AIR DATE: 4.11.17 A Powerful Story of Connecting with Birth Family Internationally: PART 2

You can read the transcript below or click here to listen to the podcast.

Jennifer: 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 was founded in 1990 and 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 an adoption. Adoption is not only our specialty, but it is our passion. One of Adoption Associates’ commitment is to this radio show is to help educate and support adoptive families, birth families and the adoption community. So, we’re really grateful that you’re listening in to today’s show.

Today on our podcast we are having part two of a three part series with a mother and her daughter sharing their story of connecting with birth family internationally. Mariah and Sloan were with us last week describing how they prepared for the visit and this week we’re going to talk with Mariah about her trip to Brazil to meet her birth family. So, this is a very exciting topic and I’m happy to welcome today. Mariah, are you with us?

Mariah: Yes, I am. Hi, I’m really happy to

Jennifer: Hi.

Mariah: be on here and speaking about my trip to Brazil.

Jennifer: And we’re very grateful that you’ve come back for a second week and this is such a unique series. We’ve not had the good fortune on Adoption Focus to do anything like this before and your story has been so interesting and exciting. And last week I know that we were able to hear from you and your mom together as you gave us the beginning of the story, so to speak, and the preparation for the visit. So, last week we talked about all the planning and preparation that went into it and this was such an exciting time for your family and your mom was obviously a big part of that.

This week, however, we’re focusing on the trip and the impact that this has had on your life. Could you start us off please today by talking, Mariah, about the visit to Brazil and what your experiences were there?

Mariah: Yes, of course. So, we were in Brazil for two weeks and we took a ten-hour flight to get there. It was long, but it was so worth it. So, we got there and we stayed with our former exchange student, Paynata, and her parents and her brother and some other family, which was great.

So, we got there and first we met with my birth dad. Probably a couple days into the trip, we like, did a few things and kind of got settled in. And we went to this park to meet with my birth dad and his girlfriend, and my older brother, Vinicius and I then have a younger brother, Anthony, who’s five years old. So, we met with him too.

So, we got to the park and we were waiting there. They were kind of late. So, I was just a bit nervous before meeting them. It was like more nervous than any first date or anything ever. I was just freaking out. My hands were sweating. I like … just … I was so scared and I don’t even know why because I mean their family, but I was just still so nervous.

So, we get there and we’re sitting on this park bench like waiting for them to show up. Then they finally get there and I see all my family and my dad is carrying this like, big basket filled with flowers and a teddy bear and chocolates and stuff.

Jennifer: Awww.

Mariah: So, we can see each other and it was such a special moment when we first all saw each other. It was just crazy like seeing each other actually in person for the first time and being together.

Jennifer: It had to have been. I imagine that that was a very emotional moment for you and probably for them too?

Mariah: Yes, it actually, with my birth dad it was emotional, but not really like when we first met. It was really just like stoic. We were just all so excited and he couldn’t stop hugging me or holding my hand and kissing my cheek and just like my mom said … cuz my brother and I were talking a lot, just like cuz he speaks English. So, we were just like sitting there talking and talking and we just didn’t stop. My birth dad, he doesn’t speak English. I guess he was just like watching me the whole time, just like smiling and laughing. It was just really special to be there with all of them.

And my dad’s girlfriend, she told me, she was like “You are so special to him because he’s never bought any lady flowers before.”

Jennifer: Awww.

Mariah: So, that was really, I don’t know. It touched my heart. He was just so happy to be around and it was kind of crazy to see because, I don’t know, I have like … my nose. I was just like where did I get this nose from? Like. I kind of have … I don’t know. It’s just unique looking, I guess, and it doesn’t look like my birth mom’s and so when I first saw my dad it was just like wow, now I know. And so just seeing him in person and seeing like, who you come from, it’s just the crazy feeling.

Jennifer: Absolutely, and so anyone who’s listening today that maybe didn’t catch last week’s show, you were sharing with us that you had initially had a lot of Facebook contact and social media contact with your birth family for years before this visit. And so your brother and maybe your father, correct me if I’m wrong, you had begun this dialogue with them before your trip to Brazil. Do you feel like that, in any way made it easier for you when you arrived or was that kind of just all out of the window at that point?

