We live in a time when most Americans are, to one degree or another, computer literate. We use computers at our jobs, our smartphones help manage our personal lives and social networks; their ubiquity in our lives is staggering. Every time we log on, look up recipes, find new ways to uncover information, we become increasingly savvy in terms of gathering information important to us.
Likewise, during the adoption process, there can be an interest expressed by some or many adoptive parents in finding information about the birth mother, birth father, related family, any health issues of the new baby, and other information. The Internet is a marvelous tool to uncover information which could be very useful to you. Never before have we had access to such a treasure trove of metadata practically instantaneous.
But in searching for valuable information during your adoption process, be mindful that you may learn of some surprises along the way, and you need to understand how to deal with those.
For example, you should be prepared to learn of information which
- Could positively alter your current life plan (though it could start as stressful)
- May not align with how you lead your life or fit into your “value system”
- Could challenge some present information or assumptions you received during the adoption process
For example, using “open source information” (info on the Internet, in print media, etc),
- You may find that your child’s birth mother has other children (previously undisclosed) or biological family of origin, geographically near you. What do you do with this newfound information? Do you let this opportunity pass, not acting upon it? Do you act upon it, seeking contact? Keep in mind, learning of new relatives is never about you, the adoptive parents. This is about the direct bloodline of your child. This can be nerve-wracking, but remember that you are your child’s parent. Ultimately, your child responds to you. When uncovering and possibly meeting new family, think twice before declining contact. This could blossom and be an amazing, beautiful sister or brother, and it’s up to you to help lay the groundwork for communication that could last for years.
- You determine that the birth mother had been deceiving you. You need to ask yourself the following: “How would I react upon learning this information?” Surely, part of you would be upset and hurt. But there could be a part of you that is—while shocked—grateful to be better informed. Take the sour with the sweet.
In the run-up to one’s adoption, what can be overlooked is the fact that birth mothers and birth fathers are real people; they are not just people you meet along the way to get your child. Like you and I, they may have some difficult life problems in addition to dealing with a pregnancy. As adoptive parents, ours is to support them (most often verbally), offer care as best we can, and offer encouragement.
SOCIAL MEDIA (RESEARCH)
To gain a wider picture of your child’s family of origin and his or her support network, you may wish to refer to open source information and websites which are actively used by the public at large. Social media pages such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other sites provide adoptive parents access to people, pictures, job information, and life stories as never before.
When researching other family or friends of your child, keep in mind many important factors:
- Don’t assume anything: Chances are the people you are hoping to connect with (reviewing on social media websites) don’t know you. So as you conduct your research, at all times, have an introductory pitch of who you are ready.
- Be appropriate: When you do decide to reach out, understand what is appropriate for each medium.
- If using LinkedIn (a professional, business tool), you may wish to keep introductions brief and to the point, waiting for contact.
- If using Facebook (a more personal social media application), you may wish to keep introductions friendly, considerate. But you could add some more personal details (and a picture if that’s your thing).
Regardless, it’s important to note that just because you feel that reaching out is “good” for you and your child, this does not mean the other party will respond similarly, favorably, or even at all.
Should your child’s adoption process be finalized, obtaining additional information on his or her genetic makeup can be extremely useful in understanding any health concerns.
One company of many which offers such a health service is 23AndMe. After spitting in a tube, you get your genetic results back after several weeks. You receive a detailed breakdown of ancestry, muscle type, hair type, etc. Companies like this for adoptive parents can give a lot of information that the adoption advocates and birth mothers may not either be aware of or cannot give.
Keep all information about what you find as it is extremely relevant and important to your child. Also, you may wish to keep the information private.
PHOTOGRAPHY AND STORAGE
We all love taking photos and making videos of ourselves with our littles. Who doesn’t? However, if you’re not careful, precious pictures you have taken could be lost if not properly stored. Don’t forget to save all the pictures of your child’s birth mother, birth father, and any siblings in a separate external hard drive and back it up periodically. These pictures could be precious to your child in the future. Smartphones often die, get lost, or are stolen. If you have important photos, you should routinely back them up somewhere (every three months). Think: “What if I lost my phone?”
With full consent from the birth mother, when calling or FaceTiming with the birth mother, place your phone on “speaker mode” and use a recording device (another cell phone?) and record the call. When you talk with the birth mother, ask detailed questions about family histories, any relationships, events people like to attend, family recipes, family traditions, etc. Let her direct the “narrative” and tell the story. Again, this is not so much for you, as it is for your child in future years.
Technology (and tools like social media) offer adoptive parents many outstanding ways to connect with their new bundles of joy. Using a wide range of technological innovation, we can better understand our children’s genetic history and medical-related concerns.