Donna, from Scottsdale, Arizona, had a condition at birth which meant she was going straight to the hospital before her adoption, insuring her detachment from her birth mother and her future family, until she recovered.
When she was a teenager, Donna was cut off by her adoptive father when she got pregnant then placed her own daughter for adoption.
In reunion, Donna has found a best friend in her birth mother, a birth father who’s too full of himself and unkind to remain in contact with, and her daughter whom she had to wait years for until the time was right for everyone to connect more deeply.
This is Donna’s journey
Who Am I Really?
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Damon’s own story in print and audio:
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[00:00:00] Damon: Hey, it's Damon. And this is October, which means a very important day is coming. On October 30th, we recognize adoptee remembrance day to raise public awareness about crimes committed against the adoptees by adoptive parents, we raise awareness for adoptee suicide, and we raise awareness for adoptees living without citizenship in the United States. Or who've been deported due to legal mistakes made by adoptive parents, adoptive agencies and other components of the adoption system.
It isn't commonly sheared outside of adoption focused platforms. Like who am I really? And others. But there's a serious reality that adoptive parents can sometimes be abusive. Some adopted people live with mental abuse, physical abuse, or sexual abuse. Unbelievably some adoptees lose their lives at the hands of the very people
who pledged to the system that they would be the child's protector. Some of us know that a disproportionate number of adopted and foster youth end up [00:01:00] incarcerated, but lesser known is the number of them who decide to end it all. It's important to carry forth the memory of adoptees we've lost. Uh, finally mistakes in legal processing,
negative political undercurrents and other influences are putting adopted people who don't have correctly documented citizenship in the U S in danger of legal trouble and deportation. Don't forget the adopted person didn't ask to come to this country yet. The mistakes of the adults in control, end up placing the adopted persons, very comfort and calling to us their home in jeopardy.
Compounding the problem some adopted people are deported to their country of origin, but the country where they were born may not be a place they identify with feel they have roots in, or have a support structure to suddenly start a new life.
On October 30th, we were yellow in solidarity
With all of these adoptees, we are focused on that day and we advocate for [00:02:00] throughout the year. You can take to social media using the hashtag adoptee remembrance day or A R D 2022. Soon, I'll bring you an interview with Pamela Kara Nova, the founder of adoptee remembrance day and the adoptees connect network.
I hope you'll join the movement. To remember adopted people struggling through these issues and more
[00:02:24] Donna: I think she was kind of a little overwhelmed
and I wanted to elevate things and she wanted to put the brakes on it. Cause I think she didn't know what box to put me in there wasn't really a category. And I think that she was also starting to feel a little bit like she was betraying her parents mm-hmm . Yeah.
And so I, I logically understood that, but I was just beside myself with the rejection part
[00:02:51] Damon: I'm Damon Davis and today's guest is Donna who called me one early Sunday morning from Scottsdale [00:03:00] Arizona. Donna's condition at birth meant she was going straight to the hospital before her adoption insuring her detachment from her birth mother and her future family, until she recovered. When she was a teenager, Donna was cut off by her adoptive father when she got pregnant, then placed her own daughter for adoption.
In reunion. Donna has found a best friend in her birth mother. a, birth father who's too full of himself and unkind to remain in contact with. And her daughter whom she had to wait years for until the time was right for everyone to connect more deeply. This is Donna's journey
[00:03:36] Damon: Donna was born in a salvation army maternity home in St. Louis, Missouri. Her birth mother had lived there for several months until Donna's arrival. She was born with a condition called gastroschisis, which means she had a hole in her abdomen through which her little organs escaped her body. Back when Donna was born there was nothing doctors could do in utero to manage her [00:04:00] condition so when she arrived she was whisked off to the hospital
[00:04:04] Donna: I was really, really sick for the first six or seven months of my life. I was in the hospital that whole time. . And as my file reads, I was close to death three or four times, and it is a really tricky surgery you know, to figure everything out. But I survived and went into an adoption agency with the children's home society in Missouri.
I think I was about seven or eight months old. So those first several months of life, I didn't, you know, have the opportunity to bond with anybody. And I've learned in therapy that that was a huge factor in me not being able to bond with people as easily as others are. So that was interesting to find that out about myself.
But anyway I bonded at the orphanage with another. Adoptee whose name is Sheba. And we ended up going to the same grade school together cuz her parents and my parents recognized each other. We had been adopted within the same week or so. So my [00:05:00] parents were there visiting her, adopted parents were visiting and stuff before you go through the actual adoption process and they remembered each other.
So we ended up at the same grade school and ended up living maybe four or five miles from each other. So when we were teenagers we kind of drifted apart. She went to a different school. I went to a different school and we actually ended up finding each other on Facebook. when Facebook came out and so we're still in
Wow, that's crazy because we're, you know, we're 50 something years old now. And here we are still friends.
[00:05:33] Damon: Oh my gosh. Two adoptees adopted into different families. Kind of went to grade school together, lost touch, and found each other again later. That's really, really cool. Wow.
[00:05:45] Donna: we definitely feel like we've lived another life together or something. We're some kind of soul mate ish type thing. That's really, for me, prefer two it's is kind of a special relationship,
[00:05:55] Damon: So can I ask just quickly on sure. [00:06:00] Your adoption, you, it sounds like were medically fragile, is that, did you have the impression when you were younger, that that was the reason you were put up for adoption placed?
[00:06:12] Donna: . Yeah, I think so. And I, I think a lot of people were hesitant to even consider adopting me. And so when a doctor and his wife came along, they just went, oh my God, this is meant to be, because I think they wanted a physician, somebody who was, you know, maybe able to take care of me financially, as well as medically and all that.
