Close this search box.

100 – Purely Loving Intentions

Haley Radke, Host/Producer of the Adoptees On podcast is my special guest for this special 100th episode!

Haley shared her story of gaining access to her open adoption record in Canada when she was 18 and quickly connecting with her first mother via email. They met soon after, but that rapid connection at Haley’s young age had its challenges. After secondary rejection, she was much more cautious with her reunion with her birth father. Hard work in therapy saw them through to a good place and inspired her offer therapeutic information for free through her own podcast that I’m sure you know. This is Haley’s journey.


Haley Radke, Host/Producer of the Adoptees On podcast is my special guest for this special 100th episode! Haley shared her story of gaining access to her open adoption record in Canada when she was 18 and quickly connecting with her first mother via email. They met soon after, but that rapid connection at Haley’s young age…


Haley (00:03):

But you’re right in the moment. I mean, I didn’t really have another choice but to just show her and go through it with her and I, I mean I was so young who knew that this was like a trauma, you know, and I’m like bringing up horrible memories from the past. Right? It’s just never occurred to me.

Damon (00:27):

Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Damon (00:34):

Who am I? Who am I? This is who am I really a podcast about adoptees that have located and connected with their biological family members. I’m Damon Davis and on today’s show is Haley. She called me via Skype from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Haley shared her story of gaining access to her adoption record in Canada when she was 18 and quickly connecting with her birth mother via email they met soon after. But that rapid connection at Haley’s young age had its challenges after secondary rejection. She was much more cautious with her reunion with her birth father, hard work in therapy, solve them through to a good place and inspired her to offer therapeutic information for free through her own podcast. That. I’m sure you know this is Haley’s journey. I’m not even going to play that game with you where I interview the person and I later reveal their secret identity. My guest for this very special 100th episode of who am I really is one of my fellow adoption podcasters, Haley Radke, host of Adoptees On and someone we all appreciate for her work to bring adoption stories and her healing series to podcasting. Haley told me she was adopted as an infant into the home of elementary school teachers in a remote Northern Mennonite community called LA Crete.

Haley (02:01):

Most people spoke low German, which is a dialect very close to German. It’s just a little different. So my, my parents were like the “English speaking” people. I’m putting that in quotation marks and everyone else was Mennonite. So already there was a other factor and I only knew one other person growing up that was adopted and in fact, fairly recently I got to have a conversation with her about those experiences growing up, adopted in this very small town. And our stories are so different because I had no idea who my birth parents were and I really wondered mostly about my mother. Um, but she had no idea either, but everyone around her knew. So we had very opposing experiences growing up in La Crete, which looking back on that now is just so interesting to me. How, how challenging it was for both of us in different ways.

Damon (03:04):

When when you say she, everyone around her knew everybody around her, knew that she was adopted or everyone around her knew whose child she was.

Haley (03:15):

Everyone around her knew who her mother was except for her.

Damon (03:23):

Haley’s parents waited seven years on a waiting list for the chance to adopt her. So they were 38 and 40 years old. When they became parents, they wanted to adopt another child, but if they had to wait another seven years to be considered again, they felt they would be too old to start over with an infant. So Haley grew up an only child discussing what it was like growing up in her home. She reiterated that her parents were teachers, so they were focused on child development milestones, spent a lot of time with her and read to her a lot.

Haley (03:54):

I did feel lonely a lot. Um, I remember playing by myself in my room, so very often wanting siblings. Um, my mum worked halftime, she was a kindergarten teacher and so I would often get babysat by family across the road from us and they had six kid I think if I’m remembering correctly and it was so rowdy and loud over there, then I would be thankful. I wasn’t only kind of went back and forth.

Damon (04:27):

I did the same thing. I would go to my friend’s houses and I would be like, Oh my God, you’ve got a brother, you’ve got a sister. And then I would see them fight over stuff and I was like, Oh man, I’m going home. I’ve got all my own stuff. I don’t have to worry about any of this at home. Thinking back on the one adoptee Haley knew in her community, she said that her community was very homogenous when she was younger. So she doesn’t think there were any other adoptees besides themselves today that very religious community has shifted to have more families who adopt often transracially, which we agreed might create some automatic othering for those adoptees. While Haley looked like the members of her community, they spoke English at home, so she got a taste of what it’s like to be different from everyone else.

Haley (05:11):

I don’t understand what it’s like to be a transracial adoptee and the extra layers of that except in that tiny piece that I do share sometimes. I did grow up very culturally different from all of my peers because almost all of them, like 95% were Mennonite and spoke low German at home and I was like, I don’t know. I don’t know what any of this is.

