202 – Healing Tree
Danielle, from Kirkland, Washington, has always felt love and loyalty to her adoptive family. So when the doors of reunion were thrown open and information started flying at her, she fell flat on her face.
Danielle lived a reunion experience so many adoptive people have imagined — her birth mother IS a celebrity. While that sounds exciting, the speed of their reunion left no space for Danielle to process what was happening.
Fortunately her paternal reunion was more easygoing and with some work, Danielle has grounded herself in who she is in both relationships.
This is Danielle’s journey.
Cold Cut Intro
[00:00:00] Danielle: I just wanna know like what my heritage is.
What is my blood, , where do my face come from? It’ll be way too much to try to have a relationship with these people. I already have parents, I have a family. I’m good. That was my mind at that time. So it was just so fascinating that with that kind of mind, everything blew open and just like came pouring into my life exactly what I thought would, would happen.
Kind of happened. Like it’ll be too much,
[00:00:29] Damon: I’m Damon Davis and my guest today is Danielle. She called me from Kirkland, Washington outside of Seattle, Danielle has always felt love and loyalty to her adoptive family, so when the doors of Reunion were thrown open and information started flying at her, she fell flat on her face. Danielle lived a reunion experience.
So many adoptive people have imagined Her birth mother is a celebrity, [00:01:00] but while that sounds exciting, the speed of their reunion left no space for Danielle to process what was happening. fortunately her paternal reunion was more easygoing and with some work, Danielle has grounded herself in who she is in both relationships.
This is Danielle’s journey.
Danielle was raised in Watertown, Massachusetts, outside of Boston. She said her adoptive parents were really good loving people. She had a really close relationship with them growing up, and Danielle felt like she always knew she was adopted. She also told me she had a strong loyalty to her adoptive parents.
Danielle’s younger sister also adopted, but unrelated was the only other adopted person She knew growing up. Danielle said she and her sister were comfortable with their adoptions because of the closeness of their family.
[00:01:49] Danielle: if there was ever a struggling point in terms of being adopted, growing up, it was, I, and I wrote about this in my book, [00:02:00] my, my memoir Healing Tree. I, I have a memory of being like in the second grade and the, we were in the library and the librarian was reading us a book and, and she said, she was saying that the book was adapted.
Such and such or whatever. She’s the word adapted. And I was so confident at that time of my life, I was like, oh, adapted like me. You know? I was kinda like, sat out. That’s so cute. So cute. Right? And the librarian was so sweet. She’s like, Hmm, yes. I think you mean adopted, right? Mm-hmm. And then I was so proud.
And then because, because my parents really made us feel special. I mean, I guess I should just speak for myself, but I felt very special. They always called me, oh my adopted angel, our adopted angel, and they would tell me the story of how they adopted me. And I was so amazing for them. And I just felt like it was.
I didn’t know that. It was [00:03:00] really different. I thought, and I thought it was this great thing. And then when we went, you know, back to second grade when we came back to the classroom, like the kids, you know, the other students, they, they gathered around me and it was like they didn’t believe me. Hmm.
They kept saying, well, you’re not adopted. No, I don’t believe you. I’m gonna ask your mother and things like this. And I was, so that was the first memory I have of being, first of all surprised, like, oh, is this weird? Am I strained? Is this different? Oh, I didn’t know. You know, it was my first feeling of really feeling different than the others.
And second of all, I felt hurt because they made it seem, or I interpreted as being a strange thing by their. And they even followed me to the car. I they followed me to the car that day because I started fighting with them. I was like, yes, I am. You know, I started fighting with them and they asked my mother and, you know, I remember her saying, yeah, she is.
And I just remember it. [00:04:00] I was kind of, suddenly there was a feeling of difference between me and them. that was a, that’s really the main memory I have of feeling a little bit of pain of it. It was in the second grade, and then I can remember kind of, I also remember in that same classroom, sitting at my desk and having like negative thoughts, kind of negative wishes.
this is the darkest I can remember feeling when I was little about being adopted. I had like negative wishes towards, Whoever those people were who didn’t want me. It was like suddenly at that moment, it dawned on me that this was a strange thing and that this was kind of quote, unquote, not good thing for the moment.
I felt that.
[00:04:43] Damon: it’s funny how a, small child can make you feel almost badly about yourself with their brutal honesty, their brutal sort of, unbridled disbelief of what you’ve told them. And, and they will tell you like, straight up, I don’t like that [00:05:00] sweater you’re wearing.
Right. Or you’re not adopted. You know what I mean? Just very, very right. Honest, and it’ll, it’ll knock you on your butt if you’re not ready for it. It’s crazy.
[00:05:08] Danielle: Yeah. It was like something that was safe and stable in my mind. Got like jarred.
[00:05:15] Damon: Really interesting about myself. Do you recall, did your parents pick up on your new instability and do you remember any comforting from them at all?
[00:05:26] Danielle: I don’t have a clear recollection, but I had such a close relationship with my mother, so all I remember is her being very tender at that moment to the kids and then also to me. So I don’t clearly remember any follow up, but she, she may have just been, you know, more emphasizing that, you know, it was very special that I was adopted.
I don’t really remember, but the thing is, after that, I don’t have recall of, you know, holding onto [00:06:00] that or feeling negative about that in my mind. Anymore until, I would say when I became kind of in middle school and the kids were all like, talking about they knew where their, hair came from and their skin tone came from and their nose came from and they knew they were, you know, Italian or Columbia.
Like they knew and they would all sit around and chat about it. And then I didn’t know. And so that was the next point of feeling different from the other
[00:06:31] Damon: kids.
