Ways to Ruin an Adoption Reunion I

The Birthmother Do’s and Don’ts Edition

I have been listening to many adoptees talk about painful reunions. Sometimes, it is through blog posts and sometimes it is through conversations on social media. Often, I get messages and emails asking me for insight and advice. I always tell people that I am just guessing the best I can, so take what resonates and feel free to throw the rest away! Really, sometimes, I feel I am talking out my ass with the rest of anyone who calls themselves an “expert.” I do NOT consider myself an expert on even my own adoption reunion. Just an imperfect human being doing the best I can. I am constantly learning, listening and questioning.

Breaking Down the Reunion Rejection Conversations

This post was originally part and parcel of “Numbers in Adoption Reunions; How Many People Get Told NO?” but then it seemed like this needed to live on its own. Partly quotes from people struggling with reunion to illustrate the very real emotions, and partly a conglomeration of what I have seen and heard over the years, these are various instances that I know have emotionally hurt various adopted persons. I wanted to share for other moms what pain they are can contribute and how they are affecting their adopted children.

An adoption reunion, like any relationship between people is hard and takes work. An adoption reunion is especially hard as there is already loss, and pain, and mistrust, and expectations, and survival skills and fear built in before anyone even starts searching!  In a perfect world all parties want and expect the same thing and they miraculously know  how to give the other party what they want and expect. While some reunions are a joyful mesh, most are not that easy breezy. That doesn’t’ mean that they are “bad” but it means that they need work, can ebb and flow and hopefully progress over time to be what all parties need.

In the end, it can be very well worth all the effort. As it was said: “The saddest thing about a rejecting mother in reunion is that their son/daughter is the only other person in the world who can share their pain of separation – and they reject that one and only person in the universe who has the ability to make them feel complete again.”

So why do people completely fuck it up?

Wrong Moves for Birthmothers in Adoption Reunions that Can make an Adoptee Feel Rejected

Again, from many conversations, it often seems like a birthmother does not come out directly and say NO during a reunion.  Of course, there are too many that do, but then there are a whole slew that just seem to fail miserably in the process of an active reunion.  Meaning, on the outside, birthmother and adoptee have some contact, but due to her own damage, or expectation, or limitations, or personal boundaries and fears, over years and sometimes decades, the adoptee finds that the whole relationship feels unsatisfying. I completely understand that what one part might find “acceptable” in a reunion, the other party might really be left wanting way more. Let this go on for too long and what was an initial “yes” can turn into a ” I can’t take this anymore”.

For example, all of these are hurtful and often detrimental to a successful adoption reunion:

1. DON’T Create the Adoptee Closet and Make your Adoptee live there:

Refusing to tell other siblings, extended family, or spouse about the contact with your newly found child or that you have been found  not going to work out in the long run. Expecting that your child will be happy being a secret from the rest of your family for any extended length of time is not healthy, makes them feel ashamed, and feels like a really bad place to be.  I would say a few months are OK while a newly found mother begins to process her emotions and finds the best ways to tell the rest of her world about the found adoptee, but after that, keeping your adopted child in the closet is bad news.

“When I found my family 20 years ago everyone was told about me. That’s the way it should be. My siblings were little, but I was still given the chance to be their sister; a chance I deserved (so did they). I realize it must have been very difficult to have to explain to everyone there are now 3 children, not 2…but that’s life. It’s messy. People understood. It’s been a long, hard, road with many ups and downs. But I have the utmost respect for my (birth)mother and father for telling everyone and not keeping me a secret. That would have been completely devastating.”

Plus, in my opinion, and I tell people this all the time, you might get to say whether YOU want to have a relationship with your child or not, but you don’t get to say whether they have a relationship with their siblings or extended families or not. I tell adoptees to ignore the closet and make contact with whomever they can find after a certain time frame. IE: “I am going to contact my sister in 6 weeks time. I just wanted you to know that ahead of time.”

DO understand that the shame and judgment that was put upon you during the birth of your child does not have to control your whole life.  You are not the same girl that you were 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago and this is not the same world. People LOVE reunion stories and there is no law that says you have to give everyone the gory details.

