AIR DATE: 4.4.17
You can read the transcript below or listen to the audio file here.
Speaker 2: BlogTalk 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 well over 5200 children into loving homes. Since 1990, we have advocated, supported and nurtured both birth families and adoptive families. Helping families and birth mothers grow through the adoption process is very important to us. Our offices are located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, Saginaw and our pregnancy and adoptions services are available throughout all of Michigan.
One of Adoption Associates’ commitments is to this weekly radio show, so thank you for listening in today. We do hope that you find this forum to be inspirational, educational and thought provoking. I am very excited to be starting this week with the first of the three part series. We’re hearing a very powerful and exciting story from a mother and her daughter about reconnecting with birth family internationally. I’d like to go ahead and welcome to today’s show [Sloan 00:01:30] and Maria. Ladies, are you with us?
Sloan: Yes, we are.
Maria: Yes, we are, thank you.
Jennifer J.: Good morning.
Sloan: Good morning.
Maria: Good morning, we’re excited to be here.
Jennifer J.: Oh, very, very excited to have you too. As I mentioned, moments ago, we’re going to get started today with part one of a three part series. That’s a first for our Adoption Focus podcast, and your story is a great one to do that with. Today, we’ll be focusing on what led up to the decision to travel and to reconnect with birth family and preparing for that visit. Sloan, if you would, and let’s be clear here, Sloan is the mum and Maria is your daughter. We’re going to have Sloan get us started at the beginning of this story. Almost 21 years ago, you adopted Maria. Tell us a bit more please.
Sloan: Sure. Well, Maria is the best thing that ever happened to me and when Maria’s dad and I were married, we had a little trouble conceiving, and I had siblings who were adopted, I have two siblings who were adopted. So I was always really open to the idea of adoption and thought that I might adopt even if I had a biological dad. But then when we had some fertility problems, it was just really easy. We didn’t, we tried a few things for fertility, and then that didn’t work. We didn’t go to the ends of the world to have a biological child, we just said, “Hey, let’s adopt.”
Then we started thinking about where and we were attracted to the idea of international adoption. We really liked the idea of South America. Maria’s dad had a friend who had adopted her daughter from South America or from Brazil. She put us in contact with some people and that’s kind of how we got started with adopting from Brazil.
Jennifer J.: Okay. We said, that was 21 years ago, obviously and that must have been a super exciting time. Were you becoming a parent for the first time then?
Sloan: Becoming a parent for the first time. Maria’s dad had two other children from a previous marriage, but for me, it was the first one and for him, it was his first child who he was adopting. So it was a great adventure. We went to Brazil, we were there for two months. It was a long process but totally worth it. We stayed with the family, we met Maria’s birth mum. We actually had the opportunity to ride with her in the car when she was in labor and going to have Maria. We were at the hospital when Maria was born, and we got to hold her when she was a half hour old.
It was amazing. It was so overwhelming and beautiful and positive for us. It was great. We had the opportunity to talk to her birth mum a little bit after. Then we kind of made a plan to stay in contact with her. Over the years, we have kept in contact with her. Originally, it was through letters and pictures, and she also would send back letters with photos and so, we’ve been in pretty good contact with her over the last 20, almost 21 years.
Jennifer J.: That’s an awesome, awesome story, especially being there when she went to the hospital. That’s something not a lot of people have the fortune to be a part of, so this is very special. Maria, what do you recall from when you were a child about your mum talking to you about your adoption and your birth family? Tell us a little bit about that.
Maria: Honestly, I was just asking my mum. I was like, Was there a time when you told me I was adopted or something,” and I just can never remember not knowing I was adopted since I was born. Both of my parents were just very open about it and always talked to me about how I was adopted and how they were lucky to have me. That’s just like always how I thought. It wasn’t just like one day, oh, you were adopted. I don’t know. It’s been a good place to be and I’m so happy I ended up here and still have connections with my family in Brazil.
Jennifer J.: I’m sorry ladies, I’m right here. I can hear you but you weren’t hearing me.
Sloan: No, we couldn’t.
Jennifer J.: I’m right here, I apologize. Maria, I am curious though, I heard everything that you said, so thank you. I’m wondering, when you think back to your childhood and as you were told a very early age, and you kind of always knew, and you were growing up. Did you have any particularly thoughts and feelings surrounding your adoption or surrounding birth family in Brazil? How did those, that play out for you on a real emotional level?
