I have written about being adopted before. It’s not a secret thing. I have always known I was adopted and have always been forthcoming about it. It was neither good nor bad. It just was a fact. Like being ginger or near-sighted.
My feelings about my birth parents have waxed and waned since childhood. I was always curious, but as there was no way for me to satisfy my curiosity or find answers to my questions, I tempered my comments with some version of “it doesn’t really matter cuz I don’t want to know them anyway”. Not strange really. When you know that rejection is a likely outcome, you are not going to set yourself up for it.
Last summer, my brother took one of those DNA tests at the insistence of his children. They were wildly curious about his birth family and wanted to know where he came from. I am not sure he did, but he can’t deny those girls anything, so he took the test and nearly instantly found a half-sister and a dad of sketchy repute.
After that my daughter, who has been curious about my background since she was quite young, thought a DNA test would be a good thing for me to look into as well. But, I didn’t do anything until the fall after my godmother died. Losing her left a hole and I guess finding my birth mother seemed like a logical way to fill it. Never-mind that this was expecting someone, who gave me away and never came looking for me in half a century, power she didn’t have and probably didn’t want. But grief isn’t very logical, and it isn’t like I haven’t looked for her before – because I have on and off for a couple of decades.
DNA tests themselves are interesting. They require a surprising amount of spit. They also don’t take as long as you would think. Less than six weeks from spitting to “here’s your ethnicity and a shit tonne of people you share DNA with!”
It upended a few things I had been told about myself. I am not, for instances, Swedish. Like at all.
I am, however, a very English though not so much Irish. More Norwegian than I would have ever expected and surprisingly, a tiny bit Icelandic, which is frankly kinda cool.
I had only 4 close matches though. No parents. No siblings.
Two of my matches were first cousins and one of them responded to my query. With her help, I found my birth mother in about two days. Well, my cousin’s help and my mom’s “help”.
I qualify the help part because I discovered in all of this searching for bio-mom thing that my parents had known her name all along. I could have found her years and years ago. They just chose not to tell me the truth when I asked them for information.
Oh, they let things slip here and there, and maybe had I been more observant and less ambivalent, I would have noticed.
The Nancy Drew stuff is a story for another day, but the short version is I found my mother, but unfortunately, she is dead. She died unexpectedly in 2014. Her husband died in 2018 though I have no idea if he ever knew about me. But I know my half-brother didn’t know about me. He told me so in an email. It was polite and basic info informative enough, but I really don’t expect to hear from him again. Disappointing, but family often is. Low expectations are best because those are the ones that will met much more often than not.
There are other relatives. A few cousins seem determined to establishing legit connections. I think that’s going well. I am – as I told my sister when we discussed it – sometimes too much myself for people. It can be off-putting. She didn’t say anything because what can one say to such self-awareness? And also, she agrees with my assessment of me. Sometimes I am a bit much.
Legit connections, however, are what I want. I am not a curiosity. As an adoptee, I have had my fill of my needs being ignored in the whole adoption thing. In my opinion, cats and dogs from rescue shelters have their feelings and well-being better looked after than human babies, who are treated as commodities in contracts between adults who are much more keen on their own issues and needs than the thoughts and opinions of a baby, who will one day be an adult with questions, needs, and opinions of their own.
The most satisfying part of the finding my mother’s family thus far is finding people I resemble. In some cases very strongly. I don’t think anyone can know what it feels like to not look like anyone you know unless you’ve been forced to exist in a community that is physically completely unlike you.
I grew up thinking everything about myself was wrong. Freakish. My hair. My height. My weight. I was made to feel, sometimes inadvertently but often purposely, that I was ugly and doing it on purpose to embarrass or annoy people.
Seeing pictures of my mother, who was beautiful, and being told I look so much like her was something I needed to hear growing up and never did. I am not sure I can forgive people for denying me the right to know I was perfectly normal. That includes all of my parents really. And everyone else who knew I was out there somewhere and never thought to come looking for me.
And that’s the “what hurts” part of this. Aside from my half-brother, almost everyone in my mother’s family knew about me. There is a younger cousin, who wanted to find me but didn’t have much to go on, but it’s a bit hard for me to be okay with having grown up and living most of my life within an hour or two of my mom’s family, and no one ever looked for me.
She didn’t look for me. She didn’t tell my brother about me. That’s nearly as big a betrayal as parents not telling me her name in the first place.
I don’t buy that they did this for my good. Because they didn’t. They did what they did for themselves. They never once considered me. How I would feel. How I did feel. How I feel still. They were selfish and short-sighted.
I’ve told people that my dad is lucky he died a decade ago because I would have ripped him a new one for burning my adoption info and lying to me all my life. But if I’d have found a live birth mom, less than an hour away from where I grew up? I don’t think I would have been too forgiving of her not seeking me out or at the very least, telling my brother about me. That she didn’t do that makes me feel dark and dirty. Maybe not her intention, but certainly something she should have thought about when she was pondering my birthday every year – as I am told she did.
So now, I have a “real” family tree now to go along with the one my dad and mom created for me via stories and pictures of their extended family. I am not finding either very satisfying right now.
Cans of worms, right? There’s a reason why Pandora was told not to open the box. I am not sorry though. I have some (not enough) medical information which has helped me enormously, so totally worth it from that standpoint. But, I have no closure. My mother is dead. Her son and brother are polite but not interested in helping me. No one seems to have clue one about my birth father (who ran away when he learned about my existence so my feelings are “fuck him” for the moment. I don’t have a use for such a coward). And that’s that.
It’s an evolutionary process. Bit by bit things are pieced together in a puzzle I never thought I’d be able to complete. That’s something anyway.
2 thoughts on “Finding Your Birth Parents”
Good to see you out here again! It really provides a good place to work through the things we’re gnawing on – and you’ve had A LOT to chew on! Cannot imagine what you’ve grappled with regarding birth/adoptive families.
i have not done a DNA test. i’ve had friends go through discovery of unknown half-siblings – and in one case, it turned dark quickly, with the newly discovered sibling showing up, expecting funds, a place to live, etc. Pretty difficult.
My father was an only child, his parents dead before he hit 30 years old. He married my mother at 38. He was an engineer, a jazz musician, and a handsome man. The odds that there may be someone out there who shares his DNA? Not insignificant. One of the reasons i’ve stayed away from the testing is the fear of that person showing up and screwing with my life.
Your post has jacked that around for me – what if there is someone out there who wants answers? Wants to know him? Wants medical history? Wants to find people who look like him/her?
It turns out that the medical history may be significant as well – my grandmother died of breast and/or ovarian cancer before she was 50. i’ve had genetic testing done, and there is no BRCA 1/2, but there is a variant of unknown significance that may be connected to ovarian cancer.
i’m being selfish. (sigh)
thank you for putting this into a post. i needed to read it.
I started following your blog a few years ago when I was dating a widower. I’m now married to him. I was surprised when this came up in my email today. We have something else in common!