Air Date: 5.10.16
You can read the transcript below, or listen to the podcast by clicking here.
Speaker 1: Blog Talk Radio.
Jennifer J.: Hi and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski and I’m a social worker with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Associates premier talk radio blog show.
Adoption Associates and its staff are trusted leaders in adoption, and we have placed over 5,000 children into loving homes. Since 1990, we have advocated, supported, and nurtured both birth families and adoptive families.
Our offices are located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Saginaw, and our pregnancy and adoption services are available throughout all of Michigan.
One of Adoption Associates commitments is to this weekly radio show. So thank you so much for listening in today. We hope that you find this forum to be inspirational, educational, and thought-provoking.
If you’d like to call in during the show with questions or comments, we would love to have you do so. And you can do that by calling 347-850-1100. Again, 347-850-1100.
I am happy to welcome to our show today Erica Tockert [phonetic 00:01:16]. Good morning, Erica.
Erica T.: Good morning, Jennifer. How are you?
Jennifer J.: I am great. Thanks so much for being with us and sharing a little bit about yourself. We are excited to hear your story. And if you would, let’s just jump in and tell us a little about your connection to adoption. If you would.
Erica T.: Yes. So when I was born, my birth mom took me home and I had a lot of health complications when I was born. Physically with dislocated hips and a few other issues. So after a few weeks at home, she realized it was just very hard to take care of me and she was really young.
So she contacted Adoption Associates and they put me in foster care for about a month. And then I was adopted to some amazing parents. My birth mom got to meet my parents at the agency, and she put me in their arms for the first time.
When she met them, she actually gave them some pictures of her and her family and then of me when I was first born in the hospital. And she gave them a letter to give to me when I was older.
So I was adopted from a really young age, but it has definitely been part of my life for years.
Jennifer J.: And it sounds like you know a lot about those details that you just talked about. Your birth mother placing you into your adoptive parents arms and providing them with pictures.
And so those details obviously came from somewhere. When did you learn about your adoption?
Erica T.: Well, there wasn’t really a specific time when my parents sat me down and said you were adopted. It was just always a very open conversation in our house. And any question I had, they gave me the answer that they knew best or they worked to find an answer.
We also … I was adopted in ’97, so things are different now than they were then. So we didn’t have social media or anything like that back then. So every year in January, when I was born, we would send my birth family a letter telling them how I’m doing and we’d include some school pictures.
So I, growing up, got to be part of that and give input or tell my mom what picture I wanted her to send. So I never really like found out the shocking truth that I was adopted. It was just something I always knew and something my parents were always really open about talking about.
Jennifer J.: And what were your feelings about that? About being involved in January with preparing that packet and selecting pictures? How did you feel about that?
Erica T.: Well, I always loved the letters. I thought it was such a cool thing. And I was so excited for my birth mom to hear all about everything I was doing. And it was a way for her to be part of my life.
Because we did live very far away, so it would’ve been very challenging to stay connected. Especially without social media.
So as I got older, I started writing the letters. And I thought that was so cool because it was like writing a personal letter to her.
As for being adopted, I always loved it. I thought everyone had a story and I thought that made my story so unique. I loved what God was doing with adoption in my life.
And just growing up, I loved telling people I was adopted because it was something that made me special and people would ask questions. I got to brag about how loved I was that someone loved me enough to put me with a family that loved me more than I ever thought was possible.
Jennifer J.: Aw. That is a really amazing point that you bring up. Because we hear from adoptees and from women who are considering placing their children for adoption, about the emotions involved in that. And how this decision is made out of love.
And that’s really important that you brought that up. To hear that from you as an adoptee, as an adult adoptee, is nice to hear. Because I think sometimes that is a miss in the community, about adoption and why women make adoption plans.
And so you grew up, it sounds like, really understanding your birth mother’s choice and finding peace with it a little bit, I guess, might be the best thing to say.
And you know, Erica, you mentioned earlier as well about how you always knew. There wasn’t a certain age where you got told. You just grew up knowing that your birth mother placed you for adoption. And the story about that.
How was that process for you when it came to your choice to share? Obviously it’s a choice that people make, to share their story with others. Do you remember making that choice consciously? Or were you just comfortable with the fact that this is how your family was formed and therefore you were okay with discussing it?
Erica T.: I remember when I was younger I didn’t really want to tell anyone. And I think that was mainly because I didn’t fully understand it. I think I was in elementary school and the process didn’t really make sense to me. Because I still thought that storks delivered babies.
So as I got older, I would ask my mom what she knew about my adoption. And I would ask her to tell me the story. And growing up, I loved reading and I thought adoption and all the adoption stories belonged straight in a book.
So if my friends are telling stories about their mom giving birth to them and they knew the whole story about it, I would be like well, my story can top that. Listen to this.
So it was never something that I questioned should I share it or not. It was just like I didn’t have the same story that my friends had, I had one that was better. So I love sharing it and I love telling people about it.
