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Posts Tagged ‘biological family’

There are many roads converging for me, and Jonah, right now.  I’m not going to say a lot about Jonah just yet – there is an IEP meeting coming up and I’ll write more about him then.  Our visits have been good, and he hasn’t aggressed toward me in many months.  I’m really looking forward to seeing him tomorrow and giving him the cool t-shirt I bought him last week when I was in Phoenix for work.

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I guess I’ve been too overwhelmed to write – too overwhelmed, even, to really turn things over in my head.  How expert I am at being the wintertime hermit, staying in, sleeping more than I need to, seeking a comfortable numb from a sometimes crushing and ever-present anxiety.  I’m usually good, though, at turning my attention from that which frightens or floods my mind.  To be honest, for a while now I’ve kind of kept my head in the sand, ostrich-ing my way beneath a lot of this life.

But recent events are taking me somewhere new now, shaking me awake from the slumber.

You want me to get to the point, probably, so here it is:

I found my birth family.

I’ve written a few times in this blog about being adopted.  (Each of those links will bring you to a random example).

So my co-worker, Erin, likes researching on Ancestry.com.  Back in the summer, when we’d first met, she was really interested in my somewhat half-hearted search to find birth relatives.  I presented her with all my non-identifying birth information and gave her the green light to start digging.  I’d already taken the DNA test through 23andme.com, so we had a second cousin to work from.  Then Erin said Ancestry.com had its own DNA test, so I took that one too.  Long story short, we found more relatives and Erin was able to nail down some family names (Hoffman, Moon, and Sweet) and some specific people.

My non-identifying birth information is so unique it wasn’t likely to be confused with another’s.  I have four siblings (the paperwork said “probably half siblings”).  The paperwork also included their sex, the year they were born, and the fact that the youngest boy (next to me) had died before I was born, cause unknown.

Twice Erin found women she thought might be my biological mother.  The first time, mid-summer, I wrote out a script for myself and when I called, no one answered, so I left a message.  The lady called me back and was very kind; she had no idea how we might be related but said she’d help me any way she could.  None of the information sounded familiar to her at all, though.  Erin and I determined we’d followed the wrong branch of a family tree.

The second time Erin found a potential match, back in early December,  it was a woman from the Sweet family.  I called her, using a script again and, like before, left a message.  This potential birth mother, however, never called me back.  We figured it was a dead end and Erin kept looking.

And then, one day in early January, Erin showed me an ad she’d found on adoption.com from another person in the Sweet family.  The woman who had placed the ad was looking for her sister, and said she had one brother and one sister, which matched my circumstances exactly.  She gave her sister’s estimated birth year as 1970 (I was born in September of 1969).  Then I saw the baby’s birth name:  Christina Marie Sweet.

My breath caught. My parents had told me that, at the time of my adoption, I was named Tina.  This was the detail, really, that made me confident it was not just another dead end.  “I’m the person she’s looking for,” I said.  “Me.  I think this is it.  You found them!”

And so Erin sat beside me as I called with my script.  Another answering machine, but halfway through my message a woman answered, her voice excited.  I explained again why I was calling and told her I thought I might be the sister she was looking for.  I mentioned that I had four half-siblings, one of whom had died before I was born.  Then she knew, and started to cry.  “I’ve been looking for you my whole life,” she told me.

With my boss’ kind permission I took 1/2 day off from work and drove out to meet her, only about 20 miles away.  After determining for certain that we were not mistaken, we talked and we laughed and she showed me all kinds of photos.  I think we look alike, though she is nearly 10 years older:

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We both love bohemian, hippie clothes.  We both love elves and don’t wear makeup.  We have so many of the same mannerisms.  We even both stand like a flamingo when we do dishes (something I had to have a photo of when I saw it).

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She is kind, and strong, and so happy to have found her “baby sister.”

There is a lot to tell, and more people to contact and see if they want to meet me or not.  I always assumed my birth family would want little or nothing to do with me – on the non-identifying birth info sheet it said I was the product of an affair and that my mother had reunited with her husband (apparently the father of all the other kids but me).  I envisioned a family repaired behind me, healed in my absence – maybe even because of my absence.  A single indiscretion on my mother’s part resulting in a surprise pregnancy and unwanted child – me.  They probably wouldn’t want a scar like that ripped open.

I was raised very much wanted and loved, by both of my parents as well as a big extended group of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, none ever treating me as anything but one of the family.  Maybe it’s for this reason that I never tried all that hard to find my birth family.  It always seemed there would only be rejection waiting for me, and though I told myself it wouldn’t matter, I’m also old enough to understand you never really know how things are going to hit you.