Maria: I feel like I didn’t really start thinking about my birth family or anything like that until I was older. But I was always like happy to know that my birth mum cared about me and that she made the best choice possible for me to have a better life than what she could provide me. I just, I always kind of thought about it that way, that I was lucky to have someone that cared about me that way and wanted me to have a better life. But I did always wonder ’cause I didn’t know who my birth dad was for a very long time. I was curious like what he was like or what his story was, so I would kind of like make up stories about like his personality or how he was or like what he did for a living and stuff. I thought about that a lot, I think.
Jennifer J.: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, that, it really does. Sloan, when you did first mention to Maria the possibility of going to Brazil to meet her birth family, what was her response?
Sloan: We started talking about going back to Brazil to meet her birth family and so Maria could know her birth country, I think when she was about 10 or 11 years old. We just kind of broached it and just said, “We could go back there some day.” She didn’t really pick up on it the first time, but we just kept kind of bringing it up here and there. Then it became obvious over a period of time that she just wasn’t quite ready. It just seemed, she would say, “Oh, well no,” and she would just not really be super interested. And would want to hear about Brazil but seemed a little reluctant to go. I think that maybe she was a little nervous.
After like a few years of, we just wanted to keep out there so that she would know, hey, if you want to go, we will make this happen. It’s really important. Then at some point, I said, “You know Maria, if you’re not ready to meet your birth family, we could just go to Brazil and we could see the country, we could go to some different cities, and you could see where your birth land is.” She says, “Well, isn’t that kind of a waste to go if we go and don’t meet my birth family?” Right then when she said that, I thought, you know what, she’s just really not ready. So we just kind of dropped it for a few years.
She came to me probably when she’s 19, just about at 19 and all of a sudden she was ready. It was like okay, then we’ll go. Instantly it was like, we’ll make it happen.
Jennifer J.: How old was she, did you say when you first began mentioning the possibility?
Sloan: I think she was about 10 or 11.
Jennifer J.: Okay. It took several years …
Sloan: Four years.
Jennifer J.: … really for her to get to a point where, yeah, this sounds like something that I think I do want to do.
Sloan: It did, it did and I think she was busy and she was in high school and she was involved in horseback riding. She was involved in life and I think growing up in all of this was sort of starting to take root in her mind, you know, to get a state of readiness, I think. And so yeah, we just waited and then it happened, when she was ready.
Jennifer J.: Maria, I know a little bit about your story already from preparing for today and I believe that [inaudible 00:10:31] you began communicating with your birth family through social media. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?
Maria: Yes, so I don’t even know how I old I was, but I have an older sister Marcella and I think we just got connected through Facebook. I don’t even know, I was very young I think when we first started talking, and we just messaged. She’d like constantly send me messages about how much she loves me and misses me and she’s just the sweetest girl ever. She was just always message me, and since then, we’ve just always stayed in touch. But I can’t even remember ’cause it was so long ago like how long we’ve been connected through social media and just talking all the time.
It has been quite a while, but she helped me get connected with other family members like my dad because I didn’t know who he was, and she somehow just found out who he was and she just is, “I’m gonna get you pictures and his name,” and she just did all this kind of research and hunting for me. One day, she messaged me when I was a teen and she was like, “I know who your dad is and I’m gonna send you a picture.” So that was really exciting for me.
Jennifer J.: Right. That was the beginning. Who else, what other family members did you have contact with through social media?
Maria: Well, I also had contact with my birth mum a little bit. She like had Skype when I was younger, but she wouldn’t really get on. So I was like friends with her but we wouldn’t really talk that much, but it was just kind of cool to know. I also have a brother named [Venicious 00:12:33] and she is my dad’s son but not related to my birth mum. We started talking when I met my dad through Facebook, and we just started talking all the time too. He is so outgoing and funny and friendly, so we’re just like kind of best friends. We message like daily, he just always messages me and he really hopes to come to the US some time soon. He works really hard and he speaks like five different languages. He’s just like saving money so he can come stay with us for a little there and experience the US, which I think would be really awesome.
Jennifer J.: Right, wow, that is really great. Social media played a large part in the story of reconnecting with birth family, it sounds like. Sloan, can you talk about your thoughts and opinions associated with those social media connections?