Damon (05:33):

Yeah, that is kind of fascinating. Wow. So you did feel a little bit of that othering then.

Haley (05:39):

Yeah, definitely. And um, I did come to learn a few words in low German and the only one I can remember now is a swear word.

Damon (05:49):

I wondered how Haley was alike or different from her adoptive parents. Personality wise, she’s pretty similar to her parents living more quietly and calmly like them. She said that with two parents who were teachers, she was often surrounded by her parents, friends who were teachers and people even seem to expect that one day she might be a teacher.

Haley (06:10):

There’s no way I was going to be a teacher. I did not want to be that and so I wanted to be different. I think somewhere in my subconscious I wanted to be different than they were,

Damon (06:23):

I’m sure to her parents. Great joy. Haley was a reader.

Haley (06:29):

I loved reading. Reading was my number one thing. I basically read every single book in my elementary school libraries and middle school libraries and our community library was the same as our high school library. So when when I got books out from there, you were allowed five books out at a time, which was enough for a week for me, kind of when I, when I moved over to the high school, you were only allowed two books out if you were a student there. And I remember being so irritated that I couldn’t take up more books again anymore

Damon (07:04):

later. Haley’s family, not quite as conservative as the Mennonite community around them. Got a computer. She learned tech stuff like computer games, web design and tech nerd stuff to use her words. As we were talking, I realized I didn’t really know what Mennonite was, so I asked Haley to explain it a little.

Haley (07:24):

So in La Crete, um, predominantly Mennonite, very small town, I’d say maybe 2,500 people. Most of the people there have immigrated to Canada from Bolivia and they have a very conservative religious culture. And Mennonite is one of the main features of the Mennonite religion is pacifism. So they would move to La Crete to escape being drafted for the war. And so that’s sort of where the roots are. But the old colony Mennonites would be very similar to um, how to write in that. Like some of them, you know, when let their kids go to school pass grade nine, um, there’s a lot of farming up there. Their churches wouldn’t have electricity. For example. A lot of my friends weren’t allowed to have TVs. Like when I say conservative I’m like speaking like it’s a very like literally conservative and you know, going back many years in time. But yeah, it’s, it’s, it was, it was weird Damon people dropped out of school after grade nine because they had to go work on the farm and I had girlfriends who, you know, weren’t allowed to cut their hair and they made their own dresses. Like it is like a whole different world.

Damon (08:54):

Yeah, it sounds like it. And if you weren’t raised that way, it must’ve been really interesting to be part of a community where there was, you know, somewhat of a different language as a whole bunch of different beliefs in the system. That’s really fascinating. I inquired with Haley about the catalyst for her search. She said she often wondered about her origin story and about her first mother when she turned 18 and had moved to the city in the early two thousands she realized she was of legal age to apply for her non identifying information in Alberta, but she wasn’t really thinking about searching as even a possibility. She just wanted more information. She said her non ID was only a few pages

Haley (09:34):

and it was very sparse. But everything on there I was like, Oh my goodness, I can’t believe this. And one of the things that it said was that my mother was an avid reader and I remember just being like, Oh my gosh. Like of course she is. That’s where I get it from.

Damon (09:51):


Haley (09:53):

I was so excited to like, as you’re listening, know everyone that is adopted. Like if you have never had any type of genetic mirroring around you, like this one, one little fact of like, Oh my gosh, I’m like someone else. That was gold.

Damon (10:11):

Yeah. And to read it right there on the page before you’ve ever come anywhere near meeting the person. There’s a real um, magnetism to them or at least identification with them, right, because you feel like a piece of you is, is in some way a piece of them. It’s really kind of amazing. There were mentions of physical traits and information about the sizes of her maternal and paternal families, but not enough information to act on for a search. Haley tucked all of the information away and closed the door. But when the Alberta government opened adoption records, soon thereafter, she reopened that door. In 2005, Haley applied to receive her full adoption records, which were sent in a huge file of detailed information, but most of it was redacted with many sections blacked out.

Haley (11:03):

But within that, there was my birth mother’s name, my birth father’s full name, and there was even an address that was her address at the time of placement for me. So I got out the phone book and I looked up her surname. It was, it’s a very common surname, so I looked at pages and pages of the surname to try and see if I could find that address. And sure enough there still was someone there with that same last name and I thought this is probably my grandparents. And so I wrote a letter.

Damon (11:46):

What did you say? Do you remember what you said in your letter?

