Adoptees Crossing Lines

Dr. Noelle's Origin Story: A Journey of Adoption, Identity, and Reunion

April 28, 2023 Dr. Noelle, Tosha, Lia Season 1 Episode 12
Adoptees Crossing Lines
Dr. Noelle's Origin Story: A Journey of Adoption, Identity, and Reunion
Show Notes Transcript

Adoptee Origin Story: Dr. Noelle

Two white people raised me, an African American child. I’m Dr. Noelle and this is the secret-filled story of my adoption after being an orphan in Texas.

What we discussed 

(00:00) Cosplaying as adoptees?

(01:35) The stories I was told

(05:30) My abusive adoptive mother 

(06:15) Taking a DNA test to find my family

(09:42) They didn’t know I existed 

(15:39) Whole for the first time in my life

(17:03) My bio mom’s origin story 

(21:35) Uncomfortable being mothered

(26:43) What would’ve been…


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Lia (00:06.509)
Welcome back. We're here for another episode with Dr. Noelle. We're going to be talking about her origin story and you know, as it relates to adoption and all that good stuff. So Noelle, I will let you take it away.

Dr Noelle (00:33.950)
Thank you so much. It's funny when we talk about origin stories, though somebody on the panel that we were on was talking about cost playing as adoptees. And I think about, you know, I'm a huge Marvel fan and I think about origin stories and the way that they have to build these stories for the characters. And I think about the ways in which

Dr Noelle (01:03.950)

Dr Noelle (01:06.430)
has built this character. What I will say is I will share a few things with you and then let you all ask questions. What I have to say is it's all hearsay. The majority of what I'm going to tell you cannot be cooperated. It may or may not be the truth. It's a story. It's a story. So origin story is fitting.

Dr Noelle (01:36.330)
I was born in 1970 in El Paso, Texas. What I learned from my adoptive family first was that I was born in El Paso, Texas to a mixed race mother and a father who was indigenous and white. Not true, by the way. And

Dr Noelle (02:06.430)
I was placed in an orphanage in El Paso and they got me when I was four or five months old and she tells the story. She says, I was very, very tiny. I was so tiny they brought a newborn dress for me and they had to set the buttons over because I was so tiny. So they took me to Albuquerque, New

Dr Noelle (02:38.131)
They were pregnant with their daughter when they picked me up from the orphanage. And so my sister was born in Albuquerque. And then we headed up north to New York State, where I spent the majority of my life. My adoptive father left when I was three. And my maternal grandfather, who was really,

Dr Noelle (03:06.670)
The person I was most connected to in our family also died when I was three and he was also adopted And we had this really special bond The stories that I was was told was that my Biological mother was young. She was 16 or 17 years old that happened to be true and That she did not know who the father was But I was also told at the same

time that they knew the ethnicity of my father, so that was confusing.

Dr Noelle (03:47.010)
And at one point I remember having this horrible fight with my adoptive mother and her saying to me, she was raped, is that what you wanted to hear? She was raped, are you happy now? So for a long time I thought that I was the child, a product of rape, which may be true. So there were just these kind of conflicting stories

One thing that I was always told was that the reason this white family, so I'm a transracial domestic adoptee, both of my adoptive parents are white. I am African-American and I look African American. So just to make sure that that's clear. And they, they,

told me that the reason that they were able to get an African-American child, or the reason they were able to get me in particular is because I was mixed race, and the black community didn't want me, and the white community didn't want me, and the indigenous community didn't want me. So my adoptive family being the great saviors that they were, they wanted me.

Dr Noelle (05:15.970)
And I was told all the things, right? I was told that I was chosen. I was told that I was a gift. I was told that I was special. My adoptive mother used to tell me I was one of Martin Luther King's rainbow babies. I don't even know where she got that from. I was told that I was special. I was told that I was chosen. I was told that I was a gift. I was told that I was special. My adoptive mother used to tell me I was one of Martin Luther King's rainbow babies. I don't even know where she got that from.

Dr Noelle (05:34.150)
I was going to bring all mankind together because I was a black child living with white people. So I would be able to reach across the aisle and bring the races together. And that was in between her telling me what a terrible child I was and how ungrateful I was and this cycle of confusion and conflicting reports of self.

