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137 – Searching For Mom

Sara, from Seattle, Washington, was an over achiever adoptee who was secretly struggling and going off the rails. She intentionally avoided babies until her sister gave birth.. and having kids of her own drove home just how precious babies are. Sara feared reunion would literally kill her adoptive mother. But in reunion she finally heard from her biological mother that they looked just a like, a comment she had waited to hear her whole life.This is Sara’s journey.


Sara (00:00:01): And I, you know, I was able to kind of learn some things about myself too, and the way that you know, that relationship was kind of dangerous all along. And it had nothing to do with my mom and being jealous. But a lot of it had to do with just being an adoptive mother, because my first mother left, I that’s what my brain decided and mothers are dangerous. They leave it, it, you know, it affected me. It affected my ability to be too close to my mom.

New Speaker (00:00:36): Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?

Damon (00:00:46): 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 today you’re going to meet Sarah from Seattle Washington. Sarah was an overachiever adoptee who was secretly struggling and going off the rails. She intentionally avoided babies until her sister gave birth and having kids of her own drove home, just how precious babies are. Sarah feared reunion would literally kill her adoptive mother, but in reunion, she finally heard from her biological mother that they looked just alike. A comment that she had genuinely wanted to hear her whole life. This is Sarah’s journey. Sarah was adopted at two days old in billings, Montana. Hers was what she called a gray market, private adoption. She didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded kind of cool when she was younger. She grew up in Littleton, Colorado with one sister who was born to their parents three years after Sarah’s adoption. Her family lived a pretty middle class, suburban lifestyle. She joked that when she first reflected on her life, it didn’t seem interesting enough to tell a compelling story, but then she started on packing her adoption and she had plenty to say,

Sara (00:02:07): I looked a lot like my family and people would always assume I went with my family. And so there was this kind of way that, that just put the adoption underground. And so it became taboo to talk about very much because we could all just play this pretending game that I wasn’t adopted. And that was hard. I just kind of buried adoption. It’s hard enough to feel that kind of rejection that comes with relinquishment and knowing that you’re an adoptee and, you know, my kind of translation as a child was that I was unlovable and broken and unwanted. And so I only talked about it, maybe a handful of times with my mom. I didn’t even understand it until I was about nine years old. And it was a really moment when I finally understood I was cleaning my room and I had a broken Mickey mouse watch that I just absolutely could throw away because it I just couldn’t do that.

Sara (00:03:12): And then it made me kind of think of, well, how could my birth mother throw me away? I can’t even throw away this watch. So it was, it was a big moment for me. Probably the most honest that I ever was with my adoptive mom, that we have this talk. And that was kind of when I got a lot of the kind of reigning language of the time of you’re special, and we chose you and you know, love is, you know, we chose you you’re, you know, you’re special because you’re chosen and that kind of messaging, which didn’t exactly satiate, you know, I think it’s there. It was, it was hard hearing. You know, there’s that weirdness that comes with that special, that special babies story where you feel you have to live up to it. And I did kind of start feeling like I had to live up to that. And then by the same token, I had a neighbor across the street who teased me repeatedly, her being adopted. I don’t know how he knew, but he would tease me. And then I would use that, those, that language right back to him, you know, your mom didn’t have a choice about you, but mine did. And so it was this great weapon as well, even though I wasn’t really drinking the Kool-Aid and believing it deep down.

Damon (00:04:32): Yeah. Wow. Do you remember? I have a couple of questions. You’ve said several things. One, it sounded like you said they were, you were referred to a special, therefore you felt you had to live up to that special designation. Do you remember what that felt like for you? Were you an overachiever were, tell me what living up to this special moniker felt like

Sara (00:05:00): I was definitely went down the overachiever for sure. A part of it was to live up to that special baby. And part of it was because I wanted to prove I was worthy and approved that I was good, that I wasn’t as bad as I felt inside. Part of it was also trying to be noticed. And it was always with this hope that my birth mother would stop me in a crowd or she’d, I’d get famous and she’d find me, you know, that she know by seeing me, you know, that that’s my daughter, that’s my girl. And so it was just, it was the combination of all of those things. And it just kind of went sideways and kind of blew up you know, into just, you know, a lot of perfectionism across the board.

Damon (00:05:52): Yeah. Wow. That’s really interesting. Another thing that you said was that you look like your family, but that, that made it like adoption was a taboo subject. Can you say more about that? How did you feel that in what situations?

Sara (00:06:12): Yeah. You know, there were many situations where, you know, I mean, my cousin and I, people would always, when we were younger, think we were twins and they would suggest that we should be in those double mint commercials. That was definitely, they used to have the double mint twins in commercials. So you know, we would get that a lot. We would my mom and I would be out and about, and people would say, Oh my gosh, it’s so obvious your mother and daughter look at your eyes. They match there. You’ve got the same dancing eyes. And it was my mom loved that. She loved when people did that. And so, and, you know, starting at you know, even like young, young age, my mom would dress, dress to match me. We would dress to match. So I think there was this kind of, you know, that I didn’t understand until adulthood that she had this insecurity about her, that kind of matching kind of helped kind of make it feel like it was you know, that we belong together. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Damon (00:07:20): Oh, did you guys match as a, as a threesome when her daughter was born, when your sister was born?

Sara (00:07:25): We did. And you know, that’s the interesting thing. We, yes, we certainly did. We, we all look like we go together. My dad, my mom, my sister and I but it’s interesting. My sister and my mother, my adoptive mother look, I looked so close. I mean, very, very close. And we hear all the time. And I just recently, even my children just recently said, Oh, Aunt Amy looks just like Grammy, you know? And I, it still hurts a little, you know, there’s just this, I heard that a lot. And I never said out loud that that bothered me, but I heard that more than I heard that I looked like my family. And so, you know, even, even having people call it out that I looked like my mom would kind of be this internal trauma, almost like reliving of it, because I’d go through this spiraling in my head of, well, that’s not true. Do I tell him, do I say something, you know, you start going down this long path in your head of what does that mean? We aren’t really who do I look like? And it can take you to some just hard places. And then just feel that loneliness of not being able to say so with the family, when you see how happy it makes them to hear that you match

