My life has changed vastly as an adoptee after I reunited with my birth family. I always thought that meeting my family was what I wanted. Don’t get me wrong; reuniting with my birth family was exactly what I wanted, however, I never knew I would have faced the obstacles I had to face post-reunion. People warn you of the possibilities of rejection, death, failures, and the unexpected when you begin your search for your birth family, but honestly what adoptee wants to think that things are going to wrong? The only thing on an adoptees mind is getting answers and most of all that they will be received with open arms and love from their birth family.
One thing is true though; change is for the better or for the worse. I have encountered both post-reunion. It is very normal in case you are having the same or similar thoughts, or have spent time questioning what you have gotten yourself into. We should expect that our lives would change in some way post-reunion. As adoptees, we are finding ourselves through this process and picking up the pieces of our lives in hopes that everything will one day make sense, and we will be okay with it. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing; it is all in how you see it.
How my life changed:
I had to learn how to have relationships with siblings that were once strangers
Imagine being adopted into a family with one sibling whom you don’t really have a close connection with for the exception that you love each other because you are sisters, to reuniting with your family finding yourself blessed with not one or two siblings, but six! They all wanted to be a part of my life badly, however, I had no idea how to love them or how to be a sister to them because I never had a close relationship with my sister. Growing up, I yearned for a strong relationship with my sister; however, the dynamics of our family was very dysfunctional at the time. I was fearful of forming a bond with my biological siblings knowing that I have a sister I grew up with that I wanted so badly to have a bond with. I do not ever want her to feel like I love my biological siblings more than her. My biological siblings wanted to hug me, talk on the phone, have sleepovers and pillow fights, go on vacation, have a girl’s night, and so much more. All of this was foreign to me. I was afraid to let them get close to me. Immediately I put my guard up, closed the gates, and cut off all communication. Regularly I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? Isn’t this what you always wanted? A family?” Oh, the mind games I played with myself over this. I got angry with myself because they all had each other growing up. I was the only child placed for adoption. I was angry because I wasn’t sure if I would fit in. I hate feeling awkward. I had enough of that just being an adoptee growing up. I found it impossible to make up for lost time; therefore, I ran from the thought of even trying to be a family.
It took me a couple of years to bring myself to a place where I would ask them for forgiveness. They did nothing but try to love me and be there for me. I am not perfect though. None of us are. I am human and I make mistakes, but what is important is that people are able to recognize the loss we suffer as adoptees. It is hard to put the pieces together and to welcome people into your life even if they are your blood relatives. As much pain as I felt, I can only imagine how they felt growing up never knowing they had a sister, and all they wanted to do was be there for me and make up for lost time.
I had to learn how to have and balance two families
I have often heard from adoptees in reunion that they feel like they are caught in the middle of their adoptive family and biological family, and feel forced to choose between the two oftentimes. I have also heard from adoptees that say they are afraid that their adoptive family will shame them, be angry with them, or disown them if they were to choose to spend the holidays with their biological family or if they were to spend too much time with them. The pressure is really on as an adoptee, and I do not believe that adoptive parents and birth parents understand what goes on in the mind of an adoptee in this position. It is hard enough growing up knowing you are adopted and having the usual family trials, but to have two do deal with? That can sometimes feel like double the trouble, double the pain, and double the heartache.
I still struggle with the thought of having two families. As an adoptee, you cannot help but want them to merge into one in some way to eliminate any and all awkwardness. The awkwardness no birth parent or adoptive parent will ever understand unless they are adoptees themselves. Although I do not spend the holidays with either family because I live in another country, if I did, I would want everyone under the same roof and not be forced to choose. But sometimes, that can be too much to ask for from our adoptive parents and even birth parents. And trust me, I completely get it; I know that it isn’t the easiest thing to do, but families should at least attempt it. What adoptees want and need is to be thought of first. Reflect on how we feel as we are the ones going through it harder than any mother or father that has either placed or adopted. Just think about it.
I had to learn to find strength within myself, and trust God for healing and answers
It is evident that no matter how successful your adoption reunion is, there will be trials and tribulations as you work through the whys, apologies, forgiveness, and relationships. You never know how strong you are until you have been pushed down to the ground and up against the wall to the point where you feel like you cannot breathe. There will be adoptees that will never reunite with their birth family because they cannot locate them or they passed away, and they have to cope with that pain forever. There will be adoptees that will face rejection for the second time. There will be adoptees that are reunited with their birth family that will never hear the truth or receive answers. There will be adoptees in reunion with their birth family that still find themselves alone with no connection to either family.
