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101 – This Is About Everybody

In Debby’s home adoption was an open topic because she was fostered by her grandparents and adopted by their daughter. Unfortunately, she wasn’t welcome as an adoptee by her adopted father and she and her family faced abuse by her stepfather. In reunion Debby found out her birth parents tried to stay together and she has full blood siblings. But her biological father has tried to deny she is his, even though she and the rest of the family know their truth.


Debby (00:03): If someone had said, maybe you should wait and meet your mother first. I would have, but I didn’t know and it’s just that my birth mother had never, ever wanted to give me up, had lived with this and buried it for so long that she should have had the op the first opportunity. Who am I?

Damon (00:35): Am I? Who am I? Who am I? Hello, 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 Debby who called me from central Pennsylvania. In her home adoption was an open topic because she was fostered and adopted by the same family. Unfortunately, she wasn’t welcome as an adoptee by her adopted father and she and her family faced abuse by her stepfather. In reunion Debby found out her birth parents tried to stay together and she has full blood siblings, but her biological father has tried to deny she is his even though she and the rest of the family know the truth. This is Debby’s journey. Debby was born in Baltimore County, Maryland later adopted into a family with a biological son, five years, her senior, but her adopted mother had a unique relation to Debby and the adoption process.

Debby (01:44): Her parents actually were my foster parents.

Damon (01:49): Oh really? That’s really interesting.

Debby (01:52): Yeah. I was taken to them at three days old and I was there until I was about to, but they had, their daughter had already decided that she wanted to adopt, she had some health issues and was having trouble conceiving again. So, um, I had, I was born with crossed eyes or a lazy eye and whatever you want to call it. And so the social workers felt that I probably was not going to be adoptable because admir County wasn’t going to pay for that surgery. But, um, so she decided to adopt me and um, then they had it corrected. But so adoption was a pretty normal thing because my grandparents were foster parents, so kids came and went.

Damon (02:45): Debby’s parents went on to have another son. So she is sandwiched in the middle of two biological boys in her family. She told me her father was a great dad to them taking them fishing and setting up those old school army men in mock wars. But she, and he never bonded because he never wanted to adopt the child. They never really did anything together.

Debby (03:07): He told my mom that, you know, he adoption was not normal. It was not natural and he was not for it. Um, but he, you know, consented to the adoption anyway. I don’t know why they’re both deceased so I can’t ask them and I never really had a comfortable relationship with him where I would have asked him. Anyway,

Damon (03:29): I asked Debby how she got along with her brothers, given her adoptive father’s position on adoption and his clear favoritism towards them. She said there was a sizable age gap between herself and her older brother. So that coupled with their general differences in interests in personality meant they weren’t very close growing up.

Debby (03:49): No, I don’t think that it impacted either one of my brothers because I think they were oblivious to it. They’re still kind of oblivious to, um, adoptee feelings. Like, like when I shared that I was meeting my birth family, um, and they were all happy and they were like, well, now you’ll get the answers you need. And then I sent them some photos after I met my birth mom and I got back. Good. Now, you know, looks like that’s the only thing. Yeah. Like there’s like, it’s not complex at all. It’s just you go, you ask a question and you move on. You know, that’s how a lot of the world feels. So I don’t think they’re any different than any other non adoptees.

Damon (04:38): Learning more about Debby’s adopted mother, especially juxtaposed against her adopted father who was open about not wanting to adopt her. She said her mother did the best she could. She was a kindergarten teacher and after her divorce from Debby’s adopted father, her mother worked nights and enrolled in college.

Debby (04:57): Actually none of us saw her a whole lot for about four or five years. So, you know, we had, it wasn’t a bad relationship when I was a kid, a young kid. It was a really good relationship. Things changed as, um, as I grew. Once I hit teenage years, things kind of really went to crap. Well she got married again and so my stepfather moved in and that was not a good situation. It, there was some, um, a lot of abuse, physical, emotional, sexual, so.

Damon (05:40): Towards you?

Debby (05:42): Um, yeah, and there was physical and emotional towards, you know, everybody. Um, shortly after that is when my older brother left. As soon as he was 18, he went in the air force. So he didn’t have to really grow up with it. But, um, that cost, you know, a little disconnect, a lot of disconnect between my mom and I.