Damon (00:08:39): That perfectionism. Sarah talked about played out in school in middle school. She and a girlfriend spent weekends doing unlimited extra credit assignments. She also got very good at piano, cheerleading and cometitive gymnastics, where the athletes are passionate about earning a perfect 10, all of which she said she did with the hope that her birth mother would take notice of her achievements and her worth one day, Sarah had a fantastic relationship with her mom and dad. They didn’t talk about adoption. And truthfully in that era, people didn’t talk about hard stuff much anyway, so things were good, but that also meant a lot of things. Sarah was going through, went unsaid,

Sara (00:09:22): Things ended up going kind of underground and they’ve got secretive. So I did, and that I had this wonderful relationship with them on the one hand. And on the other hand, I also started this quite a secret life of things that they, they didn’t really know were happening. You know, I ended up in adolescents dabbling in drugs. I had a boyfriend who was into a lot of drugs. And so I did some dabbling in that with him. I ended up, I had it was this very turbulent relationship adolescents, you know, it’s already a Rocky time for everybody. And then it was just kind of, everything kind of started to unravel quietly for me underground, but I kind of, because of that perfectionism and that need to be special. I kept it all very private from my parents. And then I had all of these things kind of falling apart that they were completely unaware of and secrets divide secrets, separate us from our loved ones.

Sara (00:10:23): And so that did start the process of a separation when adolescence is already a time of separation you know, separating the two, become grownups and then separating to keep these kind of private things at Bay. With the turbulent relationship, I ended up having a suicide attempt in high school that really shocked my parents because they thought everything, you know, here, I’m, like I said, I was the cheerleader. I had good grades. The teachers loved me. I, you know, I was th they, they had no idea that there was this other stuff going on, other than they were starting to get the idea, they kind of blamed it on the boyfriend. You know, that my boyfriend died, kind of got the brunt of it. And you know, they kind of, they needed to get him out of the picture. They thought all of these, my mom thought all would be solved after we got rid of got him out of the, out of the show. But

Damon (00:11:17): Did you try to convince her, tell me about how it went for you to try to take blame off of him? Like, did you say no, no, no, no, no, no. Like tell me what it was like for her to them to be blaming him, but for you to know internally whether you were able to articulate it or not, that it was not him. Do you recall how that went?

Sara (00:11:37): I, you know, I recall a lot of family conflict over that relationship. I don’t think I had enough belief in myself and enough knowledge that it wasn’t all him. I have gained that as an adult to look and see that that relationship actually, you know, it, it was, there were many things that were wrong about it, but it also was a vessel for all my sadness, because of all that, to multipurpose that I can only see that as an adult. And I wasn’t able to articulate any of that. So there was just a lot of drama of, I love him, you know, it was, it was very very adolescent, I guess, on the one hand, various different stereotypical, but I didn’t have a lot of emotional savvy on what moves happening.

Damon (00:12:27): Sarah’s catalyst for her search was the birth of her daughter, violet, but she admitted, she wasn’t someone who was diving headlong into motherhood. At first, she was avoiding it to a certain extent until her own sister gave birth to Sarah’s niece.

Sara (00:12:42): I’d been very reticent about motherhood. I never was that interested in babies. I just, you know, I remember, you know, when I worked in an office setting, people would come in with their babies, you know, they’d come while they’re on maternity leave. And I just wasn’t interested. I just kind of would walk away. And I told myself after the Columbine high school shootings, which was in, in the same city that I lived in, that I grew up in that the world, you know, kind of just reinforced for me, the world is dangerous and I am not bringing kids into this world. I it’s too dangerous, too risky. And then my younger sister went and had a baby and I fell in such hard love with my niece Kenna that it caught me and the rest of my family completely by surprise, because I always been rather hard-hearted about children about babies in particular.

Sara (00:13:39): And yet it just kind of started to this vulnerable side in me, just was really touched and started to come out a little bit. Sadly, my niece ended up dying when she was eight months old which is really hard for the family, but I had loved her so hard and it just kind of made me start being open to the possibility that, okay, maybe, maybe I do want children. I wouldn’t be so bad cause I hugely hugely dove into motherhood. And it was very, very wonderful once I got there, but but it was hard, but because of you know, holding my baby in my arms and because of the wounds I felt inside and that tendency toward perfectionism, I just went a little bit crazy as a new mom on trying to get every single thing. Right. I had to just I, I didn’t want any error.

Sara (00:14:43): I wanted to be the perfect mother. I didn’t, I, you know, I studied attachment. I was reading books all the time, child development and just not wanting my kids to have any of the same wounds and experiences that I had felt as a child. And you know, not remembering that they’re not adopted, my two children are not adopted. And so they’ve got, they’re gonna have a different journey. But I, I was just really focused on that, get everything right, get everything right. And, and then also simultaneously just, you know, studying my baby daughter, my first daughter, violet you know, I just couldn’t turn myself away from this mystery of wow. It’s it’s amazing. I’m looking at my genes. And then the, what was so frustrating is everywhere I went, nobody would tell me that they, that she looks like me.

Sara (00:15:40): They were all telling her how she looked exactly like my husband, which you know, he’s a good looking guy. It’s fine. But it was, but those were my, that was my big trigger as I was like, no, you know, I was hurt, nobody’s telling my baby, nobody’s telling my face that she looks like me. And some people are outright rude as people are when you’re a new mom anyway, on all kinds of things, there’s all kinds of just comments made that nobody realizes how much they hurt. But that was the one that was particularly getting me is just, wow. You know, I had someone say, wow, your baby looks nothing like you.

Damon (00:16:18): Gosh. Yeah. You really don’t think about that. When you say it, it’s, it comes out as if it’s a compliment to your partner that should be received well by you. When in fact that’s not the case at all. It’s, it’s really interesting. I mean, on the face, it’s an insult, you know, but people, I think a lot of times say it like as a compliment to the other person, who’s not standing in front of you and you don’t think, Oh, this message is going straight through this person in front of me, you know, unfairly. That’s really.