I have endured great losses in such short time post-reunion. The day I met my birth family was in the ICU of a hospital because my little brother was in an accident and not expected to survive. Not long after, my other little brother was murdered. My birth mother hasn’t been the same since. I cannot bring myself to ask her questions or why I was placed for adoption after all that she has been through with my siblings. I was left numb for months in search for answers and peace. It all began to overwhelm me to the point that it brought me to the lowest I have ever been in my life. It was then that I found a new relationship with God. I found a new peace and comfort I never knew existed. I found a new strength in me I never knew I had. I learned that we don’t have to go through everything alone, and that God is always with us. My life has changed for the better know that I have found peace.
Overall, my adoption journey changed my life and had made me the woman I am today. Would I trade it for another life as hard as it has been? Never. It made me. It gave me the strength to persevere. It gave me the compassion the world needs. Ultimately, it birthed my purpose in helping counsel adoptees and the youth. No matter what happens in your life post-reunion – positive or negative, you must always remain strong for yourself and always remember that life is about changes. They make us who we are. Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t run from them. Find the beauty in them.
How has your life changed post-reunion?
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Your words always inspire me Jessenia. Although the "reunion" hasn't taken place as of yet, I hold hope that eventually it will.
I love that you make me think of the opposite side of the coin.
God has a plan for me and it will be as it should be.
Hi Debbie, you know I am praying for you and you son. Don't u give up. God's time is the perfect time. I am glad to have you a part of my journey and I am thankful to be a part of yours. I appreciate your support. Love you! Keep the faith!
Great post. Very insightful and powerful. As an adoptee I am always searching for experiences that can help me sort through my thoughts. Thank you.
As a father who lost a daughter to adoption, I am sickened by the hardships & divide placed on our relationship by a party that estranges us for explicit purpose to mold to their desire by design their selfish love with future expectations that their investment will pay off and be upheld. Closed adoption is a cruelty of enormous proportions. I did not choose it. My daughter or my family did not choose it. Her mother did not choose it. She chose a Christian family, who could not find it in their hearts to be family, but insisted in contract to separate mother from child. Upon relinquishment contact was disavowed. For letters to be considered as a fulfillment in consideration of loss sustained,& to mitigate grief, I find this appalling. To be satisfied with a child's lack of history, so that your history is the only significant history the child should need is ignorant, arrogant and again cruel. Now fast forward to my daughter's current needs, I must choke & stifle that which was taken from me & kept from me. It is with such sadness, I must embrace my daughter. I have missed her so, my anger seeths for wall imposed, now torn down, I must act as blended family with strangers who directly oppose that which I so longed, they took my child's childhood from all of us permanently. Christian love…..I'm not impressed.
I have swallowed my anger. My daughter needs come first. Her poor mother, will not have a relationship with a-mom. It saddens me tremendously. Yet my daughter is so protective of her adoptive family and relies heavily on them in her needs. I am so grateful to have had the contact with her mother in our union. I have so longed mourned the contact lost all these years. 1985 till present. Two years in union 27 years apart. What can I do within myself to help heal our souls. I want my daughter whole as a strong individual broken can be. I cannot bring myself to address what seems so blatant and appalling, I fear withdrawl, and there has been enough sadness.
Oh please! You signed those papers probably thinking that adoption (open) meant a free pass at parenthood without the work.
Great topic. I was adopted at the age of 2. I searched for my mother for 8 years; by the time I found her, she had been dead for 3 years (at the age of 53). I met 2 brothers and 3 sisters, and it was all very confusing to me at first – I was not prepared for the fact that they envied me and my life, all at a time when I was focused on trying to figure out what my life was all about. The reunion with 3 of the siblings led to my adoptive mom telling/asking me "Don't you think I never wanted to have my own children?" Up until then, I had been led to believe that my adoptive father would be crushed if he knew I was searching. It turns out the hurt was with my mom, not my dad. But she got over it, and in time, it made us closer (in fact, he said if it had been him, he'd have done the same thing). I spent 3 more years looking for my birth father and ultimately found and met him. I flew out to Michigan from NY, and he spent the day with me — as he was working — he ran the kitchen in a Flint, Michigan country club! He talked with me on his breaks (I hung around, pretending I was busy on the phone with work) and over dinner — telling the woman who was bartending that I was his "friend" from New York (a tough sell since even he admitted "you can't deny the resemblance). I left the next morning and never saw him again, though we sporadically talked on the phone til his death. He had a daughter, but we never met or spoke. Within a year of finding my original mother, I divorced.