2. DON’T Keep Drinking the Kool-Aid!

Insisting that the adoption relinquishment was “best” when your adoptee is telling you about their pain from being separated from you is invalidating and bound to be hurtful over time. If you tell your adoptee that you “have no regrets” then  those very words can be heard to mean “I didn’t care about being separated form you.” Ouch, right?  By continuing to parrot the same coercive adoption industry propaganda that got you there in the first place, you are rejecting your grown child’s very reality. It’s going to hurt. No matter what the pain is still there. You are being unhealthy. Face your loss and deal. You have avoided it long enough.

” I think my mother can’t deal. I think she believed the Kool Aid that told her I would be happy and better off. .. She “believed she gave up the rights *and entitlements* of being my mother” (emphasis hers). I think she told no one and is so freaked out she absolutely cannot deal with a universe in which I exist. So, therefore, I don’t exist . AND I HATE IT. I have no choice but to be adopted. I can never escape it”

“I think the parents who were shamed into placing children, even after that many years, probably carry around a TON of shame and STILL believe they are unworthy of their child..even if and when that same child comes seeking them out. I know a woman who …was afraid she was poisonous to this child even after 30 years of not seeing or knowing him. She truly believed she wasn’t deserving of his love too.”

“I wish the moms refusing contact/relationship could know that “the truth shall set you free” is so very true. Living an authentic life as a mom of four, not three, has changed my life. It was so very worth all the hard work of coming out of the closet and denial. If only it was possible to get all the rejecting mothers to know that…”

DO some research and find out the history and factual information about the adoption industry before you just repeat everything you were told.  They adoption professionals did not know what they were talking about in the best case scenario, and in the worst case, they out right lied to you. They lied to all of us. You don’t feel like they said it would because they were wrong. Your child found you because you have value and worth to them. You ARE still a mother.

3. DON’T be Cold and Dead Inside

There is NO getting around it. Adoption is hard. A reunion, which is a relationship, is even harder and takes work. No matter what you want to believe about adoption, you did not really escape anything. If you buried the pain, it’s still there. If you tried to “forget your child”, they are back and very real. If you tried to “be positive”, there is still ugly stuff.  If you attempted to “not bond”  or “move on” or whatever,  MAKE BELIEVE. So again, deal with whatever it is and do NOT make you child suffer for your issues!  They are the ones who had no choice.

“Mine cares not at all about me. She has said that she does not know why she doesn’t love me, or feel bonded to me, just doesn’t. And that, is that. My karmic lesson in this life is to figure out how to live with that and be a good person anyway.”

“If they admit love they realize the loss.. their mind is gone”

On the same token..

4. DON’T be a Massive Emotional Wreck

If you are aware of just how traumatic and horrible the relinquishment was for you, you do not want your adoptee to feel like they are the “worst thing” that happened in your life. It very well could be, but again, that’s not their fault.

“And I wish my very existence wasn’t her worst nightmare. That is… really hard to live with.”

DO allow yourself to actually FEEL the loss of your child. Grieve. Let in the hurt. Embrace it. Find a support group for mothers. Read “The Girls That Went Away”. Read Birthmother Blogs. Know you are not alone. Find a good therapist that understands adoption, grieving and trauma.  And thy to keep it together and healthy for your adoptee. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be honest, as you should< but calling them up crazy hysterical in the middle of a trigger? They are NOT here to take care of you and they can’t make it better for you. Only you can. Find support and process it. It’s human nature to avoid things that make us feel bad, so watch the guilt levels that you might be projecting.

5. DON’T Keep Kids Separated

Treating your relinquished child differently than your other kids is often a continuation of making the adoptee feel that they have no place. This is a hard one because they ARE often different; you have lost years of bonding, shared memories and everything else that adoption took away. But, in my opinion, one must TRY. Don’t go telling your adopted child about a great “family vacation” that you just got back from with the other three siblings and didn’t mention it to them.

