Reunited adoptees: How do we handle our reunions?

As a reunited adoptee I post this to create some needed awareness to myself and my fellow adoptees who also have reunited with birth family to please be conscious of your fb posts, messages and comments in general to other adoptees online or IRL who have not found/ been found by their family.

I just read a fb post stating that ‘every picture I receive of my [Korean mother] is like I won the lottery’.  Sharing your happiness that you found your mother is understandable, but repeatedly ‘bragging’  to all the adoptees,  knowing so many are not able to find their family, is insensitive and if intentional- hurtful and cruel.  This is something that I have unintentionally done simply in general conversation without thinking, not as a specific post/statement blasted across social media, but the effect was still the same.  It was very hurtful nevertheless. Winning the lottery in finding birth family is not something any of us can control. This is a Highly Sensitive issue and reunited adoptees need to tread gently in this area.

Feel free to expand on this topic with any personal situations/ interactions that you are willing to share and any ways to deal with this delicate issue that  cuts to the very core of many adoptees pain and loss. How do we handle our reunions, and how do we react to the “luck” of others in this regard?

7 thoughts on “Reunited adoptees: How do we handle our reunions?

  1. Thank you for this question which I feel is important to tackle for us amongst ourselves. It really hits home because I’ve been comparing my search to adoptees who have gone before me both in terms of those who succeed in reuniting and those who don’t.

    I’ve learned from both, and this tempers a lot how I approach my own quest. The ups and downs (really, extreme heights and abysmal valleys) of what I’ve gone through has been made easier by sharing with others the extremes of our experiences.

    I have watched fellow adoptees go through the anguish of appearing in media outlets such as television or online and put themselves out there in a way which runs counter to how many of us grew up, trying to hide the fact that we were adopted.

    I have acted as intermediary between adoptees who are beginning their search and our orphanage and have had the heart-wrenching task of breaking the news about how much of our records are false, and about the lies and deceit that often underpin our narratives.

    I have sat through lectures from the nuns at our orphanage recounting stories of reunions (successful and not) and searches (successful and not) and the implication that goes with it that we are wasting our time, all the while knowing that this is not an option.

    I have heard from adoptees who have reunited and who are rightfully joyful about such reunion (when it goes well) and I have also heard from those who are very careful with sharing information as if not to jinx what has happened.

    Through all of this, I try to remove myself from the equation. If someone is reunited, and can’t help but express their exuberance and joy, I am exuberant and joyful for them.

    If someone is searching, and is upset by what is often the depressing task of constantly putting themselves on the line emotionally, psychologically, and in terms of their very souls, I am down there with them.

    The online realm has removed filters and has made “one-way” what should normally be face-to-face communication, and I think we are the worse off for it.

    I try to see everything in terms of the immediate, the short term, and the long term.

    I feel strongly that our adoptive cultures often wish to “short-circuit” our emotional responses; I am now living in a culture where such bypassing of emotion is not only not considered valid but which does not see such a thing as healthy.

    We, adoptees, should of course be considerate of each other in this regard. But I also think we should be there for each other throughout the emotional spectrum that we go through, from joy to anguish, from ecstasy to depression. There’s no other way we will all get through this.

  2. Daniel, as you said it rightfully needs to be tackled within our own community as this is yet another area of polarization and division amongst the ‘lucky adoptees’ vs. the ‘unlucky adoptees’ as increasing numbers of adoptees reunite. I will reiterate that the joy and exuberance and heady sensations are all a very normal and natural response for reunited adoptees. Powerful feelings are overwhelming the adoptee during every stage of search and having that dream finally fulfilled in reunion is like a supernova explosion of joy, pain, trauma, love and grief all converging. It is truly beyond words. On every level of need and existence, attempting to be rational is beyond the psyche of the adoptee, where the inner child/lost baby are fully awakened and reconnecting to their lost self. The primordial need for love and longing is being fulfilled and the adoptee has entered an alternate world. Their previous life with no known birth parents/family has been shed. Their biological origins are known. They are no longer ‘one of them’.

