I Reached Out to My Birth Father Because of the Pandemic and Never Heard Back, But That Just Made Me Stronger

There has been an increase in people looking for their biological parents during the pandemic. I was one of them. But the process of finding my biological roots wasn't what I hoped for and yet it's helping me heal.

family tree drawing
Photo: Illustration by Francesca Spatola; Getty Images (1)

When I was 32 years old, I found out I was adopted. My adopted parents told me that it never felt like "the right time" to tell me, but when I became a mother myself, everything came out. At first, I refused to admit anything had changed. I wanted to keep my family dynamics and the identity I had formed the same, but that proved extremely difficult to do, so shortly after I found out in 2016, I ordered a DNA kit.

I discovered I was half Puerto Rican and half Scottish and English American. I created an account on Ancestry.com. I also reached out to my biological mother, who I knew was in a psychiatric hospital in Brooklyn as she suffers from schizophrenia. (It turns out, I had actually visited her when I was a child, but I was unaware that she was my birth mom. She was always referred to as a family friend.) When I started doing research, I discovered that she was a patient at the second place I called.

I asked her questions about my biological father. Based on what she revealed, they met while she was staying at a mental health clinic and he never knew I existed. She told me she suspected he had passed.

But due to her disordered thinking, I always wondered if my biological dad was indeed deceased. In part, my curiosity stemmed from the fact that I felt loved by my adopted dad, but never had the "daddy's girl" relationship with him.

The truth is, before the pandemic hit, knowing my biological mother was enough—and I was moving at a snail's pace to figure out the rest of my paternal roots. After all, as a working mom of two in New York, my schedule was full. I had enough love in my life. And, honestly, I was afraid of what I would discover if I dug deeper. I put the topic on the backburner.

Then, when 2020 hit like a pile of Legos waiting to be stepped on and January brought with it the possibilities of a new year, I decided to check my Ancestry.com account.

When I logged on, much to my surprise, I had a message from a man in Connecticut who turned out to be my biological father's uncle. He suspected I was his nephew's daughter.

Once we established that we were indeed related, my great uncle and cousin told me family details: My grandfather, a Harvard graduate, became a minister and moved with my biological father and the rest of his family to Brooklyn. That's where I was eventually fostered as a newborn and adopted at age 5.

My paternal grandmother worked as a social worker. I immediately wondered if our paths had ever crossed. They told me she passed in the early 2000s. I grieved that loss and struggled with the resentment I felt toward my adopted family for keeping me in the dark for so many years.

They showed me baby photos of my biological father; I saw a resemblance in my children and my own baby photos.

They also told me that my biological father was alive: He suffered from substance abuse issues for years and they were completely estranged.

We continued to communicate via Facebook, then our exchanges faded. I needed to process the information while focusing on my own life.

But in March or April, with the pandemic claiming thousands of lives a day, I thought about my own mortality: I didn't want any regrets if Covid-19 were to claim my life or my biological father's. So, I reached out for contact details.

"He needs to know I exist," I kept thinking to myself.

In April, after receiving his phone number, I called and texted multiple times. My attempts were unsuccessful, but his non-reply was a response in itself.

I trust that my search reached a dead-end for a reason. I reflected on what I truly wanted to get out of the experience, and that turned out to be being brave enough to make the effort no matter the outcome.

I knew my biological father is estranged from his family members for a reason. He is probably not fit to hold quality relationships.

I also knew I could either wallow about the results or offer myself a kinder perspective. For example, I was the first in my family to graduate from college. The "smarts" gene was passed down, which means my children will most likely benefit from it. That's good enough for me.

I'm not alone in my search for biological family roots. According to Ancestry.com, there has been a 37 percent increase in new members between March and July 2020. Many, like me, are trying to make sense of their puzzle pieces.

Today, I feel stronger—and more tired—than I ever have. But I no longer need to wear a mask about my adoption journey or pretend that I don't have trauma over it. I'm still healing, but I'm also still here, showing up for my kids every single day, and making sure I nurture the connections that truly matter in my life.

I'm also standing in my own truth and learning a lot about myself. I started going to therapy and offering myself true self-care.

I do hope to meet my new family members, my great uncle and cousin, one day; I'm grateful for their kindness and honesty. My cousin also shared with me that my grandparents were kind and good people who would've loved to be in my life.

Those kind words have offered me peace and love in so many moments when I've questioned why my family tree had to have so many complicated twists and turns.

And ultimately, while my story may not be rooted in blood, it's rooted in the grounding and unwavering love of a chosen family—and that's OK with me.

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