Mariah: See, I thought it would have made it easier. I mean it was nice that we talked. Like my brother and I talked all the time. I didn’t really talk to my dad as much because he didn’t have a Facebook. He doesn’t have a Facebook still, but like I passed messages on to him. But, I thought it would be like calming, which it was nice that we talked a lot, but we were still so nervous. Like my brother was like even saying, “Even though we talked all the time, I was so scared,” and my dad like even said “Oh, I was so nervous. I was just so nervous the whole time and sweating and just nervous.” Like we were all very nervous, but it went smoothly and I was thrilled it ended up happening and everything.

Jennifer: So, what were

Mariah: So, after we met … sorry

Jennifer: No, you go right ahead. I was gonna ask you to tell us more about who else you were able to meet and the rest of your story.

Mariah: So, we next met my birth mom and all of her side of the family, like my sister and my younger brother, and then my sister, Marcella, she has two children, so my niece and nephew. And we met at the same park, maybe a few days later and I was also super nervous then too, so I was just freaking out again. I think I might have been more nervous to meet my birth mom. I don’t know why. I was just even more nervous to meet her and so we were like walking up to this park, the same one we went to, and we saw them in a group like walking towards us. And it was just so much emotion. It was crazy to just see her for the first time in person and like my sister, cuz we’ve talked a lot too, and I think like we might’ve started crying just upon meeting each other cuz it was just so much power of emotions right then. But, it was amazing. And so

Jennifer: I’m sure it was.

Mariah: We just like sat and we talked a lot and just like, me and my sister held hands on the park bench and just like looked into each other’s eyes, which sounds like kind of cheesy and like, I don’t know romantic or something. But it was just like I was there with my sister like, this family by blood.

It was just like a really cool connection that I was experiencing with her and my birth mom and just like I don’t know, just like I was touching my birth mom’s hair. Just to be able to like see her and like the parts of us that were similar was just a really cool experience and just be around her personality like from things that I’ve heard with like what my parents said when they met her. Like she was kind of shy and maybe quiet, but when we met she was just the funniest person ever. She was just cracking jokes the whole entire time. And I was like very nervous kind of. I felt like I was not like … I was nervous so I felt like I wasn’t asking questions I should have been asking, but she was just making it easy like making the situation light and happy, which was really just cool. A cool experience and it, I don’t know, it made me happy to meet her.

Jennifer: And you guys, how long was this visit?

Mariah: We were probably meeting with them for like four hours. It was … like the meeting with my mom was probably four hours. We just like sat there and we talked and we all just like spent time around each other, which was cool. [inaudible 00:10:49] to hear their voices.

Jennifer: Did it feel like four hours?

Mariah: No, it kind of just flew by. It was, when we all left it was just like I can’t believe this happened and is over already, but it was

Jennifer: So, you were in Brazil. How long did you say you were in Brazil for?

Mariah: We were in Brazil for two weeks.

Jennifer: Okay, so these were just … yeah, so you had this meeting with your birth father and your brother and then your birth mother and your sister and those … did you have additional visits with them while you were in Brazil? What else happened during your time in Brazil?

Mariah: So, we ended up going out with my brother and my birth dad and some other family for drinks one night and I was like super tired cuz we had a really long day. We were like out exploring and I was like oh, I don’t know if I can do this. I’m just so tired and we got there probably like at ten or something and we stayed there for so long. I feel like it was like two in the morning. We ended up staying out with them just like, having drinks and just like enjoying each other. It was so much fun. My birth dad had bought me like a little bag of popcorn cuz I guess in Brazil there’s like popcorn stands by all the little parks, so like dads always get their children popcorn like after the park. So he was like “Since I never got to give you popcorn when you were growing up.” He like got me popcorn, which I just thought was really cute.

Jennifer: Yeah, that is sweet.

Mariah: It was adorable. It was really sweet. He was just the whole night like making me plates of food that we got. He was like serving me food and just like, it was just really cool and I don’t know. He was just really kind and sweet. It was nice to be around his personality and see what he was like.

