Please allow me the luxury of talking about myself just a little bit so that you know where I have come from and how I got to this chapter in my life and the pages of this web site.
I was a young woman who found herself unable to bear a child the old fashioned way that nature provides most families. The decision was an easy one to adopt a child and provide a home for someone that was seeking a family and home. We adopted our oldest daughter when I was 23 and she was 5 months old. That child is now 35 with two children of her own. She has no idea of her biological parentage and says that she really doesn’t have a curiosity about them and feels like she already has a family. And she absolutely does have a family that loves and adores her to the ends of the earth. We aren’t spending a lot of time searching for any family members for her but she has taken all three of the large database DNA tests and if her biological parents or other siblings show up, she will be in the database with my contact information as she says she would rather not be the one that gets the call. But we are not doing anything to search for them.
The decision to adopt a second child was also easy but the logistics and process to get a child placed in our home was not nearly so easy, was taking years and didn’t seem like it would ever happen. So my entire family, church family, and close friends prayed about the situation for us and we made the decision to seek any and all pathways for adding a second child to our tiny little family. I started an intense medical treatment that had the promise of turning my infertility to fertility. My husband started the medical studies and process for turning his infertility to fertility. Almost two years later my doctor determined me to be able to conceive a child but my husband did not become physiologically successful. My fertility doctor introduced the idea of possibly using a sperm donor to complete the biological process of conceiving a child. In order for this particular medical facility to continue with the donor fertility process, our family was the subject of an intense financial scrutiny, underwent psychological testing and social worker interview process. During this same period, we were also registered with multiple adoption agencies and had ongoing home studies and interviews of ourselves, family and friend references along with financial scrutiny with each of those agencies, too. It seemed my life was consumed with outside scrutiny of our very personal lives just to bring a second child into the family while my husband and I were both working full time to pay for all of these processes, treatments, studies, agency application fees, etc. I asked God to place the child that he wanted in our lives into my arms. And I continued to follow each and every pathway with whatever was needed to keep that process alive, whether it was adoption or medically assisted conception.
At long last, in October of 1985, I successfully conceived a baby girl using a sperm donor and she was born in July 1986 – healthy, talented, beautiful and full of ideas and energy every single day of her life. We had chosen to use an anonymous donor because the court case of Baby M was all over the media at that point in our lives. We elected not to add the possibility of any legal complications to our lives that could occur should the biological father feel a right to see and parent the little girl. We were very open with the girls about how both of their lives began. We talked about it openly with family and others who were curious about our journey or were seeking their own infertile path to a family. We were so grateful for the opportunity to have been able to have two children in our family and such beautiful children they were and still are. I felt like our family was complete and settled in to raise the two little girls we had been blessed with. I felt a love for those girls like I have never known before.
Fast forward several years and living through good times and some bad times, that same donor conceived little girl who was beautiful and vibrant as a child grew up to be just as beautiful and vibrant and angry with me for not being able to tell her who her biological father was. The good news is that I had kept every “bread crumb” that I was given during her conception just in case she would want to know as an adult who her biological father was. But even those bread crumbs were not enough to determine his identity. He was a phantom. My beautiful daughter started down a path to seek out her biological roots in any way that she could. She traveled to the country of his stated identity – Poland. She converted to his religion of stated identity – Catholicism. She wrote songs, blogs, and books describing what a relationship with her biological father would be like. She planned her wedding day for the birthdate that he had used on his donor profile so she could feel his presence at her wedding. Just as I was obsessed with adding a first child and a second child to my family, she was obsessed with knowing and feeling close to her bio-dad. And I guess I had understood from her conception that she might want that. I know that if I had a question about the identity of my own biological parent, I would have wanted to know. Otherwise, why would I have taken meticulous notes on any paperwork that I was given concerning the donor’s identity and why would I have kept that folder so protected all those years. But none of those notes in that carefully preserved folder were enough to make him show up.
Then in 2010-2015, the capabilities surrounding DNA testing became increasingly user friendly, the technologies were made financially available to the masses and the stories were starting to emerge about how some adoptees and donor conceived individuals had identified their biological parents. I have to admit it took me a little while to get comfortable with having my own DNA in a database but I did get comfortable and once I was comfortable, there was nothing that was going to stop me from making that little girl’s dreams come true once more. Once again in my life I found myself obsessed. I began the DNA search process to determine the identity of her biological father. Hours and hours of time, months and months of research, books, articles, and blogs of reading – all of these were now the focus of my life. We identified and located him in October of 2015, almost 29 years to the day after her conception. He still wants to remain anonymous and has not recognized her as his child but SHE KNOWS WHO HE IS!
The moral of the story is this: What a life changing experience DNA has brought to our family. The learning curve was so steep for me and I continue to learn a tremendous amount on each and every person that I have helped since finding my own daughter’s bio-dad. The fundamentals are the same for donor conceived people, adopted people, unknown biological father situations, amnesiac people, stolen babies or children, switched at birth situations, etc. Knowing how to work through the mechanics of DNA matches and identifying the unknown parentage CHANGES LIVES. I have seen it in my own family and I am hooked. There is still so much that I have not mastered yet in learning to read the clues in the DNA matches but I have a feeling I am on a lifelong journey to learn as much as I can and help as many as I can to travel a journey to find out how they began life and where they come from.
Since finding my own daughter’s bio-dad, I have helped my first cousin to identify her father’s biological grandparent where her own father was an adopted child. She has added the photos of her paternal grandfather and grandmother to her mantle. I have assisted with the search to identify the American father of an orphan born in Vietnam. The success of this case changes the lives of the orphan and her children in ways that you and I will never know or experience. I have helped a young lady to identify the family of her biological father and begin building relationships with a family she never knew and never dreamed that she could know all because she shared 6.1 cMs of DNA with my father’s sister. I was able to identify an adopted man’s biological mother within 48 hours of being told that he had a 1-2nd cousin match on Ancestry. He now has a photo of his mother and can begin to forge a relationship with his biological family if he chooses. The family genealogist, whom I called upon for resource knowledge when first beginning this journey, now calls upon me to help with the DNA research trail. I have bought DNA tests and administered tests for practically every member of my family, whether related by blood or related by marriage. All of this continued work and these continued successes are because I now can recognize what a cM is and what relationship those cMs potentially represent. I get really excited when someone looking for an unknown person tells me they have a 1st or 2nd cousin match! I have never felt so rewarded for my work than this newly discovered passion of mine and I feel that my work has just begun.
My advice to anyone else starting out on this path: Enjoy the journey of life wherever it starts, wherever it leads, and whatever the results. Open your hearts to the love relationships that appear. A biological parent may not be the best part – the best part may be the cousins that you meet along the way.