There have been multiple reality shows and movies over the years that have portrayed these cheerful and wonderful adoption reunions. These are the type of stories you see on the news or on shows like The Ellen DeGeneres Show. These are typically the stories with the fairy-tale ending that everyone cries during, including the host and audience. Adoptees, birth parents, or birth families are able to find their long-lost family who are typically always happy to see them or ecstatic that they reach out. There is even a show called Long Lost Family that portrays this type of reunion and typically, it’s a happy one.
These kinds of shows and movies place this presumption in our mind that all reunions will be happy and joyful in every case. They create this dream scenario for both adoptees and birth parents of what their own adoption reunions will look like. However, these happy joyful reunions are not always the case. There are situations where adoptees or birth parents decline to reunite for one reason or another. That show that I previously spoke of, Long Lost Family, sometimes portrays these situations, though they seem to gloss over them. However, it is evident that these outcomes can be quite heartbreaking.
Yet, this is sometimes the reality of adoption reunions. Adoption reunions do not always play out the way they do in the minds of those seeking reunions. These reunions may go better than or worse than expected. This can also become a huge fear for people and be the thing that holds them back from reaching out to their child or birth family. Without the guarantee that the adoption reunion will be happy and wanted, this leaves a lot of room for the possibility of rejection that the adoptee might already feel as a result of the trauma of their own adoption. This trauma can feel very real for an adoptee and derail them emotionally.
The question remains, how do you take a chance on adoption reunions? While there is always a chance that the adoption will be happy and wanted, what if your birth family does not want to meet you for one reason or another? Do you move forward or do you move back because of this fear? If you do move forward and seek an adoption reunion, will you be able to cope with that sense of rejection? These are all questions that each adoptee seeking an adoption reunion must face and answer for themselves before moving forward with an adoption reunion request.
Risk vs. Reward
If you are an adoptee seeking an adoption reunion, but you have not pursued this yet, you may simply be in a state where you are fearful that your birth family will not want to meet you. Well, I would love to tell you that this fear is irrational, but it is not. It is completely rational to worry that your birth family might not want to meet you. It is certainly a possibility. It is a possibility that you will have to prepare yourself for and may never even feel prepared for. However, it is better to understand early on and accept that this possibility might come to fruition. It will help you to speak with others and try to figure out how you might cope if this situation happens.
On the flip side, there is also a very real chance that your birth family is wanting to meet you. There is a greater chance that even if you have someone in your birth family that chooses not to reunite, there will be others in your birth family who do choose to reunite. In this case, you will have to figure out the risk versus the reward. Chances are high that there will be someone in your birth family you can establish a connection with. There are also chances that your birth family will not be willing to meet or that someone may seemingly reject your invitation. You have to make sure that you are in a place mentally and emotionally to cope with that if it does happen.
Is the risk worth it for you at this time in your life? Do you feel that you are in an emotionally stable space to pursue a reunion with your birth family and all that may come with that? Is this something that you want and not just something that others are encouraging? Make sure that a reunion with your birth family is what you want and that the reward of what could be outweighs the risk you will be taking. You will likely find that it does. However, if you do not, it may just mean taking some time before pursuing a reunion with your birth family. It is okay and completely normal to feel scared and okay to wonder if you may feel that sense of rejection. You have to take this in baby steps in your own time.
Part of taking baby steps when it comes to a reunion with your birth family may be to start small when it comes to communication. While meeting may be exciting and something that you want in the long run, it might feel less intrusive or surprising for both you and your birth family to start with small communications such as letters or a message via social media or email. This can also help you to break the ice and establish some communication before you meet. This can help you to have some questions answered before you choose to meet. This can take a lot of the weight off and make the meeting more about moving forward in a relationship that has already been established.
If you have not yet found your birth family and are just dreaming of what meeting them may be like, you may find that you will connect through searching for your birth family. You may even find that they have been searching for you, which may minimize that fear of rejection you may initially hold. You can use avenues such as DNA testing through sites like Ancestry.com or you can use reunion registries such as the one found at Adoption.com. Both of these allow for messaging and responding to messages from people you match with through these registries and tests.
Circumstances Surrounding Adoption
Whether you have already tried to have a reunion and then got turned down or you simply have this fear, there is little that can be done to prepare you for that kind of heartbreak. You can become more prepared, but you can never prevent that heartbreak fully. It is important that you take into account that you may not know all of the circumstances surrounding your adoption. There may be circumstances that you might not want to know or that your birth family does not want you to know in order to protect you. A “no” from your birth family when it comes to an adoption reunion does not necessarily mean that they do not want to meet you. A “no” from your birth family may mean simply that they do not feel that it is in their best interest or your best interest to establish that relationship. It is important not to assume that you know the whole situation or that the situation is exactly what you have been told. There may be plenty of fears or circumstances holding your birth family back.
No Isn’t Always Forever
Another aspect of understanding a “no” from your birth family when it comes to an invitation to meet is to understand that a “no” is not always forever. It is likely that your birth family is just as nervous as you about the potential of meeting you. This reunion could be something that they have thought about and it’s likely something they have played in their mind. There may be additional circumstances surrounding your adoption that make them feel ashamed or scared to meet with you. They may also have fears about where they are in life or that you may be angry about placement. There are multiple reasons why a “no” could happen but not necessarily mean forever. Your birth family may also be more comfortable with baby steps such as speaking online or by phone. Understand that no does not necessarily mean forever it may just mean not right now. Give your birth family some space and time to respond to your request. If you initially hear a “no” or do not hear back, try not to assume that it is anything more than a “not right now.” While they may never respond for one reason or another, they may change their mind as they have a chance to process your request.
If your birth family does say no to meeting, you can extend the olive branch to ask if they might be more comfortable with just speaking online. Many people have a sense of comfort building a relationship behind a phone or computer screen. This could be a great step to take in building a relationship that could eventually lead to meeting. Even if it does not lead to a meeting, it can help you answer many of the questions you might have for your birth family. It certainly can’t hurt to ask or extend an invitation for later down the road in the event that your birth family does not choose to meet you, but may feel more comfortable answering questions you may have or keeping in general contact.
It’s Not You, It’s Them
Regardless of your fear surrounding meeting your birth parents or if you have already experienced rejection from your birth parents, it is vital to keep the perspective that it is not about you. Your birth parents, unless you have been in an open adoption situation where they have received updates but have not met you, do not know anything about you as you are now. Even if they have received updates, pictures and writing only reveal so much about a person. You birth family may simply remember you as the young child or infant that they placed for adoption. There is no way that this rejection can actually be real rejection of you as a person. This is about your birth family and not at all about you. This has solely to do with their circumstances or feelings surrounding the placement of a child. This is likely more about what your placement represents for them.
Try to look at this reunion from their perspective as well. Just as they do not know you, you do not know them. You may just have a general idea of the circumstances surrounding your adoption. You do not know what sort of circumstances or events they have been through since your adoption. You will not initially know that the place they are in life or what is going through their heads in regards to a reunion. With this, it is worthless to assume the reasoning behind them not wanting to meet. It also will do little good to assume that they will not want to meet if you have not already reached out.
The “no” to the option of meeting you has or will have nothing to do with the person who you are today. They are not rejecting you because they do not know you. If you do come out of this situation with a “no” from your birth family, try to keep this in mind. Your bravery in asking to meet and wanting to know more about your birth family is unparalleled. You are incredibly strong for taking that step, and you may find the opportunity to meet your birth family as time goes on. If the idea of your birth family rejecting your invitation for a meeting is no more than an idea or fear at this time, understand that the chances are good that someone will want to meet. However, if they do not, hold your head high. For now, understand that even if the answer is “no,” you remain just as worthy.