DEAR AMY: I am adopted and have been in contact with my birth mother for five years. I have met her husband and their two sons — my half-brothers. They have also met my husband, and our other family members. My birth mother was disowned by her parents when she became pregnant. She was sent away to a maternity home. After I was born, she went to live with her grandparents. I have learned that my birth father is deceased but was married with four children when I was conceived. According to my birth mother, he didn't know about her pregnancy. His children were very young at the time. After much thought, I reached out to them. After months of silence, I received a formal, terse letter signed by all four of them. They want nothing to do with me and threaten to contact their attorney. They warned me to "stay away" from their mother (his widow, who is still living). They said that given the circumstances (i.e. an extramarital affair), I would be an "embarrassment" to their family. And they wish to "protect" their mother from this knowledge. I have no desire to hurt these people or intrude upon their lives. I was only hoping for a DNA test to confirm paternity. I am upset, to say the least. Amy, what do you think?
Looking for Answers
DEAR LOOKING: When people react the way your birth father's family has, they are acting out of fear.
Look at this group, threatening to get legal with you over what, exactly? It seems most likely that knowledge of your very existence threatens to upend their ideas about their father, and hence — about themselves. Judging only on the facts you present — your birth father does not seem like the greatest guy in the world. Ironically, if his family would let you in, you might learn otherwise.
DNA testing has upended many family relationships, because it exposes the truth: that life is complicated, that no family is perfect, and that many of us live comfortably with half-buried secrets and sometimes in outright denial.
None of this complication is at all surprising to those of us who grew up in more openly chaotic and disrupted or dysfunctional homes. We all come from somewhere, and the truth is not always pretty, but beauty is born when you absorb and accept the truth — and keep going.
You have every reason to be upset. I think you also have every reason to celebrate your own resilience, the joys of your combined families, and your healthy quest for knowledge.
You should do some legal research of your own to see what your options are, regarding forcing this issue — if you choose to.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been blessed with the most loving and caring daughters-in-law. Unfortunately, one of them has type 1 diabetes. She and our son were blessed with a beautiful baby girl a few months back. Although she was born prematurely, with the most amazing care that she received in NICU, she is healthy. Going through this pregnancy and the years of her having diabetes, has taken its toll. She now needs to have a kidney transplant. Both my husband and I are organ donors, but we are not a match for her. We all can't predict what the future holds. All of us will eventually die. But choosing to donate our organs when our time comes gives the gift of life to someone else. We hope that you will use your column to help us advocate for people to give the gift of life by choosing to become organ donors.
DEAR GRATEFUL: It is so easy to register to become an organ donor — either at the local Department of Motor Vehicles, or online at organdonor.gov. I'm registered.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 100,000 Americans are currently on the waiting list to receive a kidney. Every day, 12 people die waiting for a donated organ.
For more on "living donation" of a kidney, check kidney.org.
DEAR AMY: Regarding the question from "New-ish Mom" about unsolicited parenting advice, I give more than my share of unsolicited advice — mostly about cars, appliances, home repair and computers. When I do so, I remind people that it is worth exactly what they paid for it. My takeaway for a new parent is to do what works for you, your spouse and your child. If it works for you, then it's right!
DEAR DAD: Exactly.