Podcast by Dr. Bjorn Mercer, DMA, Department Chair, Communication and World Languages and
Roiann Baskin, faculty member, School of Arts, Humanities and Education
Delve into the journey of an adoptee as she works to discover her biological family. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bjorn Mercer talks to Roiann Baskin about her unique story and the heart-wrenching process of finding family.
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Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Hello, my name is Dr. Bjorn Mercer and today we’re talking to Roiann Baskin, faculty in the School of Arts, Humanities and Education. And today our conversation is about perspectives from an adoptee. And welcome, Roiann.
Roiann Baskin: Thank you, Bjorn, for having me. I’m happy to be here.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Thanks. I think this is a great topic to talk about, a topic that people sometimes do want to talk about and sometimes they don’t want to talk about. And so, can you start off by giving us your initial perspectives on being an adoptee?
Roiann Baskin: Sure, absolutely. I think so often people hear about adoption and they hear about it from a different lens, from a different perspective.
I think they hear about it a lot from the adoptive parents’ perspective, and they don’t necessarily hear about it from people that are actually adopted and what that was like to be adopted and to grow up and all of the things that can happen internally with your identity.
And throw on even meeting your biological relatives and family and then you just get a whole mixed bag of things that can come up. So, I think it’s really important to hear from more people that are adopted to get their perspective.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Yeah. And I completely agree because part of growing up is becoming a well-adjusted adult, but part of being a well-adjusted adult is being comfortable in your skin and knowing where you came from.
And some people are like, it’s very important and other people it’s not. And so how did you deconflict that in yourself of being an adoptee?
Roiann Baskin: I think it wasn’t really something that came up for me until I was well into an adult. As a child, I always knew that I was adopted. It was something that my parents never hid from me.
I can remember since earliest memories that I was always adopted and they explained it as I think a lot of parents did back then in the late ’70s, early ’80s with, you had parents that loved you and wanted to take care of you, but they couldn’t. And so, they wanted to have you be with the family that could take care of you.
And I remember getting told that they went to a place with a bunch of babies, and I was the one that they picked out. All those typical things that they tell kids to make you feel you’re special or that you’re wanted and loved and things like that.
So, I always remember it and never really had an issue with it. I grew up with a great family and good upbringing. And it wasn’t till I turned about 18 or 19 when I started to really think about it and really take action towards trying to find out some information about myself.
Because as an adoptee, it really depends on the state that you’re adopted, what kind of information you have access to. I grew up in the state of Michigan and so with the Michigan adoption laws and my adoption was closed, I couldn’t find out any identifying information about my biological relatives.
I had one piece of paper, it was a pink piece of paper and it had very basic information like your biological mother was 5’4″, had brown hair and blue eyes and was this background and your biological… So very, very basic. And that’s all I really knew.
So, my whole childhood, I would always wonder who do I look like? Who do I look like? That was the biggest thing that stood out to me. And so, 18 or 19 was when I really decided, you know what, I think it’s time to start to see what I can find out.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And did that come from a general curiosity, a concern for medical history? I would say when I was 18 or 19, I didn’t care about my medical history, but some people are very concerned, which I think as we were talking before we started recording is a concern of adoptees is what’s my medical history?
Roiann Baskin: I think it was a combination of both, but probably more just curiosity and wanting to know who I looked like and those kinds of things. The medical stuff for sure, because every time I would go to the doctor they would ask you certain questions and I’d always have to answer, “I don’t know, I’m adopted.”
And so that became kind of annoying. But I think at 18 or 19 it was really just, I really wanted to know who I looked like and find that out. And so, in the state of Michigan to start that process, what they did at the time was I had to hire a confidential intermediary.
So, what this person did was they were able to receive my records that had my original birth certificate and all my information, and that person was kind of the middleman. And they were to try to contact them and see if my biological parents would even want to have any contact with me. And then if they said yes, then they could facilitate a meeting or contact.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Yeah. I was going to say in that situation I could see how that intermediary would be important because maybe some parents who gave up their child for adoption, it would be too painful, or a variety of other emotions and experiences and reasons might occur that they wanted kind of a clean break so many years ago now. And so, continue.
