Alissa Burgan


I have always known I was adopted. It was pretty obvious, considering I’m a woman of color and my parents are white. Growing up, I was always different. I struggled with my identity. I was never around other people that looked like me and often felt like a “show pony” as if my whole purpose was to fulfill my parent’s desire to have children.

My parents were strict. My dad came from a family of pastors, so of course, he was one as well. My parents placed a lot of pressure on me to be like them. I was raised as if I wasn’t adopted. Back in the 90s, people had no idea of the trauma that comes with infant adoption. It was portrayed as a magical way to complete your family, so they went into it blind. That mindset, mixed with the abandonment issues that come with adoption caused me to live most of my life wearing a mask, being a fake, and hiding the innermost parts of who I was and what I wanted.

That was all fine until I reached my teen years and started developing many mental health issues. It was as if everything I had been shoving deep down had nowhere to go and finally exploded. I started my journey of discovering what I wanted for the first time in my life. I made bad decisions, and I made good decisions as every teen does. From my parent’s perspective, they had no clue what happened to the little girl they were so confident they knew. One day my mother looked at me and said, “I have no clue who you are.” All I could think was, “yeah, I don’t either”.

As I continued to get older my mother and I drifted apart, she tried so hard to turn me back into the old Alissa while I tried with everything in me even to know who Alissa was. My family is not a family that talks about things we don’t work through problems, we just pretended it didn’t happen. One Christmas I believe I was 19 or 20, I was given an ancestry DNA test from my parents. I took that as them attempting to let me know it was ok to find out where I come from and that they recognized and accepted that I needed to do this. That they would support me even if they didn’t fully understand what I was going through.

I was so excited to get started that I did it right away and anxiously waited for the results. When they finally came, I went straight to DNA matches thinking my parents or siblings would show up, and I was devastated to see nothing but 4th cousins. I logged out and didn’t log in for a few years. I figured that now my DNA was in the system, and they could find me if they wanted.

I didn’t think too much about it until I was pregnant with my first child. I remember sitting in front of my OB, and she was asking me about my family medical history. It was the first time in a long time I got that feeling of not knowing who I was. It was so strong it overwhelmed me. I got emotional and quietly said to her the words I had said so many times to a medical professional “I was adopted.” I hated telling them—they all do the same thing. They always look at you with this look of almost feeling sorry for you. Then they softly respond, “oh ok”.

After that experience, I decided I needed to find my family. It wasn’t just about me anymore but my children. One day they will have questions, and they deserve answers. After working on it for another year myself and getting nowhere, I reached out to an organization called DNAngels. They were able to find closer relatives and put a tree together. It wasn’t till another year later when I matched with an aunt on my dad’s side, that everything fell Into place. I found siblings and both of my parents.

DNAngels provided Facebook pages and phone numbers and encouraged me to reach out. I was hesitant and spent a lot of time looking through my families’ photos, seeing how close they seemed and happy without me; I started to feel unsure. All the things I had been told from my adoptive parents about my birth family came back. I thought I was a mistake and a secret that could destroy the whole family they built.

I finally found the courage to reach out. I sent a message to a family member through Facebook, and after some talking with the rest of the relatives, I have been welcomed with open arms. My Birth mother never forgot about me, she had been looking for me for years! My existence wasn’t some big secret that could destroy the family.

It’s now been a month since I found my birth mother and I talk on the phone with her every day. I’ve realized things I hated about myself or thought were personality flaws are a part of where I come from. These so-called “flaws” are what connect me to my birth family. My big nose, thick hair, stubbornness, and outspoken and strong personality finally fit. They aren’t flaws. They never were. I was just a corner piece trying to go into the middle of the wrong puzzle. I’m finally able to move forward in my healing journey, and I can’t wait to come out on the other side.