“How did you find them?”

Mostly, I was just curious.  It wasn’t even a curiosity that haunted me or anything.  But from time to time I would just wonder….where did this face come from?  Where did this body come from?  Where did this blood come from?

I knew that when I turned 18 years old that I would be eligible to begin to search for my biological parents, if I so chose to.  However, 18 came and went for me and I was in the thick of my senior year of high school, and boyfriends, and colleges, and leaving home for the first time.  It was the farthest thing from my mind.  But, after transferring from the University of New Hampshire to the University of Iowa, settling into my study of literature and creative writing there,  entering into a soon-to-be very serious relationship with Dan Lutz – a kind, caring and beautiful 20 yr old boy who I met in one of my classes – my curiosity began to grow.

Perhaps it was because everyone was always asking me “Where are you from? What’s your heritage?”  And of course I couldn’t answer, because I didn’t know.  So people would have a fun time guessing.  It became a game for my friends and classmates. “Italian!” “French!” “Native American!” “Polynesian!”  I heard it all.  And yet, I had no idea.  So I thought, if I could just get a couple of pictures and some information about these people who created me, then it could fill in a missing piece about myself.  But that’s all I was looking for: a couple of  pictures and some information.  That would suffice.

So in the fall of 1997, in my 20th year of life, there in a tiny shoe-box of a room that I was renting in a big, old, crickety and far from cleanly house on Van Buren St., I sat down to write a letter to The Catholic Charity Bureau.  The letter stated who I was and that I was interested in finding out more information about my biological parents.  To my surprise, I received a letter back almost right away.  The Catholic Charity Bureau told me that all of my files were burned in a fire and I would have to write to the State of New York to get any information. “Oh great,” I thought to myself, “now I’m orphan Annie.”

Nonetheless, I did as advised.  I wrote a letter to the State of New York.  But I sent it off right before I was about to leave for Ireland to study abroad at the University College Galway for a semester.  So, I strategically put my parents house as the return address because I knew that I would spend the summer in Boston when I got back to the States, before returning to school.  Stuffing it in a mailbox, I figured that I would just check on it in 6 months time.  Then, off I went to the Emerald Island, for 5 months of international friends, travel, enchanted forests, hitch hiking adventures, pubs, potatoes, rolling hills, the roaring Atlantic, my 21st birthday, Guinness, lots of Guinness, and a little bit of school 🙂

           *****************

Everything worked out just as I had planned. Sort of.

I returned to my hometown for the summer of 1998 and one day I was sitting at my parent’s kitchen table when it popped into my mind.

“Hey dad, did I get any mail from the State of New York while I was gone?”

A little light bulb went off in my father’s brain, who was preparing to leave for work. He hurried over to the dining room table in his suit and tie and began ruffling through a giant pile of papers.  The dining room table was well-known as a family file cabinet, where only my father really knew the perfect order to the madness of it all.  However chaotic it may have sometimes looked, though, he was still (and is still) the most reliable person I know.  He pulled out from the heap one little white envelope addressed to me from the State of New York.

“Here you go honey!”

I opened it up and the letter read something like this (I paraphrase):

“Even though you were born in New York, you were adopted through Massachusetts courts, so we cannot help you. However, we have included a brochure for a company called The International Soundex Reunion Registry.  You can become a member by filling out your information and sending it back to them.  If either of your birth parents are members, then this organization will connect you.”

Hmm, interesting.  Ok, so I did it.  I filled out my info and sent it in.  I probably even handed it back to my dad with a stamp, asking him to mail it for me on his way to work that very same day.  But I did it thinking that this was just another piece in this puzzle, and it would probably be another 5 years before I heard anything about it, and then I went on my way, not giving it much more thought.

Oh, how wrong I was!

Only two weeks later I was sitting in my living room, in a reclining chair by the window where I often sat.  I was reading something, but I forget what it was.  I was periodically looking out the window because I had called a taxi to take me across town to a little sandwich shop where I was working as a counter waitress for the summer.  Nobody was home.

Suddenly, the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hello may I speak to Danielle Gaudette please?”

“This is her.”

The woman’s voice on the other end sounded very bright and excited.  To this day, I cannot remember her name.  But, she introduced herself to me and then said, “Danielle, I am calling from the International Soundex Reunion Registry. I am very excited to tell you that I think we have found a match.”

WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

“I need you to gather any and all of the papers that you have regarding your biological parents.  Any information that you have, please get it now. I will hold. I need to check it up against the information that I have,” this nameless woman directed me firmly.

” Ok…” I was beginning to enter into a delirium.  I ran over to the dining room table.  I had never actually seen any papers, but I remembered that when I first began searching for my biological parents, my mother said that she would pull what she could from my safety deposit box.  I never looked at those papers before. I don’t know why.  But I vaguely remembered someone telling me that they were on the dining room table, of course.

And I was right.  The paper was there.

“Ok, I have it.”

 The woman on the other end spoke kindly and carefully, “Tell me exactly what it says.”

“It says that my birth mother was a young woman when she gave me up for adoption.  She was an actress in New York City and was unable to take care of the baby. She asked for her mother to help her but her mother was not able to due to her grief from a recent death of her younger sister. It says that she is Irish Catholic.”  ….what?!  I’m Irish ?!?!??

“It says that my birth father was a theatre director.  He is Russian. Jewish.” Are you serious??? I’m Russian????  This took me even more by surprise, seeing that I was completely in love with Russian history, culture and literature. It was my most favorite subject to study in school. I was shocked and delighted to find out that I actually shared blood with these intriguing people!

At this point, my overall shock level was increasing rapidly. I couldn’t believe what was happening.

“Well Danielle,” said the voice, “this all matches perfectly with the information we have here in front of us.  Yes, we have found your biological mother.  We are going to call her now and let her know.  Stay by your phone.”

I hung up and began frantically pacing around my apartment – living room, kitchen, dining room, living room, kitchen, dining room – in a frenzied loop.  My heart was beating so fast that there was no way to be still. Everything was happening so suddenly and unexpectedly.  My brain was going into overload and beginning to malfunction.  Even though it was daytime, I felt like it was dark out.  My whole world was closing in on me and I was losing my proper sense of sight and sound. I kept pacing to stay afloat.

The phone rang again.

“Hello?”

“Hello Danielle it’s me again.  Well, I have even more exciting news for you.  This is really incredible actually, and we are all just so thrilled about it over here in the office.  Do you watch Star Trek?”

My rapidly beating heart dropped into my gut.  I leaned onto the counter top in my kitchen for support. Oh God, does this really have to be dramatic?  Can it please just be normal.  Please I can’t take any drama.  I need normal right now.

“No” I said.

“Well, your biological mother’s name is Kate Mulgrew.  She is Captain Katherine Janeway on Star Trek Voyager.  She is sitting in her trailer at Paramount right now, waiting to talk with you.  I want you to hang up your phone and wait.  She’s going to call you right now. And…..congratulations, Danielle.  We are so happy for you.”

Ho-ly Shit.

Now, there is a funny thing about trauma.  It really messes with your brain.  It inserts blankness for where there should be memories and re-writes stories in various twisted and contorted ways. So, according to my birth mother, it was me who called her on this day.  But in my mind, it was she who called me.  And at this point of course it doesn’t make one bit of difference.

What’s important is that this was the moment.  So quickly this moment came – too quickly!  I was not prepared.  I thought it would be years of searching!  But it was as if this ultimate moment had been sent down a chute and it was crashing into me, and all I could do was let it. I was about to meet the person who brought me into this world. Right. Now.

My body grew weak.  My legs were trembling.  I needed to sit down.

The phone rang one more time.  I don’t know if I was breathing or not.  I pressed the talk button with a sweaty finger, knowing that the person on the other end would be someone who I had never met, a complete and total stranger, and yet was somehow, some way, a person to call my mother.

 Exit: Danielle’s heart, shooting out through her head into the universe

Enter: The beginning of a whole new world that I had never, ever imagined….

6 Thoughts.

  1. Extraordinary story, Danielle. Thanks so much for sharing it. I have just recently finished your birth mom’s memoirs, and you and Mulgrew’s story has brought more than a couple of tears to my eyes. I’m one of those many people who has, perhaps arrogantly, taken my own ‘regular’ upbringing for granted. I do know the value of a loving mother however, having lost mine when I was 19. I’m so glad you were brought up with such loving and devoted parents, and that you were able to build new relationships with your birth parents. Best wishes from across the pond x

    • Hello Ruth, nice to meet you! Sorry for taking so long to respond to your lovely comment ~ I just wanted to thank you so much for your kind words and warm wishes. I wish the same to you!