Roiann Baskin: Sure. And so, what I ultimately did was I started that process. My mom was very supportive, she totally helped me with whatever I needed to do to go with that process. And the person that I hired as the confidential intermediary, she said she had tried everything she could to find my biological mother, but she just was not having any luck.
She said she was able to contact the man that was listed in my files as the biological father, but he said that he didn’t feel comfortable having communication at that time because his current wife didn’t really know about the situation.
And so, he just felt like I don’t really want to have contact. So that’s the first experience I had with it. And I was okay with that, so I accepted it.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And you said that was in your late teens or early 20s?
Roiann Baskin: I was about 19, I would say.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And so, did you just put that off to the side or did that bother you for a while or?
Roiann Baskin: It didn’t really bother me because I was very aware going into it that they could very well not be comfortable wanting to talk to me or have contact with me. And I knew that, and I was okay with that, so it didn’t really bother me. It was kind of a let down like, “Oh, bummer,” but you go on.
And it did always kind of carry with me in the back of my head because I thought, well, she said she couldn’t find information about the biological mother, so maybe down the road I’m going to revisit this.
And so that was always in the back of my head and over the years I’d go up and down, I’d be thinking, okay, yeah, I’m going to do this. I’m going to get another person to help me. And then I would just not and then I would and then I not.
And I think looking back on it now, it’s kind of also like a self-preservation or some sort of protection. You’re excited about it, but at the same time because I didn’t follow through, I probably was very scared about it and didn’t really want to go forward with it at that time.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And that totally makes sense. And for other adoptees who choose not to find their biological parents, do you feel that that is a defense mechanism for them? Obviously we’re doing large generalities, everybody’s individual.
Roiann Baskin: I think so. I think there’s a lot of very complicated feelings that go along with it. And it also depends on how you grew up with the family that you were adopted by. Because I think in my case I had a very great family, a good upbringing.
It was not without bad things happening and all of that, but I had such a good family and a good situation that for me it’s like, yeah, it’d be great to be able to meet these people, but I didn’t feel like I really needed it, it wasn’t something that I needed to complete me.
And I think maybe some people that are adopted, if they had a really rough upbringing in their situation with their adopted parents, then they might be more inclined to really want to find them because they want to feel like, “Wow, I did not have a good situation and maybe this is going to be a better situation.” So, I think it really just depends.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And that makes sense. So how do you feel that media or sitcoms or TV portray adoptees? There’s always the scenario where somehow a kid finds out that they’re adopted from someone else out of spite and then they have to come to grips with that.
From knowing other people who are adopted, do you find that that is kept a secret? I mean, it seems like something that would come out that keeping it a secret would be bad.
Roiann Baskin: It is extremely bad and damaging. I actually went to a conference in 2015 maybe in Denver and it was a conference for the, I think it’s the national adoptee congress, I forget the name of the organization, but it’s a national adoptee organization in the United States.
And so, I was able to attend this conference and that was the first time that I really was ever around that many adopted people and also birth parents that had relinquished children. And just hearing different people share their stories and talk.
I mean, I was just blown away because there is a group of adoptees that are called late discovery adoptees, and those are people that find out they’re adopted when they’re 40, 50. And just to hear how traumatic that is to find out.
And a lot of them find out when they’re adoptive parents have passed away and then they’re going through paperwork and then they find out, oh my gosh, I’m this, or with the whole introduction of DNA and it’s just kind of blew the lid off this.
And it is very, very difficult for people that are late discovery adoptees to process that. It’s almost like you lived a lie for a huge part of your life and you have a hard time grasping, well, who really am I now? You know what I mean? Because you clung to a certain identity for so long.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: It’s hard enough for, I’ll just say people who are not adopted in their teenage years, in their 20s, when they’re figuring out who they are, that’s hard enough. Just being human and being the emotional creatures, we are having a sense of connection with people, with parents or family or friends and everything like that.
It’s so complicated. And then you add that layer of being an adoptee, and I can see how it could be difficult, especially like you said with late discovery adoptees where it just makes you think that you got to be honest from day one.
Where I could see how if a person was adopted into a family where everybody’s the same skin color or something like that, or it looks similar-ish, I’ll say, it’s a little easier to “hide it.” But when people have different ethnicities or different, then obviously you can’t and that requires truth.
