Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I didn't want to be the poster child for why adoptee rights are important... but here I am.

End of January 2014:
For a week, I have known who my birth/first/biological/*just* mother is. It's a pretty amazing feeling! I have looked for a long time. I have been so hungry to know. And normally, this discovery would be one of those defining life moments. You know, where you jump up and down and scream and cry and yelll "SUCK IT LOUISIANA CLOSED ADOPTION LAWS...I found out without your help, without your dumb permission. I found a way around your antiquated sensibilities and social expectations of young girls in tough situations.. So there. Suck it."  And for a split second my butt was off the chair, ready to do my victory dance. But that moment was also dark and full of hurt. In that moment my heart was crushed and torn. See, I have a sister. She was born a year before me and also adopted. I've always known about her, but not thanks to Louisiana. Again. My non-identifying adoption records that I got from the adoption agency included the medical records of my birth. In them is a short smidge of information. Really, very easy to overlook.
A sister. Adopted.  A girl to talk to, play with, lean on, play barbies with, confide in, giggle with. But only in that alternate dimension in which we could have been together. The dimension where early 1980s pregnant teens are supported by anyone and everyone, not just the father. I wonder if the O'Connell boys ever slid into a dimension like that, where families kept each other and said it would all be ok. But in THIS world, the reality is I was separated from a sister I never met. Still, I held onto the hope that I would find her one day, even knowing that she didn't know about me, I knew I would find her one day. My adoptive parents encouraged me to look for her. And I did. I looked in registries near and far, but especially near. I was under the impression that my mother was likely southern baptist, like the maternity home where she lived. I thought that she'd be in Louisiana or Mississippi, somewhere close. I. was. wrong. And all my answers were actually right under my nose. For years. That's part of the heartbreak. But back to my story and how I came to discover my original identity.

DNA testing. What an awesome AWESOME tool. I first tested with 23andme, transferred those results to Family Tree DNA and Gedmatch. Finally, I caught the black friday sale at Ancestry DNA. I wasn't too optimistic because Ancestry didn't give you the tools or information that the other sites did. I had many many many distant to 3rd cousins on the other sites..but in DNA speak...tracing your own lineage from the family trees of these distance cousins who you share 7 to 30 centimorgans of DNA with is rather overwhelming and a lot of work. It's still very needle-in-haystacky.. but possible. I was getting discouraged, though, that I hadn't found anyone close enough to really give me some hope.  I had been working and working and working the results, organizing my matches based on chromosome and segment number, seeing who overlapped and matched with who. You should see my spreadsheets! I'm amazed at what I was doing..what I can still do to make those connections. So I was taking a break from my DNA obsession and I got on the treadmill to walk briskly for 45 minutes while catching up on Revolution. Great show. Ding.. got another email. Lemme check it. "Your Ancestry DNA results are in" YES. So I keep walking and hop over to my email app. I tap here and there and get to the DNA results screen. And what do I see??   Close Family-First Cousin. WHAT? wait.. no.. this couldn't possibly wait one second. I have a first cousin match???  Needless to say, my treadmill was lonely for the next two days. My computer was not.

I researched the family tree associated with this close match. I was taking a good hard look at a woman who fit the profile of my mother. I looked at her facebook page and all her pictures. It turns out my close match is my younger half brother! wow.. He isn't the one who admins that account, though. It looks like it is controlled by his grandmother who I am not related to. I haven't been in contact with them yet.

On my suspected mother's facebook page, I had seen a photo of her and a young woman. It was clear that this young woman had passed away, based on the comments.  I took note of her name, looked at her profile and thought her story was very sad. She left behind 4 kids and a husband. I couldn't imagine their grief. And I couldn't imagine that I was actually related to her. The thought didn't even cross my mind. Fast forward. I realized what state my suspected birth mother grew up in, where she would have birthed my sister. So then I looked on the adoption registry for that state, to see if my sister might have posted and been looking. She did! She was! And the name of our mother was right there. So then I looked at my sister's name. It was the girl from my mother's facebook page. The one who had died. I. was. crushed. My heart. oh my heart. That is a heavy and difficult realization.  My sister was a sure thing in my mind. No matter what kind of person my mother turned out to be, no matter if she would want a relationship with me, my sister would have no reason to reject me. None. But now I would never know. Now I would never know her or hear her laugh or find out what we had in common. I grieved. I cried. I will remain disconnected from her forever. Adoption doesn't only separate parents and children. 

----UPDATE--- a couple of months have passed.

There are a lot of details that lead to what happened next. I got in contact with my sister's husband and spoke to him over the phone and in several emails. She registered on an adoption reunion website in 2008. So did I. Our mother found her posting and contacted her. Our mother did not contact me. I don't know why or if she ever saw my posting. The difference between my post and my sister's post is simple but probably life changing. She was born in a state where adoptees have access to their original birth certificate. I do not. Because of that, she posted the name of our mother, who she was looking for. I did not have that information. So whatever fates and star crossed fairies and serendipitous forces (I'm talking about you, God) there are out there, they did not see fit for my sister and I to meet in this life. My mother never told my sister about me. Perhaps some of that residual birth mother shame from the maternity home made her keep us a secret. I honestly don't know and don't understand and have many mixed feelings.

I'm not in contact with our mother yet, but I have spoken via facebook message with her sister. She will try to bring it up. Sorry for leaving out details. It's such a long story.

How did my sister die? a rare cancer. All the more reason for adoptees like me to need access to our family's medical histories.

Frustrated. Hurt. Angry. Hopeful. Excited. Scared.  All understatements. I don't know why life can't be a tad more simple sometimes.

In my state, the laws could be changing soon. I hope no one else has to go through this. If my sister and I had been searching for the same woman, we could have found each other before it was too late. I had no idea how far away she might really be. And she had no idea about me. It's really tragic.


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