[00:06:32] Danielle: And then I should say, there’s another interesting piece to my story, which was the only thing I did know about my. Birth mother was that she had been an actress and she was on a soap opera and that was the reason why she couldn’t care for me. Wow. That’s what I knew. So I think I had told my friends that, so you know, they’d be like, let’s go watch, you know, [00:07:00] days of our lives and see if we can figure out who your mother is.
[00:07:04] Damon: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Oh my goodness. That must have been so crazy both for how that was trend and crazy. Like Yeah, outlandish. It probably felt, but also like the intensity that you were probably looking at each character with. Right.
[00:07:20] Danielle: It was kinda like, oh, I hope it is, and I hope it’s not for like every person that I saw there was, there was a sort of attraction and a repelling because I think I was in a state of self-protection.
So It was hard for me. It was fun. I think it was fun for them and it was hard for me. I’d have to kind of just like hold my breath a little and be like, oh, I don’t know. You know, and it was kind of fun for them. And I mean, it was a small thing, but it st it remains as a memory for me for sure.
[00:07:51] Damon: Wow, that’s really interesting. And you hit on something fascinating that we don’t necessarily focus a lot on, is that people.[00:08:00] think of little things as not being a big deal, and they’re big triggers for you. Right? It’s, that’s not gonna be a big deal for us to go look on this TV show and find your biological mother, and you’re sitting there like, holy crap.
Like, what if this really is her? You know? And they don’t have the ability to place themself in your shoes and say, you know, wow, this could be like a, a huge deal. You know, just, it’s just really interesting to think about that.
[00:08:25] Danielle: It is interesting and I look back now and I think. It’s such a complex feeling that I’ve had inside.
especially after my reunion, that, they never could have, guessed or known how complicated that moment was in my heart. How kind of painful and confusing it was to sort of even just be considering that. At that time.
[00:08:47] Damon: When Danielle got older and went off to college at the University of Iowa, people often asked her about her heritage, wondering if she had relations to indigenous people, and their curiosity piqued her own interests. [00:09:00] In knowing more about her background, she said it became awkward to admit that she was the odd person out who didn’t know where and whom she came from.
Danielle’s curiosity was peaked about where her physical features originated and whom she was biologically related to Not knowing was a missing piece for Danielle. While she was in college, Danielle decided to search for her birth mother. At this point in our chat, Danielle shared that her adoptive mother struggled with mental illness, and while they were close, Danielle spent a lot of time caring for her, and things were intense for her in the caregiving role. So even if Danielle had thought about search and reunion earlier than her college days, it wasn’t until she was away from home in a more stable position as a young adult that she could even consider the attempt.
Hearing this piece of Danielle’s story. I asked her to go back to her childhood to share a bit about what life was like growing up with her adoptive mother.
[00:09:56] Danielle: So, I was the big sister. I was the oldest [00:10:00] daughter, and I felt some huge responsibility for my mother’s happiness. I, I think I was a very sensitive empath from a very young age, so I could, you know, I, I felt it, I sort of took it on her, her pain. And so I was always trying to figure out how to cheer her up, and I seemed to have some power to do that.
So again, I had this. You know actress Blood in Me, which I didn’t really, it wasn’t conscious of, but I was such an entertainer and I was a little bit of a black sheep, you know, that was unique to me in the family. Mm-hmm. So I was putting on shows for her and I was doing dances for her and singing and like all her favorites, I would just memorize all the words of like Liza Minnelli songs and like sing them and perform them for her.
And she would love [00:11:00] it and she would laugh. She was my, you know, greatest fan at the same time. So I was helping her and she was helping me, you know, she was giving me what I needed, which is like so much attention and praise and love, and she’d hug me and kiss me. And so, but then when she would get sad, you know, it would, it would come and go in dips, in waves and sometimes she’d be great and fine and.
Everything would be going well, but sometimes, and it would happen a lot on the weekend where she would just dip and, and then things would get hard and I would go and I would comfort her if she was crying, I would care for her. I would become like the caretaker and she would almost become like the child, like I’d put her head on my lap and rub her hair.
I also had an instinct for, as a healer, for somehow as a, as a little kid. So that was the dynamic. And that went on for a really long time through straight through high [00:12:00] school because she was, you know, she was dealing with it. She was in and out of psychiatric, you know, hospitals. And there was a little bit of that going on earlier, and then again later in, in high school.
So it was painful for me. Mm-hmm. Because at the same time, she was my best friend. Oh, so she was my source of love. And then sometimes the stability would be completely shaken and that would be hard. And I think that led me to also that plus the adoption, the wound that was in there that I was not even fully aware of at that time.
I became hypersensitive, anxious little kid, worry about everything, neurotic. And so then she’d have to take care of me too. And it was like this kind of dynamic. And then my dad was great. He was really, [00:13:00] Very like, stable rock. All my memories, kind of most calm and neutral and stable and healthy memories.
He’s always like with my dad playing music or just like feeding a stray cat or a squirrel, like, he’s just very, very kind and good and hel like guided me to appreciate small things of life. So it was a very simple life and a life full of love, but also full of like high intensity feelings and emotions.
[00:13:34] Scarlett 2i2 USB-6: So in 1997, at 20 years old, enough people had questioned Danielle about her biological identity, that she decided she wanted to launch a reunion search. The first thing she did was contact her parents to let them know about her plans. Danielle’s parents gave her the phone number for the Catholic Charities Bureau in Manhattan that she was adopted through.
