6 months ago
For the past 65 years, our family had come to accept the fact that the identity of my mom’s birth mother would forever remain a mystery. We had very little info to go off of when we began our search a few years ago, and the lifelong shame my (adoptive) grandmother carried from not being able to conceive her own children made it a touchy subject in our household. While I was driving through rural Iowa earlier this summer, retracing my father’s lineage, I called my brother and asked him to look up an address using our mom’s ancestry.com account. My brother returned my call with the address, and a surprising discovery: our mom’s DNA was matched with strong certainty to a woman we believed to be her biological aunt. One thing led to another, contact was made, and we were welcomed into my mother’s biological family with open arms. Over the past few months a huge family secret was fully unpacked, bizarre coincidences and striking similarities were revealed, and I’ve gained more cousins than I know what to do with. We learned that my biological grandmother—Freda, pictured above—passed away 20 years ago (what a sad irony that she’s the only one of 7 siblings to die, and what luck that the only sister who knew about her secret baby is still alive). Yesterday, I met my mother’s uncle, 5 (!!) aunts, a few cousins, and it was incredibly surreal to see a room full of women who look like my mom. The arched eyebrows, the curly hair, that unmistakable smile, the chin dimple—physical features we had long wondered if my mom shared with anyone else. Our newfound extended family has been exceedingly generous with details about Freda‘s life, sharing countless memories and photos. My mom is giddy beyond measure—she gained the big family she’s always wanted, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness. I am still unpacking it all myself, processing the cost of shame unfairly put upon young pregnant women, the power of identity and knowing where you come from, and the meaning of family. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d get this opportunity—what a great gift it is to finally know the woman that brought my mother into this world.