Everyone has a family tree. I happen to have two. Fifty years ago I was adopted by the foster parents who cared for me since I was three days olds. They are my parents, that’s my family even if we don’t share the same DNA. Because my parents always let me know that I was adopted I didn’t have the identity crisis that many adoptees experience when they find out their parents aren’t their biological parents. I always knew and my parents always told me that while my siblings were born into the family I had been chosen.
But there were nights when I’d stare out my bedroom window and ask the stars why my mother gave me away. There were times why I wasn’t good enough and it affected my self-esteem but I’m grateful that my parents told me I was adopted. Grateful because even though the wondering was painful at times I didn’t go through the trauma of finding out “accidentally”.
After giving birth to my first son I actually contacted the state office in regard to obtaining information about my birth parents. In 1986 they said that all they could do was check to see if my birth parents had inquired about me through a reunion line that was in place. I was informed that no one had. I couldn’t imagine how a mother could give up their flesh and blood. I looked into the eyes of each of my babies and couldn’t fathom not having them in my life.
Life went on and I’d think about my birth parents but again I never wanted to connect with them or have them in my life. My childhood had its issues, everyone’s does but I lived in one home until I was an adult. There was always heat, hot water, food on the table and power to keep the lights on. We never went without.
My desire to know about my birth parents grew after a visit to a new physician. When I responded that I didn’t know anything about my family medical background because I was adopted, the doctor drew a giant “X” though the history section of the form. That has stayed with me for 30 years. I needed to know who I was in regard to nationality. Was I Italian, Irish, German? Where did my people originate? Were they immigrants during the great migration? Or perhaps they came over on the Mayflower. That’s what I needed to know.
In 2015 I purchased a DNA kit from Ancestry just before the holidays. By Valentine’s Day 2016 I had some answers.
The results made me ridiculously happy It didn’t matter what they were it mattered that I could finally say “I’m this, that and the other” which is something people take for granted.
For years people said I looked Italian and my Mom said she remembered something about my birth father possibly being Puerto Rican but she couldn’t be sure. Since Dad never talked about the actual adoption the little details they did have were lost. They knew my birth name because I was in foster care with them for seven years until they were able to adopt me.
My Puerto Rican heritage was confirmed but what blew me away was the 65% England, Wales & Northwestern Europe. Since I was a kid I loved all things British. As a young teen I watched Eastenders on PBS and that continues today but I’m also a Coronation Street fan. The results don’t make me British it’s just a neat little tidbit.
What I didn’t expect was that I’d have a DNA match from my test. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a sliver of hope for a connection but I tried to remain pragmatic. My test connected to a maternal Aunt and cousin which astonished me. It took a few weeks to garner enough courage to send a message because I had concerns about the response. My wording had to assure them that I didn’t want to intrude and I wanted nothing from them beyond the family tree. I’ve never wanted a relationship with my birth family. Thankfully my cousin was just as respectful.
The family knew nothing about me. His mother, my Aunt, was very surprised to find out she had a niece. Her childhood was not a happy one, although she was close to her maternal grandparents. She described the family as “fractured” and had no contact with her siblings after the death of their mother in 1959. This is such a sad story and makes me realize how lucky I am to have been placed for adoption. My birth mother passed away in 2002 leaving me without information about my birth father.
All adoptees ask the question “Why did you give me away?” From the little information afforded me I choose to believe that my mother gave me away so that I could have a life better than her own. And for that I’m thankful. My childhood was’t perfect, which is a story for another post. I was fortunate to live in a home with two parents that cared for me, educated me, and did the what they felt was the best for me throughout my entire life. When my Dad passed away in 2010 I know that while he had some regrets in the way he raised his children he knew we all loved him.
And more importantly I knew that my parents both loved me. You can’t ask for more than that.