102 [Update] Maeve Kelly


Full show notes: http://www.adopteeson.com/listen/102

Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye.

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(intro music)

Haley - You’re listening to Adoptees ON, the podcast where adoptees discuss the adoption experience. This is episode 102, Maeve. I’m your host, Haley Radke. Maeve Kelly is back on the show with us today, giving us some huge updates. She was a favorite guest in season one of the podcast, sharing about her secondary rejection from her first mother. Maeve shares today, how she reached out to her half siblings, what it took for her to face the possibility of more rejections, and how DNA is leaving no room for secrets in adoption anymore. There is also a brand new update in her search for her father. We wrap up with recommended resources and as always, links to everything we’ll be talking about today, are on the website, AdopteesOn.com. Let’s listen in.

(upbeat music)

Haley - I’m so pleased to welcome back to Adoptees On, Maeve Kelly! Welcome Maeve!

Maeve - Thank you!

Haley - So it’s been a little while since you were on the show. Like only a couple years. And I think you were the second person ever that I interviewed.

Maeve - Oh my gosh.

Haley - And you reached out to me on Twitter, we had no connection and then we had this like, amazing conversation, and it was wonderful. And I, I don’t know, I just relistened to it. So if you wanna go back and hear Maeve’s story, you can go to season one, episode 3, that’s how far away it is.

Maeve - It feels like a lifetime ago.

Haley - Right? Right, yeah. Totally. But we have had the privilege of meeting in real life, like really in person since then. And so Maeve has become a really good friend of mine and I have seen all the things that have happened since we’ve recorded and you’ve got some huge updates. So we’re gonna revisit your story today, I’m really excited about that. But before we do, I’m gonna give the fastest Cliff Notes version of your first episode, okay? You ready?

Maeve - Oh boy, yep.

Haley - Okay, ready? Here we go. You took, you had incredible patience with Catholic Charities and worked back and forth with them for over 10 years before you finally hired an investigator to find your first mother and you found her. And she didn’t want contact. But they finally finagled a deal so you got one phone call with her. And then you wrote this beautiful letter, and you poured your heart and soul into it. And what you got back in return, from your first mother’s attorney was a nasty letter and you’re beautifully handwritten letter and photos of your children. And that’s sort of where we wrapped up.

Maeve - Ugh, yeah.

Haley - Ouch. Yeah.

Maeve - Not great!

Haley - No, not great. And you know, we, I’m sort of laughing about that because when we talked, it was one of the first times you had shared your story, and you know, I was just internally weeping through you sharing some really, really painful things. And yet you’re such a strong person and you were talking about how you did want to maybe reach out to some siblings that you have, in the future. And I asked you if you had ever, if you knew who your first father was, and you hadn’t found that out. So where did you go from putting that on pause, because it was really painful to have that secondary rejection in such a nasty way. And where have you come out of that in the last couple years?

Maeve - Oh my gosh. What a saga it has been, it has been a very, I mean as you know, when I last spoke with you in that episode, I had known who my siblings were for about 5 years. And I hadn’t reached out to them because I just couldn’t stand the idea of being rejected again. And after talking to you actually, it really sort of spurred me into action. I realized that I really needed to do that and that I wasn’t ever gonna be at peace until I went ahead and made contact with them. Another thing that kind of spurred me into action a couple months after we first spoke was, my daughter, my middle child, came down with a strange condition in her eye where she was feeling a lot of pain sort of around her eye. She had a droopy eye and it was really affecting her on a daily basis. And we took her to ophthalmologists, and neurologists, and psychiatrists, and she went to a pain clinic, and we had her at the GP and no one could figure out what was going on with her eye. And I think it was in the second CAT scan of her brain that she had, that the 10th probably, that I had to write on the medical forms that I had no idea what my own family medical history was, that I just got angry. And I was tired of not being able to take care of my child, that I felt like I was failing her by not knowing my own family medical history. And I’d be asked over and over again, is there any you know eye disease in the family? And I'd always have to say I don’t know. And I got angry, I was angry at myself for not having the guts to reach out to these, my 2 siblings and get some answers, at least on that piece. On the family medical history. So that’s what really kind of kicked me into motion. And a couple months after we first talked, I went ahead and I wrote identical letters to the two of them, one lives on the west coast of the U.S. and one lives in the Washington DC area. Wrote them identical letters. I again, slaved over these letters as I had done with the letter to my mother. And dropped them in the mailbox. This was in March, I believe, of 2016. A couple weeks later I got a call from my brother. He called me and said he had gotten the letters. And that he and my sister had talked, that they had no idea of my existence, they were completely shocked. But one thing that they wanted me to know immediately, one thing I had put in the letter was that, I was anxious to understand if there was any family medical history that I needed to know about, and in particular, if there was any eye disease in the family. And my brother, when he called me in that very first phone call said, you know, we want you to know that our mother is legally blind in one eye from a genetic condition, that went untreated in her childhood. And we thought that was very important for you to know immediately, even if nothing ever comes of our relationship. So that was a big shock, obviously, and you know I'd come to find out that my daughter may have had the same thing. And of course I told her medical practitioners that and they were able to adjust their prognosis for her and treatment for her which made me feel better. In any event, that started a conversation with my siblings. They flew to meet me separately and I have met them each one time. And overall, you know Haley, it didn’t go very well. They were very polite and very measured and very distant. My mother had never told them that I existed and they were told a story that essentially I had no right to be contacting them, that you know she was distressed at what had happened, that I had contacted them. And I believe what they were sort of dispatched to do, was to give me whatever information that I wanted to ask them about the family. Certainly the medical things. And then they were, I think dispatched to be the go between, between me and my other. My sister told me some really horrible things in our one meeting including that my mother had wanted to impart to me that she wanted to kill herself when she was pregnant with me, that’s how distressed she was. My sister looked at me in the face and said, you know your father offered to pay for an abortion. You know and told me that I really needed to understand where our mother was coming from and did I understand, had I ever read anything about the Baby Scoop Era.

