Thursday, May 14, 2015

an object in motion

Back in December I wrote a post about being adopted, and about my biological mother, who might (or might not) be looking for me. To sum up: there are posts on several seeking-adopted-child websites from a woman whom we'll call Ellen, hoping to find a daughter born at the hospital where I was born, on my birth date. She lists the name of the child's father - let's call him Edward.

For some reason, after an entire life of not being curious at all, I was suddenly besieged by intense curiosity once I published the post. A few weeks before I posted, a local friend shared one of those photos that go around facebook periodically, of a girl holding a posterboard asking for help finding her biological mother. My friend posted again mere days later and reported that the adoptee (a friend of hers) had turned to a facebook group that specializes in tracking down adopted folks or their biological families and had found her birth mother. I still can't explain why, but after posting here, I joined the group myself and asked, basically, How does this work if I'm the adoptee and I don't want you to look for info based on me as the starting point, but rather to see if you can start with the person who is searching? Can you take her info and see if you trace it back to me without any of my info to give you a head start? Does that make sense? Like, if they started with her and got to me, I'd find it more plausible. Plus the group has over 6000 members and no way no how were they getting my personal identifying info.

A bunch of them missed the point and asked me to post all of my personal information so they could start looking, one recommended finding an intermediary who would contact Ellen and get all the info they could from her, so that we wouldn't have to directly talk. One of them messaged me privately and said, hey, I wouldn't throw your personal info on that site, but if you want me to run a background check on this Ellen person, I can do it. Probably I'm an idiot to trust some fb random, but I had her do it. She found some property records and some other stuff that led her to a guy on facebook that she thought might be Ellen & Edward's son. I was relieved to find that he didn't look exactly like my kids, I have to tell you. But then I noticed that he had gone to my high school during the time i was there - I graduated in 1999 and he graduated in 2001. I seriously felt like I was going to throw up for about half an hour after that. I didn't know him at all - can't even recall ever hearing his name. There were about 900 kids at the school, so it's possible we never even saw each other. Then I noticed we had a mutual facebook friend, Brittany.

I probably should've left it alone, but I messaged Brittany and said, hey, are you close friends with this Joe guy, or just like facebook acquaintance "friends"? She said they were pretty good friends, used to be much closer, but assured me he's a really nice guy. I asked her, did he ever mention having a sister that was given up for adoption? He hadn't, of course, because what high school / college dude is going to bring that up to a girl he hangs out with at work? I finally just had her ask him outright what his mom's name was, and it wasn't Ellen. Then I asked her to ask him, did he know an Ellen. Turns out Ellen and his father, Edward, were together before he was born, but she's not his mother. After a bunch of back and forth, Brittany managed to find the adoptee finder website posts and showed them to Joe, who said absolutely, the person who posted them is the Ellen he knows. That poor dude was basically DYING of curiosity because Brittany kept her promise to me and didn't tell him my name. He was way cooler about the whole situation than I'd expect anyone to be, and I suspect he felt not unlike I felt as it was happening - immensely curious but also completely perplexed. And now, of course, it's been almost six months since that conversation and I never pursued any of it - so I feel a little bad that I just left him hanging. I wonder if he forgot about the whole thing, or if it's been bugging him ever since.

I don't know what I think or how I feel - I didn't then and I still don't. After my initial burst of rabid need-to-know, I cooled way off and mostly forgot about all of it until this week, when it randomly bubbled to the surface of my mind. It's pretty insane that I might have gone to high school with my half brother and not even known. Of course, OF COURSE, I still don't know anything for sure and this could all be a giant flukey coincidence. Or maybe it is my half-brother and he does know my biological parents and I still decide at the end of this story that I don't want a whole new family. Is that awful? Maybe.

But as another friend and I agreed as it was all unfolding that day back in December, in a city of 100,000 people, what are the odds that there were multiple baby girls born on that same day at that same hospital to a mom in the right age range who were given up for adoption? My mom (my actual mom) seems to think the number is large enough to blow this off as just chance. But many kids are given up for adoption per day in a city this size? I would be surprised if it was one per day, I really would. Especially straight out of the hospital infant adoptions. I still have no idea where I stand. I clearly needed time to process. A twitter friend with several adopted folks in her family sent me some advice from her and her family's perspective. Some of what she had to say was extremely grounded and smart, and I hope she doesn't mind me sharing it. She told me, If you want advice, think about what you want. Do you want to see if this person is related to you? Why? If she is, are you willing to adapt to having a new family in your life, a bunch of people (or even one person!) who think they know you because you share genetic material? Do you want to expose anyone else in your Family to these people? What's the worst case scenario, and can you live with it? Best case, and would it make you happy? Another twitter friend who is herself adopted and was contacted out of the blue by her biological mother as an adult, advised that she was glad they'd made contact, that having another person in her life who loves her and her kids has been positive, but did warn that one of the reasons she felt comfortable opening the door to the relationship was the fact that her biological mother lives two states away. My potential biological family lives in the same city as I do. It's a decently-sized city, but not huge enough to hide from someone who really wants to find you and be involved in your life despite your wishes if things don't go well. (Is that a horribly pessimistic thing to say?)

I think I initially overwhelmed myself with my burst of activity. Then it all felt too large to handle, so I let it ride and in doing so let it completely fade from my attention. My mom told me she'd seen something in the paper about a bill going before the state legislature that would open all adoption records created between 1941 and 1993. I thought, well, if this passes, I'll be able to go and look at my own original birth certificate without needing to co-petition for it alongside one of my possible biological parents. This would remove the entire uncomfortable angle of having to make contact with the biological family just to find out if they are, in fact, the biological family. Unfortunately the bill stalled in the state senate and is probably tabled. I do suspect Joe might be willing to participate in a DNA test to find out if the two of us share any genes, but that would put him in a bit of an awkward position, too, as I'd basically be asking him to keep a huge secret from his dad and from Ellen.

Most people who commented on the situation back in December were coming from a non-adoption-related angle, and for a lot of folks it maybe seems like a fun mystery, something that would be so cool to solve. They don't have to think about what this all REALLY means for me, for my family, for Ellen, for Ellen's family. I truly don't have any neat little bow to tie on the end of this story. I don't know what happens next, if anything. I don't know why this has been on my mind off and on for a week after months of radio silence. I still haven't taken care of all those morbid and creepifying adult documents like a will and a trust for my kids in the event of my untimely demise. But writing about it before felt right and made me feel better (even though it also apparently made me temporarily a little nuts), so maybe writing about it again will bring about some clarity.


  1. You are such a sane, sensible person I'm sure whatever you do will be good. But WHOA, to have gone to h.s. with a potential half-brother and not know it? WHOA.

  2. It is all rather mind-blowing.

    Paul's mom was adopted, and she never found her birth family: she had mixed feelings about it, so she'd start looking and then stop. When she died, we inherited her packet of what she'd discovered so far. We considered pursuing it, and we still consider it from time to time, but even at our much greater distance from the situation (and with all main participants very likely dead at this point), we still hesitate for many similar reasons: Do we really want to find these people? Do we really want to then be responsible for relationships with them, good or bad? Which would be better: never making the connection, or potentially needing to re-cut the connection?

    I wonder if it would be possible to get a message to her through a third party, something that lets her have some peace without giving her any identifying information (except some sort of bare-minimum thing that would let her know you were the right person). Something about how you're fine, you're happy, everything turned out well for you. If I'd placed a baby for adoption, I think I'd feel so much more settled if I knew things had gone well; I might not need the specifics of what KIND of well, or to have the relationship.