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230 – The Goodness Far Outweighs the Sadness

Doris, who lives between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, California, was adopted after her adoptive mother’s repetitive attempts at pregnancy. Doris then had to endure herself centeredness — a residual trauma of her failed pregnancies — and her narcissism, which prevented her from being the mother Doris needed. I

n reunion, Doris was welcomed by some of her extended family, but chose to try to meet her birth mother face to face, to hopefully avoid being rejected.

You will be stunned by the outcome of Doris’s trip to her birth mother’s home and empowered by how she focuses on the positivity of her experience. This is Doris his journey.


Who Am I Really?

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[00:00:00] Doris: I've come to the conclusion that it ended the way it did. So that I wouldn't have to hear her reject me. that's how I've written the story in my head. I have, we'll never know if that's true or not, but I think if I had to stand there and have her look at me and say, go away, I don't want to have anything to do with you.

It probably really would have broken me.

[00:00:52] Damon: I'm Damon Davis and you're about to meet Doris. She spoke to me from her home in between Sacramento and lake Tahoe, [00:01:00] California. Doris was adopted after her adoptive mother's repetitive attempts at pregnancy. Then had to endure herself centered this, The residual trauma of her failed pregnancies and her narcissism, which prevented her from being the mother Doris needed. In reunion, Doris was welcomed by some of her extended family, but chose to try to meet her birth mother face to face, to hopefully avoid being rejected.

You will be stunned by the outcome of Doris's trip to her birth mother's home and empowered by how she focuses on the positivity of her experience. This is Doris his journey.


[00:01:36] Damon: Doris was born in 1961. A time when a single woman had very limited options to raise a baby and every couple was expected to make a family. Doris's adoptive mother came from a very large family of multiple siblings and tons of cousins. So a larger family structure was something she was used to. But with this. But with a L. But with a [00:02:00] long history of miscarriages and after several denials, by couples, through normal adoption processes, her. Her obstetrics and gynecology doctor arranged for Doris's adoption from one of his other patients.

Doris's birth mother. Doris was brought home at three days old. She said her birth month. She said her birth announcement bread. She said her birth announcement read. I wasn't expected. I was selected. Dora said those words framed her early adoptive experiences. As many people said she was lucky to be adopted because her birth parents chose her.

that really sizes a lot of my adoption. Experience growing up because there was always commentary. Oh, you're so lucky they chose you, and there was this, almost this expectation of being beholden to [00:03:00] them because somehow they had saved me or rescued me or however people looked at it then and what nobody Thought through was the fact that my mom was mentally ill and that perhaps she'd had all these miscarriages because maybe she just shouldn't have been a mom.

[00:03:22] Damon: My dad,

[00:03:22] Doris: my dad was great. Didn't know my mom was mentally ill when he married her and was very old school. He moved here from Finland and if you marry, you marry for life. People were always making excuses for my mom, you know, Oh, that Edith, she's a little odd or, you know, Oh, you know, that's how she is.

And I guess it just never occurred to anybody that maybe she shouldn't have been allowed to adopt a child. Yeah. That perhaps. It wasn't the very best thing that could have happened to me. I mean, as an adult, I'm fine. I have a wonderful son. [00:04:00] I have a great marriage. I have really good friend relationships, but it took me many, many, many years to get to the point where.

I didn't feel like I needed to be a people pleaser.

[00:04:14] Damon: I want to go back and just touch on a couple of things that you brought out. The first of which you said your adoptive mother had a long history. Of miscarriages. Did I hear you correctly?

[00:04:25] Doris: Yes.

She had nine miscarriages and two stillbirths.

[00:04:28] Damon: Nine and two stillbirths. Wow. Do you have any idea what that was related to?

[00:04:36] Doris: I don't. like I said, she was an only child. I don't think my grandma had really any problems with her pregnancy that I know of, but my grandparents died when I was fairly young.

I think my grandma died when I was about. Maybe 10. So this is something I would have asked her, you know, Hey, did you have any miscarriages? How come you only [00:05:00] had one kid? And my mom was a very dramatic woman. She was a professional singer. She sang with San Francisco opera for many years and Any kind of question about anything remotely sad just wasn't really worth asking her because it would just turn into this big long, woe is me scene.

And I also think that in some ways, I was a living reminder of her inability to reproduce. And I think that I, I didn't look anything like her. My mom was a very petite blonde haired blue eyed Scandinavian girl. And I had like flaming red bozo hair as a child. It was super curly. It was unruly. I was [00:06:00] pasty as all heck and I just didn't look like anything.

anyone in my family.

[00:06:06] Damon: Wow.

[00:06:07] Doris: And as I got older, I started to resemble my dad, I think somewhat. And I think that's because my True heritage is Germanic, Norwegian,

my dad being from Finland probably carried some of those same genetics.

So I kind of blended more with his family. Although most of them are in the old country than I did, but my mom's family tallest person in the whole family, men included, there were like two men taller than me, everybody was under five, seven. I was, I say that I'm the designated family reacher because on holidays, I was the only one that could reach that the serving bowls on the top shelf in the kitchen.

[00:06:52] Damon: You know, I couldn't help but think as you were speaking about your redhead, bozo hair, Alan [00:07:00] Rooley you know, there's the expression of being a redheaded stepchild, but it occurred to me that you were like the redheaded adopted child, which is Oh, weird. I've never really thought about that before, but that's fascinating.

And I would imagine it probably was fairly re traumatizing for her after nine miscarriages and two stillbirths. That's 11 kids for you to be the adoptee in front of her. I can't imagine that there was any way for her to ever get over that.

[00:07:30] Doris: And, and I also think, well, I don't think, I know she was disappointed In my looks, my whole entire life, all I

[00:07:42] Damon: heard by that.

[00:07:43] Doris: Well, I, I developed very early. I got very tall, very early. I'm five, eight, my mom's five, three. And she would consistently say, why do you have to be so tall? Why do you, why do you have boobs already? So and so and so [00:08:00] and so don't have boobs as if I had some say. And I think she really wanted a little blonde haired blue eyed petite daughter who looked like she was a product of this marriage.

