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233 – Coming to a Place of Peace

Lena, from just north of Tampa, Florida grew up surrounded by adoptees. However, as she got older, Lena began to feel how different she was. While working toward her degree in social work, Lena’s studies unexpectedly led her down the path to reunion. While her birth father has been nothing but supportive, Lena said she can’t force a maternal reunion with someone who has not healed yet herself.

This is Lena’s journey. ​ 

Who Am I Really?

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Transcript

233 – Coming to a Place of Peace

[00:00:00]

Cold Cut Intro

[00:00:03] Lena: I don't Need someone that's gonna drain me or that's not ready to enter into that space or that conversation like I couldn't support her if she was going through Something that she couldn't handle like I can't enter in reunion with someone who's not healed who's not doing well I can't help someone else.

[00:00:20] Lena: I'm not gonna sacrifice my own mental physical spiritual emotional health for someone who's not there. I'm not going to pull someone through or drag someone through or, try and carry them or fix them.

Show Open

[00:00:31] Damon: I'm [00:01:00] Damon Davis. And today you're going to hear from Lena.

[00:01:02] Damon: From just north of Tampa, Florida. Lena grew up surrounded by adoptees, but as she got older, she began to feel how different she was while working toward her degree. In social work. Lena's studies unexpectedly led her down the path to reunion. While her birth father has been nothing but supportive. Lena said she can't force a maternal reunion with someone who has not healed yet herself.

[00:01:26] Damon: This is Lena's journey.

[00:01:29] Damon: Lena was raised with the positive narrative that she was chosen. And adoption is a positive thing for her and their family. Lena was told she was special. Her family also had friends and family members who also adopted children in long island, New York, where she grew up.

[00:01:46] Damon: Lena said it's possible. They may have used similar adoption agencies and the families with adoptees all seem to work together to help one another.

[00:01:55] Lena: it was very normal, considering how abnormal I would [00:02:00] feel as I got older, but it was very normalized as a child.

[00:02:03] Lena: And very much accepted and very much something to be proud of or excited, something that made you special, that kind of scenario.

[00:02:11] Damon: Yeah, that's really unique, actually, because it's not often that I hear people say that they were surrounded by adoption also, right? That, that they were told about it and they accepted it, but they didn't necessarily know a lot of people around them.

[00:02:25] Damon: But it sounds like. , your entire family and community was just comfortable with the notion of what adoption is and what it can mean. That's really fascinating.

[00:02:32] Lena: Yeah, there was at least two, I know, three, there was three families, but at least two that we were very close with, and I was actually the only same race adoptee out of all of those families, like all of the other families that we grew up with had transracial adoptions, different countries, , so it was very cool and some families were blended, like some, one of the families that we knew had biological and adopted children.

[00:02:56] Lena: Yeah, As well. So it was a very cool experience. I [00:03:00] think it helped me feel not as isolated or different, growing up, which was actually pretty, , unique, like you said, pretty cool.

[00:03:08] Damon: May I ask, given your comfortability with adoption in, in all of its various forms from a younger age, how do you think that impacted how you view the world and accept other people?

[00:03:21] Lena: Well, I actually ended up becoming a social worker because I like that. Kind of view of the world and that kind of accepting people and understanding people and their different perspectives I think that had an impact on what I chose to do with my life for sure And it I really felt like I had a more not rounded But I guess varied experience right like it was definitely a different experience Then I would have you know in a different scenario

[00:03:50] Damon: That's really fascinating. Yeah, I could see how it would drive you towards your chosen career path. Right? That's

[00:03:56] Lena: exactly like being a helper, understanding the differences, helping people [00:04:00] that were, treated differently or viewed differently by the world because all these people are my friends, Family, my colleagues, like, yeah, they were all very, it was very natural to me to have that environment.

[00:04:11] Lena: Yeah.

[00:04:12] Damon: Gotcha. Will you tell me a little bit about what your family life was like? Did you look like your adoptive family? Did you have similar behaviors, mannerisms and interests? Tell me how you were like and how you were different.

[00:04:27] Lena: I definitely looked the most like my adoptive family out of all of that crew that I described of, those of us that were together.

[00:04:35] Lena: I have the same color eyes as my adoptive mom, and so everyone's like, oh, you guys both have blue eyes. And my family is musical, my adoptive family is musical. And I think, That's how, part of like when they give their description, when they, go to the adoption agency, they put some of those things in there.

[00:04:51] Lena: So I, I definitely resembled them enough to be walking down the street and people don't necessarily question it. So I felt similar in the [00:05:00] sense that I didn't feel like I looked different but I definitely felt different just the way I acted, the way I would feel things, the way I experienced things was very different.

[00:05:11] Lena: And that I am. farer skinned and my complexion is very different, but it was not different enough to make a huge difference walking down the street. A couple times I would have kids in school that would say, Oh, are those your grandparents? Because my parents were quite different. a few years older than me, like the normal parents would have been at that age.

[00:05:30] Lena: So I got that a little bit. So , that would be like a big difference. And I think I just, the older I got, I just experienced things different. I definitely believe it's nature and nurture, and it's a little bit of both. But I just, as I got a little bit older, started to feel like I don't have the same response.

[00:05:46] Lena: I don't have the same reaction. I don't have the same necessarily beliefs. Like I don't Have the same view of the world. And some of that I think was generational because there were two generations older than me, but I also think some of it was, nature versus nurture in that [00:06:00] sense.

