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To Maintain Adoption Reunions, Be Flexible but Tenacious

by Laura on October 10th, 2012

Reconnecting with my birth mother was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Knowing her filled a hole in my sense-of-self that I hadn’t quite realized was there.

I have so much to say about my reunion, I could write a book about it. Oh wait, that’s right. I already did.

Read about seeing my birth mother for the first time as an adult in the Adopted Reality excerpt, “Gravity,” at the Memoir Salon.

To maintain reunions, it’s “all hands on deck”


The Adoptee-Birth Family Reunion

Adoption Today magazine recently issued a call for contributions on the topic of adoptee relationships with birth families. Writer Kacy Ames-Heron posted the following on Land of a Gazillion Adoptees

Each birth family reunion and relationship is unique. … What has enabled your relationship with your birth family to grow over time?

What has been most meaningful for you in your ongoing relationship with your birth family and what have been the biggest challenges in maintaining this relationship?”

I met my birth mom when I was 23, and during the first few months, she and I constantly felt we were playing catch up. Truly we were … we had 23 years-worth of separate lives to rediscover!

I missed the shared experiences of my birth family—vacations, holidays, inside jokes. Not only that, but I’d had my own, in my adopted family.

Merging these families is something akin to what happens when a couple gets married. Who do you visit for Christmas? Who do you spend vacations with?

The questions extend beyond logistics. … What happens when the shiny reunion glow begins to wear off? How is a “real” relationship built? What does that even look like?


Creating a Lasting Relationship

I’m not exactly sure when this began to happen, but over time, my birth mom became “just another family member.”

I stopped trying to play catch up.

Just like my adoptive family, my first mom and my biological extended family are now just … my family.

When that happens, we should all be happy. It means those who felt such a deep loss over so many years are letting go of their hurt.

Figuring out what that “real relationship” is won’t be all be fluffy kittens and prancing through the park. It may involve disagreements and misunderstandings. But that’s okay. In a family, we don’t reject one another. We may be hurt, but we get over it, we forgive, we let go.

Because that’s what family does.


Why should anyone care about adoptee reunions?

Here’s the thing about closed adoptions. First mothers and adult adoptees are coming out and saying, Maybe that wasn’t the best way to do things.

Maybe cutting off all contact between the birth mom and the baby isn’t for the best. Maybe the adoptive parents are open-minded enough to see the birth mom, not as a source of emotional competition, but someone who also loves the baby.

Open adoptions—involving some type of communication among the birth mom, child and adoptive family, are now in vogue. The problem is, most are closing after a few years. Fewer letters and phone calls, eventually no more face-to-face meetings.

What can these open adoptions learn from closed adoptees? My advice would be:

  • Take your child’s interests and desires into account as she grows.
  • Be flexible. Remember, we’re all human. Birth moms have good points and bad days. The same goes for adoptive parents, who are not perfect and are trying to raise a child the best way they know how.
  • Be tenacious. Don’t give up, don’t let an open adoption become a closed one.

When the relationship settles into that normal, day-to-day phase? When the birth mom to your child is just another family member, and vice versa? That’s a good thing.

Just keep at it.

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From → Adoption

One Comment
  1. It is the one basic thing that I always like to talk about with others and it sure is applicable. All I want to say that it is really easy to achieve the goal if you are working as a team.

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