Debby (06:06): um, cause she didn’t believe me. It was tough, you know, I would say from 12 to while I left home, you know, the day after I graduated from high school, just to get away. But you know, it took her a while. When I got married, she actually wanted to bring my stepfather to the wedding and I’m like, no, no, not happening. So it, it was an uncomfortable relationship after, you know, after she was aware and came to believe me and it, you know, it injured our relationship. I wouldn’t say it was horrible, you know, I still loved her. It was just an uncomfortable relationship, like a hug or something and we just felt like disconnected.

Damon (06:54): Yeah. Unhealthy because there’s this awful thing happening in the middle.

Debby (06:58): Yeah. It’s like I, I was at a point where I still hadn’t forgiven him or move past that. So I think that, you know, that, um, just caused that, that disconnect with her and I, I don’t, we tried to move past it, but I don’t know that we ever really did. So, yeah. That’s one thing I regret.

Damon (07:26): Debby said in her junior year of high school, her aunt was living with her family and the stepfather attempted to victimize her too. Not one to bite her tongue as Debby had been forced to do as a teenager. Her aunt outed the stepfather in front of Debby. Debby said her mother never came around to believing she had been abused until she left home and moved across the country. She said she’s not sure why. Her adoptive mother finally left her stepfather.

Debby (07:53): And it wasn’t until he tried the sexual abuse on my aunt that it came to light because my aunt was like, no, she is very outspoken. And he just picked the wrong victim there. When that happened, I remember that we were out on the deck and my aunt brought it up and I was like, Hey me too. And that was my opportunity to get it out in the open and stop it. And I think I was, I had just finished my junior year in high school and she didn’t believe me at that point and she didn’t believe my aunt, but my aunt was like, I’m outta here. And she, cause she was living with us. So she took her young son and left and I was there, stuck at home, but he had been called out. So there wasn’t any more after that. It was just really, really tense being at home. So I wasn’t home a whole lot.

Damon (08:50): So adoption is out in the open in her home. She had been fostered by her adopted grandparents. Her adopted father had openly expressed that he didn’t want her. So when I asked, when she felt the desire to search for her biological family, she said,

Debby (09:05): I don’t remember a time that I didn’t want a search. Honestly,

Damon (09:10): in third grade, she was tasked with writing an autobiography about her family tree for class. The kids were asked to include information about who their parents were, when and where they were born, and the hospital they were born in, et cetera. Since Debby did her homework by herself, she made up a whole story about herself. The teacher called her mother in for a conference about the assignment because it was clear to the teacher that Debby had fabricated her story.

Debby (09:38): You know, I was like, well, what else did you want me to write? I don’t know. I don’t know what time I was born. I don’t know what I weighed, you know, I have no clue. So I made all this stuff up and so then, you know, my mom was like, well, she’s adopted. We really don’t have any of that information. And so that’s when it hit me that this is different. No one else had this problem, you know, I need to find this information. So I always had this need to find and I had always sent, the adoption was so open. I was free to express that. You know, I was never told not to talk about adoption, not to talk about my birth parents. When I was placed in foster care, the social worker told my foster parents who ended up being my grandparents don’t go out showing her in the neighborhood and that’s all she said. So that led us to believe that my birth family was close by. So you know, I was always scanning the crowd. You know, maybe I’ll find someone who looks like me because I know they have to be close by.

Damon (10:56): In 1981 at 19 Debby moved back to Baltimore from California. She made a trip to Towson high school, her Alma matter and started scanning the yearbooks from 1961 62 and 63 she took her one page non identifying information which said her birth parents were in their teens. Her birth mother was a slender five foot, two inch tall blonde with blue eyes and was artistic. Her birth father was tall and slender, dark haired, dark eyed, and he was studious and college bound, which was the main reason for her adoption placement. She went through the yearbooks looking for anyone who might fit those descriptors, but she also said

Debby (11:38): I was intent on finding my father, not my mother, and I think that’s because I didn’t have a good relationship with my father. I had never had like a a positive father figure in my life. So looking back, that’s what I concluded is that’s why I was looking for my father.

Damon (12:00): So she searched for this guy in the yearbooks and made a list of the men then went to the gigantic Baltimore phone book and started cold calling them. Everyone was very nice, but they all apologized and said they were not the guy. Debby searched for females that were in one yearbook, skipped a year, then reappeared in a subsequent yearbook figuring pregnancy might have kept her out of school. It was harder to do the cold calls to those women because of course her birth mother could have been a married woman and might have changed her name. Debby contacted Baltimore County social services and registered on their mutual consent registry. Back then, both parents had to consent to either one being in contact with their daughter. Nothing ever came of that registration. In 2015 her adopted mother who had always been interested in genealogy, offered to buy Debby an ancestry DNA kit. Debby only knew that the kit would reveal her heritage. She didn’t know at the time that the test could actually match her with family members.

