I always knew that I was adopted. I can’t remember when my parents told me, it was just always a piece of my identity. “My name is Valerie. I play the piano, I love to read, and I’m adopted.”

I had very little information about my birth parents. I had some basic characteristics–their ages at the time of my birth, general physical descriptions, and a limited medical history. I wouldn’t say that I was terribly curious about them, most of the time. But every once and awhile, I would wonder about my birth parents. Why had they placed me for adoption? Did they care about me? Did they have other children? Were they anything like me?

 When I was 18, I decided that I wanted to find my birth family. There was a lot of upheaval in my life at the time, and I felt that reuniting with my birth parents would help me answer some of the questions I was facing. To be honest, I got very lucky. I know people who have searched for years, unsuccessfully, in hopes of reunification. I found my birth father on the first place I looked–Adoption.com, actually–where he had registered a few years previously, hoping to find me. Though it took several weeks for us to confirm our relationship, it was an easy and exciting process. Shortly thereafter, I had the opportunity to meet both my birth father and birth mother in person, and soon met my birth father’s entire family.

This relationship has become incredibly precious to me, and I give a great deal of credit to my birth dad. He has three other daughters, and they grew up knowing about their older sister. He celebrated my birthday every year. As I mentioned, he was the one out looking for me. Most importantly, he and his wife have welcomed me into their family with open, loving arms. I have spent Christmas Eve with them every year since we reunited. I’ve gone camping with them. I was a bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding.

None of this has come at the cost of the family I already had. I was a little worried, when I first sought to reunite with my birth family, that it would upset my parents. Though I am sure it made them a little anxious, they were very supportive. My reunification has blossomed into a wonderful relationship, not only for myself, but for my entire family. My parents have had my birth dad and his family over to their house on multiple occasions. My parents are friends on Facebook with my birth dad, his wife, and my sisters. We don’t often all get together, but when we do, there is absolutely a comfortable sense of family.

Of course, not everything is perfect. Though I was able to meet my birth mother on that first day, shortly afterward she closed our relationship again. I don’t know why. I do know that she has children (five, I think, though I’m not certain) and at the time I met her, those siblings of mine did not know of my existence. As far as I know, they still don’t. I’ve written to her a few times, but have heard nothing back for many years. It stings a little, being shut out this way. At first, I wondered if I had done something wrong, if I had offended her or something like that. It took a long time for me to accept that it really had nothing to do with me, she simply has things to work out, whatever they may be. It just makes me sad to think about, especially when I consider the relationship I could have with my siblings if things were different.

 This is my advice to anyone seeking to reunite: remember that it is all about family. My experience with open adoption has simply brought more people into my life who love me. I don’t think anyone has ever complained about having more love in their life! Of course it is important to remember that no situation will be perfect. Be sensitive, and understand that all situations are different. But if you approach your reunification with this in mind: you are simply expanding your family. Then I believe you will find it to be a positive experience indeed.