As the search for answers behind my doorstep beginnings came to an end, my mom made this rather profound statement, “Well, we knew you came from somewhere.”
Of course I did. I had a past before being found on the doorstep. A past that didn’t simply disappear because my future was headed in a very new and different direction.
Although they didn’t care what that past involved nor did they want to know any details, my parents “got” what so many adoptive parents don’t get. That where we came from would always be a part of us.
I came from somewhere, from people whose contribution to my existence did not simply vanish because the decision was made that we would part ways.
Once I knew who those people were, I wanted to know about them. The mom and dad, the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Unless you are adopted, you won’t understand how exhilarating it was to click the box on my Ancestry.com results to “link my test results with a family tree”—the new tree my daughter began building after the mystery was solved. A tree comprised of my blood relatives.
For years, she’d painstakingly built our family tree, going back seven generations in some areas. The branches had swelled to include over 1850 ancestors. My side of the tree held the names and dates and stories of my adoptive family—the Hammitts and the Dagues.
I will always be a Hammitt regardless of whose DNA courses through my body. I’m proud of my Hammitt / Dague heritage. I love that my daughter created a family tree based on the rich history of these families who played a huge role in my life, in her life. That tree will never be deleted or replaced. Rather the new Brown / Hubbard family tree will rest alongside the Hammitt / Dague tree in our Ancestry.com account. Each as vital and important as the other.
As I connect more with my biological family, as we fill in the blanks of the last 50+ years, my mind swirls with “what ifs?”. What if I’d grown up with them? My life would have taken a very different path. My husband would be married to someone else. I would be married to someone else. Neither my daughter or son would exist. Nor would my grandson. I would have different children. Be someone else’s “Gram.” That’s a lot to wrap my head around.
A fellow adoptee who recently connected with his birthmother summed it up well.“If I hadn’t been adopted, my life would have been very different. But I wouldn’t have known the difference.” Another profound statement.
Of course my life and his could have been snuffed out before we took our first breath. Abortion wasn’t legal in 1963 or 1965, but it took place all the same. In fact the Society for Human Abortion was established in San Francisco in 1963, openly providing information on abortion, and no doubt paving the way for the 1973 ruling that would legalize the killing of unborn babies.
Even though my birthmother determined she could not raise me or relinquish me for adoption through traditional means, she chose to give me life. Then she protected my life by making sure I would be found quickly. Remember the homeowner’s dog Frisky? When the small dog went out to “do his business”, no baby on the step. Minutes later when he scampered back into the house, he jumped over the bundle of baby wrapped in a black shirt. Although the backyard neighbors had only lived there a short time, my birthmom and Mrs. N. were acquainted as members of a local club some years prior to 1963. I’m betting she remembered them as the good, family-oriented folks I discovered them to be, and she knew they would do the right thing.
I have to wonder if she checked the newspaper for word of her baby. I wonder if maybe she cut out the three paragraph snippet in one publication—four paragraph blurb in the other local paper—and tucked it away somewhere. I wonder if she feared prosecution were someone to discover the doorstep baby belonged to her.
You see, “Safe Haven” laws that allow a distressed parent to give up an unwanted infant safely, legally and confidentially, without fear of arrest or prosecution, and requires no names or records, didn’t go into effect in my state until 2000. I’m thrilled that this safe, legal option is available now.
Because not everyone who can father a child or give birth to a child is equipped to, in that moment in time, care for and nurture that child.
I promised you more about the “cool process and the incredible people” that made this discovery possible. With absolutely no clues, the only hope of finding answers was to look into my DNA. We chose Ancestry.com’s autosomal DNA kit that tests a sample of saliva. The results provided a list of people who had also tested, with whom I shared DNA, referred to as “matches.” With the help of the amazing genetic genealogist Amanda R., we built a “speculative” family tree to determine how these matches fit together. Ancestry’s vast resources combined with sleuthing skills we didn’t know we possessed, uncovered the details that led us to my birthmother’s family. A couple months later, a new “close match” pointed us directly to my birthfather. Without Ancestry.com, the mystery would never have been solved.
The company has experienced exponential growth in the last year. Evidently having one’s DNA tested is the “in” thing to do. Which is fabulous news for anyone searching for genealogical answers via DNA as the more people who test, the more clues will be available to everyone searching.
Early in this journey, we discovered DNA Detectives, the amazing Facebook group focused on using DNA to solve genealogical mysteries. The closed group–you must request to be a member–is administered by a faithful crew of kind, dedicated, knowledgeable genetic genealogists and “search angels” who pour themselves into solving family mysteries. Here we made friends with other searching adoptees, learned valuable search tips, and gained deep and impactful insights into the emotionally charged world of digging for adoption answers. The stories there are as unique as the individuals, each looking for answers that can only be found in the DNA that links them to their ancestors.
While some people search for years—decades even—to solve family mysteries, the puzzle pieces fell into place very quickly for me. I found both birthparents in just five months and 11 days. Something I have to believe is related to the “why now?” factor. At this very moment, a situation is unfolding that was spurred by my searching for answers. Someone touched by my journey has embarked on his own important quest for answers.
More adventures await as the visit to my birthmother’s grave and the house where I was born will happen soon. I’ve connected with several more of my eight, newly-discovered half-siblings. Plans are coming together for meeting my birthfather, his sister and possibly some of the sibs. And my eyes will be ever open for more “why now?” evidence.