[00:06:00] Damon: Yeah.

[00:06:01] Damon: You used a word, I think you said you experienced things differently. What did you mean by that?

[00:06:07] Lena: I guess we could both be in the same situation and I have a different reaction than someone else, right? , or we would both be having the same conversation. And I would feel differently after the conversation, like, even when people, describe adoption or describe, my situation, they would, everyone would talk about me and say, Oh, this is wonderful.

[00:06:29] Lena: She's adopted. It's so great, blah, blah. And I would be smiling and nodding and agreeing with them, but I would, Inside, internally, I would be experiencing like, yes, it's good, but there's other pieces to it, right? Like, there's another view or there's another side of things, right? And so even in just interactions with families or, going places or doing things that my family was like, oh, you enjoy this, right?

[00:06:52] Lena: And I would say, oh, yeah, because I was the compliant, people pleaser. And then, but internally, I might, that may not be what I was [00:07:00] actually feeling in that sense. So it was a different experience on my end.

[00:07:04] Damon: Yeah. Did you have other instances where you had that people pleasing mentality or other experiences along those lines?

[00:07:13] Damon: I can't, do you have other, I had about

[00:07:14] Lena: 39 years.

[00:07:16] Damon: Really say more.

[00:07:18] Lena: Yes. Well, so for my 40th birthday, I gave up people pleasing. So I'm, very excited. I, I never understood why I could like work with groups of people or be really good. I always had, I was easy to get along with. I had lots of different friends from different, groups of people.

[00:07:35] Lena: people or experiences and I, could always get people to work together and I could never figure out why and then I was like, oh, that's because I'm a people pleaser and I can figure out what everybody needs to do to be happy and I can do it and then they're all happy and I brought them all, together in that scenario.

[00:07:51] Lena: I, I see it at work, I see it in, volunteer things. I've seen it like all over myself throughout the years, but I didn't realize it until the last like [00:08:00] two or three years when I started to kind of, look internally at myself.

[00:08:04] Damon: That is so fascinating. So, yes, definitely

[00:08:07] Lena: a people pleaser in recovery.

I would love to hear about what was your relationship like with your adoptive mother? And then what was your relationship like with? Your adoptive father as well.

[00:08:19] Lena: It was a very typical, normal childhood. I was very shy. So I definitely clung to my adoptive mother a lot when I was young.

[00:08:26] Lena: And I was very shy and I was the compliant overachieving had to do everything right. But I, I can't, , I can't say anything negative. Everything was absolutely wonderful. We have wonderful relationships. They were amazing. They always put me first. They were very, loving. I never had any if you were concerned, as I got older, I started to be less shy and and be less clingy to her.

[00:08:48] Lena: I just I do remember there's tons of pictures of me growing up like hiding behind her, hiding behind her legs, very shy, very timid out of all of our, friends and and family and everything like that. But I am very [00:09:00] blessed. I know not everyone has that experience. So I'm very lucky and I feel very grateful to have had an amazingly positive childhood.

[00:09:09] Damon: That's really cool. Yeah. How about with your adoptive father? What was your relationship like with him?

[00:09:15] Lena: Yeah, just very normal, very typical. My adoptive mom was a stay at home mom, so you know, he was the working parent in this scenario, but we have a very good relationship. We are, funny enough, I feel like my personality is very similar to his, so I think I took some personality traits from him for sure on the nurture part of things.

[00:09:33] Lena: We're both very easygoing, we both really care about our family. We both would do anything to make anybody in our family happy. So like, I definitely feel like my personality is most like his. And we, butt heads as typical teenagers and, things like that. But it was very, loving, very normal.

[00:09:49] Lena: Like, I'm, like I said, I'm very blessed. I'm very grateful.

[00:09:52] Damon: When Lena was in college, she had decided to go to school to be a social worker. She knew she wanted to help people [00:10:00] and Lena even thought she wanted to work in the fields of foster care and adoption. She said she was still in the fog, not realizing what adoption truly meant at a deeper level. Lena admits.

[00:10:12] Damon: She knew there were good parts to adoption and challenging issues associated with it, but she wasn't fully grasping the complexity of adoption. In one of her intro classes, Lena was tasked with writing a paper about adoption, but back then, without the restrictions of sourcing her content, she went to the adoption.com website to get articles and dig deep into the message boards. Lena decided to join the adoption reunion registry there for herself, because she was always curious about her own adoption. When she was a kid and Lena inquired with her adoptive parents about her birth family. She said her parents would kind of dissuade her from thinking about her adoption too deeply because she was with them and things were fine. But still Leena was curious and being away at college allowed her to [00:11:00] explore her identity more Away from the pressures to push down her thoughts.

[00:11:04] Lena:

[00:11:04] Lena: So I put my information into that website and I actually was found by my paternal aunt and my biological father within like a week, I think.

[00:11:14] Damon: Wow,

[00:11:14] Damon: is that right? You're one of the first people that I've heard that have said that they put their information into any kind of search and reunion website and that you were reunited via that, those means.

[00:11:27] Damon: That's incredible.

[00:11:28] Lena: Yes, and this is true. 23 years ago, 22 years ago now. And so it was very basic, right? So the chances of it lining up and everything were

[00:11:39] Damon: That's unbelievable. Wow.

[00:11:42] Damon: Tell me what her outreach to you or vice versa was. , how was that first interaction? , what was the connection that was made between you?