“I wouldn’t hear from her and she would be posting about how she loved her daughters and grandkids, how she had lunch with her girls and how they were all best friends. I’d see them all in pictures going to a weekend together. I saw pictures of my sisters kids weddings that I wasn’t invited to, baby showers I wasn’t invited to….and so on.”

DO include your adopted child as one of your brood as best possible. They might not feel they have the right to be included or they might not really want to, but IMO, you should talk about what is comfortable and realistic.

6. DO NOT Lie in ANY Form or Fashion

I’m sorry but you don’t get to pull the “that’s private card.” You don’t get to avoid speaking about an adoptees biological father because it’s “between us” and you don’t get to try to control that relationship either. ‘Fess up what you know and then leave it alone. I have heard the “father conversations” challenge more good reunions than anything else, even ones that went on for decades.  The truth might not be the most pleasant thing in the world, but the adoptee deserves the right to KNOW the truth. It’s THEIR story too and you cannot be the gatekeeper.

“All I want are some answers. She is the only one who can provide them. I wish I could have just one hour with her to TALK, face to face…..I’m not expecting her to suddenly be my best friend, but could answering some questions directly….. be so much to ask?”

DO tell your child what they want to know. It can be simple, you don’t have to dredge up every single detail, but truthful honest conversations are a must. Especially when it comes to THEIR part of the story and questions about fathers. For dads, you might need to dredge up more is they are still searching.

7. DON’T Keep  Reunions Remote For Too Long

I have no problem with people wanting to take things slow, but both parties should try to keep the other abreast on their personal comfort level. Making the other party wait years for a face to face meeting is cruel especially if you don’t give a time frame to go by. Again, there is nothing wrong with saying something like “I have too much going on right now with school/ my huge project/my sick mothers/ my husband’s cancer/ the move across country and I just don’t think I can handle another important thing right now”, but say, “Let’s talk about this in 6 months and come up with a plan that works when I can give you the full attention that you deserve.” or something. Open ended waiting is going to kill anyone’s good will.

 “I just want to see her once,”

and then copy this quote about more 30 times.

DO be aware that the one who is found often needs more time to prepare. The one who did the searching had time to get ready. Again, it’s about being open and honest. See the trend here.

8. DON’T Make up Stupid Reunion Rules

Aside from the unhealthy adoptee  closets, I have heard other moms say things to adoptees like “don’t tag me on Facebook because I don’t want to deal” or “your kids can’t call me grandma because then people will know” or “call me Sally because I am not your mother, I gave that up” or whatever. Get a hold of your shame, deal with the whispers, shut the hell up and be thankful that your child wants to actually be your child!!

“She told me my nephew shouldn’t call me Aunt Michele because I’m not really his aunt. That’s only for family.”

 DO set healthy boundaries that both parties can live with. See below.

9. DON’T Dismiss The Adoptee Experience

 Just like it’s bad for an adoptive parent to shut out a birthmother because she is “too sad” it is also wrong for a birthmother to shut out her adopted child because they are “too negative” or “angry” or whatever. I’m not saying that anyone has the right to be nasty or abusive, and sometimes, one must create boundaries to keep a relationship healthy, but I have heard some real zingers.  I know it’s really hard, but we must face the fact that the adoption industry lied and our children were often not “better” off. Yes, mothers feel guilty. Yes, sometimes it is not our fault, but sometimes it can be seen as we have some fault. You don’t have to take the blame, but understand that your child hurts and has a right to their feelings. And if you do own some of it, take responsibility. No matter what you can say “I’m so sorry” and listen.

On the same token, if they tell you how great it all ways, how much their adoptive parents rock, etc, don’t get angry at them for having the experience that they should have had. Be happy that they were not screwed over and damaged more deeply.

“Mine told me that I should reconcile with my adoptive mother… whom I hadn’t spoken to for 20 years, at that point, and who disowned me for searching.”

“At every turn she’d justify something. Always telling me I’m not entitled to feel as I do. Or, that if I feel as I do it’s because there is something intrinsically wrong with me.”