Sara (00:16:54): Right. Right. Well, and of course, because I was so mad about that, I actually did research and I think it’s actually like a, I don’t even remember the sources that I recall learning that that’s actually an unconscious thing people do in order to match the baby, to the father that like a survival mechanism that people unconsciously and I think babies are even born looking more like the father, but of course, I didn’t know these things. I was just taking it very personally and, and realizing that I, you know, there’s these genes. I mean, I would line up, I would recreate baby pictures of my daughter with my baby pictures and, you know, just kind of study them and look for these matching things. And I, you know, I kept thinking, okay, I see that. But the other thing, just back to the baby thing and not liking babies, I said, I think until I had my own baby and, and had had my niece can I didn’t get close up to babies because it required me noticing that babies are precious, that there there’s no disputing babies are precious. And because I, as a baby, that’s I think, you know, it made me, it made me look, it rewrote the story I had, that I was broken and not precious. And so getting up close to babies was an argument to that. And when you have your own baby, that’s in your arms, there’s no more arguing.

Damon (00:18:24): Sarah said she didn’t want violet to have any attachment issues like she had. So she studied how to make the bonds, that she didn’t feel herself with her natural mother, Sarah focused on her perfectionism as a parent, burying her thoughts about searching for her birth family. Then she attended a parenting workshop where the charismatic, knowledgeable presenter, just captivated, Sarah. She found herself attaching quite strongly to this woman.

Sara (00:18:52): I went to everything she’s she spoke at and ultimately what happened. And there’s a longer story there. And it wasn’t, it was, it wasn’t all good. But what ended up ultimately happening from that is I have this fantasy fantasy in my head that she was my birth mother, and that’s how she was coming to find me that it was the first time in my adulthood. I guess when that had happened, I had done that a lot through my adolescence and on, through early adulthood where I, any woman I admired, I would just kind of fantasize. And if she, like, if the details even semi, if I could just spin any kind of story in my mind, then I would decide that was my birth mom. And she was coming to check up on me, you know? And so I could spin that out. I didn’t do it.

Sara (00:19:41): I hadn’t done it in such a long time, but here I was doing it with this presenter of these parenting groups. And she, I ended up joining a women’s group with her and there was, it got pretty, got pretty deep. But when I finally realized that she wasn’t my birth mother, I just was like, you know what? I am about to turn 40. And I can’t keep doing this. Like, this has just been my whole life, like all of these like fantasy mothers coming and going. And I’ve got a, if my birth mother is not coming to find me, I just, I kept just waiting for her to come find me and spot me in the crowd or come secretly, enter my life. And she’s not going to, I’m almost 40 here. So I’ve got to do it myself.

Damon (00:20:26): Sarah started off by telling her adoptive parents that she wanted to search, which was challenging news for the family. In that moment,

Sara (00:20:34): There was a lot of conflict there. My adoptive mom was not happy about that. And she had just had a double lung transplant within the last couple of years. And so that was very hard on our mother daughter relationship and on her, on her health and all kinds of things. And that had been part of my fear is that I might kill my mom. So there was just this horrible feeling that I’m doing something that I need to do, but I could be killing my mom. So that was going on, but she didn’t give me enough information. She said, you know, she kind of, she was in a venomous state when I told her and kind of said, well, it’ll be easy for you. And she dropped some information that I had never had before. She told me facts that I had never known.

Sara (00:21:19): I I’d always been told my birth mother was 15 when she had me, but then all of a sudden she told me she was 18. She thought 17 or 18. She told me that my birth mother was a red head. And then she also told me that my birth mother had had a change of heart and had wanted to keep me, which that was really significant. It created, it was a huge shift in my psychology as I drove away from that meeting with my mom, because I really needed to know that growing up. And I couldn’t, you know, I, it was having that information like reframed a lot of my self perception of who I was and that my, my birth mom had wanted me and I needed to know that you know, I had to have this death wish all the time.

Sara (00:22:08): I mentioned the suicide attempt, but I had always had this death wish because I felt like I was horrible and unworthy. And then all of a sudden, I just to find that out, I thought I wanted, and it just kind of set up this rush. Like, I’ve got to find her now. I can’t just, you know, this is, this is urgent. Now she wants, you know, it’s not that, you know, it’s not that she’s not coming. Cause she’s not interested. She had wanted me. And then my, the other thing is that was, that was when I learned about my adoptive uncle and being in the same practice as the OB who delivered me. So my mom said, call your uncle and was,

Damon (00:22:45): Say, call your uncle without describing why. So you’ve asked your mom, you said, you’ve told your mom, look, I think I want to search. And she’s this double lung transplant survivor. You’re already afraid you’re going to kill her with this news. She’s made you feel validated in the fact that she has told you your biological mother wanted you and then she just says, you should talk to your uncle.

Sara (00:23:11): Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very surreal. And of course, this is when you know, you kind of like you, me, I shouldn’t say you me. I was thinking, you know, reflecting back to this, always to know a good exotic story. At one point I used to, you know, I really always admired my aunt, my mom’s sister so much. And at one point I used to wonder was I heard daughter cause she and I were a lot alike. And so I, I was, I always had this wondering, was she my mother? And so that was I’m on the same call. Your uncle was my first thought is, what am I? My aunt’s daughter. What’s that like, you know, like, wow, this story, you know, like the writer in me, it was like, wow, the story is getting good. And then the, you know, human part of me is like, no, no, no, no. That was just kind of a fun fantasy that wasn’t ever supposed to be.

Damon (00:24:07): Sarah’s uncle and aunt got on the phone and rattled off some information that wasn’t enough to make headway on her search. Her dad also gave her the adoption forms that he had in his files after the lung transplant years before Sara’s mom had shared her natural mother’s first name without much information to go on. Sarah hired a private detective. It was only a day or two before the PI came back with the news that he had Sarah’s information. All she had to do was wire the money to receive his substantial reporting. When the report came through, she had history on her grandparents and great grandparents links to obituaries, Facebook profile links and all kinds of information.

Sara (00:24:51): It was interesting. He called me this is of course before the payment was paid. And he said we found your birth mother. And I know for a fact that your mom really loved you and was coerced by an agent. Wow. And it was just like, yeah, I wrote it down as he was talking. Cause I was, you know, didn’t trust myself. Am I going to remember that? And I, and then, you know, I wrote it off right away. Cause I thought, Oh, he probably says that to everyone to make sure they pay, it’s just the adoptive constellation prize, but it turned out to be true. You know, he was right. And I don’t know, I don’t know where he got the information and, and came out with that. But it didn’t turn, turn out to be the case. Once I connected with my birth mother and I found out that that was true.

