An Adoptee’s Joyful Reunion

Katherine Rohrbacher

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My name is Katherine Rohrbacher, I’m originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana and I’m adopted.

My mother couldn’t have children, so they really wanted a child. They went through Lutheran Social Services, and one day they got the call, “We have a little girl for you.” My mom didn’t have anything ready yet, but my father and her went and met me, and the next day they took me home. I was adopted when I was a baby, but in Indiana, you needed to be in foster care for two weeks first before being adopted, so, I might have been with my foster family at the time.

Indiana state law says you have to be 21 to be able to search for your birth parents. It was a closed adoption, so I didn’t know anything about my birth parents. So, when I was coming up on my 21st birthday, the year before it, I went to Lutheran Social Services and was like, “Ok, I want to start the process right away.” I went and talked to a social worker about what we needed to do and she said, “When the time comes I’ll open your file and try to find out what I can.”

I talked to the social worker to prepare myself. They told me, be prepared for anything. Your biological parents might not want to see you, they could be dead, they could be very poor, they could have their own family now, or they might just want to go on with their lives. But I ignored it all, because I just had this feeling.

The winter before my 21st birthday, I was home for the holidays and I was searching on Google and I came across this online adoption registry where you only had to be 18 to register. So, I searched through my parents’ files in the basement and tried to find everything I needed to know. The judge, the social worker at the time, and everything else to fill out as much as I possibly could on that site and send it out. Two days before my 21st birthday my birth mother went online and registered, and then I popped up because I was already on the site.

The first time I met my birth parents I talked to them on the phone on my 21st birthday. My birth parents were high school sweethearts; they were 17 years old when they had me, and still in high school. They waited nine more years after placing me to have children. We had a really long conversation and then finally they were like, “Oh, we have one more surprise for you—you have brothers!”

That’s what made my cry. I’d been preparing for this conversation my whole life. Then they told me that I had brothers and it had just never crossed my mind. I have four full-blooded brothers. So, that was awesome, because I’ve always wanted a big family, and my adoptive family’s really small. Now I have a ton of people.

I had my birthday party in Chicago and the next morning I woke up and I drove home to Indiana and I went to my adoptive parent’s house and then my birth parents came over. They pulled up in this big white van and when they got out of the car, one of the first things my birth mom said when she got out of the car was, “I would have never known!” I look more like my aunts on my birth father’s side, and she always thought I would have had light eyes like my brothers. She’s very short and has curly hair, and I said, “You were not what I was expecting!” It was really funny.

They came in the house and we just talked and looked through photos and I have been writing her letters my whole life. I think I started in middle school and I was keeping them in a journal. I thought, once I finally meet her I’m going to say, “Here’s these letters I’ve ben writing you, letting you know what’s been going on in my life.” I got to give them to her. Then I left with them. My birth family lives about ten minutes away from my adoptive family, so I met my grandparent’s on my birth mother’s side, my grandparents on my birth father’s side, and the last stop was my birth mother’s parents.

We pulled up and got out of my car and these four little boys came walking out of the door. Luckily my grandma took pictures of us at the exact moment of us seeing each other. My face is so happy, beaming, and they had the weirdest looks on their faces like, “Who is this girl?” It was weird and amazing to say, “You’re the same as me, and you know, I’ve been missing that my whole life.”

I’m an artist, a painter. I’ve been in California for four years, and that’s what I do here.  A lot of my artwork when I was younger was about lack of identity, and not knowing where you come from. I think that’s why I do a lot of self-portraits. Before you meet your birth parents, you’re looking at yourself not having ever seen anyone that looks like you.

Right after I graduated from college, I chose to move home for two years before I went to grad school so I could be around and get to know my birth family, and instill in my brothers’ brains that I was their sister. For the rest of their lives I want them to really know that I’m their big sister, and not even question our relationship. For Christmas I wake up and have Christmas morning with my adoptive family and then we all go over to my birth parents’ house, and we do Christmas with them.

My adoptive parents are so open and supportive about everything through this whole process. I tracked down my foster family too because it was the last missing puzzle to my life history. And I always wondered, who did I spend those two weeks with? My dad ended up being the president of the board of Lutheran Social Services and he told someone there that I was interested in finding my foster parents and they found them right away. They wanted to meet me! I got to meet my three foster brothers, and they are in my life as well.

I think that love happens on both sides of adoption; an act of love and selflessness like that is amazing. I definitely plan on adopting a child. I just think adoption is very powerful.