      • Hi Danielle, it’s an absolute pleasure to meet you 🙂 Thank you so much for your kind response.

        First, let me apologise for the length of this message, and politely ask for your patience in please reading it when you have time.

        My initial reply to this blog entry came before I had read Healing Tree in its entirety, something I completed some days before your response came.

        When you did reply, my eyes widened and thoughts flooded my head with such speed I could not hope to articulate them into a sensible, brief reply – I thus swiftly decided to take some time to make sure that it was your blog I had just read, and not a long-lost and forgotten, moth-eaten manuscript, by reading the whole blog again… I highlighted point after point, I then condensed the entire thing into a 33 page document, which I transferred onto my mobile…

        I then studied the document, and made several more pages of handwritten notes.

        I’m aware this all sounds extremely odd, and it’s taken me a week of preparation to finally begin this big, fat reply…

        In (very) short, Healing Tree has blown me away – my feet still haven’t arrived back on the ground, and right now, I don’t want them to.

        Your uncommonly acute sensitivity to the perplexities woven into the human condition, your absolutely authentic messages of hope, self-belief, and assurance that each of our emotions need not conquer our being, appear nothing short of miraculous given the emotional trauma you yourself have experienced, and continue to deal with…

        But, of course, your messages, in view of your experiences, are not miraculous; your insights were gained through patience, silence, opening your heart and your mind, and redirecting energy away from your emotions and towards your soul.

        Your blog has left me with various expressions of mild horror strewn across my face, primarily because I had already concluded that my beyond pathetic, multiple trainwreck encircled by forest fire of a life, has been nothing short of my own fault, and your words, in the best sense, have reminded me of that over and over again.

        Reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading Healing Tree, has left me with chills, silent tears, and momentary stillness as my understanding deepened…

        You spoke of frayed wires and dangling synapses existing in regard to you building a relationship with Kate, and disordered thought processes regarding your anguished thoughts about your tormented mother – the routes of these wires and synapses being key to uncovering any feeling resembling peace.

        Like I suspect of many others, I don’t have the mental connections of a carefree child playing gleefully in the sun either; mine are so frayed as to have made half my being simply unfeeling, and the other half just weird (as you may have gathered already).

        Healing Tree has stimulated regrowth, rerouting, and reinvigoration among my wanky wires and stubborn synapses; your words have weakened the chains I have overseen my long lost soul become inescapably bound in, through my subservience to my loathsome and hysterical emotions, which I suspect take the material form of a 7 foot, 700lb goblin version of myself.

        But dramatic statements like the above, as heartfelt as I insist they are, can be read as shallow, artificial even, in this, their largely unsubstantiated form – if I’m honestly going to claim that you, Danielle, have within you the insight to write the most exceptional of books, the type of book which severely meddles with the melancholy status quo today’s world’s most powerful people feed off, I’m going to have to elaborate (even further).

        I ask for your patience once more, and please excuse me if I get any facts or instances wrong, it is my utmost wish in this message to be both as accurate and as thorough as possible…

        You have said that by the age of 22 you already felt that there was nothing life could offer you that would bring you any fulfilment.

        Having come out the other side of the superstorm of emotions you were catapulted through during your early twenties, emotions which wouldn’t have been easy to navigate had you been preparing for them 20 years prior, you were still on your feet, but you knew in order to continue regular life, you had to first find peace and truth within yourself.

        As is obvious, most people cannot relate to the direct experiences of an individual who is an adoptee, and as I said in my first message, unfortunately, many of us do take our ‘regular’ upbringings for granted…

        However, most of us can relate, all too well, to the insurmountable swells of dark emotion, brought on by events exposing anything from jealousy to heartbreak, guilt to rage, with the core of my own recurrent grief being having been falsely accused of madness and of lying, in a humiliating series of events, and the merciless hatred I felt, and still feel, to my accusers and the world afterwards – I’m 27, I was 13 when the issue started.

        At 22, you had a choice; you could have got on with life, accepting that you would probably be miserable for a long time, and dealing with your emotions and actions ad hoc, like all ‘normal’ people.

        But you’re not ‘normal’, Danielle, because at this young age, you observed something most adults can never grasp – the knowledge that peace with the world must start with peace within yourself, and peace within yourself must start with accepting that you yourself have an ‘issue’, which you yourself must ‘resolve’.

