' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adoptee and birth family synchronicity: Quirks run in families

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Adoptee and birth family synchronicity: Quirks run in families

Jane, Julie, Lucy
A couple of weeks ago I took a cruise with my two sisters, Lucy and Kate along the California coast. We live in different parts of the country--Lucy in Orange County, CA, Kate in Central Illinois, and me in Oregon. During a stop in San Francisco, we met up with my youngest daughter Julie for a dinner in Chinatown. While showing off our deftness at manipulating chopsticks, Julie noticed that she, Lucy, and I had identical nail polish, a sort of shell pink. We hadn't planned this, didn't discuss getting a mani before our trip; still out of the scores of colors at Vietnamese nail salons in different cities, all of us picked the same color.  (Kate's nails were natural.)

I can't attribute our similar taste in nail polish to the way we were raised. Lucy is a decade older than I and was out of the house before I dared polish my nails. Manicures were not on the agenda in our busy, cash-strapped household when Julie was growing up.

This small incident brings to mind the many similarities I've found with my lost daughter Rebecca. We both misspell "pigeon" adding a "d" making it pidgeon. When I saw Rebecca and my oldest raised daughter Amy together for the first time, I was astounded at their similarities: same hairstyles, same posture, both wearing Birkenstocks. Over the years, I've met many adoptees and their natural parents in support groups and through Concerned United Birthparents and the American Adoption Congress. I've seen eerie similarities not only in physical features and talents, but in mannerisms and idiosyncrasies. I remember a father and son who dressed the same, liked the same music, even drank the same brand of beer.

On a recent episode of Long Lost Family a half sister was looking for her adopted sister--her mother's first--and when they met, they were dressed so similarly (tight jeans, jangly earrings, long dark hair,) it was like two peas from same pod, which they were. Lorraine was stunned when her teenage daughter arrived one summer wearing the exact same sandal as she owned, made by an Italian shoemaker (Famolare) with a limited output. Other similarities between them then seemed normal.

Reunited natural mother LaVonne Harper Stiffler, noting that anecdotes of coincidences are common in post-reunion reports--parties beginning to search at the same time, vacationing in the same location, making identical purchases--hypothesizes that there is a continuance of the prenatal bond, a psychic connection of the ruptured family system that transcends space and time. I don't know whether this is true but I am convinced that the power of genes is far greater than commonly recognized. Children are not born formless. Removing a child unnecessarily from what is innately familiar is wrong.--jane


Why should a child grow up with her natural, first, birth parent? Because.

Synchronicity and Reunion: The Genetic Connection of Adoptees and Birthparents
By LaVonne H. Stiffle
on September 5, 2000
Format: Paperback

The Blank Slate : The Modern Denial of Human Nature
by Steve Pinker
on March 5, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase


  1. Jane. I found so much of this to be true back in 1977 when I found my daughter. In addition to those similarities you mentioned, we found so many birth date "coincidences." Her first child born on my father's birthday; her second child born on my son's birthday; my great-grandson that I'm raising, born on the her birtfathers birthday, and on and on. So fascinating!

  2. When the first envelope arrived from my daughter, my first thought was that I didn't remember sending a SASE for anything. Our handwriting is almost identical. Two years later, we had our first F2F. I bought her a mug, figuring it would be something her parents wouldn't question. When she opened it, she started laughing and crying, and she showed the mug to her friend, who started to laugh. Turns out my daughter collects mugs. I then laughed, walked into the kitchen, and opened my cupboard door to show her the 2 shelves of mugs I own. I have been a theatre person since junior high, working backstage, and that was my profession for years. Her boys did stage crew in school, and her daughter wants to be a singer/dancer.

    There are a lot of similarities in outlook, personality, and interests. Genes are very strong!

    1. It never ceases to amaze me how much alike my daughter, who found me in 2015 after I'd unsuccessfully searched for over 28 years, and I are! I am struck by your first sentence because the day my daughter's note arrived, I looked at it and thought "wow, this person prints just like I do!" As a Social Worker, I used to constantly think about nature vs. nurture. But since we have been reunited, I've totally changed my outlook. Genes ARE very strong and the proof is in all those natural similarities between mothers and their children from whom they were separated for many years. My daughter an I love the same color combo (blue and white or blue and yellow, have identical bed comforters, curtain valances and room colors! We keep finding new similarities all the time.

