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How Adoption Created an American Churchill

by Laura on May 28th, 2013

Today’s coffee-talk-with-a-therapist hits a veritable “Expat Adoptee Mommy blog trifecta” — Rhonda Noonan is a therapist, a writer, and an adoptee. … A famous adoptee, no less.


Being adopted out of a famous family–talk about popular adoptee Ghost Kingdom fantasies!

In this case, Rhonda Noonan is the biological granddaugther of Sir Winston Churchill. Yes, you read that right. She was adopted by an Oklahoma couple as an infant.

Yesterday, I wrote at The Lost Daughters in The Adopted-Out Churchill about the perception of genetics in adoption, and why you can’t just erase biology. You can read my Amazon review here.

Today and tomorrow, Rhonda and I will be talking about her memoir and adoptee rights. But first, we have to start with a topic that’s tough for so many adoptees: rejection.

On Secondary rejection

LauraNot to put too fine a point on it, but your birth mom rejected you, hard.

She refused meeting you for years, and when she was finally all but forced by your half-sisters to sit in a room with you, she said less than two sentences. The entire time. After that, she never saw you again. And yet, during the meeting, you mention that she was constantly glancing over in your direction, sneaking peaks at you.

I believe she was a smart, but damaged person, and a product of her times. There are plenty of reasons for her rejection: she was harassed and manipulated when she found herself pregnant with “a Churchill.” We’ll never know exactly what happened, unfortunately. I don’t need to tell you that the way she treated you was not okay.

Nevertheless, the impression I got was that you were so determined in your quest to find out your true biological roots, you seemed to have little time or energy to wallow in grief, to let your birth mom’s bad behavior get the best of you.

How do you feel you came to this point? Is it some innate sense that you don’t have to bow to others’ view of you, or was this resilience honed over time?

Rhonda – The enthusiasm I held for searching was fueled by the possibility that my grandfather had cared about me; that my new friend, Lillie, knew the truth. That possibility challenged all of the beliefs I had held about myself; that I was unlovable, unwanted, and forgotten.

My birthparents were never more than steps in the direction of finding him.

I had cast off the uncaring in favor of hope and optimism.

The intersection of the supernatural, religion & therapy

Laura – In The Fifth and Final Name, you talk a lot about your relationship with a medium, Lillie. At first you approach your readings with her with a healthy dose of skepticism, but as time wears on, it becomes clear just how accurately she can foresee future events in your life. And you begin to trust her completely. Truly, she seemed to accompany you through a large part of your journey, even in her death.

Tell us … How do you reconcile your religious upbringing, with your trust in the supernatural, with your education as a therapist and a scientist?

Rhonda –  I have always had a questioning and open mind about things that are not explainable. My experiences have never seemed at odds with my upbringing, but rather an opportunity for greater understanding, with appreciation for all religions and spiritual paths, as well as the awareness that each of us travels their own, unique journey.

They have made me a better therapist and a better person; blessings that have connected me to my grandpa even during the lowest points of my search. Some years ago, a friend of mine, who considered herself a “numerologist,” (one who studies the influence and power of numbers) told me that my biggest lesson in life was to “learn to believe in things you cannot see.”

Suffice it to say: I believe.

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Rhonda! Tomorrow Rhonda will tell us more about her grandfather’s thoughts on the supernatural and adoption advocacy.

She’s generously offered to give a SIGNED copy of The Fifth and Final Name to one random commenter.

*  *  *  *  *

Rhonda Noonan earned an Associate’s degree from Northern Oklahoma College, and Bachelors and Masters degrees from Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

Her career in mental health spans almost thirty years and includes stints as the Director of Clinical Services at five inpatient psychiatric facilities in Oklahoma and Colorado. She has spent much of her career working with adoptees and their families.

She dreams of the day when Adoptee Rights are restored in every state of American and when every person will have access to his or her heritage.

Rhonda Noonan currently lives in Sand Springs, near Tulsa, with two dachshunds and two horses.

Find The Fifth and Final Name, Memoir of an American Churchill on Amazon.

Coffee talk image from, other images courtesy of Rhonda Noonan.


  1. anonymous permalink

    Love what Rhonda wrote: "I had cast off the uncaring in favor of hope and optimism."

