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Welcome to Adoption Reunion Realities

September 26, 2011

Adoption Reunion Realities
I’m a 41 year old male adoptee who searched and found my birthmother nearly 16 years ago. Unlike many adoptees who search for years, my search took less than two months to the time I first spoke to my birthmother.
The first time I heard her voice, I was elated. Finding a connection to my biological roots meant so much. I had a very good adoptive family, people who cared and loved me as their own. I am forever grateful to them for raising me.
The fact is, however, that the process of being adopted to another family is great, in theory, for the child, but it can never fully heal the wounds that an adoptee feels when they are separated from the birthmother.
Many of us have seen adoption reunion reports on T.V. where an emotional first reunion takes place. In most cases, the birth parent and the child that was relinquished years or decades ago are reunited for the first time. Intense joy and sadness is felt by both the adoptee and birth parent (usually the birthmother).
Like most fairytales our society ingrains into our children’s psyche at an early age, the “reunion” between the birth parent and the relinquished child appears to be “successful”. However, what most people don’t see or realize, the initial meeting or reunion is just a beginning of an intense emotional journey for both parties. The real reunion or work begins from thereafter.
The flooding of emotions released during an adoption reunion can hit like a sledgehammer, as it did with me. My first conversation with my birthmother lasted about ninety minutes. The moment after I hung up, I began crying uncontrollably for several minutes. I told my roommate at the time what happened and she consoled me for several minutes, listening patiently as I told her the details of my biological roots.
I called my parents and informed my Dad what happened. He was excited and supportive of me, as my parents have always been, of my need to search. My Mom was sleeping but he told her the next morning. Her reaction was “Well, it’s about time he found his birthmother”.
In her book “Journey of the Adopted Self”, Betty Jean Lifton wrote about the “fantasy” birth parent (usually birthmother). As adoptees, we grow up wondering who our birthmother was and we try to put a face and a story to our unknown biological origins. This “fantasized version” of our birthmother can greatly skew who she really is.
My hope for this blog is to help enlighten adoptees and birth parents on some of the complex and challenging components of adoption reunions, not just in the beginning of searching for oneself, but also long term issues each adoption reunion faces.
Remember, many adoptees grew up with a family with different personalities, physical traits, etc different from their biological roots. The flipside to this equation, is when we find our birthmother or birth family, we find our biological origins, but we also come into a family dynamic that can be very different from the family who adopted us. Adoptees, yet again, can find themselves having to try to “fit in” with another family, as we had to most of our lives.
The reality is, we really don’t know who (or even what) we will find when searching for our biological family. Adoptees who search may be openly accepted by the birth parent(s) or birth family. We may have been kept a long, dark hidden secret by the birthmother, with the intent that it remains that way. Each search and reunion is uniquely different.
One thing I have learned through my adoption reunion journey, (and through my own process of therapy) is this:
Strive to give up any and all expectations of your birth parent or birth family.
This does not mean “don’t care about them”, but it means to try not to expect your birth parent or birth family to respond in situations as you learned growing up with your adoptive family. In many ways, establishing a relationship with your birth family is similar to meeting new in-laws. Your spouse grew up in a different environment than you did and once you become married, you are now “related” to his or her family as well. There will be challenges in trying to fit in with your spouse’s family, as most married couples are aware.
Now add the intense emotional components an adoption reunion carries, and one can see why it is difficult, at best, to establish and maintain a healthy relationship with your birth family.
Thanks for reading my blog. If you would like to leave feedback, please do. I look forward to the journey of writing and sharing together.
Daryn Watson


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One Comment
  1. Cindy A, permalink

    Wow Daryn This is a much needed blog. I just found your blog tonight and I’m super wanting more. Your voice is important on the male view of adoption related challenges and the realities. You have some very sound words of wisdom and experience. Your point of view is needed. I hope you will continue writing for the benefit of others who can learn so much from your experiences. I know it can be extremely difficult and painful to go there …. but when you can, I hope you will post more, even if it’s a short thought.

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