Debby (13:03): She bought it and brought it to me and I spit in the tube and mailed it in and unfortunately she passed away like two days before I got my results.

Damon (13:13): Debby didn’t know anything at all about genetic genealogy after her mother passed, so her third and fourth cousins were clues, but she didn’t know how to reverse the knowledge to explore her tree. She messaged a few people to learn more, but the people who replied didn’t have any helpful knowledge. Only one guy, a third cousin, was as curious as she was and maintained contact with Debby throughout her multi-year search. Years later in 2018 Debby opened ancestry DNA to find, she had a close family match. She messaged the match explaining she was born and adopted in Baltimore in 1962

Debby (13:52): so I said, are you also related to, and I said the name of the second cousin and then the guy, third cousin that I had been messaging with for three years and I got back a message. We need to discuss this in a safer forum. Can I have your email address? Whoa. So through email, you know, I sent her every increment, all the information that I knew and, and she emailed me back. She said, I’m your aunt. I was there when you were born. Yeah. But she didn’t give me any names of anybody.

Damon (14:28): Her aunt’s husband had recently passed away. She was selling her home, buying into moving into a new place and she needed a few months. She had a lot going on and Debby’s return was big news and she needed time to tell folks what was happening between them. Debby said the whole time she was checking her email daily and was waiting on pins and needles to get a message from the woman. Months went by, but Debby didn’t hear from her aunt. She finally emailed her aunt to check in and her aunt emailed her back.

Debby (14:59): I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long. I’m still in the middle of all this. We just moved. But this is your mother and this is your father. Wow. Yeah.

Damon (15:12): She identified them by name.

Debby (15:14): By name. Yeah. So that’s when I found out that the third cousin that I had been in contact with for three years was my paternal match, that he was not related to her. So he’s actually my birth father’s cousin. So he was quite shocked to find out that his cousin had fathered a child that he knew nothing about.

Damon (15:37): Debby’s aunt revealed that her maternal family had been together in South Carolina on mother’s day in 2018 so she told her sister Debby’s birth mother, that they were in contact. Her birth mother said she needed time to process everything. Remember her aunt was there when Debby was born, so she knew about her her whole life,

Debby (15:59): but she said that it was just too painful a subject to bring up. She said she couldn’t discuss it. You know, the birth mothers are told, you know, go home, forget about it, live a normal life. And anytime that my aunt tried to bring it up, my mother just broke down. So she said, you know, shortly after I was born she stopped bringing it up. So it was never discussed and she knew that she hadn’t told my brothers. I have two full brothers.

Damon (16:26): That’s right. Two full brothers. Debby’s aunt told her that her birth parents got married the year after her birth, divorcing shortly thereafter. Her adult brothers did not know about her. So Debby’s birth mother was scared her sons would react negatively that she had kept this secret from them. Her birth mother is remarried and she had already revealed this secret to her husband since her mother was taking quite a while to weigh through the depths of her past returning to her, Debby and her aunt decided they would go ahead and connect.

Debby (17:00): I met my aunt first and had I known the dynamics of the relationship in the family, I would not have done that cause I think I really hurt her by meeting my aunt first and I’m, I’m really, really sorry I did that. Not that I’m sorry. I met my aunt, I’m just sorry that I overstepped. I was just so excited to finally have an opportunity to meet biological family. So I went to my aunt’s house and I was greeted with, I have been waiting all of my adult life to meet you and I knew her voice and this is not my mother, this is my aunt. My aunt had spent so much time with my mom because she was her younger sister and my mom was at home, like sheltered in her room. She wasn’t allowed to come out. So yeah, my aunt would spend time with her and when she spoke because we hadn’t spoken on the phone or anything, but when I went to her house and she spoke to me in person, it was like, Oh my God, I know this person.

Damon (18:07): That’s incredible.

Debby (18:09): It was kind of like mind blowing. Yeah, and we spent hours and she, I don’t remember a whole lot of time goes so slowly while you’re looking and when we met it’s like time went so fast. I don’t remember hardly anything that we discussed that first time

Damon (18:33): Debby’s biological family was growing and she had an instant connection to her aunt, but she hadn’t been in contact with her birth mother yet at all. In those first few days, Debby had a revelation that opened her eyes about how impactful reunion can be for everyone involved.

