Are You Ready?
edited: Thursday, April 17, 2003
By Lori Paris
Posted: Thursday, May 09, 2002
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Are you adopted and contemplating a search for a biological parent? Here is some advice to consider before you start.
So, you’re adopted. You are thinking about trying to find your birth parents, how prepared are you? There is a great deal to think about when considering a decision of this magnitude, and believe me, from one who’s been there, it is of great magnitude. Consider this, you will be making a decision that will change your destiny and the destiny of others. This is not something to be taken lightly. This decision carries some serious weight, so my suggestion first and foremost, is for you to think long and hard about it. Here’s a list of 20 questions to get you started.
1. What is it, really, that you hope to gain by finding your birth mom, dad, sibs, or family?
2. Are you only looking for medical history, or are you searching for identity, or do you simply want to know the circumstances surrounding your birth and the reason you were put up for adoption?
3. Are you fully prepared to alter the direction of your life?
4. Do you realize that by conducting a search, and if you are successful, that you are making a decision that will alter someone else’s life, without their consent?
5. Are you fully prepared to accept the possibility that the search may yield unsuccessful results?
6. Are you fully prepared to handle the emotional consequences involved?
7. Will you be able to accept, if you are successful, that there may be some people who will not be happy that you made this choice?
8. Do you believe that if you are successful, that you and your birth mom/dad will live happily ever after?
9. Are you angry that your birth parents gave you up for adoption, whatever the reason may be?
10. Searches take time, patience, and often money. Are you willing to wait? Can you afford it?
11. Do you know, or have an idea of how making such a decision will impact your adopted family? Will they support your decision? Will they be angry or hurt?
12. Are you willing to accept the fact that one of your birth parents may not be what you expect?
13. How will you feel, if you are successful in your search, if your birth parent does not want contact? Will you be willing to let it go at that point? Or will you try to “force” a reunion?
14. Okay, so you meet. You have a reunion. What will happen afterward? How do you plan to get to know this person?
15. If there are half or full siblings involved, how will you feel about them? How will they feel about you? Are you prepared for them being possessive of their parent?
16. So you want to have a relationship. How do you feel about having a built-in extended family? How will you fit in? What are you responsibilities and/or obligations to them?
17. If you have children, how will you explain a “new” family to them? Do you think it will be wonderful for them to have more family? Or do you think it will be confusing for them?
18. Let’s say you meet a birth parent and you are disappointed and no longer want contact, but they do. How will you handle that? Will you be able to define your own boundaries?
19. Are you mature enough, in age and experience, to handle whatever curves may come your way? What about long-term ramifications?
20. Are you looking to fill a void in your life, or are you simply trying to find a missing piece of the puzzle? Are you looking for a mother/father figure, or do you just want this person to be a part of your life?
Is your head spinning yet? Oops, sorry! No more questions for now. You’ve already got an awful lot to think about. Let me explain why I want you to think this through, I do not want to deter you, and I certainly am not trying to change your mind. All I want you to do is to be careful. I don’t want to see you have high expectations and then get hurt. I want you to be sure that your motives are true . Yes, sometimes fairy tale endings happen, but often they don’t. I want you to have your feet on the ground and your heart in the right place. Remember, you are changing fate here, it’s a big responsibility. You must be careful not only to protect yourself from getting hurt, but you don’t want to hurt anyone else, do you? I want you to consider as many possibilities as you can. It may sound simple. Oh gee! I’m going to find my birth mom and we’ll be the best of friends! Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that.
I found my birth parents fifteen years ago. I wrote about that in another article you might be interested in reading. But over the last fifteen years, we’ve had many ups and downs. Many complications. Believe me, I know of what I speak. There are long-term ramifications. There are problems. There are issues and questions. But there is also joy, love, and compassion. There is also a sense of feeling more complete than you may have felt before, because you may get those answers you’ve been searching for. So, in the next few paragraphs, let me share with you some of my own experiences, good and bad.
I did a lot of soul searching before I made this decision. I felt that I was old enough (about 30) to handle whatever might come from making this decision. I asked myself what it was, that I was hoping to find out. What I came up with was that I really just wanted to know about my background. I wanted to try and find out my biological identity. I was curious, to put it mildly. And, I never wanted to have any regrets later in my life.