[00:11:52] Lena: So oddly enough, I have gaps in my memory because I disassociated through [00:12:00] a lot of those big events when I was young. I don't, I know from what people tell me and I remember pieces of it.

[00:12:10] Lena: So I thought it was a wrong connection because we had like different cities on there. I put like the city where my birth certificate said I was born, but she had put like the city where they currently live, which is one town over, one city over. It wasn't like a huge thing, but I didn't know anything.

[00:12:28] Lena: So I was like, Oh, maybe this isn't right. So I think. At first, I remember thinking it was a wrong connection and then my roommates from college took over because , I obviously couldn't process any of it and so they took over and had kind of started, looking at things and answering and I must have exchanged an email with her at some point, I guess, but then she contacted my biological dad, her brother and then we started exchanging emails from that and The internet was not, I mean, not that it's a great place now, but it [00:13:00] was, it was very unknown then.

[00:13:01] Lena: And so I was like, well, how do we know that this is, people, this is not just some random person. Right. We were skeptical and we were always told, don't meet strangers on the , internet. Now it's like a commonplace thing. Now you meet someone and sell your couch on the internet.

[00:13:14] Lena: Right. Like

[00:13:15] Damon: that's the truth.

[00:13:16] Lena: So, but back then it was very like new and leery. So we were like, well, how do we know that this is the people? And so the moment that I knew was. I don't remember if he emailed it to us or if he told us on the phone, but again, I was my roommates and he read the description of my adoptive parents.

[00:13:35] Lena: Like when they chose them, they had, descriptions from the adoption agency of the parents that they were choosing and he read the description and it was yes. My adoptive parents like a hundred percent. It didn't have their names, but I the description I knew like it was them

[00:13:51] Damon: So the even the de identified description of your adoptive parents, it was really clear.

[00:13:56] Damon: Yeah, this guy's a hundred

[00:13:57] Lena: percent Yeah, there was no question like [00:14:00] my stomach just dropped and I was like, oh, that's it. There's no there's no way that it's wrong Yeah,

[00:14:05] Damon: and it's interesting I'm picking up some things in your story that you're talking about a paternal connection, which was not what I anticipated Anticipated And you said when we chose your parents, it sounded like he was involved in the story.

[00:14:21] Damon: So I'm looking forward to getting to that piece. But before we get there, tell me more about, this first interact. How did you even get on the phone with him or like, was he doing this through your roommates who were fielding the calls for you? What was the,

[00:14:34] Lena: yes. They were at first.

[00:14:36] Lena: I think from what he tells me now, I think my roommate pretended to be me on the phone to protect me just to make sure that it wasn't like a creep. Like my roommates are awesome. They were very protective of me. They were very invested in my story and my, I must have been scared.

[00:14:54] Lena: I mean, I'm a very, As I've grown older, I'm, so I'm ultra independent. I got one of those [00:15:00] lovely side effects of being adopted, so super independent, don't need anybody's help, I can do it all myself kind of thing, and so I think they saw that, like, their ultra independent roommate was, like, Freezing.

[00:15:10] Lena: Like, she, they're like, what, what, if she doesn't know what to do, what are we gonna do? Cause she always knows what to do, so I think they saw me kind of like, unhinged, and they were like, alright, we're gonna take care of her. Which was, very sweet, and I'm friends with some of them still to this day.

[00:15:23] Lena: So I think, from what I rem, from what I was told, I think my roommate got on the phone first, and then once they confirmed that it wasn't like some random, creepy person, they put me on the phone, but I don't remember any of it. None. I completely disassociated. I have no memory of it.

[00:15:39] Damon: So you don't remember speaking with him at all?

[00:15:43] Lena: No, I mean, I know we spoke, but I don't remember any of it. And it's, I mean, I'm sad, but I'm lucky enough to still be in reunion and have a great relationship now. So, but yeah, none of that I have, I will not be able to ever tell that part of my story from my personal point of view.

[00:15:59] Lena: Experience.

[00:15:59] Damon: [00:16:00] Yeah. But you know what? That's okay. Because one of the big challenges that we have is that this is such a massive, massive moment that it's hard to capture it all. I've often said the same thing that when I went to speak with my biological mother for the first time, I'm here surprising her at her office.

[00:16:18] Damon: She doesn't know I'm coming. It's her birthday coincidentally, and I'm totally emotional, like burst out in tears when I see her for the first time. And we went out to lunch and I've often said. I wish I could tell you I hung on every word she said. I don't remember a single thing we talked about. Not a word.

[00:16:36] Damon: I was just marveling at the fact that I'm looking at my face on another person and I've actually found this woman.

[00:16:44] Lena: Yeah. I remember reading that in your book too. And I was like, Oh my gosh, this is so fast. How do you have time to like, make sense of all of that? Yeah.

[00:16:50] Damon: Totally. Yeah. So I'm, I'm with you 100 percent on that disassociation piece because I think it's just, It's so incredibly impactful that I [00:17:00] don't think your brain can take it all in at one time.

[00:17:02] Damon: It's just unreal.

[00:17:03] Lena: Yep. Yeah. And I think that that's a safety mechanism. Now as a social worker and a licensed counselor, I understand that, yeah, my brain went into safety mode and cause it couldn't process handle, didn't know what to do with. And so that was the place it always went when it got overwhelmed and yeah I went there and that was, yeah.