Dr Noelle (06:04.430)
adopted father left when I was three left us with what I believe to be a bipolar and certainly a narcissist for a mother and she was very physically abusive she was horribly verbally and emotionally mentally abusive and she was a hoarder so I grew up in a house that was filled with literal shit just everywhere

Dr Noelle (06:35.511)
We actually had animals die in our house and not find the carcasses for months. I've never had a birthday party because you didn't have people over to a house like that, right? And the house is still like that. Um.

Dr Noelle (06:57.370)
I'll fast forward to my adoption search. So I started searching with the dawn of the internet. You two are so much younger than me. But back in my day, we had rotary phones. And you know, the internet, you had to connect to the internet. You didn't just turn on your phones.

Dr Noelle (07:28.350)
these message boards. And they were message boards for adoptees and you could post on the message board your information. And if somebody on the message board was looking for someone like that, they could connect with you. So I posted on a bunch of those and heard nothing. And then my daughter-in-law actually got me, gosh, when was that?

Dr Noelle (07:59.651)
2019 now, I think, got me an ancestry test because we were trying to figure out why my grandchildren were so white. They just kept getting blonder and more blue-eyed and whiter with each one, and we were confused. So I took the test and started to find relatives, and it was

Dr Noelle (08:27.830)
I took the test with the intention of finding out what my ethnicity was and I had this this origin story It turns out that I Am in fact black indigenous and white I Don't think in the mixtures that my My adoptive mother thought I don't know what she thought I guess in my mind It always translated to

to a third of each or something, I don't know. But so those things were actually correct, but my grandchildren are very white and blonde because of the Irish and Scandinavian. And their mothers are Irish and Scandinavian, so there's just a whole lot of Irish and Scandinavian going on. But I,

I had taken the test thinking about finding out my ethnicity and hadn't thought about finding my relatives. It never crossed my mind. The DNA test that I took was just about finding ethnicity. My daughter-in-law, when I read her, we got laughing about the ethnicity and, you know, ha ha ha, it's your fault, you're Irish and you're Scandinavian. It was a big joke in the family.

Dr Noelle (09:57.771)
And my daughter is mad because it's my fault that she's so pale and she's really actually quite mad about it and

Dr Noelle (10:09.690)
Then my daughter-in-law says, did you find any relatives? And I said relatives. And she's like, yeah, you go up here to this tab and it'll show you any of your relative matches. And I froze because I had long since given up any hope of finding people that I was related to. So it took me a couple of days when I went back in and I looked it up and I had not only close matches first and second cousins,

Dr Noelle (10:40.090)
from people. So I found the paternal side of my family first and they were a huge family and they were trying to figure out which brother I would have come from and we ended up narrowing it down and figuring it out and it was confirmed when I found my biological mother. My biological

Dr Noelle (11:09.770)
found. And I finally found a first cousin who told me what her name was and then realized he made a mistake and shouldn't have told me so he tried to walk it back. And I was not very nice to him. But he did tell me what her name was. And so I had a name for the first time.

Dr Noelle (11:40.210)
And I was turning 50, so 2020. And I tracked down my aunt and left her a message and let the cat out of the bag because apparently no one on my mother's side of the family knew I existed. She had gone away. So El Paso, Texas is where I was born, but it was not where they were actually from.

were living, there was an unwed mother's home in El Paso, Texas that she had been sent to. And her siblings didn't know, no one in the family knew except her parents that she had been pregnant. And, and I had no idea. So I was just like, yeah, hi, I think I'm your niece. And, you know, she, she's like, my sister's kid. And I was like, yeah, I'm your

And the way she asked the question made me think it was over text, never do things over text. It was over text. But the way she asked the question made me think she knew that there was a baby out there. She did not know. But she kind of got on her sister and was like, you have to contact this young woman, you have to contact her. And so one day in November 2020, I got a phone call. It was the first time I had heard my biological mother's voice.

Dr Noelle (13:11.070)
And she said, hello, I understand you're looking for me. I'm ready to talk. She called from a blocked number. And I didn't answer the call the first time she called, so I had to wait. It was like another two days before she called back. I was panicked. She called back and we talked for the longest time. And I just knew the first time I heard her voice that it was at.

I had found her. And it was the right birth date. I knew the name of my father. I told her what the name of my father was, and that was the right name. Um. So I'm going to go back to the first question. I'm going to go back to the first question. I'm going to go back to the first question. I'm going to go back to the first question. I'm going to go back to the first question. I'm going to go back to the first question. I'm going to go back to the first question. I'm going to go back to the first question.