Mm-hmm so so when my dad and my mom came along, I think they just went, oh, this is a match made in heaven. yeah. Yeah. But my dad was not, my dad was ed by any medical challenges that I faced. And he was quite fascinated by the gastroschisis. It's not something he had ever seen before in his practice.
It was something, you know, you only read about in medical books,
[00:06:53] Damon: after her adoption Donna's parents brought home her little brother who is coincidentally two years, [00:07:00] two months, and two days younger than Donna. When she was about five years old, their parents started fighting and divorce was on the horizon. When Donna was seven years old, their father told them that their mother had passed away.
He raised the children on his own, but he was a busy guy with a private medical practice and serving as a board member for multiple local hospitals. I asked Donna about her brother and she told me they had one another when they were growing up. But as they grew older, they've become complete opposites. She's a morning person and he's a night owl. She's got one child. He has five. He's been married multiple times. Don has never
As kids. Their father was an anomaly among parents in the 1970s, a single divorced father with two kids
[00:07:47] Donna: My dad and I had a very.
I'll say a tumultuous relationship. Mm-hmm we were very much alike. But my dad was a physician and very smart and successful, and he thought that both of us [00:08:00] should kind of aspire to do the same. And so that whole nurture thing was really kind of left out of the equation. I will say. . My dad supported us when we were in athletics and whatnot.
He would come to our meets or events and whatnot. But we weren't really doing what he thought we should be doing if that makes sense. Yeah. So he didn't really cultivate our interests as much as I would've liked. But again, he was really into us being into sports. So that was something he did cultivate for us.
And I'm glad for that. I was in gymnastics and swimming and diving. My brother was into hockey and football and you know, all that stuff. So you know, I think we kind of just. did the best we could and tried to move on. And you know, I mean, our, our young life was traumatized by the fact that our mom had passed away.
But . Yeah, I mean, we just, we, we did our best and then, , when I was 18, I went off to college in Missouri and ended up getting pregnant. and had a child and that changed my whole [00:09:00] life completely mm-hmm and my dad and my brother moved out to Arizona when I was 19.
And so I didn't see them for a while because I stayed in Missouri. And my dad was a little miffed at me for years about the whole unwed pregnancy thing. mm-hmm so as you could imagine, that was certainly you know, not what he wanted for his daughter.
And I really wasn't interested in finding out much about my birth family until. I had my daughter and that's when I was, I think I was 19 and I went to the children's home society and just asked for some non-identifying information or whatever they could give me.
And they did. And that kind of, you know they told me she, my birth mother was 26 when she had me and that my birth father was also the same age and that they had a whirlwind romance and he proposed and they were gonna get married. And then she got pregnant with me and told him that she was pregnant and he flipped out and they didn't see each other after that.
So any who? Yeah.
And did you, [00:10:00] did you raise your daughter?
I did not. I, I. Plan to give her up for adoption. When I had her and I saw her, I was really scrambling to try and figure out how I could make it work, but with no family support and no support of any kind from really anybody, I mean there just really wasn't anybody to, to come in and go, we'll save you.
We'll help you. We'll we'll get you started. And my dad was adamant that I not raised this, illegitimate child mm-hmm . And I have some thoughts about that. I think everything is kind of worked out for the best with her. So , you know, it is what it is, but I was 19 and very sheltered and naive to begin with.
So I think that the best decision I could have made for her was to place her in adoption and you know, my father had actually wanted me to have an abortion when he found out and I just told him, Hey you know, if my birth mother would have aborted me, wouldn't have me and [00:11:00] I just can't do that.
And so that was a huge struggle with my father and I, and he didn't see why I had to go through with the pregnancy and ruined my whole life, et cetera, et cetera. You know, and tarnished the family name. That was another big thing with him. But I'm not like that. I'm not cut from that cloth. And I didn't care who knew or what anybody thought I just wanted to do.
What was best for her, what was best for me? And. And I didn't have any regrets about it at the time. And to this day, I don't really, for the most part, cuz I do think everything worked out as it was supposed to
[00:11:33] Damon: be. Yeah. There's a lot in there, you know, the, what you think you can accomplish as a parent, as well as the pressure that you're getting from your own parent about not parenting, you know, in its various forms.
Right. That's, there's a lot to deal with in there and I can see how it would've been challenging to try to make any decision, let alone the quote unquote, right one. But I like that you [00:12:00] told your dad, listen, if it wasn't for a adoption, I wouldn't be part of this family. That's a really important sort of holding up the, and I didn't moment.
[00:12:09] Donna: Yeah. And I didn't understand how he didn't get that. , but I kind of look back and kind of go, all right. I understand now why you didn't get that. Cuz he was raised in a totally different era and being a physician and you know, he could have easily guided me to any place in the St Louis area to get an abortion.
[00:12:27] Damon: Donna's adoptive father, put her out of the house and stopped supporting her financially. She couch surfed, worked two jobs and went to community college to try to finish her education. Around 27 years old Donna's brother called from Scottsdale Arizona, where he had moved with their father. Their dad had smoked most of his life.
I developed emphysema and they had moved to the clearer skies and better air of Scottsdale to alleviate the burden on his Her brother shared that their father was getting worse and he could really use [00:13:00] some help to care for him
[00:13:01] Donna: I thought, well, let me come out for a visit and kind of test things because after I had my daughter, my relationship with my father was very strained for years and it took him probably a good six, seven years to, I guess, put it behind him.