I hired someone to help me. For me, it was the only way to go. Not only did I want someone else to do the legwork, fifteen years ago we had fewer options than are available now. But I also wanted someone to act on my behalf. It was scary to start a search, I wanted a go-between when we set up a meeting. Fortunately, it took some time to find my birth mother. Even though I was impatient and nervous and afraid, it gave me an opportunity to play out different scenarios in my head. By the time we had arranged our meeting, I did feel prepared to accept whatever I was going to get.
I was lucky. My birth mother is a wonderful, kind, sweet, loving person. She had always wanted to find me, but never tried because she thought I might not even know I was adopted, and she didn’t want to be the one to give me that news.
Since this was such new ground we were treading here, we took our time in getting to know one another. That was a good decision. I also realized that I was not looking for a “mother”. I had a mother already, the one who raised me. My birth mother felt more like a sister/close friend to me.
Yes, there were other kids. Half-sibs. I was careful in meeting them. They knew about me, but I didn’t want to impose. We took it slow. You just can’t become an “instant” sister. You have no history with these people, so while you have a blood tie, you can’t always build relationships based solely on that.
Thank goodness the other kids didn’t resent me. Ah, but there were others who did. First let’s start with my adopted mom. She was all in favor of me finding my birth mother. But once I did, my mother didn’t want me to have anything to do with her. I should be satisfied that I had met her. Wasn’t that enough? Well, no it wasn’t. My birth mother and I had made a connection and I wanted to continue a relationship with her. Surely I could have this woman in my life and still honor my own mother? The answer was no. For whatever reason, my mother couldn’t accept it. She would not “share” her daughter. Even though I had found my birth mother, my feelings for my adopted mother hadn’t changed, I still loved her. I always would. She was my mom. It didn’t matter. I tried my best to convince her to no avail. We started arguing about it. Why couldn’t she understand where I was coming from? Was I being insensitive? I didn’t think so, but was I going to have to make a choice? How could I possibly do that? Here I had been separated from one mother for thirty years only to have my other mother ready to throw away thirty years we had shared as mother and daughter? It was horrible. I was terribly hurt. My mother felt betrayed. No one could win.
So I decided to keep the peace. I didn’t talk to my mother about my birth mother anymore. I continued to see her, but didn’t tell my mother about it. I felt deceitful and dishonest. But I wasn’t going to give up either one of them. I felt like a sneak, but I didn’t have a choice. It was the only solution. My mother pretended my birth mother wasn’t around. She was happy. My birth mother still got to see me, she was happy. Me? I was miserable.
Okay, next unhappy person. My maternal grandmother. My presence made her very uncomfortable. After all, she was the one who forced the adoption. She was the one who signed the papers giving me away. She and my birth mother barely spoke to each other for years after that. So here was the bastard child showing up again! It brought back all those memories for her, my grandmother. I knew she felt guilty. She even said to me once, “well, you turned out okay didn’t you?” Well, yes I guess I did. But that really wasn’t the point. I wasn’t angry with grandma, she did what she thought was best. I didn’t harbor any resentment at all. But I had been separated from my birth mother, and I wanted to be in her life. Sorry that I make you feel uncomfortable, but that’s not going to make me go away. Come on, you can’t deny my existence, it would be easier for you I know. So chalk another hurt for me. My own grandmother wished I would disappear.
All right let’s skip ahead another year or so to my birth father. I hired someone to find him as well. This was a touchy situation though. My father never knew about me. That’s another article right there! But fast forward to us meeting.
He was very suspicious of me. What did I want? Did I want money? Some kind of recompense for him abandoning my birth mother and me? Of course not. I never “wanted” anything from this man other than to meet him. And I thought he should know he had a daughter and grandchildren. Once we met, my birth father knew that I had only the best of intentions. He knew I was his daughter, I look just like him. He was thrilled actually (white as a ghost, but thrilled nonetheless) as he had never had children. Can you imagine? Being childless, or so you think, and then having this stranger show up? Wow. So that was all well and good, but the part that I am trying to get to here is yet another unhappy camper in this story. My birth father’s wife. She had never been able to have children herself. She had been married to my father for almost twenty years and wasn’t much inclined to share him with anyone. Plus the fact that he had a child with someone else! You can see how difficult that would be for her.