But I wanted a photo of my birth mother, if nothing else.  And I couldn’t stop thinking that maybe some of the siblings at least might want to meet me.  And now I have both of those things.  This is my mother’s wedding photo:

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I still have many unanswered questions.  It turns out the second woman I’d called in early December was not a dead end after all – she is my birth mother.  She just didn’t call me back.

My brother’s death, just weeks before my birth, was a tragic accident.  And my siblings’ childhoods were not idyllic.   But I’m not here to expose wrongdoings, make accusations, or reveal things the family has the right to keep private.

I’ve been invited into the life of a sister who has been looking for me – a sister who wants me for a sister.  It’s something I’ve never even really considered as a possibility. Whether or not I will have a relationship with my other half-siblings isn’t clear yet.  It is enough, for now, to have the one.

Mostly I have Erin to thank, for without her this family likely would have all gone undiscovered.  Now I know information that was unfairly kept from me my whole life.  Information that I (and, I believe, all adoptees) have the right to know.  Who I am and where I came from.  It matters.  My siblings were told they had a little sister and then that little sister never came home from the hospital.  It wasn’t fair to them, either.

And so, just like that, my life’s trajectory has changed and will never be the same again.   I get to rewrite the ending.  I’m grateful for the gift of it.

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So I allowed myself a break from telling the story of Jonah and our ups and downs…the roller coaster twisting racing in turns of joy and aggression, stopping at the station for deep breaths of still, of peace, but the safety bar won’t raise – it never lets us out – and then after a day a week a month the announcement to keep hands and feet inside the vehicle, and we’re off again and climbing that hill from which comes the fall the fright the feelings, stop the ride I want to get off please.

It’s the same shit I always spout and am tired of spouting.  How about this year I turn my metaphor around, into a river…not round and round but journeying somewhere, rocks and rapids notwithstanding?  Not so much dizziness but the radical acceptance of a fluid situation.  Change not as an event but as a constancy.  Journeying not with a destination but as the destination.

Yeah, like I’m gonna turn all Zen.  Well I can give it a shot, anyway.

First the third wake:  my friend K’s father passed away from the lung cancer that killed him on Friday the 13th of December.  Her bravery and strength, the way she carries this burden like a strong woman of faith with a will of iron and a heart of truth and beauty…she is the only child, like me.  Now she slams the door shut on 2013 and perhaps is still in shock that her father will not be there in this new year.  How strange is grief, and the different ways it works its necessary, surgical-like job inside each one of us when we mourn.  I have tried to be a good friend but still feel helpless.  Through it all she managed to make batches of Christmas cookies and gift them to me along with a Willie Wonka shirt for Jonah with Oompa Loompas on it.  I am proud to call her one of my closest friends.

My real-life-friends have whittled down to a few, but they are gems who have stuck with me no matter what – without judgement or competitive bullshit or cattiness.  That feels right.   In 2013 I have given and forgiven; I have risen to the occasion and I have fallen apart.  I’ve slipped and stayed lying on the ground for a while.  I’ve crawled and danced and risked everything and lost my shit it felt so good to smash that glass all for a better way to get through this life, for better things to do, for more important goals, more impactful work.   I’ve soared higher than ever on the warmest winds of change and beauty.  I’ve cried my eyes out both in sorrow and laughter.  I’ve lived. 

During the month of December I also allowed myself to feel the angry, awful pull in my heart every time I saw kids waiting for Santa, counting days, getting excited, dressed for photos, new babies joining bigger siblings by the fireside as mom bakes cookies, the whole Christmas scene and winter family fun I envy.

Then I take the time to realize half of what we see is illusion anyway, and the other half probably would envy my ability to give my boy bubbles, tangle toys, and a Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory DVD for Christmas while they are faced with kids who want iPads and gaming systems – the right sneakers and the cool outfits, hundreds and maybe thousands of dollars of presents.  Of course this is all conjecture and generalization, but you get the idea.

There are no right outfits for Jonah, unless you count the fact that comfort is king.  In fact, Andy drove Jonah up to my mother and me on Christmas in jammie bottoms and an unmatched shirt, because that’s what Boo wanted to wear.

Jonah Boo, playing on my mom's floor with a flashing turnabout radio-controlled car

Jonah Boo, playing for a few minutes on my mom’s floor with a flashing turnabout radio-controlled car

My mother had cooked a ham & pre-prepared it all into containers for us and, just like Thanksgiving, we spent Christmas on car ride seeking a train that once again refused to come because it was a holiday.

