Ten thousand two hundred and forty-one days between the time that I heard her voice—except my memory didn’t permit me to remember her voice. Her smell. Her touch. Her. My birth mom placed me, and I went barely over twenty-eight years without knowing her. Yet, when I heard her voice on the phone, I knew. She was my birth mom. I needed no further proof. She felt comfortable and familiar. I felt her love. That said, mentally, the thoughts, concerns, and fears that passed in and out of my head like a breeze passing through trees were ones of depth and anxiety, hope, and curiosity.
I didn’t immediately run out to find my birth mom. I waited five years after having permission to access my file. I didn’t know what that file would hold. I didn’t know if it would bring peace or if it would destroy me. I thought when I received my file that I would have at least a piece of her, but instead, it was a snapshot of the past with no name and no way to find her.
At first, I just wanted to find a way to say “thanks.” I wanted a way to send her a letter to say, “Thank you. I have lived a life I love.” My biggest fear for many years would be that I would open the file, and somehow she’d find me, knocking on my door without any emotional preparation on my part.
I started seeing therapists. I saw four therapists in fifteen years. Half of them recommended that I not find her—that I not even look. Many adoptees face disappointment and even depression upon finding biological parents after a closed adoption. I know adoptees who have faced this heartbreak. I sat on this decision for many years, but ultimately, I felt the emotional pull to find her.
And I did find her.
In the time that I started looking, I started working on myself. I asked myself the following questions. Questions that I recommend any adoptee ask him or herself before seeking a biological parent after a closed adoption:
- Is the potential emotional pain worth the result of having made contact?
- What kind of relationship would I want if I find this person?
- What if I’m not well received? Would I feel rejected? Can I handle that rejection?
- Am I capable of going in with no expectations?
- What are my intentions?
- Am I looking for the right reasons?
- What do I need to say (if I need to say anything)?
- Have I healed my trauma enough not to be triggered by finding this individual?
- Am I capable of handling disappointment if this person doesn’t fit the person I’ve built in my head?
- What boundaries do I need to set for myself and the relationship?
There are no right answers to these questions. I am not a psychiatrist. However, from my experience, if you can answer these questions honestly with yourself, I believe you’ll be able to know if this is the right move for you intuitively.
If you decide to move forward, please meet with a mental health expert before reunification and after—even if you feel fine—budget for that in your life. Also though reunification can feel euphoric, it can always bring up profoundly rooted and hidden emotions that you never even knew existed.
Whatever you feel, honor it. Love yourself. There is no one way to approach a closed adoption or reunification. Everything you need is within you already. Ask questions. Allow yourself time. Ultimately, I believe that as the adoptee in this circumstance, you know what is best for you. I hope you believe that, too.