This guest post is by Lori Lyons, an adoptive mother.
Now that my daughter is off at college, leaving my husband and me with an empty nest, I have a lot more time to indulge in my favorite hobby – genealogy.
For more than 30 years I have spent late, late nights searching for ancestors across the globe. I have seen my family tree traced back to the 1000s and can follow it here to America and then to Louisiana.
I can proudly claim a couple of Mayflower passengers, patriots of the American Revolution and the royal family of England as very distant cousins. Maybe even Elvis Presley.
But my twig on my branch will end with me.
For whatever reason known only to God, I was unable to have a biological child. My husband, who had two children from his first marriage, and I turned to adoption to complete our family.
Back before the explosion of the internet and social media, we had to rely on word of mouth to spread our news. We also wrote an open letter, which we sent to everyone we could think of.
It worked! Through a friend of a friend of a friend in my own hometown, we were blessed to adopt our daughter, Lora, in 2001 in an open adoption.
The fact that Lora’s first mother lived in my hometown is important. Although I didn’t know her, I knew some of the culture surrounding her mother’s surname, which is a unique one back home.
Everyone with that name is related. When I explained my love of genealogy to Gail, Lora’s first mother, she happily supplied the names of her parents and grandparents so that I could keep those for Lora.
Although she may never be interested in the first Lyons to come to America, I hoped Lora may be interested in knowing her own roots one day.
That day came not long ago when she brought home a friend with the same unique last name as her grandmother.
I was really teasing when I told her they probably were cousins, but it wasn’t long before I was able to confirm it after he got the names of his grandparents.
Soon, I had a family tree showing that they were, indeed, fifth cousins once removed.
Not only that, I found a connection to my own family. Incredibly, my daughter and I are cousins five times removed! To know that I have even the tiniest blood connection with my adopted child was a wonderful surprise.
Sure it was a coincidence of our small hometown, but my husband says it’s another reason why we act just alike.
This is the DNA era. Many people are spending hundreds of dollars having their spit analyzed so they can find their roots, find long-lost relatives and learn their true heritage.
Many are getting unexpected surprises with life-changing results. I’ve seen countless Facebook posts by people who have learned through DNA testing that their fathers, their mothers, their siblings – aren’t.
I have one friend who has been diligently searching for her husband’s family. Only recently she found them and learned that, not only was he placed for adoption at birth, he was actually switched at birth with another infant first. They are still unravelling the pieces of that mystery.
This is why I am so grateful for my daughter’s open adoption. From Day One I was comforted by knowing where my daughter came from, knowing her medical history and even her heritage.
When we needed names to fill in my daughter’s family tree, we were able to go to the source – her first mother.
Although we have no contact with Lora’s biological father, I know his name and I have been able to piece together some of his family as well.
Lora has tested her DNA and if she ever uploads it for genealogical purposes, she will find a slew of cousins. But that is up to her.
I am glad that the days of closed, secretive adoptions are fading into memory.
I am glad more and more adoptive parents are embracing some form of open adoption so their children won’t be faced with a lifetime of secrets only to end with long, fruitless searches someday.
As an adoptive mom, I know my child’s search for blood relatives isn’t a rejection of me but rather a natural longing for her own heritage – just as mine is.
Lori Lyons is a Louisiana journalist and author who blogs about life, motherhood, adoption and sometimes baseball at The Lyons Din. She self-published the book, Adopting in America: The Diary of a Mom in Waiting, recounting her journey to motherhood.
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