She tried, she really did. I have to give her credit for that. At first, we all got together, I got to meet other family members. But little by little, the resentment started to build until she got to the point where she just didn’t want to have anything to do with me. Another blow. Let me tell you, you can rationalize these things out, try and understand how someone else if feeling, but it still hurts. You are being rejected for reasons that are beyond your control. You ask yourself, over and over again…did I do the right thing? I’m so happy that I found my birth parents, but I’ve made life difficult for other people, and in doing so I’ve made life difficult for myself. I have never intentionally tried to hurt someone, but my existence hurts them, so they hurt me back. It’s a tough pill to swallow.
We got to the point where my birth father’s wife refused to acknowledge me. They would have terrible fights about me. She was asking him to make a choice between us (does this sound familiar?) and he would not. So, we kept our relationship a secret from then on, my father and I. Once again, I didn’t want to do it, but I wanted to keep my father in my life, so that was that. I could never call him at home, not even in an emergency. I could only talk to him at work. The only time I could see him was when his wife was out of town. Another sad situation, but you do what you have to do. I do want you to know, that over the years, she has mellowed and has accepted me once again. I live far apart from my father, so we rarely see each other, but we keep in touch regularly by phone.
I’ve shared with you the bad side. Now let’s get to the good stuff. For there is good stuff, I want you to know that. Everyone else in both extended families just love me to death. I mean they really do. My paternal grandmother, a wonderful woman, just accepted me as if I had always been a part of the family. Same with aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. My aunt (birth father’s sister) made me a photo album that took my breath away. She had pictures of my grandparents and their children (my father included of course) growing up. She wanted to give me a visual history of the family. I don’t know if I have ever been so touched by anything in my life.
So many people, who didn’t know me, just immediately loved me. Really loved me. No hesitation, nothing was required from me. Complete, unconditional love. Utterly amazing. Sometimes it can be a bit confusing to have an “instant” family, but when you have all of these people who love you, it’s hard to complain.
I’d like to conclude (there is so much more to write about, a whole book really, maybe someday I’ll do that) by saying that it’s of utmost importance that you be grounded in reality if you are contemplating a search. Reunions can be good, or bad, or both. By sharing some of my own experiences I hope it gives you food for thought. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and especially when it comes to such an emotionally charged issue like adoption.
To start a search, to take that incredible leap into the unknown you must try and possess certain qualities. You must be strong, determined, prepared, mature, willing, and accepting. You must have reasonable expectations. If think that finding your birth parents will (a) make your life complete, (b) enable you to live happily ever after, and/or (c) will answer all your questions in life…you may be seriously disappointed. If you do find your birth family, you will have your ups and downs. You will have new obligations and responsibilities. But this is still a choice, your choice. You set the limits and the boundaries. You can set the pace. You can determine how involved you want to be. Another point I want to make is that no one is perfect. We all know that. If you find a birth parent, having a relationship with them will be no different. No one is without flaw. I personally find that comforting.
Do I have any regrets? None. Really. Even through the tough times I have always known that this was the right thing to do. It has answered questions for me. It has meant everything to me to know where I came from and why I was given up. It has made me realize that even though you might be separated from someone for a very long time, there are some bonds that are simply unbreakable.
Web Site: Are You Ready?
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|Reviewed by Claudia Corrigan D'Arcy
though I have to say this..and it's not in a bad way:
My first thoughts upon reading all the questions.... It brought back to me the same sort of internal examinations that a preganant mother is expected to go through when adoption is in the picture. I know that's not why you did it, but when it is the agencies or social workers asking things like "Are you ready to stay home while all your freinds are going out and having fun?..Are you ready to spend your money on diapers and baby food? etc.."