Haley - Had you ever read anything?

Maeve - Exactly. Do I, looked at me and suggested to me that I really needed to understand where she was coming from. And you know I of course held back. But it, she was of the two, my brother was more kind. My sister, despite the fact that we look very, very much alike, really was very cold. And that’s kind of the way it stood. I've tried to reach out to them again, I’ve had a little bit of success with my brother. He’s been a little more open. We’ve had some texts and we’ve had a few phone calls here and there over the years. He seems like a really good person. My sister really has just completely ignored me. So that’s been, that’s been really hard. Neither one of them was very open with sharing anything else about the family. Of course my mother doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. And I tried to ask my brother if he would intercede for me with regard to who my father was. And see if she would be willing to tell me that. And he, his response was, she’s not willing to tell you who he is. She considers this to be a closed adoption. I remember those words quite well. This was a closed adoption and you are a chapter in her life that she does not wish to open again. So yeah. That didn’t go really well. I don’t think will be on Long Lost Family. I don’t think that’s the heartwarming reunion that you know, we see on reality TV.

Haley - Oh my goodness.

Maeve - So that didn't go very well.

Haley - I don’t understand, I don’t know. To me, just even them agreeing to meet with you, like in person felt so hopeful when we had talked about it, you know in real time about these things happening. And I mean, can you, I know you said there are sort of like, it’s almost like the hired goons your mom like, hired, you know?

Maeve - Yep.

Haley - To like, take care of the problem. Why the in person meeting, do you think?

Maeve - That’s a really good question.

Haley - If they just weren’t gonna communicate with you after really, or this is it. It just seems a little extra to do an in person meeting.

Maeve - It is really interesting. You know, they really snowed me. And my husband. I mean, he met them too, I had probably an hour to an hour and a half with each of them and then he kind of like swooped in at the end and met them and shook their hand and stuff. He really felt like, it went well and that this was the beginning of you know, a little bit of a connection between us. They really put on a good show, but then they just disappeared. Didn't want anything to do with me. To answer your question, I don’t know why they would fly to meet me in person. They wanted to get a look at me? I don’t know, it’s really interesting. I’ll tell you though, I will never, never forget what it was like for me to walk into that. So I met my sister first. And we agreed to meet at this sort of cool little pub in Cambridge. And I took the day off from work. I got my hair done, you know, I got  a blowout as they say. I think I bought a new purse or I brought my absolute best purse. My husband took the day off from work because I was so nervous about meeting her, that I was a wreck. I was a complete wreck. And he took the day off. His whole point of taking the day off was to drive me into the city which I’ve driven into a million times, it’s where I work. But I was so nervous, I couldn’t drive. So we get there, we get to Cambridge and I will, the strength it took me to walk in there, I will just never forget that. It was like surreal. We use and overuse that word so much in adoption land I feel like, but that’s just the best word to describe it. I will just never forget walking into that pub and seeing her sitting there. I had never laid eyes in my life on a relative that was not my child. This is the first person I had ever seen that was related to me. that was not my own child. And it was the biggest moment of my life. By far. It was the, and I was so proud of myself. That I had made this happen. I also felt like, it was blasphemy in a way. you know I grew up with the idea that I was never supposed to look for my family, that I didn’t deserve to know who I was. It wasn’t anything that anyone said to me, it was just an unspoken understanding, the way I that I grew up. It was sinful or something wrong with me if I wanted to know who I was. And certainly every avenue was blocked for me. I had to move heaven and earth to find her. To begin with. So the idea that this was actually happening, that I was actually laying eyes on her and meeting her was shocking and surreal. And so exciting and emotional and the biggest moment of my life. I will never forget, I will never forget looking at her and I was like looking at myself. It was incredible.

Haley - You look so much alike, so much alike.

Maeve - We, oh my goodness, do we ever. What’s real interesting too, the whole time, we had this waitress and I was dying for her to say something like, wow, you two must be sisters. I was praying, I wanted someone to say it. Wow! You two look so much alike, you must be related. because I've never had that before in my whole life. And I wanted to get up on top the table and start screaming like, do you, does everyone see this? I’m related to someone! I look like someone! Everyone! Check this out! I wanted to do, like a dance. It was great, it was so great. Anyway, I’m off topic.