Debby (18:51): After I met my aunt the first time I was, it was all me, me, me. When I went to meet her and I didn’t it was about me in my head and I didn’t consider her feelings. And like the second day after I met her, it’s like, Oh my God, this is not just about me. This is about us. And I was a mess. I was driving around like in tears. So I had to call her and like apologize for not realizing what a big deal it was to her too, you know? So I think that that really helped to connect us even more because I had to realize that, you know, it really isn’t just about me, it’s about everybody. And I was like, how long do you think it’s going to take my mom to contact me? And she said, well, I don’t know. She said, but why don’t you write her a letter? I’m like, really? And she’s like, yeah, write her a letter and just tell her what it would mean to you to meet her. Oh, well dang, I can do that.

Damon (19:56): That night. Debby wrote her birth mother a four page letter where she poured her heart out about what it would mean to meet the woman. She sent her aunt a copy of the letter through Facebook messenger to make sure she hadn’t said too much. Her aunt said it was perfect and she would work on getting the letter to her sister. Debby didn’t hear anything for a while and she didn’t want to bother her aunt. She waited a month, wrote another letter, found her birth mother’s address on Google search, then mailed the second letter straight to her birth mother. Debby paused just long enough for the letter to have reached the woman by mail. Then she reached out to her birth mother on Facebook with a message to confirm that she had received it, but making sure not to apply any pressure.

Debby (20:41): It took a couple of days and I got a text message and it says this is your, mother, I did get your letters and I will be in contact soon and I just like screaming. My husband and I were in a hotel room getting ready for a wedding and I was like, Oh my God, it’s my mother.

Damon (21:05): Debby replied that she’d be available the following week after the wedding, her birth mother replied again offering to meet up that Tuesday, much to Debby’s delighted, surprise, Debby wanted to meet someplace private, but they couldn’t agree on a place. Her aunt’s home, while comfortable would have added a little pressure because meeting in the presence of other family would have made it hard to have the first contact be exclusively about mother and daughter. They chose a restaurant in Frederick, Maryland, halfway between their homes.

Debby (21:36): I was like, Oh man, I can’t do this in a restaurant. There’s going to be people there. Well, let me tell ya, I could care less if there were people there because I have never had a hug like that in my life. And I, like I said, I could care less. And the poor waiter guy, you know, once we got the hug and out of the way and we were sitting down at the table, the waiter kept coming back, can I take your order? But like, no, not yet. We were there for four hours. It was just phenomenal.

Damon (22:06): That’s amazing. I feel so sorry for waitstaff all over America who have waited on adoptees and birth parents and they are just there for hours and hours and hours and they just don’t understand the gravity of what’s happening before them. I’ve heard that so many times. It’s so entertaining. That’s really cool. That hug is really special. Boy, I tell you,

Debby (22:27): Oh understatement. Yeah. There’s nothing, nothing to describe it. You know, everyone says it’s surreal and that’s really the only word that I can think of because there is nothing like it. And my back was to her when she was actually in the restroom when I got to the restaurant, so I was like standing there like looking forward, and my back was to her and she came out of the restroom and she said my name and just like I knew my aunt’s voice. I knew that was her. Wow. Yeah. It’s just there is that connection. You just, somehow, it’s like your soul knows that voice. I see. Your conscious doesn’t know it, but your soul does.

Damon (23:12): Yeah. When you’re, you know, in utero, when you’re in the womb, those voices that are closest in proximity to you, obviously your birth mothers, cause you’re within, you know, a foot of her vocal chords. Right? But, and, and that’s the only, probably most resonant voice you’ve ever heard. And then, you know, if your sister was the next most, the next person in closest proximity to your mother, of course she too would be somebody that you would just feel a direct connection to when you heard her voice. That’s something easy.

Debby (23:47): It is. And then we were away for mother’s day together and I drove. So she was with me for 10 hours each way. And we had the radio play in and she was singing and her voice, just her singing. It just gave me such comfort. So I said to her, I was like, did you sing to me when you were pregnant? She’s like, yeah, I sang all the time. She said I was in my room with nothing to do. And it must have comforted her, comforted me, because when she sings, I just feel like this peace. And it’s really weird.

Damon (24:29): That’s incredible.

