I wrestled with the notion of searching for my birth family throughout much of my formative years. My adoptive parents always told me they would support a desire to search and do whatever would be necessary to assist me in this process. During my younger years, I could not imagine ever wanting to know my biological parents. After all, they had given me away so why would I want to know them – and more importantly, they obviously did not want to know me.
In my early teens, a life shattering event occurred that started to change my thinking. When I was 14 years old my adoptive father died suddenly leaving me with a hole in my soul and a longing for something, or someone, else to refill that void. Growing into adulthood only strengthened these feelings. Having children, needing medical history, and all the unanswered questions that come with being an adoptee ignited a feeling that felt more like a “need” than a “want” to search.
In early adulthood, I started to search on and off on my own. I decided to keep this from my Mom because even though she said she was supportive, I was afraid it would hurt her feelings if she knew, especially after losing my Dad. I needed to do this for me and so I chose to filter her knowledge of what I was doing to protect her feelings. In fact, I didn’t tell her I was looking until I actually had some results to share and that didn’t come until 13 years after my search began. I’m certainly not saying that I would suggest this as the “correct” or “optimal” strategy to other adoptees who are searching. Like every part of this journey, you have to decide what is best for you and your situation.
There are many questions that search and reunion bring up. You need to answer a lot of these questions for yourself BEFORE you seriously start searching. You also need to consider every possible answer to these questions and your mental and emotional reaction to those answers. You have to be ready for the worst possible outcomes, including the possibility you won’t find anything, or you aren’t ready to search. You also need to consider your support network of people to help you process this information and support you emotionally. The final consideration you will need to make is what you will do with the information once you have it and how it will affect your family and social networks if you choose to share what you have discovered. Ultimately, most people search to eventually reunite with the biological relatives they find. If this is your goal, it’s best to have a plan for the presence you will want that person to have in your life and how much of your inner and outer circles you are willing to include them in BEFORE you even find them. Always keep in mind that no matter how much you plan or how prepared you think you are, you are likely to encounter something along the way that you had not even considered – so be prepared for that too!
Searching for bio-family is truly a journey down a rabbit hole. It’s a journey you can take in small pieces or only think about and never begin. Just know that what lies down that hole is different for everyone and nothing and no one can fully prepare you for where yours will lead you, the characters you will meet, or the feelings you will uncover along the way.
I have always been the kind of person who would rather know the truth and accept the consequences, good or bad, that comes with knowing than live with wonder and speculation. My rabbit hole had many paths, road blocks, evil queens, and magical helpers and showed me places in my soul I didn’t know existed. I have no regrets for taking the journey and if given the choice to do it again, I would every time. If another adoptee asked me if I thought they should search, I would tell them that is a question only they can answer. The only advice I would give them is that if they choose to search – they should stay aware, keep their eyes and ears open, read the signs along the way and be ready to accept what ever they find, for better or worse.
Photo Credit: Adopted Abby