AIR DATE: 4.18.17. A Powerful Story of Connecting with Birth Family Internationally – PART 3
You can read the transcript below, or click here to listen to the podcast.
Recording: Love Talk Radio.
Jennifer: Hi. Welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski. I’m a social worker with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Associates premiere talk radio blog show. Adoption Associates was founded in 1990. We specialize in both domestic and international adoption. We provide pregnancy and adoption services throughout all of Michigan with offices located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Saginaw. Anywhere in Michigan you can find a connection to Adoption Associates. Adoption Associates brings knowledge, support, and understanding in adoption. Adoption is not only our specialty but it’s our passion. One of Adoption Associates’ commitments is to this radio show to help support and advocate and educate adoptive families, birth families, and the adoption community. We’re really glad that you’re listening in today. I am especially excited that we’re continuing our series. Today we’re on Part 3 of the very powerful story that Mariah and Sloane have shared with us of connecting with birth family internationally. I’d like to welcome Sloane and Mariah to the show. Hi, ladies.
Sloane: Good Morning.
Jennifer: Good morning. We were just talking off air before we got started about how fun this has been for all of us, and how we’re a little bit sad actually that this is the finale day today.
Sloane: We are. It’s been a very cool experience to get to do this. It is a little sad it’s ending. It’s been fun though. It’s been really fun.
Jennifer: It has been a lot of fun. I’m glad that you guys were able to be a part of this and to share your story. For maybe anyone who is just joining us today for Part 3, let’s just do a brief catch-up in Part 1 and Part 2. Sloane, you were initially telling us about the adoption, how you adopted Mariah from Brazil and she became part of your family as an infant. Over the years, as you guys talked about her adoption story, there was always the thought about returning to Brazil and potentially connecting with birth family. What we heard from both mom and daughter here is how it came to be that the decision was made to visit Brazil and to meet birth family, and the preparation and planning that went into that. Last week we talked about the actual trip to Brazil itself and meeting family and all those great details.
If you’re listening in today and you missed those first two shows, those are available on Adoption Associates Facebook page. You can find the link, or you can go to blogtalkradio.com/adoptionfocus to find the last two episodes of that story. Again, super excited you guys are with us. Mariah, we ended the podcast last week hearing from you about your feelings of sadness when you were leaving Brazil after meeting your birth family. You experienced a strong connection to your birth country and your birth family. Leaving Brazil was harder for you than you expected it would be. I’m wondering, now that it’s been almost a year, if you can give us a little perspective, Mariah. What was it like to return home to your normal routine and schedule after that incredible visit with your birth family?
Mariah: It was a little bit sad to return home after such an amazing trip and getting to see my birth country. It was so beautiful to be there and just around all the people and culture. I was a little sad. It was weird coming back to normal life and everything, but I got used to it. It has been almost a year. I still miss it and just wish I could be there spending time. It was such an amazing place to be. It is a little bit sad. I think it was just so cool to be with my birth family. I wish I would have spent more time with them too.
Jennifer: Sure. Sloane, we didn’t hear from you last week. I’d like for you, if you could, to talk about what the trip to Brazil was like from your perspective.
Sloane: Oh, it was wonderful. I mean, it was everything that, as a mom, I hoped it would be for Mariah. It was so fulfilling. It was emotional. It was beautiful. It was gut-wrenching. It was heart-filling. It was great. It was wonderful. I had been in Brazil to adopt Mariah 20 years before, so I had the experience of the country. It’s a beautiful country. The people are just wonderful people. I learned a little bit of Portuguese so I wanted to hear what that sounded like again because it was a beautiful language. Had some of the good Brazilian food, so that was fun.
Of course, the reason for the visit was for Mariah to meet her birth parents and her birth family. That was just amazing. It was so powerful. It was so sweet. Everybody was so happy. All of the things that I was worried about … The biggest things that I was worried about, nothing materialized. Like I was afraid … I wanted Mariah to come through more whole even than before, and she’s always been a pretty solid, complete, young lady. The fears that I had about, what if they didn’t show up? I didn’t think they just wouldn’t come but I thought, what if circumstances prevent her birth family from coming and having these meetings. None of that stuff happened. It worked so well. They were so happy to meet her. She was so happy to meet them. To witness it, it was just like, as a mom, I couldn’t imagine anything better for my daughter.
It wasn’t just her birth parents. I was probably, maybe because I’m the mom, most focused on the meeting with her birth mom. But she has a sister, a half sister, with her birth mom. I’ve seen those two sisters bond. This sister has looked at Mariah as a sister her whole life. When I was in Brazil when we adopted her, this sister was 10 years old. She held Mariah and she said goodbye to Mariah. When I saw her meet Mariah, and we have some pictures that are just … They say it all. I mean, she is staring Mariah in the eyes, and they have their hands on each other’s faces. It’s just so emotional and so beautiful.
