Blog talk Radio Transcript: Alexis’ Adoption Story-Adoption Secret – Air Date: 9/13/2016 (You may listen to the podcast by clicking on the audio link, or read the transcript of the podcast below.)

Alexis is an adult adoptee who shares that she didn’t learn she was adopted until she was 8 or 9 years of age. She wishes she would have learned about her adoption earlier on. The delay made her feel like her adoption was a big secret, and she felt mislead. Alexis could have let that heartache drag her down, but she didn’t, she turned it into something very positive. This is her story…

Adoption RadioHi, and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski, and I am 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 adoption and provide pregnancy and adoption services throughout all of Michigan, including the UP, with offices located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Freeland. 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 is truly our passion. One of Adoption Associates’ commitments is to this radio show, to help educate and support adoptive families, birth families, and the adoption community at large.

So we’re really glad that you’re listening in today. Thank you for being here. Alexis, are you with us?

Alexis:  Yes, I am. Hi.

Jennifer Jaworski:  Wonderful. Hi. So I know that you’re excited to share your story, which is a very incredibly interesting story, with our listeners. You’re an adult adoptee.

Alexis:   Yes.

Jennifer Jaworski:  So thank you very much for taking the time out of your day to do this, and to be open about your own experience with adoption. Can you start, Alexis, by telling us a little bit about your personal connection to adoption?

Alexis:   Yes. I was adopted by my parents when I was fairly young, probably about four or five months old. But, I didn’t find out that I was actually adopted until I was around the third or fourth grade. I remember my mom and I were watching TV and the news was on. There was a specific show about kids being adopted, and we got into a conversation, which opened the door for her to tell me that I was adopted. That was a really unique experience for me, because I was in shock. I didn’t really believe what she was telling me. I couldn’t believe that she has kept the adoption secret from me for so long.

Jennifer Jaworski:   Sure. And you would’ve been maybe eight or nine years old at that time?

Alexis:   Yeah, I believe eight or nine.

Jennifer Jaworski:  Okay. So what was that like for you, learning of your adoption at that age?

Alexis:   I think for me, learning that I was adopted at that age was hard. I felt that I was misled, and that there was this big secret. And my parents had always been open and sharing stuff, and just telling the truth. So I just didn’t understand why this wasn’t told to me sooner. I still was young, but I just didn’t understand why I had never known this big secret. It was hard for me at first, but I was okay with it at the end.

Jennifer Jaworski:   So how did that impact you then moving forward? What did learning that information do for you, or to you, or what impact did this secret have on your life?

Alexis:  I would say at first, it was really hard for me. My mom and I clashed on telling the truth and we bumped heads a little bit. But I always realized that they could have raised me and not have told me that I was adopted and I would have never known that I was not biologically their child. I am their child, and I’m their only child, actually. And they raised me as if I was their own.

My family loves me, all my aunts and uncles and cousins and extended family. They never treated me as if I wasn’t their cousin or their niece or grandchild. They love me unconditionally. I was family.

I never was made fun of or anything about it. I know some of my cousins asked me when I was older, about my adoption being a secret. They didn’t know how to bring it or approach it to me. But I’ve had discussions with people as I got older.

Jennifer Jaworski:  And I know Alexis, that you and I have had the opportunity to speak before today and you’ve shared with me the details of learning about your adoption secret. And we talked about how today’s adoptions are far more open than what you experienced, and that children are being told of their adoption story from a much younger age.

So while you had a very shocking experience learning that your parents kept your adoption a secret, you’ve made a choice to turn that around. You could have sat in that place of shock and a little bit maybe of anger, you said you felt misled, but you chose not to do that. You chose to turn that around and turn the adoption secret into something positive. And to look at what you gained through the adoption. I find that to really be a powerful point in your story.

One thing too, if we could talk about, you had shared with me how surrounded you were even at that time in your life, with adoption. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Alexis:  Yeah. So first I will talk about how one of my aunts has lupus and she told me that she adopted one of my younger cousins. She said she saw how everything went well with me and the process. They really wanted kids and they tried to have kids for a really long time, but she wasn’t able to. When she saw how everything went well with me and my adoption process, it encouraged them to adopt. So that was really cool to know my younger cousin was adopted as well. And that they also agreed to do so just because of everything that they experienced with me.

My younger cousin grew up knowing that he was adopted. So I thought that was really cool that they shared that with him and that it wasn’t really a big adoption secret. He knows he’s adopted, and he knows he’s loved.