I caught the little bugger for a Christmas pic with mama

I caught the little bugger for a Christmas pic with his mama

My mama and me

And one of MY mama and me

When Jonah loves a particular scene in a movie or show, he'll run up to the TV with a happy screech

When Jonah loves a scene on TV or in a movie he will run to the screen with a happy screech.  Here’s another example, taken a few days later:

Still Willie Wonka on the screen

Still Willie Wonka on the screen

And the coolest pic of all, methinks, because Jonah is watching on one side and a kid IN the movie is watching on another:

I love this pic

Here comes the falling somersault

So I may not have a lot of details to share, some because I chose to forget and some because I am too lazy to type out a month’s worth of details….but there are many moments of Jonah being his repititious-yet-never-boring self.

I have to give a shout-out to Jonah’s dad, Andy, who as usual has come through in his amazing father way.  Since he lives so close to Jonah he sees him more than I do — but that doesn’t mean he has to pick him up for visits as much as he does, or withstand the aggressions, the emotional strain, and the exhaustion which nearly almost follows a visit — he has picked Jonah up for a visit whenever he can, whenever he is not working.  Always he is patient and takes Jonah on all the car rides our boy so loves, playing Prince CDs for Jonah (which is kind of like me playing Guster CDs for him, because Andy loves Prince like I love Guster).

Always he is a wonderful father.  The best parent with the strongest constitution and all the love in the world for his precious son, his only child.

Here is Jonah crying because we forgot to bring his favorite Prince CD on the car ride.  Luckily we were not far away and were able to return to the apartment to retrieve the longed-for CD.

"Diamonds and Pearls?!"

“Diamonds and Pearls?!”

This is not a boy with autism having an aggression.  This is a kid who wants his Prince and ain’t afraid to cry about it.

Oh the humanity

Oh the humanity

Poor Boo.  The aggressions I thought might be gone for good have returned.  I have no idea how many times the pendulum has to swing before I get it through my head:  pendulums swing – it’s what they do.  Perhaps I can incorporate this into my head as well this year. Or, better yet, find a way to blow up the pendulum.  Smash it all to hell.

I’m gonna learn play my new acoustic guitar (thank you Richie, who came to visit from Japan, for teaching me the 1-4-5 progression, which means I can play about 10,000 songs very poorly so far)…and maybe try a song or two for Jonah…

yes I asked for this specific one because I am a DUMMY with an acoustic guitar

Yes I asked for this specific one because I am a DUMMY with an acoustic guitar

So here is a 2013 pictorial to usher in what I pray will be a better year – for everyone!

The Year of The Eye: January 2013

The Year of The Eye:
January 2013

March:  more eye doctor

March: more eye doctor

April:  thumb-sucking contemplative Boo

April: thumb-sucking contemplative Boo

May:  waking up from the eye operation to try & save the sight in his left eye

May: waking up from the eye operation to try & save the sight in his left eye

June: The endless wearing of the eye shield

June: The endless wearing of the eye shield

July:  a smile through the eye shield

July: a smile through the eye shield

More daddy-love in August

More daddy-love in August

No more eye shield.  The operation didn't save his sight.  Thank God for Boo's healthy right eye!

September:  Happy Boo, rocking back and forth to a tune in the car. The operation didn’t save his left eye’s sight, though. Thank God for Boo’s healthy right eye!

October:  visit to the juvenile arthritis doc - everything looks great!

October: visit to the juvenile arthritis doc – everything looks great!

November:  Boo asks if the nonexistent "Thanksgiving train" is coming, and points to where he thinks it'll come from.

November: Boo asks if the nonexistent “Thanksgiving train” is coming & points to where he thinks it’ll come from.  He looks hopeful.  Sorry Boo!

Rockin' his Almanzo Wilder Homestead shirt & eating some chips and dip...

December: Rockin’ his Almanzo Wilder Homestead shirt & eating some chips and dip…

Boo’s ready for 2014.  We’re three days in already and “Snowstorm Hercules” (I guess they’re naming all the snowstorms now) has dropped maybe 7 or 8 inches here in Albany.  Hercules my ass.  They should have named it Deep Freeze — it’s about negative 4 outside and even opening a curtain feels like I’m subjecting myself to snow-blindness from all the white-bright.

P.S.  My biological family does not want anything to do with me.  Surprise surprise.  It was a bee sting, really – for a short while it hurt, burned, stank of rejection and things not right or fair.  I cried.  Then I got up off my ass and put some calamine lotion on the whole mess and flicked the bee off my arm.  That bee died stinging me, just as this biological-relative bullshit is dead to me now.  I am blood-related to Boo, and that’s all I need.  That, and the family I already have and love – including those outside my adoptive family whom I have chosen to adopt as sisters or brothers or cousins, DNA be damned.

