Imagine you are at your favorite Chinese restaurant. A bill tray and three fortune cookies are slipped on the table in front of you. Before you dig into your wallet or purse, you grab the first cookie, crack it open and read the enclosed message, “Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out to it.” Amen, you might think, it must be a sign. I should just go for it.
You crush the next cookie. “I think you ate your fortune, while you were eating your cookie.”
Now, you stare at that last cookie. This one will to be the fortune that yields all the answers. You inhale deeply, break the cookie in half and pull out the white narrow strip—“Next time you have the opportunity, go on a rollercoaster.”
When I seriously considered whether I should or should not search for my birth family, I might as well have turned to fortune cookies to guide me in the right direction. At the time, I did not know of any other adoptees wanting to make a search.
Adoption forum boards, private Facebook discussion groups, and fellow adoptee Twitter feeds did not exist. Research on the subject of searching was scarce and adoptees were expected to just be grateful that they were adopted. Although my adoptive parents were responsive to my questions—not even knowing if I should crack open the proverbial cookie in the first place, hurled me straight aboard the search and reunion roller coaster.
I was under ten-years-old, when I absorbed the meaning of being adopted from an era where adoptions were closed. I felt an internal dilemma riddled with ongoing debate and mystery.
Even though I was being raised in a loving and supportive adoptive family, I still yearned to fill the holes drilled into my being.
By the time I was a young teenager, my craving for answers grew. I would frequently ask myself: “Where did I come from; why was I given up for adoption; what is my birth story; what does my birth family look like; do I have biological brothers and sisters; and what is my ancestral and medical background?
I would often seek signs from the universe to tell me if I should actually proceed with a search, and longingly look up at the stars on my birthday wishing that my birth relatives might be doing the same. When I was sixteen-years-old, I even attempted to will the name of my birth mother and father right off the page of the non-identifying information that accompanied my altered birth certificate!
It wasn’t until I reached my late teens, that I asked my parents for their help to search. I felt a thrilling sense of excitement and overwhelming spell of fear. The thought of slashing into the now archaic principle—a birth mother has the right to privacy—caused me alarm. If my search were successful, I would have to be prepared to deal with any and all possibilities.
Even though I strongly desired to capture my missing information, I made it clear to my parents that I was not looking to replace any of my adoptive family. In fact, it was because I felt loved and secure in my adoptive family that I felt confident enough to search. I hoped to eventually meet and love my birth relatives, but I was painfully aware that I might not find a fairytale ending.
With the aide of my parents, a dedicated adoption search angel, and a few clues, I was fortunate to find my birth mother at the age of twenty-one—in the state of Texas— where birth records remain sealed today. Our reunion did not fill in every one of my missing holes, but I have no regrets. I accept what I’m able to know, and I’m grateful to know it.
Like many adoptees, my longing to potentially search occurred as a child, but according to 2007 statistics from the American Adoption Congress, some adoptees are motivated only after a triggering event—which could be a marriage, the birth of a baby, or following the passing of a loved one.
Still, I have other adopted friends who have never felt the same need to seek out their pasts. Some prefer to leave well enough alone. They are either quite content to leave the past in the past, are afraid of finding something negative, fear rejection, or dread the idea of potentially hurting their adoptive families.
The adult adoptee’s dilemma of whether to make that search or not, is a deeply complicated and personal preference. And thankfully, today, an adoptee does not have to make the search decision—alone. Adoption research abounds, and books, adoptee memoirs and adoptee essays are plentiful, including several that are on Secret Sons & Daughters’ Adoptee Tales “Searching” page.
Sometimes just reading the stories of others can help provide a sense of a future direction that might be right for you, which can make that fortune telling scenario a thing of the past.
Stay tuned for my upcoming post on resources and tips for searching for your birth family…
How did you feel when you decided to search for your birth family? What was your experience? Would you like your medical history without an ongoing relationship?