I have known I was adopted for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t something that was announced one day. It was something my parents always talked about freely. I lived a happy life and was raised by a loving family. I was often curious about what had happened to my biological family. I wondered why they didn’t keep me. I wanted to know who in the family I looked like.

Most adoptees spend time thinking of what was or what could have been. A large number of them decide to search for their birth parents. Initiating that search is in no way a slight on the adoptive parents. It just means you want to know more about your story.

Once you have found your birth parents your mind will race and questions will abound. The details you hope for will seem endless. It can be very overwhelming at first. But there are really only three questions you need to focus on in the beginning.

Being in reunion is very much like cultivating a brand new friendship. You may have more questions than that, but they really don’t need to be tackled all at once. The rest can be answered over time. Here are the three questions you should focus on during your first communication.

1. Why did you place me for adoption?

This question has most likely been with you the longest. Birth parents make that choice for many different reasons. The most common are due to age, financial status, or lack of a support system. Be open-minded. We are living in a much different time now than when you were born. You may not necessarily agree with or understand the decision that they made. That’s okay, you don’t have to. If you want to develop a relationship with your birth parents, you will have to be able to accept it.

2. How did the two of you become involved?

This part is your story. It might have happened before you were born, but it gives you many more details about how the adoption came about in the first place. Sometimes if your birth parents started far enough back with the first question you won’t need this one. The answer may not be easy to hear. Adoption tales are often laced with family secrets. No matter what the answer is, you should have it. If your biological parents are not together anymore, this is where you need to find out the name of the other party to search for if you don’t already have that information. Sometimes a birth mother may want to withhold the name of a birth father in the name of protecting you. That is not her call to make. Try telling her that you will be cautious and you may not make contact, but you at least want to know who he is. If you don’t get the name, you can always take a DNA test to help you find him.

3. What is my birth family’s medical history?

This answer is of great importance. For some, this is their main reason for searching. Many adoptees have non-identifying information that says “no known medical illnesses.” A family’s medical history can change a lot over the course of a few decades. You will be hard-pressed to find any family that doesn’t have some sort of health issues. A friend of mine was able to get a diagnosis for a minor medical problem from a single conversation from her birth father. When dealing with medical ailments, early detection is key. It’s much easier to find something early if you know what you’re looking for.

Many reunions produce long-term relationships. Sadly though, some do not. Some end in outright rejection, and others end after only a few conversations. The best way to get answers to the crucially important questions you have wanted all these years is to ask them upfront. Don’t bombard your birth parent(s) and make an already difficult conversation harder; however, I would be sure to ask these three questions during the first communication. This applies whether you are meeting in person or exchanging messages through text or email. They may not be easy topics to discuss, but if the questions are important to you, they should be important to them.

The truth is sometimes difficult to process, but you might only get one shot at this. I have been a member of several adoptee groups for years, and I have heard just about every kind of adoption story there is. Too many times I have read a story where a birth parent has ended communication without warning, and the adoptee was left still needing answers. Don’t let that be you. I’ve learned the best way to prepare for a search and reunion is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Do what you can to get the information you need to be at peace.