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8 Years After Adoption, A Birth Family Reunion — Thoughts from a Birth Mother
I have been a birth mother for eight years in what I like to call a “fairy tale” open adoption. My fairy tale is far from perfect, but it belongs to me and I love it.
A Little About My Adoption DecisionI was able to find my son’s adoptive parents through a local adoption agency and knew immediately that it was meant to be. This prospective adoptive couple had only been with the adoption agency for a few months, and I knew they were meant to raise my baby. I choose adoption for my baby because I knew he would have a better life with different parents. The best part of my fairy-tale open adoption is that my son has been receiving everything I could have ever imagined for him and more. My adoption decision gave my son a better life with better opportunities and more love than many children ever get to experience.
The Child I Placed for Adoption Wants to Meet His Birth Family…My son’s adoptive mother and I had a conversation about the fact that our 8-year-old was starting to ask questions about who his extended birth family was. My son’s mom and I decided that we would have a birth family reunion in order to satisfy some of his questions. I was so excited to be able to make a birth family photo album for him, as well! So, the decision was made… then the fear began to set in. I want to be transparent: Navigating through an open adoption has not always been what you might consider a “fairy tale.” There have been months with no contact, missed celebrations and holidays, and bi-annual visits. However, there have been many more joyous occasions than not; many more cherished memories than a lack of them; and moments sublime with intervals short. There are also some complicated dynamics within my immediate family that become more difficult when my son is added to the mix.
Triggering a Fear of Abandonment from Choosing AdoptionYou see, no one in my immediate family supported my decision for adoption. I was legal mother for the first six months of my son’s life, and there were certain ideas that my family had about the adoption decision I was making. I lost many family members because of my adoption decision. I have worked very hard to mend those relationships. I have spent hours in tears, bawling to God for relief from the pain of abandonment from my family. I have gone to visit my son many times alone, wishing I had someone to ride with me for support. I have also spent years trying to reestablish healthy relationships with my family members. I am relieved to testify that things have gotten better. The relationships that I have with my family today are based on healthy boundaries that I have put effort into setting with them. However, I have always felt nervous at the idea of my son coming to meet them all again in a group setting. Imagine — knowing all this convoluted drama that has ensued with my family, even considering a birth family reunion.
The Mama Bear in Every Mother Lives in MeHere's the thing about children — our own children, that is: The mother in me will do anything and everything within my power to protect my son. I will always choose my child first, no matter what the cost is to me. That has been my mentality as a birth mother from day one, and it continues to be my mentality today. You see, I knew what I was doing when I chose adoption for my baby. I also knew that losing my family could be bearable if it meant my son was living a healthy and happy life. I intentionally have put my familial relationships back in place so that this day could come — the day that my son would want to meet his birth family. Obviously, time has flown by way too fast! Is it really time for my son to meet his birth family? Some of my family has never even met my son… but here I am — a mother.
Tips for Planning a Birth Family ReunionPlanning a birth family reunion can be something a birth mother may be anxious or confident about. Whatever your stance is on your birth family reunion, I have a couple tips for the planning:
- Plan a date that is far enough in the future for invitees to commit to.
- Pick one date that works for you and your child’s family and keep it.
- Be flexible. If your child’s adoptive family cancels for some reason, reschedule a new date during that conversation and let invitees knows immediately after so they can readjust.
- Don’t try to get RSVPs. Allow every family member to decide for themselves if they want to be a part of the occasion or not.
- Plan age-appropriate activities for all children in attendance. Children will have fun no matter what the activity, if they can make it fun together.
- Create a birth family photobook for your child. Open it together at the reunion and enjoy identifying who everyone is together!
- Assign one of your more trusted family members as the photographer. Nothing fancy is needed; just tell them to take as many pictures as they judge appropriate. Taking a few selfies with your child is always enjoyable as well!
- Consider offering your child a piece of family memorabilia as a surprise. For example, my son met a celebrity while I was parenting, and my grandma took a picture. I framed and decorated a photocopy of the picture and gifted it to him at our birth family reunion.