Haley (11:50):

I have it here. Well, here’s my first paragraph. I say tier and then there’s her name family. I’m not sure what it would be like to receive this letter is actually kind of surreal for me to be sitting here and writing it. Just know that I’m not writing to disrupt lives or your family. I have purely loving intentions of finding my other family. So then I go on to give some details and about how I found their address and all of these things. And then I ask to be connected with my birth mother. And I do the same thing that so many of us do. Right. You have to show I’m not a scary person. I just kind of want to know and I want to express that. I want to know my family and I don’t want to, you know, steal from you. I mean, what are the other struggles of like, exactly, yeah. Rock your boat, include myself in your family, take over in some way. Um, and I also say at the end, if you don’t want to connect with me, could you just please acknowledge the receipt of this letter?

Damon (13:06):

I thought that was really smart. So many adoptees send out an introductory letter that’s never answered, but we don’t know if it was received and unanswered. If we add an incorrect address or if they just didn’t want to talk to us. It’s frustrating.

Haley (13:21):

No kidding. The next day after I had mailed it, I got an email back from my grandfather and it was so beautiful and welcoming. I’ll just give you the last line because it’s so key to just how, um, my maternal grandfather is. It says, PS, I was told not to email you until after we spoke to your mother, but I think I’ve stayed in the background about 22 years too long.

Damon (13:59):

Oh my gosh, he sounds so awesome. Oh my gosh.

Haley (14:06):

That was such a relief and it was so welcoming and loving and I just thought this is going to be great.

Damon (14:14):

Oh man. Yeah. My heart would have been so warm to read that. That’s just, that’s super cool. Good for him. Good for him for opening up and saying that Haley and her grandparents emailed back and forth a couple of times in the lead up to them telling her first mother that Haley had found them. Her grandparents wanted to share the news with her face to face. The first opportunity was the weekly family dinner, but that week their dinner didn’t happen. The following week, waiting for the next family dinner. Her maternal grandfather was emailing family photos of his parents in Scotland and Haley was taking it all in at the next week’s family dinner. The news of Haley’s re-emergence was revealed

Haley (14:56):

once the told, my mother, she emailed me and it too was so warm and loving and excited and she was so happy and um, she said such kind things about my letter. Complimenting my writing and it was just beautiful. Like all the things I could have possibly hoped for.

Damon (15:25):

Wow, that’s really cool. Did you, sometimes when we write back and forth to one another, you can detect some of yourself and how they express themselves. Did you notice anything like that in her writing about how you express yourself? Just curious?

Haley (15:41):

Oh, absolutely. I’d say we had very similar writing styles, even similar vocabulary. It was, it was just so telling to me that we were similar in that way. She works in that profession.

Damon (15:58):

They emailed back and forth that day and incredibly, they agreed to meet.

Haley (16:03):

It was all very, very fast, which I do not recommend. If I had to give some advice. Yeah, slow down. It doesn’t have to be, you know, the same day my husband and I went over to her house. She invited us over. It was in the evening after supper and it was so awkward, uncomfortable. I went over there. I think with the expectation that I would feel like I know her and have some connection and you know, of course we’re the same. We both love reading, which is so ludicrous because how many people love reading? Yeah, believe it or not, there was a time where I was very shy, extremely introverted and would have trouble carrying on a conversation. Well, she’s the same way. So if it was my husband, it was very much like her husband trying to get us to sort of have a conversation. I mean it was, it was awkward.

Damon (17:20):

Mother and daughter, soft-spoken, introverted and not great conversation starters are meeting for the first time. Their husbands are present. But the whole thing is a little weird. Haley said they shared a great deal of awe over the fact that they were actually in the room together. They were examining one another quietly looking for a similar family features.

Haley (17:44):

I did bring family photos along and that’s another thing that I would say don’t do. I brought childhood photos for her. I brought some wedding photos of my husband and I, and um, I think that was just way too much because it was bringing like, here’s all the things you missed over the last 22 years. And for someone who, you know, had a traumatic experiencing and losing a child to adoption, that was not not a good way to go. Anyway as we were looking at each other and those things, I tried very hard to be like, Oh yeah, my face shape is the same as hers or we have the same coloring and those kinds of things. Um, but now when I look back, we did take one photo together. I think, I don’t know that we actually look very similar, but in the moment I was just so desperate for like more connection that I think I attributed more similarities than there really were.

