I recently got this feedback on The DNA Guide for Adoptees from a reader:
“I learned a lot! Very informative and sensitive to so many things. I especially appreciated how tactfully written the high ROH chapter was (high ROH=when birth parents are related to each other). It’s a sensitive topic but was very tactfully done.
The reader continued on…
Do you find some people don’t pursue contacting family as enthusiastically if there is a high ROH result? Like they don’t want to bring to light *that* particular kind of family secret (not that it’s their fault in any way)?
ROH is very tricky topic but one we need to get comfortable talking about. It can happen to anyone of any age from any background. I am seeing it more commonly in the adoptee group, as many adoptees were born to young, unmarried women from unintended pregnancies, and adoptees are using at-home DNA testing in an ever-growing number.
The outcomes are not all the same. In some situations I am aware of, the adoptee has already found their birth mother (and perhaps has been in reunion with them for many years) before making the discovery of high ROH. I have heard it happen that the birth mother wouldn’t name the father of the child she relinquished for adoption, so when denied this information, the adoptee chooses to pursue DNA testing to find out. Sometimes there was suspicion or the person was prepared for a shocking result, and sometimes it was not expected that the adoptee would discover their biological father was someone related to their mother.
In other situations, I have heard that prior to the DNA testing, there had been a suspicion or rumor, and the testing was done intentionally, to either rule out or rule in the theory.
Here’s how one person I worked to confirm her high ROH finding described the conversation that came next:
I called my birth mother last night and she expressed that she had wondered all of these years if my birth dad was [one of her relatives]. She said she had pushed it into a corner of her mind and hoped it wasn't the case. She confirmed that she did not have any other relations within her family other than [a particular relative] — not consensual. We both cried many tears, but we had a very good conversation around it.
Talking about these topics is hard, but it’s important. DNA testing makes it impossible to keep secrets any more. There is a secret support group and other resources for high ROH discoveries which I mention in the book and in past posts here. I was able to connect this particular person with them.
Most people—once they get over a shocking discovery from their DNA test—say they are glad to know the truth (even in situations of making an ROH discovery). I’ve also heard many say they wish the DNA company’s staff had been more supportive when they called (“They told me ‘our company doesn’t make mistakes…you need to seek mental health support’ one distraught person told me over the phone). Many also say they wish my website hadn’t been so hard to find and that there were more people like myself available as a resource of information and support.
People can handle a lot of adversity, more than other people think. From my work with people who were adopted, donor conceived, and NPEs (‘not the parent expected’), being lied to or denied the truth when they ask for it is worse than learning the actual truth.
It’s a new way of thinking about it than what most people are used to. The truth is important, as is a safety net of support once a difficult truth comes to light.
I hope the word begins to spread along with networks to connect people to the support they need.