What age were you when you were adopted?
I was adopted at six weeks old.
When and how did you find out you were adopted?
I was in the 4th grade when my mother told me. I was practicing my piano when she came in and sat down next to me on the bench. She waited for me to finish, put her arm around me, and asked me if I knew that I was special. I told her I knew that but then she said that I was special because they chose me. She explained to me in such a perfect way to a child that they had chosen me out of all the boys and girls. I remember feeling so good about myself, and I was SO excited to tell all of my friends at school.
You mention you have always been curious about your adoption? What were you most curious about?
Without a doubt, my biggest curiosity was about my birth mother’s appearance. I was so intent on solving the mystery of who she was that I became a huge snoop. I had found my parents’ papers on the adoption and read the one paragraph that physically described my birth mother and listed her hobbies. She sounded exactly like me. I always said that I just wanted to see a picture of
her and I would be happy.
How open were your adoptive parents about your adoption?
My mom told me, of course, and answered all of my questions even though she really didn’t know much. However, after our discussion that day we didn’t talk about it. I can think of only two other times we spoke of it until the day I found my birth mother. My mom saw me as her child and that I came from her body. She would very often make comments about how I had inherited this or that from her or my dad, or I was just like my cousins. She believed so hard that I was hers she began to think that I inherited genetic traits! In one of my posts, I talk about how that conviction she had just reinforced for me the fact that I belonged. Therefore, I didn’t want to hurt her feelings or make her think that I didn’t love her by letting her know I was curious about my birth mother.
How did they feel about you searching?
I never told them I was searching. In fact, my original intention was just to find out the identity of my birth mother so that I could finally see what she looked like so I didn’t see the need in possibly upsetting them if I wasn’t going actually to meet her. It was also possible that she was no longer living so I didn’t tell them. When the private investigator did find her, they contacted her, which is not what I had intended them to do. However, I got a phone call from them saying she had received the letter they sent her and called them and was interested in meeting me. I couldn’t resist…. So then I had to tell my parents. My mom said she always knew that I would search.
Has it changed your relationship with your adoptive family since you reunited with your birth family?
It was a life-changing event for me and affected me greatly so yes, I can say there was change but in a very positive way. It took some time (a lot of time) and a lot of patience, but my parents and I seem to have a stronger-than-ever relationship. My mom had to come to terms with it, and I had to do a LOT to prove to her that it didn’t change how much I loved her but after she had met my birth mother, all of that faded away. Meeting her eased my mom’s insecurities. She was less threatened that she had come to steal me away from her. They have become good friends now! It’s simply amazing.
After reading your blog and Facebook page, I see you seem to have a great relationship with both of your families. Did you ever feel like you had to pick between the two?
No, thankfully neither family ever made me feel like I had to pick between them. I think that was part of my mom’s fears was that I would pick my birth mother over her but I have since proven that is not the case and I make it clear that my adoptive parents would come first. I just can’t imagine either of them ever putting me in that position. They all know that my adoption was a wonderful partnership between my birth mother and my mom and dad. That partnership remains even today, nd that is how we all treat it. On the lighter side, I have a blog post that asks Miss Manners why she never wrote an article on proper etiquette for dealing with your adoptive and birth families! That has been a little challenging but I think I have it figured out now.
How did you find your birth family? How did you prepare for that day?
The first thing I was able to do was request my original birth certificate from the state of Alabama. There had been a legislation change that opened the records and I bet I was the first one to submit my request! I got my records and there was a discrepancy of her last name on the birth certificate versus what was on the adoption papers. I was worried that I didn’t have her real name, either, as she had been in a home for unwed mothers and it was common for them to use aliases. It was another four years before I ended up hiring an online private investigation firm to search for her. I gave them all of my documents and four weeks later they called me with the news that they had found her. She was still living in the same area as where she had me. These were the days before facebook and social media but if I had those resources I probably could have found her myself! Once I had her number and the “ok” to call her, it took me THREE DAYS to gather up the courage to make that call. I guess I was just scared of the point of no return and scared that it wouldn’t end well. I finally did it, though, and it was lovely.
Did your reunion feel natural or was it something you had to work toward?
She and I have always said that it was like two old friends coming together again. I wasn’t really nervous as my young daughter and I went to meet her and her husband and my half brother. She opened the door and we hugged. There were no tears or cries of joy. It was just peaceful. We hugged and then we sat down to talk about our lives for the last 30 years. I was amazed at how many common interests we had. It felt good.
After watching your Youtube video, I heard you share that you donated one of your kidneys to your birth mom’s sister. How did that happen?