And when I didn't turn out that way, it was just an extra reminder that I wasn't really hers. And I do think had there not been so much pressure on having children at that time, I don't think she would have adopted me. But I kind of jokingly say I was the Louis Vuitton bag of 1961. Everybody had one and she needed one too, even though she did not have motherly instincts or she just really wasn't cut out to be a mom. And I'm not saying that to be mean. I [00:09:00] had a very you know, my childhood wasn't horrible. She didn't physically beat me. You know, it wasn't the most supportive of childhoods. I think she did do her best. It was just that her best probably wasn't nurturing enough for most little people.

[00:09:22] Damon: I understand what you're saying. That sounds really rough. Do you, let me ask, do you get the sense that her mental illness was exacerbated by the multiple miscarriages and inability to conceive, or was she already struggling?

she was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, I think as a performer.

[00:09:46] Doris: That really worked for her. She started singing in the late thirties and in the forties was very popular in San Francisco. She's saying at the U. S. O. [00:10:00] Often there's a venue in San Francisco called Sigmund Stern Grove and she performed there very regularly. She sang the national anthem at a Giants game when I was in high school.

So, that all worked great. And in our house, she was the star. And I think that's the other thing that was hard for her was she had a baby. And when, when you get a child, when you bring a child home, everybody wants to see the child. Nobody's interested in seeing you for a while. They want to hold the baby and play with the baby.

And she didn't, I don't think she liked that she wanted to be the more important, the upfront person because she had adopted a baby so that in her eyes should make people revere her more. And, there were many reminders of. [00:11:00] You know, we didn't have to take you. We could have taken somebody else.

[00:11:04] Damon: Oh, she said those kinds of things.

[00:11:06] Doris: Oh yeah.

[00:11:07] Damon: Wow. But you're, I mean, you're right. As you named the disorder, she lived with, what was it? Narcissistic personality disorder. I mean, inherently the name of the disorder indicates. It's an individual who requires being at the center of attention. And as you've talked about, there's nothing better than a baby to steal attention from everybody.

[00:11:28] Doris: And, unfortunately for her, she just wasn't able to get around that even into her very old age. And it's funny because she had always been, you know, like the The big singer, and when she finally hit about 78, 79, she was no longer able to perform. So she took on a new identity. And what that identity was, was the patient.

[00:11:54] Damon: Hmm.

[00:11:55] Doris: So now, the last, say eight, nine years of her life, she would literally say to me, [00:12:00] well, I am the patient, you know? And that was her new thing was, well, I'm going to just be in bed all the time and. Be sick and doors can wait on me hand and foot and I will just, luxuriate in this new, part of my life where I'm still the star only now I'm, Camille languishing in bed because.

I'm dying from nothing that I've been diagnosed with, but I can't do anything anymore.

[00:12:34] Damon: So it sounds to me like she, you kind of said it, identified a new role to play, right? She had, she had run the performance on the first set of roles that show closed. Now she's, she's, you know, didn't even have to audition because a whole new Opportunity to play a different role has come along and she jumped right in.

And is that roughly correct?

[00:12:57] Doris: Yes. And it was [00:13:00] interesting because the one thing you could not or I could not discuss with her and I don't believe she really would have talked to any family members or friends about it. Was anything to do with my background,

My, my natural birth mother's background, she would insist she knew nothing about her.

And if I asked, she wanted to know what she had done wrong, that I would turn on her like this. And why would I possibly want to know about that person? Because she was my mom and wasn't I happy? And didn't I realize that? again, she could have picked somebody else and It was sad because I don't blame her for how she was because she couldn't help it.

She really couldn't. When you're mentally ill, you cannot help your behavior, but at the same time, had she been willing to [00:14:00] bend? A little bit and be a little more flexible. I think we both could have learned a lot more from each other, but she didn't want to do that.

[00:14:10] Damon: So let me ask you a little bit about your relationship with your dad.

Then this is your adoptive father. He, I gather from you has. picked up on the fact that the wife he has chosen for life suffers with mental illness. Now the two of them have adopted a child and it's probably it sounds like very clear to him that she's not necessarily your number one fan. So how was your relationship with him?

[00:14:35] Doris: My dad, Absolutely worship the ground that I walked on. I miss him every single day. He was the sweetest, kindest, most gentle, gentle man I've ever known. But had a rather tumultuous upbringing himself, My dad's mom came to the marriage with a couple of children. My [00:15:00] grandpa didn't have any children. They got married. They had a few children, my dad being the baby. And then his mom died when my dad was two. And they lived in a very rural part of Finland.

They did not have electricity. They did not have running water. They didn't have a radio. I mean, they, they basically. We're camping in a house. he left Finland in 1948. He'd never been on a plane. He had never seen anybody who wasn't white.

[00:15:37] Damon: And

[00:15:38] Doris: he knew that there were people of different colors in the world.

But he said, when he got off the plane in New York. He almost passed out because a black porter came up to him and asked if he could help him with his bags. And my dad said, he goes, well, I knew he wasn't going to be the same [00:16:00] as me, but he'd never seen any photos. He, that, that's how isolated they were.

And his stepmother subsequently had two more kids with my grandpa. And those were her children. And my dad was kind of really cast aside.

I think my father knew that my mom wasn't the best mom, but he had no real model to go by. And you know, he worked really hard. well, I am not going to say he worked a long day.

He lived a long day. He would usually be out of the house by 5 a. m. and he wouldn't be back till five 30 or six every night. And then he'd go to bed at eight. religiously, I think primarily to not spend too much time with my mom And then every summer he would go to Alaska for three months to fish for bumblebee seafoods and do salmon fishing up there.

And so I think, [00:17:00] not thinking that I was in any real physical danger. but really not understanding the mental psychological damage that can go along with having parents who aren't supportive and he didn't have like an average or a normal. To understand where he lived, it was just hard scrabble all the time.

I mean, your kid, you had a lot of kids because you needed the work out of them on your farms. And if you didn't work, you didn't eat. So

[00:17:33] Damon: here

[00:17:35] Doris: I'm living in this house with color TV and you know, everything's nice. So I think in his head. That's met my needs.

[00:17:43] Damon: Sure. Interesting. Yeah. The, the contrast of how he was raised versus how you were being raised.