Dr Noelle (13:54.450)
And so the new stories, the new stories start. So I'm blessed to have an amazing stepfather. My mother's husband is phenomenal. He didn't know she had had a child either. So he opened up his house, home, heart. He calls me his daughter. You know, another story. And they proceed as such.

Dr Noelle (14:26.012)
as if they are my parents. And we don't talk about the fact that there's this whole paternal family out there. And she just every once in a while she says, I wish you had found me first. I wish you had found me first. I wish you had found me first. I wish you had found me first. I wish you had found me first. I wish you had found me first. I wish you had found me first. I wish you had found me first.

Dr Noelle (14:42.290)
And I take that to mean that had I found her first, she would have encouraged me not to keep looking and not to find my paternal family. And we would have just lived in this happy little space where her and her husband were my mother and father. And that would be it. So on my mother's side, I'm their only child. So my stepfather became a father.

Dr Noelle (15:12.810)
to a 50 year old child. He is the sweetest man. I can't even begin to tell you how sweet this man is. And my mother said, you know, when you turned 50, our birthdays are two days apart. She said, when you turned 50, I thought I would never see you. Every year I kept thinking she's gonna find me one day.

Dr Noelle (15:41.710)
But when you turn 50, I thought, I'm never going to see her. And it was that fall that I contacted her. And again, it's one of the things that I wonder if is that true, because she sure seemed hell bent on not being found. So did you really want me to find you? I don't know. We have as good a relationship as we could possibly have. I mean, we talk every day.

Dr Noelle (16:12.590)
They're coming up. So my birthday's the eighth, my mother's birthday's the tenth, and my daughter's birthday's the 13th, and they're coming up to celebrate our birthdays and to meet all the kids and grandkids this year. So, you know, that is good. But because she chooses to not deal with it, I don't know how else to say it,

Dr Noelle (16:41.670)
to not deal with it. There is no, I can't ask her questions that I want to know. How was my labor? What was my labor like? I did ask her if she held me, and she told me that she did hold me before they took me away. I just want to ask her questions. What was it like being pregnant with me? Those kinds of things. The only thing she said is that the nuns

Dr Noelle (17:13.051)
the Unwell Mother's Home were very unkind, that's all she said. But there isn't a conduit there to have conversations that fill in those missing pieces of my story. Yeah, so I guess I will stop there.

Lia (17:36.009)
Wow. A lot of moving pieces, a lot of themes, a lot of secrecy, a lot. It seems like a lot to take in, a lot to process, like as you were going through this journey. There were a couple of things that stood out to me. One, like, it's so apparent. I mean, we all know this, but just how

Tosha (17:43.076)

Lia (18:06.089)
I mean, when you were talking about your adoptive mom and Martin Luther King and the rainbow and you know, first of all, why are you putting all that pressure on a child to begin with to save the world? Let's start there. That's yeah. And then second of all, like, be for real. But anyways, so you were talking about you spoke to your mom and you heard her voice for the first time and you

Lia (18:36.189)
Can you just talk a little bit more about like what that feeling was like and maybe what you were thinking?

Dr Noelle (18:43.730)
Yeah, so I melted. I remember it felt warm. It warmed me from the inside out. I melted. And I just, you know, my whole life, I had spent my whole life wanting her and realizing that I actually had her in that moment was, you know, even though meeting her was wonderful and hugging her for the first

and hearing her voice for the very first time, talking to her for the very first time was the most magical thing that's ever happened to me. It just, it made me feel whole for the first time in my life. It just made me feel whole for the first time in my life. It just made me feel whole for the first time in my life. It just made me feel whole for the first time in my life.

Lia (19:35.689)
resonate with that. Something else that you talked about. So you talked about how you, she didn't want to be contacted, but then she also said that, you know, you turned 50 and she thought that she was never going to hear from you. But she did. What, like, did that bring up any sort of, of feelings where I know you mentioned before, you know, did you, did you really want to find me?

I guess related to that, do you think that, you know, maybe the pain of it all, maybe she just chose to like to bury it? Like, do you think maybe that might have something to do with it or what are your, what are your thoughts about that?

Dr Noelle (20:23.650)
So I think she has her own origin story, right? She made up an entire story, an entire narrative. She had an entire life that did not involve this child. I was adopted out of the family. I was completely written out of the family. And so she was protecting what she had built. She did not know how her husband would take it. She was terrified.

Tosha (20:40.256)
Thank you. Thank you.