I get a little emotional even thinking about it. It was amazing. Of course, with her birth mother it was beautiful. Then, with her birth dad it was great. She had a brother on her dad’s side. That was another really powerful … I mean, they just hit it off so well. I mean, they were just talking. It was beautiful. It was absolutely everything that I could have hoped as a mom it would be for her. To be able to watch it, I was like, “Oh, my gosh. I am so lucky.” I felt like I was watching a Lifetime movie or somebody else’s emotional life.
Jennifer: A good Lifetime movie. A good Lifetime movie.
Sloane: Yeah. Not one of the crazy messed-up ones. Yeah. Like the happy sappy one. It was great. It was wonderful.
Jennifer: It sounds absolutely wonderful. You did a wonderful job describing that, and Mariah did so last week as well. Mariah, what is your relationship like with your birth family now that you’re back at home?
Mariah: I think we are just as close, if not closer, now that I’m back home. My brother and I, we talk like all the time, like every week at least. He’s really busy working, but we talk all the time. My sister and I, we’re always just like on Facebook talking to each other, tagging each other with funny stuff we see or cute things. My birth mom and I, we don’t talk as much because she doesn’t really get on Facebook a lot. She just sends me messages saying she loves me or commenting on pictures and everything. My birth dad, he doesn’t have a Facebook, but his girlfriend always gets on and is like, “Oh, your dad sees pictures of you and just loves them.” I’m really into yoga, so I had this yoga picture up like in a headstand. My birth dad was like, “Oh, I’m going to go try that now at home,” and all this funny stuff. He was being really silly. I don’t know. We’re closer. I can’t really believe I met them. It’s like weird. It’s like it was a dream, but it’s also so real. It’s just nice to talk to these people that I have officially met and know and call family. It’s a very good feeling.
Jennifer: I’m sure that it is. You mentioned your birth family, some of them are on Facebook and see the information. Have they seen the information about this podcast and that you’re on Adoption Focus talking about the experience of Brazil?
Mariah: I’m not really sure. Not a lot of my family speaks English, so I don’t think they’d be able to understand any of it except for my brother. He speaks really good English. He’s really working all the time, so I’m not really sure if he’s seen it or not. I mean, listened to it.
Jennifer: I was just curious about that. I know that you and your mom had, I think, posted some information about this show on your Facebook page. Since it’s such and intertwined story with your birth family’s story too, I was just curious about that. In the last two podcasts, we described the visit to Brazil and meeting, Mariah, your birth parents as a life-changing experience. Sloane, this question is for you. What changes have you seen in Mariah since the trip to Brazil?
Sloane: I would say that the changes that I’ve seen in Mariah, it’s not like she came back a totally different person. [inaudible 00:11:09] subtle. I would say that she has a peacefulness. She’s a very peaceful women, but she has a peacefulness and a calm to her, I think. Some of it is hard to say because I can say what I think, but I don’t know if I’m observing it so much as what I think she feels. I’m hesitant to say how she feels. To me, she seems really calm and confident. I feel like a lot of the questions that she had, the big questions, they’ve been answered. I think that she has a sense of she has two families who love her, one in the US and one in Brazil.
She’s just very mature and confident. The whole way that she handled all of the meetings there, I was just constantly amazed by her poise and her confidence. Not that she wasn’t nervous. She was so cute when we were sitting there waiting for her birth dad to come for the first meeting. She had the journal that she had told you about that my sister had all the family write notes in. She was just looking at that journal, and she was so sweet and calm and nervous that she was just reading that journal. Then, when they got there, she just put the journal aside. I felt like she set such a good tone for all those meetings and put everybody at ease. Her birth dad was quite nervous. It was obvious he was nervous. She just had like an ease. I felt like it kind of started there where she was like, “I’ve got this.” It was so good for her. She was so mature and so aware. I think that continued at home.
I also think that Mariah has always been a person full of gratitude. She’s very appreciative. She always says thank you even when she doesn’t need to. I think even more so, I think we saw some things in Brazil. There’s a lot of poverty there. I think that it was a big eye-opening experience that way too. I just think a lot of subtle maturity things that happened. Overall, I just think it’s been really positive. She was on a pretty good track, but it seems like that solidified a lot of things for her, for her family in Brazil, and even I feel like our family here. Don’t you think, Mariah, the support that you got? Our family was so supportive and so excited for her to do this. I don’t know. I think she’s feeling the love all around.
Jennifer: It sounds like it. The fact that we had all this other additional family support too, is that something that you had anticipated, or was that little bit surprising for you?
Mariah: My family has always been so supportive of everything in my life. I didn’t expect … I don’t know. It was surprising in a way. I mean, they’re all great people. Just to have so much support and like have them write me that journal, I was really surprised. It was just one of the sweetest things they’ve ever done. I really just couldn’t believe it. They were just really there for me when I was on my trip, texting me, and just making sure everything was going okay. I mean, they’re amazing people but it was nice to have them be there for that too.