It was really just a, a thorn in his side for many years. And it was, you know, the egregious unforgivable error that I made. But when he was in his final two years, I, I did move out to Arizona and help my brother take care of him as best I, as we could. And my dad, one night we were having a cocktail out on the patio and he looked over at me and he said, you know, I just wanted to let you know that I'm really sorry for.
the way that I treated you when you were pregnant and all that. And that's all he said, but I couldn't even say anything back. I was trying to fight tears and I was just so blown away. My dad has never [00:14:00] apologized to me for anything. And I don't know about anybody else. mm-hmm but it, it was a moment that it's a, it's a core memory.
It was definitely a moment that I went, oh, I I'm accepted and not that outcast anymore. So that was a, it was a good moment for me. And then he passed away at the end of 1993 and I think it was within a couple of years of that. Within a few years, the internet came out and was kind of in its infancy.
And I worked for a company that had just gotten all brand new computers and we had internet capability. So I asked my boss one night if I could stay late and used the computer and used the internet. And he said, well, sure, but what for? And I said, well, I'm adopted and I wanna find my birth family.
And he was totally on board. He actually stayed with me one night and helped guide me through some searches and stuff. Cuz things were still really changing at that time. I think it was 1997 and you know things were still blossoming on the worldwide web mm-hmm and [00:15:00] so he guided me and helped me , and I found out, you know, that I could petition the courts in St.
Louis to open my adoption records and I hired a confidential intermediary to do the search and I forget her name, but she was just the nicest person.
[00:15:15] Damon: can I ask, I just wanna ask a couple of clarifying questions before you get too far. Sure. So one, you said that you got pregnant in college unexpectedly.
Yeah. And it was after your pregnancy that you went to children's home society and asked for your own records, is that correct? Yes.
[00:15:34] Donna: Yeah, it was actually the same month that I gave birth. It was just later that month. How so after you
[00:15:39] Damon: gave birth, you went to ch your own adoption agency to try to learn more about yourself.
That's really interesting. Yes. Wow. And what did your record say?
[00:15:49] Donna: My birth mother was 26. She was one of five children. She was Catholic. And that she was part Irish and part German and a little Scottish, that kind of [00:16:00] thing. And that my birth father was also the same age and that she really didn't know.
much about his family history. Other that he was, she thought he was maybe Czecho Slovakian and German, something like that. Mm-hmm and that he had two brothers and he was a middle child. So I think that's most of what I learned. I do know that the lady that I met with at that time, who was the executive director of the children's home society in Missouri had.
Been a part of that organization since before my birth. And she remembered my birth mother and said , you know, you look very much like your birth mother. And I said, Ooh, is there a picture? And she said, no, but I worked here back then. And I remember her. Wow. And I remember just thinking, wow, that was so cool.
It was such a moment like this is this close that I'm gonna get yeah. This lady sitting across the desk for me, like knew her and remembered her. Yeah. So.
[00:17:02] Donna: wow. That's unbelievable.
Yeah, that was pretty cool. It was a cool moment.
[00:17:05] Damon: Mm-hmm so then you've had your child, you've given her up for adoption and you, it sounds like are also having curiosities about seeking out your own biological family. You've given a child up for adoption. You've placed a person out into the world to grow up on her own. And
[00:17:27] Donna: yeah.
[00:17:28] Damon: How was that for you? The sort of thought process that went, you know, you're working two jobs you're trying to survive and you know that you and your body have gone through a pregnancy.
How was it for you to be a, a birth mother?
[00:17:42] Donna: Well, I think initially I was okay with things. But when I turned 21 and I was able to drink legally, I started drinking a lot. I started going out and partying and kind of hanging out with my, friends and just I, I think there was, there was a girl that I met that had also [00:18:00] placed a child for adoption.
I think we worked together. If I remember correctly, I was, I was 21 and we both kind of were like, oh wow, we're we're kindred spirits. And we talked about it. And that was the first time in a while that anybody had asked me about it. Mm-hmm and, you know, just in general, having a conversation with somebody who went through something that wasn't exactly the same, but in many instances, , similar she had a very different background and there was so many differences, but yet we both gave up a child for adoption.
So it was really interesting to talk to somebody else who had had that unique experience. Mm-hmm and anyway, so but that, I remember just having that validation, I guess mm-hmm that what I did was, you know, now I wasn't the only person in the world that did this right, right. Because I had been kind of feeling for the last few years that I was this huge sinner, this awful person, I disgraced my family, you know, all that pretentious stuff.
And I'm, I'm [00:19:00] just not that way. But my dad obviously grew up in a different era if he was still alive today, he'd be almost a hundred, so very different times. Right. But anyway yeah, I think in my early to mid twenties, I kind of lost a little control. I was drinking heavily. I was smoking some weed and really that was it.
I had no desire to really do anything else or delve into anything further. Because I had a life, I had two jobs, I was trying to go to college and, you know but I think that it. , it was more of a coping mechanism.
[00:19:30] Damon: Donna moved to Arizona when she was 27 years old. And it changed a lot of things in her life. She was taking care of her dad. So there was no time for drinking and smoking in her role as a caregiver. Not to mention, she was disconnected from her hangout crew in a new city.