Haley - No, I’m trying to picture for her, going into this meeting with you. And I wonder if she could see that you look like her or if she’s so focused on okay, let’s wrap this up so we don’t have to deal with this anymore. Like were you, was she looking at you like that, instead of like this is my sister?

Maeve - I think it’s the wrapping up, yes. Looking back, at the time I didn't know that, but looking back on it now, that’s what it was. You know it’s not nearly the momentous occasion that it is for me, I mean she’s grown up with people that she’s related to her entire life. Now she doesn’t have another sister. I am her only sister. So I was, I was hoping for that connection. But looking back on it now, it seems pretty obvious that what my mother had done was to tell them, if you go and meet her and answer whatever questions she has, maybe she’ll go away. And I think they were dispatched to do exactly that.

Haley - I just one other kind of point about this, is you’ve told me before that, you yourself, you and your husband are professionals, successful people, you’re doing alright. And you told me that they are both quite accomplished themselves and are you know, upper middle class kind of situation. And do you think that had any impact? you know we talk sometimes about this like mythology about we reach out to first family but we don’t want them to think we’re coming for money or anything like that, right?

Maeve - So I mean, I do think perhaps that may have had an impact, or that may have been one of the reasons they wanted to meet me. lay eyes on me like I said, and make sure that I'm not out for money, I’m not crazy. I'm not mentally deranged. So that may be it. They are both incredibly accomplished individuals and very intelligent and very well educated and they both, you know, they’re both parents and they have nice families and it’s, we have a lot in common.

Haley - I was gonna say, just like you, just like you.

Maeve - Well, you know, we do. When I was speaking with my sister, we have the same politics and we like, I found out we played the same sports growing up. We kind of talk the same way and we’re both I think, I felt like we had the same sense of humor. I mean again, I only spoke with her for an hour or so or something like that. But I did really see a lot of similarities with us. And it’s too bad that I didn't, I wasn’t, sort of, allowed to explore any more of that.

Haley - Okay. So you asked your brother if you could get any info about who your first father was, because you don’t have access to open records. You had your mother’s name initially just because of your adoptive parents applied for this particular document, right before those records closed, and it was kind of this really special thing. We talked about this in your first interview, it was really remarkable that you had that. But there’s no information about your first father. So, he says no. we’re not talking about that, we’re not gonna give you that name.

Maeve - Right.

Haley - Did you know keep searching for your paternal side?

Maeve - I did. Yes, so my brother was like, go pound sand. And I, you know I didn’t, in all of this I don’t know, I didn’t hold it against him. I can't educate him on adoption. And I’ve said this to him too. I really do, I wish the best for him and I really feel for the situation that he’s in, I don’t think he’s a bad person. He’s in a terrible spot, a terrible spot. I think, and it’s my mother that’s put him in this spot. And I've said to him a million times like, we don’t have to talk about adoption stuff. How about we talk about whatever. And the times that I’ve been able to talk to him, I've really tried to get him out of the crosshairs of all of this and talk about life and what’s going on with his family and his job and politics or travel or whatever. Because it’s just not his fault, this position that he’s been put in. My mother put him in this position. And I don’t blame him, I really don’t. And so after he told me that why my mother wouldn’t tell me who my father was, I let it go with him. I wasn’t gonna push it anymore. But what I did tell him was, well okay, but I just need to let you know that I have my DNA like in every possible database and I have for 10 years. I’ve been doing, I did 23 and Me, and Ancestry, and FT DNA, and My Heritage. And you name it, I’m in all of them. And it may take me a long time and it may cost me some money and cost me pain, but I’m gonna find this out. If it kills me, I’m gonna find out who my father is. And the other thing is that you need to know is, even though my mother wants to keep me a secret from the rest of her family, and that’s exactly what she did. She polled my siblings when they came to her. So after I had sent the letter to them, they went to her and said, uh, mom, do you have something to tell us?

Haley - Awkward.

Maeve - And she did admit it to them, but then begged them not to tell anyone else in the family of my existence. So that includes, I came to find out, 36 cousins on that side.

Haley - Oh my gosh.

Maeve - Begged them not to tell any of her siblings or any of the 36 cousins. Any of their friends. She begged them not to tell any of their friends which is interesting. Or anyone they socialize with or anyone like that. And they have agreed to that. So I told my brother, listen, two things are gonna happen at some point with regard to this DNA. I’m gonna find out who my father is no matter what, I’m gonna make this happen. And secondly, someone on our maternal side of the family is gonna find out about me at some point. because of those 36 cousins, someone is gonna test. And I am not going to lie to anyone that reaches out to me and says, oh, by the way, who the heck are you? So I want you to be prepared for that, and I think you ought to tell our mother that. Because that’s probably not the way that she would want this information to come out. Well a couple years went by and nothing happened, neither side tested and I had about 4,000 fourth cousins.

Haley - Oh my gosh. Is that really what you have?

Maeve - I think I do, it’s crazy. I have so many fourth to fifth cousins, it was in the thousands for sure.

Haley - Wow.

