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136 – Your Absence Has Gone Through Me

To date, I’ve only interviewed a few guests who weren’t adoptees, and this will be another one. Today you’re going to meet Anne-Marie from Southern California who drafted an impassioned submission to be on the Who Am I Really podcast. At first I wanted to stay true to the focus of the show, sharing adoptee voices. But I quickly realized there is no place, that I know of, for natural mothers to tell their stories and Anne-Marie was trusting me with hers. 

When she got pregnant in her teen years, she placed her daughter for adoption despite every fiber of her being wanting to keep her baby. When she turned 18 years old, Anne-Marie’s daughter Alex found her and they reunited. When Alex went to college she slipped out of her studies and into rehab where Anne-Marie was part of her and many other rehabbing adoptees recoveries. In the end Anne-Marie lost Alex twice, feels lucky to have known her at all, and wants every adoptee to know that we are loved. This is Anne-Marie’s journey. 


Anne-Marie (00:00:04): And even then I thought, well, we can make this better. I’m here for you. I’m going to be a consistent presence in your life. I would tell her all the things like I, I didn’t place you because I didn’t want you. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with you. That made me look at my baby and think, Oh, I don’t want this one. You know, like, that’s just not something that mothers do.

New Speaker (00:00:34): Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I really

Damon (00:00:49): 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 Anne Marie, who called me from Southern California. When she got pregnant in her teen years, she placed her daughter for adoption. Despite every fiber of her being, wanting to keep her baby. When she turned 18 years old Anne Marie’s daughter, Alex found her and they reunited when Alex went to college, she slipped out of her studies and into rehab where Anne Marie was part of her and many other rehabbing adoptees recoveries in the end. And Marie lost Alex twice, feels lucky to have known her at all and wants every adoptee to know that we are loved. This is Anne Marie’s journey so far on the, who am I really podcast. I’ve only interviewed a few guests who weren’t adoptees, and this will be another one.

Damon (00:01:47): Anne Marie drafted an impassioned submission to be on the show. Let me read you a piece of what she said. I am a birth mother, but please read what I want to say. I think one of the big issues with the adoption triangle is shame, shame that the first mom had an unplanned pregnancy, shame that the adoptive parents couldn’t conceive on their own, shame of being a non-biological child, to parents who care for you and the guilt of wanting to search. Then all the records being locked up as if no one should know anything about each other. It feels like a punishment which adds more shame. At first, I wanted to stay true to the focus of the who am I really podcast sharing adoptee voices, but I quickly realized there is no place that I know of for natural mothers to tell their stories.

Damon (00:02:39): And Ann Marie was trusting me with her journey. Ann Marie is the third of seven kids who grew up in Columbus, Ohio. She said her parents were spread pretty thin with so many kids. So there was a lot of the kids taking care of one another. Anne Marie was a swimmer active on the swim team in the summer, staying close to the water at the indoor pool in the winter, she was into music, following bands, like the cure and the Smiths wearing their records out so much. She can’t even listen to them today while she was listening to her music, rocking all black clothes and wearing funky hairstyles. Her parents were dressed conservatively and khaki pants and sweaters at 15 years old. And Marie found out she was,

Anne-Marie (00:03:24): I remember my parents basically, you know, being very conservative Catholics. They were like, you know, having premarital sex is like the worst thing you could possibly do. So I was not at all excited about telling them or talking to them about it, but I just, I was so sick with morning sickness from such an early part of the pregnancy. There was really no hiding it, you know, I mean, of course they were very upset and they were worried about a lot of different things and they communicated that to me. And my mom was pretty matter of fact and took me to, you know, the OB GYN and, you know, I dealt with the medical stuff really early, got on prenatal vitamins and did all that stuff. You know, I think for any dad to have his daughter pregnant at 15, especially my dad who’s real conservative and just, you know, I’m sure it was devastating for him. I was so wrapped up in it myself. I think that I didn’t really consider his feelings that much, but I remember really feeling like I had disappointed him on a, on an Epic level.

Damon (00:04:37): Yeah, I could imagine. So how did you, what was the discussion like about, do you recall at all the discussion to relinquish the child

Anne-Marie (00:04:50): My mom had this cousin and he and his wife I think had been trying to adopt. And she knew other people, her sister included who had been trying to adopt it at that time. So that was like 1988. And at that time it was like to get a healthy white baby was like impossible. They, you know, people would say it just, it just doesn’t exist. People. I remember people saying they were on waiting lists to adopt babies for years. Then I’ve also heard stories of other people who, you know, it was like a social worker just called them one day and said, you know, we have this baby, do you want it? So I don’t really know exactly how that whole system worked. I don’t know if anyone knows how it worked. You know, I don’t know who was in theoretically in charge of how adoption in the United States was set up. Yeah,

Damon (00:05:48): No, I was wondering more about the discussion within your family. Like did the, did the hammer just come down and they were just like, well, this child’s got to go or did you know what I mean? I was more wondering, yeah,

Anne-Marie (00:05:59): Not like this child has to go. Yeah. It, wasn’t sorry to interrupt you. It wasn’t like this child has to go so much as like, there are all these loving families that really want a baby and we have seven kids and, you know, we feel like this child is meant for another family and it wasn’t like, yeah, it was just like this. That was how it was, it was like, you are just carrying this baby for another family. And it was very like, matter of fact. So, so yeah, it was kind of handed to me like, this is what you’re going to do, but it wasn’t handed to me as a punishment. It was just handed to me like, Hey, this baby’s meant for someone else. We know all these great families who are dying to have a baby. And for some reason I remember them putting a very high value on a healthy white baby, which makes me want to vomit a little bit right now. But that was what, what was told to me at the time.

Damon (00:07:06): Yeah. So can you, how was your pregnancy? You’ve said you were pretty sick.

Anne-Marie (00:07:14): Yeah, I was very, very sick at the beginning. Just like nauseous all the time. But then, I mean, I think probably after a little bit into my second trimester, I was healthy. It was probably around then that my parents decided that I should live somewhere else. Like once I started to show, so we looked into different options of where women in a distress pregnancy situation could go to go live. And through the attorney, they found this family that lived about an hour away from where my parents lived and the family was willing to have me live with them. The idea was that I wouldn’t then be subject to, you know, the embarrassment of my community, even though I really wasn’t embarrassed at all. It was more and, and pretty much I think any, everyone in the community knew anyway, because that’s how people talk.

Anne-Marie (00:08:16): But I think it was more for my parents, you know, to not have to see it and deal with it, but how it was, how it was framed to me or put to me was that it would save me some kind of embarrassment or shame. And so I think I was seven months pregnant or six or seven months pregnant. And I went to live with this other family and they had two adopted kids. So in living there, I was kind of like their nanny and took care of them. And I went to school there. I was you know, it was really lonely because I was away from all my friends and, you know, far enough away that they couldn’t just come drive down for like the day or whatever. So it was, yeah. And just being in my family with so many people in so many moving parts all the time, then to be in this family with just two kids, I don’t know. It was just very isolating and lonely and not, not one of the four more fun times of my life for sure.