  3. I have found this to be true with my son about some things. We have the same very bad handwriting, both love animals and especially cats, have a similar sense of humor, similar writing style but different topics, both write quite well, similar taste in art, with spooky trees. Our favorite holiday is Halloween. We both like decorative colored glass. We both love nature, zoos and museums. We love to read and like some of the same books like Lord of The Rings. In other ways, of course, we are very different, but there are enough similarities to see the strength of genetic influences.

    An adoptee friend showed me a picture of her first meeting with her sister, and they were wearing the same colors as if they had coordinated beforehand, which of course they had not.

  4. My daughter and I gave one another the same gift for Christmas not once but twice! The first time it was anniversary clocks - you know, the kind with the dome and the four rotating balls. The second time it was nightshirts with bikinis printed on front and back. But the weirdest was discovered when I talked to her early on about coming to visit us at our place on the lake. I mentioned boating and swimming and chided, "I have to dunk you once, anyway." That wasn't funny! She said, "NOBODY touches me when I'm in the water!" Exactly like me! When I was puddling around shallow water as a kid, if anybody even came near me, let alone touché me, I headed for shore and stayed there!

  5. "Children are not born formless."

    This is so true and on multiple levels, too (the deep and primal connection between mother and child at birth is also discounted in adoption). I think it's really important to reiterate the importance of genetics when we are discussing adoptees. It's very interesting and concerning to me how talk of genetics and inheritance of features is absolutely commonplace and encouraged for children who are not adopted, but when discussing children who are adopted, people make giant leaps of logic to avoid talking about it.

    My daughter who is adopted happens to be like me in many ways. That's just coincidence with maybe some nurture thrown in for good measure. But she is a lot like her other parents, and to me and my husband, it's just like "but of course she is." Why would she be like us??? Other people often get weirded out when we talk very comfortably of how she inherited this or that from her other parents- it is not comfortable for the general public to handle the complexities of adoption. They seem to think we all want to act like our children who are adopted were actually born to us.

    My daughter is very into a certain Disney character, and it was quite out of the blue that she developed this intense affinity for him to the point where her little stuffed animal of this character has traveled around the world with us and definitely bears the appearance of being deeply loved. :) I mentioned it in an email to her mom when she started being really into this character, and it turns out her dad really likes this character and always has! Our daughter was kinda excited to find that out, and I think it deepened her love a little more to know her dad likes that character, too.

    Genes are so powerful. I don't really believe in the psychic connection mentioned, but I do believe that who we are is strongly formed by our DNA, and it should not be discounted in adoptees in order to try to make others feel more comfortable with the situation. Science is science, and that's just fact.

  6. When my grandson Chris was a baby, I often took him for a stroll around a nearby park. As I watched other grandmothers with their grandchildren, I thought how much better and more intelligent looking Chris was than the other babies. More normal, the way a baby should looked compared to the other children. I felt sorry for these grandmothers with their homely, dumb kids.

    One day it occurred to me that these grandmothers may have been thinking exactly the same thing. How good-looking and smart looking their children were compared to Chris and other children in the park. I realized that Chris apeared handsome and smart to me because he looked like me and his other grandparents. The familiar is the standard we all use for comparisons. How difficult then for an adopted child who might never look quite right to her adoptive parents.

  7. I've found I really have nothing in common with my birth mother. We seem to be on the opposite sides of every spectrum. Maybe I'm a lot like my birth father. I have no idea, she won't tell me who he is. So that nameless, faceless man out there who gave me half my DNA that some people put so much stock in....he'll remain nameless and faceless.

    1. I used to think that I was NOTHING like my mother--I looked like my father's side of the family--but as I got older I recognized more and more traits of hers in me--even though I left home immediately after college and only went back for short visits. So it's different for everyone. If you carry a person's DNA, genes will out. My daughter, however, looked more like my mother than I ever did.