DO try to separate what is your truth and our adoptees and also to examine how what you learn about your adoptee’s life and feelings affect to you. Just don’t make it about YOU. Sometimes we can be hurt by the adoptees says even if their intentions are good and they are parroting the script. It’s OK to explain how you feel differently, but you cannot expect them to immediately change their tune either.   Yes, mothers can often feel guilty. Yes, sometimes it is not our fault, but sometimes it can be seen as we have some fault. You don’t have to take the whole blame, but understand that your child hurts and has a right to their feelings. And if you do own some of it, take responsibility. No matter what you can say “I’m so sorry” and listen.

10. DON’T be Un-accepting and Judgmental

So your found child is gay, has married out of their race, didn’t finish college, has a drug problem, has tattoos, and makes other “poor choices;’ that you do not approve of? Get over it. Deal with your issues and do NOT make your prejudice or expectations their problem. Guess what? You are still a mother and mothers are supposed to love unconditionally.  And for the moms that find fault with stupid stuff? Really? I have NO words for horrible behavior like this.

“I bought my momma a pretty tote for mother’s day. I chose it with love, My 16 yr old daughter helped me pick it out. I wrapped and shipped it to her at her son’s house. She told me she thought I had purposely chosen the ugliest bag possible just to offend her.”

Do accept your child for whatever they are. Find something to love and then do it. Accept what they have for you. Accept their love, friendship, whatever. Just ACCEPT!

11. Don’t Be Shallow

If you think reunion contact is initial contact, one face to face meeting, transfer of medical information and then a yearly Christmas card, then you might be forcing your adopted child to feel rejected. If you think the occasional email of “Hi, how are you? The weather is hot here but we re-carpeted the living room” is enough, then think again. Make it real.

” I will not give her that superficial email and chit chat to make her feel like we have some sort of relationship”

DO be real, honest and take the chance to go as deep as your adopted child feels comfortable with. Maybe even push them deeper here and there.

12.  Don’t Expect the Adoptee to Choose Sides or be Critical of the Adoptive Parents

Even if they suck. Even if you have a right to. Don’t put your child in that place. Stick with what you know as your truth and accept the information that the adoptee gives you as valid and real to them.

13. DON’T Treat The Adoptee Like a Bad Boyfriend

Reunions take on this weird special status that I liken to the “bad boyfriend syndrome”. The first meeting is much like a first date, but more important than any potential suitor since this is your child. It’s like KNOWING you are going to have one chance to impress the love of your life, the guy you will marry, but if you screw up this date, or wear the wrong shoes, you will be alone and miserable forever. It’s pretty much unavoidable in the beginning, but after some time, you have got to relax!

With a bad boyfriend we worry about what to do all the time.”Should I call him? What if I call him and he’s not home? Should I leave a message? I left a message yesterday and he didn’t call back. What if he didn’t get it. Ok I’ll call, but I won’t leave another message, Or wait, I’ll call later I’ll call at 9:17″ Not only is it the way we act when immature and 16, but it’s also exhausting!

DO treat the adoptee as you would any NORMAL close family member. If you call your sister and she doesn’t call back, what do you do? DO you assume that she hates you and is avoiding you or do you wait a few days and call again assuming she was busy. If you have a urge to call, CALL.

I am sure there are other ways that that an adoption reunion can turn completely sour. If you got a good one, please leave it in the comments and I have no problem editing more in! In fact, I rather like it when the AdoptionLand Hivemind helps!!

The Adoptee Do’s and Don’ts version comes out tomorrow!

Here’s Other Posts About Adoption Reunion Issues:

please free free to add you own or other links you found helpful:

Headline for Adoption Reunions: Secondary Rejections & Why Things Go Wrong
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Adoption Reunions: Secondary Rejections & Why Things Go Wrong

Both birthmothers and Adoptees ask WHY an Adoption Reunion goes wrong. These are the hard conversations that no one likes to talk about. We're talking. Please join the conversation!