And I’m assuming that there’s no handbook when you adopt someone, maybe that you get some books and some pamphlets that say what you should do, but that some people kind of do what they want.
Roiann Baskin: That’s true. I mean, I was adopted, I was born in 1978 and I still have the books. There were two books that I remember my parents had got to the standard at the time of what you would give to your child that you adopted and there just really wasn’t hardly anything.
At least now there’s more resources and support groups and things like that, but back then there was absolutely nothing.
And like you said too, with the adoptees that are maybe a different race or they come from a different country, then you’ve got an additional set of layers of that because not only are you adopted and you’re dealing with identity, but then you’re also dealing with loss of a culture and all of those things too that are just super complicated. So, it’s a very interesting topic.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And I’m thinking of all the different scenarios. So just example of say a white family adopting somebody from overseas or a black family adopting a white kid, or any number of scenarios you can think of where there’s slightly different cultures and even if you’re adopting someone who was born in America, there’s still just different cultures, different expectations.
And unfortunately, when people visually look at other people, they will treat them differently. And that’s just a reality. And it’d be very difficult when a family has to deal with that, but again, honesty and having that family strength is the most important thing I could see.
Roiann Baskin: Absolutely. I think no matter how hard you try to hide things or to have these secrets, I just feel like it’s always going to come to light and it’s just easier to be truthful and honest in the beginning because it can eliminate so much suffering and so much just pain that people have when these kind of secrets and things happen. It’s very interesting.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Well said. Well said. And so, if you can continue with your search for discovering your biological parents.
Roiann Baskin: Absolutely. So, life continued to go on and would still think about searching, it was always in the back of my mind, and it became, I think more and more present in my thoughts after I became a mother. When I became a mother, I realized, okay, I have a child now and I don’t know anything about my medical history or my background.
And that’s when the medical history part really came into play because I thought, I don’t know anything for her to be able when I take her to the doctor or any kind of, if I have history of cancer or anything, I don’t know this. And that was very upsetting.
And so that really kind of made me think about it more and more. One day I went to my mailbox and got the mail and there was a letter in the mailbox, it was addressed from the adoption agency that I was adopted from, Catholic Family Services in Northern Michigan. And so, I thought, huh, that’s interesting.
I haven’t gotten any kind of correspondence from them really ever. So, I opened the letter, and it was addressed to me, and it had said, I’m a social worker, I’m looking for Roiann Baskin, born on this date, blah, blah, blah. I have some information for you. Would you please give me a call?
And it’s interesting because the very first thought that I had, I don’t know why I thought this, but the first thought that I had was they’re contacting me to let me know that my biological parents had died. I don’t know why I had thought that, but that was just my first thought.
So, I ended up calling the social worker and chatting with him and confirmed that I was who I was, and I was adopted and the whole thing. And he told me that I had a half-brother that was looking for me. And I was completely just shook up because never once in my head had it occurred to me to think about siblings.
I had always just been laser focused on biological mother, biological father, never even thought about siblings. I mean, I knew it was a possibility, but just never thought about it. So, this just shook me right up.
And he explained to me that this was the child at my biological mother had had after me and he had found out that I existed and wanted to make contact. And so, he asked if I was wanting to make contact and immediately I said yes, because I knew, okay, this is great. This is somebody that is related to me.
Maybe they can give me some answers about medical history and then this person could be a connection to my biological mother because I couldn’t find her for all those years. It was a very interesting day when I got that phone call or when I talked to the social worker on the phone.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Honestly, as you were telling your story, I didn’t even think of half-brother, half-sister contacting you. It wasn’t in my brain because I was, as you said, I was laser focused on how and when did you discover and meet your parents.
And it makes sense much like your own curiosity if there’s somebody else out there who’s a half-brother, half-sister, that they would be curious, “Oh my gosh, I might have half-brother, half-sister.”
Roiann Baskin: Yeah. So, the social worker asked if I wanted to speak with him and I said yes. So, we were able to get information exchanged and I ended up calling him, the half-brother, and I think it was either the same day or the next day. And I ended up calling him and it was a very weird conversation, but it was also oddly familiar when I heard his voice.
It was almost like I knew his voice, it was very bizarre, but we did talk, and he was able to explain to me that he grew up with my biological mother. They did not have a very good relationship or situation and he did not find out about me until he was about maybe 18 or 19.
