Monday Notes: Finding My Biological Family (Part I)

After delivering my first baby, I knew it was time. I had to find my biological mother. It was unfathomable to me that a woman could nurture a baby in her womb for months, deliver a child, and hold it in those first few proverbial moments, and then give her up for adoption. Something heavy had to hang in the balance to make such a decision.

So, in 1999, I contacted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

The woman who answered the phone told me that their department was not in the business of reconnecting families; they existed to find loving homes for children.

Her apathy left me little choice but to wait.

Months later, I placed another call. A different woman revealed the name of a group that was in the business of re-connecting families: The Midwest Adoption Agency. The social worker rattled off a list of information they needed to conduct a search: birthdate, (adopted) parents’ names, year of adoption, official birth certificate, and birth name.

It had never dawned on me that I had a different name. My father, unlike Grannie, was ecstatic to know that I was conducting this search.

“She had named you Petula,” he said. “Your mom and I always thought that was strange. Maybe she liked the singer, Petula Clark, we thought.”

I had never heard of Petula Clark, but I had heard of the song, Downtown, for which she is known.

img_8191The following year, the counselor had found my birth records and sent a detailed report. My mother, Joyce Belcher had considered abortion several times before giving up the idea entirely. This was noted by her social worker.

Joyce had been diagnosed with acute schizophrenia: undifferentiated type. Up until my birth on May 23, 1973, she was seen walking up and down the sidewalk talking to herself. After giving birth, she would lay on the sofa doing nothing most of the day, laughing hysterically.

By the time I was five-months-old, Joyce had left me in our apartment building. According to the report, a janitor found me and contacted the police. I’d been there several days. Joyce named this same janitor as the father; he denied it. Shortly after, she surrendered her parental rights.

Two more letters followed the report. Joyce Belcher had died when she was twenty-eight years old, about five years after I’d been adopted. Her cause of death: drowning.

She was survived by her father, her four sisters, and my older sister.

***

In 2001, I birthed another child. This time, I understood the circumstances surrounding my adoption. But another question lingered. How could four sisters allow the State to take their sister’s child?

Midwest Adoption Agency allowed me to ask for a Request for Non-Identifying Information. You can only ask for this information one time, from one person. I chose my birth grandfather. As the family’s patriarch, it seemed he would have the most information.

He didn’t.

Not only had each of his seven children been a part of the Illinois foster care system (he had two sons), but also only one of his five adult daughters kept in contact with him. Her name was Catherine. I would later find out that she was the only one that he didn’t molest, thus their continued connection.

Aunt Catherine and I spoke for the first time on February 6, 2005. It was Super Bowl Sunday. She was excited to hear my voice and wanted to hear all about who raised me and who I’d become.

“I always thought you were raised by some rich black people,” she confided.

I assured her I was not.

“I tried to get you, but the State wouldn’t let me. They told me to leave you alone and not ask about it anymore,” her voice trailed off.

Later, her daughter would tell me that each weekend, Aunt Catherine would get drunk and cry about finding Petula.

Aunt Catherine and I met once and marveled at our similar wide smiles and pointy noses. We talked weekly, until she suffered a heart attack and died in June 2006.

That’s when I decided not to seek out my biological father. There was little reason to endure more emotional pain.

Part II

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56 thoughts on “Monday Notes: Finding My Biological Family (Part I)

  1. Thank you for liking and following my blog page. I hope that i have mentioned a few things that will keep you motivated and inspired to do the special things you do in your community and profession.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad you were born Kathy. I made it through most of that holding back tears till the part about Aunt Catherine wanting to find you. How heartbreaking that there was a person aching to find and love you all those years. You really were not consciously abandoned. I’m sure the support services for people with nental illnesd were even worse back then, much less for a black woman with a mental illness.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Awww ❤ Thanks for saying this. Yes. Hearing that made me feel a little better about the situation. Knowing that someone was at least concerned and remembered that I was a person in the world made a difference in how I'd processed everything.

      You know, this is why I love our friendship. I hadn't even thought about how horrid the mentally ill (in general) were treated, and it was probably 10xs worse for a black woman. You've helped me think about a specific angle for this part of re-telling my story.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. It isnt from a lack of empathy on yiur part, I think you just have too much of your own needs and emotions to focus on when thinking about that part of your life…easier for a person removed from it to consider the impact on all involved. Glad to be that friend 💕

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Well, me and my second daughter (Melony) are in the process of looking for my first daughter. Melony was actually excited when she found out she had a sister. She was 40 when I told her. It’s been quite a process. I hope my first daughter wants to find me. I don’t have a lot of info on her father, unfortunately he was killed before she was born. But we are hoping to find her. Thanks for these posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Elva, are you saying you gave up a daughter for adoption? That’s fascinating to me. I’ve never known anyone who’s done that. What resources have you two been using to locate her?