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A Survival Guide to Secondary Familial Rejection for Adoptees
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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine, Adopt-a-tude.com, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

26 Comments on "Ways to Ruin an Adoption Reunion I"

  1. the religious right loves to use shame. many people love to have a reason to use people as rungs on their ladder. using adoption to shame first moms happens still today. telling adoptees that buyers rescued a baby from a drug addict prostitute happens quite often and this hautiness is not a pleasant character trait. you meet the rudest people in the world when dealing with adoption, all your life

  2. left behind | July 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm |

    Thank you for this. My relationship is not with my mom but with my dad. It’s incredibly important to me but very hard. I had to wait many years until my siblings found out about me (I was too afraid he would reject me if I contacted them myself.) My father is incredibly important to me, and yet, and yet…it’s almost like he never really can take in too much of the reality of who I am and what I went through. My adoption was traumatic, my adoptive family abusive, and yet I am always afraid of discomfiting him in discussing this. Maybe the hardest thing is that I just wish sometimes he would seem proud of me…I am an accomplished professional, and yet somehow he is not “into” any of the fields I’m involved with. It is really hard. I haven’t met my siblings yet (huge geographical distance.). I really want to, but am afraid of the pain I know it will cause. It’s really hard. The fear of a second rejection never leaves one.

  3. A great post. I’d offer one other suggestion. I’ve been searching for about six years and I’m 98% sure I’ve found my birthmother. But all of my attempts to initiate contact have gone unanswered, even those done through an neutral intermediary. Most recently, I sent her a private message on Facebook, and was immediately blocked. I get it–there’s no reunion to be had here. But I’d love to have that 100% certainty. That’s another way reunions can go wrong–a non-response can be, in some ways, worse than a “NO.”

  4. I have to admit that this is one of the only times that I have mixed feelings about what you’ve written. The premise of this post seems to be that everyone owes their missing parent/child a relationship. And, sadly, that’s not true. There are mothers who did not want their child and who don’t ever want a relationship. And there are adoptees, too, who have no interest in their first families and only want to be part of their adoptive families.

    I wish it was the case that everyone wanted to reunite, and I do think that you give many great ideas on how to make that happen. But tragically, I just don’t think there can be any kind of obligation as to having any reunion/relationship at all after adoption separation. For example, you wrote about how a first mother needs to include the adoptee in the same way she does her raised kids. Well, I certainly hope that would be the case, and it would hurt like hell if she didn’t, but I can’t agree that she is obligated to do that. Nor do I think that adoptees are obligated to fully allow their natural parents and extended first families into their lives, if they aren’t so inclined.

    This post is excellent food for thought, however.

    • I’m not disagreeing with you!
      There is really all too much about reunion to put into one single post. This one, and the one that follows are really a collection of things that have caused a reunion to go bad in some instances. There is still no way to list them all or even know them all.
      And the very reason you state, that not all parties want a full on relationship, is touched on in the in the post previously http://www.adoptionbirthmothers.com/what-is-a-sucessful-adotion-reunion/ and even THAT one let me with way more things to say! But what I was trying to get out of that is a successful reunion is successful when both parties are satisfied in whichever way they choose.
      But PLEASE keep the comments and even the critiques coming. I have this topic on my brain big time right now, so I’m gong to keep going! It all helps!

  5. Well, as a parent, I always include all my kids as equally as possible, a mother if committed and has love for her children will treat them with unconditional love. However, I do not expect to be included in everything going on in my kid’s lives. Their lives are expanding and they will gain new family of their own. A natural mother who has said “yes” (even superficially) to contact should include her adopted child, and yes, specifically because it “hurts like hell” to that child, not to.

  6. Agreeing with Robin here–have seen firsthand the incredible satisfaction reunion can bring to adoptees and their original parents, and for adoptees it answers so many fundamental questions. For those who happen to have synced expectations and have worked out their relationship “rhythm,” the benefits just get bigger. Having said that, I don’t think either party should be guilt-tripped into thinking or acting in a way that is contrary to what they actually feel or need. It’s counterproductive to tell people that they must have one idea about reunion and that their needs, if those needs happen to be a card once a year, are bad, superficial, or “not real” (a phrase you actually used), or selfish. Fundementally, people need to make their own choices; none of those choices should be labeled bad–just different from what you might choose to do, or a poor fit with the expectations of the person who has reached out (goes for both parties–some adoptees only want an occasional card too).

