We Just Want to Know

My husband and I recently watched an episode of 20/20 on Friday night. The whole program was dedicated to a story about three half / birth siblings who were raised apart found one another through DNA testing and shared an amazing connection and back-story. All three of these siblings, (born in the mid-80s, one brother and two sisters), knew they were adopted as foundling infants. All three were given the story that they were left on someone’s doorstep or near a busy area, where they would be discovered in reasonable time by someone who could help them. As newborn babies, all three were placed in paper bags with their umbilical cords still attached.

As the first sibling in California found her brother living in Wisconsin, they compared notes regarding their start in life. They shared a desire to find their birth mother, and were delighted to finally know one another. After more DNA research at additional sites, the brother and sister found the third sister, and the three of them met up in California to trace their start in life which happened outside of Los Angeles, as foundlings in a brown paper sack.

Apparently their birth mother had, not once but THREE times, given birth and left her babies to be found by others, and they all wanted to know what exactly happened and what would cause a birth mother to do such a thing. They begin their search by visiting the people who first found them and took the babies for help long ago.

…..No more spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the whole episode / news story….

My husband, married to an adoptee who searched and found over 25 years ago, asked, “Why would they want to know more?” He wasn’t judging. He was just wondering, but that question surprised me since I more or less did the same kind of search for my true origins back in 1987, and he was the one who supported me then.

All I could respond with at the time was, “We always want to know. We just do. You know about your start in life. Our kids know about theirs. Why wouldn’t adopted people NOT want to know, even if the news is bad? My friends Lynn and Becky wanted to know. Your (adopted) cousin “J” wanted to know. Everyone else gets to know their story. Adopted people want to know as well what happened on the day they were born and about the days leading up to that time.”

Admittedly, my husband has one adopted male cousin who has no interest in the subject, but he’s rare.

We 99.999% of the time would prefer to know. Even if the truth contains harsh words or bizarre plot twists, (and truth can be stranger than fiction a lot of the time.) We want to know. We need to know. The desire to understand what happened to whom, how and when is like a non-stop motor. It runs 24-7, sometimes at a greater intensity than other times, but the yearning runs perpetually until it is satisfied. Adoptees often never have newborn baby pictures like the ones the hospitals all take, and we frequently never have the delight of seeing a familiar resemblance in another family member’s face and essence, (especially those adoptees from closed adoptions, which were plentiful back in the Baby-Scoop Era.)

There is strength and empowerment in knowledge. Sometimes that knowledge is joyful and filled with blessings. Sometimes that knowing is tainted with sorrow or disgust. Mostly there is an element of both because what we learn is more about the human condition as a whole. Still We want to know. Knowing the factual story of our origins makes us more connected to humanity, and most adoptees crave a feeling of genuine connectedness. If we are super-fortunate, we also gain new (re)connections with people from our first-past that enhance and add value, love and more meaning to our lives.


PS: The episode is called, “Since the Day I Was Born”, but, at the time of this writing, it is not yet available for viewing at the abc.go/shows site.

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  • supermanfaith  On May 12, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    You nailed it right there, why wouldn’t we want to know since others automatically have that change!

  • Wendy Beckman  On May 13, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    Great post, Paige!

    As I wrote in the book I’m working on, adopted children also don’t have their mothers’ prenatal records, pictures of baby showers, or baby books with documentation of when their mothers first felt them kick. They don’t have them because much of the time it didn’t happen, which adds (I’m sure) to something else adopted people want to know: “how was I treated when I was in the womb?” In the case I’m researching, the answer is “badly.”

    On Wed, May 11, 2016 at 8:20 AM, Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adopti

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