Five days after opening Pandora’s Box and sending my thank you letter, I held a long, white business envelope. In it contained the reply from my birth mom, Michelle. She ended the letter by asking if I’d like to meet her. I had to read it several times over a period of time to digest everything. Words cannot fully capture what I experienced. With all that was happening in my personal life at the time, I didn’t feel emotionally stable enough to handle anything more. So, I put my decision on hold. Looking back, I’m thankful I waited.
It’s crucial to be in a healthy place emotionally before embarking in adoption reunion.
Emotions are important to talk about. To feel and process. These are all too often looked down upon and seen as a weakness.
Being adopted is hard enough to accept. Constantly having questions regarding one’s origin, heritage and identity – struggling with feelings of abandonment, rejection and belonging. You would think that giving an adoptee permission to find answers would be a great solution. A stress reliever even. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Compounding that inner battle with the concept of additional family members – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, even siblings – can create a mind field. Adding more fuel to the fire, there’s a fear that learning about themselves will mean a second rejection from the family who raised them.
It’s like opening Pandora’s Box.
Calm the Inner Storm
Take as little or as much time as needed to make the decision. It’s okay to be selfish. There is no need to rush. Seek counsel from trusted friends, family or a professional. Journal out your thoughts and reasons. State why you want to do this, and what outcome you hope to have. Staying realistic will help set you up for success, even if the encounter itself is unpleasant.
It took a lot of willpower not to rush in to make my birth mother happy. I felt guilty keeping her waiting, but something held me back. This didn’t make a lot of sense to me as connecting with her was something I’d wanted to do since I was fifteen, but wishing for it and actually doing it were two very different things. Deep down, I battled with a lot of fears. Plus…I’d be writing to a real person, and that changed everything.
Be sure. Determine the reasons why you want to do this. Feel confident and peace before moving forward. Opening Pandora’s Box cannot be undone.
Three Possible Doors
Just like with anything in life, adoption reunions can go one of two ways. They can either be positive or negative experiences. This adds a feeling of unpredictability and risk. So, it takes a lot of courage to follow through and make them happen. For some, this can take years. In some cases, adoptees choose not to pursue the reconnection option at all.
Each pathway has its own share of pros and cons, and everyone is different. There is no right or wrong choice. Just what’s best for you and your life.
Confidence with Identity
Everything involved with adoption reunions can feel like a massive, complex maze. The thought of reconnecting with the stranger who birthed alone can seem quite terrifying. Perhaps awkward, too. Sometimes, research and seeking counsel can help bring clarity with this. But, overall, it takes a lot to open yourself up to vulnerability and risk.
The secret, and arguably the most essential and excruciating piece, is to be confident enough in yourself that you’ll be okay no matter what happens. Even if your darkest fears are realized, and it’s a horrible experience. Even if you hit it off really well, and it’s the absolute best experience of your life. It’s important to keep yourself grounded. Remind yourself that your origin and biological family doesn’t define you. They are only a part of you. Who you are will never change.
Easier said than done, of course, but important nonetheless.
Opening Pandora’s Box
Deep down, I knew I wanted to meet my birth mother. I wanted to learn more about myself, and ask questions regarding my health risks. It was a matter of being ready and finding enough courage.
As strange as it sounds, I found this in my community college nutrition class. The professor handed out an assignment that required everyone to fill out our family health history. Embarrassed, I went up to her after class and explained that I couldn’t complete the assignment. I described my situation, and how all the information I had wouldn’t relate to me. She listened attentively, returning my story with one about her own adopted daughter.
The assignment still stood, as I knew it would, but she said that she would accept the health history of my legal family in its place. I walked away from that conversation feeling relieved, empowered and finally ready to take the next step.
Emotions are tricky things. They run really deep, and don’t always have good rhymes or reasons to them. They just are.
Take as much as you need when deciding to reconnect. Opening Pandora’s Box takes a lot of courage. Make sure you are ready and confident in who you are no matter which direction the journey takes you.
Lastly – no one can tell you what’s best for you except you.
“10 Things To Know About Adoption Search & Reunion.” Adoption.org, adoption.org/10-things-need-know-adoption-search-reunion.
Adoption & Birth Mothers*, www.adoptionbirthmothers.com/what-is-a-sucessful-adotion-reunion/.
“Preparing for Your Adoption Reunion.” Deaconess Adoption, https://www.deaconessadoption.org/preparing-for-your-adoption-reunion/.
“Some Factors Influencing Adoption Reunion Outcomes.” Supporting Those Separated by Adoption, www.originscanada.org/services/adoption-reunion/factors-influencing-reunions/.