Sunday, September 22, 2013

When Your Adoption Reunion Goes Bust (Hold on to the Good)

I wanted to do a post about "failed" adoption reunions because I hear from many adoptees who are in the same boat as myself. I don't like to view my adoption reunion as a failure. I have had many people (including other adoptees who have not taken the plunge themselves) assume that my reunion was a failure because there were certain outcomes that did not meet my expectations.

 I look at my adoption reunion as successful, even though the relationship with my mother could not last.

I have no regrets at all about my reunion. I had two decades to think about having a reunion with my mother and deal with all the emotional baggage that comes along with being raised in closed adoption.  At some point, I decided to hell with the outcomes, I was just going for it.  (I got in touch with my inner badass).

On some level I knew that my reunion with my first mother would not be a life-long relationship. Before I flew into Philadelphia, I had carefully prepared a photo album of my life for her because I secretly feared that we may only see each other that one time. I knew something was amiss after speaking with my mother on the phone, but I ignored the little voice that was trying to tell me something.   I just wanted my mother to have that photo album of my life in case at some point, she no longer had me.

My friend Vaseem who has walked this journey with me, said to me one time early in my reunion:

"Your finding your mother is probably going to be more important for her, than it is for you".

I could not totally understand what he meant at the time.  In the high emotions of finding my mother, I could not imagine that I would be more important to her than she was to me my whole life.  I figured she thought about me now and then, but finding her was one of my biggest life quests that thinking she could be affected as much or even more than me, was not yet registering on my radar screen.  Like all children (even adult ones) we tend to be self-centered.

This reunion was about me!  Once I was knee-deep into the reunion, and talked to other mothers-of-loss in the adoption community, it finally hit me that my finding my mother was a huge moment for her as well.  I jumped into reunion without being fully prepared for the many outcomes.  One of my blind spots is always to do things myself, instead of seeking out the guidance of others who have walked the path before me.

I don't know if my mother also went into a depression, almost got divorced and thought she had lost her mind, like I did -- I will never know, because our relationship could never get past the surface.  But even with the emotional hell I went through, I have no regrets.

I do know that whether my mother admits it or not, losing me was a profoundly painful experience.  And then realizing I was alive and well, must have been both painful and healing for her.  My reappearing in her life  forced her to face things in her life that she had successfully buried for decades.  I have never walked in her shoes and I can only imagine the difficulty she experienced upon giving me up and never knowing if I was o.k..

When your reunion goes bust, the healthiest thing you can do is hold on to the good.

My mother is beautiful.  I never thought I was beautiful growing up but since meeting my mother, I now see myself as beautiful too.  My mother is artistic.  I am proud of her for never giving up on her creativity.

Because my mother said yes to me, I learned I have siblings -- most importantly a sister. I always wanted a sister.  Somebody who I could tell secrets to growing up.  Fortunately, God gave me that person when he put Marla (another adoptee) in my life and house growing up.  We are still sisters to this day but it is still really cool knowing I have a sister-by-blood.

I have two really cool cousins that I just love to pieces.   My first cousin Jackie I met in 2011 in Florida.   It was amazing to see how much we are alike.  She is blonde and blue-eyed but my husband said our mannerisms are very similar.  Our daughters hit it off and it was such a wonderful two days we got to spend together.

My first cousin John (who lives 10 minutes from my house) is a local celebrity in my home town.  I ran into him last night at a Taste of Miami Valley and I couldn't stop hugging him.  I love that guy!  He welcomed me immediately into my new family and even brought me some photos of his family (including my mother) when they were living in Chicago.  I felt an instant connection with him upon our initial phone call (probably because he too is an adoptee). When I'm holding on to the good, I hold John in my heart.

My family tree on ancestry makes my heart happy every time I log in.  Every time my editor (Zack) adds another branch to my tree, I feel more connected to the human race.

Since my reunion, I have met many amazing people involved in the Adoptee Rights Coalition and now I too am part of that amazing group.  I have spoken to and corresponded with hundreds of adoptees around the United States and even beyond --

The door that opened me up to all these experiences was that day I sent $500.00 into The Cradle Adoption Agency, Post-Adoption Services.  The year was 2006.  And it changed my life.


  1. Making that decision to contact your mother with all the possible consequences which can occur is so brave. I hope my adopted children will one day have that opportunity, if that's what they want. That you have taken so much from that meeting, even if it wasn't the relationship with your mother you had hoped for, is wonderful to read about. All the new family members you have discovered and who now hold an important part in your life is wonderful.

    I would love it if you would link your blog post to The Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO, we really like to give a balanced view on adoption and would love to share the voice of more adoptees. If you'd like here's the link, open Friday to Sunday evening.

  2. Wow, Lynn, you said a lot of the same things I would have said about my reunion with my dad and my mother. I can't get enough of get a huge grin on my face just knowing that those are the people, the lineage that I come from. I spent some time this weekend while my dad was visiting showing him HIS people and what I am able to find out...he was amazed. I also love looking like someone and have a much better image of what I look like and can see my beauty where I could not before. My father who adopted me could tell me I was pretty, but I never really believed it until the father who made me told me how beautiful he thought I was.

    My mother and I have recently reunited after a 9 year separation...I see myself in her as well, our personality, the way we both laugh, the freckles on our arms, our skinny calves.

    People who take all this stuff for granted haven't got a clue how priceless it is when you finally get what you prayed for your whole life!

    I also feel particularly connected to one of my first cousins...and she feels the same. KINSHIP.

    Lee H.