Damon (18:51):

Yeah. It’s funny you do out of desperation to connect kind of do that. You want to assimilate everything into yourself almost at the end of their visit, they took that photo together and kind of left one another with the understanding that they will be in contact and they would get together again. She recalled getting in the car with her husband, feeling like they had just had a pretty wild and kind of weird experience. We chatted about how television shows like long lost family or reunions portrayed in the media, create this buildup within us of what to anticipate in reunion

Haley (19:27):

and then really happens that, wow, this is kind of awkward and shouldn’t we have gotten along better. And I don’t know. One of my friends recently said to me, it’s intimate strangers and that’s what reunion is. You know, you’re supposed to have this, you know, intimate connection with someone and yet you’re complete strangers. We have this idea in our heads that just because we’re biologically related to someone and you came from there like actual body, you should be able to build a relationship, but it doesn’t work that way with any relationship. Like there’s so much work that you have to put into it to have a successful, healthy, flourishing, um, friendship.

Damon (20:20):

Yeah, you definitely have this, you feel like the biological connection is the ultimate connection and therefore it should just happen. And um, the excitement of such a momentous occasion can overshadow the fact that people are people and yet you either get along or you don’t regardless. You know, I’ve got the, everybody’s got people that they, you know, they’ve got friends that they are not biologically related to that they love like brothers and sisters and they’ve got brothers and sisters in their own family that they could just care less about, you know, so it doesn’t, you know, biology is, is inconsequential to how your relationships develop. It’s fascinating. Did you, did you hug her when you saw her at first and did you hug her when you left?

Haley (21:06):

Yes, I vaguely remember there was the hug I think. I think on both, both ways. Um, you know, going forward I realized that their family is not very uh, demonstrative and that was challenging for her. And um, her dad on the other gives like these giant like bear hug and I should say I am touchy feely. Like I’m a hugger. I’m very touchy feely.

Damon (21:42):

Haley and her birth mother emailed back and forth, frequently talked on the phone periodically and they met in person a few times. They had lunch at Haley’s house. They took a walk and went shopping another time and Haley and her husband were invited to dinner at her maternal grandparents house with her birth mother and her husband. I asked Haley about when they delved into the reasons for her adoption. She said she was familiar with some of the details of why she was available for adoption because they were included in her open adoption record. Her birth mother had written a note in the file explaining she was in grade 10 her birth father was in grade 12 so the natural decision was to place Haley for adoption in 1983

Haley (22:26):

I already, you know, knew that info, so we didn’t really have any conversations about that. One time when she was at my house, I did show her that paperwork that I had received from the government and it was very distressing for her and she didn’t remember writing any of it and I really wish I hadn’t have done that. She wanted to see what was there, but I, I, I shouldn’t have shown it to her because it was just, it was too much. I think that was one of the last things that we ever did in person.

Damon (23:11):

Let me ask you, as you’re in that moment right there, you are with your biological mother, she’s at your house and she’s asked you to see the papers that you’ve seen from the government and you’ve said that you feel like you wish you hadn’t shown them to her. But in hindsight, I’m wondering, and I’m not faulting you with for this at all, but how would you ever have gotten out of that?

Haley (23:37):

You know, that’s, that’s the thing about the hindsight, right? Of course, of course. I was going to show it to her. I mean, what was I going to say? Like, no, you can’t see this paperwork that you signed and you could easily write to the government and get your own packet from them. I mean, spoiler alert if you haven’t heard it yet, like this reunion is going South right now.

Damon (24:02):

Oh yeah.

Haley (24:03):

Not going to last much longer.

Damon (24:04):

I’m starting to detect, detect it in how you’re speaking.

Haley (24:07):

Yeah. So with, with the years that have transpired in between and because of the work I do now and talking to other adoptees and other first parents and now I understand like that was so not a good thing to do. Um, but you’re right in the moment. I mean, I didn’t really have another choice but to just show her and go through it with her and I, I mean, I was so young who knew that this was like a trauma, you know? And I’m like bringing up horrible memories from the past, right? Like it’s just never occurred to me.

Damon (24:46):

Yeah. It would take a very, very emotionally intelligent, empathetic person probably. Which blanket statement, none of us are at our, in our younger ages to think to themselves, if I show her this, I’m likely to trigger her in a way that I can’t even predict. Like, I just can’t imagine the person that have could have foreseen the trauma that it would resurrect in her. You know, I would have shown my biological mother had, she asked me, I mean, I just can’t imagine how you would even get out of that. That’s it sounds really tough. So tell me then what happens in your relationship? How, how do things go after that? I assume you could probably see her reaction on her face as she reads her own words and the entire situation is brought right back to her present memory. How, how did things go after that?