Jennifer: I’m sure it was. I’m sure it was. Mariah, what was your takeaway from this entire experience?
Mariah: It was nothing but amazing I thought. I just feel good to have met my birth family. In this journal my family wrote me, my uncle says, “You are a flower with two sets of roots.” I thought that was just really sweet.
Jennifer: Say that again, Mariah. Could you say that one more time? I want to make sure everyone hears that. You are … Go ahead.
Mariah: He said that I am a flower with two sets of roots.
Jennifer: Roots. Very good.
Mariah: Yes. Roots. I don’t know. I have my family here in Michigan and I love them so much. But it was such an amazing experience to just know this other part of me. Just people I’ve always been curious about meeting and knowing. It’s just brought a whole … I don’t know. Not like I was missing a part of me, but it just filled a space in my life that I was always curious about, and that I’m excited to carry on. It’s all good.
Jennifer: Anything that you would have done differently, Mariah?
Mariah: Before I went to Brazil, I only studied Portuguese for a couple months. It did not pay off very well because I was constantly flipping through a little language translating book and using my phone to translate stuff. I could barely speak at all in Portuguese. If I ever go back, which I plan on doing, I should probably start studying now. I will know Portuguese. We had people there to help us translate, but I would love to just have a conversation with my birth mom and birth dad speaking in Portuguese and being able to speak directly to them. That is one thing I wish I would have worked harder on. It worked out okay, but it was just kind of funny because I thought I was going to go there and be able to really communicate but, no, not at all.
Jennifer: Sloane, how would you say your relationship with Mariah was impacted by her meeting her birth family and going to Brazil?
Sloane: It always has been really a good relationship and a good strong loving relationship. I guess I didn’t really know that it could be stronger. I feel, if anything, it probably is a little bit stronger. I mean, it was just a unique experience. We planned it for so long and talked about it and did all the preparation. Like she said, even with her Portuguese, and we talked about going and talking to the therapist and planning gifts. All the planning, I think, that went into it, it wasn’t just the trip. It was the whole package. I think it’s rounded us out in a really positive way. We talk about the trip all the time. Don’t we?
Mariah: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sloane: We talk about it a lot. I mean, we talk about the meetings with the family, about how we felt. I remember when she first saw her birth mom and her birth sister, it’s like … The pictures are so cool because it was really funny. Probably the quality of the pictures isn’t the best from a photography standpoint because the sun was behind them. It was like all these rays of sun. It was like I watching her run towards her birth mom and her birth sister and taking these pictures. I felt like I watching a movie. I mean, really, it was so powerful. It was so beautiful. We talk about that. Like when we left the meeting with her birth mom, that was probably, for me, one of the saddest parts. I think, probably for you too. We both cried a lot because we knew we were only going to have the opportunity to meet with them one time that trip. It was several hours, but when we left it was rough. It was really hard to leave that meeting. I think we feared so much, and it was so emotional.
One thing that I always really appreciated, is Mariah is a very sweet, kind, thoughtful, and sensitive person. Even through that trip when we were having the meetings, she would say to me like, “Are you okay? Are you okay?” It was just so sweet. I’m like, “This trip is about you. This trip is about you and your birth parents.” She just was so sweet. I don’t know. I feel like it was a great experience for us. We were close before. I think we’re probably even closer now. It was so nice. It was just a unique thing to be able to experience together. Then to have it go so well, I felt so happy for her, and happy for them. It was so nice to see them get to see their daughter. Like I said before, I don’t think they thought they would ever see her again. See her beautiful and healthy and loved and happy. I can’t imagine what that would have been like for them. I think it was, overall, it’s only made us better. I’m so grateful that it did go so well for her. I’m so grateful that I got to be a part of it and witness it because it was a beautiful thing.
Jennifer: I can sense the closeness in your relationship. I think it’s really interesting. That’s the first time I had head about Mariah checking on you too. We often hear from parents and adoptees as they begin the process of reunifying with relatives, of birth family, down the years and such that they there are those pieces of the puzzle that people sometimes are hesitant to talk about or are concerned about. The adoptee worries that, if I search for my birth parents that this somehow takes away from the relationship or the love that I have with my family. The adoptive parents worry, why is she searching for her birth family? We’re a little bit off script here, but I don’t know if you guys have anything that you want to add to that conversation, what that looked like for you. Were there any of those dynamics that played out here for either side of you in worrying about the other person’s intentions or motivations?