Donna had put those prior days behind She said she and her dad had a few conversations About how he wished he had done a few things differently. And she admitted she wished she had done some things differently too to make him proud of [00:20:00] her instead of embarrassed
[00:20:01] Donna: after he passed away, I mean, it hit me like this is, that was my only parent that I had for most of my life. there was times where I would be so sad and so lost and times I was so liberated and free. I didn't have to I guess deal with my dad and his, his mental stuff.
so it was both I don't wanna say a joyous occasion when he passed away, but it was very liberating and very, I definitely felt more adult than I ever felt in my life. And especially after some of the talks that we had including where he apologized to me it, it brought up a lot of interesting emotions.
Yeah. And I think feeling as lost as I did when I first got into the internet, that was the first thing I wanted to do. It was the only thing I was interested in doing on the internet was searching for my birth family. So When the intermediary contacted me and said, well, your birth mom is not sure about how she wants to proceed.
She read your letter. And I think , what got to her is that [00:21:00] you said you were also a birth mother, but for now she just wants to write letters. Are you okay with that? And I said, wow. Okay. So it was a temporary rejection, I guess, but at the time she later explained to me that when she had me that the The thought was to tell all these pregnant women, just forget about it, , just pretend the baby died.
Forget this ever happened. Move on with your life. That's all. And I think she really took that to heart. I mean, she knew I wasn't deceased. Cuz that was silly. I thought that they would tell them that, but she just, tried her best to move on with her life and so me knocking on that proverbial door all these years later, I think brought up a lot of things for her that maybe she hadn't dealt with.
So we wrote letters back and forth for about six months. And I had already planned a trip back to St. Louis to spend some time with some of my girlfriends and some of my cousins, my Mueller cousins as I call them. And finally the intermediary called me one day and said, Hey, I was just talking to your birth mom and she is [00:22:00] ready for me to give you all her information.
And she would like to talk to you on the phone and potentially meet you. So. I was thrilled. And the first night that we talked, we talked for probably three and a half hours. I know it was way past my bedtime. And I'm pretty sure it was past hers too. We're both early risers. So mm-hmm but I mean, I was asking tons of questions.
Like my birth name was Wendy. And so I said, did you name me that? Or did the adoption agency name me that? And she said, oh, I did. And she said after Peter pan, because there had never been a Wendy before that. And she said, I thought that was just a really cute name. And I was kind of surprised that my parents changed my name, but my dad's name.
Was Don and he's a little bit of a narcissist, so and name. And, when I was adopted, I was 15 months old and I could not say Donna at the time, although I was talking, but I couldn't say Wendy . I said Nini. So my dad actually kept that as my nickname, my whole life meaning,
oh, [00:23:00] that's cute.
So that he kind of, I guess incorporated my name into my life.
[00:23:05] Damon: mm-hmm That's really cute actually,
[00:23:06] Donna: Yeah, it, we spoke for at least three hours and it was just, so it was a very satisfying conversation and definitely a memorable evening. I don't think I could tell you half of what we talked about.
I think a lot of other people have said the same thing on your show. But it's true. I mean, we talked about everything and nothing. But it was just interesting when I saw a picture of my birth mom, I thought, well, we don't look anything alike. She's brunette and has green eyes and I'm well was blonde and I have blue eyes.
But the shapes of our faces are the same. So I think that's why that lady at the adoption agency said that I looked like my mom, cause maybe I did at that particular time mm-hmm with our faces and stuff, but I was definitely a blonde back then. And anyway, but as I've gotten older and more and more pictures are posted on social media of us together and whatnot.
People have said to me, gosh, you look so much like your mom [00:24:00] mm-hmm and I do see it now, especially when my daughter says the same thing. She's like, wow. You two do, definitely do look alike. ,
[00:24:08] Damon: that's incredible.
When Donna refers to her daughter there, she's talking about the baby. She placed for adoption, whom she's also in reunion with we'll get to that part in a bit. Donna told her birth mother that she would love to meet her and her birth mother agreed that maybe next time Donna was in St. Louis, they could carve out time to connect.
Coincidentally, Donna already had a trip planned for three weeks after their first call. So her birth mother agreed maybe they would meet The woman said why don't you just come to my house which donna was perfectly fine with so donna asked her birth mother for her home address
[00:24:43] Donna: turns out she lived. Five blocks from where I lived in St. Louis, right before I moved to, to the Phoenix area. Wow. And I had dated a guy that literally lived a block away from her. So, I mean, I could have seen her, oh my God. In passing, I could have seen her at the local [00:25:00] grocery store. We're both avid book readers. I could have seen her at the library. There was all this like, oh, wow.
You literally lived right there. Mm. And I lived there for two years. Oh my gosh. We've seen each other. But there was a lot of those things in our lives. Like when I was 10, there was a new mall that opened up about a mile and a half from my childhood home. And come to find out she worked there for a while at a local retailer.
For a while. So it was kind of funny I'm like, and then too, I could have run into you. yeah. Right. So yeah, so kind of crazy. mm-hmm
[00:25:31] Damon: so what was reunion like you guys decided you were finally gonna meet, you were traveling through later.
[00:25:36] Donna: I met her St. Louis and my then boyfriend had come with me to St.
Louis. It was his first time visiting that place. So he went out and explored the city while my birth mom and I spent most of the day together. We went to lunch, she showed me family genealogy that one of her brothers had done. She's one of five children. She had three brothers and a one sister.
All her brothers have unfortunately passed away by now, but one of them did [00:26:00] extensive genealogy research. And so that was kind of cool to learn a little bit about what had been done. And, you know, our first ancestor came over from Ireland. On that side of the family in the early to mid 18 hundreds.