Maeve - And then September 16th of 2017, I was set to go to a football game with my son that day, and I hadn’t checked 23 and Me in a really long time. I’d just stopped checking ‘cause it was kind of depressing. I always had these fourth cousins and I just didn’t know what to do with it. And I knew, maybe I could try to find a search angel or should I hire someone or should I get a degree in genealogy, like I just don’t know what to do. It was just depressing. And suddenly, I’d logged into 23 and Me and it said, first cousin match. And it gave a full name of a person, a woman, and said it was my first cousin. So this is the closest match I have had. And I Googled her name, sitting there at the computer, and in about, and I’m not exaggerating, Haley. In about 15 minutes, I realized who my father was. Because this woman had such an unusual name and she had recently written an essay, she’s young, she had graduated from college, just graduated from college. And when she was in college she had written an essay about her heritage and her family and some things like that. And had used her family’s names and I just Googled the name, which was very unusual, where she was from, she’s an only child. And I realized that she was my niece. And I realized that her father is my half brother and then I realized who my father was. Which is his father. So her grandfather. So from this first cousin match, it was really easy for me to figure out that she was my niece and that her grandfather’s my father. And this was all publicly available information from Googling her name and just doing a little bit of research on Ancestry.com. It has some family trees and there’s like yearbooks and things like that online.

Haley - Yep.

Maeve - And just based on also, just the very scant information that I had about my father, sort of like how old he was, where he grew up, and what he was doing at the time of my conception. I was able to put this all together. And yeah.

Haley - Oh my gosh.

Maeve - So that all happened September 16th, 2017. And yeah. That was shocking, then I had to go to the football game with my son, pretend like nothing had happened.

Haley - Well I wanna come back to that idea a little later in the interview, about pretending like nothing’s happening. But, so what did you do? If you get a first cousin match, she gets that same match, yes?

Maeve - So she did, and again it turns out she’s my niece not my first cousin.

Haley - Right.

Maeve - But so she, so for about a week, I didn’t know what to do. I was kind of waiting for her to reach out to me and she didn’t reach out to me. And she didn’t have any other close family matches on there. Like me, she had a bunch of fourth cousins and then there’s me. and I was like, when is this person gonna reach out to me and say hello, who are you? And what I decided to do was, after she hadn’t reached out to me and it seemed like she hadn’t logged in, I decided, because she’s really young, she was only 22 at the time, just graduated from college. I just didn’t feel right about contacting her and laying this information on her. I really had a very strong feeling that she didn’t know about me, that no one in the family knew about me. And I didn't feel it was right to, me at 49 years old to reach out to this 22 year old and say, he guess what, I’m your aunt. It didn’t feel respectful and I just felt like it was really not my place. So what I decided to do was reach out instead to her father who’s my half-brother. And I did that actually, because I'd been so burned by direct contact before with my mother and my maternal siblings, I asked my, I was working with a counselor. And I asked her, she’s a social worker, to make the contact and so she did. She called my brother, left several messages, but he never returned. This went on for like 3 weeks, kept calling him and leaving messages. And then finally she left a very sort of substantive, urgent message saying that she was a social worker from Boston and it was very important that he call her. He finally called her back and then he told me later the reason, he thought that it was just some kind of scam or something like that. And he wasn’t willing to call back a stranger he had never heard of. But then when she left him that very urgent message, he did call her back. And she kind of set up our first phone call. She explained to him who I was and we had our first phone call maybe three weeks after the time that I figured out who he was. And then it went from there.

Haley - And what was that call like?

Maeve - It was much better than the calls and contacts I had had with my maternal siblings, believe it or not.

Haley - Ok.

Maeve - He also had not known of my existence. He was incredibly kind, older than me. So you know what, it’s kind of I’ve said before, so I am an oldest child, I’m a youngest child, I’m a middle child, and I’m an only child. I really am. so on the paternal side, I am the youngest. He is, you know, I think 6 or 7 years older than me. And so I am –

Haley - And he’s the only son?

Maeve - Yes, he’s the only son, but then there’s also, I have a sister, his sister as well I have a half-sister.

Haley - So you have a brother and sister on both sides.

Maeve - Correct. So my father had already had those two children when I was conceived. Unbeknownst to them and everyone else.

Haley - Okay. It’s all becoming clear now.

Maeve - So I’m like the little sister now that’s popping up out of nowhere. He, I don’t know what it is, but why he was kind and took it very well, but he took it so well. And you know, he said that he was completely shocked but he was happy to get to know me. He asked me to take a DNA test, a sibling DNA test through a private company. And paid for that. And I did. And it came back as 99.9% that we were half siblings. And then after that, we talked and you know we’ve talked a little bit more than I have with my other brother. It’s not a lot, but it’s always very open and very kind and, so I’ve been kinda in contact with him. I've never met him ‘cause he lives in Albuquerque, so you know not easy to get to. But I've talked to him here and there since 2017. And after I made contact with him, he told his daughter about me. The one that had originally put her DNA in 23 and Me.

Haley - Okay!

Maeve - Which I felt was the most respectful thing to do. You know, again I just felt wrong about telling her myself. So her dad told her. And then I have met her for brunch a couple times.

Haley - Oh!

Maeve - Because she lives in Boston! And she’s great! She’s really great, she’s lovely.