Debby (24:31): But it is incredible. And I, so I, you know, I just love when she thinks to me,

Damon (24:38): you should see my face. My mouth is wide open. I mean, I’m just blown away that you would think to ask, did you sing to me? That’s, that’s really amazing.

Debby (24:48): It’s, it’s, it’s cool. So yeah, whenever we’re together I’m like, I turn on the radio cause I know that she’s gonna sing cause she loves to sing.

Damon (24:56): That’s so cute. I love that. For their meeting, Debby loaded up her iPad with family pictures. They sat next to one another and exchanged photos. Her birth mother brought pictures of the family too, including some of Debby’s brothers. Her birth mother was astonished to see pictures of Debby’s kids and grandchildren, her birth mother’s great grandchildren.

Debby (25:18): And so I showed her my kids and my grandchildren and she’s like, wow, I’m a great grandmother. I’m like, you’re not just a great grandmother. You’re a great grandmother. Eight times. She’s like, wow.

Damon (25:32): That’s amazing. So you said then that you wished you hadn’t met your aunt first. Not that you didn’t want to meet her, but the wish you had, it had been in a different order. Tell me a little bit about what happened to make that become an, an obvious mistake.

Debby (25:51): Um, it just caused tension between my mom and her sister and I, that was not my intention, you know, I didn’t want to cause any, any hard feelings or, or a tension between, you know, my, my mother and her, her sister just because of the family dynamics that I wasn’t aware of. If someone had said maybe you should wait and meet her mother first, I would have, but I didn’t know and it’s just that my birth mother had never, ever wanted to give me up, had lived with this and buried it for so long that she should have had the first opportunity, but she hadn’t processed it, she wasn’t ready. So yeah, it’s, it’s all okay now. I just should have done it differently, you know, hindsight 2020

Damon (26:52): yeah, yeah, for sure.

Debby (26:54): The relationship that I have with my aunt is so strong and my aunt had open heart surgery last November, so I had only been in reunion with my mother for a month. But we met at the hospital after the open heart surgery and when we went to leave, my aunt was actually in tears when she gave me a hug and we got out into the hall and my mom that I have never seen her with such an emotional attachment to anybody. So ma, my mom knows that, you know, we just have this bond that you know is, it’s not in place of her, it’s just this great connection that we have. And who knows, maybe it’s because she was around all the time that, you know, my mom was pregnant, she was there when I was born. So you know, she’s a big part of me of, you know, my biology, I think you know, my DNA. So I match her really, really high. We have this bond that is good and it’s definitely not in place of my mom. The bond with my mom is like super, like beyond anything that I can even describe. It’s just two really, really close bonds.

Damon (28:22): When Debby met her biological mother, she still hadn’t told her sons Debby’s full brothers about her yet she knew she had to do it. She just couldn’t bring herself to do it just yet. Her biological mother finally mustered the courage and strength to speak her truth to her boys.

Debby (28:39): They both commented to me that they thought that she was going to tell them that she was dying because she was so upset. She was crying and the first one that she told is the youngest and he was like, wow, really? I have a sister, no way. And he was like, I want to meet her. But we had to wait until his older brother knew.

Damon (29:07): It took a few weeks, but her mother finally went to her older son’s house one day after work to share the news. She called Debby after the meeting, still crying from the heavy emotions of what she had just revealed, but it was done.

Debby (29:21): So I got a text message that says, I hear you’re my sister.

Damon (29:30): Oh, is that the rumor you heard? Funny. I heard her, I heard a rumor you were my brother. Yeah.

Debby (29:37): So apparently, yeah. So we didn’t actually meet until Christmas cause that was the first opportunity. We all had to be together. But we had, we had texted and talked and neither one of them were like, you know, you lied to me. I hate you. Um, I can’t believe you did that. Well, the older one, he’s, they’re both younger than me, but the older of the two, he was angry that he missed out on 56 years of having a sister. So all three of us are coming to terms with the fact that, you know, we can’t bring back what we lost and it sucks. And things probably wouldn’t have been really great if she had kept me because I mean, she was, you know, 17 in high school, had no money and they didn’t have an easy life either. You know, once her and, and my father divorced, she knew she was on her own single parent.