He was like, she's fine. I grew up, you know, you know, struggling over there with multiple kids. No running water or plumbing or anything. And here we are with color [00:18:00] TVs. But you know, what's also interesting about what you said about his upbringing is that it's kind of the opposite of what happens to some adoptees from international countries where, these children, let's say from an African village, right?

I've heard stories. There was a woman on the podcast a while ago, Tessita, and she said that when she was growing up, she had never seen a white person before.

[00:18:23] Doris: Exactly.

[00:18:24] Damon: And so here she is leaving her small village, being put on a plane that she's never been on before, never meeting white people before. And now she is adopted into a white family in California.

That's a parallel experience to what your adoptive father had never having seen anyone of color and then being confronted by somebody who was in an environment when he first lands in this country. I mean, it's just astonishing that that's the experience of folks.

[00:18:51] Doris: It's so interesting to me because through doing the documentary and through attending, you know, [00:19:00] different meetings and online chats and things, I found that the, type for lack of a better term of adoptee that I tend to bond with the easiest or the fastest are Russian Ukrainian adoptees from that general demographic that our first generation here now, because that was very similar in a lot of ways to my father and to those cultures, lots of cultures, but I think those cultures, especially there are a lot of traditions.

That are woven into your day to day life.

but I knew deep down that that wasn't my heritage.

[00:19:46] Doris: So you grow up wearing the mask of one heritage, but you know, underneath that mask, you have a different heritage. You just don't know. What it is.

And I see [00:20:00] that with some of my friends that I've met where, especially because they're usually a little older when they were adopted, but they were raised with one set.

[00:20:10] Doris: Of customs and thrust into a whole other situation. Like you were saying about your guests that you had with, just no preparation whatsoever. And a lot of times I think things are better now, but I think early on, there was absolutely no effort to integrate the person's original traditions and customs.

With their new life.

[00:20:38] Damon: And I

[00:20:38] Doris: do think that that has changed.

But a lot of people Either just don't see, I don't think they see the importance of it or especially here in the States. And I'm probably going to get clapped back for this, but a lot of people here have the tendency to think that we have the very best culture. So you don't need any other culture because we're [00:21:00] Americans and there's just nothing better, but that isn't necessarily really true.

[00:21:06] Damon: Right. Because the people who live in their cultures think that their culture is the best, right? We're very ethnocentric and xenophobic. And it's, it can be incredibly challenging to overcome some of those things. And the, the kind of comical thing about America is it's made up of cultures all over the world.

So we have no heritage. We literally

[00:21:27] Doris: have no heritage whatsoever at all.

Doris told me when she was a teen, she started being tempted by television shows like Phil Donahue and Oprah, which were occasionally broadcasting scenarios of adoption reunion. Doris all stories of people who had found their birth mother or others of siblings who were working right next to each other at the same company, then realized they were torn apart at birth.

[00:21:53] Damon: And she wanted the glorious surprise of reunion to be her story too. But in pre-internet [00:22:00] days, Doris felt lost as to how or Where to start her adoption reunion search. She said she once called the hospital where she was born, But she was told her records were lost in yet another tragic fire. One of many that have sadly destroyed multiple adoptees files. I hope you're detecting my sarcasm here. As Doris has said, she asked her adoptive mother about her birth mother a few times, but the woman responded with anger and tears. She said.

She didn't want to ask her adoptive relatives either for fear, they would rat her out to her adoptive mother. So Doris decided to keep her mouth shut about her curiosity for adoption reunion. Like other adoptees of the time around 1988, Doris had read an article about a group called Alma, the adoptee Liberty movement association. Doris wrote into the address at the end of the article. I shared her information then went online to enter her info into their database, to be matched. [00:23:00] If any connection was uncovered. Years later, Doris got her first computer at home, which opened the door for her to explore more adoption reunion websites.

She said those sites were laborious to use because After you entered your data, then you had to scroll through post after post of parents looking for their natural children. Adoptees searching for birth mothers and all of the stories would make doors sad about the storylines of others. Doris his birthday coincides with the holiday season. So she would get a renewed urge to search online around that time of year. Registering with nearly 20 reunification sites throughout the years. The Alma database fading from her search tool set with the passage of time. Around the year, 2015. Doris got online and looked up Alma again. Re-registering after discovering how much better their user experience online had gotten Within a few days, Alma responded that they had information for Doris and [00:24:00] they had been trying to locate her for years. Dora said moved a few times since she originally registered with Alma And had forgotten to update her new addresses as her life progressed. Using the information provided Doris contacted a search angel who was able to learn her birth.

Father's name.

[00:24:17] Doris: But once I did get this information, I was able to find my birth dad's obituary

because like I said, it was not a common last name. And so I found him. Or who, you know, at least who I kind of thought I was, he was, and I found the names of his two daughters, my sisters.

And I looked at my sister Kim on Facebook and boy, if she didn't look a lot like me. Actually, even there was one picture of her wearing a t shirt and a coat that I also owned that we both bought at old Navy.

[00:24:58] Damon: Oh, that's crazy. Wow. [00:25:00]

[00:25:00] Doris: And I'm looking and I'm like, this has to be, and I remember showing it to my husband and my son and going, then she looked like she could be my sister.

And they're like, Oh, heck yeah, definitely. So I was finally able to contact them and my birth mother's maiden name was Delwo, which is a name I had never heard in my whole life, but is amazingly common in Minnesota.

[00:25:26] Damon: Wow. That's great.

[00:25:28] Doris: Tons of them. And for a while, I thought my birth mom was this one lady because she'd been best friends with my birth dad's sister and she was a Delwo and they lived across the street from each other.

So I contacted her family, went to visit them and she had. Early onset dementia, and I was sitting at her with her at her care home talking, and she was so cute. She looked at me. She goes, I [00:26:00] don't know, honey. I think if I had had a daughter and gave her up for adoption. I think I'd still remember that. And And she was just so sweet. And I kept thinking, gosh, I wonder if this is her, then we looked a little deeper. Her son and daughter were very kind in trying to help me piece things together. And we finally figured out it wasn't her, but we are second cousins or third cousins.

[00:26:28] Damon: And so

[00:26:29] Doris: And through some yearbooks that my birth dad's sister sent me.

I found my actual birth mother and her pictures when she was in high school, she could be my twin.

