My Adoption Story

by Marvin Lynch
Fall 2016

What can I, an adopted son, say about my search for my birth parents? I reluctantly began my search twenty years ago while in my late forties. I guess I had a script in the back of my mind as to how this search was supposed to play out. Naturally, I expected to meet my birth parents and then be introduced to any birth siblings I might have. But that is not exactly how events unfolded.

It was a twenty-year journey involving many players—my wife, who encouraged me to consider the search because of our son, who was born with a bifed thumb on his right hand, a minor but hereditary birth defect. And although our son accepted this condition, it was always something we were curious about.

My adoptive father told me that our family physician, who was the first African- American doctor in our community in the 1950’s, was involved in my adoption. My search began with conversations with social workers at the Michigan Department of Social Services adoption agency. After some research on their part, they became aware of where my birth parents resided, but were not permitted to disclose the location, since my birth parents had not granted permission to do so. I wrote letters that the social workers sent to my birth parents. Partial /non-identifying information was sent to me describing my early years in an orphanage and a little about my family without revealing their identity.

None of us could have scripted what culminated into a beautiful story. After many years of silence from my birth parents, I received a letter from them, with a photo of both of them, along with a letter giving me a little more of their family history. I was astounded by the resemblance to my birth parents, especially with my father. Imagine walking through life looking into the faces of strangers wondering if I was somehow related to them by blood.

My search became a family journey after a while. Armed with a little bit of information about my family and a photograph, my children (with my permission) began to search the internet. I had thought that all hope of ever connecting with my birth family was lost when I received an anonymous phone call with news that my birth father had died. My oldest son, who was a funeral director at the time, was able to secure additional information about my birth family. My daughter, who is very bold and adventuresome, used Facebook to contact one of the granddaughters mentioned in my birth father’s obituary. Through that initial contact, my daughter eventually arranged to meet this granddaughter, who lived on the West Coast with her family. My daughter had already made plans to attend a wedding near the area where the granddaughter lived. Consequently, my daughter met two of my birth siblings, even before I did in 2008. And this led to the beginnings of a relationship with my birth family in 2009.

On a recent trip to the southern United States in the summer of 2015, I met my birth mother for the first time, along with the remaining birth siblings that I had not previously met. My birth mother, although clearly showing signs of dementia, was lucid enough to carry on a conversation with me. She took hold of my hands and let me know that she knew this day would come. She also expressed how overjoyed she was that my life in my adoptive family in Michigan had been a very good one. She knew this from the letters that she had received from me early in my search. A couple of different times she asked me to forgive her for not being in my life all of these years, which of course I did. After I said, “I forgive you”, Jackie (my wife) and I sensed that my birth mother was released from any and all of the guilt and shame regarding her surrendering me for adoption over sixty years before. She also expressed that my late birth father loved me as well. “I love you and Sam loved you too”.

Marvin and his birth mother at lunch Marvin and his birth mother making peace with the past
Pictured: Marvin with his birth mother

I’m sure that my birth mother had a lifelong experience like the ones written about in the 2006 book, The Girls Who Went Away, written by Ann Fessler, an adult adoptee herself. I believe my birth mother was also the victim of an adoption system which demanded that unmarried girls and young women, who birthed children in the 1950’s to the 1980’s, give up their babies and “move on with their lives”. The result for the vast majority of these individuals was substantial guilt and shame for a lifetime, with some of them keeping secret the knowledge of an earlier birth from spouses, friends, etc.

However, even given the separation associated with my adoption, I believe that my birth mother and I made peace with the past by coming together last summer. It was truly a reunion that FAR exceeded my expectations for what such a reunion would look like. And for that I am eternally grateful!

Marvin Lynch Marvin Lynch is a retired human resources executive who resides in Gaithersburg, MD (Washington DC area), where he is an active member of the Church of the Redeemer.
 Fall 2016 Issue