[00:17:21] na: Yeah,

[00:17:22] Lena: I did forgot to mention my failed piece of it. I had at some point, I think during that communication on adoption. com, like in that thing, when we had first connected, I had said, let me see if I can confirm things. And so I ended up calling like the agency that, I was adopted from to see if they could confirm any of this information as it was going on.

[00:17:44] Lena: I do remember this and actually I haven't remembered this in years. Just to see if maybe they can give me other non identifying information that would confirm, what I was, what they were telling me from the adoption. com website. Again, just wanting to be ultra safe and making sure that I wasn't, connecting [00:18:00] with random strangers that were not, part of my story or my family tree and they sent back a letter or they called me back and said which I now know thanks to podcasts and books.

[00:18:11] Lena: I had no idea this was. I believe this story up until two years ago. They said that all the records burned in a fire and they couldn't send me anything.

[00:18:19] Damon: Mm hmm. There have been more fires and floods in the adoption community than in any other community on the planet.

[00:18:25] Lena: And I believed that until I was 38 years old.

[00:18:28] Lena: I had no idea. Like, I was like, oh, that's so horrible. Like, how How horrible of a, situation that this all burned down and it's just my luck and I literally had no idea until I entered the adoption community and started listening to podcasts like yours or reading memoirs and go, Oh my gosh, there's burned down in a fire too.

[00:18:50] Lena: And then I talked to a therapist and an adoptee coach and they were like, it didn't burn in a fire and I was like, what, what are you talking about?

[00:18:57] Damon: And that's one of the interesting things about where we're [00:19:00] coming from. We're searching for truth. And so we have to take whatever people give us.

[00:19:05] Damon: And so why would you question it? Because it's not, it's not like you've been through adoption reunion before, and you can go, well, the last time I went through adoption reunion, someone said there's a fire. So I'm a little suspicious of you telling me this now, like you just don't have any level of comparative analysis to do, because it's such a unique experience , you're processing so much.

[00:19:24] Damon: You've never been through it before. It's not like buying a car where you can be like, well, the last time I was at the dealership, you know what I'm saying? You just don't have that frame of reference. So, I think a lot of adoptees do get duped through that piece of understanding that, they just don't want to tell you.

[00:19:42] Damon: And they are, they're trying to protect themselves or they don't feel like going through the effort or whatever it is, but you know, that, that floor or someone pays

[00:19:49] Lena: them to tell you that it got, it got destroyed in a fire.

[00:19:53] Damon: That's right. It's, it's so crazy. So what happens next for you? And. Well, let me pause for a [00:20:00] quick moment.

[00:20:00] Damon: I want to just clarify something really fast. Was adoption. com the only method that you utilize to try to initiate your search?

[00:20:08] Lena: Yeah, yeah, and it was strictly an accident in the sense of I was doing the research for school and, the thing popped up and said, Oh, do you want to register? And I was like, Oh, yeah, sure.

[00:20:19] Lena: And then, and that's how it all went through there. I didn't contact the adoption agency until after. They had found me or we had connected because I was trying to confirm, the connection or see if I could get information that would back that up.

[00:20:32] Damon: That's unbelievable. You're doing accidental research and accidentally found your biological family.

[00:20:37] Damon: That's incredible.

[00:20:38] Damon: At school in Florida, Lena and her birth father emailed back and forth and spoke on the phone once or twice. I'm sure you can imagine. She doesn't remember much about those conversations. One day in the computer lab in her sophomore year, Lena received an email from her birth father indicating he had created a website dedicated to their [00:21:00] reunion. The site featured a beautifully written letter, sharing their story, showing how much he had been concerned about his long lost daughter and his joy for their reunion.

[00:21:10] Lena: and I remember, , just this. feeling I had never felt before. Like it was, it was just incredible to feel it. And I was so moved. But do I know what it says? No, did I? Like, I don't remember any of that, but I remember the feeling. So I was like, hey, at least, at least I had the feeling. , I'm getting better than forgetting the entire situation.

[00:21:30] Damon: Lena and her friends had made plans for their spring break to drive from Florida up to New Jersey to meet her birth father in person. Lena and her two roommates packed up their cramps, little Toyota Corolla and set out for the 20 hour drive north. While there was music and laughter there was no Google maps and Lena was the only one who could stay awake at first.

[00:21:51] Damon: So she did most of the driving. When Lena was finally able to go to sleep and let someone else take the wheel. She woke up in [00:22:00] Virginia at the dreaded interstate 95 exchange that we locals refer to as the mixing bowl. For the uninitiated driving on this highway Without the voice.

[00:22:09] Damon: prompts have a navigation app to guide her roommate and lots of confusing signs. It was easy to get lost and they were.

[00:22:17] Lena: So

[00:22:17] Lena: I remember getting lost, we got lost in Virginia, or D. C., somewhere in there. And I woke up, and my roommates were like, told into someone's house and this lady was offering them soda and directions and like telling us how to get back to where we were going.

[00:22:31] Lena: So that was hysterical. That was, that was the core memory of the trip. And I do remember, and I still see the building now when I go, we stopped at a, it was an Eckerd drugstore because we had driven through the night, like no hotel. We were broke college students. So we said just gas and food and we're going, and we had driven through the night and we got to this like Eckerd drugstore on the edge of town.

[00:22:52] Lena: And I was like, we better stop. Like we look like heck and we are all, we got to brush our teeth. Like, I'm like, I gotta change my [00:23:00] clothes. I need some deodorant.