    It is very true that the online world removes most people’s filters to an unbelievable level that creates instant love or rage or phenomena of any kind. I agree that it has been oftentimes for the worst as a one-way perspective where people instantly react and go on the defensive when there is no human interaction but only words that can be read and reread to feed whatever emotional state we are in. Ironically, the world of social media creates less human interaction and more a reflection of one’s own reality arguing with a cold impersonal screen. Facebook is a social media that’s created to be ‘all about me’ and anyone can be their own celebrity. So when reunited adoptees post/pictures about themselves and their birth family, the ‘unlucky adoptees’ helplessly sit on the sidelines and watch like spectators. Many have resigned themselves to no answers after arduous and numerous futile attempts OR for new searchers they are an avatar to a world of incredulous anticipation, wonderinf if they dare to start such an awesome and terrifying journey for themselves.

    To summarize, this post is intended to create awareness about this sensitive issue, rather than reactions and blame. It’s something many reunited adoptee’s do Unintentionally and being online makes it all the easier to announce to the world how lucky they are- endlessly. That said, adoptees will inevitably be hurt, offended and jealous by the ‘lucky adoptees’ despite many so called lucky adoptee finding their birth parents already deceased and painful tragedies and answers in their reunions. And each adoptee has a different feeling and tolerance to reunited adoptees, and will handle it differently of course, but hopefully we can rise above choosing pettiness and blame with every online interaction and work to resolve new issues as they arise rather than take it out on each other. The world of adoption is evolving and slowly changing from the adoption agencies, legislators, APs and generations of white rich power that has held a vice-like grip on controlling adoptees’ fate and that of each new generations of child adoptees. While adoptees continue to find new ways to split and polarize each other, the establishment is busy refocusing and re-strategizing behind closed doors and laughing as adoptees do another round of shooting and attacking each other. Let’s stay focused and work to empower ourselves away from blaming/ criticizing every move of our fellow adoptee and work For and not against each other.

  3. There are three things I want to say.

    First, what has already been said eloquently overs a lot of what is in play here. So I wish to add to the conversation and not merely reiterate it.

    Second, notwithstanding a history of hurt and disappointment that might make some adoptees mistrustful of feelings in general (i.e., that would make them not allow feelings to be the lead value or the primary response), there are also people (adoptees) who do not give priority to feelings in general. But even those who “lead with their heart” can embody what I’m about to describe. As far as social media is concerned, what we share (when it is not “mere information”) are thoughts or feelings 9whether we are someone who leads with our heads or our hearts). So the issue, for me, is what is the social necessity of that sharing? Is it merely personal or is there a collective point to it (to the community). An example. When a group discussion is occurring, one might feel moved to speak, to respond to something someone has said. But, in view of the limited time that the group is together, in view of perhaps having already spoken at length, perhaps in view of desiring to let others speak (have the opportunity to speak … even to WANT to hear the voices of other people), one might not simply speak every time one is moved to. In other words, the question can be asked of oneself, “Does the conversation need this comment by me?”

    Now I’m going to sound a bit polemic. Those who “lead with their heart” (as well as those who “lead with their heads” but are currently possessed by–overwhelmed by–some “big” emotion) may tend to feel more need to share that big emotion, whether the community (the conversation) needs it or not. Let me be clear–this isn’t a demand for people to shut up or say nothing. It is a request that, if you are going to share (even if it is some big emotion that’s gotten the better of you) how can it be shared in such a way that it is not merely “for you”. I could be ecstatic at having found a birth sibling, but my posting on Facebook doesn’t have to be the emotional equivalent (even if unintentional) of nyah nyah nyah, I found my birth sibling.

    Third, even with quotation marks around the words, I’m not sure that the categories “lucky adoptee” (and “unlucky adoptee”) do the social work we might hope or avoid the unsocial work we wouldn’t want. If I’m a lucky adoptee today because I found a birth sibling and tomorrow I’m in the hospital because he tried to kill me, am I still lucky?