Haley (25:48):

That moment was really challenging and you know, there’s some things that she said even in that moment to me that were really painful and kind came for me. I was like, this is coming out of nowhere. What’s happening?

Damon (26:03):

Apparently there were a few other times that Haley and her birth mother got together alone or with family members that ended awkwardly. Haley’s maternal grandfather would visit her in college from time to time and took her out to lunch across the street. When Haley shared the news of her visits with her grandfather, her birth mother would get upset. In hindsight, Haley saw a lot of red flags in their relationship. They would email about the situations as they arose, which Haley also doesn’t recommend because a lot is lost in written communications. You can’t tell the tone of the message and sometimes you can’t really understand what the sender is trying to convey. Here’s what happened leading up to their final email exchange.

Haley (26:46):

We were supposed to have a dinner with her brother and her parents and it was like another big family meetup kind of thing. Um, right before Christmas. And as I said, I was in university. And so I had finals and my parents were coming into town. It was just like so much. I was just like, Oh my gosh, can we move this dinner to like maybe in January or later? And her last email to me was, you know, you’ve been so critical of me and my family, let’s just kind of postpone indefinitely and you know, I kind of need some time and just insinuating that we need this little break and that she would get back to me and we would, you know, meet up again in January at some point. But she was very upset and I was shocked and like, Oh my gosh, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. And I’m just really overwhelmed. And like I just kind of went into like, um, defense mode and how can I repair this? And yeah, I, I never heard anything back from her after that. So that is it

Damon (28:03):

she reached out to her birth mother with remorse trying to repair the situation. No answer. She emailed again in a few months and again, a few months later, but no replies. Haley continued to connect with her paternal grandfather from time to time. So she received some information that her birth mother was alive and well, a natural worry, if you don’t hear back from someone repeatedly at the end of 2019, it will be 14 years since Haley has heard from her first mother.

Haley (28:34):

I’m still hopeful, actually Damon, is that to admit I’m still hopeful of that foundational, you know, change her mind. Um, but I don’t think it will be from anything that I say.

Damon (28:50):

It will be a point that she reaches in her own life probably. Right.

Haley (28:56):

Hopefully the thing is now that you know, we do what we do, the podcasting and sharing these stories and sometimes I worry that because of what I’ve said and what I’ve shared that that will be just one more reason for us not to connect.

Damon (29:20):

I can imagine. I am. That’s, that is really challenging because there’s a piece of you that has to speak your truth, right? These are your feelings, these are things that happen to you and, and we are in a position of interviewing other people about their narrative and sometimes we interject our own feelings about what has happened to us in the context of what our guest has said. I could see how there would be some concern about whether if she was starting to come around, she would get triggered again because she heard she’s, you’d say something that you didn’t intend to be a subliminal message to her but ultimately comes across, you know, in a challenging way because you guys haven’t had that direct discussion with one another about how you were hurt and how to repair that.

Haley (30:19):

Oh, for sure. And I mean, you know, I’ve told this story a few times, I’ve shared it, you know, once on my own show. And to have someone listen, like if she listened to it and if she listens to this episode, you know, what’s she thinking in her head? Like it didn’t happen like that. I don’t remember that. Or you said this and you didn’t, you know, like every experience, right? There’s two very different sides and the truth is somewhere in the middle. And so I realized that even as I share my story that I, you know, I share with the hope it will be helpful to someone else that they won’t experience the pain of secondary rejection. And you know, I’m like interjecting these little bits of advice and things. I mean, we have no idea how someone else’s mother would react to those very same things.

Damon (31:16):

No, that’s absolutely right. And I hope that, should she hear your voice here, she would focus in on the fact that you’re still hopeful because I can hear that you sound like you’d like to work on it. It’s been a long time and I hope that she would recognize that. You sound like you’ve got some maturity now that you didn’t have in your early reunion and I, I would like to think that that would be something to focus in on. You know what I mean?

Haley (31:45):

Thank you. I appreciate that you see my maturity,

Damon (31:52):

Haley told me before we chatted that she doesn’t share details of our paternal reunion very often

Haley (31:57):

because it’s in a good place and I don’t want to screw anything, so that’s why I don’t share too much publicly.

Damon (32:08):

She said she remembered thinking the first time she saw her birth father’s name in her adoption record. It was such a common name that she’d really have a hard time finding this guy. When she reviewed her records again a few years ago, she realized the guy’s name isn’t very common at all.

Haley (32:24):

This is like, it’s so unique. I’ve never even heard it before, so I typed it in a Facebook, and he popped up like it was such an easy search. I, it’s embarrassing sharing that because I know some people worked so hard to find their birth parents and so it was really easy to find him.