So, he didn’t know that I existed until when he was an adult. And my biological mother, I guess was not very forward with information. She wasn’t willing to say a whole lot about it. And so, he decided to go his own route to try and find out who I was.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: So, we’ve been talking about everything from your perspective. So maybe from the parent who gives up a child, they are more willing to keep that secrecy with their other life moving forward, I guess. I don’t know, what do you think?
Roiann Baskin: I think it really depends, again, on the situation because at that same conference that I mentioned previously that I attended, I was able to talk to a lot of birth parents, specifically birth mothers that had relinquished their children. And it was heartbreaking because a lot of them, it wasn’t their choice.
It was during the time period of maybe the ’50s and the ’60s where it was very hush hush and you got sent away to some place and they didn’t tell anybody that you were pregnant. And then it was just decided for you that you were going to have the baby, it was going to be placed for adoption and then you’re just supposed to go back to your life as normal.
And there’s a lot of trauma for parents that happens to. So, I think some birth parents that it wasn’t their choice, and they really want to make contact with their children because they didn’t want to give them up in the first place, I think it’s a little bit different for them. So, it really just depends on the situation and the birth parent and what they have going on.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And that’s a great point because it just means that every aspect of adoption is complicated.
Roiann Baskin: Absolutely.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Yeah, continue.
Roiann Baskin: Sure. So, I started to continue to talk to my half-brother and get lots of information from him. It was very strange, we would have a lot of similarities in our lives, a lot of parallels. It was very bizarre in the beginning. It was just we talked all the time constantly on the phone, emailing, just trying to soak everything up and try to learn as much as we could about each other.
And so, I decided that I wanted to meet him in person, he wanted to meet me in person as well. And so, I decided to make that happen. And he actually lives in Arizona. He lives in Tucson. And so, I flew out to Tucson to meet him and his wife and his children. And so that was a good experience.
And again, it was very scary. I mean, you’re essentially going out to meet a stranger, even though you’re biologically related it’s still the stranger. I mean, I had talked to him and talked to him, but it was just very, very nerve-wracking to go out there and do that.
And I went by myself, but it was good because actually that was the first time I had ever met anybody that was biologically related to me. So, it was a neat experience.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Honestly, what a great experience that in your early adulthood you had tried and then this came about, which gives you a little, I don’t know if this makes sense, like hope that other people have that desire too. And even when you feel that things are lost, discovery can still happen.
Roiann Baskin: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s never too late, especially with a lot of the laws now are changing in different states where now records are being accessed now where they were not being able to before. Most notably in New York.
New York has been a state notoriously known for being one of the most difficult states to get access to your records if you’re adopted. And just a few years ago, maybe two years ago or so, I can’t remember, they put forth a bill and it was a huge win for adoptive people because now they have full access to their records, and they can get their records and they never were able to before.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And that’s wonderful. And so, what happened after you met your half-brother?
Roiann Baskin: After I met my half-brother, things did get complicated in the sense that his relationship with our biological mother was very different than mine. I had zero relationship with her other than… Because he grew up with her, he had a lot of feelings and things about that that really had nothing to do with me because I wasn’t there.
So, I think there was a lot of tension with that with him and her. And it was kind of difficult to maneuver because I really wanted to meet her and get information from her, but it was just tricky. We were able to set up another trip where I went out to Arizona, and I had contacted my biological mother and she agreed to meet with me.
So, we did plan a meet up. That was very nerve-wracking. I can remember driving there, we met at a restaurant, and I remember driving there just like, I don’t know, I was in like a zone just so focused. I don’t know what I was going on in my head, but I got there, and I was so nervous, and I saw her, and we looked very much alike.
And so, we gave each other a hug, we sat down, and we sat there and talked for a couple of hours, but it was just bizarre. It’s just so weird. I think I was 36 at the time, I can’t remember, but you’re a grown adult, you have a family of your own and you’re sitting there meeting the person that gave birth to you. It’s just a bizarre thing. So strange.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: I’m not adopted, so it’s hard for me to imagine what you went through. That would be, and I’m trying to think of a better word than bizarre, but disorienting at first, maybe.
