Last week’s issue, “Be Careful Where You Spit!”, written by our fearless co-founder Regina, received a ton of interest! We received such incredible feedback from so many of our members. Like you, I was riveted by Regina’s story. What would it be like to learn over e-mail that you had FOUR half-sisters, a half-brother and 43 cousins? And how would it feel to meet them for the first time? Would you lament all the lost years? Or would you just be grateful for the technology that brought you together?
So I bribed Regina with a cup of coffee and peppered her with questions, which she graciously answered (she even drew me a little family tree!):
Did you always know you were adopted?
Oh yes. There was never a time when I didn’t know. Growing up, my adoptive mother would tell me this really sweet story about going to the hospital and picking me (ME!) out of all the babies in the nursery. It always made me feel so special and wanted.
You first searched for your birth parents at age 27. What prompted that?
Well my adoptive father had just died, which incited a lot of curiosity and soul searching about who I was and where I came from. [Regina’s adoptive mother died when Regina was nine.] The agency in Pennsylvania that handled my adoption was able to answer some questions about my birth mother and helped me get in touch with her. My birth mother wrote me a letter when she found out I was looking for her, which I responded to, but I ultimately decided not to pursue a relationship. All I can say is that what I needed to be in the letter wasn’t there to move forward with a meeting. So I basically closed the door on that part of my life and moved on.
Did you ever wonder about your birth family after that?
Sometimes, but I never thought I’d meet them.
Fast forward to when you received the e-mails through Ancestry.com. What was your initial reaction?
At first I thought they were a scam. I hadn’t been on the site in years, and I didn’t understand how or why these people were contacting me. Then I went back on the site and saw exactly how much DNA I shared with the people who e-mailed me. The first person I reached out to—my half-sister Julie, with whom I share a birth mother—had actually tried to contact me earlier in the fall but somehow I missed the e-mail. Thankfully she’s persistent! I learned that our birth mother had one child at 22 out of wedlock and one child from an extramarital affair; both resulted in babies (i.e. Julie and me) whom she gave up for adoption. I also found out that our birth mother passed away several years ago.
Were you nervous to call Julie?
Strangely no. I just picked up the phone and dialed, which is so NOT me. We talked for about 45 minutes. It was a great conversation, not awkward at all.
You met Julie for the first time this month. What was that like?
It was very emotional. We both just hugged each other and cried. I felt such a connection to her. I think because we both had never met an actual sibling, by blood. She is also just full of life and love. She was adopted through an agency in Maryland, and those records are still sealed. She’s been searching for information about her birth parents for 30 years!
You also learned you have three other half-sisters, a half-brother and 43 cousins!
Yes, I met my other half-sisters last weekend in New Jersey. They were raised by my birth mother and her husband in Philadelphia.
How did you feel about meeting them?
So nervous! During the drive there my palms were so sweaty, and I kept feeling like I was going to pass out. My husband came with me and I told him his job was to keep the conversation going. At one point everyone fell silent, and my husband chimed in with, “So, are any of you Eagles fans?” Then everyone started talking again. But it was good. Just different from when I met Julie.
How do your husband and children feel about your newly discovered siblings and relatives?
They’re very supportive. Everyone is now friends on Facebook and I’m sure my kids will meet everyone someday. My daughter is even writing a screenplay.
Yep. She has to write a screenplay for one of her college classes, and she’s like, “Well I’ll just write about you mom.”
So we might see you on Netflix?
Oh no, not me, just the story. But how about Jennifer Connelly playing me. That would be nice!
What’s the next step in this journey?
Well I still don’t know anything about my birth father. I could have other half-siblings out there! I’m planning to submit my DNA to other sites too, like 23andMe, to see if I can fill in some missing pieces. I sent away for my original birth certificate. In November 2016, Governor Wolf signed Act 127. This Act outlines the process and requirements for adopted individuals to receive a noncertified copy of their original birth record. Under this new law the Department of Health will release a copy of an original birth record that includes the names and ages of the birth parents. There’s also a big reunion in May where I’ll get to meet my cousins.
How do you feel about genetic testing kits after this experience?
Well, I wouldn’t go into them lightly, even if you think you know everything about your family history. The results can be life-changing, and you need to be prepared for that. Look, I just did it to confirm that I’m Irish. Never in a million years did I think I would make all these connections.
Are you happy you learned this when you did, or do you wish the information had come earlier?
I’m happy to have learned the things I didn’t know. I didn’t know Julie existed and she’s wonderful. I do believe everything happens when it’s supposed to happen. I tried to find information at 27 and there’s a reason it didn’t work out. Today, at 51, I know who I am. I’m at a great place in life. I don’t want any drama or craziness. Any meaningful relationships that come from this experience are icing on the cake.
Thank you Regina!!
Your (nosy) Neighbor,