Damon (00:25:40): So unbelievable. What did you think when you heard that?

Sara (00:25:43): When I heard it from him, I really just thought, Oh, this is just a rejected child, constellation pricing, you know, just what he says, you know, I, but I brought it down because I didn’t want to discount it either. You know, I, like I said, I just learned from my mom that my birth mother had had this change of heart. So I was kind of thinking, well, maybe that’s interesting. You know, it just was, I was intrigued and it made me more excited and you know, just kinda kept propelling me along towards meeting her and finding her.

Damon (00:26:19): Sarah has this massive report with rich content about her natural family. She’s fueled by the information that her natural mother wanted her, but was coerced out of keeping her, she and her husband put the kids to bed early that night and poured through the report where they found Sarah’s natural, mother’s address and a phone number for her. But they were most interested in finding a picture of the woman together with their laptops. Side-By-Side they searched for her online. The couple found a Facebook profile that didn’t show much about her, but it did have a few pictures, Cirrus, teenaged fantasies that her natural mother could have been. The famous singer, Madonna were laid to rest when they found photos of the woman.

Sara (00:27:01): Well, we found one more picture. Eventually my husband found us photos of her. She worked at a school and so it was a photo of her, a school photo. And she looks like a, it looks like straight out of a Rockwell, you know, like just you’re a mom. And I didn’t realize that that fantasy had also been frozen in time. Like I really was expecting to find a teenager, even though here I am about to turn 40 and I’m looking for a 15 to 18 year olds as is my mother. So it was a little bit of a shock. I moved past that. It just took a few days. And then I had her phone number and I had a script that someone had just very kindly given to me. Once I was in a, I was in a group of Facebook or Google group, I can’t remember. But she gave me basically a script to use and I took the script, went to a parking lot, tucked away in a really quiet kind of forest park and dialed her number.

Damon (00:28:06): Wow. That’s a heavy moment. So did she answer?

Sara (00:28:10):Yeah, she did answer. It was it was amazing. She, part of one, one bad thing that happened is I had gone to such, I was just needing to be alone in this deep remote section of the woods and I didn’t pay attention to the fact that it didn’t, I didn’t have a good signal. So I call her, it rings. I, you know, she answers hello. And you know, I say, hi, you know my name, hi, I’m calling from Seattle and then there’s just silence this awkward long silence. And so I’m thinking, you know, I’ve been rejected, that’s it?

Sara (00:28:53): And then looked down at the phone. No, I don’t have any bubbles on my phone. So I hadn’t like panicked. I drive up out of it. You know, I just start driving up the street. I was like on the side of the road waiting to get more bars, I call her back and she answered and I went starting back through my script again. And and then, you know, basically I just went through the script. I, you know, I told her I didn’t, you know, I just paused. I just said, you know I believed it. I believed it may have been you. I asked her, is it a good time to talk about a private family matter? And she said, sure. She was really indifferent about it from my perspective. You know, I told her my birth date, the hospital, I told her that, you know the name that I had from this report and I believe that that, that, that, that person placed me for adoption. And I waited and she said, that was me. And then we both just sat there, this kind of awkward pause. And you know, the funny thing was that was, as far as my script had taken me,

Damon (00:30:06): No,

Sara (00:30:08): And I didn’t script anything else out because I was really just one step at a time. I don’t know if I was expecting rejection. I really didn’t know what to expect. I had pretty low expectations, frankly, you know, the adoptee, just that protective part of me didn’t want to risk my heart too much. And so I didn’t want to like ever envision getting past that. So all I said was, I don’t want to disrupt your life. And then she cut me off and said, you’re not. And then we both just sat there again, not speaking. And and then I just got kind of vulnerable. I just said, I’ve spent my life wondering about you and wondering where I came from and I’ve taken me 40 years, but I finally mustered the courage to find you. And she said the same thing back I’ve often wondered about you.

Sara (00:30:56): And I thought, I thought your records were closed. And you know, then I just kinda got worried, like maybe she wanted them closed. And we, you know, just finding our way through, it took a little bit of time, but we had a great first conversation. It was relatively fast because we were both in shock really. And she had, she said that she ended up emailing me later that day. She asked for photos, she was relieved. I had had a sister. She had always worried if I, she came from a family with a lot of siblings and was always worried. What if I was an only child? She just, it was important to her that I had siblings. And then she asked if I’d sent her a picture, we exchanged email addresses and I sent a picture. And then I had a more, a few of, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You know, I, I’m just so happy. I had always hoped that someday I’d hear from you and I was afraid and, you know, loss of words and just let me gather myself. And I’d love to, I’d love to talk, seeing you as like looking in a mirror. Wow. Yeah. Which was so good to hear, you know, just, yeah. That was really wow.

Damon (00:32:02): Oh, that was it right there. Yeah. You were looking for that comment from everybody else and she delivered it. Oh, that’s so cool. Wow. So you’re on the side of the road, praying for cell phone bars to continue to be as strong as possible. And she just gave me the comment that you’ve been waiting to hear for the longest time.

Sara (00:32:32): Yeah. Well, and that was later in the day, I guess I was home by that, but yeah, that was in my email that was waiting in the email after I sent her the photo. So yeah, that was you’re right. Yeah. Yeah. I had been waiting all my life to know. Yeah. To hear that

Damon (00:32:46): Sarah and her natural mother had a long, transparent conversation about everything. The woman opened up about her relationship with Sarah’s birth father and how the adoption came about.

Sara (00:32:57): She told me about that she had had a change in heart and my birth grandmother was really excited about that. Very supportive and left the hospital to go get diapers and supplies. Very excited to take her first. But I would have been, I guess not would have been. I was her first granddaughter, so excited to support and take me home. And then that’s when the OB and keep in mind, he’s friends with my adoptive uncle. But he also was known as, this is my uncle’s words, the go-to guy for all the unwed birth mothers. And so he came in and just kind of rattled. My birth mother told her, he said, I don’t care about you. We’re done taking care of you. That, that baby isn’t going anywhere until you come to your senses, which you know, is very illogical either.