[00:23:01] na: Yeah, exactly.

[00:23:02] Lena: Exactly. So I remember that. I remember we stopped at the drugstore. We all went in the bathroom together and did our hair and our makeup and, whatever you could do to like freshen up before going.

[00:23:12] Lena: So I remember that. And then I remember pulling into the, to his house, but then the rest of that was kind of a blur.

[00:23:22] Damon: What do you, do you recall your emotions pulling into his house at all?

[00:23:25] Lena: I think I was mostly nervous and anxious. That was my main set of emotions for the first, probably, 30 years of my life.

[00:23:32] Lena: Like, I mean, I know there was happiness in there, too, but my default go to was always anxiety. And, and nervousness. I was a nervous Nelly. I was a nail biter. I was always very anxious and nervous. So I think I was really nervous and overwhelmed. And I think, my body went in a self protect mode again and just turned itself off.

[00:23:49] Lena: So,

[00:23:50] Damon: yeah, I can imagine. Well, even if you can't remember, what have people told you about your reunion with your biological father? Do you, do you, [00:24:00] have you heard the stories of Did you go up to the door by yourself? Did you, tell me a little bit about what you know?

[00:24:05] Lena: I, yeah, I know he, he, what, he came out, they have like a deck on the back.

[00:24:09] Lena: So he came out, he fell to his knees, he was so excited. Wow. I think I went up together with my friends. I'm sure they were probably right behind me, but , they didn't leave me. They knew not to leave me until I was comfortable. So, I know they were with me and and then, , the rest of the family was waiting inside, , his mom and his sister, and I think there was some other, I think his dad was either there or he came shortly after, and I know I came into the house and my aunt that had found me had made me, scrapbook with the family tree and they showed me pictures of everybody and who's who and and everything like that And then the part that I do remember, so this was definitely my favorite piece of it So sd when I was growing up as an only child in my adoptive family, I always wanted siblings I wanted nothing more in the entire world than siblings That's [00:25:00] exact like I and I would always feel like I was meant to be a sister I want siblings, I saw everybody else that has siblings, and I just, because I felt alone a lot, and I didn't know if it was because I was an only child or because I just felt alone being an adoptee and just not connecting or relating as much.

[00:25:18] Lena: So, we got to pick up my siblings from school. So I got in the car, and we, like, Like, two cars. It took two carloads of people to go pick up my siblings from school so that I could meet them. And that was, like, that part I remember. And we have a picture of, like, my first hug with my brother and my sister.

[00:25:36] Lena: I have two brothers and one sister on his side of the family. So I remember going there to their school, picking them up from their schools, getting back in the car with them. Like that was the most exciting. That was, I do remember that. And it was very exciting. It was probably my favorite moment.

[00:25:50] Damon: That's really cool. Cause yeah, that is a very fulfilling thing. This is something you've wanted since you were a young person. And now here you are older college age and you get [00:26:00] to actually have the siblings that you've longed for. That's incredible.

[00:26:04] Lena: And they were like eight, 10 and 12. So they were still young.

[00:26:08] Damon: You were a surprise to them. Do you know?

[00:26:10] Lena: Yes, they didn't, , they didn't know, but him, my biological dad and his ex wife told them before, obviously I showed up, but they didn't tell them until he had found me.

[00:26:22] Damon: Wow. That's amazing. Huh. That's really cool. What a wonderful scene. That must've been so cool for you to stand there.

[00:26:29] Damon: Cause these are elementary school kids and

[00:26:31] Lena: middle school. They were very excited. It was, yeah, definitely the coolest moment.

[00:26:36] Damon: What do you recall about How you and your birth father interacted with each other. Did you see elements of yourself in him? Did you have mannerisms? Tell me a little bit about , your interactions with him.

[00:26:49] Lena: So I think the first like years I really was focusing on the kids and I didn't. , I felt conflicted. I have parents and I didn't [00:27:00] understand, like, where he fit in in my story. And so, a lot of it was for the kids. I remember always sharing stuff with him , and telling stuff, but I didn't, I felt uncomfortable trying to figure out where he felt fit in my puzzle.

[00:27:13] Lena: And so, I focused on the kids for, , the first probably five or six years. And we would go on vacations and I would spend time with the kids , and stuff like that. People around us would Who knew, , him when he was younger, and my biological mother when she was younger. , some of them would look at me like they'd seen a ghost, And that was kind of weird for me, because I had never, , looked like people that I was around. And so everyone would always say they could see a resemblance, but again, I think I was just, disassociating and not necessarily My brain wasn't okay to kind of figure all that out until I got much older.

[00:27:46] Lena: So now this is 22 years later. Yeah, we think alike we have very similar brains. We joke that like from the top half up, , I'm their side of the family. Like you can see like my nose and my ears and [00:28:00] my. We definitely have similar eyes.

[00:28:02] Lena: it's funny, like when I visit and I spend time there, I don't know how to explain it, but , your instinct, like I'm going to reach for this or like,, we don't bump into each other when I'm there. Like, we all just kind of function, it kind of just works. So it's just really cool to see.

[00:28:16] Lena: Yes. And I never had that experience, for the first 20 something years. So. It was really cool.

[00:28:22] Damon: That's really fascinating that, can you explain a little more of what that feeling that you had then in your adoptive family? Like once you saw it in your biological family and you went back to experience your adoptive family, how did you flow less effectively together in your adoptive family?