She got the address of the bureau and wrote them a letter outlining [00:14:00] her aspirations for Reunion. Catholic Charities responded immediately saying that all of her records were lost in a fire. How many times have we heard that unlikely story when an adoptee talks about their search? anyway, they recommended Danielle write a letter to the State of New York to see if they could help.
She wrote her letter, but at that time in her collegiate career, Danielle was about to study abroad in Ireland. So she put the return address for her correspondence with New York State as her parent home in Boston. Knowing she would be home again over the summer when she returned home to Boston, Danielle’s father gave her the letter from the state, which revealed that even though she was born in New York, she was adopted through the Massachusetts court system.
The letter included a brochure for the International Sound X reunion registry informing Danielle that if she contacted the registry and her birth mother also connected with the registry, the registry team would reunite them Both sounded easy enough, so [00:15:00] Danielle completed the form, mailed it off, and hoped for the best on her search however long it was going to take.
[00:15:06] Danielle: I had some idea in my mind this is gonna be like a five year, 10 year search.
I don’t know why. Mm-hmm. But I felt I had that kind of notion. . So again, my own belief system being totally blown open because two weeks later I got a phone call from this company. Oh. Just two weeks. Mm. I know. So for me it happened really fast. It was like, I feel like I kind of knocked on the door and the door went flying open and then I kind of fell on my face cause it happened so fast.
Wow. So I got a phone call from this woman from the International Sound Reunion Registry and she’s like, I think we found a match. I need to ask you some questions and I need you to gather any information that you have from me. And this is where it gets a little weird. Cuz I had, and also in the back of my mind that my parents said, when I was still in [00:16:00] Iowa before I went to Ireland, I can re remember them suddenly it came to me.
Oh yeah. We had this conversation and they said they were gonna pull the papers that they had in my security box and put them on the dining room table for me. so, when I get this phone call, this is when I start to go into shock. I was shocked when this woman said this to me. Like from that moment, something happened in my mind and I was like, I became kind of an a automaton. Like I just going through the motions and my anxiety’s just rising, rising, rising.
So I, I just kind of go over to this table. I, I somehow find the papers there, like right on top of the quote unquote Danielle Pile. And I start reading, she’s like, read everything that it says, and it’s like, I never read this paper before. I don’t know, I never saw this paper before, but it said everything on it.
It said that my biological mother was Irish, first of [00:17:00] all, and I had just returned from Ireland. So it was crazy to, I was blown away and that she was in a soap opera and that she couldn’t. Care for me She had asked her mother to help her, but there had been a recent death in the family. Her younger sister had died and so her mother was like incapable of caring and couldn’t help her.
And it said about my biological father. And he was a Russian, Russian Jew, and, which was amazing to me because I was studying every semester I would take a Russian literature or culture class because it was like totally fascinated by Russian culture. I was so intrigued by it. So just for fun, I would just take something like Russian oriented.
So I was so blown away that I had Russian blood in me. That’s incredible. So I know, I know. Oh my
[00:17:55] Damon: gosh. This thing I, I, this thing where nature is [00:18:00] so powerful, just it continues to astonish me. And this, this is another example that I never could have predicted you. That’s really, really interesting.
[00:18:09] Danielle: Isn’t that so crazy?
So there I am. I’m Irish and Russian. I just got back from Ireland and then I don’t know why I never saw those papers. I, I never asked to see them. I never, I don’t know why that happened, but somehow now I’m like getting all this information that I was wondering about and this like instantaneous download while I’m on the phone with this lady and the lady’s like, mm-hmm.
Mm-hmm. Yes. That exactly matches. We have definitely found your birth mother. You need to stay where you are. Hang up. I’m gonna call you right back. I need to call her. I’m gonna call you right back. Oh my gosh. She’s like, I know kidding. You’re like now, right now. Yeah, like right now. Oh my gosh. Right now.
And so it’s like eight o’clock in the morning in Boston. My parents have gone to work, my sister’s gone to school. I was getting ready to go to a small [00:19:00] job, like a summer job that I had across town at a restaurant. there I am, I’m having like full on, I wouldn’t say anxiety attack, but like on a scale from one to 10, like level 20 anxiety, like in my memory, it’s dark outside when this was all happening, but obviously it was broad daylight.
Wow. It just, the world started closing in on me. I was like sweating. I was pacing around my house waiting for this phone to ring and then she calls back and she’s like, she that, that’s when she said, we are so excited here at the office. We’re just all so thrilled we found your birth mother. And do you watch Star Trek?
[00:19:45] Damon: me, she asks you that?
[00:19:47] Danielle: Yes. And I was like, I’m not kidding. I had to grab onto the counter. I thought I was gonna faint. And it wasn’t because, oh my God, my birth mother’s famous because I already had this idea that [00:20:00] she was like in a soap opera. But it was more that I can’t take this, my heart’s about to leap out onto the kitchen floor.
I just need something to be like normal and calm right now. I need to like, hold somebody’s hand. I need, I, I wished for everything to just be very, very regular. I had a propensity to drama and. I just didn’t want drama at that moment because it was too much drama for me happening at that moment. My kind of little heart couldn’t hardly, hardly take it.
And, and at the same time, I didn’t watch Star Trek and I wasn’t into television and I was kind of a little like I don’t know, just kind of a cynical 21 year old. I just turned 21 in Ireland and I was just like, that’s stupid. A little bit in my own kind of post teenage rebellion self. And so I was like, [00:21:00] no, I don’t.
