With a lump in her throat and her heart thumping against her rib cage, Kimberley Tara Johnston manages to utter two tiny words to the woman who gave her life, but whom she has never met — “It’s me.”
Her story dates back to the 1970s when she was born in Newfoundland and adopted by a family from Ontario.
Johnston contacted The Telegram this week through the newspaper’s Twitter account in an effort to find her biological family.
“I know I was born in Carbonear, and my birth certificate says Lillian Michelle Gater,” she told The Telegram Tuesday from her home in Stratford.
In her tweet to The Telegram, she included a photo of herself and a note which says, “I am looking for my birth family, I was born May 21, 1974 in Carbonear, Newfoundland. I believe my (biological father), is from Bay Roberts. I have some info. I know that both birth parents had many siblings 13-14 each and birth mom had twin siblings. I have five children and I’m just looking for medical info. But would love to contact them if they want to have contact. Birthname Lillian Michelle.”
Through endless tweets, emails and Facebook postings of The Telegram story, and her posting on Twitter Tuesday and Wednesday, she found out her family name is, in fact, Vaters and not Gater, and that she has two brothers and is an aunt.
As well, she got her birthname from her grandmother and great-grandmother, both of whom were called Lillian.
“I woke up this morning and looked at the phone and said, ‘Did this all really happen?’ I no longer need to wonder who I am and who I look like and will be able to find out about my medical history,” said Johnston, who recently became a grandmother.
Johnston said she was placed in foster care in Carbonear immediately after she was born and stayed with a family until she was six months old. At that time she was adopted by her Ontario family through the Children’s Aid Societies of Ontario, an independent, non-profit organization which supervises children who come under its care.
But she said it offered little to no help when she began her search for her biological family at the age of 18.
As a new mother, time wasn’t a luxury she could afford. More children followed. So, fast-forward 20 years to a time when social media is all the rage, and within a day she found her family.
“My mother’s name is Florence Vaters. We first made contact through Facebook. She added me and then I added her — I was adding everyone all day to try to find her — so I wrote her a note and it took her a little while to respond,” she said, sounding tired from the emotional ordeal.
“It was definitely something that made us both cry. I tried not to get emotional, and after I said, ‘It’s me,’ she was like, ‘my baby, my baby’ and she has this really thick French accent along with the Newfoundland accent, so I had to really listen carefully to what she was saying,” she said laughing.
She told The Telegram Thursday her biological mother was taking notes as they talked on the phone about Johnston’s five children, ranging in age from two to 22. Johnston was surprised to hear Vater is not only a grandma, but a great-grandma as well.
Johnston said her mother left the Carbonear area around 1980 and moved to Quebec, where she still lives. Her two brothers live in Montreal.
Johnston said she has been speaking to her brothers through Facebook and was pleased to learn she is a recent aunt to James, her brother David’s new baby.
She said it’s a wonderful feeling to finally know who she is and where she came from.
While Johnston has always wanted to find her biological family, a series of strokes left her wondering if there was something in her medical history that could shed some light on her condition.
The stay-at-home mom said her four-month-old granddaughter has had some medical issues, too, but, up until now, not knowing what her medical background was, she couldn’t answer any questions about possible conditions.
She said her biological mother has a heart condition which might explain her medical issues.
Now that she’s tracked down her mother and brothers, Johnston has learned her mother and father haven’t been together for decades, so she’s still trying to find him. His name is Aubrey Vaters and his mother’s name is Mary.
As for a family reunion, “definitely, hopefully this summer,” she says.
Johnston’s Twitter handle