He brought me a pack of gum, which was cute. I don’t know. He was just like “This isn’t anything big, but here’s like a pack of gum.” It was just like a sweet little thing. I don’t know. I still have it. I don’t wanna eat it cuz I just wanna remember it cuz I thought it was cute.

Jennifer: That’s very special.

Mariah: We just stayed there and like talked and hung out all night and it was a great memory. We all just had fun and we just sat there and we held hands and my brother and I just laughed and talked the whole entire night. It was [crosstalk 00:13:42]

Jennifer: In listening

Mariah: Time.

Jennifer: Yeah, I was gonna say, Mariah, listening to you talk about this, it sounds very natural and relaxed and comfortable and fun. Maybe not what others would have expected and I’m not sure how you, what your expectations were, but just listening to you tell that story I sense that comfortable nature about it.

So, I did want to ask, in last week’s podcast you and your mom talked about meeting with the therapist a few times in preparation for this visit to Brazil and one of the things explored was setting expectations before going. So, I’m curious before you traveled to Brazil what had you imagined this reunion would look like and what was the reality of the meeting? How was the reality of that different than what your expectations were?

Mariah: So, I had like imagined in my head cuz I didn’t, we didn’t like really talk about the plans. I mean we did like after we started planning, but like at first I just was like … I always thought there was gonna be this huge party and we’d just have all of my family together and like, in that moment I was just like really nervous cuz there were so many people to talk to and just my mom would be there and it would be super emotional. My mom’s side and my dad’s side would be there and we’d all just be like together and in reality I mean we had like separate small meetings, which was a lot more … It was just easier and not stressful like I had dreamed in my picture of what I thought it might be meeting all of them.

Jennifer: Sure. Yeah.

Mariah: So. The way … cuz like I even said to my mom. I was like well why don’t we just do like a big thing where we get everybody together and she just thought it would be a better idea if we did it like separate and smaller, which it was and I was glad it ended up that way.

Jennifer: It sounds like it was just exactly the way it was intended to be even though maybe you didn’t plan it or didn’t know that it would be that way. It sounds wonderful the way you describe it.

What would you say were the most powerful moments of your trip to Brazil?

Mariah: So, I definitely just feel like meeting both of my birth parents, in general. It was just, it was so powerful just to see both of them and just to be able to spend time with them and kind of get an idea of who they are and how they are.

My sister, Marcella, when I met with my mom’s side of the family, me and her were like sitting on this park bench and just like, I don’t know holding hands and like crying, and just like holding each other. It was really sweet. We were just like sitting there kind of crying and her little daughter, Saynar, came up and she just like wrapped her arms around us both. It was just like the sweetest moment ever. I’ll just never forget it cuz we were both just like sitting there like connecting in a way and her little daughter was just, she’s so adorable and sweet. She just like wrapped her arms around us and was just like looking at us. All of our foreheads were together. It was just a good moment.

Then we also went to see The Christ Redeemer, which is like this giant statue. It’s like this crazy tall, mountainous hill kind of and we drove up there one day and it was just like unlike anything I’ve ever been in front of before. He was like the most powerful, just beautiful statue to ever see. It didn’t even seem real. I was just like looking up at him. I just felt so small. He was just gorgeous and big and then the view around us was just all of Rio, and it was just unbelievable. I can just only say it was so powerful to see that statue and sit there and be in front of it and take it all in and all the people there, seeing him too. It was really just a very cool experience.

Jennifer: Sounds like it’s … not only were you going to do a really powerful thing, meeting your birth family, but you also had all these opportunities that were in a way unbelievable and surreal for you. That all of this was happening and here you are kind of asking is this really happening. I know you were also there when something else was happening in Rio. Did you wanna talk about that a minute?

Mariah: Yeah, we were there when the Olympics were being in the works I guess you could say, so that was really cool because it was just, it was crazy in Rio. There were so many people. It was so busy and they really didn’t have a lot of stuff set up for us to see like in terms of what they were building for the Olympics, but they had a ton of stores like filled with Olympic apparel and like right on the beach there was just like this huge building that they had built just for the Olympics and just for like souvenirs and like shirts and all sorts of stuff you can buy for the Olympics, which was kind of crazy just like they had just built that and it was awesome. Just like the energy around the city. There was so much going on. It was very cool to be around. It was exciting.