Haley - And do you have any of the, resemblance or little characteristics or anything with her? ‘Cause you look so much like your maternal side sister that I wondered do you have any resemblance to the paternal side, you know?

Maeve - You know I look like my brother but I look nothing like my niece. Absolutely nothing. There’s, I was dying for it when I first met her, I was praying there was going to be something there, but there really isn’t. She is gorgeous, she is super tall and very sophisticated and I’m quite short and not very sophisticated. And we could not look more different. She is so lovely and smart and accomplished and I feel very blessed you know, to have her in my life. She’s really busy and she’s in graduate school right now, but we’ve gotten together a couple of times, and it’s been really great.

Haley - That’s special.

Maeve - It’s been really meaningful, yeah. And you know I, it’s a good relationship. How great is it ever gonna be when I only meet her when I'm 49 years old, but it’s been really, really sweet and she’s a good person and smart and accomplished and it’s fun to get together with her.

Haley - She has a new aunt, new auntie. That’s cool.

Maeve - That’s right!

Haley - Okay and so, has, have you reached out any further then to your father? To your sister?

Maeve - Okay, so.

Haley - I just, you know, just gotta prepare myself. I'm ready.

Maeve - Right. Okay, saga continues, right? It’s always a saga. Sometimes I'm just like, is this really my life? Like I cannot believe that this is, I feel like this can't be my life because it’s so bizarre. It's crazy this stuff is happening. Anyway, okay yes. So that was in 2017 that I made contact with my brother and my niece. I did not contact my father until about 2 weeks ago.

Haley - What?

Maeve - Yep. I knew who he was and where to reach him, and I had, I've been holding off because my brother has been very, I’m not sure what the word is, not very encouraging of my reaching out to him. He feels quite strongly that my father would not be receptive. And was worried about the reaction that I would get.

Haley - How old is he? How old is your first father?

Maeve - 82.

Haley - Okay.

Maeve - And so I have been as you know, so burned and so hurt. And I just didn't have it in me. You know, I just, trying to work on the relationships with you know, with my brother and my niece and still trying to hold on, salvage something on the maternal side. And I just felt like, I’ll do that and try to see where that goes. I kind of let the thing go with my father until about 3 weeks ago and finally I felt like okay, I need to do this. He is, he’s 82 years old, and I’m gonna grit my teeth and I’m gonna send this letter. I’m just gonna do it. because I will never regret not trying, but I will regret, I will never regret trying, but I will regret not trying. And you know, he’s not getting any younger at 82, I just needed to like, do it. So I did. This time, unlike in the past, I did not slave over a letter. I did not spend days, I did not spend weeks, I didn’t even spend an hour. I wrote that letter in about 10 minutes. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna bleed all over a page again for someone to reject me. That was not happening.

Haley - Well, uh, you’ve also written a few of them, so now you’ve got it down.

Maeve - That’s the other thing, I’m a pro!

Haley - Did you just like print off the other one and be like, nope, not that paragraph, no, this.

Maeve - Seriously, cut and paste. No, I just banged it out in like 10 minutes and I was just very straightforward. You know because I think I was just bracing for rejection, I was bracing for a violent rejection. I was bracing for another legal letter, I was bracing for nastiness and so I almost went into it with my back up. And the letter was less than a page, and just said, this is who I am. This is my name. I am your daughter. I have established this fact through various, you know, things including but not limited to DNA testing, genealogical research, and interviews. Not messing around with this. And I ended with, I hope that we can have, you know, when you’re ready, you can contact me, I would love to make a connection with you. And of course I threw in there the stuff about, I’m not here to disrupt your life and blah blah blah, which we always need to say because God forbid, we’re probably after money or we’re crazy or something. So throw that stuff in there and then I also included at my counselor’s insistence, pictures of myself. Again, I did this. Pictures of my children. And I didn't wanna do it this time because of what had happened with my mother, how she had sent those pictures back. And it had hurt so much. And I didn’t want to put myself out there again.

Haley - Yeah. But what did your counselor say to you? Why did she say that was important?

Maeve - You need to humanize yourself. She said, for better or for worse, you know people who get these sort of letters, they do absolutely think about, you’re crazy, you’re out for money, there’s something wrong with you. You need to send the pictures to show that you’re a real person, and she also advised me, listen to me. You look like your father, because I’d shown her pictures of my father. And she was pretty insistent on that. He’s gonna see you and there’s gonna be no doubt in his mind and he’s gonna see you and your family and you’re gonna humanize yourself. And you’re less likely to be rejected. So I said, alright, you better be right about this. Turns out, you know I sent this letter on a Saturday. And on a Tuesday, the next Tuesday, three or 4 days later, he called me.

Haley - Oh!

Maeve - On my cell phone. I was walking the dog in the dark and you know, with my flashlight, and I pick up the phone and it’s him. I could not believe it. I was fully expecting that this would have taken weeks or months or years or there would have been no response. Never expected to have gotten a response that quickly. And he was the opposite of what I expected. And also the opposite of what my brother had predicted. He was incredibly forthcoming. He kept me on the phone for about an hour and told me all about his relationship with my mother. He said that they had a long, and loving relationship. That he was proud of the relationship. That they had been together several years including after I was born. They continued to see each other. That he loved her very much, she was a very important person to him. That he was so glad that I had contacted him, that he felt like it was a blessing, that he was, these are his exact words, that he was happy that I was his daughter. And that he wanted to continue to have a relationship with me. you could have knocked me over with a feather. I was absolutely gobsmacked by this. This was the last thing I thought was going to happen. Yeah. You're totally shocked.