    • Same answer given to Robin! I can’t get it all on one post by any means!
      But, I do have to say the superficial shallow “don’t” was included not to berate those where it works for BOTH to be that way, but as to show that this CAN make an adoptee feel rejected. Real life example, not saying it will fit all.

      • Claudia, I’m glad you wrote this blog. I have experienced almost all of what you write about. Thank you for speaking for adoptees in painful reunions. I feel like you understand what I have been living. I agree about the superficial card once a year . .. . and how many times have I heard about house projects but at the same time my son’s graduation goes ignored. My birth mother is selfish. Plain and simple. Unmet expectations? Absolutely. And the hogwash that nobody can make you feel anything? They can help you along quite nicely by saying hurtful things. Truth.

  7. “If you think reunion contact is initial contact, one face to face meeting, transfer of medical information and then a yearly Christmas card, then you might be forcing your adopted child to feel rejected.”

    I’m in a family and loved ones support group for people with borderline personality disorder right now, and one of the things that is said to us (constantly) is that we do not create emotional states in other people and they do not create emotional states in us. In other words, we only have control over what we do and how we feel, not the other person. If an adopted person feels rejected because of these actions, it’s understandable–and exactly the same thing if the shoe were on the opposite foot–say, if the first mother said she was made to feel “gutted” “betrayed” or some other loaded term because the adoptee said she wanted her father’s name and might, down the road, contact family members to obtain it if she were refused outright. However, it’s not forcing anyone to do anything. It’s just an articulation of one’s attitudes/beliefs that don’t happen to sync up with the other person’s. Isn’t that the problem? Unmet expectations? I’m not saying unmet expectations are not devastating. They can be, but it’s better to name the problem for what it is than to penalize one party for not behaving the way the other party demands.

  8. My mother has told me numerous times that I need therapy for my anger issues. She also insists I read certain self-help book, which she says have helped her. She says she is only trying to help me, but I can’t stand it. When I went to a therapist she told other members of my bio family that I was finally getting help.

    She is not in therapy, she says she can’t afford it. There are always conditions to our contact, she says she will contact me after she recovers from surgery, or after she goes to a yoga workshop. I’m left feeling that I’m never quite right, never healed enough.

    I get the feeling that she just doesn’t like me. She lives in the big city and I’m too suburban for her. I am just not the daughter she imagined me to be, and I can never live up to her expectations. She puts my children down too. She’s called them wimps and slackers. When I sent a picture of us at thanksgiving, she said my son was “stuffing his big mug”‘ then said she was only kidding.

    But I still want contact, I don’t know for how long. She has told me I give her nightmares and bring back memories of the traumatic abuse she suffered as a child.

    I don’t know if it’ll ever be right between us.

  9. jan stewart | July 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm |

    I am shocked at your post…….you literally dropped me into my chair with my mouth open…….adoptees don’t hold all the rights you know……

  10. I am an adoptee and a birthmother, in reunion with both my birthmother and son, both positive reunions, but I have to say this is the worst advice I’ve ever seen. This is basically telling birthmothers they are going to have to stand there and take whatever the adoptee wants to throw at them, and do whatever the adoptee wants. Boundaries are necessary for all relationships. Telling birthmothers they have to treat the adoptee (presumably an adult) the same as their other children is not even possible in most situations. How can you say, “Don’t be an emotional wreck,” and then say let the hurt in? Really? If I were a birtmother not yet reunited and read this, I would be terrified at these kinds of rules. I surely hope you have not frightened more birthmothers into declining a reunion.

