When Your Family Feels Threatened By Your Search

Searching for members of your birth family can often be a touchy subject.

Rebecca Tillou October 12, 2014
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“Maybe it would’ve been better if you hadn’t been adopted. Then you wouldn’t always have these questions. Maybe you would’ve been better off with your birth mom.” My dear friend, who is a fellow adoptee, sat across from me at my kitchen table as she revealed the words spoken to her by her adoptive mom. Tears fell from her dark eyes, and my eyes became filled. I leaned back in my chair and tried my hardest to reflect on that statement. I could not comprehend why a mother would utter those words to her daughter. The hurt was etched in my friend’s face and flickered in her eyes.

She wiped her eyes, and began to speak again. “The truth is out.” I looked at her and immediately blurted that was not true. My friend shook her head side to side slowly and revealed, “I know it is not true. But that statement proves that my search and reunion with my biological family did hurt my mom.”

She proceeded to tell me her search journey, and how her parents had been supportive at first and told her repeatedly that they did not feel threatened. She relayed to me that she did not reveal her search to her parents the first few months but knew she should. Her conscience kept prodding her every time she went onto the computer to investigate her past. One night when her parents were visiting she received a phone call from a lady she had left a message for, in hopes she was her birth mom. My friend ran upstairs with her phone and into her bedroom, shutting the door behind her. When she returned downstairs her mom looked at her with an inquisitive look. She asked who was on the phone, and as my friend was never one to lie well, she figured it was the perfect opportunity to share the journey she had been on the past three months. She asked her mom to tell her dad about the search because she felt shy doing so. Her mom told her dad, and they both told her they understood her curiosity and did not feel threatened by the people she may find. They told her their only concern was that she would get hurt. My friend felt so blessed that her parents understood her need to know her roots and felt silly for thinking she may have had to keep it a secret!

My friend told me how she located her birth family and how they quickly became texting buddies, phone buddies, and snail mail buddies. She learned when each birth relative’s birthday was, and she made sure to send cards out for each person. She decided about two months after speaking to her birth uncle and cousins that she would make the journey to meet them.

Every step of the way, my friend told her parents of her plans, and each step of the way their response was, “We understand, just be careful.” They did have reservations at her decision to meet them so quickly and to go by herself to a state where she had never been, although they also agreed with her that going by herself was the best way because it was “her personal journey,” and she would have enough of her own nerves to deal with. She shouldn’t have to worry about other family members’. Her trip was incredible, and my friend felt an immediate connection upon meeting everyone. It was like they were all best friends meeting up at school after a summer away from one another. The bond was indescribable. It was the genetic bond she had longed to find.

About a year after meeting her birth family, my friend went to visit her parents. There had been increased tension between her mother and her since her return from meeting her birth family. She had let it roll off of her, figuring it was just her being super sensitive. On this trip to her parents, the tension exploded into a string of hurtful words being yelled between my friend and her mom. My friend’s mom told her she was immature and parented her children the best she could. My friend was bewildered because it seemed this came out of nowhere.

Her mom then went on to a completely different topic, and said her daughter was selfish and self absorbed in her birth mom’s family. “You had time to make sure you got everyone in her family Christmas gifts, but you told your own grandmother that you would bring her Mother’s Day gift when you finished it. You kept forgetting to finish it and give it to her.” My friend did her best to stick up for herself, telling her mom that she was a good parent, and she was not absorbed in her biological family’s lives. The topic changed back to my friend’s parenting style and ended with her mom telling her she was finished with her, and didn’t want any more emails regarding her birth family. My friend walked out of the kitchen, wondering if her mom had really just disowned her. She went into her bedroom and cried. . . hard. She didn’t understand. How did an argument about her parenting style have bits and pieces about how she didn’t have time for her grandmother but had time for her birth family? Talk about ideas being all over the place!

My friend’s father sat her down and told her to talk it out with her mom. So, she tried. Her mom told her she was not the happy daughter she used to be, and my friend quipped back that her mom was also a miserable person. Then her mom changed topics yet again. This is the part of the conversation when my friend’s mom told her that maybe she would’ve been better off if she had stayed with her birth mom. They parted ways after this was said, and closed the doors behind their broken, battered hearts.

My friend sat on her bed in the bedroom and tried to catch her breath. Her tears came to a slow halt as she realized her mom’s true, undisguised feelings towards her search and reunion. Her mom was not going to tell her she felt threatened by the reunion because she knew her daughter. Her daughter would feel guilty but do it anyway, and it would cause a rift in their relationship. So, she told her daughter to do what she had to do. Her mom did understand that she wanted to know her roots. Her mom was her mom, though. It was only natural that her mom feel a little nervous about the reunion, about people that had her daughter’s genes edging in on her family space.

The day after the verbal explosion, her mom apologized through many tears and many hugs. From that moment forward, my friend and her mom have decided to move forward in their relationship, and both are working on the root of what cause the fight that night.

Through these events my friend shared with me, we both have realized that we should be sensitive to our adoptive families’ feelings as well as our own when we decide to search and plan a reunion. This story has made me realize that even my biggest hero, who I always think of as one who never feels nervous or threatened, can and probably does have feelings of insecurity. I have learned that perception is not always reality, especially when it comes to family.

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Rebecca Tillou

Rebecca was adopted as an infant. She found her birth family in May of 2013 and continues to keep in touch with them. Sadly, her birth mother passed away in 1999. She and her husband live in New York and are the parents of two beautiful little boys, Dominic and Nicolas. They also have a German Shepherd mix named Chester. She was recently diagnosed with FASD at 34 years of age. She is currently working with nofas.org and thearg.org to get the word out that there is hope, and that you are never too old to better yourself.


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