Jennifer: A once in a lifetime sort of experience for you, right?

Mariah: Yes, it was. It was. I feel lucky to have gone and got to be around my family and the city and the place. Like just everything. It was really cool.

Jennifer: So, I’m curious if you felt a deep seeded connection to your birth parents or your siblings when you were meeting them. What was that part of the puzzle like for you?

Mariah: So, I don’t know. I felt a connection with all of them. Like seeing just walking off and seeing them. It was so unreal, but so real at the same time. Every time I was just like talking to them or looking into someone’s eyes it just felt like somebody that I was supposed to meet and just know, at least meet once. It just felt like I needed to and that’s how it was supposed to be with all of them.

Like, my brother Vinicius, I just, I don’t know, I feel like we were always supposed to know each other and just be friends. We have such similar personalities and we have so much fun when we were just spending time around each other talking and just laughing like, it just felt like we were supposed to know each other and be friends and siblings I guess, and just be close. Like more close that just two people that live in different countries. Like we were supposed to know each other and then with my dad, I don’t know, it’s just a weird feeling kind of because they didn’t raise me or anything. My parents are my parents here, but it just felt like I’m supposed to know them and it’s cool to see like the real connection that you have with your birth parents and everything.

So yeah, I guess I did feel like a connection cuz I don’t know, they’re my birth parents. I just feel like there is a connection there that can not be

Jennifer: What were your feelings when it was time to leave Brazil and come back home?

Mariah: So, not really leaving Brazil, but when we left the city Ciuaba, where I was born and where all my birth family lives, I was just so sad. I couldn’t believe it was over and that we were moving on. I felt like it just shouldn’t be ending. I was just very sad. It was a sad few moments when you left. And then it was really sad to leave Brazil because I just, I don’t know, I’ve grown up here my whole life and so like, seeing Brazil and not just my family, but just seeing everyone it just felt like a place that I would be able to fit into. Like I could’ve lived here, and not that I’m sad that I didn’t but I could’ve, and the culture’s all really cool. So, it was just sad to like not be able to spend like six more months down there.

Jennifer: What connections were you hoping to continue with your birth parents or your siblings as you were saying your goodbyes and I don’t know, maybe you can fill in the blanks here too. I imagine that would be an emotional time as well, but what was the plan and what were your hopes for the future at that stage?

Mariah: It was just so great to meet all of them and I was just hoping that like, they liked me and like my birth mom and birth dad were excited and wanted to keep talking or wanted me to come back and see them. Like I didn’t want it to just be a one time thing, so I still hope that, I hope that I can go back down to Brazil and make that a goal for myself and see them again.

And then with my brother, Vinicius, we talk about him coming up here to visit for a month or even longer. I’m not really sure, but he works really hard so he’s saving so hopefully he can come up here and stay with us and experience the U.S. and we can be around each other for even longer. And so that’s like, I don’t know, something huge like that. We both really want to happen, to be able to spend like more time around each other and he just really would love to see the U.S. So, I think that would be really cool and we’re just hoping that will happen and we’ll be able to do that.

Jennifer: That sounds really nice. How did your visit to Brazil to meet your birth family change or impact your relationship with your parents?

Mariah: I don’t really think that it changed my relationship with my parents. I think my dad and my mom they were both just so excited for me that I got to experience this and that I got to meet my birth parents. They’ve been, my whole life, nothing but supportive and open about being adopted, which I think is like a really great feeling because I don’t know, I think anyone who is adopted is probably curious, in a way, about where they came from or something. So, to have like a parent that doesn’t want you to know I feel like that could be difficult

Jennifer: Sure.

Mariah: And I wouldn’t know how to deal with that. So it think it’s like just, my parents were just so excited for me. When I got back all my dad wanted to know about was how the trip went, every detail. He was like “I know you’re not gonna remember everything right now, but just when you remember little bits and pieces, just tell me.” He was so excited that I got to do that cuz he loves Brazil. He loves that country and he’s been there a couple times and he was just like “I just can’t wait to hear about your take on everything and how everything went and just how everybody was. How your birth mom was and everything. So they were both so supportive and my mom, it was really cool that we got to experience that together.

