My birth parents’ search didn’t begin with a DNA test; they didn’t exist yet. Instead, my quest started with the man who had adopted me.
This is the third essay in a series on this adoptee voice. You’ll find the first essay here.
Standing in the single stall garage of my Grandma’s house, where the smell of old cedar wood combined with exhaust from the clothes dryer, my dad and I discussed my desire to search for my birth parents. I was 18 and had recently graduated from high school.
“I decided a long time ago that if you ever decided to search, I would do everything I could to help.”
My brother, 12 years older, and our parents’ biological child, disapproved. Not of our father helping me, but of my desire to seek the answers to my identity. He didn’t understand, and how could he? He and our dad shared so many unique mannerisms, including the way both of them walked. He knew the history of his features, heritage, and health. I didn’t.
Dad Went To Work
A few weeks later, Dad told me of his conversation with the hospital president, where I was born. With Iowa adoption records sealed, Dad asked for a professional (and personal) courtesy, as they held the same position with hospitals in Iowa.
Unfortunately, by this time, all the records were on microfiche in an offsite storage facility and would be nearly impossible to find without drawing unwanted attention.
Dad continued to reach out to people in his network, including attorneys, judges, and more. No one could help. The laws simply did not allow it.
We were both disappointed.
Less than ten years later, I would find myself dealing with severe medical issues, and the pull toward learning more about where I’d come from showed up again.
Renewing the Search
Reaching out to the adoption agency, I asked if they had any information on my medical history. They had nothing more than I already knew, which was that everyone was healthy at the time of my birth. They gave me the option of paying them $100 per hour, with a four-hour minimum to research the issue.
I also learned that had I called them before the age of 25; they would have searched for free. Feeling furious and desperate, I explained that no one had ever told me there was a deadline and that I hadn’t been in a health crisis until now. It didn’t matter. Rules were rules.
And I didn’t have the money.
Over the years that followed and with the advent of the internet, I would spend hours searching various databases. At one point, I even sent letters to Lutheran ministers at churches located in the town of my birth.
Nothing I did gave me a clue as to who my parents were. I even called the adoption agency again to see if my birth parents had reached out to them since the last time I’d contacted them. They hadn’t.
As the realization hit that no one was looking for me, I began to make up even more stories. Maybe they were dead or in jail. Perhaps I was the child of a rape. Feeling defeated, the stories I made up turned dark. Depression and feelings of unworthiness once again became a reality.
No one is looking for me.
In the stories of my mind, I wasn’t worthy, and the proof came in two undeniable ways. My birth parents didn’t raise me, and they were not searching for me.
DNA Test Time
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By 2017, I finally got up the courage to take the 23andMe test. This test promised to give me insight into my health. It also had the potential to connect me to people sharing my DNA, provided any had also taken the same test.
I learned some about my health history and continued to learn more as reports automatically get updated as the company expands its variant testing. I also found a list of people with whom I shared small percentages of DNA.
Two years later, and six months after Big D connected with his birth mother through a DNA match, I took the AncestryDNA test. Upon receiving my results, I was immediately contacted by distant cousins who wanted to know how we were related. Once again, I answered questions about my history with the same word: adopted.
There were no close connections, other than a few second cousins, and I was again saddened not to see a parent or sibling connection show up.
COVID-19 Pushes Me Forward
When COVID-19 started devasting people’s lives, I ordered the MyHeritage DNA test kit. As one of the last remaining top DNA matching resources, I found myself struggling with completing the test.
What if I still didn’t find my parents?
Five months later, I finally took the test and awaited the results. October 5, 2020, was the day I learned that, still again, I did not match with any close relatives. I was devastated.
Two days later, Big D suggested I reach out to the second cousins I’d matched with and attempt to backtrack my way to finding my parents. At that moment, everything shifted for me.
All this time, I had pretended I was searching, but I wasn’t. I was waiting.
I was waiting for someone to find me.
I copied and pasted my message to the top ten closest matches across all three test sites with renewed determination. No longer waiting, I felt empowered to have made an effort.
Exactly 13 days later, I was having my first ever conversation with a human being who shared my DNA. My cousin and his wife. The next morning, I spoke with another cousin who would give me information that would forever change my life.
My birth mother’s name and phone number.