Sara (00:33:49): That’s just basically either way, the baby’s not going with you. But but she, she, you know, she just delivered me. She hadn’t held me. That was the one thing that was very hard to hear. She hadn’t even seen me. But she didn’t, she didn’t say a word. She didn’t when my birth grandmother came back. My birth mom didn’t say anything to her. She just kind of took it all internal, didn’t say a word and just said, it’s not going to work out. So they, and they never brought it up again, either one of them. So my birth grandmother, I think just that maybe my birth father’s family got to them and got to her. And so that was just kind of her assumption is that there had been a conversation and he convinced her to go through with it. And that they never brought it up. They just never, never spoke about it until I called basically. And my birth mother hadn’t really told, she told her she, she left, she moved from the very small town, moved to a different town to live with her aunt and then met her now husband and proceeded to have three children. She told her husband once about me and never brought it up again and never told her children.

Damon (00:35:11): Wow, unbelievable. Wow. I’m stuck on that coercion that the doctor imposed upon her. I mean, here’s this vulnerable woman who has just given birth to a child and this man in a paternalistic situation already comes in and basically that baby’s not going anywhere. But with me, I mean, that’s just,

Sara (00:35:43): Yeah, I know. I know. Really horrible. And sadly, that was a pretty common practice to yeah. That it was, I was still considered in the baby scoop era and, you know, I think he, he probably thought he was doing the right thing, you know, I mean, society was so different and, you know, I, I have to say, when I researched him, I got his name from my uncle. And when I researched him, he died on the Eve of my 30th birthday. And of course, you know, like there was a part of me when I learned that I was like, you know, kind of like he got his vengeance thing.

Sara (00:36:31): Yeah. He got his justice. Excuse me. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. He got, you know, there’s justices and served, he died on the Eve of my 30th birthday. But I think, you know, as time goes by, I’m sure, you know, society was so judgmental at that time of single young mothers. And I mean, they were sent away, but that wasn’t the case with my birth mother, but they were often sent away. They were shamed. You know, there’s, there’s just so much that they went through and he probably thought he was doing the right thing, you know, saving, saving me from the fate of, you know, being born to a young unwed mother.

Damon (00:37:15): Yeah. It seems like he probably was also feeling he not feeling. It seems like he was probably also a bit of a part of a machine. Right. He’s in a position of being part of this hospital where unwed mothers are periodically coming in. And like when they come through the door, that’s the trigger for the rest of the machine to get started. And someone knew to go to him and say, Hey, we’ve got another one. He then kicks into gear. He, you know, brings up his script of how he is this powerful male over this young woman. Who’s not in a position to make a decision. And he flexes his, you know, so-called muscle over her and coerces her right out of this infant. And then the latter part of that is all right, what is the distribution channel for this child to go to? And, you know, your uncle was, was part of the machinery. He happened to be in the in the hospital as well. And therefore was able to, he was, was the one that sounds like maybe even initiated this to a degree or something. So it sounds like it was very mechanized. It sounds like a a, a we call it a sounds like an assembly line. This piece goes to the next piece goes to the next piece. So,

Sara (00:38:31): Right. Yeah. And the other interesting thing is after I learned this from my birth mom, I went back and talked to my adoptive mom about the story. You know, she didn’t the story, wasn’t it, wasn’t her favorite story to hear? Of course. But she said, she said, well, we did go to the hospital and we had to leave. So they came to the hospital. So that was again, new information. But when I kind of backed it all in, I think, you know, you never know, my parents may have shown up right then as my both grandmothers leaving and my here come my parents to get the baby and then birth mom, you know, the Dr. May have been really mad. He’s got his customers here who are, you know, connected to his friend, his colleague, and all of a sudden, where’s the baby. Like I think that’s, that may have very likely happened so

Damon (00:39:23): Interesting. Wow.

Sara (00:39:25): Yeah. Yeah. And that little, yeah. Yeah. It’s really interesting. And that little piece of information that I just got in that way from my mom was really hard to digest. That took a, I was actually really mad, you know, it’s like, gosh, I mean, I, I was kind of stolen in a way, you know, I felt like I kind of was kidnapped and my mom had some inklings, something wasn’t right. If she showed up to the hospital and was sent away and then didn’t ask any questions, like you know, what exactly happened in that room? And didn’t, you know, did anything happen other than they may have just been confused, but no questions were ever asked that probably should have been asked in her room, but she was, there was an eagerness to have a baby. So yeah,

Damon (00:40:10): That’s exactly what I was going to say. Yeah. You’re eager. You’re eager to, to get this child and bring her home and, and I’m sure a whole lot of things could have flown right past your parents. Any, any grant dissipation of your arrival. So, wow. I was checking in on Sarah’s timeline of when these conversations and their meeting occurred when this happened.

Sara (00:40:35): Damon, I just realized today it was July 8th. Today is July 8th. Yeah. Oh my gosh. It was 2012, July 8th, 2012.

Damon (00:40:48): This is the eighth year anniversary on the 8th of July.

Sara (00:40:52): Yeah. I just got goosebumps. I’m going to have to call her really cool. Yeah. Yeah. Wow. Okay. So yeah, eight years to eight years ago today to this day was that first conversation in the, in the remote remote parking lot or remote wooded area. And then that was we were, we were going a little bit slow with, I would say, you know, weekly conversation over email until she ha she needed time to tell her kids and that worried her. And I think partly even just worried, she was worried also just about telling her daughters in law. She thought that might be harder to tell her daughters in law because she’s very close with them as well. But of course, you know, everybody, once she told everyone, and I think this is just a lesson in shame, you know, you think it’s, so this horrible thing that you keep quiet and silence. And of course everyone was very accepting and very, very happy and delighted and welcoming. So it was I think it was a relief for her, but it took a little time. She wanted the time to do that. And she wanted to do that with my half sister in person. So that took a little more time cause she had a visit to her, but then by September, so only a few months passed by September. We got together and we had our, our first meeting together in person.

Damon (00:42:14): Wow. Where was that? How did it go?