[00:28:40] Lena: I, I guess I just saw the difference in the sense of Things started to click and I realized, oh, well, that's why, you know, I didn't think that way. I didn't act that way. and maybe it was my perspective changed in the sense of I started to notice the differences more and I started to notice that that's not how I would do something or how I would [00:29:00] react or even the way you think, that kind of thing, like some of those things turn out to be nature, not nurture, so it was just more prominent.

[00:29:08] Lena: I don't actually spend as much time, the only adoptive family now that I really see are my adoptive parents because a lot of my adoptive family is farther away and a lot of them have passed on. I was the youngest and so there's not as many family members left, but I just remember feeling more awkward and, and it just being more awkward.

[00:29:28] Lena: Like I felt like I didn't fit in. Maybe I did, but I just didn't feel like I did. I. I felt accepted and loved. I just felt different in that sense.

[00:29:37] Damon: That's really interesting. Wow. So what did you learn about your chapter one? The reason that you were placed for adoption from your paternal side of the family?

[00:29:50] Damon: What was the situation that they conveyed to you?

[00:29:53] Lena: So my biological parents were young. My mom was, I think, 17 and my biological dad was [00:30:00] 19 or 20. and her family was not supportive of, wanting to help raise a baby, anything like that. they were in love. They were in a relationship.

[00:30:10] Lena: Like there was, it was very caring. They cared about each other. They cared about me. But their families were both going through things that, like neither of them were able to support them, to raise a child at that time. And, and I'm assuming. That it was kind of pressured in that sense to place a baby for adoption at that point, but I, it wasn't that they didn't want to, it was just that they couldn't at the time.

[00:30:36] Lena: They just couldn't make things work. They couldn't between her family, not being supportive and his family, just having some stuff going on of their own personal lives that they couldn't at that time. So

[00:30:45] Damon: I gotcha. And is it your understanding that they wanted to keep you?

[00:30:52] Lena: Yes. If they could have, it's my understanding that they would have, but it just financially.

[00:30:58] Lena: it. It just wasn't okay, [00:31:00]

[00:31:00] Damon: when lena and her birth father first started corresponding. She asked about her birth mother's identity. The man had kept in loose contact with his ex-girlfriend from his youth and shared that if Lena wanted to mail him a letter, he would forward it on to her birth mother to respect her privacy during their introductory period.

[00:31:19] Damon: So Lena sat down to craft her thoughts into how she wanted to introduce herself.

[00:31:25] Damon: I

[00:31:25] Lena: wrote

[00:31:25] Lena: the letter The big letter that everybody writes and that was 20 something years ago. I Included a picture of myself, my email address, my address, because in college you move a lot and roommates and stuff so I put like my email address and my current address at college, but I knew that would change and And sent it off and heard nothing.

[00:31:47] Damon: So you sent it to him, he sent it to her, and he sent it to her.

[00:31:52] Lena: Nope, nothing.

[00:31:53] Damon: Wow. And how long did that go on for?

[00:31:57] Lena: Oh, 17 years.

[00:31:58] Damon: [00:32:00] Really? So, did you ask him about her periodically throughout? Like, hey, have you heard anything? Like, I know you probably didn't want to pressure him about her, but he was your conduit to her.

[00:32:10] Damon: So, how did you manage that?

[00:32:11] Lena: Right, right. So, he, he reached out to her via phone, I believe, once to try You know, say, hey, did you get the letter? Blah, blah, blah. And she, said, I can't talk to you, whatever, and ended the call, from my understanding. And then she used to send Christmas cards to my biological aunt.

[00:32:33] Lena: With pictures of her kids who are my half siblings as well. But conveniently, once they found me, the Christmas card stopped as well.

[00:32:43] Damon: So she

[00:32:44] Lena: kind of just went, yeah, radio silence. And yeah, I mean, he would tell me anything I wanted to know. He was, 100 percent an open book. And, as we got closer and throughout the years, he would tell me more things, you know, as he took me to meet some other friends that [00:33:00] knew her and him.

[00:33:01] Lena: And then it was, it was really cool. I remember one trip, I was up there and the, he took me to one of their friend's houses and they had like old photo albums and the, his friend actually gave me one of the pictures that, that was, she was in it because that's all I have. I have nothing except, a couple photos from, What they've given me, like he had some photos, his mom had some photos, and then his friend had a photo that they gave me, so that was really cool to have, something, some glimpse of my history.

[00:33:27] Damon: did you see yourself in her when you looked at those pictures?

[00:33:31] Lena: Yes, there is like a prom photo where she's like laughing and the side of her head, like her side profile. That was the creepiest thing to me, like in the sense of like, Oh my gosh, I've seen that expression on my own face in pictures.

[00:33:43] Lena: So it was a very cool moment, like, goosebumps.

[00:33:46] Damon: Mm hmm. Very good. Wow. So you said for 17 years, you didn't hear anything. Did anything ever change in terms of trying to actually make a connection to her? Mm hmm.

[00:33:58] Lena: So [00:34:00] I well, there's a backstory to what happened at the 17 year mark. So throughout that time, I was in reunion with my dad and my family on his side.

[00:34:09] Lena: And my youngest brother who had been eight when I met him was now in his 20s and he was diagnosed with lymphoma and he went through almost four years of treatments and, and medical issues and then. In the end, he ended up passing in 2018 from all of the complications in the lymphoma that they couldn't get into remission.