I had to like calmly muster an answer for this woman and that’s when she was like, well… Your birth mother is Kate Maru. She’s Captain Katherine Janeway from Star Trek Voyager. She’s sitting in her trailer right now at Paramount waiting for you to call her.
[00:21:21] Damon: Oh my gosh.
[00:21:26] Danielle: What? Yeah, exactly. Oh my. Exactly like
[00:21:30] Damon: that. And there’s no easy way to lead into that. There was no way they could have like let you down. That’s unbelievable.
[00:21:38] Danielle: That’s right. That’s right. What a day of my life. It was crazy. Oh my. It was crazy.
[00:21:44] Damon: Oh my gosh. That is nuts. Wow. What did, do you even recall what you said
[00:21:53] Danielle: at that moment to the, I think I was just like, this is, so, I re, I wrote this in my book.
I had kind of relived it in my [00:22:00] mind and I just, at automaton, or is the best word, I was like, I was just entering into like a numb zone because it was just so much I could not process. So I was just like, okay, okay. Thank you. You know, I was just like, I don’t know, I don’t think I usually disassociate instead, I sort of squeeze inside and, but I was becoming the most like blank version of myself that I think I’ve ever been in my life.
That was just the beginning and that feeling went on for a long time, but I just sat down. I was like, I had to, you know, so crazed that I went into like calm. I just sat down and also, I cannot remember, I feel like she called me, she feels like I called her. We can’t remember.
I was like rain damaged from that, that moment. Oh
[00:23:00] Danielle: Yeah, we can’t remember. And the fun part of her memoir, born With Teeth, and then my memoir, we both write about this exact moment. She was in LA I was in Boston like it was six o’clock in the morning or something so early where she was, we both tell the story of like what was happening in our mind.
So that was, it’s really kind of interesting. We both were having like, yeah, we were just, something was unraveling inside of our, inside of our minds. And another weird coincidence, she asked me where I, I told her I went to school in Iowa and she just got really quiet and she said, Danielle, why are you in Iowa?
And I was like, I, I, I don’t know actually, I just, I didn’t like. The University of New Hampshire. I wanted to be a writer, so I just, someone recommended it and I don’t know, that’s why I went. She’s like, Danielle, I grew up on a huge farm 20 minutes away from that campus. Oh my god. My mother’s there, my brother’s there.
Oh my God. That’s [00:24:00] where my family is. That’s where I was raised.
[00:24:03] Damon: Wow. That’s nuts. Yeah.
[00:24:06] Danielle: Yeah. I mean, can you imagine like Boston girl, everyone in my community was like, so you’re what? You go to school where like what is there like corn out there? Like potatoes, like Right.
No one could understand why I was in Iowa, but I went to, someone recommended it and I was like, sure. I don’t know. I don’t know. These things happen. It’s so weird. It really
[00:24:30] Damon: is. It’s, yeah, it’s uncanny how some of these things draw us to places. And experiences that you can’t explain. Just, just anecdotally in my own story, I grew up in Columbia, Maryland around a whole bunch of, you know a mixed community and I made the choice to attend a historically black college, Hampton University.
And it turned out that my biological mother had attended Hampton and so had her father, and so had her uncle. Oh my.
[00:25:00] Damon: So I have the similar experience, like I went to a bunch of black schools that I could have chosen, but I chose Hampton. And similarly, you were there in Boston and of all places on the planet you chose Iowa.
That is unbelievable.
[00:25:14] Danielle: I know. I think it’s really fun as an adoptee now who’s met with my birth family mm-hmm. To really see like nature and nurture mm-hmm. Very clearly. Mm. Yeah, it’s kind of indisputably, certain things are nature, right? Mm-hmm.
[00:25:30] Damon: Yeah. It’s, it’s indescribable. It’s undeniable, and it’s unbelievable.
Honestly. It’s this, yeah. Oh my gosh. That’s crazy. So, so you are on the phone with her and she’s on set?
[00:25:44] Danielle: Yeah. Yeah. My gosh. Yeah. Yeah. So in, in her book, I read her book. It’s very entertaining. She’s just like, they’re banging on her door and she’s just like, everybody go away. [00:26:00] Shut up. Like, this is important.
I don’t care. Like, fire me. Like, cuz you know, it’s ti there are time sensitive. Like they’re waiting for her. Yeah, it was so, it was crazy. So it was a short conversation. It was short. And then she said, I want to come see you. And then she’s like, how about four days from now? So she made the plan to come to Boston four days later.
Oh my gosh. Wow. I know, I know this thing is happening. I know. Even when I tell it now, I feel anxious. It was so fast. Like even when I tell you now, my hands started sweating. Like it was so intense. This is 24 years ago.
[00:26:40] Damon: Oh my gosh. Wow.
[00:26:41] Danielle: I, I feel a little validated by your reaction. Like, yeah. I wasn’t just crazy. It was a lot to, it was a lot to process.
[00:26:48] Damon: Hell yeah. I mean, you, you’re living one, one of the fantasies that many adopted people think about is, Birth parent, whoever it is, is [00:27:00] probably somebody famous, and it’s the rare, rare person who actually can say that that’s true for one.
And two, the speed and ease of you all making a connection is almost unfathomable. It’s, it’s happened so fast. Immediate connection. Yeah. A lot of information and and she wants to meet you in four days. There’s a whole crap ton of stuff going on for you at this moment.
[00:27:29] Danielle: Yeah. So it was a lot. The doors went flying open.
