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Letting Go By Not Engaging

This afternoon, as my wife and I were leaving a local landfill, another email appeared from my birthmother. The email contained the same issues, in a condensed version. How “she sees things in reality, in her opinion and I see things through a victim’s eyes.”
Immediately my ego jumped into the situation, trying to analyze how my birthmother could see things so differently from how I expressed things to her. The old saying goes “Denial is not just a river in Egypt.”
After fuming about this latest barb of “crap”, I began to process my feelings by talking and writing with someone. I was asked to reverse the situation and was asked what advice I would offer to someone who was in the same position as I was in. This is what I wrote:
This is a sick and unhealthy dynamic with this person. I know it hurts but it is pointless trying to change someone else’s mind.

The reality is, you would be much better off without this person in your life. Focus on the people who actually care about you and respect you and your word.

Let go of the relationship for your own well being. You don’t NEED this person bringing you down anymore.
In 1993, my sister gave me a small gem of a book entitled “The Secrets of Life” by Stuart Wilde. The book consists of Mr. Wilde’s short perspectives on various topics ranging from money, spirituality, living simply, etc. One of my favorite readings is his take on relationships. Mr. Wilde writes:
“Get out of any situation that endorses negativity, that causes you imbalance. People come together in relationships for growth, not life. If a relationship sustains you, if you are both growing from it, if it is beautiful and has energy, you’re together for good. If not, either fix it or ditch it. You don’t need situations that don’t support you or lower your energy. You don’t owe anything to anyone. The only real responsibility you have is to work on yourself to raise your energy. That will become your gift to the world. Pull back from negative situations and negative people. You don’t need to judge them, or try to change them. Just allow them to follow their path. You may want to give them a little shove. But if they don’t move, you move. Never mind security.”
These words rang so true for me again tonight as I read them and share them with you. I hope they bring you wisdom and clarity as they have for me.
I am glad to say that I did not respond or engage my birthmother again. It gives me great serenity to know, that at least for today, I can make a conscious choice not to respond, not to get sucked down again, and that I do have the ability to choose peace and serenity.


Canadian Thanksgiving Reunion

Another Canadian Thanksgiving Day Reunion Anniversary
October 9th, 2011 will mark the 16th year of my reunion since I first spoke to my birthmother for the very first time. I remember the date very vividly. I was twenty-five, attending a local college, working and playing volleyball up to four nights a week.
The previous week, I attended an adoption search meeting at a wonderful local adoption support group known as Adoption Knowledge Affiliates or AKA. Some of the founding AKA members also helped with adoption searches. One member offered to put my information online with the hope someone would find the information and help facilitate a reunion.
Admittedly, I was very skeptical of this working but I decided it couldn’t hurt. That Friday, October 6th, 1995, the AKA member posted my information. Someone in Western Canada picked up the information and researched the info given. He found some phone numbers through the phone directory and called, eventually reaching a teenage biological cousin of mine. He left a message, saying he was looking for the youngest of three sisters.
That Saturday, I called the operator in Canada and found the same phone numbers as the searcher in Canada found. Here was a gateway to my biological past. Wow, how exciting and terrifying all at once. I stared at the names and numbers, desperately wanting to call. I did some journaling and praying about what I should do next. The message was clear: WAIT!
I was utterly stunned on what my prayers told me, but I asked God to make it “unmistakably clear” to me, and he answered. Wait. The message really tested my faith at the time, but I put my trust in God and the Universe and I did wait.
The fear of calling a stranger, potentially my birthmother, was very strong and surreal. Would she accept me? Would she even want to have contact with me? Who was she? Did I have siblings? Who was my birthfather and would she tell me his name? The questions just kept coming and coming, questions I had no answers to but desperately I wanted to know. Why was God telling me to wait?
The answers came two days later. I had a challenging day at work and I was at home. A phone call came from the gentleman in Canada who searched for my birthmother. “I found her” he said. She is married and has two other children but I cannot give you her information.”
“Are you kidding me? What am I supposed to do, just wait some more” I thought? Reluctantly, I accepted his boundaries. I called my therapist and spoke to her. She was wonderful and also was a birthmother who gave up and found her son years later. She encouraged me to be patient and try not to worry about it too much.
Helplessly unable to do anything but wait, I made a late dinner and began to relax. I hoped I would be tired enough to fall asleep that night and not fret too much about my birthmother. Suddenly, the phone rang. I answered, and it was HER!
“Oh My God” was all I could say, over and over again. She told me her name and I began to cry. The moment of meeting one’s birthmother for the first time is almost indescribable. I felt an instant strong connection with her, even on the phone almost two thousand miles away.
She asked if I had a good life and I said yes I did. My adoptive parents were wonderful and were always supportive of me searching. One thing my birthmother insisted on when she gave me up was that I be told of my adoption, something my parents told me from when I was three or four years of age.
I found out I had two younger half-brothers and she told me who my birthfather was and where he lived. We talked for about an hour and a half. My roommate had come home while I was talking. As soon as we hung up, the tears started flowing. Graciously, my roommate consoled me as I cried and explained what happened. I felt so happy and whole at once.
I called my parents and spoke to my Dad. He was very happy for me. “I feel whole for once” I can remember telling him. My mind kept thinking of how lucky I was to find my birthmother and how short my search was. Less than two months it took to find my birthmother after I wrote the Alberta Government for more identifying information.
The adoption search and reunion process can be very long, challenging and rewarding. The reunion starts with the first contact of the first meeting but that is only the beginning of the journey. I’m sad to say today that things are not well between my birthmother and me, for a variety of reasons.
Sadly, I don’t plan to talk to her or make contact with her on our anniversary date. I have mixed emotions about this decision (of not contacting her) but that is the reality that we are in right now. My peace and serenity are more important to me than to risk butting heads with her.
We can both be stubborn and strong willed at times, but in the end, right now, I don’t feel the relationship with her serves either of us right now. I will say a prayer for her, for our relationship, and release it to the Universe. Perhaps things will change, perhaps not.
Despite the current circumstances, I am forever grateful I searched and found her and my birth family. For me, it is better to know than not to know where I came from.
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend to all my friends and in the Great White North! Have some turkey, fixings and some Pumpkin Pie for me 

