your brother's wife.[00:21:00] , I mean, she had like names, birth dates, like everything.
Like, I didn't even know how she got it. Cuz of course the records were all sealed in New York at that time. And then she had all my, my birth mom's siblings name. So all these aunts and uncles and it was just surreal.
[00:21:17] DAMON: Heidi was curious how Pamela makes the decision as to which stories would be featured on her Pamela said she made the decision based on her perception of how likely she was to find the person's In Heidi's case, Pamela, wasn't sure she could make the connection, which made the fact that she did it so quickly, that much more shocking for Heidi.
During her search, Pamela vets, the relative she has located in a diplomatic way to make sure she's found the right family. With the list of names. Pamela provided Heidi went online, searching for anything she could find about her birth family, especially images of people who looked like herself. Heidi found her birth Mother's facebook
[00:21:59] HEIDI: [00:22:00] It was this tiny little picture, like taken from really far away. And she was standing in front of it would look like red bull headquarters, like standing in front of the sign, you know, like she went and visited there. Hmm. And I was trying my hardest to zoom in.
I'm like, let me see your face. Like, cause I wanted to make sure it was her too. But yeah. I found, I, I Googled my brother's name and. I found him his very unusual name. So it was really clear that it was the right person. But when I found him, I found footage of him actually preaching over in Hungary.
And by that point in my life, I'd become a Christian. And so I'm like, oh my gosh, like my brother's a Christian and he's a pastor. I'm like, so I think from there it was just like all of the, oh my gosh, like this, this is me. These are my people. I mean, not in a way of like that. My, you know, family wasn't my people, but
Yeah. I mean, yeah, it's hard to explain and you probably know, but [00:23:00] I think it's, I don't wanna jump ahead of myself, but it's that awkwardness of like growing up in my family, you know, I told you, I didn't feel like, oh, I don't belong in this family. Like, where am I real family?
It wasn't that at all. Like even now people said, oh, you mean your real family? I'm like, oh, my real family. And my real parents are the people that raised me. You know, it's all the different terminologies for the adoptee conversation, but yeah, I was just like starting to see some of the things and I'm like, okay, this is making sense.
But I think definitely feeling like not having stuff in common, growing up, like my interests and everything. And then. even now to this day, I kind of feel like I'm in limbo. Like I don't fully feel part of my birth family. And I, I mean, I guess I still feel more part of my adopted family than my birth family, but it's still kind of the I don't even know what you would call it.
I dunno, I can't think of the word for it. I don't know if you can help me maybe know what I'm trying to say. The
[00:24:00] HEIDI: thing. Yeah. Like don't still really don't belong somewhere.
[00:24:04] DAMON: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's definitely a limbo it's yeah. , you're right. I wish there was kind of a term for what that means to be sort of in between two families and not feeling necessarily connected to either.
[00:24:18] HEIDI: Yeah. Well, it's funny because I was just gonna say, it's almost like, well, who am I really and I'm like, this is the name of the podcast.
[00:24:25] DAMON: So that's exactly right. That's I mean, quite literally when I was trying to think of what the show should be called, I was thinking about myself and my own desire to understand who I am in this world.
And as an adopted person, you're, you're one thing in one family, but then you're someone else in another family. And so the question is quite literally, who am I really? So that's, I'm glad that it resonates, cuz that's exactly how I got to it.
Heidi said the great thing about Pamela is she searches and coaches adoptees.
Through non-threatening methods for trying to reunite with birth family. Pamela gave Heidi her birth mother's [00:25:00] phone number, advising her to say she was doing some genetic research. She was looking for a certain family and asking if this was part of that family, Heidi was searching for. Having her birth mother's phone number made the whole situation very real for Heidi.
Heidi made the call, but she got her birth. Mother's voicemail. She left the voicemail. She had rehearsed and hung up the phone. The seed planted for whatever was about to unfold. Heidi didn't hear anything back. She wondered if her birth mother thought the call was something fake and ignored it, or if she knew exactly who the caller was.