Also, my childhood friend across the street was adopted, and we always used to have conversations about that. Her parents ended up having two other kids biologically after her. And so that was really cool for me to share with her. “Hey, I want to let you know that I just found out I’m adopted as well.” When I told her about my adoption secret, we formed this special bond, like we were sisters.

In addition, I met a lot of different kids who were adopted. My best friend that I met around the beginning of sixth grade was adopted. The summer that I met her, her parents actually invited me to go with them to meet her biological parents. So my friend was able to meet her grandparents and stuff like that. It was really nice to experience that with her. It was a little hard for her, but it was really nice that everyone came together.

My very first boyfriend growing up in high school was adopted as well. So it was really cool to just see that there were other people in my life who were adopted, and I got to hear their different stories and see different families and how everyone connected. And that’s the connection for all of these people as well. If we didn’t tell you or invite you into our worlds, if we didn’t tell you our stories, you wouldn’t have any idea that we were adopted.

Jennifer Jaworski:  So I’m imagining, particularly with your best friend as you got to walk alongside her and be witness to her meeting her birth parents and how all of that transpired. I imagine that probably brought up a lot of questions for you regarding your own birth history and some curiosity on your part. Was that the case?

Alexis:  It did. She asked me what I knew about my biological parents, or if I had ever met them. And if I wanted to. I was on the verge of being shy or bashful about it. I did want to know, but then I did not want to hurt my parent’s feelings. I was very worried about them in the background of my mind. Even though I had been shocked about my adoption secret, I still loved my parents. I didn’t want them to feel like I would leave them. But, I always knew I had a whole other set of family members out there who I can’t even identify. I was curious.

I knew some information about my biological parents, their hobbies, general information, where their families originally came from, educational background, etc. If they had any siblings, a small descriptions about them, their eye color, their height, different features like that. But, it was really just a lot of fluff material, so I’ve always wanted to learn more, but I think I was scared to venture out and find those missing pieces.

Jennifer Jaworski:   Right. And your friend assisted in piquing your curiosity, so to speak about those things that were just lying below the surface it sounds like for you. What information did you not know? It sounds like you just named a few things, some of the basic stuff that you knew. What did you not know that you wanted to know though?

Alexis:   General information. What the situation was. Why maybe they didn’t keep me. Or just maybe what was going on in their lives. Just general information like that. If I ever maybe have ran into anyone or I was into a lot of sports, I could have played sports with someone, played against them, if they lived in town, if they lived in another state or city. If any of my family members possibly could have known any of them.

I always wondered who I favored most. I have really light brown eyes, and so that’s a really unique, distinctive characteristic that people notice about me first thing they see me. So I always wondered, who did I get my eyes from? Who in my family had my eye color and that it was really distinctive or what features did I show?

And then as I grew older, going to the doctors, they would ask what’s your family background in history and health and health issues? And I couldn’t give them anything because I have no idea. So that really became something of concern for me as I got older, being a teenager and then growing older.

Jennifer Jaworski:   Right. So, what led you to search for your birth family? I know that we’re skipping ahead just a smidge here, but I do want to move on with your story because this is where it really becomes interesting is, when you went to search for them, when did you do that and what led you to make that decision? Early on, you were a little hesitant about how your parents would feel about that. So take us through that part of it, if you will, Alexis.

Alexis:  Yes. So I’ve always worried about how they would feel. I realize it’s not always about me, but it’s also about them as well. Maybe they didn’t want people to know I was adopted, or maybe my mom didn’t want people to know she couldn’t have kids of her own. After all, she did keep my adoption a secret. I didn’t want people to ask them a lot of personal questions, and people maybe attacking them. So, it was more of me trying to protect them, but also me protecting myself and being scared to venture out.

I’ve always had really close friends ask me all throughout my life if I want them to help. They knew about my adoption secret and the way I found out, and wanted to help me. I didn’t know how much money was involved, or how to do an investigation, or if a private investigator was needed. I would tell people that I wasn’t ready to have the truth revealed to me. My adoption secret stayed that way.

But one day in college I was watching this show called “Finding Your Roots”. My major was in the science field and that really just spoke life to me, and also made me feel a little selfish for not wanting to know. Maybe my family members were getting older and I would never get the chance to meet them. So it just really made me want to know more about myself and my history and my roots where I came from. And to know more about health issues and different genes that are passed down. To understand a little bit more about my history.

Watching that show by Henry Louis Gates,  really encouraged me to want to know more about my story. Especially watching specific people who are famous, like LL Cool J’s story, and Sean Combs, P. Diddy, Mia Farrow, and Maya Rudolph. Those different people really encouraged me to want to know more about myself.

LL Cool J’s story was really unique. His mom didn’t know growing up that she was adopted, her parents raised her as if they were her own. But through the gene lineages and the connection with science, and being able to look at different base pairs with new technology, they were able to figure out that she was adopted. So, an adoption secret like mine.  Through the database of people who turned in different DNA samples, they were able to find a second cousin who was actually related to LL Cool J’s mother.

So that was really cool for me to learn that story and it made me want to know more about myself. So those were the gateways that opened the doors for me to want to really dig deeper.

Jennifer Jaworski:   Right. That makes a lot of sense to me the way you described that. And so you did. You opened that door. And let’s talk about what you found out. Maybe share, if you would, some of the information. I’m curious if you found what you were looking for.

Alexis:  Yes, so I actually started my search on ancestry.com. I had a couple of different dates because I knew some personal information about my biological mom. I used those dates to find her name and then that led me some more information to do a Google search and also see what was online and Facebook.

Once I found the name, I found an obituary. I found that my biological mom’s brother had just passed away. And it was really unique that I found this obituary because it was a more modern day obituary online, and you can see the obituary and a picture. It told you what city people lived in.

From there I used that tool to go onto Facebook and message a couple of people. I first tried to message the siblings, my biological mom’s siblings, but I didn’t hear anything from anyone. I knew they probably were older and they probably just look at their nieces and nephews pictures on Facebook, but they didn’t use Messenger. So I decided to send messages to actual cousins who would be in their 30s or later 20s, around my age.

Surprisingly, someone actually messaged me back right away and it ended up being one of my cousins. I told him my background and about watching the show, and about my curiosity. I just wanted to know if he knew if he had an aunt that had a child who was given up for adoption in 1990.

He wrote back and told me that the obituary I found was his father’s. And he was really vague. I was really nervous to message him but I really wanted to see what I could find on my own. The adoption agency had told me to use The Central Registry for Adoption, which could take several weeks. After I told him that, he messaged me back again. He said to call him, and that I had a sister. Nothing in my paperwork ever said I had a sister. So that was really shocking to me. He didn’t tell me how old she was or anything, or ask me any questions. He seemed excited about it.

I called him and he gave me my sister’s number, and then I ended up calling her and talking to her for like five hours. She told me she had been looking for me for all my life. I was amazed – she knew about me. She knew her mom was pregnant with me, and she was 17 when my mom gave me up for adoption. My sister had been searching for me my whole life. I told her all about the adoption secret. She told me that she and her and her husband had talked about hiring a private investigator to find me.

So that was a really cool thing for me to find and add to my life. And I was just really shocked. I just was like, wow, I didn’t expect to find a sister.

Jennifer Jaworski:   Well you found out a lot of information. That’s a lot of information there about your birth mother and about a sibling. And how did that impact you? How did you handle that?

Alexis:  At first, I was really just taken by surprise. I know there’s always two sides to a story, you never know what you’re going to find out. And I didn’t expect to really find out too much from that. A sibling. I didn’t know if they would be open to family members wanting to know me or wanting to be a part of my life, wanting me to be around or just maybe a couple of pictures, or just to be friends on Facebook. I didn’t know what I was going to find. But I was really excited to have this new information and actually have a sister because I’ve always grown up as an only child and I’ve always wanted siblings. And my mom, when she found out that I had a sibling, she was really shocked. She didn’t believe me because our paperwork never mentioned that I had a sibling.

I’m older now. I’m responsible. I can definitely establish a relationship with a sister, and I know that I’m safe and I can make smart decisions and smart choices. It’s never too late, in a sense.

Jennifer Jaworski: Right. And I think there is one piece that you had shared with me that I’d love for you to mention here, the story of your name.

Alexis:   Yes. So when I spoke to my sister, she got one of my aunts on the phone, and she said, “Alexis, Alexis Renee. I never thought I would be on this earth long enough to meet you.”

