|Kramer meets birth family after 26 years|
|Written by Darci Tomky|
“Being adopted never defined me—it was just a part of me.”
26-year-old Katie Kramer grew up with great parents, a life she loves and a world that she wouldn’t change for anything.
That’s why meeting her birth mom, a brother she knew she had and siblings she had never heard of has been “a little weird” for Katie the last few months.
Katie and her husband Chad Kramer, who live in rural Holyoke, began thinking about starting a family of their own, raising questions in Katie’s mind about medical history in her biological family.
Katie was adopted at birth in California by Mike and Patty Lewine, and although she always knew she was adopted, she had never met her birth mom or the older brother she had heard about.
She had questions about medical history only her biological family could answer. “You just have to do what’s best for you,” Katie advised others who have been adopted. “You have to have real questions” before going in search of birth parents, she said.
Earlier this year in late August/early September, Katie visited her parents for 10 days. Patty lives in Jackson, Calif., and Mike and Katie’s stepmom Karen Hunt live in Napa, Calif.
They were supportive of Katie’s desire to find her birth mom, and Patty began helping Katie look for her on the Internet, which Katie wasn’t expecting.
Katie Kramer, pictured at left with husband Chad, has been recently
She also wasn’t expecting Patty to find her birth mom on Facebook within days after Katie had left California to return home to Holyoke and her job at First Pioneer National Bank.
Katie sent a friend request to Laurie DeLattore, thinking to herself, “I really hope you are the person I think you are.”
Laurie accepted the Facebook request, thinking that Katie was someone else. She was a little surprised to get a message asking if she had given a baby up for adoption 26 years ago.
Katie was also thrilled to find Jeremy on Facebook, her brother who is 18 months older than her, but she still didn’t know if she was ready to connect with him or her birth mom over the phone.
“Just put your big-girl pants on and do it!” encouraged her husband Chad.
The resulting three-hour phone conversation with her brother was a blessing to Katie, who found out just how much she had in common with Jeremy, despite having never met him before.
A week later she was able to talk with her birth mom Laurie on the phone.
Laurie still lives in Lodi, Calif., where Katie was born. Unknowingly, she had grown up a couple hours away from her birth mom. She said her parents had sent Laurie Christmas cards until Katie was around 10 years old, thinking Laurie had moved away without a forwarding address, when really she had only moved to a different part of town.
Katie learned she has more family than she ever knew. Laurie is married to Steve, who adopted Jeremy and is the father of Katie’s two half sisters April, 23, and Dominique, 18.
Later this fall, Katie got to meet her birth mom when Laurie was on a road trip to see relatives in Colorado and Alliance, Neb., ironically so close to Katie’s new home in Holyoke.
They only spent a few hours together, which was enough for Katie for the first time. She described it as a bit “nerve-wracking,” not quite sure what to expect from the meeting.
This November, Katie traveled to California to see Laurie and meet her siblings. She said she was more comfortable around the other kids. “There were no expectations,” she said.
Katie, who was an only child with her adopted parents, has really connected to Jeremy. Since she knew about him growing up, he was always a missing piece of her life, and there was an empty hole that he could fill.
“There wasn’t a hole for Laurie to fill because I have a mom,” said Katie.
“You’re my mom, always have been, always will be,” she said of her adopted mom Patty.
In the months since she met her birth mom, Katie felt like Laurie was pushing her faster than she could go, almost like she was trying to make up for the last 26 years.
“I have to be grateful because it’s because of her that I’m here, but I can’t let her dictate my life,” said Katie. “I do want to get to know her, but I need it to be on my terms,” she said after some advice from Pastor Gary Rahe.
“It’s the hardest decision to give up a child, but it’s the most selfless,” said Katie. When 22-year-old Laurie became pregnant with Katie, and Katie’s dad was out of the picture, she didn’t think she could give Katie and 9-month-old Jeremy a good life as a single mom. “She wanted to give us both the best chance at life,” said Katie.
In the meantime, Mike and Patty were distraught about not being able to have children and were having trouble finding a child to adopt. “It was hard on them because they wanted a child so badly,” said Katie.
The Lewines found Laurie a month before Katie was born, and even though she was adopted at birth, it wasn’t official for three months. In California, there was a set period of time for the birth parents to take their child back, and although Laurie considered it, Katie stayed with her new adopted parents.
“They could give me the time, the love, the life that Laurie couldn’t,” said Katie. “You might be adopted, but this is your family.”
She had gone back and forth about wanting to meet her birth family when she was younger, and her parents had chosen a closed adoption, so Laurie didn’t have the option of contacting Katie until she was 18, which is when she moved to Colorado to attend school at Colorado State University.
Katie never had any of the problems that adopted kids often have, and it did not upset her to find out that Laurie still had a family. “Had I not had such a good life, it might have bothered me,” she said. “I love my life. I wouldn’t change it.”
She is continuing on the journey of getting to know her birth family, still wondering just how to even call them family when they are still much like strangers to her.
Jeremy, his wife and two kids are planning a visit to Colorado to see Katie next summer during a long road trip, but much of the future is still unknown to Katie.
“They are good people,” she said of her birth family, and when looking back on this whirlwind journey, she has decided, “It was worth it.”
Holyoke Enterprise December 12, 2013