Haley - I don’t know this part!

Maeve - You’re silent!

Haley - I didn’t know this part!

Maeve - Haley Radke is stunned into silence right now!

Haley - Struck dumb, struck dumb. Um, wow! I’m so happy I’m crying! Oh my gosh.

Maeve - You know though, we have to take this stuff with a grain of salt, right? I mean, as we’ve all seen, these reunions, it’s such a rollercoaster. So I felt like after the call, I really felt like I had just been hit by a truck. Because as happy as I was, I'm just bracing for this thing to go south. So many of them go south. So I'm just trying to steel myself for the roller coaster that I know it’s going to be. I am grateful and so thankful and happy and excited about the call. I really am. It’s really an incredible turn of events. I never, never would have expected this, ever. I think one of the big differences with him, versus my mother was, he is remarried, he’s been married for 20 years, he had been divorced from the woman that he was married to when he had had the relationship with my mother. He’s been divorced from her for many years. He’s remarried and he’s been remarried for 20 years. And he told me that he had told his current wife about me a long time ago.

Haley - Okay!

Maeve - And I think, I think that is likely the difference maker. Because my mother had never told her husband about me. That I had ever existed. And so when I came on the scene, not only did she have to deal with me and her own feelings about me, she also had to reveal me to her husband of almost 50 years.

Haley - Oh yeah.

Maeve - That she had kept the secret from him. So I think with my father, having had told his wife, I think that was likely a big difference maker here. And why he was able to call me right away. I'm sure there are many, many other reasons of why it went the way that it went. But I, my gut tells me that’s a big one.

Haley - Well let’s come back to what I said, we need to talk about this. In your first episode, you talked about putting all our adoptee feelings in a box and sometimes looking at it, but mostly just shoving it to the back of the closet. You’re a busy person. And you have a job and you have a family and you have volunteer commitments and all of these different things going on. And how do you navigate life when you also have these huge emotional things happening? Reaching out and rejection and reaching out again and lukewarm reunion and still searching? I mean, you're getting these hits on Ancestry and you’re at a sports game. And like, how are you living your life with all this stuff going on in the background?

Maeve - Not very well at times. You know, I feel like two different people, I really do. I feel completely split in two. I’m my regular person like during the day when I’m at work and taking care of the kids and taking them to their activities and I have many lovely friends who have absolutely no idea what’s going on in my other life. I compartmentalize. I feel like two different people. I know it’s, the best thing for me, would for me to be totally transparent and like, tell everyone what I’m going through, but I just can't. I don’t know why that is. But I just cannot. I think it’s because over the years, sort of the range of reactions that you get when you try to talk about these things, I can’t take them. It’s enraging to me, and it has ruined friendships for me. So I just don’t talk about adoption or anything that’s going on with folks in my real life. So I really need to keep these two things separate. So to answer your question, I don’t do all that well, but I’m doing it. I’m managing.

Haley - Well you have built this, you came on the show first with a pseudonym and we’re continuing that and so now you have like, your real life and you also have the Maeve Kelly online. Yeah, I can see that, feeling like you’re two people, that’s interesting.

Maeve - I do, I feel like Maeve Kelly is actually the real me though, to be honest. I really do, I think she’s me. I just was never allowed to be her. And it’s too late for me to be her, but at the end of the day, like I really do think that’s the real me. I appreciate being able to be Maeve Kelly whenever I can and really just be honest with the way I feel and it’s, you know, I guess we all just need to kind of figure out what works for us as individuals and we’re all so unique. You know, first of all we’re unique individuals because we’re people and then we grew up in unique circumstances and we had, our parents are unique, our adoptive parents. And you know our reunion stories or lack thereof is very unique. And so I think we all just kind of have to manage the way we can manage, as best as we can. And I get so much out of the connections that I've made in the adoptee world. And I've been able to meet folks in real life and that has been life changing for me. I met you obviously, I met Katrina, I met Pamela, Karen Nova, I’ve met Carrie, you know I'm having with next week with a good friend named Rachel who’s a friend of a friend whose also adopted and that is our only connection, is that we’re adopted. And we get together and have dinner and we can't stop talking for hours. Just that immediate connection. I've met a woman from Ireland whose name is Maggie who came over to the Cape last summer and we met up and talked for hours. Consider her to be a good friend now. So I feel like I’m able to get sort of like the support I need from some of these really, really lovely amazing strong women that I’ve connected with on Twitter or Facebook or in other ways. And that’s kind of how I manage.

Haley - Sounds good. Okay, and I know we’re coming to the end of our time and before we do recommended resources, is there anything that I didn’t ask you about that you really wanna share and the other question I have for you is just, advice for people who are, have been in a similar situation to you and are, have been either rejected or have these sort of like lukewarm contact or you kinda get the sense that they really don’t wanna be in touch with you. Do you have any advice or just something to say to another adoptee just like you that was in that kind of situation?

