Kellee Maize is a rapper, singer, activist, and entrepreneur. She was also adopted. As part of my adoption project at Beauty Revived, I was recently able to interview Kellee and ask her about her experiences and feelings about adoption.
Photography by Laura Petrilla of Miss L Photography
Tell me about your adoption journey.
My adoption journey has been a lot of ups and downs. Certainly the biggest up was being raised by really amazing parents, Chris and Terry Maize. They were incredible and I would never have wanted anything else but to be raised by them. However, there was definitely always a part of me that seemed to be missing. I always knew that I was adopted and didn’t really know anybody else that was adopted, so it felt somewhat lonely and confusing at times. I went through a lot of various stages where I would feel anger, abandonment, resentment etc., as I was not clear as to why I was given up or what the circumstances were. My parents were always very supportive of me finding my birth parents when I became old enough, should I want to do that.
When the time came, I decided to call our attorney who handled my case and he pretty much told me that my chances of finding them were very slim and that I should just stop while I was ahead. That was a pretty rough time. I was studying a lot about adoption and its effects on people, and I realized that I was having some of those issues, and I wanted so badly to find my parents to see if they could be resolved.
When I was about 22, I joined an adoption support group and for the first time in my life it felt like people actually understood what I was dealing with. There was a girl in my adoption support group who got an internship at the birth and death records in New Castle Pennsylvania. She did so specifically to go to find records in the after-hours. She would take amended adoption birth certificate numbers and compare them to find original birth certificates, as they have the same numbers in Pennsylvania. I gave her my birth certificate number and within a few weeks she called me with my birth mother’s name.
I didn’t really know what to do it first, but eventually the search angel who coordinated our adoption group walked me through the process of how we could find her. We spent about a day doing research, making phone calls, and eventually we were pretty sure we had pinpointed my birth mother.
Carol was the name of the search angel working with me and she initially contacted my birth mom. I knew the minute I heard her voice that it was her, but it was not customary for the adoptee to be on the phone. So Carol walked her through a couple questions to try to be sure it was her and that it would not cause a big upset at the news. She eventually asked her if she knew anything special about the date January 18, 1980, which was the day when I was born. The woman said she did not know anything about that date, but Carol felt like there was a chance perhaps she was sitting with someone she didn’t want to know. So she asked her to call back if the date rang a bell.
A few moments later the phone rang, and it was my birth mom. We had an hour conversation. I can’t even describe the emotions I was feeling. Unfortunately I don’t even really remember some of the conversation as I was so overwhelmed, but she seemed very open to meeting me and was very sweet. She said she also felt a lot of remorse and guilt over the situation and was so happy to know that I was raised well and happy. What followed was a series of difficult conversations, where eventually she made it clear that she did not want to meet. So before I saw any pictures or learned anything more about her, she was out of my life, by her choice.
This was a very hard thing for me to accept, as I had been looking so forward to this. I felt a great deal of rejection and abandonment again. About a month later my father that raised me passed away. I was more depressed and more upset than I had ever been in my entire life, feeling like I had lost two parents. I loved my father so much, it was devastating.
I called my birth mother and explained the situation, hoping she would consider talking to me, but as I understand now, the guilt of giving up a child can be entirely too much to bear and she was unable to talk to me. Although I was angry at the time, after a lot of work on myself, I have completely accepted it, and only wish that she was able to released of some of that pain and guilt, and that I could help her with that. I just hope one day that happens, but I hold no resentment towards her and I understand how difficult this decision must have been.
A few years later I began to feel like my aunt who was involved in my adoption may know more about my adoption situation than she was letting on. When I asked her, she proceeded to tell me that she would like to meet with me and talk more about it.
During that conversation I learned several things. My then-boyfriend (now husband) made a comment that led to her to telling me about my birth father, who I didn’t even realize she knew about. She was very concerned that I would go through a similar situation as I did with my birth mom so she was wary to tell me. But as it turns out, he and his sister were famous in the 70’s. His name is Jimmy McNichol and he met my mother while she was working the front desk at a hotel where he was staying, after a large-scale ABC event. So it’s pretty crazy: They met one night and here I am . . . LOL . . .