    I hope her search was fruitful in finding the "caring" ones within her birth family.

    Rejection….especially secondary rejection, continues to be a source of pain for me.

    In my mind, I think I have convinced myself that secondary rejection from the moments of initial contact would have been easier to accept but honestly that's just speculation since that's not what happened…well, not quite.

    Initially they (my birth mother and birth father who BTW were never a "couple") seemed interested and somewhat intrigued but that was the depth of it. Efforts on my part to establish something deeper, even over a long period of time proved futile as neither of them seem capable to "go there" …at least with me.

    Rhonda's thrust forward in her search is the same determination I remember having as well in my searches. My enthusiasm was rooted in the possibility that I might find siblings that cared about my existence since my birth parents seemed so indifferent.

    Currently, (probably because of my experiences with "reunions") I am particularly drawn to stories of resilience and strength of other adoptees who've come through the experience on the "other side" still relatively in tact, so to speak. I look forward to reading more in your post tomorrow.

    • I'm so sorry that your birth parents were unable/unwilling to develop a relationship with you. It's not uncommon, but it still definitely sucks. Some just fully buy into the "move on with our lives" bit about adoption and believe that the adoptees' adoptive parents should "be enough."

      In other cases, birth parents are so traumatized, even if they do want to go there, they simply are emotionally unable to do so.

      I recently faced secondary rejection with my birth brothers, and wrote about it here:

      I am definitely dedicated to talking about adoptee resilience and strength–it's important to show that even though adoption happened *to* us, we are not damaged goods.

      Thanks for commenting!

    • I, too, am sorry your experience has been as it has. Sadly, DNA does not always mean "relationship." The dynamic with birthparents is usually VERY complex and emotions run deep. Sometimes the best outcome is simply what you learn about what IS. In other words, you have gone full- circle. You see your birthparents where they are in the present, and, hopefully, you have the truth.

      Thanks for commenting. I hope things continue to evolve and give you peace with your journey…


  2. Rhonda Rae Baker permalink


    I can't wait to read your memoir!!! – Your words hit home with how it feels to be rejected and further alienated along the path of search for truth and connecting with biological relatives, "The enthusiasm I held for searching was fueled by the possibility that my grandfather had cared about me; that my new friend, Lillie, knew the truth. That possibility challenged all of the beliefs I had held about myself; that I was unlovable, unwanted, and forgotten. My birthparents were never more than steps in the direction of finding him. I had cast off the uncaring in favor of hope and optimism."

    I'm still working to confirm who my father is and believe I have the connection. However, my son cautioned me this morning when he asked, "How will you feel if he isn't your father?"

    Yes, we must be very careful and guarded in our quest for healing lost identity…I'm 20 years into the search for my father and still haven't found any of my four siblings that were also adopted. Because of the pain involved in research, this process has been slow going but I will never give up, I will never quit until I find out everything there is to know.

    Thank you for writing your story and thank you Laura for hosting this interview so I could find Rhonda's story…(-:

    Write On, my fellow adoptee's, every story matters!



    • Thanks, Rhonda! You've hit on a very important little detail: courage! Search is not for the faint of heart! Best of luck to you. Know that anything can happen. The truth wants to be found…


  3. I am so glad to read this interview – thank you Laura and thank you Rhonda for your immense courage. Can't wait to read your story.

  4. What an interesting story. I'm fairly skeptical of the supposed supernatural "giftings" that some people possess so I think it would be interesting to see how you evolved from a skeptic to a believer. I'll add your book to my Goodreads queue. Thank you Laura for your dedication to helping authors. You're a jewel.

    • Hi, Grace!

      No one could have been more surprised than me to find Lillie. Life has a way of stretching what you believe to be true… I had several folks talk to me about the "wisdom" of including her in my book, worrying that people would not find me credible if I did. For me, that was never an option. I would not find ME credible if I didn't!! It was very important to me that this be written exactly as it happened; that it is TRUTH. I don't know, in the grand scheme of things, if the book is intended to stretch minds in ways other than adoption, but I suspect it might. And, for that, I'm sure Lillie would be proud. :) Please do let me know what you think after you read the story. Best to you… Rhonda

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