      …and you’re welcome 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I use the County of Los Angeles Adoption Services. I actually have some info, minus names and addresses from a letter the County sent me years ago. My daughter has had to go through the courts and because she is the sister she may be able to get my daughter’s new name. But court paperwork costs $. I have left a Consent for Contact document with the County. They always have my current info in case my daughter is looking for me. Thanx so much for asking!:)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Look at God! First, I love that you’ve been able to share your journey with such eloquent words. I think it’s very brave and unselfish if you. Second, all I was thinking while reading your story is how blessed you have been. Divine intervention in so many ways! Who knew you could be more inspiring than you already are…lil’ Petula? (I had to.) 😉❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, Kathy, I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for you! You were strong to pursue this, and to put it into perspective. Thanks goodness for loving adoptive parents, and for your loving, practical and forgiving nature. Sometimes, our life is simply what we make it, no matter how it started. I’m not saying this well, but please know I mean it as the highest compliment I can give.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. DEEEEEP……GIRL!!!! I found myself so invested in your mother and her young infant ( YOU, our dear Doc). The crazy part was that I found myself praying that “the baby” didn’t get seriously injured or killed even though I know that you are here with us now to tell your story! And to think that Aunt Catherine only had about a year to get to know you before she passed. I’m just so glad that you all had that time.
    But, um… I much prefer Katherin to Petula…even though I love “Downtown.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL about the last part. Maybe when I’m being petty, I’ll let you call me Petula lol

      Seriously though, the whole thing is divine, in every sense of the word. Thanks for reading and sharing that. As a writer, I do want people to feel as if they’re there, even though you know the outcome, so I appreciate this comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What an incredible story! Your journey brought me to tears. And finding answers only gave you more questions. I can’t even imagine…Thank you for sharing.

    BTW, I bought the record “Down town” by Petula Clark in 1965, and played it non stop in those days. Petula, along with the Beatles, influenced my generation’s music. I loved the name Petula, often using it as my female protagonist’s name in several of my stories while I was in high school. It became a very popular name in the 1960’s and 70’s. To me, It personified a very feminine, yet spirited and somewhat rebellious female character. One dressed in the latest mod fashions of the day. Take a look at photos of Carnaby Street in the late 60’s. (Look at model Jean Shrimptron and Naomi Sims.) That’s how I saw the name Petula. Beautiful, confident, sweet, intelligent and thoroughly modern!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lesley! And thanks for sharing about your view of Petula Clark. I’ve not met anyone who quite looked up to her. The way you’ve described her is exactly how I feel: rebellious, female character, etc ❤

      Like

    1. Thank you so much. You’re welcome. I share so others can relate and realize they don’t have to live in shame. I’m glad I met her too. It was one of the highlights of this part of the experience.

      Like

    1. Most definitely Neil. I’m sure I cannot even imagine. It amazes me what we do to one another. Sometimes, I also wonder what my grandfather must have gone through to abuse his children in such a way. Stuff like that stems from somewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My dear Kathy, my heart goes out to you — at the same time, I am in awe of what a wonderful person you’ve made of yourself. Without going into protracted detail about my background (I was not adopted), I have often found the kindness of strangers to be essential. We are all of us a family, the family of people, and we’d do well to understand how even the smallest good deeds can go a long way. Each of us is an example for the rest, either for what not to do or what to do…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much da-AL. I attribute part of my “success” to being adopted into an uplifting family.

      I agree with you about everyone being family. I often say that we’re all connected, which I take to mean the same thing. And because I believe we’re all connected, I think that whomever you come in contact with is there for a reason to support or to be supported.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I was adopted when I was 1 year old and later went looking for my birth family. Long story short, what you forget is you have had a completely different life to your birth family and you have nothing in common with them. My birth mother and father had five other children after me but I had a fairly privileged middle class upbringing with my brother who was also adopted. In the end your real family is the adopted one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience! I’ve learned that it can be that you have nothing/something in common with either parts of family (adopted of bio), so I understand what you’re saying.

      For me, whoever you decide is family can also be your family.

      Like

  10. Such a heavy personal history! I am happy you found some answers at least, and got to meet your biological aunt. I am even happier you ended up with your eventual parents, were not molested by your grandfather, and can’t remember a single episode of your birthmother’s schizofrenia.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. When you start digging, you never know what you’re going to find. What a story, KE! Proud of you for persevering, trying to learn about and connect with your biological mom’s family. Adoption agencies don’t make it easy, it seems. How funny that when Petula and her aunt meet again, they are Katherin and Catherine. XXX, Joan 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Joan! Well, I guess the state qualifies as an adoption agency, sort of. I think government institutions, by and large, have crappy attitudes (for some reason). Our same names was the craziest thing to me! Also, it was pretty divine that she’d lived in Memphis most of her adult life, but had recently moved to Savannah, GA, which is about 2 hours from me.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Kate, thank you for sharing. Your story teaches us how the world has so many hidden
    sorrowss and how these can turn to light. I feel for your poor mother who seemed to have
    no-one and am glad you found the truth. It must have felt imperative.
    Just think, you could have died in that apartment, a baby hungry, thirsty and screaming.
    But you didn’t. 🤗 .

    miriam

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome Miriam. I like how you’ve phrased that, “hidden sorrows” that “can turn to light” is pretty accurate, if the person wants to let the light in, especially. I sympathize/empathize with her as well. I cannot even imagine.

      And yes…when I read that part of the report, I knew instantly that I was supposed to be not only born, but also thriving, as I am today. I also realized that I’ve always been safe and supported, no matter the circumstances. We always have what we need.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh, my! What a story this is, Katherin. Such tragedy and heartbreak. You have risen from ashes and truly are an inspiration. I’m so sad for your biological mother because schizophrenia is such a horrible disease. Your birth grandfather sounds evil. I’m so sorry.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Judy! I appreciate your saying that. I feel for her too. I cannot imagine that level of mental illness. I do think his acts were evil, but I can’t help to wonder what happened in his childhood for him to grow to abuse his own children.

      Liked by 1 person

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