And it turns out when he, he first went to Cincinnati and then he married a gal named Catherine Murphy. And they moved to the St Louis area because the Steamboat era was really in full swing then. And St. Louis was actually the, a destination spot, I guess. mm-hmm it was like the hub of the Midwest, I guess, for a long time because of its area geographically desirable being near two rivers.
And so he opened up. I guess you could kind of call it a bed and breakfast like a mini hotel and he also had a bar and it was on it was down in the St Louis area. It used to be called the levy, and now it's called Laclede's landing where one of the owners Pierre Laclede founded the area and come to find out the building.
He had burned down. I think sometime in the early 19 hundreds, from what I remember, and a new [00:27:00] building was built and a new bar there called Lucius Boomers and I bartended there years ago. Really? Yeah. And so when my birth mom and I were going through this and she was telling me, you know, the building burnt down and this was the best that she could remember.
She goes, I think it was in the early 19 hundreds. And the new building became she goes a really popular bar now that, you know, you've probably heard of it called Lucious boomers and I was like, oh my gosh. I said, I used to hang out there and, and then I bartended there for a while. oh my God. And we both kinda looked at each other and, and went, oh my goodness.
Wow. Yeah. That's
[00:27:33] Damon: crazy. You bartended at a family establishment from way back. That's crazy. That's really cool. Yeah. Yeah. So what was the rest of your, what was the rest of your reunion? Like, like, did you, when you saw her, did you just kind of stare at her? Like what I know a lot of adoptees, just you examined the other person, like yeah,
[00:27:54] Donna: I think so.
I think we were both kind of enamored with one another at first and, and, and definitely for the first hour [00:28:00] to, I remember kind of looking at her mannerisms and you know, she got up and offered me some coffee and asked what I took in it and I was just watching her pour it and just little things like that, that you're kind.
Hyper aware of every movement and every, and I'd never been that hyper aware of anybody's movements before in my entire life, but they're always just kind of studying her, looking at her from every angle. And I know that she was doing the same to me. Mm-hmm and you know, here I am, this child that she gave up years ago and I, the whole day was just kind of really crazy.
We went to lunch later in the day and I think the server said something about, you know, you two have the same smile and which I think we do, so it was just, I was just soaking it all in and just relishing it and just you know, holding it close to my heart. And I, I have really fond memories of that whole day
[00:28:50] Damon: yeah, I bet you do that must have been really, really unbelievable.
Donna and her birth mother took things slow in the aftermath. They continue to exchange [00:29:00] letters, not ready to use their work email addresses for such personal interactions. For the first year or two, they spoke on the phone periodically. Fast forward to now. And Donna says she and her birth mother talk every Sunday.
Coincidentally Donna and I connected on a Sunday morning and she told me the call to her birth mother was right after our Donna said she likes to fly back to st louis to spend time with her 84 year old birth mother
[00:29:27] Donna: I actually went back in April to surprise her for her 84th birthday.
She had no idea was flying in. I hadn't traveled since before COVID, but I didn't think I could pull it off until unless I got her boyfriend's help. So I found him on Facebook and connected with him and said, Hey, you know, I'm Joan's daughter. I wanna visit her. I wanna surprise her for her birthday.
Can you help me pull this off? Cuz I knew I wouldn't be able to do it without somebody's help. And I figured this guy is the closest to her. So when they live at the same senior apartment center, [00:30:00] so We I surprised her that he took her to her favorite Italian restaurant back there. And and they were, you know, waiting for a table and then I just popped up out behind a tree and they were at a table outside and I just said, I heard it's your birthday.
And she kind looked up at me and did a double take. She was so surprised.
[00:30:19] Damon: Oh my God that's really was awesome. Really?
[00:30:21] Donna: It was a fun evening. So I was really happy that I was able to do that. That was something I wanted to do for a long time and had kind of planned to do it when COVID hit. So I thought, well, all right, well, this'll have to wait.
But it was really, it was really nice. And then, you know, last week when I was back there, I got to have lunch with her a couple times. And you know, I just really like to soak in all the time that we can spend together. But you know, talking to each other on the phone once a week, I mean, sometimes we don't have that much to say, sometimes we wanna talk about a book we read or You know, whatever's going on on the news that might be of interest or, you know, just anything and nothing.
Yeah, , but she's I think I would definitely consider her one of my best friends.
[00:31:04] Donna: Yeah, she's just a cool person. I really like her. I mean, even if we weren't related, she's just a really cool lady. So I'm, I'm very, very fortunate to have been able to hook up with her and her whole family just embraced me immediately.
I'm pretty tight ish with one of my biological cousins who lives back there We're a lot alike and stuff. And so anyway, but her whole family was just great and they, they had a reunion and I got to meet my biological grandmother. She since passed away, but her name was Iris and it was at a park.
There was a big reunion at the, at a park back in St. Louis. And I think I had known Joan for about a year. So it was really interesting to meet almost her entire family. that's awesome. So, and it was it was scary but fun. So it was nice.
[00:31:54] Damon: Speaking about her birth father Donna shared that her birth mother gave her the man's name. [00:32:00] Then Donna went and looked him up online, but she had trouble finding Donna finally got ahold of his ex-wife's sister who was happy to convey the news to him that he had a child out in the world
[00:32:11] Donna: I met him. His name is Jim. He's very in touch with his Roman Catholic roots and he came to visit me one weekend. At the time he lived in Victorville, California, and he drove through Phoenix. He was driving to go to St. Louis to, to see the Pope when the Pope came to St. Louis 1999, I guess.
