Having done a successful search for my birth family, but a not so positive reunion…I still say the journey was worth it!
My journey began years ago, before the days of the Internet, after suffering a heart attack at age thirty-one and having to answer the embarrassing question from the doctors about family medical history with a, “I don’t know.”
I was placed for adoption at birth, but ended up never being adopted. In the first eleven years of life I was moved to three institutions and eleven foster homes before finding stability at Boys Town, Nebraska.
Though I was fortunate to have my birth mother’s name from the start of my search, it still took four, long, expensive years of searching before she was located…it would take another four years before I found my birth father.
My birth mother was an alcoholic and still years after my birth, harbored the hatred toward her father for forcing her to give me up for adoption. Her life had not been an easy one. I believe she also resented the fact that my life turned out better than anything she could have been able to offer me, such as a college education and good career.
She had four more children after me. She did raise those children and was unable to offer them the opportunities I had been given.
My birth father ran when he found my birth mother was pregnant as he had done once before while serving in Germany during W.W.II. He had one more child after my birth.
Neither reunion was a positive one. After twelve years my birth mother gave me up a second time because I am gay. She wished I had never been born and that I would die of AIDS rather than her having to bear the burden of being the mother to a gay son.
My birth father was always distant and cold. I only met with him once for an hour out on his back patio.
Both have since died.
My five half-siblings rejected me.
I was able to thank my birth mother for at least giving me life and also thank her for her decision to give me up the first time. Her decision was a wise one.
She also was able to provide the needed medical information.
She provided just enough information for which I have after several more years of searching, been able to locate extended family and spent my first Christmas with a number members of my “real family” in 2002. Since then I met yet another thirty-five extended family members. They have welcomed me with the openness and love my immediate birth family could not.
I have also discovered my heritage and have been able to trace my great, great maternal grandparents roots back to Poland.
Yes, it took years of searching and yes, the reunions were not all positive. Yet they provided the answers I was looking for and finally answered the main question of WHO AM I?
I went into the search expecting little to nothing to result…I found far more than I could have ever expected.
I share all this to let you know…despite the ups and downs of the journey…I found the journey was worth it and I would do it all over again.
If you are considering a search you may have fears as you search, but don’t let them stop you…even if you end up with a rejection or a negative reunion…you will end up a far stronger person…I know I did.
Hopefully, during your search, you will find that as you grow as an individual, you will also become stronger and develop realistic expectations for what you may discover during your journey.
If you have made the decision to search, please remember these few items of advice:
1.Think about the reasons you want to reunite with your parent, child or sibling.
Remember, they have a family and so do you. You can’t turn the clock back or expect to fill the role that you have not played all these years. You are adults, strangers with genetic ties, coming together to build a relationship. Be realistic about the role that you feel you can play in their life and vice versa.
2. You must go into the reunion with realistic expectancies, not fanciful hopes.
If you make someone out to be perfect, you are guaranteed to be disappointed. People get hurt when they have unrealistic expectations, and those expectancies are dashed. These unrealistic expectancies can set you up for failure. It is not what happens in people’s lives that upsets them, it’s whether or not what happens in their lives is what they expected that upsets them. Don’t allow yourself to think that everything in your life will suddenly be resolved overnight once you reunite, or you will be let down.
3. A reunion is an event, but the relationship is a process that needs time to unfold.
You have to really work to build a relationship and you have to be patient. Start out with the goal of finding something that is comfortable for everybody, and don’t put any pressure on yourself. Allow a natural evolution of things to take place.
Like all relationships, expect your relationship with the person you have reunited to go up and down. Your best chance for having a good relationship long term is to take it slow and move at a measured pace. This is a marathon and not a sprint. Be patient and let it unfold naturally, so that it will be lasting. You don’t want to do anything that would cause this coming together to separate you again.
Might I make one more suggestion? If you find one of your birth parents and a reunion is planned I have an idea for a gift.
When I met my birthmother for the first time at Newark Airport in 1986, I gave her thirty-six red roses; one for each of the thirty-six years of the life she had given me. This is not the gift idea.
During the time of my search I began putting together a scrapbook. The book included pictures of years she had missed, news articles of some of the accomplishments in my life and a letter about me, why I searched and that I was happy I located her. Photos I was able to share came from age 11 until present as at that time I had no photos of me prior to age 11; I received some only after she passed away. The photos I used was from old Boys Town Times and Boys Town Yearbooks. The news articles also were from the Times, Omaha World Herald, my college newspaper and New York City newspapers. She would be able to see and read of my life from age 11 until 36 when I met her for the first time.
As I left her suite at the end of our first day together, I gave her “my book” so that she could view/read it privately after I left.
When I met her the next morning she greeted me with tears, a hug and a thank you. Despite how our relationship ended twelve years later, I believe that book is something she treasured for the rest of her life.
She passed away in October 2001.