Reunion is up to The Adoptee
No one else gets a say. I remember the first time that I mentioned wanting to know more about my birth mother as a teen. I knew that due to my closed adoption (meaning that I never knew anything about my birth family), I had to wait until I was 18 to unseal my records. When I was 18, my mom paid for a redacted version of my records. I don’t know for sure, but I believe she didn’t get the full version because it was expensive—so much so that I didn’t get to find out everything until I was 22. The agency I was adopted from wanted over $300 to get my records unsealed. Because I was appalled that they wanted me to pay for something that was rightfully mine as the adoptee, I found a loophole and got a court order to unseal for $10. A few days later, I had my record.
The overwhelming information I learned later left me an emotional wreck. I was totally unequipped for the journey, but thankfully, at that time in my life, I had what a lot of adoptees do not: my parent’s support and help. My mom literally sat in the waiting room of a jail so that I could meet my birth mother for the first time. She was incarcerated there and yes; it was as difficult to process as it sounds. My mom helped me find her, find my half-sisters, and she supported me as I went off to meet my birth grandparents, uncle, cousins, great-grandma, and others alone. My mom got emotional about it, and she was probably fearful that she could be replaced, but she knew I needed answers and she gave me her support even when it was scary for her; that’s what moms do.
I am so lucky that I had support because it’s rare for adoptees to get that when they mention wanting to discover their biological roots. So dear adoptive parents, let them search and support them wholeheartedly. If they do not want to look, don’t pressure them into anything, but rather table the discussion till a while down the road. It’s ok to check in with them, but don’t press your opinion on them. Let adoptees be in charge of their stories.
Adoptees, if you are not ready to search, I get it. I mean I just told you I met my birth mom for the first time while she was in jail. It can be a lot and could lead to scary things. You know what is best for you. Trust your instincts. If you decide to search, know that you can find support in me and other adoptees if you do not have it at home. You are worthy of self-discovery.
Adoption is Complex
Angry, difficult, different, bad, troubled, unfortunate, orphan . . . people misunderstand us all the time. Our behaviors are often seen as who we are, but usually, the behaviors are the symptoms of the trauma we’ve endured. Do we always come off as challenging youth? No, but the trauma can still exist in the “happy” adoptees, too. The truth is, we know that our story began with separation from a family, and then we were added to another family. It’s not always easy for us to process why that is and it can leave us wondering who we really are.
As an adolescent, I really struggled with my identity and not feeling like I belonged anywhere. I didn’t know who I was and I didn’t know why I had to be so unique. People would occasionally tell me how lucky I was to be adopted or how loved that made me, but I didn’t feel that way. I felt different. As an adoptee who has worked really hard to process her story and how it makes me feel, I know that adoption is complex. Growing up, I would hear about how beautiful adoption is; in fact, I helped spread the message.
Once I became a birth mother who placed a child for adoption (don’t worry the generational trauma is the bane of my existence, but I’m fighting it with all I have), I realized that there was so much more to it than a happy completed family. That family was born out of grief and loss. Rooted in sacrifice. Does it make it right or wrong that someone chose to place me with another family? Not really. It makes it complex.
I know that there are so many layers to adoption and that people do things for reasons that convict them, I do not get to decide if it was righteous or unjust. What I do know is that adoption is not simple nor beautiful simply because it happened. Adoption can be beautiful, but it’s also a loss. It can be happy, but it’s also grief. There is no simple definition, the realities will always have coexisting balances.
Our Voices Matter
The main people that matter in the ENTIRE adoption world are the ones that make adoption exist: adoptees. We have always been the core of the process, so it makes sense why we should be the ones people are looking to when improving the broken system that adoption is today. There are so many adoptees fighting for adoption reform, for ethical practices, for records to be automatically granted to us because they are ours to begin with, for mental health resources for adoptees, and so much more. We know that there are a lot of unethical practices still happening around us and we are tired of seeing fellow adoptees being harmed due to it. We are tired of people not listening to us and acknowledging that we have such helpful information for the next generation of adoptees or for adoptive parents to learn from.
So, how can you apply this to your life? Begin to follow adoptees on social media, continue reading articles like this one, listen to podcasts, ask the hard questions at adoption organizations you are involved with, and give the adoptees in your life the microphone. Let them narrate their story.