[00:27:34] Damon: Only four days later, Danielle’s birth mother Kate, was on a flight from Los Angeles to Boston opposite corners of the United States. Danielle had recommended that for her visit, Kate should stay at a hotel in Harvard Square near Harvard University. In the four days leading up to their reunion, Danielle couldn’t eat a thing because her fried nerves had her sick to her stomach with nervous guts.
On the fourth [00:28:00] day, Kate and Danielle agreed to meet in the lobby of Kate’s hotel.
[00:28:03] Danielle: So nervous. Oh, like beside myself. So I pull up, I’m like, okay, I’m gonna walk in, like keep, keep it together. I walk into the lobby, she’s there. I know it’s her. I, I actually didn’t actually, In those four days, my friends were like, well, do you think we should like rent a movie that she’s in or something so you can know what she looks like?
So I was like, okay. So I did, we did. So I had a, a general idea of what she looked like, but I knew from when I walked in the door just she knew it was me and I knew it was her. Like she was, she was walking towards me. She must have known it was me. She tells the story that she got all dressed and like went to the lobby at like 10:00 AM that morning.
We were like meeting for dinner and she just like sat there and stared at every person in her brain. Was like, is that my daughter? Like every, just like old man in [00:29:00] small town.
[00:29:02] Damon: Oh
[00:29:03] Danielle: my gosh. Like really? We both were kind of just brain damaged. We, we kind of can laugh about it a little now, but it was so intense.
She walked up to me, we hugged. We were like, went up the stairs to the restaurant and then, you know, we had wine. I was like, I wasn’t a big drinker, but I was drinking this wine, not feeling a thing because I was just reeling.
I was like, out of body experience. And she’s, she’s asking me lots of questions. I don’t remember them very well. I do remember at some point we were sitting next to each other and she was like, oh, those aren’t my thighs. Our legs were like pressed next to each other. Mm-hmm. And it was true, like her body, she’s a very tiny frame, and I was more kind of like a, a bigger frame than her.
Mm-hmm. So I had to find out for my Russian roots where this body came [00:30:00] from. But definitely there was a resemblance in the face. Oh, that’s amazing. So I could see like, oh. This is where my face came from. It was like my first kind of big, you know, it was another big answer for me. The something in the, the freckles, the shape of the jaw and the nose and the mouth.
And some people, even today, will say to me, oh, I can really see the resemblance of you and your birth mother because wow, there are people who, you know, have been watching her for many years. Mm-hmm. she, oh, and then, okay. And then she said yeah, it’s really funny to tell you this story, but she, then she said, do you wanna meet your birth father?
I kept his phone number in my wallet all these years for the time when I met you, because she was looking for me ever since she, like a year or two after she gave me out for
[00:30:52] Damon: adoption. Wow. That’s incredible. Yeah. What? Yeah, this is happening so fast. This is crazy. So
[00:31:00] Damon: gosh. I’m blown away. It is
[00:31:03] Danielle: wild.
Exactly. So we went up to the hotel room, we called him. I talked to him for the first time ever, and his wife. So it was just like the door went flying open. Like all these people who were really strangers to me, but who kind of knew me and I was such a part of their story and journey, you know? Mm-hmm. The missing me.
Mm-hmm. Yeah. Just all started like coming through these doors that just flew open. So she had kept his phone number.
They were in a relationship, they were not married, and the relationship was just about ending when she got pregnant. Mm-hmm. And she kept his phone number and she was looking for me from shortly after she gave me up. She had a lot of like, agony about it. And the interesting backstory that I was gonna tell you earlier, and this is what I was like finding out in these conversations with her, [00:32:00] was that she kept, you know, she had work in LA and work in New York and every time she would come to New York, she would check with the Catholic Charity Bureau to try to get information about me.
Hmm. And they kept telling her, it’s a closed adoption. We can only tell you if she dies. We can’t tell you anything. Oh, I
[00:32:19] Damon: didn’t know that.
[00:32:21] Danielle: Wow. that’s what I was told. Oh, that’s what she told me. So that’s what she was told. And so, That was like, was not acceptable for her. So she hired a private detective and he found me in Watertown.
And she was really surprised by that because she was apparently told by the Catholic Charity Bureau She was told that she could choose the family that she wanted me to be given to. And she chose the family. And then I was not given to that family, but she didn’t know that until, the moment that they found me in Watertown, Massachusetts, because she had [00:33:00] wanted me to be in New York.
So she had chose this family in New York. That’s interest. So she was really surprised. I know, just
[00:33:07] Damon: on that point right there. Let me, I’m sorry. Yeah, I, I want you to keep going, but I just want to say, I’ve never heard that. To that I can recall before that there was a selection process that didn’t actually happen the way that the birth mother chose.
I’m sure it happened quite a few times. If it happened to you, it happened to a bunch of people. But it just makes me think this birth mother is sitting with this incredible decision before her and probably trying to feel somewhat empowered as to what your destiny will be. And she has selected this family for you to go to.
Mm-hmm. And then you weren’t placed there and she finds that out. Yeah. Through her own investigation that I’m, I’m not sure what I wanna say there, but it feels illegal, right. That that’s right. You know? That’s right. Wow.
[00:34:05] Damon: After the private investigator located Danielle in Watertown, Massachusetts, Kate happened to be at a charity event in New York where she bumped into one of the sisters associated with Catholic Charities. Kate confronted the sister at the charity event telling her that she found out Danielle was not placed with the family she chose, and it was not okay that her placement decision had been disregarded.
The sister told Kate that she couldn’t give her any information about the closed adoption, but she did share one thing. The sister confirmed for Kate that Danielle was looking for her too. The sister told Kate about the International Sound Ex Reunion Registry and committed to dropping off a brochure at Kate’s hotel so she could have the information she needed to register.