Maeve - Well first, you said if there’s anything else. Well one thing is, on my maternal side, the secret is out of the bag, also through Ancestry because my first cousin on that side tested and so my mother eventually had to reveal to her siblings that I exist.

Haley - Well there you go.

Maeve - There is another piece, that’s another thing I’m dealing with. But do I have advice? I guess one piece of advice would be, never give up. Even though I at times, after my mother sort of relayed to me through my brother that she would never tell me who my father was, and getting that information and then sitting down at the computer and looking at my 4,000 fourth cousins and not having any idea where to begin and realizing he was in his 80s, I was absolutely despondent. I was despairing, just absolutely despairing. I was never gonna find him. And you know, one day, suddenly, it’s done. I figured out in 15 minutes. And so I guess, never, never give up. There are millions of people that are testing every day. And I feel very strongly that the era of closed adoption is coming to a close, very rapidly. That secrets are no longer gonna be possible in adoption. And I'm looking forward to the end of searches and reunions. I don’t think search and reunion should be part of adoption ever again. No one should ever have to search for their family. So I guess that’s my one piece is never give up. And the other thing is, with regard to the lukewarm stuff, which I've certainly had my share of, I guess you know, it’s not us. Right? We’re not the ones that are being rejected, they don’t even know us as human beings, it’s the situation. And it’s really about them and how they feel about themselves, it’s never about just as human beings. And so, as best as we can, we shouldn’t take it personally. And it’s you know, it’s too bad for them. It’s their loss, that they’re not able to enrich their lives by getting to know another family member. And it’s their loss.

Haley - As much as pain as this has caused you, do you regret reaching out?

Maeve - Oh my gosh no. never. No. No, I’m starting to get answers. I'm starting to understand what my first chapter is. I have now seen someone that I'm related to who’s not my child for the first time in my life. I'm hoping to go out and meet my father in the next couple of weeks.

Haley - Oh!

Maeve - Yeah! See him, hear my story, understand where I come from. It has been worth even for all the pain, it has been worth it by far. I would not change a thing.

Haley - Okay. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing that. Okay, let’s do recommended resources. So last time you were on, you said, like, I don’t know, 10 things. Today I'm only gonna let you do 1. I'm gonna go first. So I, I don’t know how I came across this. A couple weeks ago, this just popped up in my Facebook feed. And it is a Facebook page called Yes I’m Adopted, Don’t Make It Weird.

Maeve - I love it already!

Haley - Yes, so it is, there’s a Facebook page and there’s also a YouTube channel and from what I can tell, it looks like it started in 2017. And there are two transracially adopted people, Bret and Dave O, who do these videos that are usually seems like between 10 and 15 minutes. And they are talking about a different aspect of adoption. And they’re really funny and they have, I’ve seen them recommend The Primal Wound, and Coming Home to Self, which are clues to me that they kinda get it. And they have a lot of little lighthearted takes on adoption, I haven’t watched all their videos. There’s a lot of them. But they also have some serious ones, like talking about trauma and grief in adoption. The one caveat I will give is that it seems mostly that their audience is very largely adoptive parents who have adopted transracially and often will have, their children are teenagers. And so they’re looking for resources and stuff, so I think it’s a wonderful resource for sure in that situation. It’s, I wouldn’t say it’s probably as you know, in depth feelings-y as maybe this show is. But I think there’s a lot of wisdom there and they share on like I said, a lot of different topics and think that if you don’t, Yes I’m Adopted, Don’t Make It Weird, I think it’s a great resource and I hope that people check it out and see if they can find a video or two that they're like, oh yeah, me too. There’s one video, I was looking back in the archives from a little while, or like last year. And it’s like, the 20 Things Never to Say to an Adopted Person, there was another one it was like, 10 things that people have said to them that are very, like you and I have both heard these things. And they’re funny, you know, they riff on it. Yeah, it’s kinda fun. So anyway, if you need a little lighthearted adoptee talk, this is a good one to go to.

Maeve - Yeah, don’t we need it sometimes? I’ll tell you, you have to laugh sometimes. The whole thing is just so ludicrous.

Haley - Well you know, thinking back to the beginning of our interview and I’m doing this little intro for you and I’m like, wow, I’m laughing a lot at very painful things. ‘Cause you just kinda have to sometimes.

Maeve - Well you have to! It’s just the whole thing is ridiculous. I mean, come on, man? Like I have to write a letter to my 82 year old father and be like, hey, guess what, here I am! it’s just ridiculous. Seriously? Really? This is what I have to do?

Haley - It is, it is.

Maeve - It’s crazy.

Haley - Okay, okay, your turn. What’s your resource for us?