[00:32:32] Damon: Wow. And so he said, well, I'm, I'm driving to St. Louis made the Pope. I have to drive through Phoenix anyway, why don't I stop? and we'll meet if you're okay with that. And I'm like, absolutely. You know, and I told him he could stay at my place and he chose to stay at a local Y M C a. Which was fine. I, I just thought, you know, we, I, we don't know each other, so I didn't, I wasn't offended by that.
But he was a little bit of a little, self-centered, a little bit of a bragger and really tried so hard [00:33:00] to get me to like him. But then he told stories about how he was in the military and he was drinking so much, he got kicked out and that he thinks that there might be a few other biological children that he doesn't know about.
And I was kind of like, oh, I thought I was the only one, but anyway, um, it was just really at times, very strained meeting him. And then when he left, I was actually a little relieved because I, I was like, whew, that was a lot of information to absorb. It was overwhelming. And then We talked a few times, exchanged some emails a few times.
And he was getting ready to retire within the next year or so. And at one point he contacted me and said, my wife is really threatened by you. And she would like you to sign some kind of document waving your interest in my estate. And so I said, well, let me look into that. I mean, I didn't, I made very clear to both of my biological parents.
I wasn't looking for anything other than medical information. And if anything else [00:34:00] occurred as a result of that, maybe a friendship, you know, or something, then I was okay with that, but nothing else. So I looked into it and I contacted a friend of mine. Who's an attorney. And he said, well, according to the laws in California, which is where he lived at the time.
Nobody can do anything. Nobody can contest his will, and you're not even legally related to him and you'd have to prove your, you know, there was all these hurdles and I thought, I don't anyway. So my friend drafted up some kind of, you know, disclaimer, and I signed it and had it notarized and sent it to him.
And then he just became kind of a vicious asshole excuse my friends really. And he called me one time at my work and yelled at me about, so I don't even remember what it was, but I was just so like, I'm at work. . You're calling me to yell at me. Yeah. I think I had said something like I wanted to meet your other children.
And I think that may have been kind of come unglued. He said, oh, I told them about you. They don't have any interest in meeting you. And I finally just kind of told him [00:35:00] what I thought and hung up the phone. And that was the last time I talked to him. I bet it was. And I did several months later contact I have four half siblings on his side of the family, three from his first wife and then one from his second wife who he lives with currently in Wyoming, somewhere.
His three older children, I couldn't find the girls, but I found the son cuz he didn't change his last name when he got married. So it was easier to find him. And I ended up meeting all of them and they were fine and everything. But after a while I think the thrill of having a biological sibling kind of wore off and and we weren't as in touch.
And then oh, some years ago on Facebook, there was some political eruption between all of us and they're all on one side of the aisle and I'm on a different side of the aisle and they deleted me as friends and I wish them the best of luck. I don't have any ill will towards them, but they're very much hotheaded like.
My birth father.
Well, I appreciate you sort of sharing that the birth father connection can go a [00:36:00] variety of ways, cuz this is just a different relationship than with a birth mother and, and any of them, any of
[00:36:06] Donna: the birth parents, he remembers things very differently than my birth mother.
Yeah. So I'm kind of leaning towards her side of the story, but then again, the truth may be somewhere in the middle.
[00:36:18] Damon: Turning to Donna's daughter. She placed for adoption. We talked about her own pregnancy and adoption planning, taking place a long time after her own adoption placement. Donna's birth mother placed her during an era where women were consistently told to forget about their child, following a narrative that
The child would forget about the birth mother too. And everyone could start over with a blank slate. But Donna's experience was a little different. She said over the years, her biggest concern was that her baby girl was raised in a good environment by two parents who loved her, cared for her and cherished her.
Donna waited 18 years. Then registered on an online reunion website. Then [00:37:00] waited and waited some more to be reconnected with her daughter. She registered on more sites trying to increase her chances of finding her daughter again
[00:37:09] Donna: after several months I thought, well, it's not gonna happen. So I registered on a few other sites and did some other researching. And we actually connected a few days after her 19th birthday, which is when she went on to the, that same website. I wanna say it was called adoption reunion, registry.com, something like that. And within three days of her registering. We were matched. And so all kinds of excitement. I think I remember specifically being at my computer and just going, ah, like kind of screaming. my then boyfriend ran into the room and he's like, what's going on? And I told him, I said, there's been a match on the adoption website and I think I'm gonna be meeting my daughter soon.
[00:37:53] Damon: Wow. And so we were both just kinda like wa and how old were you
at the time? Roughly?
[00:37:59] Donna: [00:38:00] I think it was 38 mm-hmm and she was 19 mm-hmm so we once it a match was for sure determined we exchanged, they gave us each other's email address and we exchanged a few emails and you know, she, she said, my parents want me to ask you a few questions just to make sure you're who you say you are.
And I said, okay. She asked me like, you know what hospital I was born, she was born in what, what time? How much she weighed things like that. And how old she was when when she was relinquished. So I answered all those questions and next thing you know, we're, we're connected, we're chatting and then we're exchanging pictures.
And I remember she sent me her senior high school pictures. There was two of 'em and I just couldn't believe it. She looked so much like me wow. The only difference is her face is a little bit longer. She doesn't have the little round face, like my birth mom and I have and you know, the blondish hair.
She has green eyes like my birth mom and I, I [00:39:00] was just blown away. I was like, wow, I couldn't believe how much she looked like me. So there was a lot of giggling and, you know we, we didn't talk on the phone. I think she was kind of a little overwhelmed
and I wanted to elevate things and she wanted to put the brakes on it. Cause I think she didn't know what box to put me in there wasn't really a category. And I think that she was also starting to feel a little bit like she was betraying her parents mm-hmm . Yeah.
And so I, I logically understood that, but I was just beside myself with the rejection part and I think we kind of ended up having a disagreement at one point after we had been corresponding for about a year or two. I think, I think I kind of came out and said, you know, I I'd love to talk on the phone.
And she said she wasn't ready for that. And we kind of hemmed in hawed for a while. And then when she graduated college, I remember just feeling like, I feel like she should be inviting me for her graduation, [00:40:00] but yet there wasn't that invitation. And there wasn't that, you know, like she didn't message me on my birthdays or mother's day or anything.
And I was comparing our relationship to my relationship with my birth mother, who it was a very different dynamic. And I think , we just weren't ready for each other at that time. So we kind of had a bit of a disagreement about it. And then we lost touch when she graduated school. She didn't have that same email address after a few months.
And so I didn't know how to get in touch with her. And I thought, well, I guess I just wait for her to get in touch with me. And then fast forward to. several years later, 5, 6, 7 years later, I had been kind of keeping in touch with her on social media as far as I don't wanna say keeping in touch, but just like I noticed that, you know, everybody gravitated from my space to Facebook.
And so I saw that she had a Facebook profile and at first it was public. So I got to kind of watch her from time to time and just kind of, you know, was watching [00:41:00] from afar and At one point, I reached out to her and sent her a Facebook message, which in order to get that message, you had to really kind of look for it back in that era of Facebook mm-hmm cause we weren't connected on Facebook and I just sent her a message like, Hey I'm gonna be coming to St.
Louis sometimes soon, if you'd like to you know, get together, that would be great. And and I didn't hear from her. And then I think the next time I went to St. Louis kind of same thing. So I'd sent her a few messages every time I was getting ready to go back to St. Louis and I, she messaged me back one time and I had just gotten back from St.
Louis and she's like, oh my God, I'm so sorry. I didn't see this message until just now. My oldest son has a habit of taking my phone and looking at things and then I don't get the notification. And so I I'm really sorry. And she said, I would love to get together with you. Maybe the next time you visit.
And I was like . Oh, my God, my heart stopped. And I was like, I already planning my next visit. And I thought, oh, I can't do that. We've got a little bit of talking to do first. And so we chatted occasionally via [00:42:00] Facebook messenger, kind of got caught up to a little bit.
I knew she had two boys at that time and she was married to her college sweetheart. And so I was just really happy for her. She a scholarship to college, which was the same college where I went and where she met her now husband. And so It's been really nice getting to know her again. And then we finally did meet I wanna say four or five years ago.
So we met at this restaurant and probably stayed there for five or six hours talking. And I brought I have a really good friend that I met at the maternity home I was in. And she had also, placed up her son for adoption at the same time that I placed my daughter, they're really close in age and we've kept in touch.
And so I thought of all people, I had to bring her with me to meet her. And and she brought her husband and we were. Smiles for five hours and talking and just laughing and the conversation flowed very easily. [00:43:00] And we're sitting next to each other. And her husband is across from her and my friend Kathy's across from me.
And at one point we were sitting, we were sitting there and I had one of my left arm up kind of holding my face and my other arm kind of holding my other elbow. And she was in the same position. So my friend got out her camera and just snapped a picture. And she said, you guys are just sitting like looking at the exact same way.
And her husband was like, you guys just look so much alike and we're, you know, we definitely were both checking each other out. I mean, to, to see somebody next to you that you look so much alike and mm-hmm, you know, we're both ecstatic and emotional and, you know, happy.
Crying happy tears and just joyful the whole time.
So we've met I saw her again last week when I was back there visiting and we met at a winery and again, conversation just flowed, you know, we just you know, it's like, we just picked up where we left off the last time I was there, but I hadn't seen her since before COVID, you know, so it was really nice to.
[00:44:00] Hug her again and see her and just have her right there, you know? Yeah. And and her husband is adorable and he's just a, he's a great guy. I really like him. And his family I think is really into the whole genealogy thing. So I think to a degree she was spurred To have some interest in her own background, maybe in parts of him and his family.
So mm-hmm, at least that's what I suspect, but anyway, I have not met my grandsons yet. However she text me when I got back to Scottsdale last weekend and she said, you know, I, I, we told John about you. He's the oldest one, he's 11 now. And she said, he's very interested. We showed him some pictures of you, and he's very interested in meeting you next time you come to town.
So I am just all kinds of ecstatic and and nervous and excited and happy and
[00:44:47] Damon: The kids are interesting because I think we sometimes overthink what they need and sometimes just the straight talk.
Listen, I've never told you this before, but [00:45:00] mom has two mothers. Right. And just laying it out there and letting them start to chew on it. Yeah. Can be really powerful. I found that with my own son and, and I'm hopeful that they will sort of not try too hard to soften it and just let it be what it is. He'll figure it out.
And at eight years old, like he kind of doesn't know enough to really understand it all, but he can start to get it. Yeah. And that's, that's gonna be really cool. Yeah. I'm excited for you to meet him.
[00:45:31] Donna: I am very excited too. And, and again, you know, looking back on my life, I've just had so many well, what I will say about the winery that we went to last week, I wanna say this cuz this kind of ties into my birth mother when.
I think the third time I ever met my birth mother was back in Missouri and she wanted me to, it was for mother's day weekend. I remember I didn't surprise her for that weekend, but I had told her in advance, I'd like to spend a mother's day with her and she agreed. And she said, oh, I'd like you to meet all my best girlfriends when you come to town.
