Wenxin, with the only dad he's ever known
One of the losses inherent in so many adoptions is a loss of personal history. The truth of what happened in a child's life up to a certain point simply vanishes.
Recently, two seemingly insignificant moments drove this truth home to me.
First, Wenxin got sick.
Mike travels internationally. It seems to be an unspoken law of nature that everything falls apart when Dad's away. During Mike's last overseas trip, Wenxin came down with a fever and a bad headache. When Wenxin's temperature rose to almost 105 degrees Fahrenheit, I took him to Urgent Care.
The doctor thought he might have the flu. She began to ask me questions about his medical history. All I know of his medical history before we adopted him in 2010 is the scanty information in his adoption file. And who knows if that's even accurate?
The doctor made an interesting statement. "If he tests positively for the flu, I'll prescribe Tamiflu for him. Generally, we aren't giving Tamiflu to kids this year. But since we don't really know his medical history -- for example, we don't know if he had problems with wheezing as a baby -- we'll err on the side of caution and give him the medicine."
Most moms are experts on their kids' medical histories. Most moms remember if their kids ever had breathing treatments for wheezing, or were prone to ear infections or had food allergies. I don't know any of those things about my son. I'm only an expert on the last year and a half.
Wenxin has lost a chunk of his medical history.
The second incident occurred when Nathan brought home an ancestry assignment from school: Trace your family tree back to an immigrant or a Native American.
I couldn't help but wonder, "How would Wenxin do this project?"
I guess he could just write his name on the poster and turn it in. He is, afterall, an immigrant. Maybe it would just be an easy A.
Or, he could, of course, trace our family history since he has been permanently adopted into our family. Our family tree has become his. He has been grafted in.
But the issue isn't really "how to do the project." The assignment itself drives home an uncomfortable truth: Wenxin's original family history is a blank. We don't know the names of his birth parents. We don't even know for sure where he was born or on what date. That is a loss unique to adoption and very common with kids adopted from China.
Recently I've been reading about DNA testing on some adoption message boards. There's a company called 23andme that will analyze youre DNA and send you a report containing info about your ancestral origins and your health. 23andme will also let you know if any of your relatives have submitted their DNA. You have the opportunity to anonymously ask them if they'd like to establish contact. As the database of kids adopted from China grows, in the future our children may have the chance to connect with distant cousins and maybe even siblings.
It got me thinking. I wonder if future scientific developments will help our kids fill in pieces of their missing histories. I think it's likely. While I don't plan to do anything now, I'll be watching. When Wenxin is old enough to weigh in with his thoughts and desires, he may choose to let science give back some of the history he's lost. We'll see.
Special Note: This week, Death by Great Wall, is getting a design makeover. If everything goes according to schedule (do makeovers ever go according to schedule?) we should have the reveal by the end of the week. Be sure to drop by and check out our new look!