  8. Just watched an episode of Long Lost Family which aired on 3/5/17 and saw a mother and daughter reunited. The daughter was never supposed to know she was adopted, but it came out eventually....her adoptive mother basically left her alone and she went to live with her father (the couple had separated when the girl was three) at sixteen. When she was 22, and he was dying, he told he that she was adopted, but that he was her natural father...which also turned out to be a fabrication. But she was able to glean her natural mother's name, and the show found her.

    During their looooooong hug I noticed that both of them had on dark red nail polish. Jane, you hit the nail so to speak on the head!--your sob sister who cannot watch that show without crying, even now.

  9. The first time I met my full maternal family I travelled to AZ for my mom's birthday. On her birthday we went out to breakfast and sat at a horseshoe shaped table, with my mom on one end and me on the other. The waitress started taking orders with my mom's side. When she got to me and I placed my order, the waitress laughed and said I can definitely tell you and the birthday girl are related. You ordered exactly the same thing! Now, I am very picky, I ordered eggs scrambled well, sourdough toast with butter on the side and really burnt bacon-and bypassed the potatoes. My heart swelled hearing this simple statement. We still find simple things that we do - both sleep on the right side of the bed on the very edge like half falling off, drive with one hand at 10 and the other at 6, add a splash of cherry coke to our Diet Coke when we have the option. We drink everything with our pinkies sticking straight out. We both prefer dealing with hard issues personally and privately, process and come to terms with it before sharing with loved ones. We have the same dry sarcastic humor; my oldest daughter shares this and the pinky thing too, although she doesn't have our short fat fingers-luckily she got dad's tapered hands. Since I now have 2 sisters, I can see that while my youngest sister is the most like Mom personality wise, she actively suppresses many of her similarities because they have shared a tumultuous relationship-she was a VERY difficult teen and Mom clashed brutally with her(too alike for their own good). I actually display the most similiarities to my mom because we didn't spend my childhood together and I didn't have the strife that would cause me to repress these traits.

    1. Leigh G, that is an amazing number of similarities--down to the breakfast choices of brunt bacon and sourdough! Thanks for writing!

      After I reunited with my daughter, shopping with her was always a treat because we made the same style choices. But in many ways I could see traits of her father, especially in how she tamped down emotional issues whenever possible. Now I see the same tendency in my granddaughter.

  10. I have pictures of my daughter and I sitting side by side... we have the same tilt of the head, wear our hair in almost identical styles, love the same foods, so many things. Sometimes I would forget that these things overwhelmed her... we have the same voice.... My grandsons and I are also very much alike - they both have my eyes, shoulder set, stance and, sadly stubbornness. It is scary how much we are alike - and yet, very very different. I think that is because of the damage.

    One thing, if my daughter could overcome the damage, she would be amazed - we both make things as a way to sooth ourselves, very "craftsy" - we both love to cook and share our food..... we even dress a lot alike.... I see myself in her all the time...or at least in all the time we were around each other.

    She was not a blank slate.

  11. I look at my son and my father and see so many very specific similarities. These range from how they arrange the contents of their home to what tickles their funnybones. In character they are so similar, though my son has far more emotional intelligence.

    It's odd to stand, generationally, between my father and son and to see these similarities, because it's a knowledge that neither of them has. They have met a few times but my dad hasn't been to my son's house and my son doesn't have years of experience of knowing my dad.

    I feel like I am standing in a river of time, watching traits pass from my father to me to my son and now to his son, but I am the only one positioned to be able to see the full breadth of it. Perhaps this is one of our roles.

    1. What a beautiful post, Cherry. The other day I met a first mother who is also an adoptive mother and the similarities and quirks that are inherited came up. Noticing them is both a blessing and a cause of pain when we find our lost children, for we then know what they have missed. xxx

    2. 'Noticing (the inherited similarities and quirks) is both a blessing and a cause of pain when we find our lost children, for we then know what they have missed.'

      Yes indeed Lorraine. We see how alone they've been.




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