    • Once again, and I swear it also says so in the post, there is a part 2 which is the adoptee version. They are meant to be both taken in together. And they are not list of RULES. per se, but as the post says “these are various instances that I know have emotionally hurt various adopted persons. I wanted to share for other moms what pain they are can contribute and how they are affecting their adopted children.” So you might think they are the “worst advice you have ever seen” but that doesn’t take away the fact that these very actions HAVE BEEN DONE to adoptees and it causes them pain. They are ways that one can hurt and isolate their adoptees.
      As for treating children the same, I am pretty sure that the line’DO include your adopted child as one of your brood as best possible.” takes into consideration that it’s NOT 100% possible. “as best POSSIBLE” Leaves much up to the reality of any one’s person situation.
      And yes, a mother should understand her own pain and not be afraid of it, but she needs to do that on her own time, with her support, help and NOT lay that all on the adoptee. So yeah, if she needs to cry and freak out, then she should, but not all over the adoptee since that can make them feel that they are the ones causing the pain and then they don’t want her to hurt and so they tend to reduce the contact for fear of upsetting her.
      Now, I don’t know if you missed these instances or my intent due to poor reading, or poor interpretation, or even because I was not clear enough or edited too much or too little. I tend to be quite wordy, so I do often try to limit what I write as opposed to going on and on and on. A 3500 word blog post is actually HUGE for a post by industry standards. And this post is now one of five and still growing that are supposed to be taken in all together plus the additional points of view listed on the listly list. I guess perhaps you missed that giant collection at the end?
      And then, even though I have clearly said, I am no expert, I am trying to help that best I can. While it might not be “good” in your opinion, I have to ask this: Then what is YOUR advice? Where are YOUR attempts to share what you know? So how could this list be improved? What would you say instead being that you have successful reunions at both ends? I know it’s really easy to sit on the side lines and cast stones, but that’s not really helping other people who might need information. Or as I wrote IN THE POST: “I am sure there are other ways that that an adoption reunion can turn completely sour. If you got a good one, please leave it in the comments and I have no problem editing more in! In fact, I rather like it when the AdoptionLand Hivemind helps!!”
      Ok, so now we know that you think this sucks how about something helpful?

  11. 1. “they had no choice” – neither did I, I was coerced by my family/church. It is NOT all about the adoptee experience.
    2. stupid reunion rules: common courtesy, if I text.. answer, etc.
    3. should have put this on both birth parent and adoptee lists: do NOT allow friends or family to poison the well by interfering in your reunion. (Texting their opinion to the other party).

  12. My husband just reunited with his daughter after 18 years. He has dreamed about and waited for the day she would contact him. He also has an ex-wife who has nothing to do with this child and two older daughters who are hateful toward him because of alienation and manipulation by the ex-wife. He had a huge custody battle with her and was awarded physical custody until a certain age. The younger one just moved back in with her mom and after a month is venomous. All progress we made with her seems to be gone. She (adoptee) wanted to contact her siblings. He didn’t want to deprive her of that or make her feel that she was being rejected again. His kids have known about her for years. Now she has been talking to them constantly and will barely speak to him. We know that they are doing everything they can to poison her against him and he feels helpless. He didn’t want her to be inundated with the family drama when she found him, but his daughters and ex-wife are too immature to care. Not sure how to proceed… He did mention to her that he had strained relationships with the girls, but didn’t want to go on and on about their problems during his first conversation with her. This is heartbreaking to witness.

    • Oh thats so sad. Can get have a talk with her and just be honest about what is happening and what he fears? It would be terrible to lose her I am sure.

  13. Spot on, Claudia, with ALL of these. My jaw dropped, too, as I read through your amazingly accurate list — because my first mother did every single one of these during the 6 years we were (horribly) ‘reunited’…. Every. Single. One. She is a child psychologist, too – isn’t that a hoot!?
    She also: Introduced me to her kept daughter (during our one face-to-face meeting) as “a friend’s daughter”; Bragged about her kept children and told me that every gift I sent specifically to her, she gave to them; Rarely responded to my correspondence (this was before e-mail); Dismissed any mention of how adoption might be a challenge, with condescending comments like, “Oh for gods sake we all have challenges, I didn’t always feel like a big part of my family either”; and when asked about information on my first father, abruptly ended the relationship completely, stating in the last phone call “I’ll NEVER tell you his name. You better DROP IT and stop being so SELFISH. You will RUIN LIVES if you do this! I think you’re just not happy with me. Don’t you have other people in your life to get close to?! .