[00:26:44] Doris: It was, really emotional when the yearbooks came and I saw a picture of her. then started piece, you know, figuring out this really was her. It was so strange because I'd never had anybody except my [00:27:00] son who resembled me. I had never had a blood relative and all of a sudden I had.

Two half sisters a whole bunch of ants. My dad came from a family of my birth dad, I think of seven, eight, nine, like a big family, lots of kids. And it's funny because my son looks a lot like one of my aunts. If my son had a wig on, it's the funniest thing. My aunt, my aunt looked like my son in drag is exactly how it was.

But it was, it was so exciting and I was, very nervous. I met my sisters first and it was during that visit when we went out to Minnesota in June. of 2015. And then my sister and I went to some high school friends of my birth mom and my birth [00:28:00] dad, this really cute older couple named Squeaks and Diane.

And I asked Diane, you know, did you guys know she was pregnant? And she said, Oh yeah, we all knew. my birth mom and my dad weren't pregnant. a really super devoted couple, but they ran around in a gang of like maybe five or six couples. And I think that they were the odd ones.

They weren't paired off. So they ended up just kind of going together because they were the last couple. So,

[00:28:31] Damon: uh, You

[00:28:33] Doris: know, the, the little bit of paperwork I was able to get from the state said that she had discussed with my dad My birth dad that you know, he knew she was pregnant. She didn't want to keep the child.

He didn't want to keep the child. It was a mutual agreement. And so she came out here to stay with two of her aunts who had moved to San Francisco. It was [00:29:00] super nerve wracking. It was really hard for me to meet my sister's mom because. I was afraid she'd be mad at her husband for not telling her that he had fathered another child before he married her.

And I know my sister's, my, my birth dad died of pancreatic cancer and he knew he was dying. And I think there was, A lot of shock and some resentment or sadness amongst my sisters that their dad hadn't shared with them that they had another sibling somewhere in the world. And I know it, It hurt my one sister probably a lot more than the other because she and her dad were very close.

And those are the kinds of things that make it really hard to search because if you have any kind of [00:30:00] empathy at all, you realize that your presence is probably going to stir up some Not so great feelings in people unless everybody's been totally transparent and they've known all along. But in people, especially my age, that rarely is the case.

these women were shamed. I mean, it was an embarrassment to have to leave your community and go live in hiding at an unwed mother's home or an aunt's home. And, you know, my, my birth mom walked in her graduation. And she was four months pregnant and then immediately flew to San Francisco and then came back the following, I think she came back the January after I was born, you know, without a baby.

[00:30:50] Doris: and it was sad meeting my sisters because I knew our dad was gone. And I was really sad to [00:31:00] never have been able to meet him. You know, I heard great stories from his brothers and from other people, what a wry sense of humor he had and what a presence he was in the room and, you know, a lot of great things.

But I would have loved to have met him at least once. And unfortunately I didn't get the chance to do that.

[00:31:26] Damon: Going back. Doris mentioned meeting some of her birth parents, friends from their past squeaks and Diane. Diane having stayed in distant contact over the years with Doris, his birth mother told Doris that her birth mother might not want to meet her, trying to soften the harsh possibility Of a maternal adoption reunion rejection. Doris realizes she didn't want to necessarily reintegrate into her birth mother's life. She just wanted to see the woman once and give her a hug.

Unlike the experience with her birth father. Doris had connected with [00:32:00] another maternal relative Who was able to help Doris track down her birth mother in Prescott, Arizona. The city of Prescott had very open records at the time.

And Doris was able to simply ask the city about where her birth mother lived. Based on the information her family had provided. Dora said, made up her mind that she did not want her birth mother to reject her outreach over the phone or through a letter. So she made the decision. She was going to drive to Prescott To knock on the door of the home.

Her birth mother was renting. I asked Doris about the drive out to try to find this woman who probably didn't want to meet her. She said that while her son and husband made the trip fun. Doris oscillated between feelings of.

Oh, I'm so excited to. Oh my gosh, what am I doing? We should go home. And my husband would be like, no, we came this far. We got to go find her. You got to do this. And I was like, Oh, I don't know.

[00:32:55] Doris: What if she hates me? You know, if she rejects me, am I going to totally like go off [00:33:00] the deep end? And I just kept thinking in my head, well, I won't give her the opportunity. Like I won't even go in the house. I'll just. Say hi, how are you? Shake her hand, hopefully get a hug and leave. And when we went to the wrong house, she wasn't there.

You know, obviously it was the wrong house. And then we went to her house, we found it, and I was so excited and I went up to the door and I was literally shaking. And I had told my husband and son. Wait in the car because I don't want her to see this big group of people and maybe be intimidated or wonder why we're there.

I said, if I just go up just a single woman by myself, she may be a little more open to even opening the front door. And the house that she was living in, the front door had a pane of glass through the whole thing. So you could see right into the family [00:34:00] room and the kitchen. When you went to knock.

So I'm knocking on the door and I'm nosy. I'm looking inside. Oh, this is nice. This is pretty. And I remember noticing really distinctly things. There was a cup of coffee on the kitchen counter. There was a novel turned upside down, but open like you do when you're reading a book and you put it down.

was a pack of cigarettes on the counter, which I was surprised at because I was a long time, very heavy smoker But I was like, Oh gosh, she smokes. That's so weird because nobody in my family smoked ever. And yet I've often said that I felt like I came out of the womb.

Wanting a cigarette.

[00:34:42] Damon: Oh, my God. And I'm

[00:34:44] Doris: pretty sure she probably smoked through her whole pregnancy. Because in the early 60s, you weren't told to quit. And so I'm looking at all these things and I'm like, wow, this is fascinating. Pounding on the door.

And it was about two in the afternoon. [00:35:00] And I just figured, well, she must've gone out to lunch or gone to the market or something. So we left and we got back to our hotel and I had been documenting this trip on my Facebook so that people who were friends of mine or who knew me, through other adopted friends or whatever that they could follow along and see what we were doing.

And I do believe I had written to her son on Facebook Messenger. I think I might be related to your mom. I think I left it really general if I remember correctly at first, because I wasn't sure she was my birth mom.

