In a recent issue of Psychology Today, Stephen Betchen, Ph.D., contributed an article titled “Why Adoptees Need to Find Their Biological Parents.” He states that adult adoptees “just seem to have an internalized nomadic notion that we don’t belong anywhere in particular. Even when we do settle somewhere we often work our asses off to prove our worthiness — just in case anyone gets any ideas about putting us back up for adoption.”
He further points out that many adopted children feel that “they need to embark on a biological search even if they had a positive experience with their adopted parents.”
Betchen, himself an adoptee, hit the nail on the head for this particular “lost daughter.” I had a very positive experience with my adoptive parents, but it’s also true that the urge to have blood relatives, DNA-related family, has always gnawed away in the back of my mind. As an adoptee growing up in the fifties, I longed for blood relatives. There were cousins, aunts and uncles related to my adoptive parents and I saw them at every holiday, but somehow – despite the outward festivities – I never really felt that I belonged.
Betty Jean Lifton described the adoptee’s sense of distance aptly when she said that that for every adoptee, there is a ghost: the child that the adoptive parents might have had. For the five-year-old me, there was the shadow of the original parents at those early childhood family gatherings. The ghosts are ignored at great peril. This is what I have learned and have come to acknowledge.
That’s why, when a biologically-related niece recently entered my life, I was overjoyed. Kathy, who’d been sending me Christmas cards, came to my town for a couple days. Finally, we met in person. The daughter of my thrice-married birthfather’s second wife, she is warm, loving and generous. She and her husband took me out to dinner the first night of their visit. The second and last night, they came to my house for banana splits that we had fun assembling. It’s almost embarrassing to admit how thrilled I was to be “Aunt Elaine,” how happy I was to have found another root of my biological family tree.
It is important to cherish relatives who are connected to us by blood lines, who share our DNA and who have the same family roots. As an adoptee with two grown sons and three grandchildren who live too far away to see often, I have felt at times famished for family. My parents, all four of them, have passed away. But now, I have a niece, and she is a treasure.