Sloan: I can just say they’re so positive. A lot of people, oh Facebook and they’re kind of grumbly about it. Facebook really has forged a bond with Maria and I and her birth family and like Maria said, her sister helped find her birth dad because we didn’t have a whole lot of information about him. We didn’t know him. When she said, “Oh, I’m going to find out, I’m going to share these pictures,” Maria and I waited. It felt like for a long time, didn’t it Maria? And then finally one day, I actually came home from work and Maria was sitting with her iPad on Facebook and she said, “Guess what I have?”
And I knew right then, I remember I said, “It’s a picture of your dad.” So, we just looked at it and we were so happy. We were like, oh my gosh, and we were laughing because Maria’s nose looks like her dad’s and we were like, oh my gosh, you look so much like him. There was no doubt in either of our mind that that was her birth dad. That was really exciting. I’m Facebook friends, that’s silly, but with all of her, I think with everybody.
Sloan: She’s got siblings on her mum’s side and her dad’s side, and even with like her dad’s girlfriend. It’s been pretty amazing. It’s been a great way I think for us to not only communicate, but to see kind of how their life is. I think, I hope at least for them, they can see Maria’s life and that she’s surrounded by people who love her and things like that. Really, I think the Facebook thing, it’s just been huge for us. It’s been absolutely huge. You know, Maria, like she said, she talks to Venicious her brother, who speaks English all the time, and her sister speaks Portuguese. I feel like it’s, Maria uses Google Translate and they talk a lot too. I think it’s kind of taught you a little bit of Portuguese even. It’s just that I can’t say enough about Facebook. Thanks Mark Zuckerberg. I mean, it’s been great.
Jennifer J.: Keeping in line here with today as we focus on preparing for the visit, we’re kind of laying out the story of how it came to be. And I think obviously, the fact that you met Maria’s birth mother way back, at the time of labor and delivery, and you were there Sloan. Then Maria having that contact through social media as she was ready. It sounds like that was kind of baby steps as she was comfortable with it. Then you were asking, would you like to go and meet and she wasn’t ready. I’m interested now Maria, in having you tell us the details of how it finally came to be that you really did want to go and meet them. Your mother had been talking about this since you were maybe 10 or 11, and you weren’t ready, you just weren’t there and one day you were. Help our listeners understand that process for you.
Maria: So, I feel like I always thought about going to Brazil and really wanted to meet my birth family but it did make me nervous thinking about like going there, just meeting them, it’s just nerveracking. My brother and I would talk all the time and so, I just kind of, I don’t know, when I got older, I was just like, oh, I really do want to meet these people and see where I was born and meet all my family and like meet my brothers and my sisters that I talked to all the time. I finally felt sort of ready for that.
Also, we had an exchange student when I was younger that my parents met and stayed with her family while they were adopting me. So I really wanted to see her too, so it was just a lot of people I felt like I needed to see again and meet for the first time. I finally just, I don’t know, it just kind of clicked. Like I was, I can do this, I’m ready and I want to know these people and I want to see the country where I’m from and just learn more about everything about me, kind of.
Jennifer J.: It was just about the timing and I’m sure that communication through social media led to more of a comfort level for you too.
Maria: Yes, exactly. And just like talking to everyone, it was just like oh, I really, I want to meet these people. They’re just a part of me and I’d like to know that part of me more.
Jennifer J.: Sloan, do you remember the day that Maria finally approached you and said that she was ready?
Sloan: I actually do. It was in the summer and it was right around the time she turned 19 and she just said, “You know what, I think I’m ready to go to Brazil. I think I want to go to Brazil and see [Hanata 00:18:41], our exchange student and meet my birth family.” I was so excited because we would have done it when she was like 10 or 11 years old. I was really thrilled. I was like, okay, we’re going to start planning. We started making plans for how long the trip was going to be and we started buying our plane tickets because we wanted to meet her birth family, but we also wanted to travel in Brazil a little bit.
I wanted her to have like the whole package, like meet her birth family, but also get to see her country and the city where she was born, but also some of the natural beauty in Brazil. There’s so much, so we planned to go to some waterfalls and then we wanted to go to Rio and it was going to be right before the Olympics. We really started planning immediately ’cause when she was in, she was all in. We started planning and it was really exciting. It was really fun anticipating it. I think, it was a little nerveracking for both of us too, but mostly not. We were anxious about some things, but mostly we were just like, okay, let’s plan this trip.