[00:34:36] Lena: So that was like a big I guess, I mean, life changing event, but it was a big, like, push for me to go, What if I lose other family members that I could have at least met? Even if I didn't have a relationship, just, at least met. What if I had never met him? Like, I had 16 years of him, almost 17 years of him in my life.

[00:34:53] Lena: And it was the most wonderful thing. He's the uncle to my children. My children know him. My kids don't know life without their uncle. [00:35:00] What if there's, what if something like that was to happen on the other side of the family? Like that I never even had a chance to even just say hello. So by this time it's 2019, 2020.

[00:35:12] Lena: And I started really, like, I got an autoimmune disorder shortly after that. I think that like, I just, my body just couldn't handle all of the things happening. And I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, and then I was like, I need to take care of myself, I need to take care of my body, my spirit, my brain, like the whole thing, I need to take better care of me, because I was just go, go, go, people pleasing, take care of everybody else.

[00:35:35] Lena: And so, during the pandemic and spending plenty of time at home, I started reading, I started doing podcasts, I started listening to podcasts, I started going on social media a little bit in the adoptee community and trying to figure out like, how can I help heal myself, and that's when I really felt like I was coming out of the fog and realizing all of these things.

[00:35:55] Lena: That's when I found out that my records were not, in fact, burned in a [00:36:00] fire. And so I had started going through all of this and I said my dad and I had been talking and I said, I found her my biological mother on social media. Do you think it's inappropriate for me to reach out to her?

[00:36:14] Lena: It's been 17 years. I wonder if she's in a different place or she's more willing to. Talk to me now and he was a hundred percent supportive and that really helped that was a big deal for me because I know that like he's the only one who knows her Right, like he said he's the link to her and so I didn't want to do something that was inappropriate or he didn't think was Okay.

[00:36:37] Lena: And he was like, 100%. It's been 17 years. I think you have, every reason to at least check in and, and see. So I had found her on social media and I sent a message on social media, a different message now that I was older and I was working on myself and I was coming out of the fog. Like, of course, it's different than it was when I was younger.

[00:36:54] Lena: 19 and, just wanting to be accepted. And so, send a message saying, Hey, [00:37:00] I just wanted to check in, let you know I'm here. I'm still interested in having a conversation with you if you were ever open to it, at whatever comfort level. works for you, right? I wasn't asking for a family reunion kind of thing.

[00:37:14] Lena: So I didn't mention anything about what I had been through with my brother or anything. I just, I didn't want it to be like a sympathy thing or what, I just wanted it to be organic. So I had sent a message and then I sent a picture because now I'm almost 40 and I have a husband and two kids and, and so I sent a picture of my family and I was like, just wanted to check in, let you know I'm doing well, here's a picture of my family, let me know if you're ever in a place where, you would be willing to chat.

[00:37:40] Lena: And so about three days, four days later, my message was deleted and I was blocked from her social media account.

[00:37:47] Damon: Oh boy. What did you think when you saw that?

[00:37:52] Lena: I, it was, it was tough. I think I was a little bit more prepared than I was the first time, but I was [00:38:00] angry. You know all of the grief emotions because really a lot of it is grief and loss right loss of something that you can't have or you'll never have a Connection a relationship even a conversation, right?

[00:38:11] Lena: So it was definitely a lot of grief and loss throughout all of that

[00:38:15] Damon: Yeah, wow. Did you, did he, your birth father, did your birth father ever get a chance to chat with her, even for a moment?

[00:38:24] Damon: I know she hung up on him previously, but did they ever have any, even the briefest of conversations?

[00:38:30] Lena: No.

[00:38:31] Damon: I'm sorry, that's really tough, because that's one of the connections that you really, really want. I mean, this is the person that carried you. And, is the person that brought you into this world and to not have her be responsive is, is hard.

[00:38:44] Damon: how are you doing now then?

[00:38:46] Lena: So, I'm doing really well actually. It's still certainly difficult to think about, talk about. Kind of experience but I have kind of come to a place of peace with it you know between [00:39:00] therapy and and The adoptive community and talking about logical dad Like I really feel like I've processed a lot of it and I've gotten to a point where I'm really doing Well, my health is good.

[00:39:12] Lena: My family is good. Like life is good. I have a great career and I realized I don't You Need someone that's gonna drain me or that's not ready to enter into that space or that conversation I couldn't support her if she was going through Something that she couldn't handle like I can't enter in reunion with someone who's not healed who's not doing well I can't help someone else.

[00:39:35] Lena: I'm not gonna sacrifice my own mental physical spiritual emotional health for someone who's not there. I'm not going to pull someone through or drag someone through or, try and carry them or fix them. I'm not, I can't. So, I feel like if she's not in that place, then it's not right for us to connect.

[00:39:52] Lena: And if she's ever in that place, clearly she knows where to find me. , there's plenty of ways to find me now. So I feel [00:40:00] like I'm good. I don't need something in my life. That's going to just cause more issues than bring me peace. Like if, if she can't be in a place where she's going to help bring me peace, then , I'm not interested right now.

[00:40:11] Damon: Yeah. Wow. I love that you, you nailed that piece right there. If you're not in the position to help. Bring me peace then we can't do this right and it would be about her too. You also can offer her some peace She's clearly very challenged in trying to revisit Everything that she's ever been through with regard to the situation.

[00:40:33] Damon: It is your life Absolutely, and I suspect that yeah, there would be a lot of healing that she could get from opening the door and allowing herself to feel the feels and, , touch on all of these things that she's been through in the past and, allow them to heal. But you're absolutely right.