Damon (00:09:25): And Marie’s parents were kind of old school. So they came from an era where pregnant women were sent away to have their babies. She said it was odd though, that her parents didn’t tell her siblings where she went or why the six siblings were told Anne Marie was going away to be a nanny that secrecy about her pregnancy added to the shame of the situation. When the time came to deliver, Anne Marie was taken to the hospital, given Demerol a precursor to today’s epidural pain management. And she was in labor for 16 miserable hours.

Anne-Marie (00:09:59): I had Alex. And then I got to stay at the hospital a couple of days with her and I had her on a Wednesday and because I had her on a Wednesday and the attorney didn’t, so I had to stay with her Thursday and Friday. And the attorney didn’t work again until Monday. So I got to keep, I got to stay with her Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and then Monday came the day of the actual relinquishment. And it was awful. It was awful. You know, everything in my whole body screamed, this is wrong. You know, here’s this person, this baby. And it’s part of me. And it’s been part of me and, you know, 15 seems very young by today’s standards. But at that time, I mean, throughout history, 15 was like a normal mom age. So I feel like it’s in, it was in my blood to be her mom.

Anne-Marie (00:11:04): And I remember really wanting to breastfeed her and everyone saying no, no. And that I couldn’t do that. And you know, I hate to keep blaming everything on being so young, but I just, I just did what they told me to do, because I thought that they knew better than I knew. But at that time I really did. I just believed that they thought, Oh, you shouldn’t nurse the baby. And so I, I remember like physically really aching to feed her and just wanting that connection so much and just holding her and holding her and the nurses would come in and they’d get mad and say, you can’t hold her the whole time you’re going to split. It was a baby. That’s like four hours old, right? No, like, no, I need, I need this connection. Like, I, I have this very primal connection to this little person. And I, she, and I know she needs me to hold her and I know that I need to hold her. So they would take her away and put her, or like, they’d take her and put her back in the little bassinet and then they’d leave and I’d go get her.

Anne-Marie (00:12:18): But it was, you know, for the most part, I just did what they said to do because I thought they knew better. Yeah.

Damon (00:12:27): So Monday comes,

Anne-Marie (00:12:30): Monday comes. So the attorney was coming to pick her up from, so I had to say goodbye to her and, and that was awful. I felt like I was, you know, like my heart was ripped out. I mean, there isn’t even, there aren’t even words. There aren’t even words. It was like every everything. And, you know, I was totally in love with her. It wasn’t even like there was any question I wanted her more than I wanted anything I thought about like, how do I, like, how do I get an apartment? How can I figure this out? How can I you know, do all these things. So at this time it was 10 days after my 16th birthday. And I was thinking, you know, I could go to high school part time and I could get a job. Like I just was trying to figure it out and trying to figure it out because it was just everything in me was like, this is madness.

Anne-Marie (00:13:32): You can’t give your baby away. And I just wished that I could tell every adopted kid this, because that, it wasn’t even, like I had a choice. Like I would have done anything else. I would have chopped my leg off. If that could have been a substitute, you know? I mean, I just cried and cried and cried and cried and cried. And mostly when you’re a kid like that, if you cry and you’re that passionate about something and you really feel like you need it, your parents will be like, okay, you know, but there, but there was no, okay. There was no we’ll help you. There was no we’ll make this work. Don’t worry. And I know it was awful for my mom too. I, it, it was awful. And it was just, it was just an incredibly, extraordinarily painful day. I mean, it’s, it still makes me cry. If I think about it, it was just giving away something that no human being should ever have to give away.

Damon (00:14:38): Yeah.

Anne-Marie (00:14:48): So the attorney picked her up from the hospital and then I had to go to the County courthouse to sign the papers. And you know, it was just more of that. It was just more of like, you know, it’s like, it’s like like someone’s squeezing the, in the side of your throat and kind of squeezing the inside of your face and you just feel that pain. So right under the surface, it felt like that for, I dunno, it still feels like that. Sometimes it, it just is not, it’s not natural, you know, for me, it was very unnatural. It was against every grain in my body.

Damon (00:15:45): It’s totally unnatural. You’re absolutely right. Yeah. And yeah, and I can’t imagine the moment of relinquishment and I can’t imagine what it feels like to go then to, you know, the court or wherever, and actually sign legal documents, go through necessary legal processes to actually make it real and then have to live your life after that. How did you live your life after that? Did you go back to the family? Did you go back home? Tell me what happened next.

Anne-Marie (00:16:22): Yeah. Yeah. I went back home. I just I just wanna note here that people just kept telling me this, you know, doing this, you’re doing the best thing for her. Like basically that it’s selfish. If you keep her, you’re doing the best thing for her and for her future. I remember the judge that I went in front of was like, you know, my, my son’s adopted and I just want you to know she’ll have a better life. And you know, that, that is the sort of patriarchal candor that we’ve all been fed. Like it’s it’s hard to, like, it’s really hard for me to feel positive about adoption. You know, I’ve read a lot about the history of adoption and adoption in America. And it was very very much adoption as an institution was really started by men who had infertile lives and they wanted to give their wives what they could give them.

Anne-Marie (00:17:33): And so they essentially took advantage or took it advantage of people that were in a distressed situation. And, you know, maybe a lot of those children were happy and did have a better life, but as an institution, I just think adoption in the United States is a really sick, and I know that that’s going to make a lot of adoptive parents really mad when I say that. But I think when you really begin to see what it is and where it came from, you really begin to see how much the birth mother is just supposed to disappear. Like they want, I feel like the, the sense for me was that I was sick and that I had like a bad flu or something. And so I was sent away until I got better from the flu, and then I was supposed to just be over it.

Anne-Marie (00:18:27): And there was no there was no like, Oh, do you need counseling? Or, Oh, are you okay from this loss? Or, Oh, do you need to spend time grieving? There’s none of that. It was like, Oh, you’re, you’re better now that, you know, sickness has gone. So let’s get back to life and you know what, what’s wrong with you? Why are you sad? What, you know, get over it, she’s gone too bad, you know? And there was no consideration really for, and I don’t think there is for any birth mother. I mean, I’m not just talking about me. I think birth mothers in general are sort of shuffled away once the, the relinquishment is over, right. And the adopted parents, the people, the lawmakers who set this up, that, you know, they don’t want to think about their baby, who they just got, having a connection with anybody else.

Anne-Marie (00:19:26): They want it to be their baby. And I mean, that, I think is a problem that happens with adopted kids is they have to, in order to fit in, you know, human beings basically are communal creatures and they want to fit into their their tribe if you will. And so they do whatever they can to acclimate. And part of adopted kids acclimating to their new family is kind of being in denial about their own identity or where they really came from. And that, that disconnect, I think, causes a lot of emotional turmoil or it can, I mean, I’m not talking about every case. Of course, I’m just talking about adopted kids that feel that turmoil. I understand some adopted kids just skate through and it doesn’t affect them. I’ve never met one, but everyone.

Damon (00:20:26): Yeah. Yeah. Actually I’ve the more I talk with folks across the adoption spectrum, the more I question those who those adoptees who say they don’t want to know, I think they’ve just pushed it down so far

Damon (00:20:48): That they’re, they don’t want to bring it back up. Right. And it goes back to these primal connections that you’re talking about. The child that Anne Marie carried for months, whom she stayed with and nurtured for days was suddenly legally someone else’s baby to raise. She was a teenager who was sent away to give birth in effect, making an exit from her own life to go live a separate secret existence, to become a young mother. Having sent her child off into the world. And Marie had to return home a different woman than she was before she left. She talks a bit about her physical and psychological re-entry into her work.

