By Peggie Arvidson
A Holiday Miracle 52 years in the Making
Holidays mean family in all their messy, human glory. Holidays don’t always go as planned but this year I’m able to revel in the magic of miracles that happen as we change our perspective on things.
For years I thought if I bought enough bling for everyone on my list, then I’d be “winning” the holidays. I knew that in giving I’d receive and I figured that by giving enough, I’d cover up the hole in my heart that adoption left on my psyche. Let me be clear, my family is first rate. My parents are loving and selfless and truly do everything “right” by way of myself and my two siblings. Still adoption leaves its mark on even the well-adjusted and I am no exception. This is the story of how my adoption scar is finally beginning to fade.
The adoption debate is one I’m mired in nearly daily as I work with adult adoptees and their families to heal wounds that are hard to understand and even harder to see.
I began searching for my biological family when I was 16. In the days before the internet this was even more arduous than it is now. My adoption was closed and I had a hard time tracking down details about my birth and the people who brought me into the world. If you’re not an adoptee, this may seem like a colossal waste of time and energy. If you’re an adoptive parent you may feel that your child’s desire to find their birth family is a negative statement about you. Neither is true. Adoptees are the only people on the planet who are denied their own identity. Understanding and having a connection to our biological identity, for health and other reasons, is imperative to our spiritual, physical and mental wellness.
Through the years I’ve gathered non-identifying information from Catholic Charities, followed leads provided by search angels and even hired a private investigator. With the advent of commercial DNA testing I spit in tubes and sent them off. First FTDNA, then 23andMe and although it was fascinating, I received little information that could lead me to a birth family. However, I was able to discern my genetic makeup which ultimately led me to my birth father.
In February, I decided to take one more DNA test with AncestryDNA. They seemed to be running commercials all the time and I figured they may have a larger database than the other sites. The backlog in the lab meant that my test wasn’t processed and uploaded until April. When I received notification that my sample had been processed I wasn’t all that excited. I’ve had years of dead ends and I presumed the same outcome with Ancestry.
I gave myself a talking-to and decided that no matter the outcome of this test, I knew who I was and could move forward in my life with or without any biological family. After 36 years of longing, I promised myself that this was the last attempt and I wouldn’t waste another precious minute with the people I know and love by longing for closure about people I’d never met.
Much to my surprise I had a match with a maternal uncle. He was 10 years younger than my biological mother and had no idea I existed. Obviously he was wary about me but I shared with him all the details I had received from Catholic Charities and he agreed that he was my Uncle. In our conversations he revealed that my biological mother had surrendered another daughter to adoption two years after I was born. She found the family 17 years ago, just after our biological mother passed away from lung cancer. (On a happy note, I quit smoking when I was 28).
My biological mother had married and had four additional children. Suddenly I was the oldest of 8! On what would have been our mother’s 74th birthday I finally connected with my half-sisters by phone. It’s been a happy reunion, and while you’re reading this, I’m getting ready to spend my first holiday with all my maternal siblings and their families. I’m excited and nervous – there is no guidebook on how to do this!
Once again digging into my DNA matches I followed trails from my paternal side and found my biological father, alive and well. I reached out to him in the spring and we’ve had a pleasant and sometimes awkward reunion. I met him for the first time over Thanksgiving and I look forward to getting to know him, his wife and hopefully his 2 children and grand-children over the coming years.
I truly believe that this miracle came about through my choice to stop longing and start living in the present – if you are wishing for a miracle this holiday season, how can you switch your perspective and see it unfold?