I can’t imagine the emotions a birth mother feels every single day of her life. And I can’t imagine the escalating emotions that must accompany an impending meeting. So I don’t know how our son’s birth mother did it. . . but from our perspective as the adoptive family, she did so many things “right.”

After the first phone call introducing our son back into his birth mother’s life, she prepared for four months for an in-person meeting. By flying half way around the world, she sacrificed time and money to meet him and to meet us. Here’s what she did right:

1. Learned Our Names

Joy knew who each member of our family was: knew us by name and knew where each child was placed in the family. She did her homework, knowing how our adopted son fit in with the rest of us. She recognized we are a cohesive family and that our son is every bit as much a sibling as the rest of the kids are. So she took preparation time to learn about his relationship with each family member.

2. Recognized She Was Visiting Our Son’s Home

Of course, we were thrilled Joy was coming and did our best to help her feel at home. But she was also courteous and did not act possessive, as if our son belonged with her–but rather, she acted like the welcomed visitor she was. Joy was careful to allow life to go on “as normal” but also graciously accepted the guest treatment she received.

3. Showed Proper Affection

Although for the past 20+ years she may have imagined holding her baby boy, her toddler, her growing child, when the meeting took place, she recognized that she was a stranger to him and to us. But we all knew there was a connection, and all of us–on both sides of the adoption–felt gratitude and respect for each other. It wasn’t a business meeting deserving of a handshake, nor was it a family reunion. But it was a meeting of people connected by acts of love. So the gentle hugs as we met were completely appropriate and felt right.

4. Respected His Age

Joy met our son as an adult, not as the child she’d thought about all those years. I watched her as she watched him–observing the everyday choices he was making. She may have come with expectations that he’d have certain personality traits, certain actions, and characteristics, but we were never made aware of her expectations because she accepted him as he was.

5. Recognized and Respected Our Lifestyle

We raised our son very differently than he would have been raised in his birth family. From politics to religion, our lifestyle is foreign to hers. There was never a complaint or even a question from Joy as to why we live as we do. Yet, the two weeks she was with us, she joined us in family prayer, family discussions, family activities, church attendance. She was curious, yes, but not critical in any way.

No one does everything right at an adoption reunion. But Joy showed gratitude with proper affection, and that made everyone comfortable.