It was impossible to know what was going on in her birth. Mother's Pamela had told Heidi, try not to have expectations for what would happen, but it was hard not to imagine what was going on. One night heidi prayed to god for guidance before
going to bed
[00:25:50] HEIDI: I know you didn't bring me this far for it just to stop here.
[00:25:54] DAMON: Heidi woke up in the middle of that same night after dreaming, she had sent a Facebook friend request [00:26:00] to one of her birth. Mother's sisters, heidis aunt Chris. At 3:00 AM. Heidi woke up And actually sent a Facebook friend request to Chris, then went back to sleep.
Chris lives on the east coast, three hours ahead of heidi so when heidi woke up the next morning chris had already written back saying she got the friend request but she was unclear how
they knew each other
[00:26:24] HEIDI: I'm like, okay, here we go. . , so bit by bit, I just started kind of safely, you know sharing information and said, you know, I'm adopted and I'm just trying to figure out like my birth family.
And then this is all typing back and forth, but I can just imagine like her like typing really fast. And she said, she finally said, when were you born? and then I typed my birthdate and then she's like, oh my gosh. She's like, you're my sister's daughter. So that was the confirmation like that this is the right family.
I mean, I was pretty sure it was cuz Pamela she's really good at what [00:27:00] she does, and I think we got on the phone pretty quick after that and my, my aunt just like the most open warm chatty person. mm-hmm , which you know, is very different than me. And you know, later on finding out very different than my birth mom too, but she's like, oh my gosh, when you started messaging me, she's like, you're not gonna believe this, but I put my daughter up for adoption, like two years after you were born at the same place that your mom had you.
And so when I first contacted her, she thought I was her daughter. Wow. And she was super excited.
Oh no, that's crazy.
Yeah. . Yeah. Wow. But so I said, you know, I'd left a message a couple months ago. I just, I don't know. I don't wanna like disturb her. Like I, I don't know. I don't wanna push myself, and then she's like, let me talk to her.
And then everyone that I knew was just praying for something to happen. And I think my aunt called me back the next day and said, your mom's gonna call you tomorrow at 10. Wow. so, [00:28:00] yeah, she was again, it you know, the programming, I like to call it for, you know, teenage birth moms or birth moms back in the sixties.
And obviously, I don't know. I know there's still a lot of it, you know, and maybe it's changed a little bit over the years, but. She was just in shock that I was trying to reach out. Cuz she was told this person will never know who you are. You will never know who they are. , this is it. lines drawn in the sand, move on.
Don't look back. Don't ever talk about it. Nobody needs to know. And so she was panicked I think. I can only imagine like just was in like the coping mechanism of like denial or whatever it is, you know, cuz I feel like how can you have a child and just like not, I mean you have to do something to cope with that, you know,
[00:28:46] DAMON: Right.
So how did your conversation go?
[00:28:49] HEIDI: We talked for a really long time, but she was very.
she has a low voice like mine, not the man's singing voice that you thought, but from my song. but yeah, very low [00:29:00] voice spoke very slowly, just like, oh my, oh my gosh, this person sounds like me. And it was just, I don't know, was, it's so hard to put words, you know? It was like just surreal.
Like in my head, I'm like, I'm talking to my birth mother, I'm talking to my birth mother, like trying to make it real, like, you know? Right. And like, I think I was kind of lightheaded a little bit probably and scared and wanted to like, not say the wrong thing. You know, I wanted her to like me and I wanted her to ask me all these questions and, you know, I think I've watched every single reunion show that's ever been on TV.
So. , obviously they air the most dramatic ones, you know, but I'm like, okay, this is just really like, kind of matter of fact, you know, it's, mm-hmm, , it's not like she's not crying saying my baby, you know, and she's not mad, like,
[00:29:46] DAMON: yeah. There's nothing sensational happening right now, right?
[00:29:49] HEIDI: Yeah. I'm like, this seems just odd, you know? And yeah, so we talked for a while and well, first of all, whenever she talked about[00:30:00] me, it was the situation. So she's like, I haven't she's like, my kids don't know about the situation. And like a lot of people could have probably been really hurt by that, but I don't know.
