I am adopted.
Since it happened when I was about 2 days old, its never really seemed like a huge deal to me. My parents (they will always be my parents, not “adoptive” parents) sat me down when I was around 8-years old to tell me, so I’ve lived with the fact all my life. I couldn’t have asked for a better upbringing if it was filled from a checklist.
I’ve only considered the situation to have two drawbacks. First, all medical forms ask you to fill out family medical history questions. While its a big time saver to just put a big “X” through them all and say that I don’t know because I was adopted, there is always some apprehension as well. As I grow older, there’s also more fear because I don’t know whether my mother’s aunt had breast cancer or did my grandfather have Alzheimer’s or any number of conditions and diseases that run in families. So many of those now can be delayed or treated due to medical advances, if your doctor only knows what to be on the lookout for.
Secondly, there’s always been a small missing piece of the puzzle that is me. Its very difficult to explain to people that grew up with that knowledge as part of their identity. I’ve always felt a bit of jealousy when I’ve been around families and to homes that expressed their distinct heritage. I realize that’s something I’ll never have, even with that knowledge since my upbringing was typical American suburb girl. But I’d still like to know, what am I? What runs in my DNA?
Last year during the Cyber Monday sales, I finally purchased the 23 and Me kit to test both my medical and ancestral genetic makeup. It arrived and I set it on my bookcase, where it sat and sat, for well over a month. Each day as it would catch my eye, I’d ask myself if I was ready for what I might learn. The answer was “not today”.
Then the day came shortly after the first of the year when it was time. I followed the instructions, spit into the tube, packaged it back up and mailed it off. I remember taking a deep breath as I handed the box to the girl at the UPS store and noticed my hand trembled a bit. And then came the waiting.
Every other day, I’d log onto the website to see if my results had been posted. A week, then two and three. I don’t even remember how many passed until the day came. I printed everything off, made a fresh cup of coffee and curled up on the couch to take my time reading through everything.
I read over the medical portions first and was relieved to know that I didn’t seem to have the genetic markers for any of the things I’d been fearful of. Since then, the few smaller things I did show markers for have been discussed with my doctors and placed in my medical files. There’s been some concerns I’ve seen in articles and forums as to whether insurance companies can refuse to pay for things you may be genetically inclined to develop. I figure I’ll cross that bridge if I ever come to it and hopefully the law will catch up to science before then.
Next up was my genetic ancestry. My pale skin, freckles, blond hair and blue eyes are all good clues to my makeup, so I always thought German or Scandinavian. Surprise, I’m almost 43% Irish, 22% Swiss then followed by about 10% each of Danish, German and Scandinavian. I also had less than 1% each of Spanish/Portuguese, Sardinian and Native American. Huh, interesting…now what? Nothing much has changed. I still don’t have a sense of cultural identity, but just having the personal knowledge seems to be enough.
There’s been a lot of mockery, sarcasm, derision and doubt cast upon these tests and their validity recently. The memes are mostly funny and the controversies don’t really bother me much. Its not like I plan to run around yelling “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” (though maybe that isn’t such a bad idea) or booking the next flight overseas to start researching my ancestry. It is what you make of it.
The one thing I didn’t consider was the possibility of being matched with some biological relatives. Was that a can of worms I even wanted to open? As of now, I’ve only run into people that “might” be a second or third (or even more distant) cousin. I’m okay with that. I know very little about the woman that birthed me, just her name and that I already had two older siblings. I feel a major sense of trepidation at the possibility of connecting with them. But, that’s another bridge I’ll cross…hopefully never.