OBG Editors Note: Our friend Redefining Elizabeth gives Member Mondays a jump start with her thoughtful guidelines for adoption reunion. Read along as she shares some of the ideas that have been useful to her throughout her reunion with her son- 3.5 years and counting!
I have been in direct contact with my relinquished son for 3.5 years and we reunited in person 2 years ago. Since then, we have been making our way, getting to know each other better, and integrating into each other’s worlds. I think there are principles that have helped us, or at least me, on this journey. These ideas are certainly not original to me….many books and bloggers have discussed these concepts.
- Work on your own junk rather than expect reunion, or the other person, to “fix it”. Reunion tends to bring up issues you may have thought long-ago resolved. There may be emotions and memories that were never completely dealt with. Reunion doesn’t tend to solve those issues but simply brings them into sharper focus. I was determined not to put my “pain” on my child – it is not fair nor possible for him to fix this for me. What did I do to work on my own crap? I read a ton of books and blogs from adult adoptees and birth parents. I attended OBG meetings regularly and reached out to individuals in the group that I connected with to gain extra support. I prayed. I went to counseling. I cried and processed and cried some more. I still have junk to work on but I think I have been successful, for the most part, keeping my pain off his shoulders.
- Try to believe the best of people, that they usually have good intentions. I tend to think that most people who say insensitive things do so out of ignorance. Most people have a lack of understanding of the short-term and long-term, complicated emotions that adoption brings to all parties involved. When something hurtful is said, I typically can recognize that the statement comes from a lack of understanding. If it’s important enough to me, I can choose to educate or, if not, I can try to let it go.
- Understand that your experience of adoption is different than the other party’s. Leave space for people to feel what they feel without judgment. At the OBG meetings, we make space for everyone’s experiences so try to do so in your personal reunion as well.
- Be courageous. It took great courage for my son to reach out by letter the first time. It took courage to invite him to meet, for him to say yes, and for both of us to show up that day. As a birth mother who lived in a world where very few knew of my relinquished child, I have had many opportunities to continue to practice this. If you are going to develop a real relationship with your child, don’t keep him or her a secret from people who are important to you.
- Show common courtesy and respect. If you receive a communication, respond. If you need time to process reunion or have other life events that are getting in the way, say so. When people in reunion do not get responses, we tend to come up with wild hypotheses and think that every gap in communication is because we did something wrong.
- If you make a misstep, own it and apologize.
- Try to live in the moment. For someone like me who is always analyzing and thinking things through, this can be a challenge. Take a breath, and take it in as best you can.
- Keep your supports close. Reunion can be a time of great upheaval and you need all the empathy and listening you can get. Consider OBG monthly meetings as a possible support.
What are your rules for reunion?