After pulling back from reunion almost five years ago, I find myself wondering 1) how could I have handled that better and 2) was I supposed to set expectations or boundaries, and 3) is there any reparation to be made?
For most of my life, making any decision was difficult and very uncomfortable. When open, honest, transparent one is repeatedly hurt or made fun of, one stops being open, honest, transparent. The sum of those things creates a person who has no idea what they want or how to go about getting it and it halts the ability to trust. It breeds a lack of confidence which seeps into decisions affecting career paths, use of one’s talent, choice of partners, friendships, trust, how one interacts with family and the ability to generally care for oneself.
In the beginning, there was no doubt I wanted to search for people related to me, though it was a secret for quite a long time; and, there was little doubt that I desired to, at least, meet whomever I might find. What I did not consider is what I wanted out of any potential meeting or relationship. But, how could I know that when no one had ever asked, “Hey, what do you want?” No one, including myself. I had no idea what I wanted, what I thought might be nice or fun, or what to do if they weren’t receptive. I went into reunion completely naive but hoping for something.
This is a good time to mention there is no reunion script or parent/child/other family member(s) dialogue to mimic so one is on their own figuring out how to be in reunion with birthfamily members. Also, sadly, a majority of adoptees are told they should feel special and that they “should be happy” they were adopted and not left in some orphanage…or worse. As if the only alternative to staying with birthfamily was to be left on the side of the road in a cardboard box. Adoption is never about the baby, by the way. It is about solving someone else’s problem – whether the birthmother has an issue or someone desires to create a family. It’s never about the baby – how could it be? The baby has absolutely no say. The baby is someone else’s missing piece and another person’s strain.
Do I feel I could have set clear expectations at the beginning of reunion? Probably not; when you don’t know how to get your needs met nor trust anyone to meet those needs, asking for anything risks being perceived as needy or unable to provide for oneself. Plus, we never had those conversations so I certainly wasn’t going to ask to be included or to receive regular communication or invited on vacation or gather for major holidays or to be considered as a real family member. Who am I to ask for such things? An old, familiar part of me will always answer that question: “Nobody. You were given away, you don’t matter. Leave them alone, you’re an inconvenience. No one likes you.”
There are questions, post-reunion, many of which would take courage to ask, courage to hear the reply. My questions have more to do with whether or not I actually fit in, and that helps me recognize expectations I didn’t even know I had.
– Why did you talk about visiting me then not follow through?
– Why were you afraid to tell your other children about me?
– What happened when you did? Did I need to give space to that person?
-Why did so many emails talk about your other children and only the very last few lines inquire about me, my child, my life? Was writing an obligation?
-When I backed away, interpreting your focus on life with your other children, why did you blame me for not trying hard enough, saying I was a busy single parent who was focused on her child and, barring that, we could have been working on things? Was our relationship all my job? That one question was so loaded with blame and shame. It was so deflating and painful to read – why didn’t I do better for you?
– I hope you are transparent and honest with my child; she is sincere and thinks you’re great. But there is little to no baggage there, and you may not introduce her to people outside immediate family, so no worry there. No story to hide.
Part of me feels as though WE messed up because WE did not have any discussion about any expectations of each other when we first met. I have no idea if there is trusted, safe space to re-start. I spent every visit practicing every good behavior I ever learned, hoping not to do anything that would trigger disappointment or another rejection by you. Every sentence in my notes to you were scrutinized and agonized over so you would find me educated and engaging. I was terrified of being displeasing so you wouldn’t send me away, again. I still am but I’m not afraid to say it aloud. Expectation #1: I expect to be given space to figure this out without fear of being rejected or shamed or ridiculed.
Good to know.