Beginning the search for a birthparent is often precipitated by an important life event such as a birth of a child, death of a parent, or marriage. In addition to wanting to reconnect, sometimes the adoptee is curious about obtaining medical information at these times. If part of the reason for not searching has been loyalty to an adoptive parent then this conflict is removed when the parent dies. Adoptees may have been concerned about hurting the adoptive parent’s feelings. It is however instinctive to seek this reconnection and is not reflective of any shortcomings in the relationships with the adoptive family. Ideally the adoption has been known to the adoptee since early childhood and the topic has been discussed whenever needed.
The period of beginning the search and reuniting can be tumultuous. There is the fear of what will come of all this, how will the person feel/react and how will the other person feel/react? Adoptees have a feeling of already being rejected by the birthparent and fear it happening again. The hope is that the present circumstances are different and reconnecting can be healing. Sometimes the birthparent has died or is not comfortable with reuniting. Perhaps they have not told their current family members or are overwhelmed with guilt or regret about the adoption. It is essential that the adoptee have a strong support network while they are involved in this search and reunion process. Family members and other adoptees that have experienced a search and reunion are a great cushion for the adoptee. Even if a reconnection has not happened as desired much healing can still take place throughout the search and reunion process.
Even reunions that are “successful” are often fraught with mixed emotions on both parts. Birthparents can experience anger concerning what advice/information they were given by family/authorities at the time of the adoption. Adoptees can also feel lied to by not getting all the information that was available. Finding out that birthparents kept other children can add to feelings of rejection. Birthparents can blame people that influenced their decision. Adoptees can blame adopted/birthparents for being adopted. The anger and blame on the part of the adoptee is heightened if the adoption resulted in being abused/neglected. This tragic outcome exacerbates the already existing feelings of guilt of the birthparent. Regardless of such negative outcomes the birthparent can have feelings of regret. She may believe it was not what was best for her or the child, even though it may have been.
In spite of the storm of emotions that accompanies this reconnection there are often feelings of joy. This reconnection in and of itself can be sufficient for some adoptees. Seeing someone that looks like them or has similar mannerisms is grounding. Talents, interests, and aptitudes can be shared and questions answered.
An ongoing relationship with the birthparent or siblings sometimes occurs. Sometimes this is worked out very gradually as both adoptee and birth family become comfortable.