Friday, March 22, 2013

It Could Have Been Them



I was talking to an adoptee friend last week and we were trying to understand why sometimes birth siblings who are found by adoptees do not choose to embrace their new-found adoptee kin.

Sometimes it can be the attitude of the birth parent themselves.  I have noticed a pattern if the birth parent is still in hiding, denial or doesn't want to own up to creating a child, this can affect how the "kept" siblings feel about the adoptee.  (See my friend, Laura Dennis', post about the rejection of her siblings). 

So I posed the question to my friend . . . ."Why do you think it's so hard for the kept siblings to acknowledge our existence and to befriend us?

She quoted her wise aunt as saying,

"Because it could have been them"

That thought got me thinking.  Maybe there is some truth in that statement.

They could have been born first (or last).

They could have been the sibling who was given away, but instead were "chosen" to be raised.

They could be the one who was lied to and found their adoption papers when sorting through their deceased mother's Will.


They could be the one begging relatives for scraps of information.

They could be the one attempting to access "secret" records, being told that the adoption agency social worker has more right to read their file than they do.

They could have been the victim of an unethical attorney who was only looking to make a buck.

They could be the one spending thousands of dollars on search fees and DNA tests.


Maybe the thinking goes like this, "If she was given away, all it would take for me would be to be born at the wrong time or to have the wrong father."


Oh, but adoption is so wonderful, isn't it?

You got parents. We got parents.  Everybody should be fine, right?


Many siblings embrace their adopted-out sibling with open arms.  For my many adoptee friends who have a special bond with a birth sibling, I am happy for you.

I have to wonder, though, about all those birth siblings currently rejecting the adoptee in their lives:

how can you in good conscience reject someone who came from the same womb as you? Who, by one change in circumstance, would have grown up by your side, maybe even shared the same bedroom? 


If adoption is all rainbows and lollipops, why are so many people threatened by the adoptee returning to their roots?

Moses did it.

Kunta Kinte never forgot and neither did Simba's father when he told him to "Remember who you are".

Maybe we aren't special enough.  Maybe it boils down to not being in the club.  The kept children get to be members of a special club because they got to stay with mom or dad.  They can tell themselves that mom or dad would have never done that to them.

Or maybe it is survivor's guilt.  They feel guilty because they were kept and do not want to tip toe around our feelings of rejection, or their secret jealousy that we got out and thrived.

I could speculate all day but, I guess in the end, I will never know since I am not one of them.




















Thursday, March 21, 2013

Are you related to somebody famous?

 One adoptee fantasy that I've heard over and over and experienced myself is that we believe (hope) we  are related to a famous person. He or she might be on T.V at this very moment or we have met them without realizing it (it happened to Steve Jobs and his birth father).

As an adoptee with no roots, anybody is fair game to be your birth parent -- especially movie stars, rocks stars and sports figures.

 In my own life, I was hoping it would be a famous singer:  a rock or pop star to be exact.  Music has always been my first love.

Early on in my reunion with my birth mother, my good friend Zack Pasters, started developing my family tree on Ancestry.com.  I didn't think much about it because I was still trying to recover from actually seeing and knowing my mother, something I dreamed of my whole life.

One particular evening, when Zack was researching in the wee hours of the night, he realized I was related to somebody famous:


Elwyn Brooks White (known as E.B. White).


The author of my favorite Children's book and movie, Charlotte's Web.  He was so excited he felt like he himself (also an adoptee) was discovering this on his own line!

I was so excited when I thought back to all the times I loved watching this movie as a kid. . . .that there was a connection to this movie outside of me just loving it.

E.B. White is related on my Hart line, who were a bunch of artists.  It makes me laugh because I can't even paint a stick man to save my life.  My great, great, great grandfather was William Hart from Paisley, Scotland.  He has famous paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others.

Go here to see the biography of William Hart and his grandson, E.B. White.

So, my adoptee fantasy came true -- just not in the way I had expected.



Friday, March 15, 2013

My Ethnicity Revealed (sort of)

At the Adoptee Rights sign-making party in Louisville, KY 


So after many hours of sifting through Population Finder at Family Tree DNA, I do have a lot more information about my ethnic background than I ever had before. To give you a little background, Population Finder uses information from the database at Stanford University (Human Genome Project)  using DNA to map out a person's ancestry.  It does not tell you specific countries, but only regions.

