I was adopted through the Cradle in 1979 by two very loving and wonderful adoptive parents. Although my life with them was happy and full, there were always questions I had that no one could answer except my birth family. I always knew that finding my birth family would help clear up my own personal concerns and interests regarding the past; what I didn’t expect was how much I also wanted to find them for my future. As I grew older I realized that one day I would have children of my own and it was important for me to be able to talk to them about their genetic background and have answers to their questions about their roots.
I always knew that I would one day search and my adoptive parents were very supportive and willing to walk with me through the steps of reunion. My mom and I talked often about my searching, and though my Dad sadly passed away a few years ago he had told me once as a teenager that if searching was something I ever wanted to do he would support me fully.
I knew some basic information growing up, but once I began working with my social worker at the Cradle I was amazed at how even the tiniest pieces of information could knock the wind out of me. After living with the fantasy idea of someone your entire life it is strange to hear concrete facts about them. I felt prepared for any situation…except for the one I found. After only a few weeks of searching my social worker called to tell me that she had found my birth mother and that in doing so had also found my birth father…they were married.
I had to read their first letters very slowly because there was so much to take in. I remember that I read the one from my birth mother first, and I just stared at the date she had written for a long time. All that went through my mind was “I can’t believe my birth mother wrote this date on this page.” I carried her letter with me for the next few days and reread it often, very slowly and trying to take it all in. After those initial letters we began emailing all the time and were able to learn a lot about each other. There is a part of me that feels we may have benefited by moving a little slower and taking things in as we go, but we were all so excited and couldn’t wait to meet. I found out that I had two younger sisters who I was anxious to meet but meeting my birth parents was first priority.
A few weeks after beginning our email exchanges we finally spoke on the telephone which added a whole new element to our relationship. I think it made everyone very real to each other. About two months after our initial letters, it was time to meet at The Cradle. It was the ideal place for us to meet since that was where it all began for me, my mother, and my birth parents. My mom came with me but let me go into the room alone first with my social worker to meet my birth parents.
It was absolutely one of the most surreal experiences ever. Though I had so many questions and things I wanted to say, I was almost speechless. I hugged each of them for a long time. We laugh now about the first few moments in the room together where we all just stared at each other and sipped water and stared some more, but in the beginning it really takes a while to get used to basic things. We shared photographs of ourselves and our families and they tried to explain to me all about their decision to put me up for adoption. Perhaps because we were unsure where all of this would lead, I believe we were truly the most uninhibited and emotional in that first meeting, only I can’t remember half of what we said because I was so overwhelmed by the mere presence of both of my birth parents sitting on either side of me.
When my mom entered the room I felt the overwhelming urge to run and hug her as well. I have always felt an extremely strong connection to my birth mother, almost as though there was a string between us that we could tug on from either end and feel once in a while, that would eventually lead us back together.
However, when my adoptive mom entered the room that day I understood that even though we don’t have the same blood, there is a different and wonderful connection between her and I as well…because my mother raised me and we have always been close we can read each others’ body language like a book and are able to silently check in with each other in all types of situations. Seeing my mother and my birth mother sitting together on the same couch talking is an image I replay often in my mind and was important to me because I realized I would be able to have meaningful and lasting relationships with both women.
In the months after our initial reunion I think that everyone involved went through a surge of emotions. It was entirely possible to feel a certain way at one time and then quickly discover new feelings. I think we all experienced every emotion possible, including some that we weren’t expecting and some that we had never experienced before. It has been an adventure to say the least and a true test of myself in many ways.
Meeting my sisters and extended relatives has been wonderful. Everyone has been so gracious and welcoming, and I love the way that there are a select few I have looked in the eyes for the first time and felt instantly connected. There are definitely confusing, overwhelming and difficult times and discussions that need to be had but there are also amazing, caring and fun times together as well. I try to see my birth family as often as possible and we talk on the phone a lot. I also have become closer with my adopted family during this time and have made a concerted effort to remind them that they are a huge part of me.
The advice I have for anyone planning a search or going through a reunion is to never give up. You will find that the times where you are anticipating big emotional breakthroughs might be disappointing but then you learn so much and see so many beautiful things at unexpected times.
I also recommend being patient and slow in your reunion, taking the time to process things and establishing boundaries as well as realizing that teaching them your “language” is equally as important as learning theirs in order to make communication possible. Do not ask a question unless you are really prepared for the answer, but at the same time don’t deny any of the many feelings you may experience. It is harder than you may expect to say goodbye to the fantasy version of your birthmother, but it is far more rewarding to have laughter, communication, and time with the actual person.