When Oscar Wilde wrote that “the final mystery is oneself,” we can assume he was referring to an individual’s ability to develop self awareness. He might just as well have been referring to the journey that many adult adoptees take when they undertake a search to discover their biological roots. Our greatest mystery happens to be ourself: a mystery created when adoptions were hidden, closed, disguised from the world. Whether by design or by chance, adult adoptees find themselves in a position to undertake a Sherlock Holmes-like voyage of discovery whose ending cannot be predicted.
My search experience spans twenty years from my first request for non-identifying information until my first face-to-face meeting with my birth mother. Along the way, I encountered opposition, support, frustration, tears, apathy, anger, joy, activism, uncomfortable silences, confusion, and clarity. As an adult adoptee whose placement was coordinated by Catholic Charities in New York State, my search experience was characterized by both relevant & irrelevant information, state legislation, and the explosion of the internet as a search tool. I was blessed to have progressive parents who were supportive and understanding of my need to search & an incredible spouse who acted as sounding board, voice of reason, and cheerleader when the going got tough and the mystery seemed unsolvable.
In the coming weeks, I’ll share my stories of searching from my own perspective and hope to hear yours. We all have different experiences on this journey and I believe that we can demystify the search experience by talking about them. I’m planning to explore state-by-state resources for searching, reasons why we search, preparing to search, best practices for searching, issues around searching such as fear, guilt, loss, shame, anger,search expectations, responsibilities and lots of other topics. This is ultimately an opportunity for all sides of the triad to explore what searching means to them: while I’m writing from my own perspective, I’m hoping it will provide a springboard for open discussions on topics that impact us all. Who knows what shared information might spark: a renewed search, a better understanding of a daughter’s motivations, a nurturing environment for someone who feels alone in their questions, or the revelation of a method not yet tried.
My own story involves a traditional Catholic upbringing, a significant need for medical information, non-identifying information that raised more questions than it answered, an approach that varied from committed searcher to apathetic dabbler and back again, newspaper advertising, paternity testing and remarkably–reunion. I am the first to tell you that finding my birth parents was a pure fluke, a stroke of luck that I regard as a true gift. My search which began as a mystery to discover facts about myself concluded by finding the people I had been looking for my whole adult life, but along the way, it enabled me to learn more about myself, my adoptive family and my friends than I could ever have imagined and created opportunities to strengthen those ties immeasurably. Beyond that, reunion opened the door to develop relationships with a whole new set of characters in my life story! I look forward to sharing my story with you and will be excited to read your comments, questions, ideas and stories.
Photo Credit: 2009 LisaB.