Come out of the adoption closet.
If you’re kept in a closet, no one can know you. By closet, I mean, if your first parent has not told their family or other children about you, give them time to do so. Then, decide if you if you want a relationship with any or all of those people. If you’re told, “no one knows about you,” understand that. Then, politely, give a deadline for you to be announced or introduced, and if you are not out of the adoptee closet by that time, make plans to contact your other family yourself. You’re not a child without choices, and the parameters set by another to protect themselves are not your guidelines. You deserve to know your family members, whether your first parent agrees or not.
Become a decision-maker.
As an infant or toddler or older child, in foster care or orphanage, you had nothing to do with any of the choices affecting your life. Other people decided what happened. You didn’t choose to be given up/relinquished. You didn’t choose your foster or adoptive family(s) or your siblings or your name. As an adult you are able – and expected – to make choices – how you present yourself, what you call yourself, with whom you are comfortable sharing, with whom you’d rather not spend time, and ask for what you need or want. Be a true and honest advocate for yourself. And, remember, the adoption industry – yes, it’s an industry – probably didn’t treat your first mother very nicely when she was pregnant, unmarried and without any emotional or financial support. Be gentle but be strong. Choose kindness on behalf of yourself and others involved, as long as they are deserving of your kindness.
Stop worrying about being pleasing or likable so you won’t be given away. You can weather rejection or welcome, whatever comes. It’s not what happens to you as much as how you handle what happens. Much of adoptee behavior hinges on being likable/lovable and worrying whether or not we will be rejected simply for being ourselves. We were given up once for reasons our babymind will never understand; abandonment can be a constant source of fear. So, we practice being our version of perfect. It’s exhausting. Stop performing. If you’re angry, be angry; if you’re hurting or triggered, say so; if you’re delighted and grateful, say that, too. Be real and stop being afraid that you’re not worthy of being kept or loved. You are.
If you can muster the courage to ask your first mother about her experience, do that. Learn what it was like for her to be pregnant, knowing she would not or could not keep her baby. If she has any recollection, ask if she could share with you. Learn what it was like for her. I am at this point but have not asked because my first mother pushed that part of her life so far to the back – if not out of – her mind, bringing it up might be upsetting and the last thing I want to do is upset her any more than I have by showing up.
Admitting she does not remember my birthday tells me to not ask anything of her experience, though my questions are still there. Some years she wishes me happy birthday or happy holidays, other years she does not. It bothers me to be a second thought, or a zero thought. I am trying to have empathy. The older I get, it’s a bit easier. However, it is challenging as I am sure she touches base with her other children on their significant dates; she has remembered them, not me.
Somewhere between trying not to care and being an emotional mess, there is balance. I want it all but I don’t want to jump through hoops to have it; I’d love to be accepted but I don’t want to be the only one driving or visiting or corresponding or caring. Any shame or guilt anyone may have had, or still has, about my creation, carriage or relinquishment is theirs, not mine. Any shame or guilt around my searching or finding is mine, not theirs. I was probably the most awful part of someone’s life, once, but that was over 50 years ago; we both need to make peace with that and only the two of us can do so. And, I believe, we have to go through that healing together.
Know yourself as whole.
Having been raised in my a’family with unhealthy competition and favoritism shown to my sister – younger, bio-child of my a’parents – there is a layer of “otherness” on top of the “otherness” of being someone’s hidden sibling for many years. Not raising children together makes us feel we have no true place in any family, adoptive or biologic. The rifts created by my a’mother have since healed and my younger a’sister and I work on our relationship regularly. I love her and would do anything for her; she wishes I could be extra. (Kidding.)
While I daydream about relationships with my biological siblings, having been kept secret from them until our collective adulthood set an awkward foundation for otherness that is hurtful and hard to explain or accept. I have no idea where to begin with my bio sibs, or even if it’s my entire responsibility to do so. Regardless of those connections, which, in a “regular” family situation might last well beyond our parents’ lifetimes, it is my duty to feel whole alone, myself. I am an entire family of one. Sometimes, I tell myself I have no right to be part of my bio family, but I do. The question remains: Do they want to know me? We’re all adults and can decide outside of the narrative of what our parent says is good or right.
Likewise, when other family members approach seeking relationship, let them in (if they are worthy and good and not seeking to use your adoptee status to hurt or deny you further). Grow the wholeness. There are women, good and kind women, from my biological father’s side who found me. It is stunning they looked for my long-lost self, let alone offer welcome and dialogue.
Don’t give up.
Says it all, no?
Search = 20+ years.
In reunion = 2004 – 2015…put myself in timeout, late 2015 and still trying to figure it out.