Monday, May 27, 2019

“A Glimpse of a Miracle”


Growing up as an adoptee, I've occasionally wondered whether I had siblings…it only made sense because why else would I have been put up for adoption? Maybe I had a brother or a sister… I wondered about my birth parents too, especially my birth mom. Both my adoptive mom and dad were very open to talking about my adoption when I had questions about it, how it all happened, and what they understood to be true. I understood that there was this One Child Policy, and that the situation in China at the time wasn't the best. Growing up, I did not feel as though I was abandoned, and I did not feel resentful. I am very fortunate and grateful for the life I've been given. I couldn't have asked for any better parents or an any more loving family to be a part of. I am incredibly blessed, and the life I live is something I will never take for granted.

It wasn't until fairly recently, within this past year, that I thought seriously about getting a DNA test. I was curious about my ancestry and my health. I've been told I looked Vietnamese before, so I was curious about that, but I mainly wanted to know if I had a predisposition for anything. By doing a test, it crossed my mind that maybe, on the very off chance, I could match with a sibling or close relative. I had never really had a strong urge or need to find my birth family, but with DNA testing being what it is today, I figured, it’s worth a shot. I was not holding out a whole lot of hope, so my expectations were pretty low.

I got my 23andMe results back a couple months later, and my results were interesting, but not too surprising. Turns out I did have a small percentage of Vietnamese in me! Otherwise, I was mostly Chinese, with a few small percentages of other Asian ethnicities. As far as matches, the closest match was a 2nd cousin and from there it went towards distant cousins. I briefly chatted with a couple of them, but nothing really came out of it. As I started back at school, I didn't really check my results again all semester.

It wasn't until the end of winter break that I decided to upload my results to GedMatch and check to see if any new matches came up that are relevant. To my complete surprise…I matched with an aunt…Um, what?? I really couldn't believe it. I looked at her name, I looked at how similar our ancestries were—it was just so crazy! Then I saw that she had left an email… or really it was a message from the person managing my aunt’s profile. I was congratulated on my search and then encouraged to email this person named Brian if I wanted more information. My parents and I were very skeptical… the email handle was “DNAConnect.Org”, which sounded like a website, so I did a little investigating. Sure enough, there was this full website about birth searching, being run by Brian and Lan. Although we still had our reservations, we thought it wouldn't hurt to send Brian an email and see what happens.

He emailed back a few days later, and that began a back-and-forth chain of emails between us, basically trying to piece together how “birth family searching” worked and what Brian and Lan’s roles were in it. We were still pretty skeptical at this point and weren't really sure how to process all this information. It was very unknown territory for us. My parents and I discussed it, and my parents decided to reach out to the adoption agency we used to inquire if they had any information about birth family searching and if they had heard about Brian and Lan. Turns out, the agency had heard about Brian and Lan through other families, with no negative feedback, which made us feel more comfortable about everything. With that, we decided that we would go ahead with the search.

Brian connected me with his wife Lan for the next part of the search. We messaged back and forth through the app she asked me to download, which she would later use to put me in contact with my birth family if the time ever came. She asked me to send her some pictures that would help with her search. I was still away at school and didn't have all the pictures available, so I planned on sending them to her a week later when I was on break. My parents and I had planned to be out of town for the first few days, so I had planned on sending her pictures when we got back.

However, while we were away, I got a message from Lan, saying that she believed she found my birth family and asked me to check my matches. My parents and I were completely stunned. How in the world did she find them already?? I didn't even send her the pictures yet. I go to check my results, and there was a match with my birth mom. Needless to say, my parents and my heads were reeling. We were at a loss of words.

A couple days later, after some processing and time to get back home, I had agreed to be put in a group chat with Lan and my birth family. Lan sent me a picture of my birth family before she connected us in the group chat. I had gotten the impression from Lan that my family was big, but I never imagined how big! There were five siblings pictured with my birth parents. I couldn't stop looking at the picture. I scrolled over each face. At the time, I wasn't sure if it was all siblings or if some were cousins or friends or what. I just couldn't wait to learn about my family!

My oldest sister was the first to talk in our group chat, and Lan was there to help facilitate the conversation. For one thing, my sister was typing in Mandarin, which I obviously didn't understand, but the app we’re using has a translation feature (technology is INSANE), so Lan told me how to translate the message, and from there I got introduced to each sibling. I discovered that I have two older sisters, one older brother, one younger brother, and two younger sisters (one of whom was also adopted outside of China and has yet to be found)! So, I went from being an only child to being one of seven kids. Talk about mind-blowing! For a number of days, I messaged them night and morning, learning more and more about them and telling them more about me. I soon came to learn about my birth, which in itself is pretty extraordinary.

I was born at home with the help of a midwife. At the time, family planning was very strict, and the economic situation was not good either. They were unable to keep me, so the midwife told them that she had already found a good family that wanted to adopt me, and that she would help arrange the adoption. With this assurance, my birth mom gave the midwife some money to help with the adoption. The midwife took me the second day after I was born. However, what the midwife told my birth family was not true at all. I ended up at an orphanage 80 miles away from my hometown, and was adopted by my parents, outside of China. All this time, my birth family thought that I was adopted into a family in China, not internationally. They have since been trying to find me, but the midwife never provided any information on where she sent me.

By sharing my story, I hope can inspire other adoptees to take the chance and do a DNA test if they are curious and/or have an interest in finding their birth families. For me, it has been a really positive experience. My family has only grown bigger since! In fact, that second cousin I mentioned earlier-- She recently got matched [through DNAConnect.org] with her birth family and by extension, has been in touch with me and my birth family. Small world! Also, in the midst of all this, I became an aunt, which was a role I never really imagined playing- at least biologically!

But to further reiterate, doing this search process and finding my birth family has answered a lot of questions for me. It’s really liberating to know the truth. Most of the information that my adoptive parents and I had known to be true about my adoption and where I came from, was essentially false. It was a bit mind-blowing to learn about the circumstances in China at the time and what my birth parents were going through. My perspective has definitely shifted a lot. I hope I can serve as resource for other adoptees and give hope to those who are looking for their families. I also hope to find my younger sister, so that my whole birth family may be reunited one day!

Articles published about this match:
https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2019/06/03/baby-abandoned-china-20-years-ago-one-child-policy-birth-parents-found-her/3765759002/

https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2019/09/19/china-adoption-zoe-halbeisen-meets-birth-family-changzhou/2289523001/

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for your story. My child has recently expressed an interest in searching also. I am excited to help her look and am hopeful for a positive outcome.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is so exciting! I wish you and her the best of luck!

      Delete
  2. Wow, what an amazing story you have there. My girl was adopted at the age of one and is now 8. She has no interest as of yet, (because she's so young) but I have often thought about doing a 23andme for her. I am so very happy for you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much! As she gets older, she might get more curious!

    ReplyDelete