|By Jessenia Arias|
My life has changed vastly as an adoptee after I reunited with my birth family. I always thought that meeting my family was what I wanted. Don’t get me wrong, it was exactly what I wanted, however, I never knew I would have faced the obstacles I had to face post reunion. People warn you of the possibilities of rejection, death, failures, and the unexpected when you begin your search for your birth family, but honestly what adoptee wants to think that things are going to wrong? The only thing on an adoptees mind is getting answers and most of all that they will be received with open arms and love from their birth family.
One thing is true though; change is for the better or for the worse. I have encountered both post reunion. It is very normal in case you are having the same or similar thoughts, or have spent time questioning what you have gotten yourself into. We should expect that our lives would change in some way post reunion. As adoptees, we are finding ourselves through this process and picking up the pieces of our lives in hopes that everything will one day make sense, and we will be okay with it. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing; it is all in how you see it.
How my life changed:
I had to learn how to have relationships with siblings that were once strangers
Imagine being adopted into a family with one sibling whom you don’t really have a close relationship with for the exception that you love each other because you are sisters, to reuniting with your family finding yourself blessed with not one or two siblings, but six! They all wanted to be a part of my life badly, however, I had no idea how to love them or how to be a sister to them because I never had a close relationship with my sister. Growing up, I yearned for a close relationship with my sister; however, the dynamics of our family was very dysfunctional at the time. I was fearful of forming a bond with my biological siblings knowing that I have a sister I grew up with that I wanted so badly to have a bond with. I do not ever want her to feel like I love my biological siblings more than her. My biological siblings wanted to hug me, talk on the phone, have sleepovers and pillow fights, go on vacation, have a girl’s night, and so much more. All of this was foreign to me. I was afraid to let them get close to me. Immediately I put my guard up, closed the gates, and cut off all communication. Constantly I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? Isn’t this what you always wanted? A family?” Oh, the mind games I played with myself over this. I got angry with myself because they all had each other growing up. I was the only child placed for adoption. I was angry because I wasn’t sure if I would fit in. I hate feeling awkward. I had enough of that just being an adoptee growing up. I found it impossible to make up for lost time, therefore, I ran from the thought of even trying to be a family.
It took me a couple of years to bring myself to a place where I would ask them for forgiveness. They did nothing but try to love me and be there for me. I am not perfect though. None of us are. I am human and I make mistakes, but what is important is that people are able to recognize the loss we suffer as adoptees. It is hard to put the pieces together and to welcome people into your life even if they are your blood relatives. As much pain as I felt, I can only imagine how they felt growing up never knowing they had a sister, and all they wanted to do was be there for me and make up for lost time.
I had to learn how to have and balance two families
I have often heard from adoptees in reunion that they feel like they are caught in the middle of their adoptive family and biological family, and feel forced to choose between the two oftentimes. I have also heard from adoptees that say they are afraid that their adoptive family will shame them, be angry with them, or disown them if they were to choose to spend the holidays with their biological family or if they were to spend too much time with them. The pressure is really on as an adoptee, and I do not believe that adoptive parents and birth parents understand what goes on in the mind of an adoptee in this position. It is hard enough growing up knowing you are adopted and having the usual family trials, but to have two do deal with? That can sometimes feel like double the trouble, double the pain, and double the heartache.
I still struggle with the thought of having two families. As an adoptee, you cannot help but want them to merge into one in some way to eliminate any and all awkwardness. The awkwardness no birth parent or adoptive parent will ever understand unless they are adoptees themselves. Although I do not spend the holidays with either family because I live in another country, if I did, I would want everyone under the same roof and not be forced to choose. But sometimes, that can be too much to ask for from our adoptive parents and even birth parents. And trust me, I completely get it; I know that it isn't the easiest thing to do, but families should at least attempt it. What adoptees want and need is to be thought of first. Think about how we feel as we are the ones going through it harder than any mother or father that has either placed or adopted. Just think about it.
I had to learn to find strength within myself, and trust God for healing and answers
It is evident that no matter how successful your adoption reunion is, there will be trials and tribulations as you work through the whys, apologies, forgiveness, and relationships. You never know how strong you are until you have been pushed down to the ground and up against the wall to the point where you feel like you cannot breathe. There will be adoptees that will never reunite with their birth family because they cannot locate them or they passed away, and they have to cope with that pain forever. There will be adoptees that will face rejection for the second time. There will be adoptees that are reunited with their birth family that will never hear the truth or receive answers. There will be adoptees in reunion with their birth family that still find themselves alone with no connection to either family.
I have endured great losses in such short time post reunion. The day I met my birth family was in the ICU of a hospital because my little brother was in an accident and not expected to survive. Not long after, my other little brother was murdered. My birth mother hasn’t been the same since. I cannot bring myself to ask her questions or why I was placed for adoption after all that she has been through with my siblings. I was left numb for months in search for answers and peace. It all began to overwhelm me to the point that it brought me to the lowest I have ever been in my life. It was then that I found a new relationship with God. I found a new peace and comfort I never knew existed. I found a new strength in me I never knew I had. I learned that we don’t have to go through everything alone, and that God is always with us. My life has changed for the better know that I have found peace.
Overall, my adoption journey changed my life and has made me the woman I am today. Would I trade it for another life as hard as it has been? Never. It made me. It gave me the strength to persevere. It gave me the compassion the world needs. Ultimately, it birthed my purpose in helping counsel adoptees and the youth. No matter what happens in your life post reunion – positive or negative, you must always remain strong for yourself, and always remember that life is about changes. They make us who we are. Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t run from them. Find the beauty in them.
How has your life changed post reunion?