It’s been four years to the day that I found out I have a sister. Trust me, I know that sounds totally crazy. Even now, it’s sometimes so bizarre to think that Kara and I didn’t know each other as little girls and awkward middle schoolers and teens… so so weird.
For some of you, when we first met, I was an only child. Some of you were there for the start of our relationship. Maybe even a few of you only know us as sisters and never as strangers. And some of you are reading this and we’ve never met and it’s just an amazing story. Either way, my life completely changed in 2010. I went from only child to baby sister in a very quick conversation.
I guess before you know Kara’s story, it’s important to know a few things. My father left when I was a baby, leaving just me and mom in our immediate family. I lived my whole life without much of a relationship with him. I’ve always been very grateful that my mother delivered age appropriate information to me about my father and never her own feelings, despite how he made her feel. Although I don’t remember the exact moment it happened, it was my choice to not have a relationship with my father. I had a family full of people that cared about me and wanted what was best for me and that was more than I could want with anyone else. He passed away in early 2007 during my junior year of college, which left me with an entirely new set of emotions to process, express, and overcome. To this day, I still haven’t finished.
I have five older half sisters and a younger half brother, all on my father’s side. I used to see my half sisters when I was little, spending time with them and wishing I had a sister of my own. I didn’t know anything different about siblings. Mine always lived in different states and even though I saw them (mostly the girls) from time to time, I didn’t really know what it meant to be or have a sister.
Back to 2010…
I honestly don’t remember much about the conversation I had with my mother about Kara that night and now that so much time has passed (and after all the late night crying sessions with K), I think it’s my way of dealing with all the emotion it made me feel. When she sat me down, she told me that two years before I was born, she and my dad were expecting a baby. Late in her pregnancy, her doctor informed her the baby wasn’t getting as much oxygen as she should be and warned her about mental illness and heart disease, things that she and my father later decided might be too much to handle at that point in their lives. They decided to place the baby for adoption in the hopes she would have a better life than the one they could provide for her.
I remember immediately feeling like I had lost my breath. If you know me, you probably know that my relationship with my mother has seen some pretty rough times. It made me so angry to think that I had gone twenty three years trying to figure out a relationship with my mom that I was sure would have been different had I known about her experience with my sister. As a mother and as a woman, she had harbored this secret that could have spelled out so many details I never understood about her and us.
I was so confused and angry and upset about all of it. I didn’t blame or judge her for making the decision to place my sister for adoption, in fact i admired her for it. Medically, I was fine, and I had a difficult childhood. I grew up in a small town and was one of very few kids living in a single parent home and always felt like a little bit of an outsider because of it. To me, at the time, it was worse that she had waited so long to tell me. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how hard it was for her to find the courage to make that choice, never mind having to relive those feelings year after year pretty much alone.
When she was done explaining, I had to leave. I sat in my car and cried. I held it together pretty well while my mother was talking, but could only think “what the…?!” when I was by myself. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to people you know, certainly not me. But it did happen and it was happening.
After that initial conversation, we didn’t really talk about my sister much. I might have asked a question or two every now and then, but it took a long time to process and figure out what it meant to me and what I wanted to do with it. I’m still processing. Sadly, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t search or look for her or contact anyone I thought could help me. I just let it sit for a long, long time.
In Septmeber of 2011, my mom and I had plans for her to come over to my apartment to talk about some wedding details. When she got there, she seemed kind of frazzled and asked if she could show me something on Facebook. She logged into her account, pulled up a message, and gave me my laptop to read it. I noticed right away that the girl who wrote the message looked EXACTLY like me. If I hadn’t known that wasn’t my profile picture, I probably would have assumed someone snagged my password and wrote it themselves. The message said something like “Hi, my name is Kara. I have some information that leads me to believe we could be related. Here is my contact information. Please get in touch if you’d like to talk.”
Um… what? This was her. After all that time, of all ways, my mom got a Facebook message from her daughter. Her oldest daughter, the one she had never talked to EVER. So crazy.
She asked what I thought and I told her I thought she should get in touch. I couldn’t believe she hadn’t already! When she told me she didn’t want to do anything about it until we talked, I knew how important it was to her that I felt comfortable with it all, despite how intrigued she was. Typical maternal sacrifice.
It turns out that Kara had placed an ad of sorts on an adoption connection website and one of my half sisters had seen it and contacted her (only one of my five half sisters knew the truth about Kara’s adoption and had been searching for her). After going back and forth with the website coordinator, they finally got in touch and made plans to meet the following weekend.
After Kara messaged my mom, I called her that night. I left what has to be the most awkward of all awkward voicemail messages on her phone since she was in class. She actually called me back that night. I can’t even describe how strange it was to talk to her for the first time! We were on the phone for about forty five minutes, giving each other very basic details about our lives and families. We were pretty much on an over-the-phone blind date… awk! My mom and I decided that we would go with my half sister that weekend to meet her and her adopted mom. In person. For the first time ever.
We met the following Saturday, 9.10.11. My mom went in first to meet Kara and her adoptive mom. After all, Kara had been searching for her birth mom because she didn’t know about all of her siblings! It felt like hours passed before I went in to meet her. Panic, happiness, excitement, pure fear of the unknowing… You name it, I felt it.
After our initial meeting at Save the Bay in Providence, RI, we left for an early dinner and ended the day at Water Fire, just me, my mom, and my sister. My mom and I left Rhode Island so excited that we met Kara and her mom, but really not knowing what would come of it.
I remember my mom telling me in the car that when I wasn’t looking at Kara, she was looking at me and vice versa. Looking at her was like looking in a mirror. We parted our hair on the same side, our fingers were identically crooked, and we even had the same tooth that stuck out. Crayyy!
I asked Kara to meet me the following Tuesday for dinner, just the two of us. It was so strange and so awesome all at the same time. When I got home after dinner that night, I sat down and wrote her a love letter telling her how I felt. I had no idea what to expect, but knew that I already wanted us to be sisters. Like real sisters. Not we met late in life and talk from time to time sisters, but best friends sisters. And we are.
From then on, we were as inseparable as we could be living over an hour away from each other. Our relationship developed so quickly, yet so organically at the same time. We slowly (yeah right!) let each other into our lives, she agreed to be a bridesmaid in my wedding after… oooooh, a month, and it went from there. We visited on the weekends, talked all the time during the week, and did pretty much everything we could to make up for lost time.
We decided pretty early on that we wanted to do what we could to relive childhood experiences we never had a chance to play out when we were kids. We started a running list of activities and events to recreate. We’ve done a lot so far… coloring, globe bowling, chewing/blowing bubble gum, laser tag, playing “chubby bunny” (there’s a video you might get to see someday!)… the list goes on!
I say this every time I tell our story… Of course I remember what my life was like before Kara was a part of it. We were adults when we met. At the same time, she fits so perfectly into it that it all sort of makes sense. I can’t even explain how grateful I am for our relationship and how wonderful it is to have my own, 100% real sister in my life. It’s amazing! I hope that if you have siblings, you tell them how much you love them and that they mean a lot to you and that you appreciate the relationship you have with them. I’m sure you would agree that life would definitely not be the same without someone to share it with.
Kara, I love you dearly <3
Photo by Alexandra Roberts