She's Adopted

They just didn't tell her

Reunion and Expectations

on May 3, 2013
I hear both moms and adoptees say to enter into reunion with no expectations. I believe this is misguided advice. I also believe it is impossible. I cannot count the number of times I have read or heard adoptees and moms say I had no expectations but it isn’t long before I hear them say what they found wasn’t what they expected! Remember, you are entering into reunion because YOU believe you are ready. Expect that there may never be the perfect time for those you find and they may not be ready.
From my experience and research, here is what I believe we can reasonably expect.
We can expect to find a wounded soul. I know it seems obvious but it’s important to remember because we need to be kind, gentle, and compassionate with the trauma survivor. We can expect that there may be some sort of self-medicating for the pain. Be it drugs (prescription or illicit), alcohol, workaholics, or food. It’s natural for humans to self-medicate and we should not condemn or judge them for it.
We can expect that our “other” (I use the term ‘other’ when referring to adoptees or moms. It is for brevity and not intended to diminish anyone) may not be able to face their pain thus unable to acknowledge ours. It isn’t their fault! People are ready to face it at their own pace and we must respect that. Setting an example of facing our own is all we can really do. Tell anyone who isn’t ready that they might have ‘adoption issues’ and you’ll likely be met with rage. Haven’t we all seen someone scream ‘I’m NOT angry’ complete with the red face, vein pulsing in their forehead after you ask them why they are so angry? It is easy to believe they are being self absorbed, don’t care how we are affected, flawed for not being strong enough to see their own let alone our pain but it is simply fear. There is no value, comfort or healing in taking it personally because it isn’t.
We can expect that people don’t understand the difference between feelings, beliefs, and the truth. This certainly isn’t isolated to adoptoworld. Understanding the differences is critical! By far, this is the most important thing I’ve learned in my journey. It made the difference of feeling crushing pain and despair to understanding and compassion.  Feelings and beliefs fluctuate. The truth is constant. Feelings are happy, sad, angry, shame, etc. Feelings are never wrong, they just are. We need to honor, and validate them. Beliefs are a different matter and it is healthy to question them, it isn’t disrespectful. I find myself explaining these differences most often when talking with moms and adoptees about rejection and abandonment. I am very careful to challenge beliefs, not feelings. I challenge those that say ‘I feel rejected. I feel abandoned’. I do that because those aren’t feelings, they are beliefs! I strongly believe that there is no rejection of people in reunion – ever. It is a rejection of the pain, not us. 
We can expect that trauma victims may not know what the truth is. Just because our other says something doesn’t make it true. You will be told their beliefs but they could be false and can’t be assumed the truth. This is counter-intuitive, I know. The brainwashing by society and the adoption industry affects us all at some time to some degree. I lied to myself and lived in denial to survive. The fog is very powerful. It wasn’t long ago that I would’ve said I had a choice, that I had no regrets. Those were my false beliefs and not the truth. As with everything with adoption, you can’t take anything at face value and must look deeper.  Does anyone out of the fog really believe the adoptee that says adoption had no affect on me? Do we believe the rape victim that says it was her fault?
We can expect that we, or our other, may unconsciously sabotage our reunion. This can happen when we believe inherently (often unconsciously) that somehow we are unlovable, that we don’t deserve good things in our life, we can’t trust anyone. How can one not have a seed of the belief of being unlovable when the one who was supposed to love them the most left them? Moms tell themselves they are unlovable because what kind of person gets themselves in a position to lose a child to adoption? We may believe we aren’t worthy of a relationship, that they are better off without us. Our misguided belief of ‘rejection’ may terrify us and give us any reason to ditch our other. A get them before they get me defense mechanism. What can be most confusing is that a pullback can come when reunions are going well. It’s the realization of all that we’ve lost and will never get back that can cause some to put the brakes on. Again, it’s the pain being rejected, not the person.
We can expect that reunion will bring grief to the surface. I didn’t start to grieve the loss of my son until after we met face to face. Grief can cause us to lash out at our other or anyone else. It is akin to having psychological sunburn. Things that would not normally hurt, the slightest touch can cause an extreme pain reaction. The grief can seem never ending. I found making a list helped. Putting it down on paper stopped it from being free-floating. It allowed me to give it the respect and acknowledgement it deserved. I don’t hold back the tears anymore. I hope that one day I’ll discover I don’t need to add to the list anymore.
We can expect that social graces we give and receive from those close to us may not apply in adoptoworld. For example, a friend would return your call or email in a day or two. We need to understand that our other may need time to process, may have an uncontrollable urge to prove that you aren’t that important. You see, we convince ourselves that it hurts less when we diminish the value and importance of our other. Another false belief because trying to ignore our pain certainly doesn’t make it go away. We’d all be pain free if that actually worked!
We can expect that if setting healthy boundaries is hard for us it will be exponentially more difficult with our other. We all have the right to be treated with respect and dignity. It is natural for adoption to cause ‘nuclear’ rage and it could be directed to our other instead of the adoption industry where it belongs. It isn’t fair or right but understandable. Moms need to have compassion and patience for their kids that vehemently exclaim that we had a choice; there wasn’t a gun to your head. Expect that the miniscule exception to the rule, the ‘dumpster babies’, women who just don’t want to parent, abortion will be referenced. 
We can expect regression. Moms will often regress to the age when they lost their child. I’ve seen my son regress to the contemptuous teenager, raging toddler and then to the kind, contemplative adult in mere moments. I couldn’t believe the youthful energy I had upon reunion. The downside was that some of the immature attitudes came through as well. The world was once again black and white and not the spectrum of gray that comes with experience and maturity. This wasn’t constant but my younger ‘inner child’ would come through when triggered.  I’m grateful I was able to recognize that when my son said he never wanted to see or speak to me again it was his inner child coming through. If I took him at his word, face value, I would have left him alone and it could’ve been decades before we reconnected again, if ever. I followed the advice of a wise adoptee and continued to send my notes of loving and missing you every month or so. After over a year of silence, he has responded. I know there will be mountains and valleys on our path but I will never give up hope!
We can expect that we can’t travel this journey alone. We need the support and compassion of those that are on the same journey and those that have traveled before us. It takes work to know something intellectually and to know it in our bones. I believe it is our responsibility to face our own pain. I believe we have a duty to learn about our other’s experience and pain, too. Above all, we cannot judge and condemn them for not facing their pain or healing on our schedule. We need to accept where they are. We can only change ourselves.
We can expect that our capacity for love, compassion, and empathy can carry us through. “Perfect maturity is when a person hurts you, and you try to understand their situation and don’t hurt them back. – unknown”
by Charlene Verishine

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