Dr Noelle (20:54.430)
And I mean, even at that point, we already were close enough that she shared those fears with me. I mean, she lost days of sleep over having to tell him about me. She was terrified, you know. He was her whole life and they've been together forever. They met when I was three, I think.

Dr Noelle (21:24.250)
So, you know, they'd been together almost 50 years. And so she had this story that she had told everyone her entire life. And I was standing there holding the lighter and the fuse, right?

Tosha (21:44.796)

Lia (21:50.809)
Did you find that? That's not true. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.

Lia (21:56.429)
Did you ever find yourself like angry about what happened or how it went down? Or did you hold like empathy and compassion for your bio mom? Like where did all of that kind of sit? So, I'm gonna go back to the video. I'm gonna go back to the video. I'm gonna go back to the video. I'm gonna go back to the video. I'm gonna go back to the video. I'm gonna go back to the video. I'm gonna go back to the video.

Dr Noelle (22:13.450)
So I'm a stuffer. I am...

Dr Noelle (22:23.310)
My mind gets real slow and I'm able to see things in their individuality and I'm able to see what the consequences might be. And in this particular case, my mind gets very, very slow. It's like everything's moving in slow motion. And I'm thinking about each step with intention. And so, you know, I choose not to push her on.

Dr Noelle (22:52.850)
of this stuff because I'm afraid to lose her again. And I have to weigh whether the truth or what I think the truth is or what I want as the truth is more important than having the relationship with her that I have. The only time I really got angry and I stuffed it down real quick was

Dr Noelle (23:23.250)
It was the first time I met my grandmother. I was at my grandmother's house. They had a huge, huge gathering, lots of food. My uncle was there. All of my first cousins were there. It was amazing. It was amazing. And it was almost like I recognized all their voices. Like they were familiar to me. I remember having a moment where I sat back in my chair and I thought, mother fuckers, why didn't you keep me?

Dr Noelle (23:55.590)
There was no reason for you not to keep me.

Dr Noelle (24:00.270)
And so if there's anything that I'm angry about, it's that there was a large family. They had means. They're not a poor family. They could have kept me.

Tosha (24:20.876)
Do you think that has anything to do with the possible origin of how you came here? Based on what you said earlier about how your adopted mom was like, okay, fine, you were raped or she was raped or whatever. And then you kind of say maybe that was true. Is that some of her unresolved trauma there?

Dr Noelle (24:39.930)
I don't want to tell too much of her business, but I do think who my father was had everything to do with me being given up.

Tosha (24:42.618)
of course.

Tosha (24:53.196)
Got it. Understood.

Lia (25:00.549)
So you also talked about how you grew up with your adoptive parents and a very abusive household. You talked about how your mother was a hoarder and things like that. And then you talked about meeting your bio mom and her husband, your stepdad and things like that. What was it like to just like... I don't know.

Lia (25:27.109)
meet them and maybe I don't want to like put words in your mouth but like I guess meet parents per say because it sounds like from what you've said that your adoptive parents were not really parents and then you said your adoptive dad left so it was you know basically your mom your adoptive mom so just wondering like if that was like any sense of like relief or like you know things like that

Dr Noelle (25:53.410)
I really had to lean in, I really had to lean in and let them be parents, because for one, I wasn't used to it, I just simply was not used to it. It was a very unfamiliar, if not scary sensation when my adoptive mother would... I don't know, I don't know.

Dr Noelle (26:16.270)
treat me like a mother. There was always an ulterior motive. It usually was followed by some terrible abuse. And so I actually was uncomfortable being mothered at first. I was uncomfortable being hugged, I was uncomfortable being touched. All of that being trauma from an abusive childhood. So I had to really lean in and

and let them parent me. And now it just, it kind of feels normal to me. And, you know, everyone in the family is always telling me how much they love me and it took some time to believe that, but I do now believe that I am loved.

Dr Noelle (27:14.115)
I'm fully no contact with my adoptive family.

Tosha (27:19.036)
So just to piggyback off of that, didn't mean to say that, but so you actually feel like you're her child. Like it doesn't feel like a friendly or like a cool aunt or anything like that. You actually feel like she's your mom and you feel like she's your her daughter. That's beautiful.

Dr Noelle (27:37.070)
Yes, yes. Yeah, I'm really nervous about their visit because I don't know that my kids are there yet. My daughter has spent time with them and she really feels like they're her grandparents, but my boys haven't really spent time with them. And so I'm a little bit nervous about that. I'm nervous about being able to entertain them fully. I don't know. I'm nervous about their visit. I want it to go well. But yes,

Tosha (27:48.201)

Dr Noelle (28:07.090)
definitely feel like their daughter, you know, and that's how they treat me.