        You have written at length, and with great eloquence and clarity, about your vision for humanity and the earth.

        Nobody, having studied your blog, can reasonably doubt your sincerity, and to quote one of your teachers regarding the topic of humanity, “You have come to the Earth because the 21st-century Earth desperately needed you”, although, I would expand upon this, adding that the 20th century Earth has desperately needed you too.

        If I have understood you correctly, you identified your mission in this world early on in your path to becoming a healer; during the first Finding My True Self workshop you helped staff, your heart spoke to you in your own voice, saying “I came to the Earth to awaken Souls”.

        The training you since completed demonstrated commitment to your own personal journey in the pursuit of peace, as well as a commitment to communicating techniques you learnt, and continue to learn, to your students in pursuit of the same.

        The turmoil and devastation in this world, whether in interpersonal relationships, or relating to whole civilisations, is rooted in adults (including myself) who have elevated their egos to the status of deities, with little immediate interest or regard for the consequences… But the consequences do come, and they are not always agreeable to those same adults.

        “I wanted to heal this darkened world by awakening the light of the Soul in people’s hearts. I wanted to turn on so many lights until the brightness of humanity was restored.”

        Your 22-year-old self appeared to perceive the danger that following the rabbit of anger and despair, down the rabbit hole of anger and despair, would lead you – cascading through a cycle of images and memories, landing on your arse in a pit where the only exit leads into a world of aberration, where, in addition, only those most willing to ‘build iron walls around their hearts to protect themselves from harm’ will survive.

        “This wall blocks others from hurting us, but it also blocks us from being able to access our deeper, purer self – the light of our Soul.”

        Regrettably, humans are more impulsive than they are reflective, with less patience, and more theatrics, than is healthy.

        One of the instances in which I found your words most stirring, and most important, is when you spoke of ‘stories that are not real’.

        Having been very exact in the language you used to describe a phenomenon within yourself which you identified as being responsible for many distressing situations, both in your childhood and adult life, you related to your readers feelings so human we are reminded your enlightenment has not happened overnight.

        To quote you:

        “I have come to know it as a paralysing sense of shame. It is such an intensely deep lack of self-worth, a total instinct to sabotage myself. And sometimes I do sabotage myself – both inside and out. I fail, I fall, I lose, I hurt others, and I attract others who hurt me.”

        You continue to say:

        “It is a built-in belief that I shouldn’t exist. A deep and excruciating story that I’m not wanted, and that I don’t belong here on this Earth. That somehow, even the Earth itself doesn’t want me. And any sort of life situation – small or big – that shows others to be better or more fortunate than me in any way, sets off that threat. With it, my whole body, my whole being, seizes in self-doubt and self-defence. It’s as if there is a wounded girl who has lived inside of my heart believing this story for so long. Imagine how afraid she has been…”

        You speculate where this story could have come from, but having had the start to life you did, you make a reasoned and educated guess that the story of your own lack of self-worth could have had something to do with you having been given up at birth by both of your birth parents.

        So many of us have a story to do with lack of worth, and an equally reasoned and educated hypothesis as to where that story, which affects so many situations and judgements in our lives, has come from, however, what most of us don’t have, are the mental tools we need to bury this story, before it leads us to an early grave.

        “… This story isn’t real. IT’S JUST A STORY. No matter how deep it runs, it is not who I really am.”

        “… This is the real story. I am not who I thought I was. I am not a victim of my circumstance and I don’t have to live as one anymore. If I do fall into victim consciousness, then it is my choice.”

        “… We all have our own stories. I hope that you who is reading this also come to know that your story isn’t real. That you are something far greater than the wounds and beliefs that have perhaps been imprisoning you, as they have done me. That you are not a victim of your life. That you are free.”

        Through Taoism, Dahn yoga, Father Heaven, Mother Earth, being directed by your senses and not by your emotions, observing the Earth and its various inhabitants, observing the sky, the light, and the darkness, you developed a metaphysical understanding of yourself, reconnecting with your soul, and with this omnipotent paradox known as life.

        These have been concepts and entities existing within your unique spiritual journey.