Maeve - I think this resource has already been brought up on your show and I’m sorry if it has. But I’ll say it anyway. I struggle sometimes, like what can I do to effectuate change? Like, I don’t wanna read all the time about sort of how bad I'm feeling about adopted. Like, what else can I do to make things better? I don’t know. Sort of a positive organization resource is, Saving Our Sisters, or SOS Adoption as it’s called. Which is a 501(c)(3) organization out of Florida. Started by a first mother who, you and I both met at the Indiana Adoption Conference a few years ago. She is so inspiring, she has turned her experience into this wonderful, small, but powerful, group of all volunteers who work to support and educate women about the realities about the adoption industry. And what adoption separation really mean for them and their children if they decide to go through relinquishment. She has an army of women called Sisters On the Ground. And again, they're all volunteers and when she finds out about a woman who has made an adoption decision, and has decided not to go forward with or someone who’s just wavering in adoption, one of these Sisters On the Ground will go out to wherever this person is, sometimes drive for hours just to meet with her, support her, sometimes actually have to intercede on her behalf. Because sometimes when women decide not to go forward with an adoption, the adoption agency can do, as you know, some pretty horrendous things to try to make that adoption go forward. And I’ve seen situations where Sisters On the Ground, literally had to stand in front of a woman and demand her baby and what have you. And get police involved and stuff like that. And this organization is just so great, you know. It’s protecting women, supporting women, and it’s a positive thing. I'm searching for something positive to recommend. Because I feel like I can’t go back in time and prevent my adoption. There’s nothing I can do about that. I can’t go back 50 years and you know, prevent this from happening. But if I could do anything and support an organization from sort of preventing the same thing from happening to someone else, even one person, I just feel like that would be, something that I can support and get behind and makes me feel good. So I support them and they have a wonderful board of directors. And incredible group of volunteers and I can’t say enough about them. So it’s SOS Adoption. I think it’s @SOSadoption of something like that on Twitter.

Haley - Oh I’ll make sure to link to them in the show notes and also their Facebook page. They’ll say okay, we need somebody in, name a state—

Maeve - Kalamazoo! Kalamazoo, Michigan!

Haley - I’m just like, Canada! No, that’s where I live. We need someone in this state, is anybody close by. So it’s, yeah, I love that it’s something that we can actually participate in and sometimes they’ll post a specific fundraiser for maybe helping a mom cover first and last months’ rent or I’ve seen people do you know, a little Amazon wish list and then you can just send them something from that. Like a little baby shower situation to celebrate. Like, as you said, these women are often have made a difficult decision and have changed their mind and they're going to parent. And so they don’t have all the stuff that they need, the car seat and all those things.

Maeve - Right.

Haley - And so it’s amazing to just be like, we’re gonna be their community and step in and give them those things that they need to start out. And often, as the founder has, she said to us at the dinner we had, $500 can make a difference for a mom, whether or not she chooses to parent, which is insane to me. $500 will make a difference? It does. And that can be just car seat, crib, and a little bit, a couple months’ worth of diapers and she’s ready to go.

Maeve - Exactly. Exactly.

Haley - And when you think about the lifelong impact of adoption versus $500, I mean. How much has your therapist charged you over all these years? Mine has made more than $500 off of me, just saying.

Maeve - Oh my goodness, yeah.

Haley - Well, thank you so much for sharing an update to your story. and I just, you know you were talking about how you felt really brave and I think you just are, oh my gosh, you are one of the bravest people I know. And you’re so resilient and to go forward with some of those really challenging conversations and things and still be searching and still be reaching out. Like even after some of the horrible things that have been said to you. I mean, you're just such an incredible person, Maeve, I’m so glad to know you and have you as a part of my life.

Maeve - Aw, thank you so much, Haley. I feel the same way about you.

(upbeat music)

Haley - I got so excited I forgot to ask Maeve where we can connect with her online. But she is on Twitter @MaeveKelly11 and she’s also on Facebook as Maeve Kelly. So you can find her in those places. And I will link to those profiles in the show notes. There is a really exciting in person meetup coming up in April, if you are going to the American Adoption Congress Conference. I would love to see you, I am speaking on Friday, April 5th. And our meetup is going to be on the Thursday, I think there will be details available on the Adoptees On Facebook page. But if you're coming to conference, just please reach out and let me know so we can say hi in person. And the Adoptees On listener meetup is the perfect place to do that. So again, follow the Adoptees On Facebook page to make sure you get updates about that in person meetup. So exciting. I love connecting with adoptees in real life. It’s one of my most favorite things just like Maeve talked about, when we got to meet in Indiana. It was just something so special and I’ll remember it forever. I wanna say a big thank you to my monthly Patreon supporters. Without your support, I wouldn’t be able to do this show every week. And as a thank you, there are different levels of support you can participate in on Patreon. One has a secret Facebook group for adoptees only where we talk about what’s going on in our adoptee life. And people come and ask questions for advice, support, just all of those things. We talk about how to find a good therapist. All kinds of topics. Lots of people navigating reunion stuff. Also there is another podcast feed that is just for Patreon supporters. And it’s called Adoptees Off Script. And it’s pretty awesome and fun. So I have regular co hosts that join with me and we talk stuff about adoption and personal stuff and not adoption and things that maybe we wouldn’t be super comfortable sharing with, with all of you. But on the Patreon feed where the audience is a little smaller, sometimes we go a little bit more personal. I'd love to have you as a supporter. AdopteesOn.com/partner has all the details for how you can join up there. Thanks so much for listening, let’s talk again next Friday.

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