7 Tips for a Smooth Experience Finding Birth Family
If you're adopted like me, you probably have LOTS of questions about finding birth family and the reasons behind why you were adopted, unless your adoptive family told you about your adoption as you were growing up (lucky for me, the latter was my situation).
There's generally two types of adoption: open and closed, and these definitions greatly impact the way you will find your biological family later on (if you are able to).
If your adoption is closed, you're likely not going to meet your birth family before the age of 18, and even if you can, you may not have the names of your birth parents due to physically sealed and stored documents. Your two sets of parents didn't stay in touch after the adoption and your biological family wasn't sent photos or letters.
If your adoption is open, you may elect to speak with and foster a relationship with your biological family at any point in your life, all documents are easily accessible and your two sets of parents are most likely on good terms with each other - writing to each other and staying in touch, if not becoming good friends and meeting up often.
My families naturally fell in and out of contact due to life's normal circumstances, but always remained on good terms and encouraged my choice to reconnect if and when it was right for me. Over the past several years, I've made an active step towards reconnecting with my biological family and have learned some important things along the way.
1. Expect to Learn a Lot More Than you Think Went Down, Girl
Maybe some families are pretty "normal" and have relatively calm households and simply put their child up for adoption because they're making a wise choice, but that wasn't the case for my adoption. I sure learned a LOT about the dysfunctional dynamics that led to my adoption - and it wasn't my birth parents' fault! When I was a little one and couldn't comprehend anything different, I simply thought my mom gave me up because she was young and wanted more wise, older and stable parents for me. Boy was I in for a surprise!
Don't go into your meeting or first phone call with birth family thinking that everything will be just like you pictured it (or picture perfect, for a lack of better words). Brace yourself for a change in narrative and some additional puzzle pieces squeezing their way in.
2. Be Sensitive to Their Experience
Just as they should be sensitive to yours. Remember: this was quite the tragic (yet perhaps beautiful), monumental life event for your biological family. You may have some strong feelings about your adoption and why/how it happened, but it's likely theirs are much stronger. After enduring something so bittersweet, you suddenly appearing in their lives again is likely to trigger some unease and overwhelm. Lead with grace and compassion.
3. Don't Forget Where You Came From
It might sound twisted, but: you came from your adoptive parents' upbringing - you are merely your birth family's DNA. Keep this in mind when eagerly reconnecting with your blood family. Make sure to consider your adoptive family's feelings and guide them through what you're learning about your newfound (old) family - there's likely pieces they didn't know and would be more than interested in learning about. And at the end of the day, keep in mind: your adoptive family is your "real family", if anybody asks and they're your #1.
4. Ask About Health & Heritage
I always knew I was half Latina from a young age, but I didn't know the greater heritage behind my family. I knew I came from immigrants and I knew they hadn't received the best education or career paths (the latter is true for both sides), but I learned so many new pieces that helped complete my puzzle. The fact my grandfather immigrated from Mexico and my father's eldest brother was born there before they made the move. That I was the first in my immediate family to obtain a college degree. That my father went to school for psychology, too. That I wasn't the first to experience a form of queerness. It all made sense.
In addition, it's really vital that you educate yourself about your health - considering the biological background that determines your health likelihood. If your genetics are at risk for obesity, heart disease or stroke, this is phenomenal information to keep at your side.
5. be Ready for Some Siblings!
Unless your birth parents chose not to have other children (which could certainly be possible, but I feel is probably unlikely), be prepared to meet some siblings! In my experience, it was pretty surreal - my siblings knew my name and age by heart and always knew they'd "meet their sister one day". While I grew up as an only child in my adoptive family, little did I know I'd have ELEVEN half siblings to meet and get to know someday.
So, I guess I wasn't all that smart when I wished for siblings/a twin when I was a kid, huh!?
6. See a Therapist or Life Coach
Trust me: some therapy sessions will ensue! I'd advise anyone to see a therapist or life coach as it is anyway - adopted or not, but the mental processing required of an adopted individual reconnecting with their birth family is one that certainly needs assistance.
Luckily, when I was 16 and reached out to my biological family for the first time, I had a fabulous cognitive behavioral counselor working with me at the time who walked me through some difficult experiences that came along with finding my "origin story".
7. Take your Time
Finally, remember to breathe and ease into this new adventure. There's no reason to rush to meeting your birth family in person right away and there is so much sweetness to discover before you do.
What's your origin story? I'd love to hear it, babe. Pop it in the comments down below!
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THE BLOGGER: KATHRYN COFFMAN
Kathryn is the lead contributor + founder at FashionablyFrank.com. Obsessed with leading a life of balance, she started the blog in 2013. Since graduating college in 2016, she is now a digital marketing specialist through her business, Fashionably Frank Marketing. She believes a cup of coffee is the answer to life's problems + that all women should embrace a #girlboss mantra.