    But more than this, teh notions of lucky or unlucky adoptee (vis-a-vis birth relatives) already carries a lot of problematic baggage, which is perhaps more obvious to people here because TRE takes a more radical look at adoption than is typical. i don’t want adoptees to feel jealous or resentful that someone might get their case open and questions answered; I don’t want adoptees to feel despair when they hear someone couldn’t; By pointing to this, I’m referring less to “how people feel” (or think) and more what the effects on us–on the community–are when we interface with the issue that confronts us all through the experiences of other adoptees. I might already be a lucky adoptee insofar as I will never know–or have to come face-to-face–with the shittiness that my biological parents embodied (or still do). It’s not only about me “working it all out”–is how my own response to my own situation provides to our collective experience a variety of response to being adopted that allows us to make a difference in the world, including (yes) differences in our personal lives.

  4. I appreciate this conversation, and I understand the concepts of lucky and unlucky with regard to reuniting (and I have difficulty with that word in general – more on that in a minute) with birth family. But there’s a lot of assumptions that are taking place outside of the conversation.

    A few years ago I was part of a panel of four transracial adoptees who spoke at a Chinese adoption placement organization, to about 35 Chinese adoptees between the ages of 14 and 17. As an American Indian, I was invited to the panel to illustrate that the concept of “feeling outside” exists across the board. It was awkward because one of the first questions I was asked, that was not asked of other panelists, was did I meet my birth family. I paused, because I was painfully aware that most of these kids would probably never, ever have that chance. But the question was honest and it deserved an honest conversation, because it held a dream – the same dream I had at their ages – what if?

    So I shared my journey back to my tribal family, which has been 20 years of meeting the people I was/am related to. I refuse to say reuniting, because I don’t know that that ever happens, that reproduction of a once unified family. If that family was so unified, my adoption wouldn’t have happened to begin with. My reconnection with birth relatives has been a mixture of 20 years of joy and anger, jealousy and resentment, fear and shame, and attempts, many of which have failed, at trust, on all of our parts. There have been years with no communication whatsoever, because once the curiosity factor is satisfied, really, what’s left? It has tested my sense of self, as well as any sense of ethnic identity. All of us in my “families” , birth-siblings and parent, and adopted parents, have danced the two-step of abandonment until we’re exhausted. Although I’m still in contact with several members of my birth family, I know that at any moment, that may all change and we’ll return to our respective worlds because sometimes its too painful to be around one another. So for the moment, I am grateful.

    With regard to luck, I don’t think of myself as lucky: I worked for over 10 years to make contact (to even have the courage to make contact), and then 20 years at keeping contact. If not for my work, I could have been released from the family mooring long ago with not much more than a second thought. For those two decades I have been steeling myself for the fallout of what it is to be transracially adopted and the anxiety that occurs when things get shaky, as it inevitably does.

    Therefore, my communication about my birthfamily is not just one-way: “me” to “you” about this “event”, it also includes a public statement of relationship claim that says “they” are important enough for “me” to share with the people who are important to me as well. It’s a triad. However, an important point to make is that the other side of that coin is my fb friends list isn’t very big – I believe it contains only five people whom I have not met and talked with face-to-face. So there is a lot of trust I’ve placed in people to know my intent is not malicious, accidental or otherwise.

    Labels of lucky and unlucky with regard to re-meeting our families holds a lot of assumptions and a lot of responsibility that may or may not be ours to hold. We will always have interpretations made of our statements, our posts, what we say, what we don’t say, what we include, what we leave out; its being human. And being joyous, and being hurt is also part of being human. It is what it is – where do we go from there?

  5. Among Lebanese adoptees the term “crib competition” has come up more than once, to describe this difference between those reunited and those not. I also notice, sadly, a need to “own” the narrative, and dispel challenges to that. It all seems quite functional to our country of acculturation in a disturbing backtrack to the “colonizer” who set in motion much in the way of our adoptions in the first place….

  6. thanks for such a frank, nuanced discussion! I probably err on the side of oversharing the joy I feel at the reunion with my b-family and siblings and never examined how this might impact others. It felt to me that part of sharing our story publicly was further legitimizing our relationship in a way. On paper my siblings and I are strangers, social media is the only place in the world we can be, quite literally, on the same page, and perceived to be connected in a “real” way.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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