  3. Hi Lynn. Like you, I was adopted. My birth mother is dead and I have not yet located my bio dead who could also be deceased. I went into this search knowing there might not be any happy reunions. That's fine with me. I just want information. I don't need parents in my life. My adoptive parents loved me and they're gone now. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. I enjoyed reading this! My birth father is still living. My birth mother died young. I too embrace (literally when possible), the birth relatives I do have and love every minute of it!

  5. Thanks for Linking up with The Weekly Adoption Shout Out, hope to see you again.

  6. I too would like to attend the adoption reunion as twenty years back I adopted a child from this agency.
    Domestic Adoption Services At Adoption By Shepherd Care Florida

  7. I'm so happy I found this site! I was so touched and agreed with the post "keep the good stuff', it is so true that we as adoptee's need to know something anything. To feel like we are truthfully a part of the human race. It is very traumatic being raised in a closed adoption. I imagine it would have been easier if I was told as a youngster being read about special babies that grow from you heart :) I was told when I was ten. It was devastating to me and I felt like my whole world just crashed. It only got worse as I went through puberty a year later with absolutely no self esteem whatsoever.

  8. I so love my Adopted parents and have hesitated over moving forward (since I was about 15) with the fear of hurting them. In turn I have ached and been in emotional turmoil for many many years. It is true that I felt like I was a young tree with no true roots. Perhaps because I found out so late, I was just torn up inside with confusion and grief. GOOD NEWS I am now 53 (and my adopted parents are 87, and both in pretty good health). And I have finally done it!!! That is that I have filed away under FOIA (freedom of information act) and have just received my package!!! I have a beginning, a glimpse into my roots!!! I am so thrilled.

    1. Hi puglezsmypug! Thanks for sharing your story:) I love to hear from people who are reading my blog -- it inspires me to keep on writing even on those days I am getting tired of adoption! Peace to you :)

  9. I found my birth mother and siblings. My birth father is deceased. None of them have any interest in meeting me or talking with me. This seems so uncommon.

  10. So wonderful for me as a birthmother to read your reunion story from the point of view as an adoptee. My reunion with my birth-daughter was huge for both of us, and it came with a tangled mess of emotions that took us both years to sort through. Was it painful and wonderful at the same time? Oh yes. There was so much pain for the first few years after the reunion that I wished I'd never searched for her, but then time brought us both healing and the ability to sort through all the stuff that comes with giving a baby up, and adoption. My heart goes out to you. These journeys are not easy. But, now 17 years after our reunion my birth-daughter (my daughter) and I are very happy in our relationship. I can never take the place of her adoptive mom, but we have created a relationship that works for us. Like you say, look for the good, and hang on to that.

  11. In late January, I was found by my half sister who had been given up for adoption. My father got her mother pregnant when he was sixteen. I was born three years later. I have known about her since I was a child. I loved her from the moment I learned about her. I was overjoyed when she found me. But the reality hasn't been the dream I imagined. Our father is deceased and I am her only sibling. Our mothers went to school together and knew each other, but weren't really friends. Her mother found my mother about six years ago and they would talk off and on. When my sister found her mother. Her mother called my mother and asked if she thought I would like to met her. I was overjoyed! We spent days on the phone getting to know each other. Exchanging life stories. We have so much in common. The bliss was short lived. Her mother immediately called my mother and said she had seen pictures of me and I looked nothing like my father?!? My mother was flabbergasted...first of all where did that come from and second it wasn't true. I have lived my entire life known as my fathers twin baby girl. It was a punch in the gut and a red flag went up that this probably wasn't going to go well. I pulled back because I felt my identity of fifty years was being shredded by people who didn't know my reality. There were other incidents that came up. The first time I met her. Her husband kept asking if daddy loved her and thought about her. I explained that I really didn't know what he thought or felt. That mama had told me about her and when I asked daddy he had confirmed it. He had explained that it changed nothing for me. That I was and always would be the apple of his heart. His baby girl and whole world. But we never talked about it again. That I just didn't know. She immediately pushed for a close relationship. To talk everyday like sisters do. She was presumptive and pushy about her place in mine and my family life's. I felt overwhelmed. I would pull back and then feel bad because I thought I was hurting her. So I would try again and again something crazy would be said. It consumed my entire life. I am bi polar and it took a huge emotional toil on my mental stability, marriage and daily life. I tried again by inviting my newly found niece to my husbands birthday party. She showed up with a huge bottle of tequila. We had already discussed that neither of us could drink tequila and stay sane. I stayed sober. She drank the bottle. There were a few crazy moments. When all of a sudden my very drunken niece wrapped her arm around my neck and grabbed my face and with a bitchy look on her face proceeded to tell me that I just had to get over this territorial shit. That I had to accept that her mother came first and always would. That her grandma was no looker but that my daddy had thought of her and my sister every day. That I would just have to accept that her mom came first and always would. That I MIGHT have looked like my daddy when I was young, but that her mom had all along and especially did now that she was older. Again.....where did this come from and why do we have to go there? I truly had to remind myself she was drunk. There had already been a incident with the host and she had been asked to leave. So when she did this I told my husband she needed to leave. The next day when I confronted her about what was said she told me I had taken it wrong. I felt attacked. Since then I have pulled back and have tried to understand why I feel this way. There are other issues that have happened. I was so delighted to met her, but I am devastated by what I feel is a attack against my identity. I would really appreciate any feedback that anyone might have. I would love to hear if other people have had similar experiences or if I'm being crazy. It's been very overwhelming.