I was vacationing in South Carolina with my family last week, and I decided to do an aerial ropes course with my 2 boys. I was watching this little guy behind us. He was 5 years old, and had no fear. He went from one obstacle to the other, no hesitation. I was amazed, as I looked on toward my own little 5-year-old, who was petrified. He made it through, though. He had fear, which I thought was a good thing to have.
As I was watching these two little guys, and as I was hanging from a carabiner above the trees, I started thinking about this topic.
I realized that those who have found their birth families can approach the situation in one of two ways, neither being wrong. It all depends on the situation and the person.
If you take on the mentality of having no fear after locating your birth family, I think outcomes will be quicker to form, but you may not have taken the time to sort out how you would feel if your birth family did not respond to your advances of becoming connected. If you tread on the path of having fear and anxiety (just a healthy amount) after locating your family, you may be slower to reach out, and you may think about how taking the step for contact may affect you, them, and your family.
I think if you find your family, you will know which path you want to take.
I have been there, I have done that. I found my birth family in 2013. I found out the plight of my birth mom from birth until the day she passed away, alone, on the hard cold floor, not to be found until morning. The things I did when I found my birth family . . . well, some I would recommend, some I would say proceed with caution.
All told, this is my best advice for making your next moves.
Definitely reach out on social media.
I think that is the best way to go. Even over a phone call or a letter. It allows you to send a letter over the computer, and if they don’t have a private setting, you will be able to peruse photos of them and their friends. You will be able to create in your mind a shell of who they are. They in turn, will be able to do the same thing. I think social media is a great “ice breaker,” if you will.
If they do not utilize social media, a letter is a great way to start.
Write a letter introducing yourself and why you are writing. Include photos of yourself and your family. Photos can pique interest and lessen anxiety about why this person is reaching out. They can view the photos and see similarities, see themselves in you and your family. It will increase the chance that they will want to write back and continue conversation. If you are writing birth family and you are not sure they knew about you, then perhaps do what I did. I wrote my uncle (who does not have a Facebook account) a letter explaining that I believed I was related to him, but I didn’t state how. I saved that for the phone conversation we had a day later, when he came out and asked me. I didn’t want to bombard him with the fact he had a niece he’d never met. He reacted in a loving way, thank goodness. Not all reunions will be this way, so be prepared for the ending to be either positive or negative.
Set boundaries that are respectful to everyone involved.
If you have a positive connection with your birth family, and they want to meet you, I will tell you to be firm in your decision to meet them, and the circumstances around that meeting. I was in Albany, New York and my uncle lives in Dallas, Texas. I flew out by myself (which I do not think is a bad idea; this journey is sometimes one adoptees have to take alone), and I was going to stay in a hotel. My uncle (whom I had only spoken with about 3 times on the phone), insisted I stay with him. I ended up staying with him, and everything worked out. I should have stayed firm though, and gotten a hotel. Why? Because you never know! I didn’t know him, or his family! I had only reached out through snail mail and phone calls. I didn’t want to disappoint him, and he seemed genuine (thank goodness he was!) I just think it is best to have your own space to return to and sort out your many emotions after the reunion. I think your family will have many emotions to sort out as well. I think it is a win-win for all involved.
Take your time.
One last piece of advice I have after you find your birth family is to step away from all you have accomplished in the search. Step away from the computer. Step away from those mesmerizing photos. Go for a walk to think about everything that has just happened. Maybe confide in a friend who understands. Journal your thoughts if writing is your outlet. Remember, most likely, nothing significant is going to change in your birth family in the one week or few months you take to get your thoughts in order.
Try to remember, finding your birth family is not the end of an emotional journey, but just the beginning of one, and it is the beginning of one for more than just you.
Adoption training is available if you want to begin your search.