Adoption Reunions: The Good & The Bad
Continuing on the topic of adoption, I wanted to discuss what can happen when an adopted child and birth parent reunite. A birth parent and an adopted child can get in contact with one another in different ways, but this depends on the type of adoption that took place and the adoption laws within each state. It’s most difficult for one another to connect when the adoption was a closed adoption. According to AmericanPregnancy.org, a “Closed adoption refers to an adoption process where there is no interaction of any kind between birthmothers and prospective adoptive families. This means that there is no identifying information provided either to the birth families or adoptive families.” However, there are websites online where parents and children can register themselves, consenting that they would like to be found. The laws vary in each state, but sometimes the court can also get involved if an adopted child is seeking medical information from birth parents who do not want to be contacted.
Reunion stories can be both good and bad. I think some important things to do before seeking out a birth parent or an adopted child is to be prepared and gain support. Be prepared for things to go the way you want, but also be prepared for things not to go the way you want. Be prepared for a situation better than you could have ever expected, but be prepared for it to go worse than you expected. And while you are trying to be prepared, also be open, honest, and positive. That sounds really hard to do. Lauren, how can I be prepared for the worst, but also be positive?
Honestly, I don’t have all the answers. I just believe that when we do anything in life, it should be done with the best intentions, with an open heart and an open mind, and at least an attempt at being positive. I’m not always positive. It’s really hard to be. But I’ve found that I am a happier person when I try my best to be a moderately positive human. But enough about rainbows, puppies, and positivity…
I promise I won’t mention positivity again… at least in this blog. As I was saying, birth parent and adopted child should try their best to be prepared. There can be some great things that can come from seeking out one another. Birth parent and adopted child can gain a great relationship. They can become close, share experiences in life going forward, and maybe meet other family members. Both can learn about one another, which can in turn, possibly answer some questions that each person had about themselves. Maybe each person felt that there were some pieces missing, and just a few conversations with birth parent or adopted child can answer those questions or help reinforce their identity. You can read some adoption stories in The Atlantic’s Adoption Series.
On the other spectrum of things, a reunion can end badly or just not the way you wanted it to go. The birth parent or the adopted child might keep the other person a secret from family and friends. Although, I might say that this can be understandable at first while both parties try to navigate their relationship, it can make someone feel lost or ashamed of. No one wants to be someone’s secret, so it’s important to be honest from the beginning. However, that doesn’t always happen, and a meeting could result in one person keeping the other a secret – which could ultimately push both away from the relationship.
Another issue that can occur is that a birth parent can make the adopted child feel different, especially if the birth parent has other children. Whether they realize they are doing it or not, mentioning family vacations or memories where the adopted child was not present can make the adopted child feel different and left out. Similarly, an adopted child can make a birth parent feel left out, as the adopted child has adoptive parents, and this can make the birth parent not feel like a parent at all. Additionally, if the adopted child is reaching out in search of medical information but not a relationship, this can hurt the birth parent – who might feel a little used and hurt. Although it is important to know your medical information, and I’m certainly not pushing anyone to have a relationship if they are not comfortable, it is important to remember that the birth parent is human and has feelings.
Another situation that can occur is that the adopted child can feel angry and blame birth parent, especially if the child did not have the best upbringing or felt abandoned. We should remember that many factors go into a decision to put a child up for adoption including lack of support from family and not having the means to support a family. Along with that, once a decision was made, there were still more parties involved in placing the child including adoption agencies and lawyers. To blame one person isn’t necessarily fair.
The process of reuniting and getting to know each other can also take quite a bit of time. There can be “highs” and “lows” because emotions are involved. In some cases, it can be painful to process what’s going on. Both parties are taking the time to learn how to communicate with this new person in their life that they may or may not feel a special connection to. Just as important as it is to be prepared, I think I’d like to add that it is important to also be patient throughout the reunion process.
There are many things that can go right or wrong in a reunion. Each experience is different, and each relationship is different and ever-changing. I think reunions can sometimes require a lot of hard work, and keeping up with the relationship can be hard work, too. But a lot of things in life are hard work. And a lot of things in life are worth the hard work. Reunions are worth the hard work, too. You can read people’s adoption stories in The Atlantic’s Adoption Series. Additionally, you can find support and more stories on the Adoption & Birth Mothers website.