Sara Appelbaum “needed” to wait decades to connect with her birth family. Sara’s adopted mother kept in touch with Sara’s birth mother until Sara turned 18. Sara did a 23 and Me DNA test while in graduate school, but it was nearly a decade before family members matched. Her birth father connected to a drug cartel. Her birth mother’s a prominent judge. Sara learned a lot about her birth parents from her siblings; she has at least six on her birth father’s side. Sara has connected with both her grandmothers, and this wild found family story is just getting started. Sara’s DNA miracle story is unfolding in real time, so we’ll definitely have her back on a future episode of the Family Twist.
You were adopted (1:29)
Sara: The first time that I could remember hearing the sort of language was, ‘I’m your mommy, but I didn’t have you in my body; another woman did. And you’re adopted. I don’t even know if adoption was explained to me, but it was more like ‘I really wanted a baby and I was so lucky to get you.’
Sharing Sara (2:25)
Sara: My birth mother and my adopted mother must have decided at some point along the way that every year around my birthday, they would exchange letters. And so my mom would send my birth mother pictures of me and just like a short kind of update of like, ‘This is who Sarah is becoming. This is what she likes. This is what she doesn’t like. This is her with her dog.’
A letter from Sara’s birth mother (2:50)
There was actually a letter that my first mother sent to my mother, which was given to me on my 18th birthday, which was just really touching. Like, this is not going into details, but ‘This is part of why I made this decision. And I’m ready when you are and you are loved, and we’re here for you.’
Not ready to connect (4:50)
Sara: It took me decades to kind of come around and be like, I know I’m going to pursue this. I know that this is a gift to kind of have this opportunity to be able to meet my biological mother, my biological family. I know I’m going to get there, but I’m not going to rush myself.
A family genogram (13:29)
Sara: I was presented with the opportunity to do another sort of family history genogram, I decided to do everybody. So I did my biological dad side to the best of my ability, my biological mom side to the best of my ability, and my adoptive family. So I had these three parts of myself visually.
Within the same month, I was contacted by a first cousin on my biological mother side of the family [on 23 and Me].
Finally ready (15:02)
Sara: The timing was right for me. I was curious. I felt like I had a really good, solid sense of self where I could just be like, okay, let’s explore. And it was amazing. It was quite literally an amazing kind of moment.
Corey: We like to say DNA magic; that’s one of the things that we use.
Sara: I love that.
Discovering both sides of the family (18:02)
Sara: My sister didn’t know about me. I learned that I have seven siblings, at least that we know of. I have an older sister. She, I think, knew about me. And then I learned that my aunt I had two aunts, and my grandma knew about me. They had pictures of me. My grandma, when I was able to Zoom with her, actually, during pandemic, Unfortunately, I was going to go out there, but the vid just got to fall, right?
So when I zoomed with her, she was like, I prayed for you to come back to us. I prayed to meet you. And I was just Lord, because my dad opened adoption, right? My dad never kept in touch. My birth mom did, but my birth dad never kept in touch. And yet he kept pictures of me. He had a scrapbook of me. He told family about me. It was just like this whole sort of whole thing.
Who is Dad? (28:05)
Sara: My sister kind of described him as this visionary person where it was just like, we will be legalized at some point. It does have medicinal properties. Like, I’m growing it. I use it in this way, but also incredibly problematic person, incredibly flawed, dangerous, problematic person. And the way that she sort of she gave me that information, and then she was like, I would never tell you not to meet him because he is your father.
He is our father. But I will say, be careful. I will say, just understand that you’re kind of dealing with somebody that has really deep issues. And I was like, okay, all right, fair enough.
Family is so powerful (40:51)
Sara: This is such necessary work that you’re doing to just kind of make this more and more known, make these conversations happen more. Everyone is an individual with this, and yet we are all kind of in the same boat. I was just like, Whoa. And family is so powerful. Family is so powerful.