She also promised Kate she would mail a brochure to Danielle as well, so that if they both registered to be found they would be reunited. And that’s exactly what [00:35:00] happened for Danielle and Kate. You may have heard Danielle say previously that her reunion happened with speed as the doors were thrown open and she stepped inside, then fell flat on her face.
I asked her to explain what that meant.
[00:35:14] Danielle: That really became the beginning of the next part of my journey and my life really. So, because I was already so sensitive and you know, I would consider myself a pretty emotional person, little person, and high propensity to anxiety and worry and nervousness and like being neurotic and it all just escalated after I went to LA and met with my two half-brothers.
It really just, I feel like I was numb, numb, numb, numb, numb. I went to la, met my two half-brothers. I, I enjoyed that experience, but it blew open some feeling of [00:36:00] like, it was so overwhelming to see that I was part of their world, but they were strangers to me. At the same time, my guilt, this huge guilt and feeling of loyalty was ignited related to my adoptive family.
I became very protective, like, no, no, no, they’re my parents. Like, this is my mother. This is my sister. Mm-hmm. Like, no, no, no. You kind of pu pushing away like, no, no, no. I’m not your daughter. Like, I’m not your sister. But at the same time, here are these people like these with these hearts, and they have been always like wondering about me, and they’ve known about me since they were young, and she’s always been looking, so how could I, I, I couldn’t like reject them.
That didn’t feel right. But inside, I didn’t, I didn’t have the capacity for, for everybody. I just felt extremely loyal and then to my birth family, and I felt very sorry to them. I felt guilty. I felt a [00:37:00] huge amount of guilt. Every time someone was like, oh, this is Kate’s daughter even. And then when I went back to school and everyone’s like, oh, tell me about your mother.
Tell me about your mother. And I’m like, (noise elimination here) it just didn’t sit right for me because my mother was such an important, precious, like person in my life. Mm-hmm. So I just unraveled my, my anxiety and my fears and everything just, just came, like washing over me in waves. I tried to get a therapist, but I didn’t, it didn’t help.
I just was like, I couldn’t. I couldn’t have one moment of peace. I was in a per, like, in a constant state of angst. It was towards other relationships in my life. It was towards the world myself. Like it was just nonstop feeling of extreme anxiety, sometimes panic, extreme worry, [00:38:00] fears, all of this kind of thing.
And I was like desperate to find some semblance of peace. I just knew I can’t go on like this. I was like barely functioning. I mean, I was functioning, I was still in school. I probably looked fine on the outside. That’s why it may have been surprising to some people who knew me at that time that this is what was happening on the inside.
. On the inside. I felt like I was, I was headed towards my own experience with mental illness. I felt, wow. I had seen that my whole life. And then I felt myself un my mind unraveling.
[00:38:39] Damon: it’s interesting to hear you describe this time in your life because we’ve sort of laughed and joked about the intensity of how rapidly this happened and, and how unbelievable it is.
But I couldn’t help thinking as you were speaking that this intensity and rapidity of this [00:39:00] reunion also didn’t allow you any time to process. And now, as you were talking, I was thinking, yeah, she didn’t really get to think about this at all. It was like one minute she’s over there and four days later she’s here.
And in a, you know, short time later. Yeah. I’m over there and, and I’m meeting these people. Yeah. And who knew that they were, have been anticipating me for a long time. There was no time for you to. step back from everything and Right. Sort of say like, even examine how do I feel about this?
And, and even like try to think through, oh boy, how am I gonna tell this, you know, to mom and how’s she gonna feel and how do I feel about this? while it’s a sensational story and amazing, it sounds also like a perfect storm for a person whom, as you’ve admitted, has a propensity for sort of, and forgive me if I don’t use the right words of drama and some anxiety, like, this really sounds like it really could push you [00:40:00] over the deep end because it was so intense and and un and incredible at the same time.
[00:40:08] Danielle: Yeah. Yeah, I think a perfect storm is a really good way of describing it. And also, remember I didn’t set out to have a relationship with these people, and I know that’s the experience for some adopted, like, I wanna know my biological mother and father. I was like, I want a picture. And I just wanna know like what my heritage is.
What is my blood, , where do my face come from? Mm-hmm. I, I can’t, it’ll be way too much to try to have a relationship with these people. I already have parents, I have a family. I’m good. That was my mind at that time. So it was just so fascinating that with that kind of mind, everything blew open and just like came pouring into my life exactly what I thought would, would happen.
Kind of happened. Like it’ll be too much, I won’t be able [00:41:00] to, to manage my very extreme feelings about that. I couldn’t feel anything clearly about it. I just felt conflicted and overwhelmed. And that caused like severe anxiety.
And yes, as you said, no time to process. So that’s what I was seeking, I think like to process, to calm down. And then also the piece I was looking for, I was like, I need to find it inside of me, because I’ve lost myself. I’m so far away from myself. Interesting. I knew that. Yeah. How? How do you mean that?
I knew that? I knew that at that time that I was so consumed with
all right, so there was a guilt about my adoptive family. Guilt and worry. And are they okay? And I’m sorry. And please don’t say I’m your [00:42:00] sister and your daughter. I don’t like it. It bothers me. Oh, but I’m sorry. I wanna be your sister and I wanna be your daughter cuz like, that’s what you want me to be like.