Roiann Baskin: Very disorienting, just very, you feel like you’re in a weird other dimension or something. It’s just strange to look at somebody that you’ve wondered your whole life, who you look like, and now you’re staring back at somebody that’s basically a mirror.
I mean, we look so much alike. And then you finally see the person that you look like, and it was just really just out of body almost, very strange.
And so, we talked, and I made it very clear to her in our conversations, I said, “I am not here to disrupt your life in any way. I’m not here to judge you. I don’t feel any kind of bad feelings or any kind of negativity or animosity towards you for what you did. I appreciate you for making the decision to put me up for adoption. I know that must have been very hard for you to do that.”
So, I just made sure that she knew I’m not coming here for any other reason other than I wanted to meet you, see who I looked like and get some medical information and just make it very clear that I was not there for any other reason. And I did express to her when we met that I did want to find out who my biological father was.
And then that’s where things got a little bit tricky. She was very honest with me, which I appreciate. And she kind of explained it like this. And I know it’s very difficult for somebody her age to have to go back and maybe relive that time period in your life that was probably very difficult, and you did things maybe that you’re not proud of and all of that.
So, I understand that’s very, very difficult for her, but she did explain that it was the late ’70s and it was a very different time and very free love and everybody partying and having a great time and she just didn’t know who the father was. And so, I appreciated her at least saying that, because I know that’s kind of probably difficult to say.
I mean, she was 19 at the time. I mean, I get it, everybody had their times or wild times. So, after we met, we stayed in contact mostly just via email or social media. We never really talked on the phone. We would text and things like that, but for me that was good for me.
And I think that was probably good for her too because I didn’t necessarily want to just dive into this whole other relationship because honestly, I really wasn’t looking for a relationship. It was great to know her and have that little bit of communication, but I think it just would’ve been too much for me.
Because one thing that I started noticing after I met my biological half-brother and when this whole process started, that’s when things really started coming up for me with identity. And I really started to struggle. And I remember I would just be driving, and I would just start crying for no reason.
And just a lot of these weird feelings just started coming up, things I never thought of before. And so, it was kind of like all that stuff maybe was underneath and now the fact that I’m an adult and this is happening, and I can name it and process it a little bit, that it’s coming to the surface.
So, it was very, very challenging emotionally for me for a period of time to meet these people in all of this. It was very difficult.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And I can see how that’d be challenging because again, as a well-adjusted adult, you at that time with your own family, a strong woman, the subtleties of emotions and identity can creep up on you. And where how beforehand you had come to grips, of course you knew yourself.
And then after that when you met your half-brother and your mother and then suddenly you’re like, “Oh, these are people who were part of my life biologically, but they’re not part of my life.” And so, it is a really weird dichotomy.
Roiann Baskin: It is. It’s very, very bizarre. And I would also talk to some other family members as well that remembered me as a baby before my birth mother gave me up for adoption. And just hearing them and it’s like they talk like they know me, but in my head I’m like, “But you don’t know me. You knew me as a baby.”
So, it’s just such a lot of feelings, a lot of emotions, a lot of things get stirred up that I guess I wasn’t prepared for. So, I decided, man, I really need to try to find other people that I can talk to that are adopted and going through this.
And luckily I was able to find a support group here in Houston of other adoptees and birth parents. And so that really helped once I had other people I could talk to, because I never really talked to anybody that was adopted before about this kind of stuff.
So, once I had those people that knew how I was feeling and that were kind of going through their own journeys of trying to find and connect and that kind of thing, that helped so much.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And that’s an important aspect of when people go through something like this or different or similar or some experience that makes you question your life or aspects of your life is having that support. But having some sort of support back in the day and today for many people to the church is a support for people.
But then there’s other aspects of life specifically for adoptees, talking to other people and just being able to talk to people who have gone through what you’ve gone through is so critical. And so, finding that support system, so important for people.
Roiann Baskin: And ultimately through that support system, that is what led me to find my biological father. Believe it or not, that was how it was all connected because like I had mentioned, my biological mother had told me she didn’t know who it was. And during this time, I was also finally able to get access to my records in Michigan because at that point I had already met my biological mother.
There was no secrecy anymore of who she was. So, they were able then to release my files to me. So that’s when you start to turn into detective. Anybody that’s an adoptee basically is also a detective because you just have to start looking and going through everything.