I think that made us closer. Like, it’s just another thing that helped our relationship or made us more connected I guess, that we got to do that together and meet everybody together.

Jennifer: Yep, that will be something the two of you will share forever. That’s very special and while your dad wasn’t there obviously as you said he was very supportive of it and interested and wanted to hear all about it. So that’s great too, and you’re right, you know, support from your parents is critical when you’re gonna be looking at meeting birth family or reconnecting with your past and it’s something that, you know we hear from people can really be the turning point for them in searching for birth family, is the support. So, I’m thrilled to hear that you had that with your parents. One area

Mariah: Yeah [crosstalk 00:27:05]

Jennifer: Please go ahead.

Mariah: Oh no, you’re fine. You can go on.

Jennifer: I was just gonna ask you, one area that many people have questions about is if adoptees feel like they somehow missed out and that concept of I was adopted but now I’ve been to, in your case, my birth country and I’ve met my birth family and people are curious if that brings up feelings of having missed out. So, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Now that you’re an adult, what do you feel that you missed out on from being adopted and conversely what do you feel you gained through adoption?

Mariah: I don’t think I missed out. I mean if I wasn’t adopted I wouldn’t know all of my beautiful family and friends that I know up here, I don’t think. So, I feel like I was just meant to be adopted and I also get to know my family in Brazil, which is what I would’ve known if I wasn’t adopted.

So, I think I just gained all of these people in my lives and I have more people in my life in Brazil. So, sometimes I feel like maybe it, like I could’ve fit in with Brazil, like the culture, and just all the people like being down there I just felt like oh, I am one of them. I could just go right into this and feel at home, but I don’t live there. I live here and I don’t know, I never really feel like I missed out. I just feel lucky to have the parents that I do and the friends and all my other family. I just feel lucky and I just know a lot more people because of it, so I don’t ever really feel like I missed out. It’s just like I know a lot of people and it’s cool and I’m happy to be here and I’m thankful for all of it.

Jennifer: Were you inundated with questions? Did your friends and the other people that you know want to hear all about it and feel that your story was unique?

Mariah: Yes. All of my family was so supportive. They couldn’t stop asking me questions and my aunt on my way down, she had all of my family like write in this journal for me. They all just like wrote me a note or a funny memory or just something. So, I have this journal just filled with like all these notes and it was probably, it was just one of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever received. She, my aunt Shannon, she was so supportive about it. Just all my family wanted to know about my trip. They were so excited for me to be able to go down there and do this, so they were just always asking me about how the trip went, details. As soon as I got back they just wanted to know about what happened. They were texting me while I was down there and just being very supportive and interested.

Jennifer: I love the journal. That’s really special.

Mariah: It, yeah, it was very amazing. I still like open it up and read certain pages cuz there’s like funny stuff in there and my cousins were in it. It was so nice. I really couldn’t believe they did that. It was such a surprise. My mom gave it to me and like I couldn’t even read it all at once cuz I’d just start crying cuz they all just wrote the sweetest things in there.

Jennifer: Well thank you so much Mariah, for today. It’s so gracious of you to come on and really delve into the details of such a wonderful story of connecting with your birth family in Brazil . Next week I know we’re set to hear more from you and your mom as a bit of a follow-up now that we’ve … you’ve been to Brazil and you’ve met … What does this look like now for your family and how is everyone doing and plans for the future? So, thank you very much for today and I’m looking forward to more for next week.

Mariah: Yes, thank you so much for having me. I was excited to be on here and I really look forward to next week, too.

Jennifer: Absolutely. For those of you that are listening we thank you for being in support of Adoption Focus podcasts. Remember we are live every Tuesday at eleven. Hope that you do join us next week to hear part three of this wonderful story. We’ll hear from Mariah and Sloan about what’s happening in their lives now after follow up with meeting birth family in Brazil.

If you’re looking to connect with Adoption Associates you can call us at 1-800-677-2367 or visit us on the web at

For now this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. I hope everyone has a great day.

Bye bye.

Bye Mariah.

Mariah: Bye. Bye. Thank you.