“THIS I BELIEVE”
Being adopted has never bothered me. I have never known any other family than the one that raised me since I was a year old. As the second infant girl adopted by a well-established couple who had lost their biological daughter to a congenital deformity, I always felt I had a mission—to fill the vacuum of their loss. I feel lucky that I ended up in the family I did and never had any ill feelings toward my biological parents.
Yet the older I got, the more it bothered me to have to draw a diagonal line through the “Family History” section on medical forms. With so many conditions and diseases known to be genetically linked, I increasingly felt a need to take action to find out my genetic history. Is this pain in my right thumb carpal tunnel or the onset of arthritis common within my birth family?
So I contacted an intermediary, who located and talked by phone with my birthmother. I was placed for adoption because at the time I was conceived my birth father was married to another woman. My birthparents later married each other and had three more children. I learned that my birthparents had talked through the years, including shortly before my birth father died, and agreed to never disclose my existence to anyone. My birthmother was happy to know how well I had turned out and promised to send a family health history.
Time passed……… but no word from my birth mother. Did she have a stroke? A change of heart? Was she going to reject me – again? My mood morphed from ecstasy to despondency to resentment. Could my birth mother just not bring herself to meet me? Did she now resent that I — a professionally successful business woman, Church officer and former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader — was the one she gave away?
With the little information I have about her, I think I could find her. Like a smitten lover, I even considered just showing up at her door.
The emotional side of me says my birth parents made a major decision about me with no regard for my feelings. They were OK with never seeing me again, never knowing what happened to me, never meeting the adult I became. My birth parents determined to not tell even their own kids about me and now, intentionally or otherwise, failing to provide my family health history.
My emotional side tells me my birth parents, by not telling my full-blood siblings that I even exist, have deprived them of any desire they might have had to reach out and find me. And my birth parents have created a situation that makes me — not them – the “bad person” should I ever show up.
On the other hand, my intellectual side wants to accept the legal promise made when they placed me for adoption…… that, for better or worse, my records would be permanently sealed. Having been through a divorce, I find it morally reprehensible that Courts routinely fail to enforce the very agreements made before them and signed off by them. Can I despise this duplicity and simultaneously allow myself to participate in its spineless ways?
My intellectual side reminds me that I have had a good life with countless benefits. What could I possibly gain by forcing myself onto my unsuspecting birth family? Health records would be helpful, but many friends have health conditions that no one on either side of their family tree has exhibited. And even the most complete family history doesn’t exempt you from death by disease or accident.
My intellectual side has me weigh the potential upside to me – learning my genetic history and meeting the only other blood relatives I have in this world – versus the potential downside to my birth family. After 55 years of an intentional cover-up, would they loose respect for their parents and wonder who else might be out there?
As strongly as I feel that my birth parents have done me and my siblings wrong….. as deeply hurt as I am in knowing that, as recently as a decade ago, my birth parents again chose to perpetuate their willful omission..… as abandoned as I feel by my birth mother who now knows who I am and where I live, I have chosen to follow my conscience and subordinate my own desires — and rights — to the wholeness of my birth family.
In choosing not to act, I will constantly struggle with the anger and disappointment brought on by my birth parents’ weakness. I will likely never meet the only blood relatives I have in this world. But in choosing not to act, I have forced myself to rise above a bad situation. As tough as the reality and unfairness of the situation is for me to accept, I feel I am doing the right thing. In the end, I can think of no better way to honor both my adoptive and my birth parents.
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