I am typically a very private person. I’m not a talker. I tend to keep personal experiences to myself unless I feel comfortable enough to share. But in honor of National Adoption Awareness Month, I feel compelled to talk about my adoptee journey. And what a journey it is. Each adoptee has their own unique set of experiences and feelings. All adoptee perspectives are essential and valid. Aesop said “in union there is strength”. As I stand together with my adoptee sisters and brothers, I hope to bring strength to those who are struggling and educate others to create change.
If I had written about my adoptee journey 3 years ago, I would have said that the first and only biological relative I knew was my 1-year-old daughter. I grew up knowing I was adopted from as early as I can remember. I had a manila envelope with all the paperwork my adopted mom had compiled concerning my adoption. I remember one piece of paper in particular. It was pink and stated the non-identifying information about my biological parents. This piece of paper was very important to me because I always wanted to know who I looked like and it provided some basic clues. But my imagination continued to run wild. I was pretty convinced that Wonder Woman aka Lynda Carter was my birth mother. Or if I was in a large crowd somewhere I would often study people and their facial features to see if anyone looked like me. I started searching for my biological parents when I was 19. I was not concerned about a relationship with them. I wanted to know who I looked like and also medical information. It’s quite frustrating to go to the doctor and fill out medical history forms when you don’t know your medical history.
If I had written about my adoptee journey 2 years ago, I would have said that a letter changed my life forever. One day after work, I picked up my three-year-old daughter from preschool and we headed home. She likes to get the mail with me and as I let her open the box and pull out the mail, I noticed a letter from Catholic Family Services. My heart immediately started beating faster. I knew the letter had something to do with my adoption. The letter was sent by a social worker and said that he had some important information for me. Maybe my biological parents were searching for me? Maybe they were dead? A million different scenarios were running through my mind. I called the social worker that day and that’s when I learned that I had a brother and an aunt that had been searching for me. There are no words to really explain how I felt. Shock and disbelief come close. From that moment forward, my life completely evolved into a new normal. My brother and I were connected from the moment we spoke. After all these years I finally had someone that looked and acted like me. It was amazing, wonderful, but very overwhelming. Feelings started to come up that I had never experienced or thought of before. I really began to examine myself as an adoptee and process the extremely complex emotions I was feeling.
If I had written about my adoptee journey 1 year ago, I would have described myself feeling nervous, frustrated, anxious and discouraged. After meeting and establishing a relationship with my biological brother, I was able to make contact with my birth mother. I sent her a letter and hoped for the best. We communicated primarily through email and text. Our relationship was complicated by several factors. Those factors being my bio mother’s current relationship with my bio brother, the mental health of my bio mother and her unwillingness to answer questions about who my bio father was. I let her have space and didn’t push but I decided to take matters into my own hands. I contacted the social worker in charge of my adoption file and asked if I could contact my bio father. The social worker agreed to contact him for me and see if he would be willing to talk. Thankfully he agreed to speak with me and even agreed to a DNA test. He felt that he was not my father but remembered another man that my bio mother was dating around the time he knew her. The DNA test proved he was not my bio father and so I moved on to the name of the man he gave me. This man was again contacted by my social worker. What was different about his story is that he believed I was his child. He remembered dating my bio mother off and on and always felt he had a child or children out there. He believed it so much that he had always told his children growing up that they had a sister and/or brother out there somewhere. He was a very nice man and as we waited for the DNA test results, I felt very confident that he was my bio father based on the information he gave me. But the DNA test came back negative. He and I were both shocked. I felt discouraged and emotionally drained. These were some of the most stressful times in my life. I decided to make yet another effort to find out information. My husband, daughter and I were planning a trip to Arizona for Thanksgiving to visit my bio brother and his family. I decided to reach out to my bio mother and ask if she would like to meet while I was there. Maybe she would be willing to share more with me when I was sitting right in front of her, her own eyes staring back at her.
We met for the first time the day after Thanksgiving. The nerves I felt while driving to meet her were unlike anything. I felt so nervous I wanted to throw up. My legs were shaking. But I mustered the courage to go into the restaurant. It was like looking into a mirror. The similarities were pretty intense. We had a nice conversation and I began to relax. It was easy to talk to her and there were several times we would say the same thing as the same time. I felt she answered my questions as honest as she could. She didn’t remember who my birth father could be but at least I got an answer. I left that meeting feeling like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders.
And as I write about my adoption journey today, I feel a strange peace. I say strange because my journey is not over. I am currently awaiting DNA results on a man that could be my biological father. I was connected to him through Ancestry DNA and the help of a genetic genealogist. But there is no fear, no anxiety, no emotion whatsoever. What will be will be. I think that I have felt every emotion one can feel over these past few years. And right now I feel at peace. I love my family. I don’t use “adopted” because I have never thought of them that way. They are my family and I’m so glad that I was raised by them. I also love my biological family and am so glad that I have the chance to finally learn who I look like, act like and more about my medical history. Most adoptees never get to know this information. Everyone deserves the right to know where they came from. DaShanne Stokes says it best…
“Adoptees come from every race, gender, and sexual orientation. We are your mothers and fathers, your sisters and brothers, your lovers, friends, and coworkers. In the U.S., we number 6 million strong, but our voices touch the lives of tens of millions more.
Our rights are your rights. Your rights are our rights. And together we will be heard.”