Eyes, Nose, Fingers, and Toes

April 9, 2016 Amy A., birth family, DNA and genetic testing 4 Comments

I’ll never forget the moment when I first saw each of my four sons. After 16 hours of labor, my doctor placed Noah on my chest, and I simply marveled at the beautiful gift I had just received. I delivered Liam in the water, and while holding his tiny, slippery body in my heads, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be this sweet baby’s momma.

During both of my pregnancies, I looked forward to the day that I could give my children their first baths at home. I think it had something to do with the tender way a momma takes care of her baby during bath time. The gentle pouring of warm water. The soap bubbles rubbed onto the baby’s skin. The rinsing, wrapping up in a warm towel, and covering with lotion. To see and feel my sons’ bodies that grew inside my own truly left me in awe.


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People would often tell us how much Noah and Liam looked like me while others were adamant that they resembled Ryan. The boys have the blond hair that I had when I was a child, but their bodies are formed much like Ryan’s. Noah actually takes after my mom – his skin tone, hair, and nose. Although Liam is truly the spitting image of Ryan, his ornery, bossy, and over-confident personality has me written all over him.

Something interesting about both Noah and Liam is that they both have blue eyes, with Noah’s being especially bright. Everyone told us they would change as they grew older, as Ryan and I both have brown eyes, but that has not been the case. Their eyes have only gotten lighter with time. So two brown-eyed parents gave birth to two blue-eyed boys. Each had only a 6% chance of this occurrence, and the statistical likelihood that they would both have blue eyes was even smaller.

When we prepared to meet Tucker in China, I remember being so excited to give him a bath – just like I had felt with his brothers. I had missed the opportunity to nurture my new son for 2 ½ years, and to care for him – as he deserved all along – was something I longed for each day. I’ll never forget taking Tuck back to our hotel and snapping the same picture of Ryan carrying him through the threshold of our hotel room just like we had with Noah and Liam.


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After having dinner, it was finally time to do what my heart longed to do for so long – give my baby a bath. I began cataloging each freckle in my mind. I smiled at the way his right ear stuck out just a little bit farther than the other. I wondered with sadness about the cause of each scar on his tiny body. After some playtime in the bathtub with his swimsuit-wearing baba, it was time for me to bathe my baby for the first time. I washed his tiny hands and baby feet, wrapped him up in a towel, rubbed lotion into his skin, and sang him to sleep while giving him a bottle for the first time.


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Ever since that first day together, I have these moments where I look deep into Tuck’s eyes and wonder, “Do you have your birth mom’s eyes or your birth father’s?” When he smiles his beautiful smile, I can’t help but wonder if his dimples were inherited from his birth mom’s side of the family or his birth father’s. Every single time I trim his nails, I find myself wondering whose hands he has – his birth mom’s or birth father’s. His long and slender fingers always take my mind to a country far away, and I am left wondering who created this beautiful boy.

After meeting Tyson in China a year and a half later, I couldn’t wait to give him a bath. To have a baby once again and to rub soap bubbles into his tummy made me smile. I quickly cataloged Ty’s adorable Mongolian spots and all of his tiny freckles. In our hotel room, we finally had the chance to see the severity of his cleft palate. We were both left in awe that he had found a way to eat and flourish when many babies would likely die from starvation. Another true fighter – a real survivor – this one.

His body, eyes, nose, fingers, and toes are all so perfect to me. I can’t help but wonder about his birth parents when I look at him. Which one of them had fuzzy duck hair when they were babies? Tyson’s hands look like bear cub paws to me, and I wonder if they resemble his birth father’s or grandfather’s… maybe an uncle’s? Did anyone else in his biological family have cleft issues, or was he like our Liam, the first and only as far as we know?

So many questions without answers. I cannot begin to imagine what my sons will wonder as they grow up. As they run across the soccer field, will they wonder if their birthparents were that fast? When they look at the mirror to shave for the first time, will they think of their birth fathers? When they trim their nails, will they wonder what their birth mothers’ hands look like? Their eyes, nose, fingers, and toes – all so beatifically and wonderfully made.


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I am amazed by how many adoptees are finding their birth families these days. Through the help of professionals, finders, and DNA testing, many people are finding answers to the questions in their hearts. Children, teenagers, and adults are meeting their birth parents and finding which traits they have from each.

Many parents who have adopted children from China are uses companies such as 23andMe to learn more about themselves. After placing the order, the kit arrives at your home in 3 to 5 days. After collecting a sample of saliva, you register the sample using the included barcode, and mail it to 23andMe to be analyzed. Approximately 12 weeks later, families will receive the reports through their online account. Over 60 genetic reports in four main areas can be obtained through this testing: Carrier Status Reports, Ancestry Reports, Wellness Reports, and Traits Reports. By sharing information with others who have a 23andMe account, people have the ability to find relatives who share the same DNA. It’s pretty incredible!

So the question I keep asking myself is this: should we do it? I love the idea of “striking while the iron is hot,” if you know what I mean. Our sons have lived with our family for a relatively short time, and I often wonder if beginning a search for birth parents now versus later will have a higher chance of success. People move forward with their lives. They move away and even pass away. If we begin our search now, could we locate their birth parents more easily?

At the same time, our sons are too young to give consent for something like this. I wonder how they will feel as they grow up and know we have this information. Will they be thankful to have it? Will they wish we hadn’t started a search? Should we wait until they are older, or would it be best to start now? I have so many questions but have not had peace either way.

This is not a black and white issue with only one right answer. Every child is different, and every situation is different. All parents must make this decision based on the best interest of their child. The last thing I want this post to do is to start a debate or argument one way or the other. I am trying to obtain wisdom and clarity at this point as we move forward and make the decision that is best for each of our sons.

If any of you would like to share your experience, I would love to read about it. I am asking, though, that you respect one another’s decisions. Rather than commenting or judging someone else’s decision, let’s try to stick to sharing about where we each are individually. Let’s take this opportunity to support one another and show love to each other as we wade through these waters together.

So thankful for the adoption community and the love, support, knowledge, and understanding we can render together.




4 responses to “Eyes, Nose, Fingers, and Toes”

  1. Holly says:

    I can see pros and cons on this. I am a curious person and I think the option of the DNA test is such a gift! I offered this to my teen born in China several years ago and she is not interested. She knows people who have done this test and have found a distant cousin. I thought this new info. might make her more curious but she said she is perfectly content at this time to not know more information. I know every family is different. I am thankful I did not do the search because so much of her past is out of her control. I think it is neat that she is in control of the next steps if she decides to take them.

    • Amy Abell says:

      I love that, Holly! I think you have a good point that so much of our children’s lives are out of their control, and allowing them to choose gives them control over something. Hugs as you navigate these waters!

  2. Ellie says:

    I am an adoptee and I did it! I did it at age 28 though and wish that when I was younger I could have done it sooner. I have some health things that came up over the years and with no medical information, it was really frustrating. It left me angry even sometimes because I had no point of contact, to ask questions. That being said, I think that waiting until the right time is also appropriate. It opens up a lot of conversation, and you learn a lot about yourself through this amazing test. If you do it, I am pretty sure there is a privacy setting for relatives, etc. I know for our adopted child we will do it, I am not sure when but I know we will do it sooner rather than later for medical purposes. I will share age appropriate info as it comes up. Never withholding information maybe just not explaining it all at once as to not overwhelm. This will be missing piece to her story. Another thing unearthed about her mysterious past. I completely respect everyone’s decision that is just my 2 cents :).

    • Amy Abell says:

      Thank you for your voice! I am so grateful that you shared your thoughts and experiences. It is such a personal decision…you are right! How helpful that you could gather important health related information! I am curious to know what our sons will want to do as they grow older.

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