And I was like, “what do you mean?” And she goes, “Well, your name has always been Alexis Renee. They kept your biological name.” I go, “No, what do you mean? My parents named me after Alex Haley and my middle name came from one of my aunts who passed away from a car accident.” Her name was Sonya Renee. But everyone in our family called her Renee. So if you knew her and you were family, you called her Renee. And one of my other cousins, both of our middle names are Renee, and we’re named after her and she goes, “No, your mom named you Alexis Renee when she came home from the hospital. She told me that your name was Alexis Renee and your mom’s biological middle name was Renee.”

And I was just taken back and I looked at different paperwork and her middle name was Renee, and they were like, “No, your name has always been Alexis Renee.” So I just realized God put me on this earth for a purpose and that I was truly a blessing. It’s not a coincidence. It’s a blessing. And that I definitely had a special story to share with people, and to be an encouraging light to others. Even if you don’t believe in God, just an encouraging light to others. So that was certainly special for me. My adoption secret was a blessing.

Jennifer Jaworski:  And you certainly are Alexis, and that is really really powerful. You were intended to be Alexis Renee, not only to have the name Alexis Renee, but to be Alexis Renee and that’s… I just get chill bumps I think hearing you talk about your name and the story of that. I think it’s so powerful.

Due to the nature of this particular podcast, we unfortunately don’t have time to hear all of the other great details of your story, but we’ve certainly have hit the high points today, which was important for us to do.

But as we approach the end of our show, I am interested in you maybe telling us what’s next for you. If you’re continuing to search for information and are there still unanswered questions for you regarding your adoption story?

Alexis:   Yes. So I would like to know a little bit more about my mom and my father’s relationship. I know they were never married. I am still doing a small little search to figure out if I can find anything about my biological father because I was able to get a lot of information and find information about my biological mother. So that’s the search I’m on right now and just taking steps one day at a time because there’s a lot of information that was unrevealed to me by my sister.

And so I have learned that stuff can take you by surprise for sure. But there’s always more to a story. I’m excited to learn more about my story and my family members and building a bond with them.

Jennifer Jaworski:  Right. And you talked about earlier, opening that door and getting to the place where you weren’t really ready. Then you became ready and you began this search. And so obviously it’s a process. You didn’t open the door and 30 days later you’ve learned all that you needed. You’re still on the path  in the process of searching and learning about your adoption secret.

And if you can help us close here by talking about what this process has meant to you on a personal level, and maybe lessons learned now that you’ve been through this. What is your takeaway? Your takeaway from your adoption secret?

Alexis:  Yeah, so the takeaway for me has definitely been to not be afraid. To definitely walk with confidence and to be okay for the unknown. My parents probably would have liked for me to approach this a little bit differently because I did it on my own, and then I just gave them all the information at once. But I did try to make sure that I incorporated them in every step of the way. I didn’t want my adoption to be a secret. I know there’s probably some things that they would have wanted me to do differently, but I think the way that I did it was best for me. I feel that I’ve grown a lot as a person. And I feel more whole. I don’t have all the answers, but a lot of more contentment for myself in just knowing who I am and where I came from. My adoption isn’t a secret anymore.

And it’s not that I have new family, but I’m just adding more family and people to my life and building me as a person. So I’m definitely excited for this experience. It has meant a lot for me to have different things answered. Things about my adoption secret. I’m not going through my life without knowing, or walking without knowing.

I used to worry, this is funny, I used to worry that I would date someone that was in my family. I know now that I don’t have to worry about those things anymore.

Jennifer Jaworski:   That is funny. Well, we at Adoption Associates and on Adoption Focus Radio are very grateful, Alexis, that you have come on to the program today and talked so openly about your adoption secret. And as I said earlier, I know that we really just skimmed the surface of what there is, but it is my hope that you’ve said something that resonates with someone else.

And as we know, there are women listening that may be experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and may be considering adoption. I know that your words speak to those women to understand the other side of that plan. Your birth mother made a plan for your life and you’ve shared how the love that you have felt from your parents has been wonderful. And that you have no regrets being raised in adoption. So a big thank you, Alexis. Just all my love to you for the information.

Alexis:    Thank you for having me.

Jennifer Jaworski:    Yes, you’re very welcome. And thank you so much for what you’ve done here today. For those interested in connecting with Adoption Associates, you can call us at (800) 677-2367, or on the web at adoptionassociates.net.

Alexis:  Thank you.

Jennifer Jaworski:   For now this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. I hope you have a great day, everyone. Bye bye.