Guest blogger, Whitney Hutchings, shares her personal story of her journey as an adoptee navigating through these new relationships and the search for herself. Please note this is her personal story and we all have our own voice to share, please respect her journey she has chosen to share with us. Thank you :)
Finding my birth family is the first time I’d seen myself reflected back to me. I had never known what it’s like to be a link in a genetic chain, to be able to look behind me, to my parents, and think “here’s where I got these traits,” and then look forward, to my children, and say “and here’s what I gave to you.” It’s hard to describe, but I really didn’t even understand what my kids inherited from me until I understood what I’d inherited myself. And I didn’t know what to look for with my biological family until I came face to face with my brother, who was so like me it’s almost impossible to deny.
To be honest, I had no idea what to look for in terms of heritable traits. Having never experienced any genetic mirroring, I was not aware of how much of a person’s personality, mannerisms, expressions, could be inherited.
When I first made contact with my birth mother, I noticed similarities. I thought to myself “I’m so glad she’s a similar type of person to me. How lucky. That will make this process much easier.” A few things struck me as uncanny, like our shared love of science fiction, love of reading, interest in obscure music. But the rest, her non-judgmental attitude, her general approach to living life, her approachability, I chalked up to my own good fortune that she happened to be like me and that we understood each other fairly well. I could see some physical similarities. But, in my opinion, nothing that would make someone look straight at us and say “Wow, you must be related.” Because of that, I felt like trying to nail down any similarities would be mostly conjecture, and biased on my end. I didn’t allow myself to engage in that line of thought because I doubted it would be objective.
The paternal side of the equation had always been a mystery. When I finally made contact with my birth father and his family, at first glance it didn’t look like we had a ton in common. I squinted at his Facebook picture, trying to decide if I thought we could be related. Our first conversation was not too difficult, but his areas of interest and mine rarely crossed over. I was excited that he was willing to speak with me, and that was enough. It didn’t occur to me that we could have ways that we were alike in personality.
After that initial phone call, my birth father gave me his son’s contact information, with a picture. I studied it closely, with a tight feeling in my throat. This was the first time I’d been taken aback by a photo and thought “Well. That looks a lot like me,” except in comparing my daughters to pictures of me when I was young. It was uncanny. Someone 3 ½ years younger than me had been walking around with my face for over 25 years. The thought made the hairs on my neck stand on end.
I had an idea of what to expect from a brother. After all, I had a brother and sister I grew up with. They were 3 years apart, making my sister 7 years and my brother 10 years younger than myself. My adoptive brother liked sports and was very popular. He was fun to tease because he could be short-fused. We were opposites in a lot of ways but loved each other very much, and were always willing to help each other out. I took those expectations into my first contact with this new brother.
The first phone call defied expectations almost from the outset. He wanted to talk to me about our birth father. “As you get to know him, you may see that he can be pretty frank. He only does that if he’s wanting to help you. It’s always out of love.” I felt that eerily familiar prickly feeling on my neck. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about how I can be a bit harsh. As the conversation continued, more and more of these uncanny remarks kept building up, about our shared father and also just between the two of us. “After an argument, I really just prefer to clear the air. Have it over and done with. That’s just the way I am,” he said, having no idea that those same words have come out of my mouth numerous times. “I don’t mind being wrong. I want you to tell me why I am though.” “I’ve always been a talker. I like being around people.” My head started to swim, my own words ringing in my ears.
The discussion rolled around the family. I think he asked me how I felt about having another brother. At this point, I was barely tracking the conversation and couldn’t even think about making sure not to come across as crazy. I babbled about how I loved my siblings very much, but we’ve always been fundamentally different. My brother and sister ran in similar social circles, had similar views on life and were a great support to one another. I said I always felt like 3 years was the perfect amount of space between siblings, and how he filled a 7-year gap between me and my younger sister. Then, after a moment, I said “I was lonely as a kid. I felt like everyone got along but me. Have you ever felt like that?” There was silence on the line. After the pause, he quietly replied: “Yes, but I’ve never said it out loud.” At that point, I understood that we shared a sort of bond that I’d never realized could exist between people. Biological ties run deep.
Having this initial conversation with my brother emboldened me to delve a little deeper into similarities I may have with my birth parents. He also helped me to navigate through these new relationships and the search for myself. Without him, I may never have known what to even look for.
As the physical traits, I shared with my biological parents were balanced, I found my personality was also a blend of them both. I was a bookworm like my mother, analytical like my father. I loved to travel, like them both. Quirky like her, driven like him. Getting to know both of them better was crucial in truly understanding myself. In these relationships, I’ve gained something I never realized that I’d lost, a context of my own existence that I had lacked. In reunion, I no longer felt untethered, adrift. I am bonded with others in a way I didn’t know was possible. In their faces, their actions, their choices, their opinions, I have found myself.
Whitney Hutchings is an occupational therapist in her first year of practice in her rural community. She lives in the middle of nowhere with her husband and two girls. She and her brother Dexter started Tied Together, to examine their experiences learning from one another as an OT and an adult with cerebral palsy who are long lost siblings. Let's connect on Instagram @tied__together, my website tiedtogethersite.weebly.com, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.