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.

Grief That Never Ends

Ferera Swan goes on to say –

Adoptees are often challenged to defend our perspectives on adoption, our very lived experiences invalidated by those who have never lived a day of adoption in their life. This very interaction is a reinforcement of our trauma, yet people wonder why so many adoptees come across as “angry”. Not only have we lost our mother, we’re now being challenged to explain all the mechanics of how it can possibly still affect us just as profoundly as adults—even when the research on maternal separation is crystal clear.

In general, the public tends to reduce this experience to mere “emotions or feelings” adoptees have about adoption, when a significant part of our trauma also involves what happens on a biological, neurological, and developmental level as a result of maternal separation. Just because most people can’t authentically fathom this kind of loss doesn’t mean our trauma isn’t real or valid.

Instead of attempting to compare our loss with other things—nothing compares to losing your mother—or listing all the reasons why you think we should be grateful (that’s not what grief has ever been about), please have the courage to listen to what we have to say.

She says in a comment –

You are absolutely welcome to share any of my public posts. I’m so sorry that your relatives have approached your trauma in such dismissive, harmful and hurtful ways. I can relate to severing ties with those who prefer our silence—we learn a lot about our relationships when we begin speaking our truths.

A commentor had said –

It will be interesting to see how many of my relatives respond with memes about gratitude and the importance of growing up and getting over things. Sometimes the responses are about unconditional love (which has been weaponized in my family). at least a few will pass it by without any comment, because pretending unpleasant things don’t exist is another favorite tactic. Maybe someone will pause to think. I have broken with a number of people in the last couple of years. I finally stopped being so afraid of rejection that I remained silent.

Finally, one commentor noted –

The laws of secrecy and lies that punish a child for the benefit of the adults is ridiculous when we become of age.

Adoptees are treated like second class citizens who have less human rights that most people take for granted.  Time for a total change in how we care for vulnerable and at risk children.  And mothers should receive full support to remain with their babies whenever possible.

You can keep up with Ferera Swan at her website – fereraswan.com/swanproject/heartbroken-infants