Lia (28:19.369)
Isn't it wild to think about the fact that you're nervous to like have your mom come over? I mean, I think like, I'm not saying that people don't get nervous when their parents come to their house, but obviously I think this is a different level of nervous, right? Because you didn't have the privilege of growing up with your bio mom. And so this is like a new experience and hearing what you said earlier,

you're very careful about what it is that you choose to say and talk about and just figure out what, you know, ultimately what's worth it because to you the relationship is really important, you know, it's kind of like, what do you say, like, pick and choose your battles. So you're very, very strategic about the battles that you choose to fight. But I just think that's really interesting that, you know, that's even something that we have to think about. Like, I'm nervous to host the person who gave birth to me because I've never had this experience before.

That's wild.

Dr Noelle (29:19.930)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's wild. I mean, and I've never had the experience before, period. Like I've never had my adoptive mother over to my house. We did not have that kind of relationship, right? I could not be more nervous if Michelle Obama was coming to my house. Like I am so nervous. Huh. I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous. I'm so nervous.

Lia (29:41.309)
Not Auntie Michelle.

Lia (29:46.729)
know that that makes a lot of sense. Your story is really powerful, Noel, just like hearing how you navigated that and just hearing, you know, your thoughts about it. And I know you talked about, you know, stuffing your feelings down. And I just want to say that I'm proud of you. I'm really proud of you for, you know, just going on this journey and really leaning into it because I know it's not easy like trauma fucks us up.

Dr Noelle (30:06.390)
Thank you, Leah.

Lia (30:16.769)
And it really changes who we are as people as opposed to who we were always supposed to be. And, yeah, it can be really hard to unlearn a lot of those things and really lean into them. So I'm proud of you and I'm really happy for you that, you know, that you have this relationship. I just, you light up when you talk about it. And I love that for you. I really do.

Dr Noelle (30:39.290)
Thank you so much. I do wonder, with some regularity, I wonder who I could have been if they had kept me.

Tosha (30:49.696)
Oh man, those should have been a cookie. Having that crystal ball would be so nice. Just a glimpse for a couple seconds just to see, you know, cause we'll never know.

Lia (30:51.829)
think about that.

Dr Noelle (30:59.355)

Lia (30:59.669)
I think about that all the time. I used to fantasize about it all the time as a kid. I still do it now, not as much, but I really wonder who I could have been. But then at the same time, I'm like, these other things wouldn't have happened. I wouldn't have met these other people. We don't know if this podcast would exist. So, right, right, right. So I mean, it's just, yeah, it's really, really wild to think about.

Tosha (31:01.018)
all the time.

Tosha (31:16.117)
It wouldn't, we wouldn't have been adopted.

Dr Noelle (31:17.992)

Dr Noelle (31:21.094)

Dr Noelle (31:25.650)
I'll give you a, for instance, a real quick one. We went down to visit them. Morgan, my daughter and I went down to visit them for the first time. And it was the first time that I was meeting them in person. And we went out to, I think, to the Army base, to the store on the Army base. And I don't know what we were doing, but she was looking at makeup.

And at some point she realized I didn't know how to buy makeup for my skin tone. No one had ever taught me how to buy makeup for my skin tone. And she just, oh, she just popped right into mom mode and just found me the right color and got me all fixed up with makeup that matched my skin. And, you know, it was just, it was amazing. And, you know, there I was 51 years old and for the first time having base makeup that


Tosha (32:27.956)
And like from that, even from your earlier stories, it's like the little girl in you is finally getting those things that should have happened when you were little, meeting your mom, hearing her voice, getting your makeup and all of that. It's like, I think others, people who are not adopted, not they take it for granted, but we hold that stuff at such a high value. And they're like, oh, that's nothing to us. It's everything. Like that is awesome to really care, you know? My voice is cracking.

Dr Noelle (32:51.113)

Dr Noelle (32:55.010)
Yeah. Yeah.

Lia (32:58.689)
Yeah, that's really true. Um, no, is there anything else that you, like any parting words, anything you want to say, any messages? What do you want to leave our listeners with?

Dr Noelle (33:12.022)

Dr Noelle (33:14.630)
If you don't have an origin story, if you don't have to think about telling people who you are every time you meet them, recognize that that is a privilege.