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  15. I started reading this hoping for some help and advice. When there’s foul language in the first few sentences including an f-bomb, I am convinced anything you would say would not be helpful at all so I’m moving on. Just thought you’d like to know.

    • You thought wrong. Why would I “like” to know? You assume that I care. I can assure you that I do not.

      See, I get to say what I want and how I want it. I do not cater to the delicate tender eyed who are so gentile that certain words clog up their brains in such a way that they cannot get past the horrors of the alphabet arranged in such a indecent manner. In fact, I have little respect for people who choose to get insulted and offended by “foul” language when there really are MUCH more important things in the world to actually be offended by. While I have the utmost of respect for people who might personally choose to not speak or write in such ways, I certainly expect that same respect in return as I am also a grown adult and have the right to communicate in any way I so choose.

      Instead you hand me the barley veiled insulting comment and then act like YOU are DOING me a favor?

      Yes, by all means.. please continue to look for “help and advice” from your happy perfect world in Wisconsin and then go and be the language police to a person who has spent the last 9 nine years creating a website so all that “useless” help and advice is available for you.

      Yes, do move on. Would you like me to block your IP address so your delicate sensibilities are protected form any further insult? I would not want your eyeballs to explode in your head. Would be truly my pleasure.

      Oh, and if you are this un-moving and insulting in ANY reunion relationship, you will ruin it. Judgment is a real killer.

      PS: I tried to email you this response, but funny, seems you used a BS ( is THAT OK?) email address and “Amazing Larry” doesn’t even exist, so you get this publicly instead.

  16. I only wished I read this 19 years ago. Based on my experiences, most of it is spot on. – thank you.

  17. I wii come out of my closet saying out loud that my parents (real parents ) were both alcoholics .I loved them a lot and just blanked out the rough parts.What I am getting at is not many or few adoptees admit this about their adoptive parents.It seems the real parents top the poll of the count of fit mothers .No one has spoken out how bad life was for the life of an adoptee with alchoholic parents.Its a real roller coaster ride and many divorce,nevr do I hear about this happening to adoptees.Is this still in a hidden secret vault? The children of alcoholic parents are more likely to open those doors and then Who cares? If the readers would only compare the lives of adoptives with their way of living good or bad and the real parents ,I wonder what the poll would say .The real parents (mother) seems to always get the worst of all mothers to me ,just saying I wonder?

  18. My adoption reunion was a complete nightmare. I regret meeting my birth mother. She never had any other kids. She is white, and my father is black. She wouldn’t give me his name, so that’s still a mystery. She turned out to be an extremely racist person against black people. All she did was insult me. Example she said things such as “you’re only cute cause you’re half white, your son has nappy hair, you need to be with a white man so your kids could look white, that I lived in a poor city, wearing my hair in pony tail, etc.” She was a nightmare and I’m so glad she gave me up for adoption, She never had black friends, but she liked sex with black men. All 3 of her husbands have been white like her. She didn’t want her relatives to know about me. They are very racist people too. She’s a legal secretary at a law firm in downtown Detroit. We met but never of course kept in touch.

  19. Mary Hulsbos | April 15, 2016 at 10:10 am |

    I am a 64 y.o. American who was adopted in Germany as a baby. Through a long process of searching and a bit of correspondence with him, I am going to meet my birth mother’s brother next month in Germany. I don’t speak German nor he English. I think he is trying to do “what’s right” in terms of helping me with my curiosity. I also have a half sister who sent me a lengthy letter of explanation several years ago but she has no desire to have a relationship, despite my “uncle” trying to get her to do so. Both she and I are married with grown children who obviously related. So this is unusual in that we are all in the age range of 60-mid 80’s as well as I assume that I am the proverbial “dirty family secret”. I am happy with my life and and have mixed feelings as it was and isn’t my intent to cause any problems for anyone. The language barrier is very frustrating to say the least. Suggestions? Comments? Thanks.

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