DRIVEN. INTELLIGENT. PERCEPTIVE.
I was born in 1970 and raised in the Dallas, Texas, area by two loving parents. My dad was a pilot, and my mom stayed at home until I was in middle school, and then she became a realtor. Because of my dad’s job, I got to see places most kids never get to experience. In high school, I met an incredible woman. We went to college together and got married. In 1995 I became a police officer, and I still work for the same department today.
My world changed in an instant on March 16, 2019, while I was out on a lunch date with my wife. My wife got a message from a woman she had been talking to for a few weeks. The woman had reached out to my wife, asking about her match to me on Ancestry DNA. I told my wife when she was first contacted that I had no idea how I could be related to the woman but that I also didn’t know much of my extended family because we were never that close with them. We had also learned about a year before that my mom was possibly adopted. My initial thought was this was a biological relative of my mom, which turned out to be true, just not in the way I thought. In the message, the woman explained that she had done all the research she had been able to do, and there was no relation to my mom that she could find. She did have another theory that she wanted to talk about. The woman explained that her younger sister had a baby boy born in Dallas on my birthday that was immediately given up for adoption, and she wondered if I was that baby.
My wife and I laughed it off and talked about how I looked just like my mom, which always frustrated me: I wanted to look like my dad. I told her to ask the woman the name of the hospital where the baby was born. I felt bad for her and planned to go home, get my birth certificate out, and get her on the right track. I was sure I wasn’t the person she was looking for and thought the least I could do was help her cross me off her list of possibilities. After this, we finished our date and headed home. On the drive home, my wife told me the woman couldn’t remember the hospital’s name, but she gave a general description of the building and location. There was an immediate sense of déjà vu; the place sounded exactly like a doctor’s office my parents used to take me when we would go visit my grandparents. We didn’t go because I was sick, the doctor was a family friend, and we would just stop by for a few minutes to visit.
My in-laws had come over, and since we had been talking Ancestry DNA most of the day, my wife and her parents settled in to fill in some of their family tree. I headed straight to our fire-safe, where things went from bad to worse. I pulled out my birth certificate and searched for the hospital where I was born. I found box 1.c. “Name of Hospital or Institution (If not in a hospital, give street address).” I quickly scanned the box and saw nothing but a single dash inside the box. This seemed wrong, but I’d never looked at anyone else’s, so I had no other references.
I rifled back through the fire safe and found my wife’s birth certificate. We were both born in Dallas in 1970, so this would be good for comparison. As I unfolded hers, my heart sunk. It couldn’t be more different from mine. My birth certificate looked like a copy made from a microfiche machine, black background with white text. Here’s was a typed-out document. Instead of a dash in box 1.c. there as a hospital name. Two other things immediately struck me. Her’s also had her dad’s signature and was stamped with the Dallas County seal, while mine had my dad’s name typed in the blank and was stamped with the Travis County seal.
This sent me straight to the computer to search for the location the woman had said the baby she was looking for was born. I searched for my grandparents’ address and then widened out the google map to look for the doctor’s office my parents used to take me to visit. Within a few seconds, I was staring at Steven’s Park Hospital, a white brick building with a green roof, just as I remembered it from childhood. It was in the exact location the woman had described and just a little over a mile from my grandparent’s house.
My mind was racing, trying to make this all make sense. I searched my memory for stories of the day I was born or my mom being pregnant and came up empty. To make matters worse, my in-laws were still at the house, and I wasn’t ready to bring anyone else onto this roller coaster with me yet. So, I sat and stewed while my wife and her mom continued to work on their family tree. Once my in-laws were gone, I went to the living room with my wife.
“I’m freaking out a little bit.”
“Ok” was her response with a bit of nervousness, probably because I’m not a person who gets “freaked out” often.
I showed her our birth certificates and the differences between them. I explained I had been to the place the woman described as where her nephew was born. I moved on to what I had figured out while she was with her mom. “My mom and dad were at the birth of all three of our kids. Tell me one story you’ve ever heard about the day I was born.”
She paused for a bit, her face scrunched up, “I don’t think your mom ever told me any.”
“Ya, I just realized I’ve never heard any either.” I responded, “Tell me anything she told you about being pregnant with me.”
She thought a bit longer this time but still came up with nothing.
“Ok, one last thing,” I said. “My parents took pictures of everything back then. Have you ever seen a picture of my mom pregnant?”
This time, she didn’t hesitate, “I’ve never seen one.”
“Neither have I,” was my response.
We sat in silence for a bit, and I asked her what I should do. She remembered we had a friend who had known she was adopted for her whole life and had eventually unsealed her birth records and reunited with her biological family. She suggested I reach out to her in the morning and get her perspective.