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Of course as soon as I posted that last entry, the school called to say Jonah needed a management/two-person take-down that day.  But I wasn’t expecting a miracle, just enjoying a moment.  Or a few thousand moments.  In general, his behaviors have shrunk significantly in both frequency and severity.

Though I have been very sick (more migraines w/accompanying nausea etc.) since early Friday morning and didn’t go with my mom to see Boo yesterday, I am beginning finally to feel better.  I’ll see Jonah on Thanksgiving Day when Andy drives him up for a visit, and I can look forward to that.

I also am looking forward to and simultaneously afraid of revelation number two.  It will be a wandering story, because these kinds of revelations always are…and I’ll start here…

I have this wonderful friend, and though we’ve only spent six days or so in one another’s company, we have remained simpatico even though those six days are now three years ago.  She and her partner are embarking on the journey of foster parenthood, and many of the babies they will foster have been born crack addicted or will have other conditions and disabilities to overcome.

Having regarded Boo a “difficult” baby, I’m unsure how to imagine caring for an infant who won’t/can’t stop screaming, who won’t/can’t sleep, and who, somehow at the same time, needs to be nurtured and loved and held even more than a “normal” child.    I know in my heart that my friend can do this, and can also let go when it is time to do so, however heartbreaking it may be.

Is it heartbreaking for the baby, too?

I was in foster care from birth to six months old, after which I was adopted into my family.  I wish I knew the circumstances of the first six months of my life, other than that I was placed into foster care because “there was something wrong with my feet,” which my parents were later instructed to fix, early 70s-style, by attaching my feet to a straight bar as I slept.

I wonder how much those six months shaped me, and I wonder why, as my parents tell me, I did not seem to mind being suddenly moved to another environment with different people, different sights & smells — a different life.  It kind of worries me (half-kidding) that I was all fine and smiley in my new home.  I would not like it one bit if someone took Boo away from me at six months old — and I would not expect him to like it one bit either.  I mean, damn.  You can’t tell me babies are that malleable.  Or are they?

Or was I simply quite happy to wake up warm and so obviously loved and welcomed by a large family of parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, the whole shebang?  None of my family has ever made me feel adopted.  Not ever.

Still, I was always curious about my biological relatives – and I wanted more medical history for both me and the only other blood relative I know (Jonah-boo) – so I did a spit kit DNA test to see if I could find some blood relatives on www.23andme.com.

It’s been a year now since my results came back.  I did find out which genetic markers I had and whether I was predisposed to all kinds of different illnesses and diseases.  I actually have a low risk rate (compared to the average population) of most everything except Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).

I also found out what part(s) of the world my ancestors are from, and how much of me is from where, and who I am distantly related to based on DNA strands or whatever tool they’ve got to determine these things.

A genetic expert I am not.

I never found anyone closer than a “possible 3rd or 4th cousin” on the site, and tracing relations that far removed, especially with me being adopted, would be near-impossible.  Last month, though, I received a notification that a definite second cousin match, R, had been found.  She wrote to me through the 23 and me site, and I answered.

Long story short, it appears I have stumbled upon my biological relatives.

After sharing all the non-identifying information I had with R (which actually provides quite a lot of details, like four half-siblings born before me and each of their birth years and sexes, plus the fact that one had died before I was born),  she wrote back again.

It appears R’s father is my first cousin, and that one of his five aunts is my birth mother.  R’s whole family is still in the area where I was adopted (very close to where I live now), and though she now lives in the NYC/NJ area, she is coming up to see her family for Thanksgiving and will speak in person to them about all this.

One of the big potential problems is that, based on all that non-identifying information I’ve got, I’m the product of an affair (hence the four half and not full siblings), after which my birth mother reunited with her husband, and my birth father likely just took off running.

So I e-mailed R that I will understand if they don’t want to meet or see me, and that I’m not trying to impose myself on their family.

Exchanging e-mails would be great; meeting them would be cool.  But I need to prepare myself for complete rejection.  I cannot expect they’ll be rolling out the welcome mat for one who may only remind them of a painful situation perhaps best left in the decades-past.

Who knows what will happen?  I am used to questions, and mysteries, and instability, so this is not really all that different.    At any rate, I should know what has been decided, hopefully soon.

I really would like a picture of my birth mother, though, if that’s all I can have.  I want a partial mirror of myself to stare into, the way all my relatives (on both my mother’s and my father’s side) have certain commonalities; the features, behaviors, traits, and mannerisms they share are their mirrors.

I’d like a look at mine.

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