Debby (30:37): No money. Yeah, we probably had parallel existences pretty much, but just coming to terms with the fact that, you know, you missed out on all of that, but we’re trying to not dwell on what we missed but move forward and make new memories. You know, I, I talk with them, I, but it’s a comfortable, it’s a really comfortable relationship. It’s like, but the younger one, whenever we see each other, he’ll just look at me and I’ll just feel it. He’ll say like a glove, like a glove and a cousin made a comment when I wasn’t around to her, to her mom, she said, isn’t it weird how Debby just fits in the family? Like a piece of the puzzle that was missing. And just to hear those remarks from, you know, when I’m not around it is, is just like, wow, this is, it’s real. You know, it’s really real. It’s not just me trying to look for the similarities or you know, to feel a connection. It’s really there.

Damon (31:50): Debby said she traveled with a cousin and her daughter to Kentucky and her cousin also said that Debby and her mother make similar faces and have resembling mannerisms even though they don’t actually look a lot alike. As we were talking, I was thinking about Debby’s brothers and their desire to have her as a sister their whole lives. I took a moment to circle back and you know, just going back to your, your brothers and the desire to have had what was lost in the past. I can’t, I always think of the fact that a decision you make in the moment impacts all of the other decisions that half that will then follow and the decision to have the first child you would have then impacted her ability to take care of you at that young as you’ve already pointed out and therefore potentially change her calculus for other children that would have come.

Damon (32:47): I guess what I’m saying is, you know, those guys might not even be here if she had kept you.

Debby (32:52): Exactly

Damon (32:52): So it’s an interesting, it’s a, so it’s a really interesting thing to sort of think through. Like if this, then that, you know, in a different scenario is just a really hard thing to, to mull over because literally there are people that would not be here. There are spouses that would have never been married. There are all kinds of things, you know, brothers that would have never been conceived, potentially all kinds of life decisions that just never would have unfolded had, you know, the decision to keep you been made in a different direction.

Debby (33:26): Absolutely. And that’s, I wouldn’t, you know, want to not have them in my life. You know, if I had to go back and say, well, you know, it would be better for me if I was with my mother and father, but then I wouldn’t have my brothers. I would never say that. And I wouldn’t have my husband, I wouldn’t have my kids and my grandkids. So you know life is what it is and you know, my life, you know, until my adopted mother got remarried, I was okay. You know, in my situation, you know, I still knew I was adopted. I still wanted to find my birth parents, but it wasn’t a bad life. You know. I was okay. You know, I never had any real anger with being adopted. You know you have that hole, and I did. I definitely had that hole, the feeling that I was not complete. I had that forever. But you’re right. You don’t know. But I did have a, a deep deep seated desire to know and to find,

Damon (34:34): remember how Debby set out to find her birth father. We haven’t even talked about him yet. Debby’s cousin can remember her birth mother and father as a teenage couple. But back then her mother just disappeared. Her cousin thought they just broke up and got back together. A year later that cousin emailed Debby’s birth father with the news that they were in contact.

Debby (34:57): He got a reply back. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have no daughter. So he just flat out denied me to his cousin and my cousin’s like I have the DNA. Nope, we are matched. And if you look through the other matches, you know who she is, definitely your daughter. Cause I’m matched to a half brother, two half brothers and a half sister through him have all done DNA testing. He hasn’t but his kids have. So we know and he knows. And so he denied me to his cousin and I’m like, okay, well how about if I try it.

Damon (35:38): Debby drafted a similar letter to the one she sent to her birth mother and mailed it to her birth father. She didn’t hear anything back. Debby sent emails about every other week but nothing. She sent him birthday cards, Christmas cards and emails from time to time, including her own email address and phone number in her messages. She reminds him not to wait too long because we all know time is short and the pads of our lives aren’t guaranteed. It turns out the man is well off. So she finds herself trying to assuage his possible concern that she might be after his riches by simply telling him that isn’t the case.

Debby (36:17): I know I don’t get anything back. And, and my mother says, you know, I really don’t understand that. And my cousin and his mother were like, when we met, they were like, he is, this is not typical for him. We don’t know what’s going on. Like he ceased contact with them even after they told him that they were, they were contacted me. Yeah. He, he hadn’t even returned his aunts letters cause she writes to him. So he’s kind of like plug himself off from the rest of the family. But my mom, my mother said the other day, she said, well maybe one day I’ll get up the nerve and I’ll just call him and I’ll just say, Hey, you know, she’s yours. Knock it off.

Damon (37:05): That’ll be an interesting conversation.

Debby (37:07): I know it would. And you know, I said, well, you know, maybe I’ll get up the nerve and I’ll just call him. But then I think to myself, you know, really, what would I say, you know, I want, I have a desire to meet him just to meet him, but I don’t really know that I would be able to form a relationship with them. I don’t know.

Damon (37:28): So I can totally empathize with where you are of like, I don’t even know what I want. I don’t even know what I would say. But just like seeing a picture and you know, maybe just sitting for 15 minutes and just, you know, acknowledging that we now quote unquote know each other would be so much different than just completely being rejected and just distanced from. It’s, it’s, it’s insulting honestly.

Debby (37:56): It is. And that’s one thing that really caught me off guard was I guess what they call secondary rejection. It’s like I have never met this person walks up when I was born, you know, I, I know nothing about him, but his denial and indifference, it’s like it fricking hurt. And I, you know, I had a really hard time, like why, why do I care? And I had come to a point where I actually wrote him a letter or an email and I was like, it’s up to you. I’m done. You know, if you don’t want to meet me, then you know, we’ll just let it go with that. And then a couple of days later I was like, wait a minute, this is not okay. You can’t have that kind of attitude. I guess. I went through a moment of anger, um, but my oldest daughter was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and I really, really needed medical information and just the fragility of life. It’s like, you know, I have a 30 year old daughter who probably, you know, I will probably outlive her.

Damon (39:09): Mmm.

Debby (39:10): And so I wrote to, again, I like, you know, I need this information, but more than that I really don’t want time to run out because at 56 you know, I was already thinking like, wow, I’m really running out of time. If I don’t find these people soon, I’m not going to find them alive.

Damon (39:30): The things that you just said were really heartfelt, deep emotions about why you would even want to connect with him. Like my daughter has an autoimmune disease and I would love medical information and the fact that this guy has alive when all of his own siblings are gone is also incredibly meaningful. Have you, said any of these things in correspondence to him to just make the appeal to his own heartstrings about this being about way more than potentially money or and trying to deny a daughter. Have you made any of those kinds of appeals at all?

Debby (40:11): I did. I, I wrote him, um, when my daughter was diagnosed, I wrote him and I said, you know, medical information at this point is, is critical. I said, I have a daughter was just diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I have a granddaughter who has juvenile diabetes. I have a son who has epilepsy. So I would like to talk to you about your medical history in your family and appeal to just is, you know, a little bit of concern for other people that he could potentially help. Um, but I still, I got no response whatsoever.

Damon (40:53): Debby pointed out that heart disease runs in her maternal line and her birth mother has had a heart attack. She and her sister and their mother, Debby’s maternal grandmother, all had heart bypass surgeries. She said after 56 years of not having any information, she went back to her doctor to provide some family health history. Her doctor recommended connecting with a cardiologist and she has changed her dietary habits to fight heart diseases, prevalence in her family, still trying to establish contact with her birth father. Debby said, Debby said that a while back, she even wrote to her paternal cousin, her birth father’s niece, listen to this.

Debby (41:34): So I wrote to his daughter, she lives out in Washington state and I’m like, this might come as a shock to you, but I’m your cousin. And she’s, she wrote me back, Oh, I’ve known about you for years. And I’m like, how? And she said, well, and this is really a very odd story, but she said, I was cleaning out my father’s house after he passed away and I found your birth certificate. And I’m like, no, you couldn’t have found my birth certificate because mine is sealed. But she said, no, I did. I found a birth certificate. And I asked my mom and I, she said, you know, I said, who is this person? And my mom said, Oh, well your uncle Mike was married to someone else before he married your aunt. So they had a daughter together and I’m like, there’s no way.

Debby (42:24): So I wrote back to her and I said, well, my birth name was not Debby. It was Daphne, but I have a half sister through my father named Laura. So I wrote back to her and I said, so did this birth certificate say Daphne or did it say Laura? And she said, I don’t know who Daphne is. She said, but it said Laura. I said, well, that’s not me. I said, that’s my half sister. And she’s like, you gotta be kidding me. There’s another one. I said, Oh, you know nothing. I said, there’s three of us out there. Yeah.

Damon (43:00): So is this then, do you get the feeling that this is a component of why he is retreating so mightily because he has multiple children out there?

Debby (43:14): Well, I would, except that he was married to Laura’s mom when she was born.

Damon (43:20): Yeah. Okay.