The following day, while I was at work (I still don’t know what I was thinking doing this at work) I messaged our friend and asked if she had some time to talk. She called me, and I explained everything that had happened over the previous day. She asked me, “do you have a copy of your birth certificate?” I told her I did and texted her a picture of it. She told me she was going to get hers and call me back.
When she called me back, her tone was different. “I don’t think you’re going to like what I have to say,” was what she led with. “I’m texting you a picture of my birth certificate.” I looked at the picture she sent me, and at first, I thought she had accidentally sent me a picture of mine. It had the same microfiche copy look, a dash for the birth location, no father’s signature, and it was also stamped with the Travis County seal. She explained she had done some quick research before calling me back, and this was what altered birth certificates of adopted people looked like in Texas. I asked her how she had been able to get her records unsealed, and she explained the process, which I immediately decided would take longer than I was willing to wait.
After this still sitting at my desk at work, I decided to call my dad and set up a time to meet and try to get this figured out. I called and told him I wanted to catch up with him and go over a few ideas I had, but I needed it to be just the two of us. This wasn’t unusual, my mom was the consummate worrier, and we often talked away from her about more serious things. I did my best to put him at ease and tried to cover all my bases. I explained no one was sick, broke, getting divorced, or needed anything. I just wanted to get his thoughts on a couple of things. I thought I was playing it cool, but looking back, I’m sure trying to set up a meeting with my dad to ask, “Hey, am I adopted.” I sounded anything but calm and collected. Several rounds of “what do you want to talk about?” followed, with me doing my best to deflect the question.
When I finally relented, I decided to start with hints hoping he’d cut me off at some point.
“Do you remember we did Ancestry DNA a few years ago for Christmas?” When we got the results, we showed them the map and explained everything about our countries of origin.
“Sure, that was pretty neat. I didn’t know they could do stuff like that.”
“Well, a few weeks ago, a woman reached out to us because my DNA matched hers, and we thought she might be mom’s half-sibling or cousin.”
“Wow, that’s amazing. I didn’t know they could do things like that.” His response surprised me. He and my mom were incredibly private people. So, me going rogue and putting my DNA out on the internet was something I assumed would not be well received. “Yea, but it turns out it’s not that.”
I’m still praying as I say this that he’ll stop me, but instead, he was silent. “This lady did all the research, and she’s not related to mom. But she did tell us that her sister had a son born on my birthday in Dallas that was given up for adoption. She thinks I’m that baby, and y’all have just never told me I was adopted.” There it was done—my question was out there in the world.
As I paused, I hoped for any emphatic denial or statement about how crazy this woman must be.
Instead, I got, “huh.” Followed by a silence that was only broken with my dad’s fingers drumming on the steering wheel of his car. My heart broke; this was an unspoken answer. I was adopted.
After a few seconds, I told my dad that I already knew the answer based on his response, but I needed to hear him say it. He sighed, “ya, you’re adopted, and we’ve been trying to figure out a way to tell you.” He followed this up with an explanation that none of this mattered because they loved me and were still my parents. I guess that’s an easier perspective to have when you’ve always known your child was adopted. For me, finding out at 48 years old, this all mattered more than I could explain at that moment. He closed with conversation by telling me he loved me and he “needed to go home and tell my mom that I found out.”
Over the past three years, this journey has led me to three siblings (technically, they are all half-siblings, but they’re the only ones I’ve had, so I see no reason to make a distinction). I’ve been to one of the most notorious prisons in the United States to meet my biological father, who has been imprisoned there since 1972. I’ve also gained several aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I’ve been welcomed with open arms by my biological family and, for the first time in my life, experienced genetic mirroring. This has allowed me to finally accept and embrace parts of myself that I thought were wrong for almost five decades. I still haven’t gained access to my adoption records. It’s easier to get my dog’s pedigree than it is for me as an adopted person to get records about myself that the state has decided to keep secret. I’ll never get to meet my biological mother. She died 19 years before I learned the truth of my beginnings. But through stories of her sisters, brothers, and children, I’m trying to create a person to feel connected to.
I’m so thankful for the community of MPEs and all sides of the adoption triad, who have welcomed me and helped me as I’ve tried to navigate this discovery. As I’ve embraced sides of me that I have ignored most of my life I’ve rediscovered and better understand my love for the arts, especially in music and writing, been fortunate to have a few pieces published by Severance Magazine, and connect with a fantastic group of adopted writers through Anne Heffron. As thanks to the warm-hearted MPE community, I have tried to give back by working with Right to Know, where I serve as an at-large board member as a mentor to people trying to navigate their own MPE discoveries.