When Adoption Reunification Doesn’t Go the Way You Hoped

My reunification hopes did not pan out the way I wanted them to, but I am still glad I sought out my birth family.

Tom Andriola September 29, 2016
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If you’re an adoptee and you’re like me, you have always wondered, maybe even fantasized about what your birth parents were like. Perhaps your birth mother was a famous movie star. Your biological father might have been a superstar athlete. You would find them and they would be ecstatic! You’d be like a VIP on the movie set or at the baseball game. You were the son or daughter they never intended to relinquish for adoption but, tragically, some unforeseen circumstance had gotten in the way.

Of course, that’s not usually the reality. Whatever the situation, you were placed for adoption, and there are a lot of feelings associated with that. Some biological parents regret it, some wish they never had to do it, some were coerced, and others would have made the same choice all over again. Similarly, some want to be found and some don’t, and you never know what you’re going to get if you are successful in your search.

For me, I found my birth mother first. While there was mutual interest in meeting each other, there was also tentativeness. Neither of us knew what to expect. The conversations were awkward at times, and it wasn’t clear to either of us what the other wanted in terms of a relationship. Still, it was cordial. There was no discontent or animosity, and there wasn’t any resistance to communication and meeting, but it wasn’t the fantasy connection I had dreamt about when I was a little boy. And I don’t think it really could have been anyway.

Years later, I found my biological father. I knew that one was going to be a little more difficult to navigate. I had learned from my birth mother that he had not acknowledged his role in my conception and that he had basically stopped communicating with her when she told him she was pregnant. Truth be told, I had no desire to search for him for some years, but eventually my curiosity prevailed and I tracked him down.

As part of my search, I found out that I had three half-siblings on my father’s side. My mother never had any other children, so the emotional roller coaster that followed when I found out this little tidbit of information was strong, and it was an incentive for me to hope the reunion with my biological father would be a good one. Ultimately, it was those half-siblings I was really hoping to meet and establish some kind of relationship with!

But when I reached out to my father, I got what I knew was coming. Denial. “I’m not the party you are in search of,” his curt reply to me said. I persisted. I had information that would all but prove my case, and eventually he relented and had his cousin reach out to me as a mediator. I was able to meet him, but our meeting was rather terse and formal, with his cousin facilitating the conversation and the two of them never fully acknowledging that he was the right guy, although they never explicitly came out and denied it.

As for my half-siblings, I tried to broker with my biological father and his cousin to facilitate a meeting, but to no avail. They remained resistant and finally stopped returning my calls. Eventually, I reached out to my half-siblings on my own. I felt that I had given them ample opportunity to set the stage the way they wanted.

Unfortunately, it didn’t matter. I received an angry response from one half-sibling, and the other two never replied at all. I responded cordially to the one who had lashed out, explaining what I was trying to achieve—expressing what many adoptees feel about searching and hoping to reunite with their kin. He softened in his subsequent response, but the message was still the same. He didn’t want to pursue a relationship, and he relayed on behalf of the other two that they felt the same way.

Obviously, my reunification hopes did not pan out the way I wanted them to, but I am still glad I did it. I no longer have to live with the curiosity, the “what if?” I know where I stand. I’m not thrilled about it, but I have a finite answer. I know that it is unhealthy to try to surround yourself with people who don’t want to be around you, so I don’t plan to push it. There are plenty of folks who do want to be around me, so I surround myself with them, and I have learned to look for happiness from within instead of externally. It’s not always easy, but it’s the way it needs to be. And I’m at peace with that.

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Tom Andriola

Tom Andriola advocates for adoptee rights and shares his personal experiences about being adopted and his successful, independent search for both biological parents. To see more of his writing, visit Tom's Facebook page.


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