Monday, November 23, 2015

Heartlines Are My New Bloodlines

Kinship and bloodlines used to be so significant for me.  Ever since my college days, I was always interested in genealogy and how my family was related to who or whom. I used to spend hours looking over family trees and tracing my ascendants, even to the point of  reaching out to people who had the same last names as mine or any of my ascendants. I have created family trees on websites and shared this with relatives, near and far, old and new.  Then I found myself becoming a mother to two children, a boy who just turned 25 and a girl, now 7.  They may not be of my blood but they have all of my heart.  Suddenly, bloodlines became irrelevant when it concerned my relationship with my children. 

Heartlines

I recently read a post about adoption where the author says, "For years, I heard the voice of my child calling to me. But it wasn’t until I let go of the idea of him coming from my womb that he actually came into my life -- from my heart." Although I would often use the phrase "from my heart" to my 2 kids,  the word "heartlines" is new to me, in the sense that I have never heard it used before to refer to relationships in adoption.
The author, Leza Lowitz (who is Jewish) talks about being "a rainbow family, my (Japanese) husband with his long hair and stay-at-home job, me (Jewish) with my funky yoga studio, not to mention our mixed-breed rescue dog. In a conservative neighborhood in a conservative country (Japan), we already stand out. Why try to fit in? Why not embrace our differences completely and make heartlines the new bloodlines? 
Heartlines are my new bloodlines. I like it! I think it is a wonderful idea because sometimes people can get so obsessed with blood relationships and lineage that they forget about feelings and emotions.

Bloodlines

In a FB family group page from my father's side, there was a question directed to the genealogist about how adopted children will be listed in the genealogy book. He is an avid researcher and can get very particular about accuracy that I was not surprised by his response.

He said that adopted children can be included but only if they were legally adopted, and whilst they are listed, their descendants will not be. There will also be an asterisk after their name to indicate that they are adopted, meaning that they do not belong to this bloodline.
Of course, this triggered a lot of negative reactions from some members, who it turned out were adopted, fostered or are adoptive parents.  One said (and rightly so, if I might add) that it was unfair and unjust for her children to be excluded from the family tree, just because she did not share their grandparent's bloodline, even more so when this is the only family she has ever known. After reading the heated discussion in that post's thread, I privately pointed out to the genealogist, that I know for a fact that there are people in our family's genealogy book whose birth certificates were simulated (note: although commonly done, simulation of birth is still a criminal offense), meaning that it is made to appear in the birth record that the adoptive parent/s were the biological/natural mother or father, (most probably in order to avoid going through the tedious adoption process) or in some cases, where a teenage mother gave birth to a child and her parents are listed down as the birth parents.  I told him that one of these "natural aka adoptive" parent in the book is my cousin.  So how does he explain that erroneous data in the book?  This revelation made him think for a while and he explained to me that in those instances, he just copied the information given to him by the parent/parents. Hmmmm...so in these instances, a lie can become the truth? Adoption, fostering, guardianship is not uncommon in my family and yes, some have simulated birth certificates. But I never thought that these same family members whom we love, grew up with or raised, would not be included in our family tree just because they are not "blood".  And worst was the fact that those with simulated birth certificates will be included, while those who are legally adopted won't be! Isn't that ironic?

My realization that came after this is to question the accuracy of all the information written in our genealogy book. I can no longer take everything written there at face value. If I know at least one inaccurate (and untruthful) information written there, what is the possibility that there are more?  I know of many children with simulated birth certificates, but they were still able to get their validated NSO certificates. An adoptive cousin who was abandoned when she was 5 years old, did not have any birth certificate so that when she needed one for her board exams, she had to pay someone to make an affidavit that she was delivered in a certain hacienda. Of course, all her information were made-up since she did not even know the complete name of her birth mother. My own father when we needed to get his birth certificate when he died still had "Baby Boy" written on it!  A genealogist is only as good as the information he gets, which for proper documentation are the birth  or baptismal records of a person. But how truthful and trustworthy are these legal records which are dependent in the information provided by parents? How many simulated birth certificates are there in this country?  How honest or reliable are baptismal and school records?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Making Heartlines the new Bloodlines

♥ my heartlines ♥
Having adopted children gave me another perspective on genealogy/family trees, or better yet, let's call it my moment of truth - indeed, it is interesting and fascinating to know about my roots, but at the end of the day, it's not that big a deal after all. Because, unless all newborns get tested for DNA compatibility with their parents, there is no way of knowing  that the information written in their birth certificate is true. A midwife, hilot (traditional birth attendant) or anyone for that matter who assisted in a birth delivery can go to the civil registrar and give information that would lead to a simulated birth certificate.  Using this scenario, it is not inconceivable that an ancestor may not really be who they say they are.  But then again, in reality who cares about your roots, other than you?  Having said that, I now know that my heartline will be my new bloodline. My family tree will start with me, and my 2 children will never have any doubt as to their place in my family tree.

Family Ties

source
Of course, this is not meant to diminish blood relationships and if my children want to find out more about their biological parents, I will be right there to help them. Why? Because I understand the desire to know more about where one comes from, or why we are the way we are. This (aside from learning more about my family scandals) is what drives me to find out more about my ancestry. I know that I would never know the feeling of not belonging because I am not adopted.  I know that I already have the answers to most of my questions about family. My children though, will only know what I tell them, and even that will be limited to what I know.  I got my children not long after they were born, so I am grateful that we share memories.  Still, it would good for them to know more about their natural families and I would encourage it when the time comes.  My son knows his natural mother but is not interested in meeting his natural father.  My little girl would occasionally ask about her natural mother (during times when she can't get her way) and I foresee more questions as she grows older. We talk about about what it means being a family, and  that whatever happens we will always love each other and belong together, and that nothing can change that, not even blood.  Many years ago, someone told me that regardless of how one looks at it, blood ties were of great importance in Asian families. I respectfully disagreed. Once upon a time perhaps, but not anymore.  For me, strong family ties is of greater importance...and it is not synonymous with blood ties.  Blood makes you related but it does not necessarily make you family.  Your bloodline does not even make you the person that you are. And so, nowadays when someone asks me if I am related to a person, I just smile and say..."maybe", but inside my head there is a voice that says...who cares!

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