Damon (32:47):

That’s amazing. Wow. I’m glad to hear that it’s going well and I can certainly appreciate that you want to protect it, uh, because it is fragile. As you obviously know from, from your other relationship that you, you’re still trying to rebuild it sounds like. So.

Haley (33:07):

Well, I, you know, I do want to share, you know, we had the honeymoon period in the beginning and um, we had the, like the ups and then we started having like problems and hard stuff. And this time I went to therapy and I did counseling with my husband, with my dad and his wife and we worked through some really ugly, painful very, very hard stuff. And we worked so hard at it and it, it, there was moments where, um, I definitely wanted to walk away. And I think that, um, my dad’s wife also wanted to walk away and it was tough, but because we’ve invested so much work, it’s brought us to a really beautiful place. And I also, we talked about growing up as an only child. I also have three younger siblings and they are young adults now, but at the time I met them, my youngest sister was nine years old. So he has been in our lives now. Yeah, she’s been in our lives no for that, almost that same amount of time. And one of the most special things about this, uh, reunion for me, Damon, is that my son who are, um, five and seven when we were recording this have always known my dad and he’s poppy and they have poppy and Grammy and my um, siblings are their aunties and uncle and they’ve always known them.

Damon (35:02):

Back when Haley first got her adoption records when she was 18, her adoptive parents were really happy for her, that she was going to get some answers about who she was, but they were also concerned.

Haley (35:13):

My mom especially was very, has attempt and worried I was going to get hurt. And so when I did, I was really, really sad to have, you know, proved her right in that. So that was unfortunate with my search for my dad. As I said, it was so, and it was sort of on a whim. I never told them ahead of time that I was looking. In fact, I, I told them after I had already talked to him and had conversations with him and my adoptive parents have actually met them a couple of times. We’ve had a couple of whole family visits and that’s been okay. Like it’s not like, it’s not that it went badly. It went really well, but I would rather have everything separate for some reason. I don’t know why I feel that way. But I remember one time when I was at my bio dad’s house for a bit of a vacation, it was after Christmas and they had all their Christmas cards hung up. And so I was flipping through and one of the Christmas cards was from my mother and I was like, wait, outside of me, like this is not how it works. So I remember being really upset about that actually is a moment. I mean, it’s just a Christmas card. Why would I be grudge some that. But yeah, balancing that piece has been very hard for me.

Damon (36:57):

You’re not the first person I’ve heard say that. And I’m sure you’ve had guests on your show who’ve said that too. Why do you think it is that we, for whatever reason, want to keep these two elements of our lives very separate. I think. And, and part of the reason I asked that question is because I recall in my own desire to reunite that I hoped everything would go well and I could bring the two together and say, you know, you gave birth to me, you raised me. I would imagine you guys have a couple of things to say to each other. And you know, I had this rosy vision of them thanking each other for doing one piece and the other doing the other piece. Why do you think it is that we sometimes want to keep these pieces separate when in fact we are the ones that brought it together in the first place?

Haley (37:48):

Well, when I think back to the honeymoon stage of reunion and I very much wanted to build my relationship with my bio dad and build our friendship and um, just learn more and more about him. And I remember getting sometimes kind of upset when I didn’t just get like just time with him and I and I, you know, like maybe my husband was there too and I’m like, Oh well we can’t have like this deep in depth conversation then. And you know, like having this sense of, I mean it’s almost like possessiveness right before things have right size themselves. So I feel like it’s something like that. Like there’s still like, no, this is my family and I’ve been separated from them for so long. And you can’t have a piece of that too. Like there’s just a part of me that just wanted some to myself and it’s selfish.

Damon (38:51):

That’s really interesting. I didn’t think of it really until you said it, but I can definitely see how one would feel like this is quote unquote my reunion. Right. And therefore you want to, in whatever selfish way, have ownership over that whole thing exclusively. For whatever reason. It struck me when you said it that that there’s some selfish piece of us that wants us to experience it for ourselves partially because we’ve been gone for so long right. That the small subtractions of attention and affection or whatever the thing is, um, can be magnified because of why we’re in this situation in the first place. It’s really interesting. Of course, I couldn’t let Haley go without asking her about her own show. Adoptees on Haley admits, she’s always been a podcast junkie. From early on she told me that the experience of reunion with her birth father and paying for therapy to process her emotions and experiences didn’t feel quite right. She had been looking for support through Twitter conversations, but it was hard to convey or receive full adoption stories, 140 characters at a time in those days. We close with Haley’s journey to launch, adoptees on and the formulation of the healing series.