Sara (00:42:18): We met at a Starbucks and again, you know, just lots of advice from the searching Joel’s on how to do it. And I suggested, you know, should we eat? Should we each wear like a flower or something so that we can identify each other? And she’s like, we’ll know. So it was again more of that, just like what I, what my heart needed to hear, you know, that someone wouldn’t know me and that was that same kind of thing. I always, I always wanted her to know, you know, I wanted her to be able to spot me out in a crowd. So she was able to spot me out in the Starbucks. And I spotted her and we had an entire day together. That was lovely. Her sister lives in Seattle as well. So her sister was a part of some of our time together.

Sara (00:43:02): And then we had time on our own. And then I brought her back to my house. She got to meet my two children and my husband. And then I brought her back to her sisters and it was just this long, surreal day that I, you know, I was a little bit numb for, it was you know, it was wonderful in so many ways and I was also kind of numb. It just, you know, there’s no, nobody gives you a script for all of these. Just it’s a strange situation to be pleased to find yourself in. As I was leaving her house, she told me she loved me and she wanted me to call her when I got home. She makes all her kids do that. So there was this part of me that felt like, wow, I’m one of the kids. And another part of me is very aware.

Sara (00:43:45): I’m not one of the kids. And then this other part of me really conflicted because my adoptive mom had been having such a hard time, so full of jealousy and feeling andoned. She had, my mom had her own abandonment wounds from her own, you know, non adopted story that she had attachment abandonment wounds that were really getting triggered by my searching for my birth mother that had long been, I think, a big fear of hers. Plus she was on all this medication that she’s not handling very well. And so it was really like, I felt bad and, you know, I had that worry. I was going to kill my mom. So I felt super guilty. I felt like a cheater. And yet I’m, I’m like meeting this person. I still have a connection to, and you know, it was just was complicated. There was a lot swirling in my head. So it was just lovely to, and you know, as I talk about it now, it’s, I feel that loveliness even more than I felt in that moment at the time, that’s really unbelievable. And you know, it’s funny at the same time I say all of that is she may have been completely unaware. I was acting like I did this every day.

Sara (00:44:58): I mean, I just looked like I had my defenses up and I was just like, you know, acting is the, on the outside would probably look like I have reunions with my birth mother all the time. I was just trying to be so strong and happy and kind of like almost play this role that I thought I should be playing. But inside, I mean, it was really messy inside.

Damon (00:45:21): What were you feeling? Do you remember?

Sara (00:45:23): I very, I mean, just in, so just that guilt, the guilt was so present for my mom and, and the elation. And, you know, then of course that, you know, you read about how you’re going to stare at each other. And so I was a little self-conscious about that. Like, am I staring too much? Is she going to stare, you know, just, I almost knew too much about the, you know, I had read about how in reunion, some people can’t stop touching each other. And that just was, no, I didn’t want to like move into that. Any touching, like don’t touch me. So I was like conscious of, I don’t want to like make eye contact too long. And it was just, just a lot of like nervous. It was just all nervous, kind of analyzing over-analyzing of every little thing. And, and yet trying to pretend I wasn’t

Damon (00:46:12): Sarah called her natural mother when she got home, like she was asked to do, they’ve been in reunion for eight years and Sarah said their relationship has evolved. She likens how her natural mother feels to the feeling of another mother-in-law it’s different of course, because they have a biological connection. But in terms of how the relationship feels, it’s maternal, but somewhat distant. Of course it’s sometimes complicated and Sarah has occasionally had confusing feelings, but she’s so glad for their reunion. She said her newfound siblings have been wonderful to accepting her right away, but maybe things moved a little too quickly.

Sara (00:46:51): You know, I think we rushed things a little bit. They invited me right away to their family, their annual family camping reunion. And it took a couple of years, but I did that. I joined them on that and I realized later, in fact, I didn’t realize this until last year because I kept kind of backing out of the camping trip and I realized, you know, I think that was a little bit too fast, too much, too fast to be dropping in on this family reunion where I’m sensitive in my interfering. You know, I just get wrapped up in my head. Am I interfering? Are they resentful? Like all of a sudden here I drop in with my, and I mess it up, their family vibe that they’ve had for 40 years, you know? And so I start getting self-conscious and worried that I have to take care of their feelings.

Sara (00:47:39): And then I also am really aware as they’re sharing stories of swapping stories around the campfire about their lives together, that it also hurts because I’m left out of that. So I got left to, you know, I was left out biologically in my adoptive family. And then here I am in my biological family and feeling left out there because we’ve missed out on all that time together. And there isn’t that safety between us because I don’t know, you know, like if I say the wrong thing, if our political beliefs are different, are they still going to be there? I don’t like I have that safety in my adoptive family, but I don’t feel that in my biological family, you just don’t know, am I going to push it too far? I’ve gotta be, I’ve got to work to be liked here and hold on to this relationship.

Sara (00:48:24): I don’t want to lose it. So it’s, it’s all in my head again. And it gets really hard. So I realized just it’s too much. I kind of realized, finally, I need to be in front of what’s going on. I keep kind of coming up with these excuses of why we’re not going to join the camping reunion again. And then I realized, you know, I think it’s just too loaded with all of those people. So I’ve just kind of realized I do, I need to do it a little slower and just do kind of relationship building because it’s it’s relationships take time to develop and to grow and to know each other and get that trust. So rather than the once, every few years dropping it on the reunion, just having more contact and that’s yeah. And just kind of one-on-one or in groups. And so that’s what we’ve been doing. And I had my half sister and half brother visit with their kids right before the quarantine. And it was lovely. It was so good. They, because I waited so long to be a mom and they, they they have children, all of our children are really close in age, so they’re, they are just like cousins. I mean, that’s magical to watch that they’ve got extra cousins and extra play. And so that’s been good.

Damon (00:49:35): That’s really cool. But yeah, I hear what you’re saying. You, you, it’s almost like you can’t bite off the whole thing and chew it. Like that’s 40 years of stuff that you can’t just dip, like just parachute into and be like, bam, we’re here. I could totally see the value in what you’ve prescribed for yourself, which is the slow introduction of yourself and your family to each of these folks until collectively you’re comfortable and potentially you could join one of those trips. Yeah. It would be a lot, yeah. To, just, to just parachute in and, and try to be part of the mix because there are going to be some dynamics, some unspoken understanding some history where something went wrong before and they are over it and, and you won’t know the history of that situation, whatever it is. And there will be some weirdness that has zero to do with you, but we’ll feel like

Damon (00:50:28): It could have to do with you because it’s weirdness and you’re in a weird space in your head. Yeah. I totally get why you wouldn’t want to be in, into that quite yet. Sarah’s adoptive, mother’s health took a hit because of the feeling she had about being abandoned on Sarah search and her new connection to her natural mother, her mother wasn’t sleeping well. She sent Sarah emails and poetry in the middle of the night. She was angry, insecure, and Sarah did what she could to reassure her that she is her mother. Sarah admits some of the emotional rollercoaster was the cocktail of medications. Her mother was taking after the double lung transplant.

