It’s not enough that many times the information that is relayed over to the adoptee/relinquishee is shadowy at best. Still, often we are presented with information based on inaccurate data that is usually restricted and modified to stall the adoptee/relinqishee or throw them off entirely from ever learning who they are and where they come from.
One of the many challenging lessons I’ve learned over the last 10+ years of coming out of the fog regarding my adoption journey is that no matter what we find or how we find it, we should ALWAYS back our stories and conclusions up by doing DNA testing, preferably Ancestry DNA. Ancestry has the most extensive database with nearly 20 million people.
Here’s why I make this suggestion.
People lie when it comes to adoption and relinquishment stories. While we learn from childhood that lying is never okay and even receive punishment as a child for such activities, our society accepts this rule in adoption and relinquishment; our culture makes an exception to this rule. Sometimes I believe that people believe their lies, and sometimes we don’t want to accept them. We feel a shadowed conclusion that doesn’t sit well with our internal dialogue.
Let me give you an example of this. I was told back in 1998 from an individual in my birth mother’s family that my birth father was dead and that he had gotten shot. I sat with that for a minute, and it never sat well with my spirit. But, my intuition is on point, so I said to the world. “If he’s dead, let me confirm he’s my father via DNA testing FIRST, and let me stand of that man’s grave and see his death certificate so I can see it for myself.” Unfortunately, I know countless adoptees who have been sold a lie.
I was never able to receive either of them, and in 2010 I decided to drive 11+ hours from Kentucky to Leon, Iowa, and I showed up at his doorstep and introduced myself. That man wasn’t dead, and he was very much alive. So they lied to me, and chances are if you are adopted, you have been lied to also. I learned from a close family friend that I was conceived out of a one-night stand with a married man. He knew nothing of the pregnancy, and he never consented that I was given up for adoption.
Sometimes as adoptees, we want something to be confirmed with every fiber in our being, so we ignore the signs or subtle hints that a find might not be true, accurate, or correct. Instead, we jump in head over heels, going by what we were told or what we hope to be true. I hope this article puts a pause in play for anyone that reads it. Please tread carefully and always, always, get DNA testing done BEFORE you build relationships with someone you suspect might be your biological family.
Adoptees/relinquishes are vulnerable individuals. When searching, we often open our hearts and lives as wide as they can go to receive whatever it is we have been fantasizing about our entire lives. We assume the best yet frequently are left feeling misled, robbed, or even taken advantage of. Sometimes this can feel like the biggest disappointment of our lives.
Growing up, our life is filled with fantasies about what we will find. Where is the mother that “loved us so much?” But often, we’re faced with the complete opposite, a cold, disconnected woman that shows no signs towards us that feel like anything close to “love.”
People say, “Expect the worst and hope for the best.” Yet, I am here to tell you there is no natural way to prepare for such conflicting and unimaginable feelings and emotions that come with our discoveries, no matter what they turn out like. It’s like opening a pandora’s box, and what we find can be shattering combined with fulfilling. It’s complex at best, but not learning the solid truth can be devastating beyond repair, so DNA testing is exceedingly essential.
My life story backs this conclusion up because, in 2010, I learned I had a half-sibling out there in the world. After a year of searching, I finally found him. We compared notes, and he ended up being the absolute best part of my reunion story. We spent time together from states away, planned visits and trips together. We accepted one another and our children and spent five years building a relationship. I always said he was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and he was and is to this day the only happy and positive part of my whole adoption experience and story.
Until January 2016, everything was flipped upside down. We ended up doing DNA testing to send the results that my brother and I were connected via DNA to my birth father. He has always expressed a deep-rooted feeling of disbelief that either of us was his biological adult children. To be completely transparent, I haven’t blamed him. He didn’t know anything about me, and he said he had reason to doubt my newfound brother was his biological son. This was why I wanted to complete DNA testing with my brother, so we could present the truth in hopes that it might change something with my biological father because initially, he rejected us, not knowing if we were his or not.
While I had taken the position to clear up this bed of lies that my life was rooted in, I had no idea what the DNA test would soon reveal. In January 2017, the DNA test returned and said WE SHARED NO DNA. I will never forget how this made me feel. I was sick and so distraught that I honestly didn’t believe it. The first person I reached out to was the amazing and gracious Priscilla Stone-Sharp, and I asked her if she could double-check this for me. She concluded that my newfound brother and I shared no DNA. However, we could pinpoint that my birth father was my birth father. His mother’s maiden name is all over in my highest DNA matches. However, my new brother is the one that showed NO DNA with my birth father, which means his biological mother gave him the incorrect information on who his biological father was.
Now that I had opened that whole can of worms, I had to reveal this to my brother, which was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. But, unfortunately, he flat out didn’t believe the DNA results and ended up tragically passing away a few months later in a motorcycle crash. This experience sent me into a profound depression and sadness I could not process at all. I was living alcohol-free, but I could not feel these feelings, and I had no idea the level of grief and sadness that would soon take over my life.
It was such a complex situation that no one could help me, and I couldn’t even find the right words to use to describe this situation. I kept referring to my brother as “My brother who turned out not to be my brother” because I didn’t know how to describe it. I couldn’t believe that one ONLY GOOD PART OF MY STORY wasn’t genuine, I was duped once again, and the devastation left me in horrible shape. I couldn’t stand the thought of therapying another therapist, and this is when I put my vision of Adoptees Connect, Inc. into action, which saved my life.
It’s taken me all these years to begin to recover, and I still have a lot of sadness about it. I wanted to share this dynamic because I want non-adoptees to see what adopted people have to go through when we are searching for our truth. All these hoops and hurdles can and do exhaust us, they destroy us, and they can and do take us down. It’s inhumane that the adults in our lives signed us up to go through this. Literally, every adult who took part in signing any adoption documents signed over that they would be okay letting me suffer and damn near die in my pain from all the secrecy, lies, and deception from adoption and the adults that co-signed for this traumatic event to happen to me.
Today, I have annulled my adoption in my mind, body, and spirit, and I sometimes remind myself that I didn’t’ sign any adoption paperwork. Yet, I have survived this nightmare, moved across the country, changed my name, and started my life over.
For my fellow adoptees who might have made it this far, I beg you to please get DNA testing before you build relationships or get too excited about a possible discovery you believe is a biological family member. The pain of the alternative I have shared here is something I do not want anyone to go through because it’s unbearable when we already feel so alone; we get our hopes up and put ourselves out there. Ancestry DNA has sales around major holidays, and the DNA kits are $59.00.
Not getting DNA testing FIRST can add a new level of trauma that you do not deserve. Please learn from my experience. Trust me; you do not want to risk it.
For those who might be wondering, this changed nothing with my birth father. I sent him confirmation I am his daughter, and he tossed it in the trash, and went on his merry way.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova