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Mama Byrd

Mama Byrd
By Mike Holley, Adoptee, Member

I was born and adopted in Ohio in the 1970s and now live and work in California as an actor. In 2015, my dad and step-mom emailed me at least three times to tell me that Ohio opened their adoption records. I received my original birth certificate at the end of 2015 and didn’t know where to go from there. Ohio Vital Statistics pointed me to Adoption Network Cleveland and I finally became a member in December 2016. On Monday, December 12th I emailed Traci Onders, who assists people in search, copies of the information I had.

Traci called me the next morning with news – she found my birthmother, Martha Byrd. I was given two landline phone numbers and two home addresses, one of each in Kentucky and Ohio. Traci also shared that I may have two brothers or half-brothers. It was fuzzy if the oldest son and I had the same dad. Traci even had my birth grandfather’s name.

Traci explained that the next step was for me to make initial contact and we discussed that process at length. I was even provided with phone scripts and was completely blown away. I, of course, had all of this bouncing around in my brain for years and more clearly for the past few days. But less than 24 hours later upon receiving my information, I was given all this! I mean, come on....

It was a lot to process. A friend of mine challenged me to make the call before the week was up, although I thought I would wait until after Christmas. The next day though I just decided to reach out. My heart was racing. I went over the scripts until I could say the words pretty much without my voice cracking and tears forming. My original birth certificate was on my computer screen, scripts laid out in front of me and a pillow nearby to cry into, if need be. I was ready!

I called both numbers on Wednesday morning, December 13th. One number was disconnected and the other had an automated answering machine. Knowing that I needed to leave a thoughtful message I called Traci again and she guided me on how to handle it. Her advice was very helpful and could elicit a response while at the same time maintaining my birthmother’s privacy. I was super amped up and with my heart still racing, I left a message.

A few minutes later an Ohio number that I didn’t recognize called me and left a voicemail. I listened to it and it went something like this: “Hi. This is Martha’s husband. You called just a bit ago and I’m curious as to who you are and why you called us. You may call again and talk to me if you’d like. Bye-Bye.” The alpha bull in me came out. I thought this guy was trying to get between Martha and me. This was not in my plans! I spoke to a friend of mine who talked me down. She said that neither of us was doing anything wrong and this could be a great conversation. I knew that I had to be nice to Mr. Byrd or I’d lose the chance to talk to my birthmother. My friend and I said some prayers and she said that after she and I hung up, she would say a rosary for me, I’d take a few breaths and call back. So I did.

I called and Mr. Byrd picked up. I said, “This is Mike Holley. I just called you and would like to talk with Martha about something private, if I could, please.” He said that he understood that it was a private matter, but he’d ask her if she wanted to speak to me as they didn’t recognize my name or number. I said, “No sir, you don’t know who I am, but I’d really like to talk to Martha.” I knew then that I was in! I was now sliding down an ice tunnel! He then called out, “Marty! Marty! Pick up the phone.” All I could think of was “Awwww, he calls my birthmom, Marty.” She picked up the phone and it went something like this:

Me: Is this Martha?
Her: Yes, it is.
Me: Do you have time to chat about a private matter?
Her: Yes, I do. Who is this?
Me: My name is Mike Holley. I was born on January 25, 1972 at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio and placed for adoption. Does this mean anything to you?
Her: I’m sorry. Can you repeat that?
I repeated it.
Her (crying): Are you my son?
Me (sobbing): Yes, I am.
Her: I’ve prayed for you every day since then.
Me: You have no idea!

We spoke for about 40 minutes and agreed to chat more, email, and meet up sometime. I sent Marty and her husband an email that night with photos of me and links to some commercials and TV stuff that I’ve done as an actor in Los Angeles. It took a while for me to hear back. I texted Bob, Martha’s husband, a few days later and he finally got back to me. Bob and I texted for a few days. The day before Christmas I got a text from Martha (Marty) or Mama Byrd, as I call her, saying that this was the first text she’d ever sent, and that this Christmas was so special for her because we reconnected and she wanted to wish me a Merry Christmas, but didn’t want to interrupt anyone. I then called her on Christmas Day and we talked for about an hour.

Since then, Mama Byrd gave me her phone number and we’ve texted almost daily. She saw my Grey’s Anatomy episode and told her sister to watch it. Her sister told her husband, “That’s Martha’s son!” It’s been an absolute love fest. I still cannot believe it! Mama Byrd asked me if we can text every day. I said yes, of course, and we’ve done just that. We plan to meet in a few months after they move back to the Akron area from Kentucky.

After 44 years, I found my Mama Byrd.