Here is a quote from President Clinton about the Human Genome Project:

At the June 2000 White House press conference, President Clinton compared the feat of mapping and sequencing the human genome to the mapping of the Northwest Passage by early-nineteenth century explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark:
"Nearly two centuries ago, in this room, on this floor, Thomas Jefferson and a trusted aide spread out a magnificent map, a map Jefferson had long prayed he would get to see in his lifetime. The aide was Meriwether Lewis and the map was the product of his courageous expedition across the American frontier, all the way to the Pacific. It was a map that defined the contours and forever expanded the frontiers of our continent and our imagination.

Today the world is joining us here in the East Room to behold the map of even greater significance. We are here to celebrate the completion of the first survey of the entire human genome. Without a doubt, this is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by humankind." 

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/human-genome/
My first inkling that my results were in, was an email from my (predicted) 3rd cousin's husband asking me for information.

So I logged into FTDNA and sure enough, my results were complete -- earlier than projected (by 13 days).  My wait time was almost exactly two months -- not bad and a nice pleasant surprise for me to make my day!

I was ecstatic and started yelling for my son, Matt ... . .who has 25% of my mystery DNA.

Newly Hispanic and Middle Eastern Jewish


This is when I had to break the surprising news to him (drum roll) . . . 

He is Hispanic (Native American - Central American)

and

Middle Eastern (Jewish)

Huh?

He just looked at me with this blank expression and said, "So I'm Hispanic?" 

"Yes . . . and Middle Eastern (Jewish)"

Dead Silence.


The pie chart looks like this:

The Northeast European portion was not a surprise as I know that my birth mother's background is German and Scottish.  Why Finish and Russian are included in part (not shown) of my result is a mystery to me but I think it's one of the limitations of the database since it can only give you regions -- not specific countries.



I called my mother first (my husband was sick in bed and wasn't in the mood to hear about my latest discoveries). She was surprised by the results and still adamently insists I look Spanish (from Spain) as she has for 40 years.  

I called up my friend Vaseem who reminded me that from the first moment he met me, he was convinced I was Middle Eastern -- Syrian to be exact.  He said "he knows Syrian bone structure and I have it".   I'm still scratching my head on that one.

For those of you who may recall, Adoptee Steve Jobs' birth father is Syrian.  I've always secretly thought Steve Jobs was hot so now I can blame it on:

Genetic Sexual Attraction

For those of you who don't know what this is, look it up. It's when blood relatives are sexually attracted to each other.  I know it's gross but it's true (a little adoptee humor at 5:00 a.m. never hurt).

This Middle Eastern thing might explain why Middle Eastern guys have always hit on me (another mystery solved by DNA).

What comes as the biggest surprise for me is that I have no proof that I am Italian -- the ethnic group I psychologically most identified with.  These results also disprove what my adoption paperwork says about my birth father (surprise, surprise).  For those who are curious, I will quote what the paperwork said:

"a Citizen of Peru, and thought to be Italian born"

In other words, "we don't know where the hell you came from but this sounds good".

Yep.

I guess it's possible he was a Citizen of Peru but considering Peru is in South America and there is no evidence that my people are from South America or Italy, I'm thinking it was a big fat lie.  I've always figured it was, but I just have more proof now.

One little side note on Jewish descent:  I have had a few people tell me in my lifetime I look Jewish.  But not as many who have told me I look Italian, Greek, and Hispanic.  The Jewish Genome is over-represented in the database because so many Jewish people have tested and are looking for survivors/relatives of the Holocaust.  I'm not sure yet what that means for my percentage.

So there you have it . . . .a mystery (partially) solved which leads to many more mysteries yet to be solved.

And I think I need more than 4 hours of sleep to continue on this journey . . . .so back to bed.














Thursday, March 14, 2013

Adoptee Rights are Heating up in Ohio

My sealed birth certificate

Historic events happened in Columbus, Ohio yesterday.  Not only was the vote UNANIMOUS in favor of the Adoptee Rights Bill (which will open birth certificates to adoptees between 1964-1996 and allow birth parents a contact preference form), the Catholic Conference of Ohio actually provided written support of HB 41!  This is in follow up to another practical miracle -- Ohio Right to Life backed us as well.  As Marley Greiner of Bastard Nation has been quoted as saying, "Pigs Really Do Fly!"

Me with some fancy flying pigs
I wish I could have been there but I got an account from a friend.  We all spent the previous day sending in our last-minute testimonies.  (you can find my testimony here).