I guess I have like empathy or something and maybe just, with some help from Pamela, like. Just understanding, you know, that it's not like an attack against me or doesn't have anything to do with my worth, but that's just how she thought of it. Yeah. And she told me that, you know, she got sent away, you know, like that book, the girls who, went away.
Right. Are you familiar with that book? Oh yeah. Yeah. It's
[00:30:32] DAMON: hugely eye opening for me, you know? Yeah. Both to the adoption experience from the mother's perspective from these women who were sent away. And as a man, like, I don't know what it's like to give birth . And so I can't empathize. So to hear the stories of treatment, mistreatment expectations, , lies, coercion, all kinds of stuff was just really, really super eye opening for me.
[00:30:57] HEIDI: . Yeah. I just yeah, I don't know if I [00:31:00] read it after I met her. So I didn't really understand it going in. I mean, I'd seen movies and things like that, you know, she'd draw conclusions, but so she just, she told me that her family actually lived in Southern New York state. And her mom actually figured out that she was pregnant.
So she was 15 when she got pregnant and her mom figured it out somehow and they lived in a two bedroom trailer. Her dad had just left the family and her mom was left to raise. I think, I think seven siblings at the time. I don't know, one of them might have gone off to Vietnam already, but so there was no way that there was gonna be another baby added to the family.
I really don't know if my mother. I think she just did what she was told to do. I don't know, you know, cuz one thing just kind of as a general comment I have a lot of friends who work at pregnancy centers, you know, and who are very pro adoption and you know, I would consider myself pro-life but I also understand situations mm-hmm [00:32:00] mm-hmm so to speak in the words of my mother.
But I get really frustrated when I hear people talk about, , don't say you were put up for adoption, say, you know, your mother made a loving adoption plan for you. I'm like, but she didn't I'm like she didn't plan it. Wasn't like, oh, I think I'll, you know, have her and you know, it was not like some conscious decision and a plan.
It was you're caught pregnant and we are gonna send you away before anyone knows that you're pregnant. . And so in that tiny little trailer at that time, nobody knew, but her mom. and until I came back, so I was 45 by the time I talked to her I think out of all those siblings well, this is the crazy part about me connecting with my aunt, Chris.
When my birth mom talked to me, she said, I wanna know why you contacted my sister. And I'm like, oh no, she's mad. . And she's like, I think I know why, but I just want you to tell me. And I said, well, well, you gonna think this is crazy. And I told her about the dream that specifically I saw my aunt, Chris, who had all these [00:33:00] people and she's like I said, I can't explain it.
And and she had shared, my mother had shared me during the conversation that she became a Christian in her twenties after she had me. So we kind of, you know, have the same faith. So I think I felt safer sharing it with her. Mm-hmm that it, that I wasn't just some strange person, but and she's like, That makes sense.
She's like, she's the only one that knew you existed. She's like, if you would've contacted any of my other siblings, they, they would've been like Nope, wrong family. So that's
[00:33:28] DAMON: unbelievable. Yeah. The one person out of, what did you say, seven siblings who knew is the person that you dreamed about and actually reached out to connect with.
That is unbelievable. Yeah.
[00:33:40] HEIDI: Wow. Yeah, it is.
, just, I mean, I just see like God's fingerprints over the whole thing. I mean, it was, besides it being surreal, I just like, had peace about the whole thing. And I am someone who suffered from depression and anxiety, my whole life . And just the fact that I just, I felt like I was just floating through the experience kind of just like [00:34:00] covered, you know, protected and had given like courage to do things.
I never thought that I could do.
And so then she shared with me that, when she was found pregnant, her mom moved their entire family up to Syracuse, like a few hours away. And then she got sent to Buffalo, which is a few hours, the other direction
And so it, like, I changed the trajectory of all of her siblings who were living at home. They all got transplanted, you know, a new city, you know, ended up getting married to people. And it it's just kind of humbling to think like I don't know. I mean, I know it happens to everybody in life, you know, where there's pivotal, pivotal moments, but so
[00:34:34] DAMON: are you that her pregnancy with you was the catalyst for the family to leave that town?
[00:34:44] HEIDI: Yes.
[00:34:44] DAMON: Wow. That's really fascinating. Yeah. Huh? You're right. Your birth was. Pivotal to multiple lives in that household. That's really fascinating, Like they have no if idea of the butterfly effect that happened with your [00:35:00] birth mother's pregnancy and your birth until you have returned to the family, that's really unbelievable. And they probably haven't even contemplated that.
It's amazing to think that the birth of one person can have such a domino effect on one family, but that's what adoption is. A, pregnancy produces a child and everyone alters their trajectory to accommodate "the situation". Heidi's birth mother told her husband about her prior pregnancy before they got married. She didn't want any secrets going into their marriage, but Heidi's birth mother had not revealed the story to her children. And she wasn't sure if she wanted to tell them.
Around this same time of the beginning of their reunion, Heidi was going to be a grandmother herself.
Her son had fathered a child he had never met. So there was an undercurrent of history repeating itself, somewhat in their own family. Heidi confided in her aunt, Chris, that she was planning a trip to Michigan to meet her new grandson. Chris made it known that if her sister Heidi's mother didn't want [00:36:00] to meet Heidi, Chris sure did. But Chris wanted to clear it with Heidi's birth mother first
Shortly thereafter, Heidi's birth mother called to say she had told her children about their older sister and she might expect a couple of calls from her siblings. Heidi's half-brother called right away
[00:36:17] HEIDI: It was weird. It was almost like talking to the male version of myself. just the way we tell stories. And it was just his wife too was just like, oh my gosh.
She was probably showed the most excitement out of anybody in the family. You know, she's not even a blood relative. So once my birth mom told her children, she just, she didn't wanna tell anyone. And I, I don't think it was that she didn't wanna tell anyone.
She just didn't. She just not the she's very private. She's not the type to be like, oh, just wanna tell you I have a daughter, you know? And so , , she almost didn't mind if people found out, but she wasn't gonna go on sharing the information. Right. So my sister-in-law decided to be the spokesman and and she'd be like, why are we not talking about Heidi?
[00:36:55] DAMON: I asked Heidi, how things were today after more than 12 years in [00:37:00] adoption reunion. She said it's still a bit weird. With her sister, they have social media contact and chat here and there, but Heidi feels like maybe they are still shy with one another and they don't talk about her adoption and their reunion at all.
There's an awkwardness because a whole lifetime has passed between them yet. There they are connected by blood relation.
Heidi said it can feel weird with her birth mom.
She's been to visit her birth mom, several times,
Including a visit for the funeral of the aunt Heidi's reunion specialist, pamela made the first connection with when she found Heidi's family. However Whitney would say she was glad Heidi would make the trip to see them, but made it clear. She and her husband don't travel. So she wouldn't be visiting Heidi at her home in Northern California.
A few months after Heidi's visit for the funeral, her birth mom called to say she and her husband
we're going to make the trip to California.
[00:37:54] HEIDI: that was huge.
Wow. Like it went from, you know, I'm not gonna tell anyone to you know, [00:38:00] we'll never get out there to them like coming. And she actually stayed in my house, her and my I never know what to call him, her husband, but I guess technically he's my stepfather. But you know, when you meet someone, when you're 45, it's hard to know.
But yeah, he's awesome. He's just received me just like his own and yeah, he's just amazed cuz. The first time he saw me, he is like , oh my gosh, you walked in and you're it was Whitney with blonde hair. Like, and that was, of course it's an adoptee. When anyone ever says you look like anyone, you're like, you know, keep telling me, keep telling me more. You're like, I just wanna be connected, you know, and recognized,
So much a lot more about that, please. .