Plus I didn't want to freak this guy out, but just kind of generally saying, I think I might be related. And then he wrote back and was saying, I still, to this day, don't know, but I'm assuming he. Talk to his mother or somebody in the family and [00:36:00] was very off putting and basically said, well, if you're claiming to be a relative we do not want to have a relationship with you.

And it was his phrasing was very interesting. And I remember thinking. Has he actually asked his mother, our mother, or is he answering just on behalf of what he thinks she wants? so when we got back to the hotel the day that we had knocked on her door, I had a Facebook message from him out of the blue saying, it's my understanding that you're in Prescott with the plan of meeting with my mother.

And if you harass her, I'm going to you. Contact the police and also you have pictures of my mother on your Facebook page and you need to take those down because you do not have our permission to use her likeness. And so I got a little snotty and I wrote back. I said, I own that picture. [00:37:00] Somebody gave me that picture and I can pretty much put it on a billboard if I want to.

So no, you can't tell me what to do because that's mine. And. I would like to hear from your mother. If she does not want to see me, I want to hear her say it and I won't push it, but I'm not harassing anybody. And if you want to call the sheriff, go ahead because I haven't done anything wrong. so we were walking to dinner and we were leaving Prescott the next day.

So I said to my husband, you know, I think I should try to call her because We're leaving and maybe she's got a busy schedule. You know, I don't want to just keep going and knocking and missing her. Called and left a message. She didn't answer. We go to dinner. We leave dinner. We're walking back to our hotel and I get a call from her number.

And I mean, everything's going through my head. I'm just absolutely break out in a cold sweat. I'm staring at my phone. I've got my husband and my son going, answer it, answer it. And I'm like, [00:38:00] I don't, I don't want to answer. She's gonna tell me to go away. I don't know what to do. And I answered it. And unfortunately, it was a sheriff's deputy.

And first I thought that he was lying. I thought it was maybe somebody my brother got to pretend to be a sheriff's deputy to dissuade me from making contact.

[00:38:19] Damon: And

[00:38:20] Doris: he was like, I said, you are not a sheriff. I remember saying to this man, you are not a sheriff. My brother put you up to this, didn't he? And he's like, I don't know what you're talking about.

And I'm like, well, how would you have my mom's phone if you were a sheriff? And he said, well, we're at her home and I'm really sorry to tell you, but she passed away in the house. And she had been there when I knocked, she just wasn't alive anymore. And she had supposed to have been to meet friends for lunch and she didn't [00:39:00] show up.

And so her friends called for a welfare check and the sheriffs went out there and found her pretty much within a couple of hours. After I had been knocking on her door. And so they asked me some questions and I said, well, she has a son. This is his name. This is the state he lives in, and this is where he works.

I don't know anything else about him. I don't have his address or his phone number, but I'm sure he's in her phone. And this is her half sister and her half sister's number. And she may know how to contact him. I don't. And so he said, thank you. I kind of explained why I was there and what I was doing and everything.


[00:39:52] Damon: explained that you were an adopted daughter?

[00:39:55] Doris: Yes.

[00:39:56] Damon: Really?

[00:39:57] Doris: Well, yeah, because he wanted to know why she had my number. [00:40:00] And I said, well, she doesn't really know me, but I have been searching for my birth mother and it turns out it's her. And I was there earlier today to meet her for the first time, hopefully.

And meanwhile, I mean, I'm borderline hysterical. I have so much stuff going through my head. And I remember at one point, because I do tend to have kind of a sarcastic sense of humor, especially when things go wrong. I remember saying to the poor deputy, you know, if she didn't want to meet me, all she had to say, all she had to do was say, so she didn't have to die.

[00:40:38] Damon: I would have been

[00:40:39] Doris: fine. You know, I would have understood. Oh my

[00:40:44] Damon: gosh. Oh my gosh. But

[00:40:48] Doris: so we, we sat down on a bench and Prescott is An old, old, old town, and it's built around a town square, and we had started at the [00:41:00] diagonal on one side, and our hotel was the diagonal on the other side, so we were sitting there.

I'm trying to, like, gather myself just to get the strength to have my legs hold me up to get back to the hotel, because obviously, this is not the ending that anybody anticipated, And we finally get up and we're walking back and my phone rings again. And this time it's actually from the deputy, you know, on his phone.

And he said, can I ask where you are? And I said, or walking back to the Hacienda, which was our hotel. And he said I need you to go there and stay there until I get there. And I said, okay. And I said, you realize I've never met her. I can't like. really probably technically identify her because I've, I've only seen pictures and I'm not a thousand percent sure she's my birth mom.

And he said, no your brother actually has [00:42:00] identified you as a person of interest. And so I need to come and interview

[00:42:04] Damon: grief, man. I

[00:42:08] Doris: understand where he was coming from. this person he's never met in his life. Is at his mom's house and conveniently then his mom is dead. I get it, but that didn't make anything any easier for me.

And certainly he, I don't think that he did it out of spite. I think he was like, wait, this lady went to my mom's house and now she's saying she didn't get to meet her, but my mom is inside dead.

[00:42:40] Damon: Yeah.

[00:42:41] Doris: so we went back to the hotel now by now it's like 10 o'clock at night. I'm starting to really fall apart.

And so I sat there drinking going

[00:42:50] Damon: through your head at thaI

[00:42:52] Doris: was so heartbroken ken and disappointed and just. [00:43:00] So angry with myself that I hadn't gone a day, a week, a month, a year, whatever before why didn't we come six months ago? why didn't I do all the things?

And since then I've come to the conclusion that it ended the way it did. So that I wouldn't have to hear her reject me. that's how I've written the story in my head. I have, we'll never know if that's true or not, but I think if I had to stand there and have her look at me and say, go away, I don't want to have anything to do with you.

It probably really would have broken me. This was bad. You know, having her pass away was horrible and I was a mess for the rest of the trip. And for a couple months afterwards, I just kept rolling everything around in my head. And I kept [00:44:00] thinking, well, maybe like I wrote, I messaged my brother on Facebook Messenger immediately, and I was like, Oh my gosh, this is so awful, and it's bad for me, but I never met her, so it's got to be a hundred million times more tragic for you, because that was your mom.

You've known her your whole life, and I'm basically mourning a dream, and you're mourning your whole reality, and I'm so sorry, and he replied and said, Can you send me your address? I have something for you. And then after that he went right back to, I don't want to know you. I don't want to see you. Don't come here.