There was like a people pleasing thing going on, on the other hand. Mm-hmm. There was like a people pleasing thing and a guilt thing. And I was like, where am I? Yeah. So I, I love your, the name of your podcast because actually that was like the question that led me to my healing journey. I ended up joining some, it’s a, it’s what The body and brain, what I was telling you about before we started my, my wor my current work.
I found a center near my house. I joined it just so I could like calm down and find some peace inside. And then, They offered and it was very helpful. And I was doing yoga and meditation and this like energy meditation and [00:43:00] breathing exercise. And it was really helping me to like remove the dark cloud of crazy and just have moments, increasing moments of calm in my life.
And then they offered this workshop called Finding My True Self. And it was like, it just like clicked right away. Like that’s what I need. I need to know who am I? Like who, who am I really? Like what, where is my true self? Because that’s gotta be peaceful, that place. And that’s my way out of this chaos.
And when I know that I can return to the world and like function again, but until I know that. That’s the most important thing for me. That was what I felt so clearly at that time in my life. . Because I was so unraveled, like someone like this conversation wouldn’t be possible for me. Someone would be talking to me and I’d be listening with like 5% and like 95% like for perseverating about like a million things.
It sounds like it was very therapeutic and an outlet, which is, I, I think there’s two pieces to the, , there’s probably more, and I’m not clinically trained, so I’m making this up as I go, but I definitely sense that there are two pieces to this sort of healing journey. There’s the. Sort of acknowledgement and therapeutic component.
The, and then there’s the outlet for the feelings, right? If they stay inside and aren’t dealt with, then you’re not, your, your healing journey’s not gonna be complete. So there’s sort of the acknowledgement and talking about it and, and thinking it through. And then there’s like, now what am I going to do about it?
How, how am I, what is the outlet for these things to go wherever they need to go so that mm-hmm. I can sort of deal with them outside of myself versus inside of myself. And it sounds like mm-hmm. You found that in the healing journey that you went through with these centers? [00:45:00]
[00:45:00] Danielle: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. That’s amazing.
For sure. It really clicked for me. The, the exercise calmed me being able to do that workshop. I was able to go, I was able to have an experience where I could go deeper than just the, the thoughts and the emotions and really touch a deep place in my heart that felt like in that space, there’s always peace, there’s always light.
That’s my, that’s my peaceful place. You know, that’s my soul. That’s who I am at my essence. Whether I am Danielle Godette or I am Kate Mo’s daughter, or this person’s sister, or who I am on to pulling me in millions of directions in the world, this is who I am. That’s always with me. And it was the beginning of me connecting to myself in that way, and then going on a long journey to both nurture that part of myself, but also as you just said, unpeel and unravel [00:46:00] so, and process through so many of those
[00:46:04] Damon: Yeah. I’m, I’m wondering, I want to get to your reunion with your biological father. Mm-hmm. But I want to ask just quickly, because you raised Kate and mm-hmm. And you said it in a way, being her daughter, she is an established, well-known actress, and with that mm-hmm. I would imagine any child, whether she had stayed with Kate through her life or not, there’s a pressure to being the child of someone of notoriety.
If I were Michael Jordan’s son, there would be pressure on me, you know? No. If I was Denzel Washington’s son, there would be pressure and expectation on me. Mm-hmm. And I’m wondering, is there any of that for you, having been placed for adoption and grown up in a, in a completely different family? Do you still get some of that pressure?
Is there, is there any of what I’ve described for you?[00:47:00]
I don’t necessarily feel. The pressure of it, I don’t feel a sense of pressure. It’s just a little bit more exposed, you know, because people know her and get excited about her, so then they’ll be like, oh, you’re, you know, Kate Moger’s daughter, and like, whereas that should be very exciting for me.
It’s quite complicated. So it, it just continuously like poked that feeling of that split and that confusion and that guilt. It poked that place for a very long time. It took me a long time to accept, actually, yeah. That I am Kate Moger’s daughter. Mm-hmm. Actually, yeah, I couldn’t even say those words for many, many, many years.
Danielle and her birth father spoke that first day on the phone in Kate’s hotel room. Later, Danielle [00:48:00] returned to Iowa for the next semester of college, but she and her birth father had agreed to meet up.
The next time Danielle was on the East coast for her winter break. Danielle returned home to Boston. Her birth father lived in Wilmington, Delaware, so they agreed they would each catch a train to meet kind of in the middle in New York City.
[00:48:18] Danielle: He said he was shocked because when he saw me, he literally thought it was Kate on the train.
That’s how much he thought that. Wow. We looked alike. . So we took the train and actually, you know, it was very nice. My, my meeting with him. It was, it was way more low key. Was way more calm. We just went to his house, we walked his dog. We had some dinner, and I met his wife and then him and his wife. So he’s got a son from a previous marriage before he met Kate.
So I’ve got an older half-brother who lives in Florida. And then at that [00:49:00] time, him and his wife, his current wife, they had adopted a little boy. so I got to meet him as well. So amazing. Yeah. That was interesting. Right? Very
[00:49:11] Damon: interesting. Yeah. So how do you get along with him? How, what’s your relationship like?
[00:49:17] Danielle: With my biological father? Yes, it’s good. We actually, we, I’m sorry we spoke. We just spoke A couple days ago. I feel like, you know, we talk every once in a while. I visited him last year.
I, I feel like it’s just a good, positive, healthy relationship. He was saying, you know, he had read my book and he was sharing the parts that he enjoyed and that was really, really, really meaningful for me and I was really thankful. So it’s come to a place where, for both of them, I feel like I can, you know, we keep in touch, we can share things [00:50:00] and any, any of their support, any, anytime I get a chance to have a little bit of a deeper conversation, it’s just so, it’s kind of healing for me.