And not that many people that I grew up with were adopted. So just getting to share the story. Or I remember when I was little and my sister came home, one of my friends asked why my mom didn’t get fat. And I was like oh, well, we just brought my sister home. My mom didn’t have her.
And that was probably the first time I really talked about being adopted, but I was only three.
Jennifer J.: Oh wow.
Erica T.: It’s just something I’ve always loved talking about.
Jennifer J.: Right. And something you were comfortable with. I mean, three years old is young. So that’s impressive.
Erica T.: Yeah.
Jennifer J.: What sorts of questions did you have as a child about your adoption? What do you recall? Obviously you’re talking about three, three, four, five, and up during your childhood. Questions that you posed to your parents about your adoption.
Erica T.: Yeah. When I was really young I remember asking my mom why didn’t I look like my mom. And I don’t look very different form my parents, like it’s not anything you would realize I was adopted. But I knew I didn’t look exactly like them.
And I asked her and she explained that I grew in someone else’s stomach. And as I got older, we started learning about genetics in school so I wanted to know what my birth mom looked like. And I wanted to know do you think she wonders about me, do you think she thinks about me.
And my mom was like, if she loved you enough to give you to our family, there’s no way she doesn’t wonder about you. There’s no way she doesn’t want to know about you. And when we learned about genetics in school, my mom would bring out the pictures and show me the pictures.
And like I mentioned, there was a letter that my birth mom wrote me when she was pregnant with me. And I always knew there was a letter, and my mom said “Whenever you want to read it, I can give it to you.”
So I think I opened that when I was probably 12 or 13. And that was a really emotional thing for me. Because I always knew what she did was out of love and that she cared so much about me.
But when I read that letter, I felt connected to her through that. And getting to see the pictures, I felt like I knew her in a way that I hadn’t before.
So having something physical that she had held, she had touched, really helped connecting it all for me. And I asked my mom questions like oh, do you think she reads my letters and keeps my letters? And my mom was like there’s no way she doesn’t.
And I just think that’s so cool, when you can have something physical even if you don’t know each other in person.
Jennifer J.: Right. Something very tangible to place all that emotion on. That’s very powerful, Erica, and I think that that’s significant to even think about for those who may be listening in, the important of that for children. And just the way you described it, how tangible that was and how you could read her words and hold that letter in your hand.
Gosh, I just love that. Thank you for sharing that. That’s pretty awesome. And you had said to me as well that you just had lots of these questions. Which are completely normal, as a child, about your birth parents, about the adoption, about the decision.
You feel like, I think, your parents did the best they could with answering those. Did you have questions still that they just didn’t have answers to?
Erica T.: I mean, I think I’ll always have questions they didn’t have answers to. But I actually got the chance to reach out to my birth mom on Facebook this past fall. And I got to ask her the questions.
So I got some more in-depth answers about like when she was pregnant with me, how she made her decision. I got to know a little bit more about my birth father, because my adoptive parents didn’t know much about him at all. I think they really just knew his name.
So reaching out to her and getting in contact with her on Facebook was definitely a really cool experience. Because being adopted is something you have to come to peace with, and I had so many questions.
And my parents answered them as well as they could, but obviously my birth mom had the other half of the story and the other answers that I wanted.
So getting those answers from her and hearing the story from her perspective was definitely a really moving experience too.
Jennifer J.: It sounds like it. And at what age did you reconnect with your birth mother?
Erica T.: I was 18, and I had just started my freshman year of college. And I went to a university close to where she lives, and I didn’t know if it would be something where I’d like run into her in public. So I wanted to be friends with her on Facebook to see her pictures. Because I hadn’t seen pictures since the ones when she was pregnant of me.
And I was like if I run into her, she’s going to recognize me and I don’t want to be like oh, who are you. So I just wanted to be able to see her and then I ended up messaging her and we became friends on Facebook.
And I got to know my whole biological family. Which was really cool.
Jennifer J.: That is very cool. So you got kind of the rest of the story, so to speak. The unanswered questions became answered in connecting with your birth mother.
I’m wondering did she have questions for you?
Erica T.: Oh yeah. There were so many questions. I don’t really remember the exact first question she asked me, but I know it was something fun like what’s your favorite color. And she wanted to know everything about me.
We wanted to see what we had in common, like did we like the same foods, did we dislike the same foods. What music were we both into. And there were a lot of things we did have in common, which was so cool to see and find out.
And like seeing pictures of her I was like oh, I have her nose. And making connections like that that I couldn’t make with my adoptive parents was a really cool experience.
There were definitely some more serious questions. Like she asked if I ever had any resentment towards her. And I was able to reassure her that I didn’t, that she made the best possible decision she could’ve made for me. Not being adopted was such a positive experience in my life.
Which I think is why I am so open to talking about it. And she just wanted to know how I felt about it and where it’s taking me in life.
I think just she wanted the reassurance that she did make the right decision and I am living a very full life with an amazing family.
Jennifer J.: So she thought that you would have resentment toward her.