The first day that I had met my birth mother she was telling me about the family. She let me know that my grandfather had died of Polycystic Kidney Disease and unfortunately the disease had been passed down to one of her sisters. She told me that one day she would need a kidney transplant. My inner voice popped into my head and I told myself I’d be the one to donate the kidney. I didn’t say that out loud because it wasn’t really appropriate at that time! But I just asked my birth mother to keep me posted on that. Five years later, it was time for my birth aunt to go on the critical needs list for a kidney. My birth mother was beside herself because she had been tested as a donor and was not suitable. Others in the family had also been tested but no one was suitable. I told her I would go get tested as well. She argued with me that I wasn’t going to do that and she didn’t want me to. I let her go on about it but told her that I was going to get tested and that was that. So I did and I was a suitable match. It was time to go to Alabama for more in-depth testing for both physical and mental tests. I stayed there with my birth aunt and birth mother for a few days and then we found out that I had passed all the tests with flying colors! We scheduled the surgery. I had always known I would be the one to do it. I walked into their lives for many reasons, and that was one of them.
One thing I love about you is your positive spirit about your adoption and life. Have you always been that way?
I think I have always been that way and I credit some of that to my parents for giving me the freedom to try things and succeed or fail. When I’ve failed my mom taught me that I had to pick myself up and move forward with my head held high. She used the term “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” and I did. I have definitely had my down days and times but I’m just not the kind of person who likes to be miserable. I just look for the positive in anything that is going on in my life and I focus on that.
What message would you send to adoptees that are suffering loss and trauma? How would you encourage them?
My theme in life is that everything happens for a reason. Even when you suffer horrible, tragic, life-changing events the only thing you can do and have to do is look for the reason why it has happened. If you suffer a loss or trauma you have to allow yourself time to grieve and be angry but then it’s time to “pick yourself up by the bootstraps”. I promise you that there is a reason and you should be prepared for the fact that the reason may not be to benefit YOU but rather it may be to benefit others. But by proxy, benefitting others benefits you. So really in the end you’re healing by healing others. Find your reason and be patient, it can take time to discover it.
What positive message would you tell an adoptee whose birth family wants nothing to do with them?
I can speak from experience on this one! My birth father had never known that my birth mother was pregnant with me when he broke up with her and she never told him. When I wrote my book earlier this year she decided it was time to let him know. She called him and told him all about me. He had nothing to say, no questions about me, nor did he ask to meet me. This distressed her greatly because she knows me and knows all that I have to offer. However, it didn’t bother me at all. First of all, this was a huge piece of news that no one could really be prepared to hear, especially after 38 years. I don’t blame him for not wanting to meet me. He has a new wife and family and most likely wouldn’t be able to deal with the consequences from telling them. I know him, though, and that was what I really wanted. I have seen pictures of him and his family and that was enough for me. But here is how I really see it: If you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t know that you wanted to know me. For the adoptees who actually met their birth parents and they later rejected you, I would say again that everything happens for a reason. If they’re walking away from you then it is probably for the best. It will be painful but they likely would just hurt you again down the road so it’s better to cut the cord… again.
Tell me about your blog and your book? What made you start writing? What do you wish to accomplish through your writing and Youtube videos?
I’ve always considered writing about my life and how being adopted has affected me and the decisions I’ve made. I had attempted a few times to start but never got anywhere with it. Then earlier this year my inner voice spoke to me again and it told me it was time to write the book. It all makes sense to me now, the previous times I had begun to write I had not been through some of the most amazing times of my life. My soul told me that now was the time. It only took me two weeks to write the book; it seemed to flow so easily. Shortly after it was done I started doing what most people do and looking for an agent. I also attended a mini-conference with the Florida Writer’s Association and that is where I listened to a seminar on blogging. I of course knew what blogging was but never read blogs nor paid much attention to them. As the lady spoke about it, I realized that a blog was the perfect way to promote my book. She made it sound so easy to do, too. So not long after that, and after many failed agent attempts, I took the chance and started the blog. I posted a YouTube video about it to bring awareness to it. I want to do more of those. As I began to write every day, I realized that I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It has truly become my release. I started it for selfish reasons but have now realized that one of my greatest joys is trying to help other adoptees find positivity in their lives from their experiences, just as I have. I look forward to the day that I have more interaction from the issues I debate on the blog so that I can help even more people.
When can we expect your book to be released?
I expect it to be available by Thanksgiving this year! I’m SO excited!
If you could leave us with one quote about life, what would it be?
“Where I am today is where my mind put me; where I’ll be tomorrow is where my mind will put me.” I actually stole that from Billy Blanks, the Taebo creator.
Liz Story was was born in Mobile, Alabama and raised in West Point, Arkansas. After a failed attempt at college, she joined the US Army and served as an intelligence analyst and Arabic linguist. After the Army, Story returned to Arkansas briefly and then moved to Florida. She went back to school and received a Masters in Business Administration degree and work as a business development professional in the defense industry. Story found her birth mother when she turned 30 years old, and donated her kidney to her biological aunt. Story shares that she has an incredible husband and the most beautiful, amazing, and talented daughter who is 14 years old.
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I never found out I was adopted until I was an adult. My parents were deceased so I could not ask them any questions about the adoption. I've been searching for information about my biological family and writing about the journey on my blog, Revelations (www.lynneamiller.com). Liz's story is very inspiring. How amazing that her birth mother and adoptive mother can have a constructive relationship.