I was fourteen the first time I remember wondering who my birth parents were. I’d always known I was adopted. It hadn’t ever really clicked for me as a younger child that being adopted meant I had another family out there somewhere.
In my adoptive family, I stood out like a short, autistic thumb. Never fitting in left me feeling like a foundationless structure. The constant question of ‘where do I come from’ stayed on my mind always.
I knew only a few things about my mother. My mom was sixteen when I was born, she was from a large city in Florida, and her family sent her to a girl’s home when she became pregnant.
No name. No real identifying information. Nothing.
In my twenties, I decided to begin my search for my family. I wanted to know. I thought I’d waited long enough until my heart could handle it.
I did everything the search experts suggested. I hunted through every adoption registry available. Without a name, it seemed an impossible mountain to climb.
In the first eight years of searching, I came close, without knowing it, once. One obscure registry had an entry for a child born close to my birthday with other similar details. The email address, unfortunately, was no longer valid, and I could never find a way to contact the person who had posted it.
As a last resort, I reached out to other women who had been sent to the home for girls as unwed mothers. Their stories of abuse and being coerced into surrendering their children broke my heart for them–and for my mother. Sadly, none of them could connect me with my mother.
My next attempt led me to contact the attorney who handled all of the adoptions for the girls home. He gave me the runaround and eventually stopped returning my calls. The state had no information on file. My adoptive family stonewalled me, angry over my decision to continue to search.
For months, I went through an emotionally draining cycle of giving up, starting again, giving up, and starting again. It hurt, failing. I continually searched the registries to see if any new posts had been made.
On a whim, I decided to try AncestryDNA. What could it hurt? Everything else had failed.
Initially, the closest connection made was a third cousin twice removed–not exactly earth shattering. I knew it would be next to impossible to attempt to trace my way in reverse through family trees. There were just too many names to follow.
And then in 2015, I had a close match. Beyond close. He had to be either a cousin, uncle, or grandfather. From his age, I made an educated guess on him being my mother’s brother. I messaged him with a generic message along the lines of ‘I think we might be related.’
For a year, I religiously checked my account for a response, but nothing. I started to give up again. It hurt to be so close yet so far away from the answers I’d sought for so long.
Randomly, one evening I checked my Ancestry account only to find he’d messaged me. “I’m your uncle..”
I had an uncle.
More than that, my mother wanted to talk to me, to meet me, to get to know me.
We met in November. Me, my mom, and my grandmother. For the first time in my life, I felt a connection to family. A real, solid connection. All these puzzle pieces fell into place.
Over the years, I’d heard all the nightmare stories from other adoptees about reunions that turned ugly. I’d been so terrified about my own. It went beautifully.
We talk frequently.
I have a family. A mother, a stepfather, brothers, uncles, a grandmother. I know who to blame my height on. I know who I look like and why I can’t draw a straight line (thanks, grandma.)
Looking back on the ten-year journey, I’m glad it happened now and not earlier. I’m not sure I would’ve been prepared for the overwhelming emotions that hit me when I met her.
What strikes me most, though, through all of this, is how centered I feel. I know where my family comes from. I know more than I ever imagined I would.