Don't try to surprise me. So usually on the anniversary of her death and around the holidays, I send him a quick message, still thinking of you, still open to meeting you if you would like. And either he just says, don't bother me, [00:45:00] or He doesn't reply at all.

[00:45:01] Damon: Yeah.

[00:45:05] Doris: So it's not the heartwarming reunification story that I fantasized about my whole life,

[00:45:10] Damon: but

[00:45:13] Doris: I'm a big believer that things happen for a reason.

I know I wouldn't probably be the compassionate empathetic person that I am had I not been raised by a mentally ill woman who was heavily addicted to prescription drugs that her doctors had fed her her whole entire life. I have huge compassion for people who are addicted. I volunteer heavily at our local federally qualified health center and Also, I'm very active in donating to it's called the upper room and it's where they serve free meals in our community.

[00:45:56] Doris: And I've always rooted for the underdog my [00:46:00] whole life. because, adopted people have such a inflated. Incidents of drug addiction and being in jail, you know, we're so overly represented within the penal system and we just tend to have a lot more.

psychological issues that we have to deal with, it has really, made me have just an enormous amount of compassion for people who I encounter who do seem to have heavy addiction issues. Because the first thing, I always say to myself is, gosh, what must have happened to them to get them to this place?

And I often wonder why I didn't end up like them. Certainly going through my younger life and having, dealt with these horrible disappointments and [00:47:00] heartbreak, it would have been really easy for me to climb into a bottle of pills and. Go that route and for some reason I didn't and I won't ever know why my birth mom died literally hours before I knocked on her door.

I won't ever know why I didn't get to meet my birth dad. All I can do. Is be happy with the gains I do have. I have two lovely, wonderful sisters. I have an aunt who is just so kind to me and loves me absolutely with no limits, you know, and these are people who have very graciously allowed me into their lives, even though I'm basically a stranger.

It's, it's interesting because while I do feel like I'm a part of their family, I know I'm really not and. What I [00:48:00] thought starting all of this, I think my original goal was I will meet my birth family and I will finally have a place where I belong, where I know I belong. And with all respect and love, what I found is I basically now have two families.

[00:48:21] Doris: I don't really feel like I belong in and it's, it's not for lack of them being nice to me or being kind to me. Thank you. Or trying very hard, having a, you know, a welcoming get together. So I could meet my aunts and my uncles. They've been beyond gracious and, and lovely, but I have no shared past with them.

There are not the things that bond you. A lot of the times with your siblings are all the trouble you got into when you bailed each other out when you used to beat the hell out of each other. You know, all these things that serve to hopefully forge a [00:49:00] very tight. Relationship. And my sisters have that with each other.

[00:49:05] Damon: Triumphs and challenges. I couldn't

[00:49:07] Doris: possibly have that with them. Because we weren't together. And so it's, it's

[00:49:14] Damon: Trauma bonding. That's one of the things that happens with people, right? Yeah.

[00:49:18] Doris: But it's been a very melancholy relationship. And it still is because there's been some really wonderful things that have come out of this, but there's also been a lot of sadness.

And the only thing I walk away from it is the goodness far outweighs the sadness.

[00:49:41] Damon: So excellent.

[00:49:42] Doris: I came out not as ahead as I hoped, but I had anyways.

[00:49:48] Damon: Yeah. Yeah. Wow. There was so much in what you said. I mean, you talked about one of the things that stuck out for me was the fact that you [00:50:00] felt that the rejection, it almost sounded like if she had stood there and rejected you, it would have been as hard, if not harder than her passing, which it would

[00:50:11] Doris: have been worse.

Really? It would have been worse because as adoptees, at least back in the day, we weren't told, Oh, your birth mom was a single mom and basically was forced by, society's rules to give you away. I was told she didn't want me, And now knowing that she has a son that she loved very dearly that she In schools and preschools, pretty much her whole life.

Clearly she loved children. She couldn't keep me. She wasn't allowed to because society said, you're single. You can't do this on your own. And even if you try, you're going to be looked down upon because, Oh my gosh, you actually had sex without [00:51:00] being married. Shame on you. And I feel bad for her for that because I can't imagine having to have given up my son because I didn't fit a certain mold of what An ideal parent would have looked like.

She probably didn't want me.

[00:51:19] Doris: I would like to think she did, but She just couldn't keep me. And there's a big difference there. you still kind of feel like you were rejected or you just couldn't fit into her life somehow, and that sticks with you your whole life.

[00:51:36] Damon: Yeah, it really does. I hear you 100 percent and in the absence of actually being able to talk with her about the situation to understand from her mouth, what her actual feelings were.

All you're left with is this speculation as to whether she would or would not have wanted you, whether or not she would have accepted or rejected you when you returned in an adoption [00:52:00] reunion. It's really challenging to even

guess at it. It's crazy.

Tell me about you, something else that was, stood out to me was you said that you sounded like had a long grieving process. This is days, weeks, months.

It sounded like for you, tell me what that period was like and how you got to what I'll loosely call the other side. well,

[00:52:22] Doris: first of all, I think time is a great blessing and, and people generally heal over time, or at least if not heal come to a way of understanding whatever it is they are trying to heal from and being able to put it in a place.

That's maybe a little gentler and not as sad um,

[00:52:47] Damon: allows perspective.

[00:52:48] Doris: Yeah. And one of the things that I think, because I have a genetic blood clotting disorder. I think I probably got it from my [00:53:00] birth mom, my son has it as well, and she was a heavy smoker, and she evidently what they think is had a stroke, and I'm guessing she probably had a blood clot.

And it's one of the things I've made sure to let my brother know because he has a daughter and this genetic disorder is harder on women than it is on men because women tend to take hormones, which also impact our clotting ability. so I have made sure he understands that he ought to have his daughter tested, whether he does or not.

but I think first of all, in a lot of ways, I'm kind of a fatalist. I almost always expect the worst.

[00:53:45] Doris: I mean, I always say that we'll expect the worst. And then if something good happens, you'll be really pleasantly surprised.