        From your reflections on Healing Tree, an audience can gather, as I have, that you have reached a level of emotional control, (through a long process, which requires constant maintenance, since you are, after all, still human), that is truly remarkable, and so, so, so rare…

        And the key word and concept here, the mechanism which has escaped individuals like me, and like most, the technique that would provoke each one of us to begin down our own individual paths to wisdom and reconciliation, instead of overseeing us wallow in our tombs of self-pity and resentment, is PROCESS.

        Along with no small amount of self-love and self-worth.

        “I feel that we need to continuously repeat self-management and self-healing over and over again until we begin to experience mastership over ourselves.”

        Regarding your trip to New Zealand, which sounded beautiful, you spoke of your meditation by an ancient Kauri tree:

        “As I looked up up up she seemed to be housing so many plants and habitats for different creatures. I felt like her spirit was reaching up to the sky, arms wide open with love, welcoming all to come and participate in her bounty. I was in awe of her greatness and I remember having the thought, ‘I want to be like you'”.

        It made me happy that you realised you had achieved similar value with Healing Tree:

        “My hope is for all visitors to receive healing nutrients for the Soul from this Tree of Love, so that they can fly off and spread that Love around their lives.”

        So, Danielle, you’re writing a book? What a superb idea. Truly!

        “Self-Healing -> Self-Development -> Self-Management -> Self-Mastery”

        Self-love, self-worth, and PROCESS.

        Through your work and your writing, you have already started to change the world for the better, and through working to produce a piece of literature detailing your journey, your background, your unique spiritual path, your trials, your achievements, and compositions of your soul, such as your inspirational prose poetry, you can display to readers how pursuing healing, development and management of oneself, will lead to mastership of oneself and ones emotions, but it is all one hell of a journey…

        Readers are on the journey of life regardless, and where would they rather end up? Back in the tomb of doom and gloom, or like Danielle Gaudette, free, and smiling.

        Neo defeated Smith through unwavering self-belief, and you too inspire your students, and your readers, to harness the unshakable power of human stubbornness, and use it to choose hope over fear – you can write a book so compelling, and persuasive, that the unified global society that you, and so many of us dream of, can become a reality, with you as one of the founding mothers.

        I won’t have been the first person to have told you that you are a luminous individual, remarkable – I’m so pleased to have encountered you and your work, and I am behind you 100% in your will to author a book.

        Did I mention I think a book would be great idea? x

        • Dear Ruth, although I stumbled upon your comment right before I was about to go to bed, I am getting up and pulling out my computer to reply to you while it is fresh in my mind! Simply, I want to thank you for your extremely thorough and well thought out comment that has touched me very much, and made me laugh too 🙂 It’s very joyful to imagine that others could obtain similar inspiration as you have described in reading my blog and my future book. Yes, I really know I need to write a book. When I will be able to create the time to put my mind and heart in that gear is what I am currently hunting for. However, I must tell you that you have greatly greatly motivated me. Thank you for taking the time to express all of that! Thank you for your support of Healing Tree! And thank you for encouraging me and making my heart smile. I hope that you too keep going with your writing, as you do it so well!! But most importantly I hope that you continue your healing journey. I am glad to hear of what has opened up for you already. Blessings to you ~~~~

          • Dear Danielle, I really appreciate that you got back up to reply to me, I hope I didn’t keep you up too late, it really was very kind of you to read it so quickly!

            I’m so pleased I was able to communicate my many thoughts in a way which wasn’t (I hope) too laboursome to digest – I really do hold you in very high esteem, and I felt it very important to put the effort in to show that.

            I was very worried I may have spectacularly misunderstood something but you haven’t indicated that I have, so I’ll just relax!

            A book is an enormous undertaking physically and mentally, and no author writes a work of genius without first knowing in their bones that they are just about ready – I only wanted to express my earnest support for you and all your work by being one of the many to encourage you to do what feels right, when it feels right 🙂

            Thank you so much as well for your kind comment about my writing, for many years I have tried to work out how I can basically exploit my negative experiences, and make something positive with them in writing – I have an idea I’m experimenting with currently, and your kind words are a great support for me 🙂

            If I’m honest, one of my biggest fears is the feeling of having wasted the past 14 years – if I can use them for something creative, I think that will help me to let go of them, I think it will help me heal.

            I guess we’ve both still plenty of work to do!

            All the love and blessings in the world, I hope to speak to you again 🙂 x

          • Thank you again for your encouragement and support, Ruth. All the love and blessings in the world back to you!!!

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