[00:40:51] Damon: I love some of the things that you said about not, Dragging someone through this, , it's think of the sort of banging your head against the wall, , you could [00:41:00] eventually, , you're going to make yourself bleed by trying to break the wall down, banging your own head, , so why would you do that?

[00:41:05] Damon: And,

[00:41:06] Lena: Right.

[00:41:06] Damon: And I would love for more adoptees to think this through in terms of the external validation that we feel like we need from other people. I recognize that maternal bond is crazy important, but also, , nobody's gonna love you more than you. So you have to focus on yourself first. You can't be in reunion with somebody else in a healthy way if you haven't gotten yourself right.

[00:41:30] Damon: And, and I love to hear that you have gone to therapy and gotten to this place of, your own mental and physical health being the most important thing. So that's amazing. Right.

[00:41:39] Lena: Yeah, and I mean, we deserve that. It's we didn't none of us asked to be in this situation, right? We just existed and now we're kind of left to deal with this, right?

[00:41:48] Lena: I didn't ask to be stuck in this position and I'm trying to navigate it the best I can and I know I feel like a lot of us don't feel worthy enough, but we are worthy enough. We deserve the peace. We [00:42:00] deserve to be able to heal. We deserve to be able to figure out, what we need and , for me, figuring out was that I don't need someone that's gonna not be okay, or that's not in a good place.

[00:42:10] Lena: And yes, I'm absolutely willing to talk, willing to give her peace if she's in that place, but I can't also be the one who helps her heal. Like, she needs to do that work herself.

[00:42:19] Damon: You're absolutely right, and you may have heard me snicker a little bit while you were speaking, and I wasn't trying to be disrespectful, but what I was thinking is, I've had so many adoptees come on the show and say, the title of the show is absolutely resonant with them.

[00:42:32] Damon: You And I'm doing some writing now and you said something along the lines of , none of us asked for this situation , and that is a validation of something else that I'm working on right now. So I'm really glad to hear you use those words because that's another element of what I've been thinking through is not a single one of the adoptees that I know asked for the adoption situation that we find ourselves in.

[00:42:57] Damon: And that's not a disparagement to the [00:43:00] situation itself. I had a wonderful adoption. My parents are fantastic people and I very much thank them for everything that I experienced, the man that I am today, the nurturing that I got from them, etc. But that also, , it's just a pure, straight up, non emotional acknowledgement of a pure fact.

[00:43:18] Damon: None of us asked for this situation. So thank you for validating that for me. Lena, this has been amazing. I'm so glad that you're in a good space. I'm glad that you were able to find your biological father and that they found you and that it was so easy and that it was an accident. I mean, it just is absolutely incredible.

[00:43:36] Damon: And I'm really thankful to you for coming here to share your story because you're absolutely going to help somebody else out there who's going through something similar. So thanks for being here, Lena.

[00:43:45] Lena: Yeah. And thanks for doing this. I, I mean, listening to your episodes and other episodes and, books and, all that have really helped me.

[00:43:53] Lena: on my healing journey. And so that's my goal is that someone hears something that, they can use or they can take away and, [00:44:00] and help them too.

[00:44:01] Damon: Fantastic. You're part of the healing fabric now too. So thank you again. Take care. All the best to you. Okay.

[00:44:07] Lena: Thank you. Have a great weekend.

[00:44:09] Lena: Bye bye.

[00:44:10] Lena: Bye bye.

Closing

[00:44:10] Damon: hey, it's me. Lena had a very nice upbringing as an only child and adoption surrounded by other adoptees in adjacent families, but she admitted, she always wanted siblings and was curious about her biological roots, even when she was discouraged from spending too much time dwelling on her origin story. It was really cool to realize that she was one of the few people I've ever spoken with, who found their birth family through an adoption reunion registry.

[00:44:43] Damon: And it was unique that she reunited with her paternal side first. I loved that her college roommates were so protective of Lena and her birth father was so glad to have found her. Publicly stated his joy on his webpage and fell to his knees. When she appeared [00:45:00] before him at his house. I know it has been really hard that her birth mother won't acknowledge her.

[00:45:05] Damon: But how powerful was it to hear that Lena is not willing to accept anyone in her life who won't bring her peace. That's a strong position to be in, and I hope more adopted people will reach a similar position of strength in their own lives. Oh, and fun fact, Lena told me that when she was a young girl, less than eight years old, she had an imaginary friend. When she began her reunion search and finally received her adoption records. Lena found out that her birth name was the same name as her imaginary friend. Lena told me it was like her birth identity had always been a part of herself. I'm Damon Davis, and I hope you found something in Lena's journey that inspired you. Validates your feelings about wanting to search or motivates you to have this strength along your journey to learn who am I really. If you would like to [00:46:00] share your story of adoption in your attempt to connect with your biological family, please visit who am I?

[00:46:05] Damon: Really? podcast.com/share. If you are taking anything meaningful from the show, please take a moment to leave a five star review in your podcast app or wherever you listen. While you're there. Leave a comment to, I read them all and they helped me understand how the stories of other adoptees are helping the community. Your ratings and comments, help the algorithm to share the, who am I really podcast with others who may appreciate the show, the way you do.

[00:46:33] Damon: Also stay tuned.

[00:46:35] Damon: I'm working on another book that I'll share more about as my writing continues.

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