Yeah. , and even like the very first moment we met, you know, we met alone at my aunt's house, just me and her and she just like knocked on the door and came in and there wasn't like this big dramatic scene. It was just like that same kind of dizzy, lightheaded, surreal feeling.
And let's see, she came out to California and oh, the second time that I went, no, it was the first time. I'm sorry. I had asked her about my birth father, cuz I didn't even know his name.
Cuz [00:39:00] I had learned that my given name was her last name and which that always meant a lot to me that, that someone cared enough to give me a name cuz I know not everyone gets a name. Right. Right. But it was interesting to me cuz I brought all these pictures of myself from my whole life and I'm like, surely she's gonna wanna like see every point in my life, you know?
And, and she was. She wasn't really asking for that. I mean, I showed her, but now I look back, she was probably just like in shock and for sure, I don't know. Yeah. Maybe didn't even think she had a right. I don't know. But and then I'm like, do you have any like high school yearbooks?
I'm like, I, I would love to see what you look like. Like when, you know, around the time that I was born, you know, and so she, she pull out her high school yearbook and was going through showing me. And it was very, I know when I'm with her, it's weird. Cuz I say like, I don't feel a bond, but as I'm talking about it, I'm kinda getting this warm feeling of whenever I am talking here, especially when I'm in the room with her, there's just like this thing,[00:40:00] just like this peaceful comfort.
But so we were just sitting there, you know, flipping pages of her yearbook and she like flips to one page and points at this guy and she's like, that's your father? And. It was like one of those movie moment kind of things. I'm like, oh my gosh. And as much as I kind of resemble my sister, like, I don't really see it as much.
And I don't think I look like my birth mom, hardly at all. Although people say we have the same eyes, but she's super petite. Like maybe five feet tall and I'm like five, five. So physically we look a lot different, but she pointed to that guy in the yearbook. I'm like, that is me as a man. or as a guy.
Oh, really? Like, yeah. I'm like, I look just like him.
[00:40:44] DAMON: Whitney showed Heidi her birth father's picture and gave her the man's name. While Heidi was in New York, staying with her aunt Chris, they decided they wanted to find this guy. They looked online for information. And when Heidi returned to California, she started [00:41:00] calling phone numbers in different cities for the men they had located. One day while sitting at work heidi got a phone call from one of the phone numbers in new york
[00:41:09] HEIDI: And he asked me my birthdate and then he just started crying. He's like, honey, you're my daughter. And he was just like, kind of the response I thought might have come from my mother. Wow. He just lost it. And he said, I was just praying about you and your mother, like three days ago, you know, she was the love of my life.
And, you know, I lost, I lost both my girls, you know, and like, whoa, cuz she, when she pointed 'em out And they kind of have differing stories about what their relationship was like. He, I mean, he's using that, you know, love of my life kind of language. And she's like, he was a guy that I dated in high school, you know?
Wow. But not, and I think too, cuz she's, you know, out of respect for her husband she's, you know, and she doesn't wanna go back there and you
talked about that. Yeah. That's a good point. You're not gonna sit in front of your husband and say, [00:42:00] yeah, he was the love of my life too, but you know .
Yeah. And I don't think he, that would be super insensitive.
Yeah. I think he was way more, I, I don't know, you know, I wasn't there obviously well kind of in some ways, but but yeah, he, he. His life kind of went downhill after I was born. He was, he enlisted, went to Vietnam came back with PTSD, agent orange and all kinds of stuff and ended up marrying and having three other daughters.
And oddly enough, their, my youngest sister on his side as the same name as my birth name. So, I hear two different stories. He told me he was really upset that his wife picked the name, Jennifer and he's, and he tells me, he said, I already have my Jenny, out there somewhere. And I don't, there's always two sides to the story.
Yeah, there are. But but after seeing him, obviously he looks very much different as, you know, a, you know, late sixties man at that time. And he was in his early seventies too. But but I definitely see the resemblance and it was kind of scary. . Yeah. I mean, cuz when you search, you never know what you're gonna find, you [00:43:00] know, you're gonna get your answers, but, and some of the stuff is gonna be like really cool stuff that you're like, yeah.