Anne-Marie (00:21:29): Of course, physically my body had changed a lot and I’d only been gone like four months. So a lot of, you know, I got a lot of comments about that which were like, well, what are you going to do? I mean, it was just like, that’s who I am now, but that is kind of a metaphor for what was happening inside of me too. They say that like, when you have someone that you’re close to in your life die, that you’ll never be exactly the same person. The experience changes you, you know, you, you can change in a number of ways, but it changes you. And I, I think that was how that experience was for me. It changed me in some ways it matured me in some ways it devastated me and some ways it, you know, there was just what it did, I think is add a dimension of me that I had to lock away to be my own.

Anne-Marie (00:22:29): Like I knew no one could really relate. I knew no one could really there was no one I could really talk to about it again, like I, I said, no, it’s not like anyone said, Hey, do you need to talk about this? It was like, okay, you’re better now. Let’s move on. You know? So yeah, nobody checked in on me to say, are you hurting? Or how do you feel, or what are you going through? There’s a therapy. There was none of that. It was very much, the pressure was just get back to normal, just go back to, you know, your stuff and your friends and your, you know, just be Anne-Marie again, go back and be who you were. And it was impossible. So in order to not disappoint everybody or to to try to reacclimate, you know, I just, I just locked a lot of that stuff away. I think a lot of birth mothers do that, where they feel like I, you know, I hate the word birth mother. I should use another term. I don’t know. I read Lorraine Dusky’s book and I think she calls it a natural mother or an original mother. There’s like a lot of different terms for it, but I don’t know what I would use. But when I first met Alex, she called me bio mom. And I always hated that too, because it made me sound like some kind of cyborg,

Damon (00:24:05): Right. Some machine that just pops out things and she was wondering, right. Yeah. I’ve struggled with it too, to be very honest with you. So as the host of the show, it’s very easy to make a clear distinction with a word like birth mother, right. And natural mother feels good, like better than birth mother, biological mother is something that I often use because it speaks very clearly to your relationship. You are biologically related to this person. But I also, I also struggle with these words as well, because sometimes the mother and for whatever reason, his divorced themselves from the situation that was in the past, I’m done with that. Please don’t come back and sometime, and so in a situation like that, and this is just me a word like natural mother, for lack of better words, almost feels too warm if you know what I mean? So this is the struggle that I have on an ongoing basis is, and perhaps it’s not for me to judge. I should just pick one stick with it. And I try to explain it when I use it. Right. So that but, but let me not focus on me and go back to you. What, what do you feel comforted?

Anne-Marie (00:25:31): I, I, I’m not sure. I mean, I’m just Alex’s mom. I mean, I know I’m not the mom that raised her, but I am her mom. And so I guess I’m just the mom who didn’t get to raise her, but that’s not a very concise term, I guess. I just suggest that this terminology is all feeds back into the original institution of what we were, how we were taught to frame this whole situation. I mean, we, we were taught again just to get over it and go away. And so the terminology is cold and, and not, and by design, it’s cold.

Damon (00:26:17): Yeah. That’s a really interesting point. So you’ve returned to school. There’s no counseling, there’s no support. You’re on your own. You’re a different person. I mean, this isn’t a normal teenage experience. It’s not like all your girlfriends are like, girl, what a summer we all had like this, this was only you. Right. Right. And, and your body’s changed. Your mind has changed. You are different, probably a different sister to your siblings just by virtue of like, you’ve gone through an adult experience. So what was, what was it like then you, I guess you graduated high school. And did you go on to college? Like tell me how the rest of your life went and, and specifically what happened on Alex’s birthday for you?

Anne-Marie (00:27:07): Well, Alex has birthdays where I always tried to do something to celebrate her birthday. And I would write her notebooks and notebooks filled with things like that. I wanted to tell her, and I would, you know, write song lyrics down that I, that reminded me of her and that kind of stuff. Her birthdays were always important to me, but honestly, a lot, most things were, most things were like, what’s she doing now? If I had her now, what would I be doing? You know, her parents were very, very, like scared of me in a way that I was going to change my mind. I think a lot of people at that time, there was a like a made for television movie about a mother who got her daughter back after she was like three years old. And I think it just freaked everybody out.

Anne-Marie (00:28:06): And even though I tried in every way to make them feel like, Hey, I’m not going to change my mind. I know this is your baby. You know, this is what, you know, I’m not a threat to you. Basically. They always thought of me as a threat, even when Alex and I reunited, they thought of me as a threat. I mean, it’s just it’s a naturally adversarial relationship, but we can talk about that as we get there. I think it just every, every thing was I’m sure you know, that Ws Merwin has a poem and I don’t know what exactly, but the gist of it is your absence has gone through me like a thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched in its color. And I think that is how I felt. I think when I read that, I was like, Oh my gosh, that’s exactly right. It became, it became, I was this mom who didn’t have her baby with her.

Damon (00:29:13): That was everything that you were, was that at its core.

Anne-Marie (00:29:19): Yeah. I mean, for years and years and years, there were ways that I, and things that I would do, but I, I guess I kind of felt like I wanted her to be proud of me. I don’t know. I think I loved her with like reckless abandoned, you know, and, and I didn’t have someone to put that love on or to, you know, aim it towards. Yeah. So it just like tornado inside of me

Damon (00:29:51): In college and Marie was in a new community around new people, but it was always a little uncomfortable to figure out whether she should share her experiences as a mother who relinquished a child into adoption with her potential friends. It was an enormous part of her that if they really wanted to get to know Anne Marie, they should know, but it was also an incredibly heavy story in her past. That could be a lot to unload on a new relationship.

Anne-Marie (00:30:18): It’s really weird to say this, but it always felt like I was lying because it was like I had this baby and I was a mom again, but I wasn’t. And it just, it would always sort of felt like if I don’t tell the whole truth, then I’m not really, you know, I’m not really being honest, but if I do tell the whole truth, it’s weird and awkward. So it was always sort of an uncomfortable, I mean, not uncomfortable thing to tell, like I was never ashamed of her or of the story or whatever. I just, you know, and that, that too, like we talked about before is when I learned, you know, you don’t have to tell everybody everything and you kind of have to, when you do detach yourself from their reaction, because there’s just a lot of judgment.

Damon (00:31:09): Yeah. You do have to detach from their judgment, from their reaction because their judgment in many ways comes out of some level of ignorance. It’s either one that they have not been through anything that remotely resembles your story. So they can’t relate or that the person you’ve chosen to share with is intimate enough to know what your, no, the thing that you’ve shared with them, but not so intimate that you’ve gone into all the details that they can therefore correctly empathize with you. You know what I’m saying? Like, I’ve, I will tell anybody I meet I’m in reunion with my biological parents, my mother and father respectively. And I’ve had a great experience. Right. But that doesn’t talk at all to some of the gory details of what I went through to reach that point. Like that was the super high level story. And so, you know, their reaction could be one of any variety of things, but it’s not necessarily accurate because I haven’t shared the entire arc of my story. And I, I suspect that that’s what you’re trying to say here is like, I could tell him, but I probably only going to tell him like a quarter of it and a half to separate myself from their reaction, because it’s not fair for them to be expected to react appropriately when in fact they really literally don’t know at all.