Debby (43:21): Now he’s estranged himself from her since then. But I’m in contact with Laura. She’s great. I love her. We are very, very similar, very much like our dad,

Damon (43:30): so that’s two sisters. They have a paternal brother too. The story is that the brother’s mother was dating her high school sweetheart when they broke up for a while. During that breakup, she and Debby’s birth father slept together and she got pregnant. The woman went back to the man she was dating and they got married. Debby’s brother was raised by the couple and he doesn’t consider their genetic father to be his father. The man who raised him is his dad and that’s all he cares about. Every family has a lot of stories to tell and the stories just keep coming in. Debby’s family. Thankfully she has some really great relationships on both sides of her birth family and she’s finally feeling the security that her maternal reunions are solid. Well, Debby, I’m really glad. It sounds like you’ve got a really awesome relationship with your maternal side and even some components of your paternal side who are supportive, which is really cool, but the fact that they just say, you know, I can’t believe how she fits in. That’s just, that’s a validation that you can’t get anywhere and it’s got to feel so good.

Debby (44:33): It does it. It feels really, really great. And I had, I’ve only been in reunion with my mother since the beginning of October last year and I’ve always had really, really, really strong fears of abandonment and rejection. Sometimes they’re like paralyzing fears and even though our reunion was great, I still didn’t trust it. Does that make sense? Like, I didn’t trust my feelings, I didn’t trust her feelings. Yeah. My biological brothers will say like, you know, we’re here, we’re not going anywhere. It’s like, you know, you read all these things where you know, people have been told that before. Adoptees have been told that before, and then boom, they’re ghosted for no reason. They have no explanation. So I didn’t, I didn’t trust it. But yesterday, and I don’t know why because nothing has changed. I haven’t seen my mom for well since mother’s day, but I woke up yesterday morning with this complete feeling of wholeness, comfort, unconditional love. It’s like something in me just said, this is real and you don’t need to worry anymore. And just to reach that point as then just like, wow, I can relax. And I have been, I have had like a smile on my face since yesterday morning.

Debby (46:03): And so I had this, I had to send her a message. I’m like, I don’t know what happened, but this is how I woke up and I feel comfortable, you know, I feel safe. And she was like, well, I told you so.

Damon (46:20): That’s really cool.

Debby (46:22): I think that had I attempted this when I was younger, it would not have been successful. And I said that to her and she said, well, why do you say that? And I said, because emotionally I just don’t know that I would have been in a place to handle it. I said, it’s just so complex and you know, I, I don’t fear overwhelming her anymore. So, you know, I’ll just like yesterday I sent her the one about, you know, I feel really good. I, I feel confident, I feel comfortable and to get back. I told you, you shouldn’t believe me. I’m your mother.

Damon (47:03): That’s awesome wow. She sounds like a great person and I’m glad you guys are taking your time to build this in a way that’s healthy for both of you and that you’re being open and honest with your feelings. Cause sometimes you Harbor that stuff on the inside and then it comes out in the, it comes out sideways. So it’s good that you’re sharing this stuff with her. I really like that

Debby (47:26): and that’s why I have to journal because it’s just it up in there and

Debby (47:29): I just have to get it out and once I get it out, I can move on.

Damon (47:34): That’s excellent. So this has been awesome. It was really good talking to you. I was, I was glad to hear that things worked out as well as they did. So thank you so much for sharing your story. Okay, take care.

Debby (47:46): Well, take care. Thank you for having me. And I’m getting ready to download your book because I listened to the podcast and now I have to find out the rest of your story.

Damon (47:54): That’s so awesome. Thanks so much, Debby. Take care. All right.

Debby (47:56): Okay, Damon. Have a good one. Bye bye.

Damon (48:00): Bye bye.

Damon (48:04): Hey, it’s me. Debby had a rough start in her adoptive family from being adopted and rejected to being abused by her stepfather. It was the kind of start in life that made her own ways, one to find her birth family. I loved hearing that in reunion she recognized her aunts and birth mother’s voices and felt soothed by her mother’s singing. It was good to hear that Debby has strong bonds with those women in her life. I hope that her birth father will come around to sharing some hereditary health information with Debby because regardless of whether he wants to know his daughter, his genes run through her and his grandchildren and they deserve to have the best health information possible, which he’s holding some of the keys to. Oh, one more thing. Do you remember in the beginning that Debby said her family was instructed not to take her around outside too much? She said her birth family lived within a mile of her, most of her life before she moved away. I’m Damon Davis and I hope you’ll find something in Debby’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? If you’re interested, you can find who am I really an adoptee memoir on

Who Am I Really?

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