My best friend who has lived in Australia for 17 years (an Ohio adoptee) sent in her testimony.  I am posting my favorite part of it because it shows the opposite nature of how adoption is handled in Australia:

"Although I am a citizen of the United States I am currently residing in Australia. This is where we have adopted our son and have been asked from the beginning of our application how we would do our part to keep information always available to both our son and his birth mother. Adoption records are not sealed in Australia. They are kept until the adoptee turns eighteen. Then the adoptee only has to write or come into the records department and show proof of identity and they may have their records. If they ring any of the adoption departments, they are always encouraged to come in and have a look at their records. There has never been a problem with open adoption. It is encouraged here as it should be everywhere."
As I read this part of her testimony I thought back to the many stories I've heard from adoptees across the United States.  The story usually goes like this:  The adoptee is sitting across the desk from a social worker who gets to read the file but will not give any identifying information to the adoptee. Interesting twist on privacy when you think about this complete stranger to my adoption getting to absorb all the details of my life without sharing them with me.   Yes, and it still is happening in social work offices across all of the United States even today because even though birth certificates are available to a minority of adoptees, adoption records still are closed in most cases.
I was sharing the good news about HB41 with my friend, Beth McCrea, who is active in adoptee rights in New Brunswick, Canada and she said this:

"Why should a social work student have the right to go through an adopted person's personal records and gain all knowledge and then mete out only non-identifying information to the rightful owner? PAS offices frequently use students. I don't know the regulations in Ohio, but here in NB and many states, adoptees are not permitted to work in Post Adoption Services at all. Discrimination!!"



I was quite shocked to learn this.


But let's get back to the good news:

It was reported that the room was packed at the House yesterday (standing room only) and that adoptees and birth mothers were crying and hugging each other!

A momentous day for adoptee rights!

I love Ohio!!


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Why I love DNA

 I have a confession to make:  I am addicted to Investigative Discovery t.v.  I could watch hours and hours of crime shows. I love how the story unfolds and then one day, when the killer thinks he has gotten away with murder and has set up a new life/new family and has neighbors who only say great things about him in interviews, is finally revealed as  (cue orchestra music)

the killer or rapist

For those of you who watch Maury Povich, you see this same relief and surprise on the faces of the

baby daddies and the mamas who knew all along (they were 150% sure in fact) that he was the daddy. 


How is this all possible?

DNA!

The detectives hide out and wait for that cigarette to be tossed on the street

or they grab a dirty glass or straw

or they test a used (licked) envelope

or . . . . . .  . .
 
In the case of the serial killer nicknamed the “Grim Sleeper,” DNA samples he left at several crime scenes were a close partial match to Christopher Franklin, who was in a California prison on a weapons conviction. Investigators could tell that the killer had to be a close relative of Mr. Franklin and narrowed it down to his father, Lonnie Franklin Jr., after they found the father’s DNA in saliva on a discarded slice of pizza. Lonnie Franklin Jr. was charged with 10 counts of murder.

 (www.forensicnews.blogspot.com)

Isn't DNA awesome??

I feel elated when DNA results come back with . . . .(drum roll please). . .

ANSWERS! 

Except if you are a twin. . . check this out: Twins' DNA Hinders Investigation

But for the majority of us who are not twins under investigation for sexual assault, DNA provides answers.

The family may not get their loved one back, but they get some kind of closure.  They can understand -- even in horrific circumstances -- what happened to their loved one.

The father may have to pay child support, but he can then form a relationship with the child and that child will know who her father is.

The adoptee may be shocked to find out that the man listed on the birth certificate is in fact not her paternal relative but this revelation then allows her to begin seeking out her true paternal line.

Even if the adoptee later finds out her father is someone who was possibly married or otherwise not available for a long-term relationship--

Knowing the TRUTH is far better than believing a lie.

When I was a kid, I loved Nancy Drew mystery books.  What tween girl growing up in the 70s didn't?  I loved being surprised when Nancy wrapped up all the clues at the end of the book and solved the mystery.

I didn't recognize the irony as that tween girl growing up in the suburbs that I was living in the Witness Protection Program of adoption.

I too was a mystery to be solved.  I didn't have any clues.  I didn't have any photos. And I didn't have an attic.   All I had were my fantasies that one day, I would learn the truth about my origins. 

This is why i LOVE, LOVE, LOVE DNA.

Why?  Because DNA doesn't lie!