I I was expecting her to probably reject me. And in a way [00:54:00] she kind of did, but I had at least a 50 percent feeling that either she would reject me or she wouldn't be there.

it had gone on for so long, this search I think more of what I mourned was the fact that all the little fairy tale Endings I had imagined literally my whole life weren't going to come true.

And then the other thing that I think I mourned was my adopted mother's. inability to at least look at me once and say, you know what, I really am glad you were part of my life.

[00:54:46] Doris: I really do appreciate the human being that you've become. I think all of that was all tied together. And that Maybe I was hoping what lacked in my relationship [00:55:00] with my adopted mom would be what I would gain in my relationship from my natural birth mom. And so that was a lot to lose. That was just a big chunk of hope that may or may not have been completely misguided, but it was what I was hanging on to.

[00:55:20] Damon: Dora said she gets teary-eyed when she reflects on how elements of her reunion attempt could have gone better. She said, she's gotten to know a bit about her birth parents and has come to appreciate them, especially her birth mother who was widowed When Doris has maternal half-brother was young.

So she was a single mother. In a cruel irony. Single motherhood was what doors his birth mother was trying to avoid by placing her for adoption. But her husband's death put her in the same place. Yep. Being widowed is a way that society can accept a woman as a single mother, But not one single motherhood Is the result of premarital sex. Doris told me she [00:56:00] and her mother had a lot in common, Including their job history as house cleaners, the obscure brand of cigarettes Doris used to smoke before she quit How much they look like one another And how devoted they have both been to their sons.

Doris has even been told. She sounds just like her birth mother when she talks and they share mannerisms to. Our biological parents are undeniably genetically imprinted on us in myriad ways. Dora said there was no way she could have searched for her birth parents Before her adoptive mother's passing as the woman would have made things very bad for Doris.

[00:56:34] Doris: literally all hell would have broken loose.

She would have made my life miserable. I was her only child. So caring for her was, I mean, I always knew that was going to be my job and it was a difficult job and there's no way in heck I was going to make it even more difficult by saying, Oh, [00:57:00] well I'm going to Arizona now to meet this woman.


[00:57:04] Doris: I waited till, you know, my daddy died and then about a year, later, my mom finally passed.

that's when I started really looking and my mom passed. That was a

[00:57:16] Damon: catalyst for you. The freedom to finally do it. How old were you when she passed?

[00:57:21] Doris: I was 52

[00:57:23] Damon: maybe.

[00:57:24] Doris: But yeah, there was no way I couldn't. gosh, honestly, even the idea of even bringing up the subject to this day makes me like sweat, nervous sweat, because her reactions were so strong and So negative and she's, she was always very good at making people feel bad and I, I wasn't about to put myself and my family through that.

There's no way

and she was living here. She was living here with us, so it would have made all of [00:58:00] our lives, just an absolute misery. ,

[00:58:03] Damon: yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that's it. That's one of the challenges that Many adoptees faces that the adoptive family is a barrier to initiating a search. They've been told point blank.

We don't want you to do it. It'll feel like a betrayal. You should have forgotten about those people. Look at all that I've done for you. You know, there's all kinds of gaslighting sort of guilt tripping scenarios out there that prevent adoptees from feeling like they can or want to search. And just, you've said that she's been deceased for a while, but just the sitting here thinking about it now, even though she's well gone, you still get the physical reaction of what it would have been like to bring it up.

I mean, it's, it's clear that she had ingrained in you what. Her feeling was, and it was not a positive one towards you doing this. So I can understand exactly why you did it after she had passed [00:59:00] away. Wow.

[00:59:01] Doris: And she even said like, when I had mentioned it many years ago, saying, well, do you know where she is?

Do you know anything about her? my adoptive mom was like, no, I don't. And we were promised. That you would never know. So just stop asking.

[00:59:16] Damon: Wow.

[00:59:17] Doris: Yeah. that's where I have the hardest problem is knowing that my birth mom was promised that this was a sealed deal and there was no way I was ever going to find her then trying to find her

and going against what she was promised. That's a really hard thing to justify in your head because you don't want to cause anybody trouble. I didn't want to make my sisters feel like their dad kept a secret from them. That's the last thing I ever wanted to do, but I had waited so [01:00:00] long just to find out who he was.

it's hard. When you make a choice of my feelings are more important than your feelings.

[01:00:11] Damon: Yep.

[01:00:12] Doris: That's

[01:00:12] Damon: exactly what I was thinking. The choices between. You getting to know your history and origin story over his choice to not reveal that there is an alternate chapter in his story, far be it for you to place someone else's feelings and choices over your own, right?

That's, it's totally unfair.

[01:00:36] Doris: I'm, I am the, the type of person who will almost always put everyone else first. I always have been, so that made it even more difficult because I would constantly put myself in my sister's place or in their dad's, our dad's place. How would I feel if somebody did this? [01:01:00] Or how would I feel if somebody told me that?

And then that just starts, everything starts rolling around in your brain. And I really want to know, but I don't want to screw up their life. And what if. You know, what if this unleashes some massive falling rock of information that just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger? And it's interesting because 1 of the good things finding everybody did.

Was a fellow on 23 and me reached out to me and it turns out on my mom, my birth mom's side of the family, one of my great aunts gave him up for adoption and he'd always wanted a brother and his. Brother who was raised as an only child with this aunt always wanted a brother and they found each other because I was registered on 23 and me.

[01:01:53] Damon: Oh wow. That's really cool. It

[01:01:56] Doris: was super cool. And they had a big family reunion and they invited [01:02:00] me and I went back to Minnesota and met him and they both have said how grateful they were that I went ahead and did the 23 and me and made myself approachable so that they were able to find each other because they have a fabulous relationship.

So that makes it, even though I didn't get the tidy little dream answer that I wanted, I'm so happy for them and that they got what they wanted and that they get along and they enjoy each other. And cause that's the other thing. What if you find these people and they're horrible?

[01:02:39] Damon: You don't get along with 'em, what do you do?

Yeah. Or

[01:02:41] Doris: what if they need money or what if they're criminals or whatever, then you know, I always joke about that I never had a health history and now that I have one I wish I didn't . Yeah,

[01:02:53] Damon: that's, that's an interesting challenge. A lot of adoptees are like, damn, I wish I didn't know this now. You know what I mean?