And the bottom line for both sets of questions..well meaning like in your case or not so well meaning like I credit the adoption industry.. it's worth it in the end. It's worth it to go off into the unknown and find out where you came from.. or what your child turned out to be, just as much as it would have been worth it the first time around to have sacraficed the parties and new clothes to have your child with you for life...
|Reviewed by Pamela Foreman (Reader)
|I am a birth parent and have been wondering about the child I gave up. This article really touched me in knowing that in hopes one day I too will meet my child. It gives me great hope and strength to move forward with a search so I can can put some type of closer to that chapter in my life. Thank you so much!!|
|Reviewed by Eddie Thompson
|Very imformative and thoughtful. I think you are right. Unbreakable bonds are just that. God-given, really. Thanks for this posting.|
|Reviewed by William Heffner
|Lori, thanks for pouring out your heart, your article is well written and informative. I was not adopted, but disowned by my dad and this caused me to do some soul searching. If you have time read my poem, He's Got To Be My Dad, you'll find where my journey ended.
God Bless You and Your Loved Ones
Officer William Heffner
|Reviewed by Vesna Perkovic
|Excellent article..you are heroic indeed...bless you and both your mothers..
|Reviewed by Carrie Ostrea
|I've read a few of our articles, and your work is very insightful and thought provoking!
Author of "Family Bound: One Couple's Journey through Infertility and Adoption"
|Reviewed by Heather
|I am 24 and just starting to think about searching for my b-parents. My parents now are God sent, but I wonder so much about where I come from. It was so nice to read an article about the pros and cons of searching. Thank you so much for your help|
|Reviewed by Lorraine
|Your article was excellent, but it doesn't go far enough. Adoptees need to understand the consequences of dropping in and then out of their birthfamilies lives. I lost my only child to adoption as a very naive teenager. My son contacted me out of the blue one day many long and sad years later. He came, he saw, he took, he went. He stirred up devastating memories and unresolved grief, sent me into deep depression, used me to benefit his adoptive parents (hadn't they gotten enough from me when they took my child?), and then he left. I opened my heart to this child (he always had my heart), and he cut it to ribbons. You talk about choice and that the adoptee is in control. Do you honestly ever think that the birthmother had a choice or was in control? Especially a teenage birthmother? Here comes the adoptee, and for the birthmother it can be just another way to experience the loss, the grief and the powerlessness all over again. Birthmothers were victimized once already by "the system," the adoption agency and the adoptive parents. Adoptees, have compassion - please don't do it to them again. If you come into their lives and you are met with love, open arms and respect, have the decency to treat those people with at least respect and decency, if not love.|
|Reviewed by Chabre
|Reviewed by Lady The Lake55
|Good article. I am a birth "mom" and adult adoptee. My daughter who was taken away from me is also an "adult adoptee" and used me when she found me via my sister.
Karissa Anne Lowell
|Reviewed by Laura
|I was adopted when I was 3 days old. I need to fill this empty space. My adopted parents never treated me like I was a part of them, that I belonged. I really just want to know for medical reasons.I've had complications with pregnecies and I need to know if my daughter will have problems also.|
|Reviewed by Linda
|Awesome article. Covers all aspects. I'm 53 found b-mother 2 yrs ago, not receptive, just found b-brother I never knew I had. He's very thrilled. She won't tell me name of b-father.That and mecical is all I want from her. I had the best Mom and Dad God ever gave anyone and I think of B-mother as only my way into this world so I could have my parents. I thank her for that.
|Reviewed by Kelli
|Reviewed by Diane Hernandez
Iam an Birthmother And I been searching for my son for 2yr's. I like to know if you know where or how I can get help to find my bson?
I need help. I Love my son and I want so much to get to know him.if you have any way of finding for him? I do thank you.... Dianeh010
|Reviewed by Kim Alexander
|I'm in the middle of reuniting with my birth family (mother and father married, and two full siblings) Her insight is so much needed. There really is a lot of emotions and unexpected outcomes. (good and bad) I will refer back to this article as we progress to try and keep myself from only focusing on myself. Thank You Lori|
|Reviewed by David Baughn
|Eye opening and informative.|
|Reviewed by Lynn Barry
|-extremely useful information presented in an easily understood way|