So basically once I realized who he was, it seems like so much of my life made sense. I had always been interested in performance, acting, writing, etc. and obviously had pursued a lot of that. And both my birth father and his sister were activists and environmentalists, which is definitely something that I involve in my music and my everyday life.
At first I wasn’t sure that I wanted to contact them, but after about six months and having this really incredible meditation where I felt like I was being told that it would be a good experience, I decided to call him. My husband had hired a private investigator months prior to find a cell phone number for him. I just decided to call myself and not use anyone else as an intermediary. This turned out to be a pretty good idea, especially because he answered the phone and did happen to be alone, so it wasn’t that much of a shock for him to have to be around others. He was incredibly open. I ended up telling him that I was told he may be my father, and he said “anything is possible,” which is something that I completely agree with! LOL.
We spent about an hour and a half talking about our lives and all the things that we had done. It was pretty interesting. He started out in the entertainment business and ended as an entrepreneur. I started out as entrepreneur and ended as an artist. So we both had a lot of interest in doing projects together.
We took a DNA test and it said we are 99.99% match and he welcomed me to the family with open arms. I met his sister Kristy McNichol, who was a huge movie and TV star, my grandmother, his children, and his wife within a month or two after that initial talk. Everyone was so amazing, welcoming, and so excited. I had an incredible journey with them, talking about my life and their lives and seeing how many similarities we had. Not to mention the resemblance all around.
We immediately started to think of projects we could do together, ways we can help other people dealing with the same things we were dealing with, and that I had dealt with before with my birth mom. We have a lot of projects that will be coming forth in the next few years and it’s amazing that I now have a father again and a grandfather for my son. I know that my dad that raised me would be really happy that there is someone out in the world looking out for us in that way.
What advice would you give to a child who is adopted?
Love the ones you are with. You were chosen to be part of a family, and even if that didn’t go well, love and appreciate the community and friends around you, before all else. Be really grateful! The advice I would give to other adopted people is first and foremost, to really accept the situation that you’re in and know that it was all for a reason.
I think it’s really powerful to understand that family is what you make it. So many people have broken family stories or things that happen that they wish didn’t, and the fact is it’s really about what you make of the situation you have. I think that going into any sort of search situation, it’s really important to recognize that it could go in any direction. I am a perfect example of how in one circumstance I was met with open arms and in the other I was rejected. Anyone about to take on the search process needs to know that any outcome is possible, and there are a lot of outcomes in between that one needs to be prepared for. I highly suggest finding support groups, a therapist, etc. when anyone is going through this process, or even processing issues such as abandonment .
What do you wish people knew about adoption?
That it is beautiful! But also that it can be very difficult for those involved at times. I think it’s always really important to understand the trauma around the birth mom and her having to give up a child. Even if it is her choice and something she wants to do, it is still very difficult. It is also hard for the child and the family that is bringing the child into their home to deal with the feelings that arise at different stages. Some adoptees, however, deal with it differently and have almost no issues. It’s all about the person. But most of all, just be sensitive and supportive of those in this process.
I think people in general should also realize how often the idea that they are adopted comes up for children that have been adopted because of the fact that people in general frequently talks about their ethnic background, their medical history, how they look like their family . . . all those sorts of things. I can’t tell you how many times someone met me and my adoptive mom and said, “Wow, you guys look alike.” It was cool sometimes, and other times it brought up different feelings. But there is a constant reminder, I think, for some. Imagine the other side of this for people of one race who adopt from another: they have the opposite sort of reminder. This is of course a beautiful reminder that someone is there to care for a child that could not be cared for by the birth family, but I think having sensitivity and understanding towards all involved is important.
What’s the one question you wish I had asked you? Now answer it.
I think it’s really interesting to consider what it’s like for a child who was adopted to have a child. I just went through that process and so many different sorts of emotions came up during pregnancy and birth that I hadn’t even considered, but that were certainly related to my having been adopted. I thought about not knowing my birth story, not really knowing how my birth went in general for my mother. It’s just a really interesting topic that I’m getting more and more interested in now that I have a son and plan to have more children
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