Anne-Marie (00:32:32): Right. You know? And actually that reminds me of one of the episodes you did before. I CA I can’t remember what the guest’s name was, but he was a friend of yours like that you grew up with, and he was also an African-American kid, but you knew him growing up. And I thought, what a great gift. When I listened to that episode, I thought, what a great gift that you had to have somebody that’s going through a similar experience, because really enlist someone is, you know, going through what you’re going through. I don’t even mean this in a negative way, but they just don’t get it. They just can’t possibly get it. You know? And the only, you know, when a parent dies or like you know, you go through some tragedy, have a miscarriage or something. People will say the stupidest stuff because they haven’t been through it. And they don’t know how it feels, you know? Like, Oh, well you can have another kid. Oh, well, yeah. That’s great. Thanks.

Anne-Marie (00:33:37): For the one I just lost or whatever the case is. But I, I remember that episode with Andre and thinking what a wonderful gift that was to have you to have each other in your life.

Damon (00:33:49): Yeah. That’s my brother right there. I love that guy, but I tell you what, you know, even not even not, so not even so much in, in tragic circumstances, it’s true for giving birth as well. I mean, we’ve got friends, women who have, you know, the share the great news that they’re pregnant and any woman you talk to, I’m sure you’ve experienced this. You can tell them all the great advice and all the warnings and all the signs and signals and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. But it’s not until they go through it. And they get to the other side of having given birth to a child. They will actually say, I mean, you guys told me, but I didn’t know. It felt like this. I had no idea, you know what I mean?

Anne-Marie (00:34:27): Right. Yeah, totally. I always say I was an amazing parent before I had kids. Like I had all the answers and then you have kids and you’re like, wait a minute. The reality.

Damon (00:34:43): For a long time Anne Marie wasn’t interested in intimate relationships with the boyfriends that she did have. It took a long time to get comfortable with them. It was a struggle for a long time until she met her husband, Billy, with whom she connected on many levels. I asked her at what point she shared with Billy, the fact that she had had a daughter years before they met.

Anne-Marie (00:35:07): Pretty early in the relationship, I can’t remember. Maybe, maybe a few months. We, I think we had been dating like six months or something. And we went on a road trip to see my parents. And I think I told him on the way up there and I, and it wasn’t even like, again, it wasn’t like I was ashamed of it or that I thought it was a secret or anything. It was one of those things where you, like, I was almost more worried about him being upset than me being upset, you know? Cause it’s like, you have this person that you love, that’s gone through this hard experience. And you could, you know, that can really hurt the empathy of it. And the knowing that this person that you love hurt so much, it can really be a painful just to hear. So I guess I was more aware of that and sensitive to the idea that it was going to make him sad. But he from the very beginning was always awesome about it. I mean, from when, you know, I told him about her too, when we reunited to the whole time, he was always a friend to her and positive about her and inclusive of her. And I don’t know exactly, but he just made it very easy and natural for her to be in our life

Damon (00:36:39): In February of 2007, Anne Marie’s daughter turned 18 years old and Marie and her sister were talking about the milestone birthday, realizing the young woman was old enough to locate her. She wondered if there was anything she could do to help the reunion process from her end and her sister told her she could list herself on as a natural mother with identifying information that would be major clues for anyone trying to find her.

Anne-Marie (00:37:08): I always knew when I placed her, I always knew it was just going to be until she came back. Like I knew it on some level that I can’t explain to you, but I knew she was going to come back. I prayed every day for her and for her to be safe and for her to feel loved and for her to come back. And it was really weird. It was, this is just one of those things, but I was talking to my sons and my older son and they were like five and three, I think at the time. And they were like, what does adoption mean? What is that? You know, there’s a kid at my school that’s adopted, what does that mean? And they were asking me different questions about adoption. And I was telling them, it means, you know, when that if a family’s made, but the mommy doesn’t give birth to the baby that the other mom does.

Anne-Marie (00:38:09): And then the person’s intended for this family, whatever, you know, just making it kind of light and easy. And they were like, well, what, what kind of mom would put their baby with another family? Like that’s madness? And I said, well, actually I did that when I was teenager, I had a baby and I placed the baby with another family. And they were like, you know, what does this mean? Is this our sister? How does this all work? And I was kind of explaining it to them. So they went to bed that night, regular day, the next day, got the mail. Literally the next day I got a letter from her. I mean, it was just, it was just the weirdest, like Holy smokes. This is insane.

Damon (00:38:52): You talking about the universe, getting you ready? I mean, that’s unbelievable.

Anne-Marie (00:38:57): Oh no, it was crazy. That’s so crazy. That’s why I got this letter and, you know, handwritten letter, which is so weird now. Cause you know, when the mail comes, it’s all like oil change coupons and stuff that you don’t really want. And so I saw it and I opened it and I like kind of almost started to hyperventilate. Like I, I think I didn’t even really know how to react. So before I could even read the whole letter, I called my mom and I was like, she wrote to me, she wrote to me, Oh my gosh, I want to read the letter with you. And so, so I read it over the phone with my mom and we were just crying and we were so happy and the letter was it was funny like now I think of it as being funny because she was like, I, you know, here’s who I am and you know, here’s what I do. And I’m fine. So if you don’t want to talk to me, that’s fine. I just want you to know I’m fine. I was like, like I mean it was funny cause she’s so wasn’t fine. Like she so wanted to have a connection with me, but she didn’t want to be vulnerable. And that’s why that was kind of where the humor came in. Was like, she just kept telling me how much she didn’t need me but needed me. And so we, we laughed about it a lot later.

Damon (00:40:28): Alex, Anne Marie’s daughter was graduating from high school in June of that year and was excited to have been accepted to college elated, to hear from Alex and wanting to respond immediately. Anne Marie sat down to write a response letter, mailing it back to Alex that same day. She wanted to talk to her and connect with her that badly. Anne Marie was ready to jump on a plane and go to meet Alex. But she couldn’t. She had small children at the time and Alex had plenty going on in her own life. The women exchanged the letters, exchanged emails. Then they spoke by phone for the first time on Easter Sunday,

Anne-Marie (00:41:06): It was just really natural. It wasn’t like, Oh my gosh, what do I ask her or anything? You know, the conversation just really flowed. And we clearly had a lot in common and we’re very similar. And so it was just kind of like how we look at the world, like, like things that you would not think to be genetic, like interests, music, kind of like things that you would think that, you know, your environment influenced. But we, I don’t know. We just had a, like, it felt like we just had a lot to talk about. And we kind of went in touch for a long time and, you know, I had obviously a lot of questions for her and she had questions and I was just really nervous. Like I thought I just can’t lose this person again. So I wanted to, I didn’t want to like really draw boundaries with her because I didn’t want to do anything that would dissuade her from continuing our relationship.

