A while ago I watched a really cool series called Momondo - The DNA Journey. One concept from this particular episode reframed how I think about things myself. It’s the concept of the Story of You – the complicated quilt of inputs that make us into the people we are today.
I found this particularly relevant at the time as I was in the middle of searching for my biological family. With each step of the search, with every single discovery large or small, I learned more about what made me, me!
Working with a genetic genealogist, I found out who my birth parents were and what my genetic heritage was through DNA. I was surprised that just knowing who my birth parents were, and where my genes come from, gave me a sense of peace. For some indescribable reason, I felt more in touch with who I was and how I came to be.
My eventual reunion with my biological family was nothing short of incredible. There aren’t words to describe the tsunami of emotions of joy and relief that exploded within me when I met both my birth parents and my new siblings. Finally, I had answers to the myriad of questions an adoptee may wonder about, or struggle with, including:
Are my birth parents alive? If not, did a terrible genetic disease cause their death?
Will my biological family accept or reject me? What would that rejection feel like?
If I do a search, whose lives might I potentially screw up, including my own?
What are the genetic inputs that make me who I am today?
What part of me is nature versus the part of me that is nurture?
I completely understand what an adoptee goes through in considering searching for their birth parents. That was me for decades. Possibly they are vexed with the guilt of upsetting their adoptive family or disrupting the lives of their birth families. Or do they honestly - deep, deep down - want to unearth the reasons they were relinquished? Do they really have the fortitude to take that ultimate leap of faith and contact their birth parents? That’s a very big step.
In my experience, so much of the rationale for putting off the search is rooted in worrying or fear. This is what I pick up from my adoptee friends. It’s easier to deal with the comfortable space we occupy today as opposed to diving into the history of our creation. Risk. Chaos. Disruption. Further, some assume that searches are reckless and potentially unnecessary.
But, to be fair, I must also acknowledge that an adoptee may not want to search for their birth parents because they simply love their adoptive ones so much. Again, that was me too, and I confess to worrying much about the disruption I would create for both my adoptive and birth parents if I ever did end up doing a search. I initiated my search because I had a significant health scare and I wanted to learn more about my genetics for myself and even more importantly, for my children.
In my opinion, we are all entitled to learn about what ultimately makes us who we are, whether you are an adoptee or not. This includes knowing our DNA as well as the origins of our genetic lineage. In a way, adoptees have the space to create a personal narrative that suits how they would like to interact with the world. They can selectively choose elements of their adoptive roots if known, or adopt traits and stories given to them by their adoptive families. In a way, adoptees have the liberty to forge a story that makes them feel secure and good. But underneath it all, wouldn’t they want to peel their life back to their creation to truly learn all about what brought them to this planet?
Searching is not easy. It requires patience, confidence, courage and importantly the desire to face your destiny, one that started with your conception. But the search doesn’t have to be scary or opaque. One can take DNA tests to learn their genetics and with certain online tools, their genealogy. There are also genealogists who can help you locate parents, siblings and other members of your biological family. Finally, and this is a big one, you can attempt to contact them.
Each of these options provides adoptees a clearer sense of who they are. For me, going through each phase provided phenomenal peace of mind as I pieced together the complicated chapters of my prologue and the first chapters of my life. Now I knew my story. The story of me. My search ended in a wonderful outcome, but not all end that way. But at least you would know the story of you.
Why not start your story at the beginning?