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6 January Coming Home to YourselfHeart and Humanity

Blood is Not Thicker Than Water

I don't remember a time when I didn't know I was adopted.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know I was adopted.

It has always been an understanding and acceptance that my parents got me in a different way than the typical biological manner. In fact, it was mostly a non-issue because they were all I knew and I look like my father’s side of the family. Of course, in pre-pubescent and teen angst, I remember yelling at my mom once that she wasn’t my real mother. It still pains me to this day that I ever said it.

My family is my real family and I know, not just believe, but know that God gave me to the right parents.

There were times of sincere curiosity as every teenager tries to figure out who they are and where they belong. Did I look like my biological parents? Did we have anything in common? Did I have siblings? Did they think about me?

I wondered about it as I graduated high school. It came back to me in college and I decided to join the Texas Adoption Registry. It allows any adult adoptee, birth parent or sibling to put their name into the database and locate any family member that has also registered. When I announced I was going to do it, my younger sister, who is also adopted, decided to fill out the paperwork as well.

After I received the letter that I had no matches in the system, I shrugged it off, thinking the information was out there now and I’d just move along. What I didn’t expect was the absolute jealousy that filled my heart when my sister got matched instead.

I was so upset. She had never even been interested! I’d wondered for years and on a whim, she got matched and I didn’t?

How the reunion went with my sister and her biological family is my sister’s story to tell, but I can say that despite a promising first conversation, I quickly realized that I didn’t like my sister’s biological mother. The way she treated my parents, her general attitude and overall behavior when dealing with my sister had me deciding that I was very glad I had never been matched in the Texas registry. I didn’t need my questions answered or more so-called family in my life if that kind of drama was going to make an appearance.

Almost six years ago, I took the Ancestry DNA test purely out of interest about where I came from. I was hoping for Irish heritage and I have almost 20%! Two years later, a 3rd cousin match is how I stumbled upon my biological maternal line.

I was curious, which I think is perfectly natural, so I sent out a couple of messages, not really expecting anything because it was a 3rd cousin. I didn’t realize that the DNA connections meant that in strictly genetics, a 3rd cousin and a grandfather would be about the same distance. One of the messages I sent was, unknowingly, to my maternal grandfather.

I was so not prepared for it. I’m a control freak, especially about my private life and how I want things to play out. He and I exchanged a few emails; while I thought I had asked him not to share my email address with his daughter because I needed time to process, he’d already done it and suddenly, I had an email from her. Looking back, I fully recognize that I did not handle it well. I felt like control was being ripped from me. I probably expected too much and communication in email alone can be extremely difficult.

I asked the questions that were important to me. Was I a child of rape or abuse? I wasn’t. Did I have siblings? I have 4 and only one is aware of me. Did I look like anyone? I have some similarities to my biological mother.

There wasn’t really any information she could share about my biological father, so I don’t know anything about him. The overall dry, serious, clinical presentation of the facts and how it felt like I was pulling teeth to get any information from her grated on my nerves. However, it was the email telling me she was tired and didn’t have time to respond to me, but in parentheses that she’d dealt with rape and abuse in her lifetime that sent me over the edge.

She was too tired to email me properly, but she was okay telling me she had suffered horrific things as an afterthought with no detail? Why not just wait? It had been 30 years. I could wait for her to be of sound mind to respond to me instead of making me worry about her being abused!

I saw this email before going to sleep and I was just… shattered. I did my best to reply the next day and tell her that I would rather she take her time to respond and if she didn’t want to share something or wasn’t prepared to, she could tell me.  Not to mention, she didn’t even take time to acknowledge anything I’d shared about myself.

Wasn’t she curious about me? Shouldn’t she be recognizing my life, my interests, my challenges? She took two days to respond, and I didn’t appreciate the mom-like lecture it turned out to be.  I took a good two weeks before deciding communication between us needed to take a break.

All my questions were answered, we lived 1,200 miles apart, and I wasn’t looking for another mother or more family. Throughout all our communication, I had thanked her for what she had done and I meant it. I said she was welcome to contact me in the future, but to keep my contact info to herself and my half-siblings if they wanted it. The connection is between me and her, and if we can’t figure out a happy medium, it’s not right to have it with anyone else.

This all happened almost four years ago and I’ve been contented having my questions answered and just living my life. Three months ago, I received a brief email that began like this: “You may not be interested in any type of relationship with me but you have limited time to get to know your grandparents.” Her father is ill and she said I should get to know him and her mother. It took me two days to respond because I was so angry; it felt like an outright attack. I had told her that she was welcome to email me in the future. I’ve been polite in my response to any email she has sent. She has decided I want nothing to do with her, but I should get to know her parents instead, claiming them as my grandparents.

I wanted to yell at her, “Sorry, lady, but they are NOT my grandparents. They didn’t take care of me like my actual grandparents did. They didn’t take me to the store to get candy. They didn’t make ice cream in a hand-crank bucket or pick watermelons and blackberries in the garden with me.” Eventually, I realized that she just received some hard news and she wasn’t thinking when she decided to email me and just released her tension and worry onto me, whether she realized it or not. It also occurred to me that perhaps she considers blood to be the more important connection and I do not.

I understood I had to release my anger. If my father or mother were sick, I’d be sick with worry myself and yes, I’d want family to be there, to be a part of it… but I’m not her family. At least not in the way she wants or believes. I have my own family. The family that wanted me and could take care of me. The family that accepted me completely.

The family that has supported me through thick and thin and has nothing to do with blood.

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Sara Whitlock

Sara Whitlock spends most of her time with her nose in a book or Googling her next solo travel trip. She has been an amateur writer since childhood and only recently gained the courage to publish her thoughts publicly on SingleMormonLady.com.

One Comment

  1. Wow, Sara. Thank you for sharing this. And thank you especially for giving your birth mom credit for good emotions and intent that she may or may not actually have. Doing as you did–giving kindness–serves a greater purpose that impacts us all. You’re self-awareness and empathy have (and will have) positive ripple effects.

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