Anne-Marie (00:42:12): So I was probably a little bit overboard as far as giving of myself. I just knew that doesn’t sound right, but I just knew giving her up the first time almost killed me and I couldn’t do it again. And so I just was like thrilled and just like super complimentary and just, you know, wanted her so much just to talk to her and connect with her and just to feel, you know, her in my life. And I think she felt that way too. I mean, she was a little bit more inconsistent about it than I was, but it took her a little while, a little longer to like, trust that that was that I was really going to be there. Which I understand.

Damon (00:43:08): Yeah, for sure. I, I, I remember what it was like to speak to my biological mother for the first time, my natural mother. And I can totally relate to what you just said, that there are things that you just don’t even expect are innately nature versus nurture that come up. And you’re just like, wow, I, I never would have thought that, but it, but it comes up naturally in conversation and you’re just like, I never could have predicted you would have said that yet. I totally agree. You know what I mean?

Anne-Marie (00:43:45): Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, and I mean, there’s obvious things too. Like the first time she and I were sitting next to each other at my house and in California and we both put our feet, we were both barefoot and we put our feet up on the coffee table and we just burst out laughing. And I was like, I couldn’t stop laughing. And she goes, we have the exact same feet. And I mean, that kind of stuff like, you can, you can get like, Oh, well of course you do. You’re, you know, genetically the same, you know, you got all the same stuff, but yeah, there were things that she would say or do. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I did that. Or I, you know, I think that, or

Damon (00:44:29): That’s how I feel too. Yeah.

Anne-Marie (00:44:32): I thought my experiences brought me to that, but clearly that’s not true.

Damon (00:44:38): How did your, it sounds like your conversation went well. Is that roughly correct? How did it, how did it end and what did you, what was next? How did you get off the phone and, and what did you feel like after?

Anne-Marie (00:44:53): I think I felt elated and scared. I felt elated that like, my prayers had been answered and here’s this person that I’ve been dying to have in my life and she’s here and also Holy smokes what if she leaves me again, you know? So I just felt a mixture of things I fell. I don’t know. I don’t know exactly how we hung up. I just remember it being more like, I’ll just talk to you later. And it always being like that, like, okay, well, you know, we didn’t always plan like exactly when we would talk later, but I was like, okay, you’re in my life now. So I’m not gonna I’m not gonna let you go.

Damon (00:45:38): Billy and Marie and their sons went to Ohio where they dropped off the boys at Ann Marie’s parents’ house, Alex and her parents drove from their home in Toledo, Ohio to Ann Marie’s parents’ home where mother and daughter were re-introduced there in the driveway,

Anne-Marie (00:45:55): Pulled up and I hugged her. And this is not just one of those weird genetic things, but we all have this nasally voice. It’s like, it’s just part of who we are. I guess we’re a nasally people. But so we all have allergies and, you know, we have to always have a Kleenex. So when I hugged her, I kind of went because I didn’t want to my nose to run on her shirt. Are you crying? Cause that would be weird. And I just thought, God, that’s totally something that I would say. And I said, no, I’m not crying. You just stink. Like, you know, that exchange with most people would be like a very weird exchange, but like, it just, it was just stuff like that, where we were like that, I was like, I’ve known you your whole life. That’s how I felt.

Damon (00:46:53): After the meeting at Anne Marie’s parents’ house, Alex’s maternal grandparents house and Marie’s family went to Alex’s parent’s house. Her boys were lucky because the family had fireworks for them to light. So they had a lot of fun in August of that year, before leaving for college, Alex went to California to visit Anne Marie. After going to college, Alex continued to visit Anne Marie about every three months.

Anne-Marie (00:47:19): There would be these periods of time where like, she wouldn’t talk to me or return my calls, which in reading reunion stories is very common. That, you know, the adoptee will kind of ghost the mom after the reunion, because like, they want to make sure they’re serious or they’re testing them. I don’t know. I’ve read a lot of stories that, that that’s very common. But I would just try to be consistent with her and, you know, check in like every two weeks or sometimes every week and just be real like, Hey, I’m just thinking about you. Hope everything’s okay. Give me a call when you get a minute. And that kind of thing. And like, sometimes I get a call back right away, or sometimes it wouldn’t be for two months, but she was visiting fairly regularly. She got involved pretty quickly.

Anne-Marie (00:48:18): And to a lot of a lot of problematic things in college, he went to college in New York city and got involved with drugs and some sketchy people pretty quickly. I think she did about a year and a half of college before she had to go to rehab. And I think in college pretty quickly, she felt like she was in over her head. Like, I think she, she felt like this. I don’t know. Like I remember her calling me and saying, you know, some of my friends are like, in the times, they’re not studying, they’re volunteering in a inner city, you know, school to help kids whose parents are in prison or something. And she’s like, I’m so far from that. And like, why, why are they doing that? Like, I don’t know, just do what you can do if studying is all you can do studying all, you can do. Some people are just cut from, you know, a different clock. Don’t compare yourself. That’s not going to end well for you. Right. So she just, I think she just felt like she was with all of this kind of demographic of people, that it was a lot of pressure to keep up with. Yeah. Yeah. So it was, so when she found these other characters that she got involved with, it was probably pretty easy to slide into that like club scene or whatever. In New York,

Damon (00:49:43): Alex was involved in drugs, but she would still go visit Ann Marie. There was a band Alex was following. And when they had a gig in Los Angeles, Alex would visit Ann Marie about a year and a half into college. Alex’s mother called Ann Marie to say they were taking their daughter to substance abuse rehab. Alex’s adoptive mother asked if Ann Marie could join them for their parent meeting as part of her recovery. At the time Ann Marie had a six month old son at home Decklin she was still breastfeeding, but she couldn’t bring her baby to the meetings to help her out, Anne Marie’s parents drove from Ohio to a hotel across the street from the rehab in Florida and Marie and Decklin flew from California to Florida to stay at the same hotel. Deckland’s grandparents cared for him while Ann Marie supported the rehabilitation process. She spent the days in rehab racing back to the hotel, every few hours to feed Declan.

Anne-Marie (00:50:42): So the super interesting thing about these meetings was that in her rehab group, a lot of the kids were, were adopted. So a lot of these kids who were trying to recover from addiction were also dealing with problems stemming from their adoption or, you know, issues that have popped up because of their adoption. So somehow I became the face of all birth mothers and it, and it was a lot of pressure. It was a lot because like that there was a kid that was adopted from Korea by a white family. And he was super angry. I mean, he was mad and these kids were, I mean, I call them kids, but they were all in their twenties, you know, I think, yeah. Younger than I was, but I really shouldn’t say kids because it makes it seem like they’re eight and they weren’t, but they, I remember him so well.

Anne-Marie (00:51:51): And you know, like I said, this was 11 years ago. I remember all of them and they were hurting so much and they were, you know, we’re sitting in this circle like therapy style, and they were asking me these questions, but they were all born after 1972. And I kept saying to them, look, if you were born after Roe V Wade was passed, your mom wanted you, like abortion was legal. It was legal. Like you, you could have been, I mean, the pregnancy could have been dealt with real quick. So if you are here, that means on some level she wanted you. And they were like, no, she didn’t. She just threw me away. And my mom, you know, she’s a horrible person. And I just kept saying to them, there’s no way, there’s no way that somebody would go through a pregnancy and place a child if they were a selfish jerk.