Erica T.: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think she thought that because … I mean, she was a mom and she gave her baby up. I think she thought that would’ve been hard for me. But my parents were so great about being so open about it and making sure I knew that God put me where I needed to be.
And that my birth mom is part of my life and she always will be part of my heart and part of who I am. And for me there was never a reason to resent her, because how can you resent someone who gave you the greatest gift anyone could ever give?
Jennifer J.: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think therein, in those words that you just said, lies the truth of adoption. And that’s the big picture is the issue in question that so many women worry about their child being angry with them, resenting them.
Is that it’s based on “giving up” versus giving life. The fear that birth mothers have in most situations. We hear from people such as yourself that say I recognize that this wasn’t a giveaway. This was a giving more.
This was based out of love. This was based out of strength. And I respect my birth mother for that. And, Erica, thank you for being so candid about that as well.
You’ve come a long way. From you talked about three years old and what you understood of adoption and helping with choosing pictures of yourself to send to her when you were in elementary school and preparing those letters, to then reconnecting with her at 18 on Facebook. That’s a journey within itself.
What would you say are your lessons learned in all of that? How did you come to this point, as you say it, of peace?
Erica T.: Well, I think the biggest thing was that my parents definitely made it completely my decision. Whatever contact I wanted is what I got. And it was always my decision.
So for me, coming to peace was accepting that I won’t always have answers to the questions. My birth father’s obviously not part of the picture and I feel like he holds another side of the story. And those are answers I’ll probably never get.
And I think just realizing that God had such a big master plan when he had me be born to my birth mom and then had her make the decision to put me up for adoption. For me, just finding peace and comfort in my faith and knowing that God had a plan through all of this.
And when I would ask my parents questions they couldn’t answer, they would just tell me God has a plan. And now, 19 years later, I’m majoring in social work and I’m planning to become an adoption counselor.
Jennifer J.: Wonderful. That’s wonderful. So you’re at a place now of peace, it sounds like.
Erica T.: Yeah, definitely.
Jennifer J.: And I think you mentioned to me one of your goals, if you’ll share that with our listening audience.
Erica T.: Well …
Jennifer J.: You’re minoring in?
Erica T.: Yeah. I’m majoring in social work and I’m minoring in writing. And I want to write about being adopted, from not only a professional point of view but also from an adoptee’s point of view.
Because I felt like growing up there were a lot of books for really little kids and a lot of books for like adoptive families. But there weren’t any for teenagers when you’re going through that questioning phase and trying to find peace with it.
And I feel like it’s been such a positive experience for me that if I can write about that and share that with someone, that’s all I really want to do.
Jennifer J.: Right. And part of your full circle journey, if you will, recently did you have an opportunity to visit the agency?
Erica T.: Yeah, I did. I was taking a sociology class and we had to do some volunteer work. So I contacted Jane, the director who just retired, and she was actually my caseworker for my adoption at Adoption Associates.
And I reached out to her, I explained who I was. And she remember me instantly and she invited me to come back. And I think the picture of the day I was adopted and then the day I visited Adoption Associates is on the Facebook page too.
Jennifer J.: It is.
Erica T.: And I got to sit in a meeting for waiting families and I got to see how the office runs. And I basically just got to see everything and have such a great experience.
There’s no doubt that the agency we went through is part of the reason why my adoption was such a successful one. But just seeing all the love in the agency, from the caseworkers to the adoptive families to the birth families, there’s no doubt that adoption is purely through love.
And like you said, it’s a myth and people don’t fully believe that. But just being in that atmosphere, it felt like you walked into the room and it was giving you a giant hug.
Jennifer J.: Aw. That’s impressive. So any words of wisdom that you would have as we’re getting ready here to wrap up today’s show, for those who may be listening who are in a situation of stress, in a situation of unplanned pregnancy, who may be considering adoption.
What is your insight or words of wisdom that you might want to share with them?
Erica T.: I mean, my insight is just that adoption is such an amazing thing. And now, more than ever, it’s easier to stay connected and through Facebook to see pictures of your biological child growing up.
And I think the most important thing, I know I’ve mentioned this, but there’s no anger. There’s nothing but like understanding and love and there’s so much appreciation.
I feel like I can never repay my birth mom for what she did for me. And I think that’s so important to realize. Because people have always asked me like are you angry about it, but I don’t have a reason to be angry.
And I think adoption is an amazing thing. And if I could change anything about my life, it not be the fact I’m adopted. That’s something I’m so proud of and something I love sharing with people.
I love the fact it’s part of my life.
Jennifer J.: I love the fact that you said that so beautifully. I love the fact that you’ve opened yourself up, Erica. Thank you so much for today and for sharing your personal story.
For those of you that are listening in and interested in connecting with Adoption Associates, you may call us at 800-677-2367. Again, 800-677-2367. Or visit on the web at adoptionassociates.net.
We hope that you join us next week when we speak with our new director, Michelle Dykema [phonetic 00:21:37] as she shares the mission of the agency and what she sees as the future of Adoption Associates.
For now, this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. Have a great day everyone. Bye bye.