I’ve always known I was adopted, I even knew a little bit of my “back story” but I grew up in an idyllic life. I had parents who married in their early twenties, in fact, to this day they are still married after 60 years of ups and downs. I had a closed adoption, which was the way it was back in the late 60’s, but we were given non-identifiable medical details. Despite growing up in a loving, secure family I used to have this momentary panic that someone would approach me and kidnap me. I used to think that some day this woman would come into my safe life and snatch me right out of it. On the flipside, I always wondered who I looked like physically. I had a very loving family, so I didn’t lack for attention or love, so regardless of the great life I was given, I still had curiosity.
But when the ancestry sites starting popping up I started to wonder more and more. As a result of all my curiosity I asked my significant other for a full subscription for Christmas to a popular site – we selected 23andme.com for this journey. I spit in the vial and off it went. Fast-forward less than a month and my entire life of wonder has been resolved in a very short click and a little bit of research.
I was scared to click the “ancestor” button so I looked over everything else on the site. I found out I was predominantly British and that I am prone to be irritated by people who chew their food loudly. I answered some questions, moved on to read a bit more about my random intolerances, my medical predisposition and so on. Great, my medical and heritage curiosity has been fulfilled.
Time to click the next part. And right there in black/white in front of me is a name and a match to someone who has a high DNA probability to be related to me. I panicked and slammed my laptop shut because I wasn’t ready.
Decades of curiosity could be answered if I just look at that screen. So I opened it back up and then started with my best spy tool, Mr. Google. It didn’t take long, two clicks and I was on Facebook staring at someone who it says is my “aunt” in her virtual face. Spying, stalking…. or call it “Research”, either way it was easy and took such minimal effort for me to know what I’ve been curious about for years. Then I started clicking links and unprotected posts. In two seconds I had figured out who was related to me likely. 23andme.com gives you a place where you can contact the individual party so I sent her a private message. I knew I was adopted and I knew my likelihood to have extended family was high, however, what I didn’t consider is that the other end of people might not know a thing about me.
After some long messages back and forth confirming all sorts of dates and details, we determined the odds to be quite probably of our biological relationship. She then introduced me to more “family”. I slowed the process and contacted my parents discussing this with them as I had been raised and loved by parents who deserved the respect to be included in the process.
My entire family discussed openly that I was adopted and that I was welcome to pursue anything I wanted to at any time. They were supportive, we had a great life and a solid relationship so they didn’t feel threatened or reserved and said they would like to encourage me to do whatever I felt safe and comfortable doing. (update to this, my mom did tell me that she used to have a similar insecurity and was somewhat concerned that someone would knock on our front door saying she was the biological mother who gave birth to me which was a perspective I had never considered).
As it turns out, adoption sometimes, likely most times, happens for a reason. People are put in situations where they find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy. I’m all for pro-choice which always surprises people given that I’m adopted. I could have just as easily been an aborted child, but for whatever reason she didn’t opt for that for me…or my newly found half siblings. But I was the lucky one who was adopted. Some situations are better than others but what I found out wasn’t anything that might have been romanticized in my head. And the good news is I’m old enough now not to worry they are going to kidnap me (and I’ve reassured my mom I’m safe)!
The advantage of finding out the information was that I could personally thank my parents for the decision to adopt and providing a loving, stable home with privilege and security for my entire life. I was fortunate that I found out this information while they are still alive and nothing ever has to go unsaid. They know I love them and consider them my only parents, but a few words of thanks for providing me with a loving home is important to me and I’m sure meaningful to them as well. My parents wanted children so badly and they raised me with love and care as any child could only hope for, adopted or not. I imagine others don’t have it as easy but my situation has a happy ending.
I found out that my biological mother has since died before I met her, which might be all in the best interest of everyone in the end. But I have other family; half siblings and part of this journey might be getting to know them. But except for my own little offspring I’ve never looked like anyone, now I have faces that look somewhat like mine. However, in my own eyes I see joy and a good life created by parents who selflessly raised someone else’s daughter as their own.
When I started to finish this post, I wasn’t sure how to wrap it up. I first started that saying if you don’t want to know anything, don’t take the test because there are countless stories like mine now. But I had a conversation with my parents and my dad looked me square in the eyes and said “no matter how you got to me, no matter what your past was or could have been, you are my daughter and I have loved you and raised you and am so blessed that someone else wasn’t able for whatever reason to take care of you because you made me a father and you are the daughter I have loved your whole life”. And he was right, there is no one genetically or not who can replace my loving parents and a relationship we have had your whole life.
So many great thanks to all the parents who have taken on the loving gift of raising a child whether it is through the foster care program, private adoption or guardianship, may you have received the unconditional love back that you deserve for saving our lives. Today, tomorrow and everyday.