Reunion Tools

In the play “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams, the main character, Tom, is haunted by the ghost of his father, who left the family years earlier. Tom wants to follow his father’s footsteps and leave the tiny apartment he shares with his younger sister Laura and their overbearing mother, Amanda.
Tom medicates himself by escaping to watch the movies as often as he can. It helps him numb the angst he feels inside. He tries to help his painfully shy sister, Laura, by inviting his friend, Jim, over for dinner. Laura had a crush on Jim during high school. After dinner, Laura and Jim sit alone in the parlor, talking. Jim eventually kisses Laura, but he quickly recoils and then admits to Laura he is already engaged.
Upon hearing the news of Jim’s fiancé, Amanda accuses Tom of playing a cruel joke on them by not revealing Jim’s engagement. Tom was totally unaware of Jim’s situation but Amanda would not believe him. They have an argument and Tom leaves.
The final scene begins with Tom saying “I didn’t go to the moon. I went much further. For time is the longest distance between two places…”
This scene really spoke to me the first time I read it in high school and again while I attended a drama class in college. Tom felt torn between him feeling obligated to care for his fragile sister, Laura, while also wanting to explore the world to find himself. By leaving, he would also free himself from his overbearing mother.
As adoptees, those of us who search feel conflicted also. Many times we want to search for our biological families and ancestry, but we are afraid of how our adoptive parents and family may feel about searching. The fear can paralyze many adoptees to choose not to search so we don’t “rock the boat.”
The old method of “closed adoptions” where birth records were sealed, ensuring there would be no contact between the birth parents and the adoptive family believed this was the best for all parties. The child was placed with a “loving, caring” family and the birthmother could go on with her life, being told she would forget about her relinquished child.
They did not forget, however. Most birthmothers were young and forced into a situation that they had no choice but to give up their child. Society looked down upon young, unwed mothers with no means of supporting a child, let alone themselves. They were almost always shunned by their families. They were sent away in secret to have their baby to homes for unwed mothers. They were not allowed to talk about the baby they gave up. Keeping the family image intact was more important than the actual welfare of the unwed mother.
The adopted child was, it was believed, would grow up in a loving, caring home and be taken care of materialistically and loved by their adopted parents and adopted family members. This “solution” to a difficult situation was flawed, however. The breaking of the physical bond between an infant and the biological mother is profoundly painful, to both the birthmother and the infant.
In my case, my birthmother was only 16 years of age when I was born. She had been determined to keep me, but circumstances were not in her favor. In her 7th month of pregnancy, her father found out by accident she was pregnant (he worked away from home). Her father was not a very good person (I was told) and raising a baby in that environment would have been difficult at best. Her doctor convinced her to give up her baby for adoption. The thought of this devastated her, but she knew it was the best decision for her unborn child.
The thought of giving up a child to “total strangers” is a tough concept to grasp, from today’s standards. Most parents are very meticulous about the babysitter they choose to watch their kid(s) for a few short hours, let alone giving up their own child to an unknown couple for life! People nowadays seem to have more control over who they re-home their pet to than who a birthmother would give up their child to decades ago.
When thinking of searching, I think it is very important for the searcher, adoptees or birth parents, to educate themselves as much as they can. Research information on adoption searches and reunions. Read books such as “Adoption Reunions” by Michelle McColm or “Journey of the Adopted Self” by Betty Jean Lifton. There are a plethora of books available today written by others who have been down the path of adoption reunions.
I also agree it is very important to find a strong support system of others who have been through adoption reunions. Each reunion is unique because each circumstance and family dynamics of the adoptee’s family and birth families are different.
On my first reunion, I was nearly two-thousand miles away from home, meeting and trying to integrate into an unfamiliar family for the first time. I even stayed in their home, which in hindsight, is not recommended. Luckily our family had friends who lived in the same community as my birthmother and her family. I was able to stay at our friend’s house a couple of nights to recharge and decompress from the intense emotions surrounding everyone.
While staying with my birthmother’s family, I would retreat to the bedroom where I slept, giving myself a chance to journal, meditate or call a friend for support. These moments of solitude helped me tremendously to process and detach from the emotional rollercoaster.
That is not to say that I did things perfectly or that there weren’t challenges during the reunion, as there were for everyone involved, but giving myself space helped me to center myself as best I could.
Emotions can flood everyone involved in adoption reunions. If we can learn tools and gain support from others around us, then we can learn cope much better with trying to integrate our “new” family into our lives.
Learn to set and maintain boundaries that you are comfortable with. You are not responsible for the reactions of others around you. You are only responsible for yourself. Be respectful of others but also maintain what values are true to you. There is almost always a collective compromise or middle ground between two parties. It may be sticky trying to find that middle ground but if it can be reached, you are set.

Welcome to Adoption Reunion Realities

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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