Haley (40:16):

So I asked a couple of them hate, would you like share your story with me? Like if I recorded it, would that be weird? What do you think? And people got really excited. Then I was like, maybe, maybe I could start a podcast. I don’t know. And then when I tweeted out, like I have this idea for a project for adoptees, you know, DM me for more info. Like I didn’t even say it was a podcast. I had a couple of strangers DM me and say, Oh, I’m adopted, I’m interested what’s happening. And one of them is my very good friend to this day. Um, Mave and she, I asked her, I was like, Oh, could I interview you for this podcast? And she’s like, great, I’d love to. So she was my second interview that I ever did and it was such a great interview and she was so passionate and well-spoken and captivating and wow, this is like a thing. And I don’t know how it is for you Damon, but I thought even if it’s literally just me getting the opportunity to have these conversations with other adopted people who get it, who know the challenges of reunion, who the struggles of search the ups and downs of the honeymoon period or you know, going to therapy or any of those things. Even if it’s just about us having that conversation and nothing more, no one else listens to it then it’s worth it. Cause I’m like, Oh finally I’m with my people. They get it.

Damon (41:56):

It’s a funny thing I did, I did a similar thing and starting who am I really in that I was so enamored with my own story and I was, you know, well into the Koolaid with adoption and you know, I had two awesome parents and uh, I grew up amazing, you know, had an amazing life in Columbia, Maryland. And I had this like fairy tale reunion with my biological mother and I was like, man this is really awesome. But every once in a while I would speak to another adoptee and they would be like, you know, I had a good friend named Laura, she was one of my early guests and she said, yeah, I’m, I’m really hope I’m so happy for you. And I’m really hoping that happens for me too. Cause I was born in New York and at the time the records were sealed.

Damon (42:40):

And you know, another one of my early guests was a best friend of mine, Andre. And you know, he and I are like brothers and he revealed to me, he reunited first and he reviewed it, revealed to me that he learned he was the product of a rape. And I was like, wait a minute, it’s not all like everybody’s story is not like mine. And in that was really sobering for me to realize that the stories that you see in the news, you know, you get these twin brothers who worked at the same, you know, garage or whatever the thing is and it feels all rosy is not the whole story. And the piece that you just revealed about how much hard work you had to do to get to a beautiful place with your biological father is the piece that’s missing. And, and now it was part of the detail that I wanted to get to with my show.

Damon (43:36):

And I get the sense that it’s the same for you, that feeling the tribe of crib mates around us. And talking about different situations, but similar experiences is incredibly sort of validating and healing. And I, I always feel so great to just sit and listen to another person’s story because I like to try to empathize with where they are, where they were and you know, sort of who they are now based on what they’ve experienced. So I can totally relate to what, what you’ve just said. I wonder too, can you tell me how you arrived at the healing series?

Haley (44:18):

Just before I answer that, I just want to say that every time I interview someone it’s just I just feel the intense privilege and honor it is to be the person they their story with. And I’m sure you feel that way too. And in my first few interviews I thought, Oh my word, this is like this sacred ground. And um, and my guests have expressed that to me, which I again, I know they do to you sometimes it’s the first time they’re sharing it with anyone, like their real true feelings about how reunion has affected them or their desire to search or you know, any of those kinds of factors. Because when you tell someone who’s not adopted, you might get back. Some of those, you know, trait thing people always say, or some asinine comment that people often say, but so to be able to share with another adoptee is just so special. And I don’t take that lightly. The things that people share with me. So as I mentioned, all of the therapy that I’ve been through, Oh my gosh, my bills. Woo. Um,

Damon (45:30):


Haley (45:31):

I just notice, you know, as we talk about reunion and we talk about the real stuff and all the real issues that get stirred up, I thought there’s gotta be more resources for adopted people. And you know, how many adopted people have I talked to where they go to a therapist and the therapist is like, well, you just gotta be grateful that you got good parents and you know. Like forget this adoption staff. And they dismiss it. So just flippantly, like it’s no big deal. And like that is so unacceptable. And so I understand how costly therapy is, how, what a lack of mental health care there is available to people. And I was like, how can I get some sort of free mental health care for people? And the wisdom that the adoptee therapists that come on my show and share for free, you know, um, is incredible.

