'I'm spending my inheritance trying to find my biological family'

Gabriella Munoz will travel to Mexico to try to find her biological family, along with husband Cesar Albarran-Torres, ...
Gabriella Munoz will travel to Mexico to try to find her biological family, along with husband Cesar Albarran-Torres, son David (2) and daughter Isabel (9 months). Photo: Luis Ascui

Adoption wasn't something I thought about until I found out about my own. How I came into my adoptive parents' lives is a mystery and that is why my family and I will travel soon to Mexico City, where I grew up. The search for my biological family will make us postpone the plans to buy our dream home, perhaps indefinitely.

After I lost my first pregnancy I asked my family about our medical history. Confronted with evasive answers, it wasn't until I had a bout of psoriatic arthritis and couldn't get out of bed that one of my aunts revealed the family secret: my father adopted me when I was two days old - and he made everyone swear they would never tell me the truth. He died in 1996 and left me money and a house in his will, which I sold in 2007 for $250,000.

I've made good use of that money - I paid for my wedding, a car, a trip to Europe, my graduate studies, and a two-bedroom apartment in one of Mexico City's trendiest neighbourhoods. At the beginning of this year I still had $260,000 left.

My son was born in 2015 with a heart murmur. My daughter was born 17 months later with hip dysplasia. In both cases the specialists wanted to know about my family medical history.

When I asked my mother about my biological parents she told me my dad just said a young woman gave me up for adoption. My adoptive mum couldn't have kids, but they'd never discussed adoption. But that is not the only version. My adoptive father told his family that I was the daughter of a young American couple who didn't want kids. My grandparents thought I was the mistress' daughter.

In an attempt to discover something about my past, I paid $99 to Ancestry.com hoping to get answers. The results came back recently and confirmed that my ethnicity is Mexican and is composed of 50 per cent Iberian Peninsula, 21 per cent Native American, and 29 per cent others.

Through the Ancestry system I've been contacted by three people with whom I share DNA. They could be my third or fourth cousins, but they don't know who my parents are.

All documents held by my adoptive mother falsely state that she's my birth mother and that I was born on November 18, 1977. My adoptive father paid the hospital bill and the obstetrician at my birth was his then best friend.

When I contacted the obstetrician he said there was nothing to discuss. He won't take my phone calls or reply to my emails because my adoption was shady. If I want to speak with him, I have to travel from Australia to Mexico and, if necessary, seek legal counsel.

For the past few years, my husband and I have been saving to buy a house. What is left of my inheritance would have been used for that purpose, but we've decided to wait until next year because I want to find my biological parents. I also need to learn about my family medical history to learn more about the auto-immune disease attacking my body.

The search means I won't work full-time this year. I'll need to travel to Mexico probably more than once and each trip will cost about $8700 in airfares alone because we are a party of four – my daughter still breastfeeds and my son is only two. My husband will be there to provide emotional support and help with paperwork. Not going back to work also means using part of the inheritance to pay one more year of rent – $24,530.

As my good friend, the USA-born novelist David Miklos, who's also adopted, says, "When one has kids or is about to have kids, the issue becomes very real, tangible: 'How does the person I come from look like? Is my mother healthy? Does she have a complex medical history?' Our children have her DNA and one wants to know. It's natural and the human condition par excellence".

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