I'm just like them. And then there's other stuff where you're like, oh man, I'm just like them or I don't wanna be like that person. , so with him it's been really, really hard. He's just been way too much for me, like being the reserve person who he's like wanting me to call him dad and like I have my dad, you know?
. And he's like a hundred percent, I'm his daughter. And like, I mean, I've thought about it and I understand, he's been aware his whole, you know, since I've been born that I'm a person out there, like I was more of a real person and he was just like, barely an idea.
But it, he put a lot of pressure on me and, I started getting like, just wanting to kind of run away. I'm like, why did I do this? And yeah. So it's, I could talk for hours about that, but Hmm. Yeah. So now we're just kind of, I mean, I've gone through times where I haven't I've stopped speaking with him or cuz he was just, if I call him, he'd wanna talk all the time and it was just too much for me.
Yeah,[00:44:00] I have no regrets, but and I, you know, found the three sisters and I've met two of the three of them, but there's one that looks so much like me, she's probably 15 years younger than me, but it was really the first time I looked at someone's picture and went , I kind of feel like I'm looking in a mirror, but a younger version of myself.
[00:44:19] DAMON: . Oh my gosh, Heidi. That's. That's quite a series of things to go through, especially from the perspective of having an expectation of what your birth mother was going to say, do how she would react and having it be flipped onto your birth father, whom you really hadn't thought about at all.
That's a fascinating sort of switch a route that I don't think a lot of people would expect. Right. That's it's
[00:44:47] HEIDI: really interesting. Yeah. Hmm. In fact I'd done an interview before I found them and I did one after I found my birth mom mm-hmm and then I did one with my birth father on the line before we [00:45:00] had met, but after spoken on the phone and they, they were fascinated because the birth fathers all, so many times, like I've forgotten part of the equation.
Right. You know, sometimes they don't even know sometimes they know, but they have absolutely zero choice in the matter. And so he shared some things with me too. And I also found out. From both of them, but slightly different versions of the story that all my life I'm like, well, thank goodness. When I was born,
abortion was illegal. So I was never at risk. And then after finding them, I found out that that they were gonna go take her to get an illegal abortion. And I've heard two different stories of how it got stopped, but definitely it was confirmed that, , that was the initial plan. Wow. So that was very interesting and humbling and made me very grateful for my life.
Yeah, I can imagine, let me ask you one final question. how do you feel now? You went from this child who was closed, you know, tightfisted as an infant, tight lip as [00:46:00] a, as a child, except in certain comfortable situations. Now you've, you know, had your own family, you've been through reunion and you've found some answers, like where are you now in terms of everything from comfort, with love, to dealing with anxiety and, and depression and
[00:46:18] HEIDI: Yeah. I kind of, when you were talking, asking that question, I kind of like had this picture in my head of like these two people kind of merging together kind of like who I am and who I was supposed to be, if that makes sense. And like coming into my own sort of like the two kind of merged together to become who I am now, if that makes sense.
I'm way more confident, but still struggle a lot with insecurity. I. Struggle in the relationship zone. And I'm, I've been doing a lot of work recently about why I'm someone that like desperately wants love. [00:47:00] I've never been married before. I, I do have a son that's 31 and I have three, two, and, and almost 30 grandchild.
That'll be here soon. So I thank God for that. Congrats, but thank you. But there's still, yeah, my God. Yeah. I, I never pictured a traditional life for myself. Never pictured getting married, just didn't think I would ever get what normal people get for whatever reason. And I feel like just now, I mean, I just turned 57 and I'm just starting to like, be.
Okay. It's not that I don't want love. I'm just terrified. I'm. Terrified of being hurt, rejected, disappointed, fooled. I mean, everything under the sun, but I'm just, I'm ready to like try it. So like through all of these things that have happened and um, yeah, I think, I mean the value of who I am and who any adoptee as a person, like doesn't change from the moment you're conceived to who you are now, but you know, the lies that we tell ourselves [00:48:00] that we were told, you know, really affect us.