So, I started going through everything in my files and on my original birth certificate, there’s not a father listed, it’s only my biological mother, but because my biological mother gave me up for adoption through a Catholic adoption agency, there had to have been a father that signed off his parental rights.
There was a name of a man. And so, I contacted this man and told him everything, explained the situation, told him who I was. And long story short, he basically said he was not my biological father. He basically was dating my biological mother after she had me.
And she was struggling with putting me up for adoption or not and having a hard time. And when she finally decided to do it, she asked him if he would be the person to say that he was the father so that she could sign off and put me up for an adoption because she kind of did it all secretly.
She didn’t tell her family that she was doing it, so she needed somebody to sign off. So, he signed off and he told me and everything and I just, I said, “Thank you so much for telling me.” And again, I said, “I don’t have any hard feelings towards you.”
I said, “I’m just trying to find answers. I’m a mom, I need to know this information.” And so that was the first strike with the biological father. Then again, detective mode’s still going on. So, I’m like, okay. I was just fixated on finding out who this man was.
And so, I asked him, I said, “Did you know of anybody at all that she dated or anybody back in the day that she may have had a relationship with or anything?” And he gave me a name of somebody. So, I thought, okay, here’s somebody, this person still lived in Michigan. Did my little sleuth work and decided to reach out to this person.
So, I called this person and talked to him and explained everything, who I am and the whole situation. And it’s complete opposite response from him. He told me, he said, “I have been waiting for this phone call my whole life.” He was expecting that he had children out there from this relationship with my biological mother and he had believed that I was his child.
And so, he was a very nice man and very receptive. And he dated her for a long period of time and so he thought that I was his child. So, we decided to do a DNA test and he was not my biological father. So, we’re at strike number two here.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: That would’ve also been a surprise for him too, after expecting a call and thinking that this woman was your long, long, long, long lost child. And then because of technology today, I’m like, “No, no, actually no.”
Roiann Baskin: He was very disappointed. And I actually kind of was disappointed too because he was such a nice man, and he was so welcoming, and he wanted the relationship. And so, I was like, “Man, this is great. It’s best-case scenario.” And then it turned out that he was not.
And we tested twice, and it was negative. So that was really, really discouraging. Okay. This is going to take way longer than I think I had anticipated. And then there was just kind of like, okay.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Yeah. And so, what happened next?
Roiann Baskin: Back to this support group and how they’re connected to this whole process. I was explaining all of this to them in our meetings and just kind of letting them know what was going on. And one of my friends who was also adopted was telling me about somebody that had been helping her.
And basically, what they’re referred to as is they’re like, there’s people that are called search angels and that help people search. And then there are also people that are called genealogy angels.
So, this person that was helping her was basically a genealogy expert and he would help people construct their trees on ancestry DNA and he would kind of help put all the pieces together and help you try to figure out who you are related to. So, she put me in contact with this person.
And so, I talked to him several times, gave him access to my ancestry DNA. He set up all my family trees and just kind of got the process going. And he said, he’s like, “Sometimes this takes a really long time.” He’s married and has a kid as well. And so, he’s just kind of doing this just for free.
I mean, I offered to pay him several times and he wouldn’t take any money from me. And he said, I do this because he had adopted a child himself. And so, he knew how important it was. And so, he said, “Just be aware this could take a long time.”
The process went on and you live your life and you just kind of, it’s in the background but you don’t really think about it and here and there. Months and months go by, and I had had some rough stuff going on in my life. I had just had a miscarriage and lost the baby, and I was just in a really just bad frame of mind at the time.
And about two weeks after I had the miscarriage, the genealogy angel reached out to me and said, “I found him.” And I’m like, “Of course you did.” In my head I’m just like, I’m so distraught from just having this miscarriage, this timing is just horrible because I’m trying to process this loss.
And then to know he found my biological father, I’m like, “Oh my gosh.” I’m like, “Why now?” It’s just funny how the universe works. So, he was able to find him. Continues to get just crazier and crazier with the story because my biological father lives in northern Michigan, in the same area that the second biological father that was not lives.
