Thursday, December 18, 2014

the road not taken

I am adopted. I was adopted as a baby by my parents in a closed adoption through family and children's services in my home state. I haven't written about it much at all here - there's only one real post about it, and it's one I wrote when I was really irate about an article I'd read condemning all adoptions as sinful and against nature (seriously). Be warned, there's lots of swearing: Recycled Child (100% Post-Consumer Content)

I've never had much curiosity about my biological family, other than to wonder if my birth mother was still alive or had any other kids, or to ponder how weird it is that I could have biological siblings and cousins wandering around in the same city where I live (because my parents never moved away) and not even know it. It was never a constant question in my mind, just something that would float to the surface every once in a while - after I watched Juno, when my aunt told me in passing she'd seen a girl working at a shop who looked and sounded so much like me that she'd had to do a double-take to make sure it wasn't me. My truest, deepest hope was always that my birth mother had gone on to have a normal, happy life of her choosing - a marriage, if she wanted it. More kids, if she wanted them. A life without regret. I decided long ago that I probably wouldn't ever go looking for her, but that if I found out she was looking for me, I might consider making contact. I often wished there was a way to write her an anonymous letter assuring her that I'd had an excellent life. Once or twice, I googled my birth date and adoption state together to see if anything popped up on the registry sites where people go to look for adopted children or biological parents, but nothing ever matched and I was always kind of relieved about it. A good friend asked me when I was pregnant with Nico if I thought my feelings about my own adoption would change once I had a child of my own, and I honestly didn't know. I did wonder if once I became a mother myself I'd feel more abandoned or more curious but really, not too much changed. I suppose if anything it made me a bit more grateful to her for making a difficult choice after carrying me for so long, a choice that allowed me to have the family I have now.

Then, in July, I was clicking around idly on facebook and wandered into my other messages folder. There was a message from a random girl sent back in December 2013 asking if I, by chance, might be adopted. She'd seen a posting on a family connect / find people type of site from a woman looking for a baby girl born on my birth date in my hometown. I think the message-sender must've done a facebook search for anyone listing my home city with my birth date and then just sent them all a query. I googled the seeker's name and found several postings she'd made on websites for adoption searches. They weren't super consistent site to site, and on each posting only some of the details would fit with the story my family has of my adoption circumstances. I messaged the facebook girl back and told her I didn't think I was a match, and figured that was the end of it. But it has floated to the surface of my mind again and again since July. It's not something I think about every day, or even every week, but it keeps coming up. It's not an intense or nagging curiosity, but it's there. I still don't feel a deep need to discover my roots or find my true family, but I feel a lot of compassion for this woman who is clearly feeling an intense loss, nearly 34 years later. If I were in her position, and it was one of my little boys that was lost to me, of course I would want to find out what happened to him. I've googled her a few times since, and the only info I can find is what's on the adoption sites. She doesn't seem to have any online presence otherwise, which probably makes sense for someone in her early fifties. According to the postings, she married her baby's biological father and had two sons not too much younger than their first child. To me, this almost makes it harder. Connecting with a lone biological mother, maybe not overwhelmingly intimidating. But a mother, a father, and siblings? A whole new family? That's intense. That's terrifying to contemplate, honestly. I'm not naive enough to think it'd be a perfect little happy transition for everyone, either.

A friend of mine is married to a guy who was adopted as a baby, had a bit of a fraught relationship with his adoptive parents, sought out and found his biological mother as an adult, and now is attempting to maintain a relationship with her. I talked to my friend, told her what was going on, asked her what her input was, based on her experiences with her husband's biological mom. It sounded like they didn't necessarily regret finding her, but that there were definitely issues introduced by bringing her into their family again - issues with boundaries, with commitment and hurt feelings, with passive-aggressive behaviors. I'm glad she was honest with me because as much as I'd love to make sure my biological mom (whomever she is) had closure if she wanted it, I do not think I'd be willing to do it at the expense of my family. If opening the door to that contact would cause grief or danger or great stress to my parents, my husband, or my children, then it's staying shut. In the intervening months, I've decided a few things. I've decided that before making any kind of contact, I want to consult somehow with someone who is versed in family law to make sure that she wouldn't have any legal claim on custody of my children if MB and I die before they are adults. I've decided that unless there is a way to unseal the birth records and see the original birth certificate (if it even exists), I'd want to pay for some kind of DNA test to verify - after all, what if all the details fit but it's truly a coincidence? Why go through all of that and then have it turn out we aren't related at all? I've decided that I would want to contact her anonymously at first in case she's nuts or the kind of person to ask for money all the time or just generally not someone that's healthy to have around my kids. I've decided that I will discuss contacting her with my parents and my sister beforehand, to make sure they won't feel betrayed by the whole thing.

What I haven't decided is what I'm going to do. I have no idea if I should even attempt to figure this out. Should I leave well enough alone because I truly think I can live out the rest of my life not knowing and not feel any regrets about it? Or do I owe it to her to answer her question, if I can? If I can't be 100% certain she's actually my birth mother, should I avoid contacting her just so her hopes aren't crushed if it turns out I'm not her long-lost baby? I have no idea. I don't really even know what I'm hoping to get from posting this. Clarity often comes from writing things out, even just brain-dumping like this. I suppose what I'm asking you is this - What would you do? Would you want to know, even at the risk of opening the door to someone you may later wish didn't have access to your life? If you or someone you know is adopted and has contacted their biological parent(s), I'd like to know how it went. Did you / your friend regret making contact later? If you were her, what would you want? If you were me, what would you do?


  1. This was RIVETING to read. I'm not at all sure what I'd do.

  2. My husband was adopted as an infant (3 days old?) and he has zero interest in knowing about his birth family. When I got pregnant with S, I asked his mother if she knew anything just so if there was any genetic information we might need to know, but she said all she knew was that it was an underage preacher's kid who had an affair with an older man. No health information, no nothing.

    I am perplexed by my husband's adamant not wanting to know anything, because I am a very curious person and would probably not be able to leave it alone. His parents are good people, but yeah, I doubt I'd be able to leave it alone.

  3. I'm not adopted, but I do not know my biological father. He hasn't been in my life since I was two years old. I, like you, have wondered about things like if he has a family, if I have half-siblings, etc., but I have never felt an intense desire to find him; I had a man serve as my father, so I haven't felt lacking of a father. I suppose I have the benefit of knowing his name, should I want to track him down, but it's a very common Irish name, so my half-hearted google-ings have brought up no real leads. When I was pregnant, I did worry about genetic stuff, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. I haven't truly pursued finding him due to some unflattering details suggested about his personality and why my mom left him in the first place. I have a really good life, and I don't know that I would want to open the door to someone negative, as you mentioned. On the other hand, it could allow for a whole new, possibly wonderful, experience. I don't know, I don't have an answer or any real advice for you, but I thought it might help in some small way to know I can sort of, kind of relate to your wondering, and to say that I'm here if you ever need a sounding board. Good luck to you.

  4. I'm in Gabrielle's situation, only my dad left when I was five and my brother tracked him down. I said no thanks to getting to know him. A friend found her adoptive parents and she could not have found two people more unlike her.