I have been an active part of the adoption community for many years. I have heard all kinds of experiences when it comes to reuniting with birth family. Some of them are pretty crazy. The only consistent fact is that you have no idea what you are walking into. I am a firm believer in expecting the worst and hoping for the best. Here are some things that may help you prepare emotionally for reunion:
1. You may catch some grief from your adoptive parents for wanting to search.
This is not always the case. Some adoptive parents are very supportive of a reunion. Over the years though I have seen many wonderful parents inadvertently guilt trip their adopted children over a sense of their own insecurity. You might consider speaking with them to assuage any worries they may have.
2. Prepare a list of questions that are important to you.
Make the list now while your head is clear, and address the questions in the beginning stages of contact in case the reunion is unsuccessful.
3. Not all reunions work out.
Unfortunately, reunions are not always like you see on TV. For all of the exceptionally joyous reunions, there are an equal number of utterly heartbreaking ones. Be prepared for anything.
4. Your birth parents may not still be living.
A lot can happen in two decades. This is why it is important not to wait if you are considering searching. My birth father passed away three days before I found my family.
5. Sometimes birth parents don’t want to be found.
It’s gravely disappointing when it happens and often causes an adoptee to feel like they have been rejected for a second time. They may request that you not contact other family members. That is ultimately your decision, but may affect the possibility of a relationship down the road.
6. Initial responses are not always final.
Don’t fret if your initial contact doesn’t go as well as you hoped. You have had the time to process emotions while you conducted the search. The situation is new to them and likely shocking. Given time they may come around.
7. Your back story may surprise you.
A great deal of closure can come from hearing your whole story. It may contain family secrets. Just try to remember that all of it happened a very long time ago.
8. You may have been lied to.
What you think you know about your adoption may not be the case at all. Sometimes adoptive parents know a lot more than they have told you. They may have held back details they thought might hurt you. Keep things in perspective and consider motivations. Forgive if you can.
9. You are still you.
No matter what facts come to light during your search and reunion, you are the same person you were before you started. Be true to yourself and in time everything will fall into place.
Your reunion may not have to deal with any of these issues. Your birth family may have been searching for you all along. These things should not scare you from searching, but rather prepare you for a storm I hope never comes.