It happens to most of us in our mid to late 30’s. We start wondering about our ancestors. Not just our ancestry. We ask parents for the family tree. We wonder about the trials of “our people”. There has been recent research that the physiological effects of trauma can be measured for generations.
But what if you are adopted? What if you look into the mirror and have no idea who your ancestors are? You can try something like 23andme or AncestryDNA but besides the disturbing privacy issues, you end up with a piece of paper that proclaims you are 23% Armenian? How satisfying is that in terms of family history? People aren’t searching for a pin on map, they are searching for stories.
In our podcast, we often interview adoptees who have a burning desire to know about their family history. And it’s complicated. What if you found out that you came from a family of heroin users and criminals? How would that affect your opinion of yourself? How would it affect your everyday life and activities? How would you even handle knowing that? It’s little wonder that adoptive families often keep facts undercover.
Adoptees who search for their family of origin need to be incredibly brave. Most of them hide their effort from their adopted family to avoid hurt feelings and conflict. When my birthson found me, people asked him if he had become estranged from his birth family and if that was his reason for seeking me out.
The emotional effects of adoption last a lifetime and are typically culturally dismissed. I was surprised to find that there is an “anti-adoption” movement that encourages those who want to adopt to instead connect with a family that needs support to keep their child provided for. I have seen from the interview for the podcast that 90% of adoptions and abortions are fiscally motivated.
We need to find a way to respect and support the emotional complexity of families in whatever form they take.