Becoming a Brother

Reuniting with my birth siblings validated every moment of a long and difficult search.

Sonia Billadeau February 04, 2014
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I was told that I was adopted when I was eight years old.

My mother called me into the kitchen and told me all that she knew. When she asked if I had any questions, I simply asked if I could go back and finish watching Bugs Bunny. I did have questions– many questions– but none that my adoptive mother could answer.

I only remember crying once. I cried because of the thought that I couldn’t get rid of: that there was something wrong with me and that is why I was placed. Eventually though, the truth that my adoptive parents had chosen me and loved me outshined my self-doubt, and I kept that in my heart to replace my feelings of inadequacy and heartbreak.

When I was a senior in high school, my mother asked me what I would like for a graduation gift. I told her that I would like to visit Germany, the country that I was born in. The hurt on her face was enough to deter me from ever hinting that I’d like to know more about my past again. She asked if I wanted to find my birthmother; I told her that I only wanted to go to Germany to see the castles and the Rhine, to experience the country of my heritage. It made no difference. She was hurt.

A year or so went by. My parents divorced. And one day, my mother showed me my adoption papers. I saw my birthmother’s name, my German name, and the kicker– I was the youngest of six siblings. I was shocked and realized that I desperately wanted to find them.

When both of my parents had passed away, I decided that I could begin my search. I hadn’t wanted to start earlier because I was afraid of hurting their feelings. But where to start? All records were in Germany. I had no contacts there. I was very computer and internet-savvy, but the language barrier slowed my search, and I hit dead ends at every turn.

A year went by. I had pretty much given up my search, when a Search Angel emailed me. She specialized in German adoptions, since she too was a German adoptee. She had found her German birth family and wanted to pay it forward. She was willing to help me even after I explained to her that most of my records had been destroyed in a flood and that I was currently unable to do much since I’d recently broken my back.

Months went by before the search yielded any results. My Search Angel had found one of my sisters and she lived here in the States! It took me a couple of weeks to summon up the courage to call her. Our conversation was wonderful, and we loved each other from the start.

Six weeks after that, another sister was found. This time, I was immediately ready to contact her, but she needed some time to prepare. I understood and waited patiently for her to be comfortable enough to open communication. We began to email regularly and then one day she told me that she was ready for a phone call. The three of us sent current and past photos, and seeing the pictures of them as children made everything seem so much more real; we looked the same. It was wonderful.

Months later, two more sisters had been found.  All five of us were adopted to Americans and after 51 years, we had found each other. The last sibling, our oldest brother, had never left Germany. He was raised by our maternal grandparents and had little desire to make contact. Similarly, our birthmother declined to open communication with us.

I’m not sure why, but I don’t feel hurt by their disinclination to connect. I feel so fulfilled with my sisters that I could just burst.

The desire that I’d felt as a teenager to find my birth siblings had finally been satiated, and it was worth every dead end, every discouraging moment, and the many years that it had taken to find them. I am a brother.

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Sonia Billadeau


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