And I was still kind of chatting with the second one and I said, “Hey, by chance, do you know this guy’s name?” And I gave him the guy’s name and he said, “Yeah, I know who that is.” And I said, “Can you do me a really big favor?” Because the second potential candidate, he knew the whole story, he knew everything that was going on.
He knew what kind of person, I mean, he knew everything. I said, “Would you please, please, please, could you just talk to him and give him a heads up of what’s going on?” I said, “I don’t know. I just felt weird about contacting him out of the blue.” Even though I had contacted the other two out of blue, I just felt weird because I knew this person was the one.
So, I said, “Do you mind talking to him and just kind of prepping him that this is what’s going on?” And so, he did. He went and talked to him for me, he told me everything that had happened, and he asked him if I could call him. And the guy said that I could. And the guy had no idea. He had zero idea that I existed or that I was his biological child. No clue.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And from that, you just have to wonder what happened that many years ago in that person’s relationship with that woman that she had a baby, and they broke up and then zero contact and the scenarios in your head are just fluttering.
Roiann Baskin: He has five grown children and a wife and everything. And I again, just made it very clear to him, I’m not trying to disrupt your life in anyway. And I just said, “This is really just, I just want to know my medical history and things for my children and my daughter.”
I just try to make it very clear I’m not. So, I just felt bad because it’s like you just found out, “Hi, I’m your biological child that you didn’t know.” And I just felt really bad about it. I mean, even though it’s not my fault, but I mean I just felt bad, and I just kept telling him, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry, I don’t want anything from you.”
He accepted it really well. I know that it was kind of an issue with his wife just because you find out, oh, your husband fathered a child. And what’s tricky is I’m his oldest child. I’m two weeks older than his oldest child. So that’s what I think was tricky.
That’s a big complication. I did find out that I was basically the result of a one-night stand. So, they had a one-night thing and then she got pregnant and that’s me. And then he was dating other people and that kind of thing.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And I think that just lends itself to, and I use the term messiness, just the messiness of humans. Things happen, people do stuff and then there are kids. And such an interesting story. We only have a few minutes left.
Roiann Baskin: Ultimately, I was able to get a lot of really good medical information and able to get some of those gaps filled for me, which was amazing. And then the opportunity arose for me to meet him and to meet his wife. I’m from Michigan and so I was going to be visiting family and where I grew up is about maybe two hours from where I was born and where he lived.
So, the opportunity presented itself for him and his wife to come to my parents’ house and meet me and my daughter. My husband wasn’t there at the time, he was going to be flying in later, but I was able to meet both him and his wife and just get another, I don’t know how to express it, but just kind of another thing.
I was able to meet my biological mother and then the last piece of the puzzle I guess to meet my biological father. So that felt very fulfilling because my whole life I didn’t think I was ever going to be able to meet either one of them. And just the fact that I was able to meet them both and they were both alive was pretty amazing.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Well, and also throughout this entire experience, you’ve discovered that you have six half siblings, which I’m sure when you started this process at 19, you would’ve not imagined that. So absolutely wonderful.
Thank you for sharing the story. Any suggestions for any adoptees out there who are thinking of reaching out or are navigating the tangled web of emotions?
Roiann Baskin: It’s very, very challenging. So, I would definitely suggest finding a support system, finding people maybe in your area like I did. See if there’s any support groups or even online, there’s lots of Facebook groups in different things online for adoptees that you can become a part of and just talk to people and kind of bounce those feelings off each other.
So definitely I would recommend that. And there’s a couple of great books that are out there. The titles are escaping me at the moment, but there are a few really good books that are written from the perspective of adoptees that are very, very helpful in kind of giving a name to a lot of the emotions and the things that come up and kind of helping you deal with those things.
So definitely looking into books as well to read about. And if you really want to find biological relatives, to me, the way to go if you don’t have access to your records, the way to go is AncestryDNA or 23andMe, that’s a lot of people are finding answers that way.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Excellent. And I completely agree. And just like you said, one of the most important things you could do going through this experience or any other experience that might be a little more difficult, or even I’ll say traumatic, lowercase T or uppercase T, is to find support systems and to read and to really lean on those support systems because that will help you heal.
And today we’re speaking with Roiann Baskin about perspectives from an adoptee. My name is Dr. Bjorn Mercer. And thank you for listening.
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