And so I'm just been working on, okay, what is the truth? Who am I, and you know, what are the lies that I need to replace with the truth? and really what heals me the most, you know, is this podcast like this and being able to share like writing that song was the most amazing experience. And that was all stemmed from.
My adopted dad being very upset that I went on my search and not understanding mm-hmm and it became that thing that we couldn't talk about. So I had to, like, I literally hide that part, like not tell him when I was going to New York. And that's where that song came of. and I, I I mean, I was still like the little girl with him.
Like I couldn't explain to him why, and then sharing it on, on another podcast. I just had, it was so hard cuz I just wanted him to know like hard. Like I wasn't looking for parents like that. I was looking for me, like it had nothing to do with him and all that he's done for me. And you [00:49:00] know, I wasn't looking to replace him part of the lyrics was like, it's not them. I'm looking for it's me. I long to know and it was actually released like a couple days after he passed away totally unplanned. And so he never got to hear it. And I don't know if I ever would've played it for him cuz I would've been scared that he might've gotten mad, you know?
Yeah. But anyway, just, yeah, life's an amazing journey for sure.
[00:49:22] DAMON: It really's
that's true. Yeah. And we all get through it differently. But I'm glad that you're finding your way. I, yeah, it does sound like it's tough to want love, but be so afraid of it and you know, not want to be tricked and, the list of fears that you went through.
There's a lot of challenge in that and I'm hopeful that you will find it cause there's some other, there's a lot of great people out there that could probably give you all the love that you want. So I'm hopeful that you'll find it.
Yeah, me too. yep. I've just gotta open that door. Yeah. You know, so I feel [00:50:00] like I'm I'm finally ready.
Yeah. I'm glad to hear that.
Well, Heidi, thank you so much for being here with me. This is, it's fascinating to hear these stories and yours is yet another one that sort of highlights what our expectations can be, what our challenges are and, and, you know, every piece in between. And I just really appreciate you opening up to share your story and let other adoptees here, how you felt.
I'm sure that this is gonna resonate with someone else.
[00:50:25] HEIDI: So
yeah, I hope so. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me really appreciate it.
[00:50:31] DAMON: My pleasure. Take care, Heidi. Wait, before we go, tell me what is the name of your song and where can people
[00:50:36] HEIDI: find it? Okay. It's called looking for me and I was the co-writer.
I wrote the lyrics and Sean Farley wrote the music and produced it and sang, and it can be found on any music platform for instance, Spotify, apple music, and it's also on YouTube also. Great. So yeah, I hope people will listen and, and pass along and I hope it, it speaks to people's
Very good. [00:51:00] I hope you'll send me a copy of the lyrics. I'd love to be able to share them. Yeah. All right. Cool. I will. Thanks Heidi. Take care all the best to you. All right.
Okay. Thank you. Take care. Bye-bye bye.
[00:51:10] DAMON: Hey, it's me. Heidi described her childhood, staying small with balled up fists and holding back herself expression. As her parents try to navigate anger management and drinking issues. Uh,
heidi was likely feeling adoption trauma that she could not express. She always thought about her birth mother, conceptually, But meeting Whitney actually brought the idea of this fictitious person to life. Heidi's reunion with her birth mother and birth father. Weren't what she expected. Hoping her birth mother would be more emotional about her return and not expecting much from her birth father. Instead, she found a man who thought of himself as her father and a woman who is glad to know
Has told her other children about Heidi, but isn't quite as emotional about her [00:52:00] reunion as Heidi thought she might be.
Adoption can have an impact on our romantic relationships too. And it sounds like in some way Heidi's life as an adoptee may have influenced her perception of what might happen to her in a relationship.
I hope at this stage of her life love will find Heidi because it sounds like she's opening the door.
If you would like to hear the full version of Heidi and Shawn's song looking for me, you can find the song wherever you stream your music.
I'm Damon Davis and I hope you've found something in Heidi's journey that inspired you. Validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivated you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am i really?