DNA can explain why you have the dimple in your chin and why your eyes are green

 DNA trumps records and can break through brick walls in genealogy

DNA can clear up a foggy memory of late night drunken sex with a stranger

DNA can catch a rapist and a murderer

DNA can disprove a lie that has been told so many times that people actually believe it to be fact (my favorite story about lies and cover ups in families is told here: the story of country legend Hank William Sr.'s daughter that was adopted out in order to protect Hank Williams' Jr.'s rights to the family fortune.)

 DNA is the building blocks of who we all are and it unlocks the secrets and mysteries of ourselves.

 Who knew that I never needed to go searching "out there" to find out about myself.

All I ever needed was to swab my cheek, spit into a tube and wait (and wait, and wait, and wait   . . .)

to be continued . . . . .





Thursday, March 7, 2013

Proud to be part of adoptee rights in New Brunswick, Canada

A while ago, I received the following email after Beth McCrea found my Paradox post at Lost Daughters:

"I would like to ask your permission to use your poem in our presentation to our provincial premier as we meet to discuss open records. I am one of the founding members of COARnb (Coalition for Open Adoption Records in New Brunswick) and we have been invited to meet with our Premier (Governor) in February.

We are working with Sen. D'Allesandro of NH and Paule Benoit of ME. So many of our sons and daughters were adopted to the New England states and all over the US. We are fighting hard to give them their Chapter One, which is rightfully theirs."


I was flattered but I didn't think much would come of it. I mean, it's just a poem.

However, I knew this person was as passionate as I am about adoptee rights (and even more impressive because she is not adopted herself) but I didn't think my poem would be any big deal when it came to changing laws.

Today I received the following post on my Facebook wall:

 "Lynn, your poem was very warmly received. It was the first entry in our folder. I passed it along to Origins Canada as they wanted a copy. They will credit it to you, of course. It is a beautiful piece. Thank you for allowing me to share it with our Premier."

What can I say?  For somebody who only writes poetry like once every five years, this made my day, my month, my year!  The only thing that can top this is Ohio opening those birth certificates they are holding hostage and setting my people free!  

Here is a copy of the poem I posted under Paradox at Lost Daughters.  Thank you to Amanda Woolston for giving me the opportunity to write for Lost Daughters.  I am one of the 30 authors there -- all adopted women -- who share our stories of adoption.


Adoption is 

a concept, a belief and an action
A lack of choice and being chosen
A legal solution to a spiritual problem
A spiritual solution to a legal problem
A loving choice and a thrusting upon
A nurturing touch yet a stealing away

it saved me; yet damaged me  
Provided for me, yet took away from me
Blessed me yet cursed me
Gave me a name and took a name
It creates a chance for love to grow and a door for misunderstanding
It creates a family out of strangers and strangers out of family
It inspires and teaches and it wounds and damages

Adoption is

My friend and my enemy
A thorn in my side and my shining light
A rainbow and a gravestone
Acceptance and rejection
Truth and lies
Known and unknown
Love and hatred
a casting away and returning

Adoption is

Not my friend nor my enemy
Not the excuse or the cause
Not perfect or evil
Not the reason or the scapegoat
Not who I am or who I am not
Everything and nothing

(copyright Lynn Grubb; may reproduce with permission)


 




Monday, March 4, 2013

What's Your Story?

Yesterday when I was sitting in Mass, Fr's Homily was about the Samaritan woman.  For those who aren't Bible scholars (myself included), it is when a Samaritan woman comes upon Jesus at the well and she is shocked when he speaks to her.  She does not recognize him as the Son of God at the well but as Fr. poignently pointed out, even though she had 5 husbands and was not currently married in her relationship (which was scandolous in Bible times), Jesus accepted her where she was.

He wanted to know her story (even though he already knew it)

He didn't try and change her

He didn't tell her how to live her life better or differently

He just accepted her where she was right then

He cared about her story

As I lunched with old friends after Mass, I looked around the table and realized that we can know people for years but never know their story. 

Adoption came up in the conversation because my friend is a widower and wanted his wife to adopt the kids she is now mother to and is raising with him.  They were baffled by the changing of birth certificates (as it would wipe out the original mother's name which they thought was unacceptable).  In addition, the social security for the children would be lost.

Another piece of the adoption puzzle I only understood by hearing their story.

 I was explaining to these same friends about the current adoptee rights bills and my upcoming meeting with  our representative regarding opening birth certificates to the adoptees who have no access.

For the first time, I was able to confidentally explain my story and why this was important to me and how people outside adoption do not really understand what it is like to actually "live" adoption in the same way that adopted people do.


What's your story?