So [00:46:00] let's go. We went to this restaurant in this little town, south of St. Louis called Swick, it's a real historical town, blah, blah, blah. And there's a real popular restaurant there called the blue owl. So we went to brunch there and I got to meet all her girlfriends and it was so fun to meet all them and a little overwhelming cuz there was six of them I think.
But we were also full after lunch and we decided to go for a walk and we walked around the, this little town looking at various buildings and. I'm a very amateur photographer and I love to take pictures. So I had a little Pentax at the time and took that out and I was taking pictures of this this old house called the old house.
and it's this historic house from 1870, I believe. And may have been one of the first houses in that town. And it was just an empty historic building and fast forward to a couple weeks ago, my daughter and I were trying to figure out where we were gonna go. And she goes, what about this winery? You know, we both love wine and love going to wineries.
And she goes, what about this winery? She sent me a link [00:47:00] and I looked at it and it's a winery in kimswick the same town where my birth mom and I went to meet, you know, when I met all her girlfriends and we walked around that town. Well, that winery is now in that old historic building. Oh wow. They, I know.
Right. That's really cool. All the hair on the back of my neck to the, I saw the building and I looked at her and I went. I know that building. In fact, I have a picture of that building in my room as we speak in a frame because I like the picture of it so much. And and I just, I framed it cuz I, I took a good picture but I it's so funny when my jaw just dropped and I remember I was at work and I was telling the girl, I share an office with telling her this story and she goes, oh my God, did you just get goosebumps?
I'm like pretty much mm-hmm . So I was telling my daughter this story. And when we were talking about the story again, when we were at the winery, she goes, you know, I was telling my mother-in-law about this. And she said, we are cosmically related. And I went, that's it , that's it. In nutshell, I think we [00:48:00] are cosmically related,
[00:48:01] Damon: so crazy.
Wow. That is really unbelievable. How cool I love that stuff. Well, Donna, I appreciate you telling me sort of everything about your own, you know, you've gone through a lot, you, as an adoptee have admitted your own, lack of connection to folks based on how your life started, but also, you know, you've confirmed what it was like to go through your own search, as well as relinquish a daughter and reunite with her.
I mean, you've been through a lot. It's really amazing. And I'm so thankful for you sharing all of that because a lot of people need to hear. These components of what someone else's journey and adventure are like, you know,
[00:48:45] Donna: it has been a good journey. I have, I have learned so much through both connections, both with both reunions.
It's been really a lot. And like I said, you know, your show has been very eye opening for me and, and therapeutic as well. Just from the very first [00:49:00] episode. And I've just been, I was enthralled with it and it's so funny. My daughter said, oh, I never thought of listening to an adoption podcast. cause we are both so into crime podcast.
Mm-hmm and it's really weird that that's something we both like to listen to, but anyway, oh, that's funny. Yeah, and I, so she's like, when I told her I was gonna do this podcast, she. Oh, my God, you're gonna be on a podcast. she was like, so she was like, that is the coolest thing. Awesome.
[00:49:26] Damon: I love it. Really cool.
Well, hopefully she'll enjoy hearing some pieces of your story. That's another thing that I think is also powerful about the podcast is it becomes a place where the adopted person can share their journey in a way that others have never heard them talk about it before. Right. Where I've often said, yeah, we sometimes get to tell sort of the elevator version of our story, you know?
Yeah. I was born, I was adopted, I found my parents and it was awesome or it was awful. And it was like, no, you miss all the nuance. All of the really interesting meaty details, the feelings and stuff. And this is part of what I love about doing the [00:50:00] podcast is it gives people an open forum to share everything and then their loved ones.
Get to hear them talk about it in a way they've never heard it before. So I'm glad you're here to do that .
[00:50:10] Donna: well, and I'm glad that you have this platform because for me, you know, thinking about doing this podcast over the last few months and I, I highlighted some notes and stuff, and I think I kind of touched on everything that was in my notes, but it's been kind of cathartic for me.
Mm-hmm and so you know, even if just one or two people listen and go, oh, , I can understand that then. But I think it's totally cool. And I'm, I'm glad that you're doing this. I really am.
[00:50:34] Damon: Thank you so much. And I, but I, as I've always said, I can't do it if people like you don't come to be part of this show.
So I'm really thankful to you as my guest. Thank you so much, Don. Exactly. Exactly. All right. You take care. Thanks for being here all the best to you. Okay.
[00:50:50] Donna: All the best to you as well, Damon. Thank you. Thanks, bye. Bye. Bye.
[00:50:52] Damon: Hey, it's me. Donna [00:51:00] had a rough start in utero and admitted her forced detachment, both from hospitalization and adoption probably contributed to some of her later attachment issues. I loved hearing that her adoptive father, a man who rarely apologized to anyone expressed remorse for how he treated her when she was pregnant.
That admission of a past transgression meant a lot to Donna. And to make it more broadly applicable. Even though you'd think someone knows you forgiven them sometimes the person who has committed the act needs to set aside time and space to deliver their much needed apology.
My sense is most birth parents never get such an apology from the people in their lives who forced or coerced an adoption plan.
I'm so glad Donna thinks of her birth mother as one of her best friends. And that she has a relationship with her own daughter. Sometimes it sucks to have to give people space, to let them grow and mature into your sheared reunion.
[00:52:00] But your patience to let the other party be ready to receive you again, can pay off in amazing ways.
I'm Damon Davis, and I hope you found something in Donna's journey that inspired Validates your feelings about wanting to search. Or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn who am i really