Mm-hmm. It’s, it’s turned out that way. But of course I had to do a lot of my own inner healing work to get there, So since the beginning with him, there was not that kind of, Drama. It didn’t, it felt like much less drama. It’s just much more even keel. We had a good talk that time when I went first met him.
Mm-hmm. You know, he’s like, I was young, this happened. I’m so sorry it happened this way. Like, he, he just, he could open, you know, his heart to me. Mm-hmm. And I received that really well. And that was actually helpful for me. Actually. My, my visit with him was very grounding for me at that time because I had been in such a whirlwind Yeah.
Before that I was in such a whirlwind that somehow visiting him was grounding. And I remember he was like, you wanna go for a walk with me while I walk with my dog? I was like, sure. You know, it was [00:51:00] very simple. We walked the dog around the river and there was a long period where we were just quiet and I remember feeling so comfortable because I have two parts, I have a dramatic part and I have, I can get really quiet and really internal, right?
Mm-hmm. And I felt like, oh, this is that part. Yeah. Very kind of introverted, quiet, but it’s okay. It’s nothing awkward, nothing uncomfortable. So I actually had a very pleasant and sort of stabilizing time with him. Mm-hmm. That first meeting.
[00:51:33] Damon: That’s really cool. Yeah. Wow. Yeah. And it’s funny, I heard you use the word drama and like with regard to your reunion with your biological mother.
And my sense is, you know, I’ve, I’ve heard adopted people say, you know, there was a lot of drama on my biological mother’s side. And what they mean by that is, you know, to be a little bit ignorant. Like those people are crazy, right? Is kind of what they mean. Mm-hmm. But what you’re saying [00:52:00] is that it was drama, almost like a movie script, quite literally.
Like there, there was the story had a lot of heft to it. Not that she meant to bring drama, cuz I’m sure she didn’t, I’m quite sure she would’ve much preferred for things to be as calm as possible for both of you, even though she had been looking for you for a while. And so I just wanted to sort of underscore that there’s a difference in the drama that you’re referring to versus what others have experienced in terms of their relationships with people.
I don’t get the sense that you’re saying we have a dramatic relationship. It’s that the way that our stories came together so quickly. Was dramatic in fashion, not in our relationship.
[00:52:48] Danielle: Yes. Yes. Thank you for saying that. I’m glad for that you pointed it out that way. Mm-hmm. Yeah.
It was just a dramatic experience and it was such a new, even if that person, even if Kate [00:53:00] Mal group was not my biological mother, lying to her home in LA and like meeting her children would’ve been a dramatic experience for me, period. Because it was so new and so different from the way I was living my life.
Right? But then the fact that she was, and that she had such a story to tell me about how she’d been looking for me, and there were all these people who were like affected by her agony in her search for me, and they all came when I was in LA that week, they kind of came with little gifts for me because they were just so happy that she ha finally got to meet me.
And I just spun. I spun into this whirlwind of like, oh my God, this whole thing existed. But they’re just strangers to me. Mm-hmm. At the bottom line, like at the first step, they’re not anymore, but at that first step they were. Mm-hmm. And so that experience in and of itself was like a very dramatic experience.
[00:53:58] Damon: Yeah. [00:54:00] But it sounds like you found some grounding, which is super important. And Danielle, I’m really happy for you for that. That’s, some people continue to swirl and it’s really tough. and it’s good that you found a way to balance out the drama with sort of finding yourself in the middle. And, and I’m, I’m happy for you for that.
[00:54:20] Danielle: Thank you so much. Of
[00:54:22] Damon: course. Wow. Danielle, I’m so appreciative of you being here, sharing this. This is one of those stories that, you know, we, we want to hear because it sounds, as you’ve said, very dramatic and interesting and fascinating. Well, but there’s very, very real emotions behind it and I’m glad that you sort of gave us.
Your true feelings about what this was for you as a person, not just as a sensational story. So I appreciate you being here, Danielle. Thank you so much.
[00:54:50] Danielle: Yeah, thank you for having me,
[00:54:52] Damon: Damon. Of course. My pleasure. Take care then. All the best to you, okay?
[00:54:56] Danielle: Okay. Thank you so much. Take care. All
[00:54:59] Damon: right, you too.
[00:55:05] Damon: Hey, it’s me. Danielle grew up in a family where she was very loved, but also relied upon for emotional support. She said she and her family were very close, which had implications for her feelings when the reunion doors were flung open. I’m not sure, but I think Danielle is the first person I’ve met who found a birth parent through the International Sound Ex Reunion registry.
I can’t even imagine how it felt for Reunion to come rushing at Danielle so quickly. To experience such a dramatic sequence of events leading up to and following her reunion with Kate and, losing herself in the whirlwind of that time in her life. It was really nice to hear Danielle started to feel grounded when she found healing practices and that meeting her birth father was further grounding because their connection was void of the sensational story. Her maternal reunion had. If you’d like to read their full stories, Danielle’s memoir is titled [00:56:00] Healing Tree, and her Birth mother, Kate’s memoir is called Born with Teeth. I’m Damon Davis and I hope you’ve found something in Danielle’s journey that inspired 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 like this show, please give a rating for it in your podcast app. I just passed 200 shows recently and the podcast has nearly 200 ratings, and it would be so cool if you helped me to cross that marker too.
And as always, if you would like to share your story of adoption in your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit Who am i really? podcast.com/share. You can follow me on Instagram at Damon l Davis and follow the podcast at Who Am I Really.