Haley (46:32):

And I’ve had so many people, you know, write into me or message me and just say how they’ve been changed and impacted by something they’ve heard on the healing series. It’s been really amazing to see the impact that the healing series has had. And I really didn’t expect it. Um, actually, so yeah. And even though, even though there’s always a plug to go get therapy in each episode of that healing series, I understand that a lot of people can’t afford that and don’t have it available to them. And so I hope that there’s some practical takeaway that they can, you know, a book they can read or an exercise they can do, um, to work through something that maybe they’re having a challenging time with.

Damon (47:14):

[mmhmm] that’s really amazing. You know, there’s, when you see a need and you fill it, you’ve really, you’ve met that need in a way that probably others couldn’t have. And it’s especially because you’re in this space, you’re sensitive to the fact that folks have had to, you have had to pay for this, um, this level of therapeutic help and your, your attempt to bring it to the masses for free and in great detail is really, really admirable. And I think that, um, you know, for those folks on my show who are listening to my show and haven’t had a chance to listen to your healing series, uh, if you feel like you needed, I would certainly recommend going over there and listening to some of the experts share what it is that they know. Uh, because you’re right, you get non adoptee therapists who just don’t get it and they, you know, you may as well be talking to somebody on the street cause you’re, you’re getting the same comments and you’re offering a really great service that I think that I’m appreciative that you, you’ve taken time to create the space for so well done.

Damon (48:22):

I think that’s really awesome.

Haley (48:24):

Thank you. I’m so grateful for the therapists that have been on and have just been so generous with their time and their wisdom, and I don’t think I said this, but they are all adoptees that are trained therapists in a variety of different specialties, but that’s the amazing part. The first time an adoptee therapist is on the show, I’m like, can you just share a teensy bit of your story so that we know you get it and you know when they shared they’ve got the same stuff that you and I have, right. They’re like, Oh, I’ve had reunion or I’ve had secondary rejection or I searched and I couldn’t find, you know, they’ve had all those same experiences and like what a gift to actually talk to someone who gets it.

Damon (49:04):

Yeah, absolutely. Totally get it. Well, speaking of gifts, I really appreciate you spending time on the show with me today. This has been amazing. I was, I was really hopeful that I could get you to agree to come on for this 100th episode and I’m so thankful that you did. This has been really cool and I’m really thankful that we’re in the same space together because, um, I get a lot of the same comments that you do about how impactful hearing other people’s stories are for our listeners. And that fills me with just the greatest joy and fulfillment. I mean, I just, I, I really, as you said, I appreciate that folks trust us with their very, very personal journeys. And so similarly, I’m so thankful that you shared yours with me here tonight. So thank you Haley. I really appreciate it,

Haley (49:58):

Damon. It was my honor and I just want to say a huge congratulations for reaching a 100 episodes that is no small thing. I know that is so many hours of work. Incredible. I’m so grateful you’re in the community. Adoptees need to hear other adoptee voices and stories and you are doing that for us. I thank you for your wonderful service to the community and I hope to see a 100 more minima from you .

Damon (50:35):

There’s a lot of hours. It’s a lot of hours, same to you. I know you’re putting in a lot of work and it’s really amazing stuff. Haley. Well done. Thank you for being on the show. I’ll talk to you later. Okay,

Haley (50:46):

sounds so good.

Damon (50:47):

Take care. Bye bye.

Haley (50:48):

Okay, bye.

Damon (50:53):

Hey, it’s me. Haley had some important words of caution for adoptees in their early stages of reunion from her reunion with her birth mother. She recommended taking it slow, underscoring that you don’t have to meet someone immediately if you think it would be better to take a moment to let things sink in. Haley said she wished she had threaded more lightly when sharing stories and photos from her past because her return to her birth mother’s life resurrected the woman’s decades old trauma and in her paternal reunion. You heard her say that after the honeymoon period, there was some real, very hard work to do in therapy together that got them to a place of having a beautiful reunion. You can find Haley’s podcast and you can subscribe to her show wherever ever you get your podcasts. You can also follow Haley on Twitter at adopteeson.

Damon (51:49):

I’m Damon Davis and I hope you’ll find something in Haley’s journey that inspires you, validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn. Who am I really? That’s it. Haley was number 100 thanks to everyone who’s been listening. I love this medium of storytelling and I’m really grateful to every fan of the show and for every guest who has shared these intimate pieces of their lives for the benefit of others. If you haven’t done so, it would be so cool if you left a rating for the show. Wherever you get your podcasts, those ratings mean a lot to me and they help others to find a podcast too. I’m off to finish the audio version of my book. Who am I really an adoptee memoir available on thanks for listening. I’ll be back next week.

Who Am I Really?

Find the show on: