If you are adopted and contemplating a search for your birth mom, birth dad, or biological siblings, this blog post is for you. This is an emotional one for me to write, not because I’m adopted, but because my son is. Adoption is very dear to my heart and is nearly the only topic that can deeply stir my emotions. In fact, a great big bag of emotions was delivered to my doorstep on the day my son was born.
My husband and I were at the hospital when he was born. We send letters and photos to his birth mom on a regular basis with an openness that our little guy can one day meet her if he chooses. Our relationship with his birth father is the polar opposite. His birth dad has a criminal history that spans 30 years. He has been abusive in his past relationships and violent enough that he has spent many of his days in prison. He doesn’t know our son’s name, has never seen a photo of him, and probably never will enjoy a relationship with him. It makes me sad for my son. Sad that he has a birth father who has wasted his life through poor decision-making and sad that my son might ever feel disappointment in his paternal family history.
I want my little guy to grow up knowing how loved he is by me, my husband, and his birth mom. I want him to know why she decided on adoption. I want him to know who she is and where he comes from. I want him to know about his half siblings. I’m so happy that we have the option to give all this information to my son as he gets older and possibly becomes more curious about his birth family. If he grows up not wanting to know much, then we won’t push it on him. But it’s there if he ever decides to explore it.
This option is unfortunately not there for so many adoptees. It’s more common today to have some form of open adoption, but still is not always the case. In previous years, especially for adoptees who are now adults, open adoptions were not nearly as prevalent. And, unfortunately, many states don’t give adoptees rights to their biological histories.
So we have many adult adoptees who are interested in finding their birth families, but they don’t know where to start, how to start, or even if they SHOULD start. Let’s first talk about whether or not you should even start at all. Some common reasons for becoming interested in finding birth family information are health issues, pure curiosity, the death of one or both adoptive parents, a life change such as a marriage or birth of a child, or a longing to understand where you come from. No matter your reasons, if you are considering a search, there are thought processes you should run through in your head and ways to plan before you begin. You should prepare yourself as best you can for what is to come.
Just as there are many reasons why an adoptee might want to initiate a search, there are just as many reasons they choose not to. One very common hindrance in conducting a search is the worry that it will cause your adoptive parents to become saddened, hurt, or feel rejected, as if you are trying to replace them with your birth family. These are valid concerns. This is why many adoptees wait until their adoptive parents are deceased or simply keep their search secret. I hate that this is even an issue. I wish I could reassure every adoptee out there that their adoptive parents will understand and be supportive, but I know that some adoptive parents would not understand or be supportive. This is why you, as an adoptee, have to weigh your options before making the decision to search. If you decide to search, will you keep your adoptive parents in the dark about it or do you want them to be involved? How will you react if they seem hurt by your curiosity? What can you say or do to help them through the process?
Another reality in choosing to search is the possibility that you will uncover unpleasant truths about your biological family. Maybe you grew up fantasizing that your birth mom was a struggling 21-year-old who just couldn’t provide for you at the time, but later married and had other children, and she thinks about you every day. But in reality, you discover she was a 35-year-old drug addict who left you in a box at the hospital emergency room door and died five years later of a drug overdose. Or perhaps your birth mom is still living but wants nothing to do with you. You never know what you are going to uncover when you start a search. You should be mentally prepared for all possibilities.
A third worry an adoptee might have about starting a search is the possibility of being unsuccessful and never finding the answers you so desperately seek. Maybe the information you have about your birth are slim-to-none. Where would you even start? Is there enough information available to start with? Sadly, there are many adoptees out there who will never even be able to conduct a search because of the limited information available about their adoption.
There are so many hesitations, fears, worries, and unknowns involved in the decision to conduct an adoption search of any kind. The good thing about this decision is that it’s yours to make. If you have no desire to conduct a search for your birth family, there is nothing wrong with you. It doesn’t make you callous or shallow or blindly naive. This is YOUR life we are talking about. Just because another adoptee you know would go to the ends of the earth to find their birth family, it doesn’t mean you have to make that same choice or feel the same way they do. Let them live their life the way they want to. And you live yours.
If you don’t want to find your birth family right now, but are open to the possibility in the future, then this is just as well too. Maybe you’ll want to conduct a search when you’re older and become a mother or father yourself. Then again, maybe you won’t. Perhaps you have been dying to find your birth family since you can remember and now that you’re an adult, you’re ready to jump into a search feet first. My point is this… No matter your situation, no matter your feelings about your adoption, no matter how much or how little you want to uncover about your birth family, you have every right to feel the way you do and there is nothing wrong with how you feel about it. Period.
If you ARE interested in finding your birth family, then read next week’s blog post about how to do it. I’ll be writing about conducting a search on your own, choosing to use a private investigator or other third party, and whether attempting to unseal your adoption records through court action is the best option for you.