Her words hit me in the gut.
“Mom, I don’t care if it’s my birthday and Christmas presents for the next five years. The greatest gift I could ever receive is knowing who I am.”
My daughter is talking about a DNA test. Over the summer we had hoped the state legislature where she was born would pass a law granting adoptees access to their original birth certificates. They did not. The law upheld the rights of birthparents and their promised anonymity at the time of relinquishment. Disappointment is not an adequate word to describe the emotional let down we felt.
This is a complicated space for us. Adoptee rights versus birthparent rights. Sad that so often it becomes a ‘versus’ situation. We want both to have the rights and protection they deserve but not at the cost of one another. Upholding the current law displaces my daughter’s need to know herself. I know many, many voices on both sides of this conversation. This space is so complex and emotionally difficult to navigate.
In contrast, DNA is easy. Without access to her original birth certificate we have begun navigating the world of DNA testing so she can gain footing on who she really is – genetically. It is the best option in the face of not knowing if she will ever gain access to her original birth certificate.
Our DNA conversation began last year in fifth grade when in science they studied a unit on genes. Their first exercise was to track inherited genes – things about yourself that you can identify directly from a parent. Oh, yes. (Spoiler alert for all you parents with fifth graders: Get in there and talk to your teachers about how to make this lesson and conversation go smoothly for your child – because when everyone else is saying, “I inherited my green eyes from my mom’s side, and my funny feet from my dad” your child will be feeling panic and exclusion. Talk with your teacher today.)
While they studied at school, we talked at home and our conversation grew into an investigation about DNA, DNA kits on the market, and what you can discover about your ethnicity using this tool. There are specific tests for your paternal or maternal side. No kidding. It has been an eye opener. And so has how adoptees are using this wonderful science to reunite with birth families.
All that to say we are at Step One. I will write about our journey, but not the details we discover – that is hers and hers alone. Any helpful information we gather that could be used as a tool by the Blended community I will share. While DNA kits are not new, the ways adoptees can use them is exciting. This is an important piece for adoptees in investigating who they are.
We walk forward cautiously in the hopes that the gift she receives – is HERSELF.
I sent off a sample of my adopted son’s saliva for genetic testing last year. It wasn’t so much for information about his ethnicity as we had good information about this, and I had been able to meet his birth mother early on in the adoption process. But it was fascinating to learn more about diseases for which he has a higher than average risk and drugs to which he is likely to have an atypical response. I wrote a little about it at http://travelswithmyson.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/pasta-stars-and-orange-potato/. I know that there is the possibility that birth relatives will also make contact with us via the company, but I am hoping that they prefer to contact us via more orthodox means ie via the placing Local Authority! Good luck with it – it’s an interesting thing to do…. But I am afraid it will not provide you with all the answers your daughter is seeking, unfortunately.