There was so much to do, that helped. Maria told them, “Hey, we’re going to come to Brazil,” and I was really having that her birth mum and when you meet the mum of your daughter, as you can imagine, a pretty powerful thing, I really wanted … It was important for her birth mum, for Maria’s birth mum to see Maria and see that she was healthy and happy and loved beyond belief. I feel like she probably thought she would never have the opportunity to see Maria again, and so that made me really happy that, okay, she’s going to get to see this child that she made a really, really unselfish decision for, and I was excited about that too.
Jennifer J.: That was all very exciting, I can tell by listening to you guys. Maria says I’m ready and Sloan, you’ve been ready so let’s do this and plane tickets and travel plans. I kind of can feel how exciting that was. I want to shift gears just a little bit, talk about what [inaudible 00:21:04] to take the trip and to go and meet the birth family, what happened next. Outside of the plane tickets and all the logistical stuff that you did to prepare. How did you plan and prepare for this, emotionally, psychologically? Let’s talk about that.
Maria: I don’t know, I kind of felt like there was not a whole lot to prepare, plan or get ready for. But my mum brought up one day like, maybe we should talk to a therapist about just like what to expect or like just emotions and everything. And it actually turned out to be a good idea, ’cause it was just kind of nice to just hear about how things could turn out good or bad. To not really have expectations, just go in there with an open mind, ready to meet these people and I was just nervous about like meeting them.
Even though they’re family, like I was still very nervous and like with my mum and everything. I kind of thought she might be super emotional and for some reason, that like really I don’t know, it stressed me out. I don’t want my mum to be all crying when I’m trying to meet my birth mum. Like that helped me talk to the, like I talked to the therapist about that with my mum, ’cause I didn’t want to say that to my mum at the time.
Like, “Please don’t cry and make it a huge,” I don’t know, which sounds kind of bad but I was talking about that and everything to just prepare for the situation. ‘Cause I don’t know, sometimes I don’t want to be all emotional like that. It was nice to just talk about that, but it ended up being really emotional, which was fine because it was me and my mum. But it was just kind of funny at the time.
Sloan: It was.
Jennifer J.: How many times did you guys go? Well, first of all, how did you locate a therapist?
Sloan: Well, actually Nancy Cannon from your office was very helpful. Nancy became a friend when she did our home study when we adopted Maria. I called Nancy and Nancy knew that we had been planning a trip and I said, “Hey, we want to talk to somebody.” She recommended, is it called Strive? Anna at Strive, and …
Sloan: Then we ended up having Kelly there and she was great. We just went three times. The first time, it was me. I went and I kind of told Kelly, can you give us some background about Maria’s adoption story and our story and our plans to go to Brazil. I just said, “You know, I mean, my goal with Maria was for this to be as positive of an experience as possible.” I thought it would be really positive, but I just thought, I have this really happy, healthy kid with a great attitude about life and her birth family and us. I thought like, I don’t want to screw this up by going to Brazil. I kind of told Kelly that and then she said, “Well, what I’d like to do is then meet with Maria one time, and then pull you guys together for a couple of meetings or whatever.”
So we did that and we ended up just having one meeting together. It was pretty long. I feel like it was about two hours and I just felt like it sort of liberated Maria to say some things to me. We have a very open relationship and I think that Maria knows, we’re so grateful to her birth mum and her birth family, and we just feel so good about that. I felt like, oh Maria can talk to me about anything. But I think Maria was being very sweet and kind of sensitive about my feelings. Like what she said about me crying. She didn’t tell me that until we had our meeting together.
That’s so cute because she knows, I mean, when I think of Maria’s birth mum, I do get emotional, because I feel so grateful. I just think, oh my gosh, her hardest thing in her life is my greatest joy. I would think about, oh my gosh, when I see these two meet, it is going to be so overwhelming. But I did hold it together, I will tell you. I just kind of hid behind the camera and took a bunch of pictures. But it was really helpful because I thought like Kelly sort of liberated Maria to say some things to me that Maria maybe wouldn’t have wanted to say just with the two of us, ’cause Maria is really sweet and sensitive, and she didn’t want to hurt my feelings or something.
Jennifer J.: That’s a really sweet story, and I can hear from you guys that you have a very close relationship. Sloan, you being so supportive of Maria in wanting to reconnect with the birth family is incredible, and I’m sure extremely helpful to her. I know that we were talking here about the therapist and it was Anna Walton’s practice in Lansing, I believe, and that’s Thrive Counseling. You guys went a handful of times it sounds like. What stands out to you from what you kind of walked away from that process, not the visit to Brazil, but the counseling and the planning and the preparation, in terms of tips or advice, what resonated with you and what was the most impactful from that?
Sloan: Okay, Maria’s pointing at me to answer this. So, I think that it was kind of the whole package. She helped us think about things like we wanted to do bring some gifts for her birth family. We wanted to do something sentimental, and so she kind of helped us. I think we had ideas, but we wanted reinforcement that that was a good idea and it wouldn’t be seen as materialistic. She kind of talked to us about that, like balancing something, not something they need but we ended up deciding on necklaces with the latitude and longitude of Maria’s birth city, and then the city where we lived.
She helped us with that and we talked about, okay, a lot of them didn’t speak English and so we had talked about having an interpreter because our exchange student speaks pretty good English, and she had offered to go with us. But we were kind of concerned that there might be a language barrier because her English isn’t great and because it was going to be the most important meeting of our lives, we wanted to make sure everything was translated accurately. Kelly just kind of said, “You know, I wouldn’t pay a translator. I would go in with somebody who you’re comfortable with and who isn’t like a paid professional and who is more of a friend, even if you lose a little.”
She gave us advice about that. I think as far as like Maria said about adjusting her expectations just in case we were so excited, and we just wanted to grab them and hug them and then just in case maybe they were a little more not as demonstrative or emotional as us, or if they were maybe kind of shut down from having a hard life, and things like that. I think that she really helped kind of just make sure that our expectations were realistic, so that Maria wouldn’t be devastated or disappointed if it didn’t turn out great, which it did. It couldn’t have turned out better.
Then I think the final thing was just freeing Maria up to maybe say some things to me that she probably wouldn’t have said if it was just her and I, ’cause she was being so nice and not wanting to hurt my feelings. I think stuff like that. We were talking about it, and there wasn’t like an aha moment. She just eased everything for us, and eased some of the communication. And Maria and I usually don’t have too many problems communicating, but I think even easing some of that, that because of the situation, was a little more difficult. Do you have anything to add?
Maria: No, I totally agree with that. It was just nice to be able to talk to Kelly about the situation and just hear her ideas about just going in with an open mind. It just made it a little more of a relaxed feeling about going to Brazil ’cause I was still really nervous. It was just nice to talk to her about that and just be able to communicate more openly about things that I felt that might hurt my mum’s feelings or something, things like that. It was just nice.
Jennifer J.: Initially Maria, you didn’t understand the need for going to see a therapist in preparation. You thought, well, I finally decided to do this and let’s go do it and your mum did encourage this piece of it. But in retrospect, are you glad that you did that? Do you feel that this meeting or these several meetings that you had with the therapist in preparation benefited you in the long run?
Maria: Yes, they definitely did. It was just helpful ’cause it really eased my mind a lot about going, and just like helped me think of things that I might have not thought of on my own. Yeah, it was very helpful.
Jennifer J.: Well, this is going to feel somewhat like an abrupt end and I guess, in a way it is. We are at the end of the show today, and the reason that it’s an abrupt end, is because we’re going to continue this story next week, when we hear from Maria about that actual trip to Brazil, and meeting her birth family for what was the first time for her. It just going to be a very exciting and maybe emotional story, so thank you. A big thank you to you Sloan and to you Maria. Everyone remember that this is a three part series, and so after next week, we’ll hear back again from Sloan to wrap us up on this. Ladies, thank you so much for taking the time to not only share your story, but to come on the podcast and talk about such intimate details.
Sloan: Thank you for having us.
Maria: Yes, thank you so much.
Sloan: I look forward to speak …
Jennifer J.: And we’re excited to see … That’s what I was going to say equally, is excited about what’s to come in your story. For those of you that are listening, please remember that we are live every Tuesday at 11, and if you would like to put Adoption Associates, there are several ways you can do that. Please call 800-677-2367, or you can reach us on the web at adoptionassociates.net. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter, so we’d love to hear from you in those modalities as well. Looking forward to next week. We’ve already talked about what is to come. Hope you all have a great day and we’ll hope to hear from you next week. For now, this is Jennifer with Adoption Focus. Have a great day everyone! Bye bye.