Yeah. It's, yeah, it's kind of, I could have been living

[01:02:59] Doris: [01:03:00] my best life, not worrying about dropping dead at 70, like more than half of my family members have done, because Yeah. You know, that's not too far away.

[01:03:10] Damon: But you also get the opportunity to take better care of yourself than they did if they were living in that ignorance.

So it is, it's a, it's a sort of six, one half dozen of the, yeah.

[01:03:21] Doris: Funny. There's a lot of things that people don't think about when it comes to finding where you came from that we have to think about because. We do have choices, you know, I had the choice to pursue it or not. And if I chose to pursue it, then I have to live with what I find.

[01:03:43] Damon: Yeah, that's exactly right. Wow. Doris, this has been unbelievable. I'm so sorry for how it turned out. I just, I cannot imagine that it would be, I think it would crush so many people, but knowing that you were [01:04:00] going in with the possibility of rejection. Probably stealed you for some pretty traumatic experience, whatever it was going to be, and unfortunately it was her demise and I just I can't even imagine what it would be like to know that you had been standing outside and she was probably in there and she

[01:04:20] Doris: was in there and

[01:04:22] Damon: had been if you had been just a little bit earlier, this would have changed things.

So I'm sorry for that, but I appreciate you being here with me. This is us. This was a really, really fascinating. I gotta say, and what I loved is what you started with. You said basically what you expressed to me was this has been a net positive. And I think that that is super important

[01:04:44] Doris: it has been. And had I not done this search, my circle of people would not have grown so beautifully as it has. This has given me such a huge opportunity to [01:05:00] meet some of the most interesting, imaginative, brilliant people that I've ever met in my life. so that's probably my reason when people say there's a reason for everything.

My reason for this is, I've been able to share my life with people like you that I never would have met probably otherwise. I got to share my story in a documentary. I got to meet other people who participated in that documentary that I never would have met. So, I mean, there's just so many other.

wonderful things that have sprung out of the fact I couldn't find my birth mom.

[01:05:46] Damon: You're absolutely right. it's like the classic thing they say, when one door closes, another one opens. So thank you, Doris, for taking time. Thank you,

[01:05:53] Doris: Damon. I really enjoyed

[01:05:57] Damon: Thank you so much. I appreciate your openness.

This [01:06:00] was really cool. And something in what you've said is going to help somebody else. So thank you.

[01:06:04] Doris: I hope so. Thank you.

[01:06:06] Damon: Take care. I'll talk to you another day.

[01:06:07] Doris: Okay.

[01:06:08] Damon: Bye bye.

[01:06:09] Doris: Bye.

Hey, it's me. Doors grew up feeling out of place in her adoptive family and was reminded that she was adopted As she was under appreciated for who she is by her adoptive mother. Doris chose to try to meet her birth mother face to face, to prevent the woman from rejecting her via the protection of corresponding through remote means. But Doris lived the experience of what so many adopted people fear that when she found her birth mother, it would be too late. Uh, Doris is the most stark example I have ever heard of that fear becoming reality as she knocked on the woman's door, only hours after she had died. Dora said she has overcome some of the wounds from her tragic loss with the passage of time.

[01:06:59] Damon: And [01:07:00] that while the outcome was far from what she had hoped for, It was oddly better than having her birth mother reject her face to face. Doris told me after the interview that it is each adopt these choice as to when we choose to search.

When Doris is asked about When to search. She always urges people that if they truly feel the need to meet their birth, parents do not put it off because you don't know what can happen tomorrow. However, if you choose to wait and unfortunately the person you're looking for leaves us prior to reunion. Try not to beat yourself up because Hopefully you made the decision not to search.

That was right for you and your family, as it was for Doris to avoid the drama of her adoptive mother's anger and tears.

As Dora sees things for herself, the universe may somehow have been protecting her from the ongoing heartbreak of adoption reunion rejection, and the universe may be taking care of you too. The documentary Doris's featured in is called reckoning with the [01:08:00] primal wound.

It is a moving account of adoptee experiences, including that of the film's director and featured adoptee, autumn Sansom. You can find more information about the I'm Damon Davis. And to hope you found something endorsers journey that inspired you. Validate your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have the strength along your journey to learn. Who am I really.

That was great. Well done.

[01:08:32] Doris: Okay.

[01:08:34] Damon: All that, isn't it? I know

[01:08:35] Doris: it is. This is the first time I think I've done one where I didn't cry.

[01:08:40] Damon: Well, good for you.

[01:08:42] Doris: Yeah,

[01:08:43] Damon: it takes a while. There's times when I can do it and I don't cry and there's times when I, I don't even tell the full story and I get teary. It's crazy how it takes over you.

I want to ask you one thing that we didn't touch on, but that I have found is really common. Do you go through your life expecting that everybody [01:09:00] in your life is just going to ditch you at some point?

[01:09:03] Damon: You know, I don't, but I have heard that from a gang of guests it's not everybody though.

There's definitely a lot of folks who have said that they ultimately realized that they sabotage relationships because that's what's in the back of their mind, that they expect that people are going to ditch them. So let me get out of here first. Let me push them away before they have a chance to reject me.

I've heard that multiple times.

[01:09:29] Doris: It was funny. Cause when we were at the premiere of the film and we were doing the Q and A afterwards, I'm up on the stage and somebody asked about how I would have felt if she had rejected me or whatever.

And I said, well, I can't speak for everybody else, but it wouldn't surprise me at all. I said, my husband loves me dearly. We've been married, together almost 40 years. If he turned around tomorrow and said, I'm done. I'm out. I'd be shattered, but I wouldn't be surprised [01:10:00] and every woman on that stage with me said, Oh my God, this exactly this.

when my friends, my close friends, when I mentioned it and I'm like, I know you're never going to ditch out on me, but if you don't return my call or if you don't return my text. Within an hour, I'm sitting here stewing over. Is she mad at me?

[01:10:23] Damon: Yeah.

[01:10:25] Doris: Oh my gosh. It it's gotta be the worst part of it for me.

[01:10:29] Damon: Yeah. I'm sorry. That's rough. And I know a lot of people go through it. It's crazy.

[01:10:34] Doris: It is crazy. Cause I mean, on the flip side of it, I'm a great friend. So why, why would they do that? But it's still there, you know,

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