Anne-Marie (00:52:52): I mean, maybe there are those people out there. I just can’t, I can’t imagine a person that would go through all of that to bring a child into the world and place the child and go through all of that pain. And then, you know, have like a secret agenda of just abandoning a child to screw them up or something. But like, that was the, that was sort of the sentiment. These kids were hurting because they really felt like they weren’t wanted. And you, that was when I first read the primal wound, Nancy’s book, and it was so illuminating to me like, Oh my gosh, I didn’t, you know, I didn’t know. I didn’t know that. So, and I kept saying to them, I’m, I’m sure you were wanted, I’m sure you were wanted. And I remember the kids, some of them were like crying and shaking and so angry at me as the face of birth mothers.

Anne-Marie (00:53:53): Not at me as a human being and just wanting me to comfort them. And I, I just, they were shocked that I loved Alex. They were shocked. They really felt abandoned and sad and angry. And I, I remembered holding that kid who was born in Korea, like I got down in front of him and was holding his hands and I was like, you are so loved. And he he’s just like shaking his head. Like he couldn’t believe that he was loved. And I just I mean, I was just crying, thinking, how do I get through to this, this person? And let him know. There’s no way he would even be in the world if he wasn’t. And, you know, I think he was from South Korea. I imagined she was just a terrible position. And I was like, you know, you can spend time being angry at her, but it’s only going to hurt you.

Anne-Marie (00:55:00): She, she doesn’t know, I’m almost positive. All of the, the moms that placed you guys did it to make help you have a better life. And they were so surprised by that. And so I remember thinking, how can there be this huge disconnect in the adoption world, but then again, I mean, that’s how it was set up, right? That’s how the institution of adoption has been set up in our country, that the moms just have to move on and no one, you know, the kids just have to acclimate. And, you know, if you’re, if you can’t acclimate, you’re just not normal. You know? You know, here are these little kids who, I mean, you know, newly placed babies and toddlers or whatever. And they grew inside of someone and everything that they ate and that they were fed that was fed through the body, the body that was carrying them through their mother.

Anne-Marie (00:56:01): And they heard all the noises and smelled all the smells and got used to all of the music and the, everything, you know, the whole energy and the vibe and everything they knew from the moment of conception is gone. And they’re just like out to fend for themselves as tiny babies and just trying to survive. And I, you know, that’s a lot to put on somebody that’s a lot and then to do that and just expect them to, to be fine. It’s too much. I mean, it’s just, it’s just too much. And I know that again, some people can do it and feel great, but that certainly wasn’t the, the face of the kids that I saw in that rehab. They, they were sad and they were lonely and they were angry and they didn’t know how to process it or deal with it. And so they turned to drugs, you know, numb, numb the pain and the pain.

Anne-Marie (00:57:06): And that was, that was hard. But I mean, I knew that that was why Alex was there too. I mean, I knew she couldn’t, she didn’t know how to deal with it. She didn’t know how to deal with that last connection. And I didn’t know how to give it back to her. And I almost like I remember saying in one of those meetings, maybe it would have been better if your biological mom didn’t love you so much. Maybe it’s because she loved you so much that you had such a strong connection with her, from her love of you. And that’s, what’s hurting you now because I didn’t have an answer. You know, I don’t, and, and I knew Alex was hurting. I knew they were all hurting, but there’s no way to, it was a hugely powerful experience for me to be there and kind of strangely be bonding and breastfeeding my baby when I have all these adult children who want that connection with their moms.

Damon (00:58:14): Wow. Yeah. Geez. I didn’t even thought of that. That’s incredible. And, and as you’ve said, how incredibly challenging it must have been the one I want to acknowledge how challenging it was for Alex to have reached a point of self-medication to the need, to go into rehab. And now she’s there and she’s honestly so lucky to have you and her parents adoptive parents. There that’s a situation that I would imagine you’re like one in a mil, literally 1 million in terms of rehab experiences for any person to have the natural mother and adoptive parents there on scene, helping to pull a person through, to no longer feeling like they need to self-medicate and getting to some, you know, trying striving for sobriety, but to focusing less on Alex and more on the overarching situation for you personally, you’ve there to support Alex. And now you’re confronted with probably I’m going to guess there was eight other adult adoptees in this group. You have now eight times that experience of what you’ve gone there to support Alex. And as you’ve said, you are now the face of the problem that each of these, those who were adopted each of the sources of their problems, as they’ve said, I mean, that had to be the weight of the world for you, but wow. That’s just incredible.

Anne-Marie (00:59:58): It was intense. I mean, in a lot of ways, it was really cathartic for me because I really got to, like I had told you before, I loved her with reckless abandon, and I really got to let all that love out. You know? I really got to communicate that love to all of these kids. I keep calling them kids, but all of these patients or whatever they were I got to hug them and tell them how loved they were and how intense the love of a mother is for their child, whether or not they get to raise that child and how this, this system, it victimizes the mother that doesn’t get to raise the baby. I mean, it really does. And I, like I told you before, I’m not a victim and I won’t live in that. But I, I acknowledge it because it’s really screwed up.

Anne-Marie (01:01:04): I mean, it’s real, like, like I was talking to my nephew about this who’s adopted. And he was like, why don’t you, why don’t birth mothers get compensated? And I was like, well, everyone thinks that’s sick and weird because then you’re just selling a baby. And he was like, I know, but if these guys, these guys sell everything, like they, don’t, why wouldn’t you, why wouldn’t you in some way, get acknowledged or compensated. And only because of that means that I count, or that there is some value in me and they don’t want, and it does, you know, they don’t want value in me. They want just me to go away. And he was like, well, they always frame it like, Oh, you’re, that would be so awful to sell a person to sell a person why they frame it like that. It’s easier to say that than it is to say, to be compensated for your pain. You know, it’s easier to throw that on you than it is to just be real about what it really is, but it’s so much of it. That is all to say that I wanted to sell Alex, of course, but that, that is all to say, this is how you know, this is how this institution is. It’s a very screwed up and there’s lots of pain on every side, but it just really feels like once for, for a birth mom, for me, it felt like once I had had her, I needed to disappear

Damon (01:02:42): After Alex’s rehab. She went to live with Anne Marie for a few months in California, but Anne Marie said, Alex didn’t seem to take the importance of her sobriety seriously. She seemed to think she was smarter than the tools she was given in rehab. And she would figure things out on her own. She continued to drink and seem to be using, even though she presented as sober for awhile. It wasn’t long before she was back into illicit drugs.

Anne-Marie (01:03:09): Like, she wouldn’t have been honest with me about heroin specifically, but like I knew she was towards the end. She lived in LA. And so I, you know, obviously I wasn’t that far away from her. And I knew at that time she was doing Coke. Like it was coffee. I mean, she’d like get up in the morning and do Coke at like three o’clock in the afternoon. She’d need a bump. Like, you know, she was just that, that was just how she was living. It just was astounding to me, but I kept her in my life. Like I said, for fear that losing her again was going to kill me basically, because I couldn’t handle it. And then it, you know, it got so bad. It got so bad. Her personality was really changing. And so finally, probably just about a year before she died, I was like, I can’t, I can’t watch you do this.

Anne-Marie (01:04:13): Like, it’s, it’s awful. It’s too painful and you don’t have to live like this. And I don’t know why you are, and she didn’t want to be accountable to me. So we stopped talking in April of 2019. And then I got the news that she had passed away the Sunday before Thanksgiving. So the Sunday before Thanksgiving was when she died, she owed it on heroin. And you know, like I said, we weren’t talking. So I got a call from her mom the Saturday after Thanksgiving. So almost a week later and said, and she left me, actually, she put, put a message on Instagram that said, is this still your email address? And then where it went down, my email address and I replied right away. Yes. Why what’s going on? And she didn’t reply. And so I Googled Alex’s name and her obituary came up and that was how I found.

Damon (01:05:18): Oh, no. What did you feel in that moment when you saw her obituary?

Anne-Marie (01:05:27): Just frustration. Just like, I don’t know. I mean, like I said, by that time, I had felt so beaten up emotionally by her. And it just was like, I kept saying to her, I felt like I kept saying to her, but I do love you, but I do love you, but I do love you. And it was like nothing that I did or said or could get through to her. And it felt awful. Like, I mean, I felt like it was my fault. Of course I did. If that’s what you’re asking, I absolutely felt like it was my fault, but I also felt like I did the best that I could with the information that I had at the time. I didn’t know this much about adoption. I didn’t know how it affected people. I didn’t think I had heard stories all through my life about, you know, adopted kids being screwed up or whatever, but it never had been like a, a tangible thing that adoption is a natural or whatever it had just been like, Oh yeah, they’re screwed up.

Anne-Marie (01:06:39): They’re adopted. Or, you know, you’d hear things in passing of like stuff, but I never like had, I never knew what it was. And I never knew that I was doing something wrong by placing her. And probably until I read the primal wound. And even then I thought, well, we can make this better. I’m here for you. I’m going to be a consistent presence in your life. I would tell her all the things like, I, I didn’t place you because I didn’t want you. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with you. That made me look at my baby and think who, I don’t want this one. You know, like, that’s just not something that mothers do. Like I’m laughing because it’s so preposterous to me to even think that anyone would think that that, you know, I’m intrinsically unlovable. That’s just not true. And that was, that was, I think, how she looked at it.

Anne-Marie (01:07:43): That was, I think, how, like her self esteem had suffered so much because she felt that way. And the feeling that way I can almost understand, even though I know it’s ridiculous. I mean, not that the feeling is ridiculous, but just that nobody ever places a bait, it looks at their brand newborn baby and things, you know that the whole act of being a birth mother is a loving evolution. I mean, it, it’s a selfless, loving evolution for the most part. I mean, I get it. Some people don’t know they’re pregnant or whatever, and they have a baby suddenly and they’re like, ah, I don’t know what to do with the baby. I, you know, I mean, I get it. There are different situations, but I just felt like I loved her so much. I love her so much. And I, I didn’t understand why we couldn’t make, make it better or help her heal.

Damon (01:08:45): Believe it or not. My question, wasn’t nearly as loaded as what you did. I know you didn’t over answer. I just didn’t want you to think that I was pointing a finger subliminally to get you to say you felt guilty. That was not my goal at all. I was literally wondering in the moment, like you had to know what was coming first for her mother to have messaged you cryptically and not replied, and you’re not talking to your daughter, like you had to know that, Oh, this might be like the moment I feared. And I was just kind of curious to know, like, just what, what does that sorrow?

Anne-Marie (01:09:28): I think she was, I didn’t think she was dead. I didn’t think she was good. I thought she probably had gone back to rehab because I knew how heavily she was using. But no, I didn’t, I didn’t think that she was dead. And I, it was, it, it, it still is a shock, you know, it’s been whatever, six months now, seven months, it’s still, it’s still surprising. Like, I’ll think, Oh, I gotta tell Alex this she’ll get the crack crack out of this, the crack-up or whatever. And then just realizing again, she’s not there.

Damon (01:10:10): It’s hard.

Anne-Marie (01:10:12): It’s hard. It’s hard to lose her. It’s hard to have her parents hate me and blame me and feel like, like, I’m the bad guy here. When I feel like, again, like I did, I did everything with the best intentions. And I was working with the, the information I had at the time. And I tried to do what I believed was the right thing. And it just wasn’t. Good enough.

Damon (01:10:40): Yeah. Did you go to her, did they have funeral services with her? Did you go what happened next?

Anne-Marie (01:10:49): So I don’t know. They totally, they totally don’t speak to me. I’m sure if there was a service I was not invited or included in any way. I mean, they hate me. Like I told you from the beginning, they, they were always very threatened by me. They never wanted to like me. They didn’t want me in their life. They just did it because it was what she wanted and, you know, and I think they kind of felt like, I felt like I didn’t want to say no to her because I didn’t want it. I didn’t want her to alienate me. I didn’t want to be separated from her. So I wasn’t drawing healthy boundaries. I would give her whatever she wanted. And they were the same, what I don’t know in their mind, that’s my fault, you know, in their mind, I’m the bad guy here.

Damon (01:11:42): Wow. Oh my gosh. First. I’m sorry. I haven’t said it already. I’m so sorry about Alex. That had to have been, I mean, I just, I can’t cannot imagine the heart wrench and just sorrow and it it’s, you said it was only what six or seven months ago.

Anne-Marie (01:12:02): Yeah, it was the well, I found out two days after Thanksgiving, so,

Damon (01:12:08): Mm gosh. I’m so sorry.

Anne-Marie (01:12:13): It’s yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard to wrap my head around it. It’s hard even to go to grief groups because you know, the general consensus as well. It wasn’t really your daughter or that, you know, that’s not, I don’t know. It’s just hard. It’s hard to lose somebody twice. It’s hard to, you know, it’s hard having thought there’s time and w we can reconcile and there not being any more time. It’s hard to know that I have such a like deep soul connection with her and, and for her not valued that enough to get better. I mean, I know addiction addiction is a disease and everything, but it, it, it makes me really angry. Yeah. There’s just a lot of dimensions to it where I really have to divorce myself from, from anyone’s judgment or the idea of anyone’s judgment, because I don’t think a lot of people have, have gone through this.

Anne-Marie (01:13:27): And I have, I mean, I know that Lorraine Dusky, that author has a similar story, but I’m not sure. I can’t remember in the story where, what happens, but I know her daughter dies that she had placed once after they were reunited. And she was in that story. I think it’s called hole in my heart. She is very honest about sort of how exactly what exactly her experience was. And I don’t relate to all of it, but I don’t think there, there are very many people that would even tell the story. I mean, there’s so much shame about being a birth mother or a natural mother or whatever. We decided a mother who doesn’t get to raise her child. And I told you this, when I first contacted you, I was looking for a podcast about, about mothers who don’t get to raise their babies about mothers who relinquish babies for adoption.

Anne-Marie (01:14:22): And there isn’t one, or at least there wasn’t, then I haven’t looked again, but I think there’s so much shame surrounding being a birth mother, that people that don’t like to talk about it. And that that’s awful because I think we all really need each other. And I think these stories need to be told to help each other heal, and nobody wants to like, whatever out themselves, you know, but it’s not until we can release the shame that, that we can all heal. It’s not until we can stop hiding and stop being ashamed that the healing will come. Yeah.