Mariah: My mom and my dad both have always been so supportive of me being adopted and just having an open relationship and knowing who my birth parents and family are. I was never extremely worried that my mom would feel like I looked at her as less of my mom or something like that. Part of me was like, oh, I don’t want her to feel like I’m hurting her feelings, even though she never put that idea in my head that it did hurt her feelings. There’s still just like a part of you that kind of just wants them to know that they’re still your family, like who I’ve grown up with and who raised me all my life. I think it’s just been helpful that they’ve always been so open to the relationships with my birth family. It really just made me feel good and confident with meeting all my birth family.
Sloane: I agree. It was always open. We always knew who her birth mom was, even though we didn’t find out who her birth dad was until later. It was always open. I think that we were always like, this is a good thing. This is a great thing. I know that some adoptive parents can feel that way and adoptive kids can have those concerns. I do think that there were some issues, but I don’t think that was one of them. I never felt that. We always knew her and we always wanted to have Mariah have the opportunity to be able to meet her and meet the rest of her family.
Jennifer: Any advice from either of your perspectives here that you would give to another family who was considering searching for or deciding to meet birth family for the first time? What would be your words of wisdom to them?
Mariah: I guess I just feel like it’s natural if you’re adopted to be at least a little bit curious about your birth parents or family. If you’re curious, I feel like you should go with that gut feeling if you want to find out who they are. Hopefully, your adopted family will be supportive. I think, in the end, it’s about how you feel. If you want to know that part of you, that you should be able to know that part of you, and have your family still there supporting you while you do that. Just let them know that they’re your family and you’ve been with them forever.
Jennifer: Absolutely. Anything, Sloane, on your end that you would advise others?
Sloane: I feel like I can’t say it better than she just said it. I think communication from the parents to the child and the child to parents. I think a lot of planning. I just think a lot of openness and planning and communication and anticipating the wonderful things that you hope will come out of those meetings. Also, preparing for the things that might be harder or the unexpected things. Just setting expectations so that you don’t have this rosy picture happening. Then if it doesn’t turn out exactly like that, it’s devastating. That was my biggest concern. I wanted Mariah to come out being even more whole than she was. I think putting things in place and processes and being prepared and talking and using counselors if necessary. Just to make sure that your expectations are set appropriately. A lot of communication. A lot of talking. We just talked a lot. We still do about this.
Jennifer: I think that, obviously, you guys did so many things right with this. I think that’s why your results were so positive and so great with your trip with meeting birth family. One of the things I think is really important, that people should take note of, is as part of the preparing and planning phase the setting of expectations, you guys did seek out professional assistance, even though everyone said, “Well, there’s not really a problem here to be had.” You were being proactive in your approach to thinking about the setting of expectations and what this could look like and what changes may come. That obviously worked to your advantage. Kudos on that. That’s definitely a message I would have for others is to focus on that piece of the beginning rather than just be super excited and jump on a plane and let’s go see what happens. You did your homework. Even though I know that you had some days like that. I remember Mariah going, “What’s the big deal? Let’s go.”
Mariah: It helps to plan a little bit. I’m glad my mom slowed me down.
Jennifer: Your mom was driving the train in the right direction. That’s good. What’s next for you guys? What does the future hold?
Mariah: I hope I can go back to Brazil sometime soon. For now, my brother, Denesius, we’re trying to make plans for him to come visit here. I look forward to doing that. Yeah.
Sloane: I think, you know, just life. It’s good. It’s a little different now, but it’s mostly the same. Mariah is going to school at Lansing Community College and going to yoga certification training. I’m working. We’re just being a mom and daughter. It’s good.
Jennifer: Awesome. Awesome. We were talking before we got started today about our beautiful weather and how we are affected positively by spring and the promise of summer. I just want to give you a heartfelt thanks for what you’ve done over the last three weeks on our show. This has gained a lot of interest in terms of the podcast and your story. It is a very powerful story. You guys opening up in this way and letting us into your lives a little bit is so appreciated. Thank you very, very, much. I’m going to miss talking to you guys next week.
Sloane: Thank you so much for having us. This has been a really great experience. I hope that we have helped some people or, I don’t know, inspired some other adopted children or parents to open mindedness or meeting the birth family or something.
Mariah: Yes. Thank you so much.
Jennifer: Your story is definitely inspirational. Very inspirational story for sure.
Sloane: We appreciate being a part of your podcast. It’s been fun for us. It’s been a lot of fun. We’re reliving it all over again.
Jennifer: We can feel your excitement as you share those stories. It’s been awesome. Appreciate it so much. For those of you that are listening in today who would like more information about Adoption Associates, you can connect with us in a variety of ways. One of those is by phone at 800-677-2367, or on the web at adoptionassociates.net. You can also link with us on Facebook or Twitter. We hold this podcast every Tuesday live at 11. The shows are available on demand as well on Blog Talk Radio for review. Mariah and Sloane, I hope you guys have a wonderful day. Again, thanks so much for your time on our show. For now, this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. Have a great day everyone. Bye, bye.