Last week I learned that an acquaintance of mine does not know who her biological father is. I worked with her for about 6 months before changing careers. (She is now my hairstylist) She asked what was new with me, and since I now consider myself “out” on being donor conceived I decided to tell her that I am searching for my biological father using DNA cousin matches and a little context around that. She revealed that she never met her dad and does not know who he is. I did not press for details because I was not sure if it was a painful topic. She did say she had been meaning to try a DNA kit to find out more on her heritage, so we talked more about that. Another stylist chimed in that they were adopted but had done DNA. Both of us originally had a hunch about our unknown heritage and found it to be true post-test. She also told me that she has been messaging her DNA matches to try to find her parents… It was a closed adoption and she worries she will never find out why they gave her up.
I left the salon with the new buttery blonde I wanted for summer. I also left with the realization that I am not as different from people as I tend to feel. This experience has also been an affirmation of why it is so important to open a dialog about adoption and donor conception. There are so many of us out there with no support, and an ongoing expectation to keep quiet and just be grateful to exist. Of course, I can only speak about being donor conceived, but the two are clearly similar in the psychological effects they can have on the children.
I started to think about other people I met who had unknown or estranged parents… I used to work with a woman who was very much open about the fact that she was conceived from her mother being raped. She also stated she was deeply anti-abortion because if her mother had aborted she wouldn’t exist. I must wonder how much of that was conditioning from her mother and her Christian-based religion. It’s not that I doubt the validity of her stance or right to have it… It’s just that my own feelings about my conception have certainly evolved quite a bit. I have come to realize that much of how I thought I felt was what those around me would find most acceptable. I never really took a moment to check in to see how I felt about any of it. I have since realized that a person can certainly disagree with how they were created, but also still wish to exist.
One of the biggest parts of my personality seems to stem from the two-fold secrecy surrounding my conception. First, the effects of learning about such a secret had to have a major impact on my personality. Following the truth, the burden of the secret was placed on to me, as a child! Not only was this a secret to keep for my family, but I was also keeping the fact that I knew it from my social father, and for his family. And while I certainly had the option of telling my dad I knew, it felt like a very loaded option. I didn’t know it then, but I was completely avoiding this because on some level I thought it meant I would lose half of my family. I feared my grandmother (who I was very close to) might not love me the same. As I got older, one would think I wouldn’t have such a fear, and that I could just tell my dad that I knew, but it was too deeply ingrained. I am still scared to tell my one remaining contact to that family, which is one of my uncles. He was the closest to my dad, and at one point even offered to have me live with him out of state while I went to college. I know he would probably still talk to me, and I really don’t think it would change anything. I think it’s just that the secret was the reality while my grandmother and father were alive… The secret is the only connection to the physical manifestation of that connection that remains.
“Sometimes, the biggest secrets you can only tell a stranger.”
― Michelle Hodkin
As a child, this taught me that it’s normal to hide something so important about yourself. It demonstrated that to keep things running the way they should, you must hide who you are, as a sacrifice to the ones you love. It’s not surprising that I struggle with intimacy. I don’t reach out for emotional support. Just the thought of having to sit someone down to tell them how I hurt and why seems more emotionally draining and cumbersome than just dealing with it myself. But then there’s also a good chance that I won’t deal with a particular problem myself. I tend to bottle until I can no longer deal with my feelings, and then maybe I will act out. It’s not until the aftermath of some stupid mistake I have made that I realize I could have handled it better. For example, I’ll put up with bad behavior in a friend, I’ll be taken advantage of again and again, and not say much. When this starts to occur I will either just flake out on the relationship until it fades, or I will blow up at them at some point causing them to cut me off completely. I have been told more than once that I have a sharp tongue that can cut someone to the core. Perhaps if I had learned early on how to communicate my emotions constructively I wouldn’t be seen as this judgmental, distant person today. This is something I am working on, it’s just not so easy to begin to reconstruct in your mid 30’s. Where do I even begin?