Damon (01:15:06): Yeah. I agree. And you’re 100% correct. I think there is absolutely a gaping hole in the podcast, sort of open support network for natural mothers to be able to speak with each other on behalf of their own stories, because the adoptee community has stepped forth. And, you know, my show Haley Radke is adopt these on so many. Others have reached out to say, Hey, adopt these, tell us your stories. Cause it’s not all peaches and cream. There’s a lot of different nuances. And as you’ve said, dimensions to what you’ve been through, and many adoptees will reach out to me and say, Oh my gosh, I’m so thankful to hear, you know, see the work that you’re doing. And it has healed me and, and others that I know whatever, but, and I told you, I would love to interview more natural mothers like yourself. And I’m so thankful that I, you reached out and that we agreed to tell your story because it’s been enlightening for me to hear your words from your perspective and your experience.

Damon (01:16:23): And one of my fears was that I wouldn’t be able to adequately converse with somebody who has produced a child. I, as a man cannot do that. And therefore, I just, it wasn’t, it didn’t feel comfortable to me to do justice to your story or any other natural mother’s story because I’ve never given birth I’ve. And I can’t. And I, I hope that as you’ve said, there will be somebody who steps up and says, we got to do this. We gotta start telling these stories, because as you’ve said, the shame and the secrets on all sides, the patriarchy of the system that facilitates adoption really creates some barriers between people that

Damon (01:17:10): Are creating some of these tragedies that unfortunately Alex and some of the other folks in her addiction program. And so many others who don’t necessarily get as far as addiction, but struggle all the same are going through. And I think it’s really important that somebody initiate a podcast where natural mothers like yourself can tell their story, too. I hope that that comes to, to life.

Anne-Marie (01:17:36): Me too, me too.

Damon (01:17:38): We agreed the natural mothers podcast will be a very challenging emotional journey for the interviewer and the guest. I told her the main thing the host needs to do, whether it’s Anne Marie or someone else is to be able to empathize with the guests and who better to do that than a natural mother. Something I sometimes ask my adoptee guests is how they feel they are as a parent to their own children. But this is different. I was speaking to a natural mother who had lived the experience of relinquishing a child into adoption, then going on to have more children later in life, I asked Ann Marie, what she thought she is like as a mother, after her relinquishment experience.

Anne-Marie (01:18:22): Well, I have four sons and I, and I, you know, I hate to say this, but I do think that people raise children differently based on their gender. And I, you know, Alex obviously was, is a girl, a woman. And I think I show up for them probably differently than I would have with daughters. They’re not as, I don’t know, some, some sensor like cuddle buggy sort of sends my mind, don’t happen to be, I mean, I’m affectionate with them and they’re annoyed with me as a lot of boys are with their mom. I, I am afraid to be very, very like soul blaringly, honest. It is scary to love them as much as I can, because I feel like I have all this. I mean, I feel like I love them so passionately and so deeply that sometimes I just can’t express it.

Anne-Marie (01:19:25): It’s, it’s uncomfortable for them. And it’s, and it’s hard. And it’s hard after having lost a child to be the same person that I was before. I mean, they all lost a sister too, so they, you know, they’re grieving too. I think in some ways I had four kids hoping to maybe fill that void of the loss of Alex. I mean, I’m just venturing to guess, but I, I love being a mom so much. I feel so extraordinarily lucky to be the mom specifically of these four boys. I mean, I feel like they’re all extraordinary human beings and I’m just so, I mean, it blows my mind that I get to be their mom, but they’re such neat people. And just, just so interested in spend to talk to and insightful. And it’s more, I mean, it’s more than I could’ve ever asked for really in each of them just being their own unique individuals and having their own gifts and their own perspectives. And it just, it’s fricking amazing. I mean, I’m just feel very, very blessed and lucky. And I love them like crazy and, and I love Alex like crazy. It’s just something I wouldn’t wish on anybody. I guess the whole story of Alex, it’s just something that it feels like it’s too much.

Damon (01:21:09): Yeah. It is a hell of a lot. I won’t lie. Wow. You know, you said soul bearings, the honest, and right after you said that it occurred to me that It occurred to me that I wanted to hear Your story as a bit of a surrogate for my own mother’s story. I want to be here. I wanted to hear from a natural mother, what she felt, what she thinks, thought experienced, and you absolutely did that. And I can’t thank you enough.

Anne-Marie (01:22:16):

Well, I hope, I mean, it’s a beautiful thing that you’re doing and I just, I really admire, I love your podcast. I love your book. I think you have such a great insight into things. And I think you’re really helping people. And I, I like when I sat with all those kids in their rehab and they seem so starved to hear from a birth mother that they are loved and that they were given to their parents out of love and not anything else. And I just hope that all the adoptees and your audience can hear that they are lovable, they are loved. And you know, it’s an important, and it’s a painful, painful triangle, and it’s, it’s not helped by this whole institution and the way that it’s set up and wrapped in shame and wrapped in in turmoil. And just because adoption is so screwed up does not mean adoptees are screwed up.

Damon (01:23:23): Yeah. That’s really well said. Thank you, Ann. Marie, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time. God, this was amazing. I’m so sorry for your loss. Oh

Damon (01:23:42): God. I wish I could give you a big hug.

Anne-Marie (01:23:45): Oh, thank you. Thank you.

Damon (01:23:48): Hopefully Billy and the boys will do it for me. You can go to each one of them and said, Damon said, you have to give me a hug.

Anne-Marie (01:23:56): Apparently they’re all standing outside of the door. Cause they all need something.

Damon (01:24:04): You give, get what you want first and then you’ll give them what they want. Okay. Take care. Thank you for your time, Marie. All the best.

Anne-Marie (01:24:11): Thanks so much. Bye bye. Bye.

Damon (01:24:18): Hey, it’s me, man. That was a very emotional experience for Anne Marie and me. She and I texted after this interview and I thanked her profusely for her openness in sharing her story. And she thanked me in return for this platform on which to tell it, I feel really sorry for Anne Marie’s double loss of her daughter, Alex. I can’t imagine the life-changing experience of carrying and delivering a child, holding her and knowing with every cell in your body that the baby really should stay with you. But ultimately relinquishing her days later, then there was the excitement of Alex’s return. The disappointment of her self-medication with drugs and alcohol. Then the crushing experience of losing her again forever to addiction. But I have to say I’m really thankful to Anne Marie, for her message to us adoptees, that we are loved. I’m sure for some of us, when we reflect on the feelings we assumed our natural mother had for us, it didn’t feel that way.

Damon (01:25:22): But to know that she wrote to Alex prayed for Alex, took Alex into her home during her recovery and feared, losing her a second time, filled my heart with love for the bond that a mother feels for her child. I’m sure many of the natural mothers out there who are hoping daily for an adoptees return would join Anne Marie in a chorus to us that says, we love you. I’m Damon Davis. And I hope you’ll find something in Ann Marie’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 please, to who am I really on Apple podcasts, Google play, or wherever you get your podcasts. It would mean so much to me. If you took a moment to leave a five star rating there, those ratings can help others to find the podcast too. And if you’re interested, you can check out the story of my adoption journey. Who am I really and adopt the memoir on on Kindle or as an audio book on audible. I hope you’ll add my story to your reading list.

Who Am I Really?

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