WARM Journey: An adoptee's search for her birth family

Monday, January 1, 2018

WARM JOURNEY for Mary Kate
Excerpted from the Winter 2015 WARM Journeys Newsletter

I was told by my parents at an early age, that they found me under a rock on the beach where we played in front of our house in Bremerton, Washington. I marveled, with three year old fascination, at the puddles under rocks and the tiny crabs and slimy creatures that shared my beginnings. I spent many hours flipping over rocks in endless fascination at the strange world from which I was retrieved. A few years later I learned that I was born in 1955 in Walla Walla, Washington and adopted, as were my two older brothers. This was akin to learning that Santa was not real, as I had many toddler moments devoted to my intertidal beginnings.

Upon reuniting at the war’s end, my parents found that they could not have their own children, so without hesitation they turned to adoption through Catholic Charities. I was adopted at three weeks, which was the soonest my mother could get her hands on me after birth. It is an understatement to say that I was the apple of my parents' eye, as were my brothers. My mother and I turned heads with my pale blue eyes, white-blonde hair, her red hair, hazel eyes and stunning good looks. We didn’t look anything alike but we were a match made in heaven. My father had lost his only brother, and witnessed the dark sinister side of humanity during the war. He lived every day with Mom and us kids as if our time together was precious and fleeting.

It was not until high school that my folks and I talked more about my adoption story. I learned that I was of Norwegian - Irish descent and a few scant particulars surrounding why I was given up for adoption.

My parents had not been told much. I was a physical, robust girl and could not get enough exercise. Years before mountaineering was a popular activity or high school sports available for girls, I joined a mountaineer club and started to climb the peaks of the Cascade Range.

In my 15th summer, I was racing out of our house to go on a weekend Mt. Rainier climb and nearly got knocked over by an ethereal missile from my biological mother.

She was worried about me and my welfare. The message may as well have been on a banner floating over our house, it was so strong and clear. It stopped me in my tracks, which was not easy to do.

I talked to my mom about it. We decided that it sure would be nice if I could tell her that I was fine. Mom and dad were told that the adoption records were closed, done deal, end of story, no going back.

As the years passed I continued to seek out risky outdoor activities that included dangling from ropes, challenging rapids, or taking on nontraditional jobs like fire-fighting or climbing poles as a lineman (woman).

I was invited on an international climb in the Pamir mountain range when I was 18. A nagging voice in my head said not to go. An agonizing decision, because I had a sponsor, but I went with the voice. The eleven person rope team I would have been on all perished in a severe storm on the climb.

I did have other close calls which made it all the more thrilling for me. I “heard” from my biological mother several times during these years through that mysterious space that looks empty around us but holds much we cannot see.

Fast forward to 2007 when my mother died and 2008 when my dad died. I was by their sides throughout their aging years and beyond grief when they passed away.

In 2014 I am in my 33rd year, in Alaska. A good friend, who is also adopted, told me how Washington changed a law to allow adoptees access to their original birth certificates. The door opened a crack for adoptees, so my friend and I decided to send in for our birth certificates together.

My friend found out who her biological mom was within a week, on her own. Her mom never left the Seattle area where my friend was born. I sort of tried to find my biological mom, but ran aground of false leads. I contacted WARM in Seattle and they were encouraging and supportive. I was given a Confidential Intermediary (CI) in Spokane and the process began. My CI also ran into several false leads and dead ends. Ultimately it took several months to find out that my biological mother had died when I was only 29 years old. I was surprised that she had died so young, so I consoled myself that I had surely tried and I really hoped she knew it.

The CI then said, I have siblings. Siblings? I had not considered that I would be contacting siblings. She encouraged me to continue and contact them. I had doubts and questions. Did they know I existed? What would they think of their mom if they found out about me? This was new and rocky terrain for me. To learn more about my biological mother, the next step was to get a family member to sign a consent form. With my CI’s positive views, we continued to pursue contact with a sister and a brother. On March 21, 2015, the day before my birthday, I received a call from an enthusiastic CI. My sister had responded to the letter from the CI. She was alive, well and thrilled to know of my existence. Thrilled? Really? My CI said, “And do you know what else? You are never going to believe this, her name is the same as yours, Katy!”

Katy lives in New York. Without WARM, I do not believe I would have found her. As it turned out, I have not two but four siblings! We all met for the first time in the Seattle-Bellingham area on September 19-20, 2015. My Seattle family and friends were also invited to the meet and greet, and they all thoroughly enjoyed each other. We rented a minivan and spent a week together. It was as if I already knew my siblings. They are all amazing, talented, and considerate people. We had a really good time, and I have been in communication with one or the other almost daily since we met March 2015.

I am so grateful to our mom for having these remarkable and gifted children whom I will now enjoy the rest of my life, along with a bounty of nieces and nephews. I certainly did feel as though my biological mother was pushing me to pursue what I thought was finding her, but indeed it was her children. She wanted me to find them and so did my parents.


Washington Adoption Reunion Movement (WARM) is a non-profit organization dedicated to reuniting families separated by adoption. We serve adoptees, birth family members, and adoptive families. Specializing in Washington state, we also have cooperation with the superior courts in a number of other states as well.


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