Break On Through

Read this request for advice this morning –

Dear Amy: When my mother was a teenager, she gave birth to a son and put him up for adoption.

I found out about it as a child only because my grandmother became quite mean in her later years and told me about it to embarrass my mom. My mother and I never discussed it, and honestly I had pretty much forgotten about it.

Many years later, I bought one of those DNA testing kits and later got one for my mom, too. A few days ago, we both received an “ancestry sharing request” from a person the DNA service has identified as being my half brother.

I asked my mom via text (I am currently living outside the country) if she was going to respond to him, but she didn’t answer the question.

I’m not sure if I should push the topic further with her.

Also, do I have any obligation to respond to this half brother? My gut instinct is to not respond at all. I found him on Facebook and saw that his posts were all far too political and religious for me.

Thoughts?

— Wondering Half-Sibling

Amy’s response –

Wondering Half-Sibling: Based on what you report, people in your family may have a pattern of dredging up challenging topics, and then burying them again when they hit too close to the heart — or simply become too uncomfortable to face.

One of my favorite quotes is from the poet Robert Frost: “…the best way out is always through.” I take this to mean that almost any challenging situation is made better — ultimately — by going through it, rather than around it.

Yes, you could take your half brother’s social media postings as a (faint) justification to ignore him. You have the right to ignore him. But he has the right to some factual knowledge about his own biological and medical history, and you should be able to help provide that without necessarily entering into a relationship that you obviously don’t feel inclined to have.

Understand, too, that if your brother’s values and world-view are so very different from yours, he also may not wish to enter into a sibling relationship with you, either.

Yes, this would definitely reveal some very challenging truths for your mother. Given how her own mother treated him, she might not be able to face this reality. You could assume that when she and her family placed her baby for adoption, they did so with the knowledge that this chapter was closed — never dreaming that some day DNA would enable people to circumvent adoption contracts. It would be kindest if you contacted your mother (perhaps by phone, not text) and asked, gently and without judgment, if she would like to talk about this.

~ source for the above – The Washington Post

Some further thoughts from this blogger

It is true that the advent of inexpensive DNA testing has actually been a godsend for adoptees locked out of their own true origins, with original birth certificates denied them, with the truths of how they came to be adopted denied them – because the DNA tells the truth of our genes.  DNA testing has made all the difference for me as the child of two adoptees in finally knowing who all 4 of my original grandparents were and making connections with my true genetic relatives.  With over 6 decades of living robbed from us, building relationships is slow and not terribly productive with some.  With others there is definitely a heartfelt connection that I am likely much more grateful to have than they could ever understand.

Angry At Mom

It is such a taboo but it is surprisingly common that in attempting a reunion, an adoptee will find themselves angry at their first mother.

Having experienced the wounds of abandonment, rejection and being given up for adoption, seeing stories of women handing their kids over to strangers is understandably triggering. Many of these moms are so blinded by the narrative that they don’t see the long term repercussions of the decision they are making.  Adoptees are shouting as loudly as possible and that is a good thing.  More expectant mothers are not allowing themselves to be pressured into making a permanent decision about a temporary condition (lack of financial resources or familial support).

There are groups for expectant mothers contemplating surrendering their baby and the reality is 99% of the women in those groups will pounce and fill her head with nonsense about how wonderful adoption is.  That is not a balanced perspective to make a decision from.  One should always seek out the most diverse perspectives about the really important decisions in life.

The truth is – nobody gets a say in being born or choosing biological parents (unless you believe as I do in eternal life and that such choices are actually made before birth with full awareness of the likely, though not certain, outcome) nor do they have a voice in being given up for adoption.  Voices filled with strong emotions always speak the loudest – be it the original parents, the adoptive parents or adoptees.

I have a very complicated story related to adoption.  I recognize that my story is not everyone’s. And I welcome anyone else’s opinion on adoption that needs to express themselves in their own way and in their own time.  We may agree to disagree about whatever but I will always seek to be respectful and considerate of each and every unique person and situation that comes my way.

Adoptees should not feel that they have to be grateful to anyone that is part of their adoption story.  My sons are both donor conceived.  We have never hidden that reality from them.  They would not exist otherwise.  I remember the oldest once said to us “Am I supposed to be grateful to her?”  We answered honestly, No but we are.

Life is never perfect.  Families are complicated.  Issues vary and hopefully, love prevails.  Sometimes love looks like removing one’s self from a relationship for one’s own well-being.  That is a valid choice as well.

 

Ownership

“Naming is claiming – go for it!!!”

There’s power in a name, naming and claiming a child for yourself.  So many adoptive parents, re-name the child they adopt, and thereby seek to make it something the child was not born as – their own.

Tied like charms to a ribbon are thorny bits of memory…perhaps pre-verbal.  A sense that one had been someone else “before” adoption.

There’s far too much power given to adoptive parents over a child.  When they endow you with a name of their own choosing, you become their property.

An adoptee was always who they were born as.  No one thought to ask their permission before they changed the child’s birth certificate to create a false identity for them because they were simply too young to ask.

Of all the reforms I have been learning about from the adoptees themselves, not changing the names they were born with or re-doing their birth certificates to take ownership of them, like one would with the title to a car, would be a respectful and considerate decision.

If they want to change what the world calls them when they are old enough to understand the power that is their own name, then that is their choice, not someone else’s.

Clueless Questions

Quite a long time ago, I learned not to ask potentially embarrassing questions.  In fact, I rarely ask what could be defined as a “personal” question.  If someone wants to tell me about whatever, it is their prerogative not my right.

So I was reading about some of the clueless questions adoptees sometimes receive –

Where are your real parents ?

Couldn’t your parents have their own kids ?

Are your adoptive parents angry you reunited ?

“Was your birth mother on drugs ?”

In the book The Declassified Adoptee, she gives those who just have to know better ways of asking these kinds of questions.  She suggests that “Good questions are strengths first, person first.  They consider the feelings of the person answering a question first, above the necessity for information.”

She adds “It is ALWAYS important to validate an adoptee’s membership within ALL of the families that she identifies with.”

As the child of two adoptees, who after 6 decades of life, has only recently discovered my biological, genetic relations (mostly cousins and one aunt), I get it.  I love the adoptive families I grew up with and have shared life experiences with.  I love that I now know people who share my DNA.  I love them all, differently, for different reasons but love is love.