Sara (00:51:06): So it was hard. I had to dress some boundaries. I had to take some breaks. And then we finally found our way back. It took about a year to find our way back by the following September. We kind of things just got a little started, finally getting better. And then sadly by February. So we had some good months by February she went into rejection from her lung transplant. And yeah. And so ultimately she died by the next June. So it’s yeah, that was less than two years after finding my birth mother that my mom died. And it was hard. There was a lot of healing that happened in her as she was dying. That was tremendous between us and this incredible closeness between us that came about through that death. And I, you know, I was able to kind of learn some things about myself too, and the way that you know, that relationship was kind of dangerous all along.

Sara (00:52:18): And it had nothing to do with my mom and being jealous, but a lot of it had to do with just being an adoptive mother because my first mother left, I that’s what my brain decided and mothers are dangerous. They leave it. If it, you know, it affected me, it affected my ability to be too close to my mom. And, you know, it explained to that secret keeping. And then some, some of that secret keeping I hadn’t been doing in my adolescents came out as she was dying and it just propelled us into this really close moment. And I was able to forgive her. I it’s you know, there’s a kind of a faith story there too. Because it was such a, you know, a death as a spiritual moment. And so there was a moment where I just had to, I was kind of praying for her to be forgiven.

Sara (00:53:11): She didn’t know if she was going to be going to heaven or not. And it scared me cause I’m like, wait, we’ve always been sure you’re going to heaven. And then, and this part of me was kind of like, she’s paying the price for, you know, this is her, this is justice for knowing my adoption. And but then I, that was when I truly forgave her. So it was a change in my heart. And you know, I don’t know what happened with hers, but I, I could tell that as she was dying, we’ve never been closer. And so there was great healing through that moment.

Damon (00:53:46): Great. I’m glad to hear that, that, that came full circle because I was concerned when you started to say that you needed a break tell me, can you, I’m sorry for your loss also, that’s, that’s really tough. Yeah. Can you tell me what it was like when you needed a break? Was it like a full, I can’t deal with my mom at all right now, or was it like, we probably just shouldn’t talk about this other mom at all. What is a break mean for you?

Sara (00:54:15): It was, and it w it wasn’t like a breakup of any kind. I mean, I I, my mom had been in town visiting for three weeks as I’m going through the search. So that was, that was when it was clear. I don’t think she can stay here. She was going to spend half of the time with my sister and the other half of the time with me. And so that break meant, I realized I was just too fragile and then having to take care of her feelings, I needed to take care of my own. So it was just a saying, I’m sorry to my sister, but can you take mom for the whole time? And that hurt my mom’s feelings. And so that was the break. We were still talking. We were still emailing. I, you know, I asked her and in multiple letters, can you just, you know, I, I will see, you know, she, she, she had said it in letters, I’m basically an insecure person.

Sara (00:55:08): Can you just keep reassuring me and I, and so I did I, I did do that as I was able, and I also realized at some point she’s a grownup. She’s got it. She’s got to do her work too. I can’t be constantly reassuring because I I’ve got this other kind of thing over here. That’s pretty big. It’s kind of like unpacking all of this for myself. And so we’re both grownups and we both have to do our own, our own lifting here. So you know, I assure her, I wasn’t going away and I’m going to need some time because it’s a lot for me. And you know, I don’t think she saw that she felt like it was a lot for her. And you know how that is when we’re going through our own hard stuff. It is really hard to see anybody else’s perspective. So I, I get it in some ways. And then the frustrated adoptee is also like, gosh, you know, you should have known that, like

Damon (00:56:06): Focusing on her birth father, Sarah said it was a sensitive story. Sarah’s maternal grandmother still lives in the small town where Sarah was conceived. She was really excited when Sarah found them and she started sharing the story with friends. Some of whom were the birth fathers relatives. Soon. He found out that Sarah was in reunion with her natural mother,

Sara (00:56:28): You know, he found out. And so I don’t know a part of me wonders if maybe it hurt his feelings that I hadn’t sought him out. I don’t, you know, I don’t know. But I did, he did seek me out. I got a letter from him and in the mail and very nice letter that he heard and he’d like to connect, he doesn’t want to intrude. It was, it was really a lovely letter. And I have to say unexpected. I had never spent any time wondering about my birth father ever. It was, so it was this extra kind of cherry on top when I got that letter, like, wow, that’s so, so cool. You know, I hadn’t really, I hadn’t, even after I found my birth mother, she told me, you know, I think his family had been going through some hard things.

Sara (00:57:21): His, his parents had gone through a divorce. Right, right. As the pregnancy was taking place. And so I think because that was a relationship that they had married young, I think there was a lot of pressure from his family and my paternal grounds father. Hey, don’t you don’t want to be strapped down to yeah. Basically, you know, this isn’t, that’s not good. And so I think there had been a lot of pressure from his family and that’s how adoption even was brought up in the first place, because that wasn’t my birth mother. You know, she was in love with my, with my birth father and wanted to get married. She would have been very happy if that had turned out to be that high school fairytale relationship. And so anyway, he sends me this lovely letter and I’m thinking, wow, this is great.

Sara (00:58:05): We email, we arrange a time to talk. And we did have that talk. I told my birth mother, we were having that talk. We ended up having a great phone conversation for probably a couple of hours, maybe even veering towards three hours. Great conversation. We had a lot of synchronicities between us. We both worked for the same parent company at different points. He’s a writer. He and I was like, was talking to him. He really reminded me of my dad and my adoptive dad. There were a lot of similarities just between the things that they shared. And it was just an interesting, it was a really interesting phone conversation. He gave me medical information. He gave me, you know, he told me about the, the you know, he said the same story is my birth mother had shared about the divorce of his parents and the hard time it was.