While my life post "reunion" has had its ups and downs, some of which are surely related to my whole experience, if I had it to do all over again, I'd surely set sail for the same choppy waters. A year or so after my reunion, I went with 2 sisters to visit my mother's memorial spot — she was cremated and one sister had her remains (kept in a closet at her apartment), but a marker exists at a memorial garden which sits at the end of a runway strip at McCarron Airport in Las Vegas. I remember standing before her granite marker and having a difficult time connecting to any feelings — I noticed a small plastic Christmas wreath on the ground (it was in September). It had fallen from its spot. The planes zoomed a few hundred feet above, taking off for other places. I never went back. Despite this, I am proud that I beat the system – that I completed my search and was able to discover my own truth. I think sometimes of the Massachusetts court clerk who let me see my adoption file (after first reading it herself) – she said "Don't ever be hurt by what you read." I thought …. she's worried I won't be able to deal with the fact that I was "illegitimate." I had no problem with that — later, it occurred to me that maybe she meant something else entirely.
As a mother, reunion has destroyed me. First, I did not, as you did not, realize that things could go wrong. I thought, wanted to believe, whatever, that my daughter was adopted by educated people that would educate and love her…. talk about untrue. Then, she spends so much time in this cycle – accept, see, get money, talk vaguely, criticize, reject, stalk, accept…. ad infinitum, that I know she is not wanting to have a real relationship. Also, she hates my family – her family – her adoptive family – her inlaws – everyone around her. The negative drips off of her in huge, ravenous, all consuming drops.
I wanted so much for us to connect on some level….. I spent over a decade trying to make it all "nice"…… I hate adoption.
I was reunited with my birth mother about a year and a half ago. Since then, it has been nothing but an emotional rollercoaster. she is dying of stage 4 cancer. She would verbalize how much she loved me and wanted to have a relationship, etc, but her actions did not match up. Now, she has said some very harsh things to me, that cannot be taken back, but she also blames me for it and pulls the sick card every chance she gets. I have not responded to her in 3 months, because I am full of hurt and hostility, and everytime she talks to me, it just increases. Her dying adds a whole new level of feelings, questions, and emotions to the picture.
I met my birth dad three months ago. This reunion has been fabulous. I have two sisters and a brother. I was raised as an only child, so this has been amazing for me. The whole family has welcomed me with open arms. We have so much in common. I talk to someone in the family almost daily and see them at least once to twice a week. But lately, I have been feeling guilty and angry towards myself, because I am not nearly as close with my adoptive dad as I have grown with my bio dad. I feel guilty bc I don't want to hurt my adoptive dad and have him think I love him any less, because I do not. I also feel anger and jealousy towards my siblings, because they grew up doing things I had always wanted to do, but my parents were never into it or did not have the time–horseback riding, hunting, etc. In reading your article, it was comforting to know I am not alone in this.
I met my birth mother in my early 30s. I put my name in a search registry when I was 15. I could have been matched with her almost instantly (well maybe within the yr) if she had registered. Good indication that I should have abandoned search.(but who doesn't want to know where they came from other that the story re "cabbage patch") Approx at 25 yrs old I received requested background information which revealed I had an older brother from my birth father's first marriage. Upon meeting my birth mother she didn't divulge much info on my father so I didn't pry but after almost a decade I attempted again as she as much as made me feel like I was ripping off her skin. If she hadn't felt she could talk re my father I actually would have preferred that she hadn't responded to the third party letters. It had made me quite distraught. In the end I was able to locate a pic if my father's gravesite on internet. As growing up as an adoptee I could never pls my mother. I was blamed for a family problems. Raised by a father who was an adoptee himself. He had his own share of issues of which we lived with but we're just supposed to act like a happy family and sweep it all under the rug. Well enough about me. I'm just grateful I've found these blogs this last yr but also wish it had been sooner.I know am aware that soon many of my issues are adoptee related. Where as my family would have me believe I'm crazy. I'd once told my adoptive mother what information is now available re grown adoptees and her response was astleast she was glad it wasn't something she did….