From an early age, Carly Ariel Smith always knew she had been adopted. Her adoptive parents were open with her about that fact. In 2019, after years of searching for her birth parents and countless dead-end roads, she finally found them. Today, a second grade teacher at Brevard Academy and single mom raising two sons (Cash, 10, and Boone, 7), she encourages and advises other adoptees on their own journeys to find their birth parents.
How exactly did you go about finding your birth parents?
Smith: I had wanted to search for them for years. I heard about the “23andMe” genealogy testing and ordered a kit for myself for Christmas 2019. When I got my results back, my birth father’s full name was listed at the top of my DNA relative list, and my half-brother’s name was listed next. I sent my father a message that said something along the lines of, “I’m pretty sure I’m your daughter.” He responded, delighted and told me that he had been searching for me for years. It was a wonderful moment. He had specifically done “23andMe” in hopes that I’d find him. I believe my brother got on there for the same reason.
How old were you when you started looking for your birth parents?
Smith: When I was about 18 I started attempting to look for them. The adoption agency that my adoptive parents had gone through was closed, so I felt that I had hit a dead end. I only had my birth certificate and my name of “Baby Girl Anderson” to go by, which wasn’t much. I held on to hope, but wasn’t sure I’d ever find them.
Why did you feel it was important for you to find your birth parents?
Smith: I always felt a sense of not belonging. I yearned for roots and answers to where I had come from. I struggled with my sense of identity: Who was I?
What questions did you most want to ask them?
Smith: All kinds of things. Everything from why did they give me up for adoption to what would they have named me had they not.
How nervous were you before meeting them?
Smith: So nervous. It’s a feeling that can’t be described. Meeting people who are responsible for your creation, people who share half of your DNA, but at the same time are strangers. It was a little bizarre.
Did your parents explain why they gave you up?
Smith: Yes. It was a relief to finally get an answer to that question. They were young (18 and 19), and they felt the weight of responsibility of raising a child was too much. After speaking with both of them, I believe my father was heartbroken to give me up, but my mother insisted.
How have your adoptive parents reacted to your searching for your birth parents?
Smith: They’ve been really supportive. They always offered to help when I was younger and after finding them they’ve been very understanding, as well.
Were you ever angry through the process?
Smith: I was a bit angry when my birth mother decided she wanted nothing to do with me or my children (her grandchildren). Maybe heartbroken is a better word than angry. Or, maybe I was angry that my children were heartbroken. They were given the gift of a grandmother and then she just walked away. Her initial reaction was to block me when I first reached out to her on Facebook. She quickly apologized and messaged me that she was thrilled. However, over the course of about a year, that changed. She ended up cutting me out and blocking me again. I never received a lot of closure as to why. I’ve come to the conclusion that her choices do not reflect my worth.
Do you have any advice for other adoptees interested in finding their birth parents?
Smith: Go into it with an open mind and be prepared for the worst. It’s impossible to know what your birth parents’ reasons were for placing you up for adoption, or what their reactions will be when, and, if, you find them. Don’t place any expectations on them and guard your heart.
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Smith: Anywhere with a beach! I go to Pawleys Island, South Carolina, a lot because one of my best friends lives there.
What are you most proud of in your life?
Smith: My independence. I have a great career, bought a house and raised two boys on my own. I’m very proud of everything I’ve overcome in my life.
What’s your favorite thing about living here?
Smith: The stunning beauty. Many people say when they live in paradise they take it for granted, but I really am awestruck by it every day.
Your biggest pet peeve?
Smith: It’s hard to pick just one. (laughing) I think grammar is probably my biggest. When adults can’t text or post with proper grammar and correct spelling, it gets under my skin.
What’s been the most challenging time of your life?
Smith: Transitioning from what I thought was a happy marriage to being a single mom. I am so fortunate to have had an excellent support system to guide me through that.
What would you say is your life’s motto?
Smith: My adoptive dad recently told me that he admires that I genuinely enjoy life. So my motto would probably be that life is short and that we should do our very best to enjoy every moment of it. And, bring joy to others whenever possible.
What’s one thing that always makes your day?
Smith: Random acts of kindness — giving or receiving. I love when someone in front of me in a drive-thru pays for my coffee, or I get to do the same.
Have you ever left home wearing your pajamas?
Smith: Of course! I’m a teacher. Pajama Day is my favorite part of the job!
When you played make-believe as a child, what did you pretend?
Smith: I played teacher a lot. I had a little chalkboard and would even hand out tests to my pretend class.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
Smith: No. Love requires cultivation.
What do you remember about your very first date?
Smith: I was in middle school and I went to see “The Vampire Diaries” with this guy named Matt. My dad sat a few rows behind us, and I remember being super embarrassed by that.
What’s one thing you did growing up that you hope your child never does?
Smith: I hope my children never place too much value on what other people think about them. I want them to embrace who they are and enjoy every moment of it.
Ann Sharpsteen is a local realtor with Sterling Real Estate Partners and founder of the “I Love Brevard” blog. She can be reached at (828) 606-2141 and online at ILoveBrevardblog.com.
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