Sara (00:59:01): And we get to the end of the phone conversation. And I said, Hey, I’d love to see a picture of you because I, I also, we could find nothing, internet, sleuthing, not a single photo of him. And I like all of a sudden, you know, I had this great conversation. All of a sudden I was interested for the first time, like, wow, I want to know what my birth father looks like. And I asked if he’d send a picture and it just like a switch got flipped. He said, well, you better not put it up on Facebook or anything. And I said, no, no, no, no. No, that would be really hurtful to my parents. You know, here I am, my mom’s still so upset and my dad’s kind of hurt quietly. And I said, no, I would never that. I’m like, I’m not putting anything about the reunion on Facebook.

Sara (00:59:44): And he said, I don’t want anything on Facebook and this kind of gruff way. And I said, no, no. And it just got a little awkward. And then he said basically he said, his daughters do not know about me. And I don’t think his wife does either. And it needs to stay that way. So yeah. And he, and I just kind of sat instead of silence, writing it all down, just, I don’t know, you know, I just hadn’t been writing down all of the journey. Probably cause I knew I was a writer and I was gonna tell the story, right. The story at some point. So I’m just writing in my notebook. I can’t believe this is saying. And he said, well, it’s not like we’re all gonna sit down and have Christmases together. And basically just kind of broke up with me at that was it.

Sara (01:00:30): I never heard from him again, he never did send a photo and that was it. So I don’t have a very great taste in my mouth. But I also know that having gone through adoption at this point, we all have our journey of how it affects us and things change and of all of them. So I don’t know that’s where it is now. I don’t expect to ever hear from them again, but you never know. Maybe I will. And I do have a little bit of, you know, wonder about my other two siblings who I have seen their Facebook profile. And I think there’s a lot of genetic similarity when I look at their photos. There seems to be similarity, but I have not made contact. I just yeah, it’s not been something I’ve felt I wanted to do at this point. I don’t want to disrupt things. And, and partly out of, because there wasn’t ever that lifelong wondering, I think I would feel more a need to do that. Have there been that there hasn’t been. So it’s just something that I’ve kind of just let go, let go of for now.

Damon (01:01:34): I hear you. And good for you cause not everybody can do that. I was just listening to an older podcast with a guests named Tom who basically alluded to the fact that he had paternal siblings and he couldn’t make the paternal connection. This guy just wasn’t interested. And you know, he, he basically stiff armed him against the kids too. He was like, Hey, don’t, don’t, don’t reach out to them either. And it’s interesting, you know, he, Tom expressed he did have a desire and he had some other sibling issues that probably created the reason why he wanted to have these for lack of better words, better siblings. But if you never had that, of course you wouldn’t want to, you just be like, well, Oh, they’re over there. And I hope they’re well, and that’s kind of it, you know, so

Sara (01:02:24): Right. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And you know, reunion’s complicated too. I mean, that was the other thing I, I spent all this time wondering about my birth mother and I never wondered about, I mean, I instantly got three, three half siblings and that’s been interesting you know, that’s been interesting to navigate through. It’s like they they’ve all been so wonderful that that first Christmas, they all started sending presents Christmas presents to my house for the kids and for us. And so did my birth grandmother, which is this lovely thing, but it also was like, Oh my gosh, we have to send presents back. And I don’t do I know them enough to send presents back. And the shipping costs add up, like all of a sudden I’ve got five parcels I’m shipping presents. Not that that’s, I mean, that’s, I’m being silly a little bit. So it’s like, you just don’t think about like, I’m still getting to know my other three half siblings. It’s like, I don’t know if I have room to further complicate my life with these other siblings. Maybe, maybe as I get more settled in that when, when I’m more settled, that’ll change. Maybe all of us maybe I’ll want that more, but I’m still getting used to it still even eight years later.

Damon (01:03:34): Wow. Very cool. Well, Sarah, thank you so much for taking time to share your story. I, I love what you said about sort of wanting to make sure that a next generation of adoptees doesn’t feel what prior generations have felt. That there’s sounds like you want more openness, more understanding, more clarity, more support for everybody. And it’s interesting as I say this, that, you know, you had some pieces that were supportive but then things like the adoptee script sort of left you at a cliff, right? Were you talking to your mom and all of a sudden it doesn’t tell you what to do next, really, which is really fascinating, but I’m so thankful that you’ve sort of opened up about the entirety of your story. And I appreciate you sharing sort of what you went through as a teenager and how it brought you through to adulthood. As a mother, I have told a fascinating story. So thank you for telling me taking time. I appreciate it.

Sara (01:04:36): Thank you. And thank you for listening in. I feel so honored that you listened to and I’m just honored to get to be a guest on your show. So thank you. I love what you’re doing and keep up the work. I’m so appreciative.

Damon (01:04:47): Thank you so much. It means the world to me. When folks tell me that kind of stuff, it gives me the power to keep going. So thank you. I appreciate it. Sarah, take care all the best. Okay. Bye-bye bye-bye.

Damon (01:05:03): Hey, it’s me. Sarah struggled with the comments that she looked just like her adopted family. When she knew in her heart, they were not related. I found it fascinating to hear that she struggled with being around babies because it would have her to face how precious they are. Something people would have thought about her when she was an infant giving birth to her own child, changed everything for Sarah, as it does for so many of us, she faced a fear that a lot of adoptees have about our reunion attempt being very hard on our adoptive parent, but I’ve never heard anyone say they worried that their reunion might kill their parents. Sarah’s mother confessed, that she had been coerced out of keeping her by a doctor who insensitively took advantage of a vulnerable woman. But I was so glad to hear that her natural mother finally said the one thing Sarah had always wanted to hear that the two of them look just alike. You may have heard Sarah say that she’s a writer. You can check out her book, I’m Damon Davis. And I hope you’ll find something in Sarah’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 would like to share your adoption journey and your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit whoamireally

Damon (01:06:34): You can follow the show at or follow on Twitter at waireally. If the show is meaningful to you, you can support me with a contribution to keep it going on. Patrion.Com/waireally please subscribe 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.

Who Am I Really?

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