My Search and Reunion Journey

My Search and Reunion Journey

My Search and Reunion Journey Hero Image
Written by Susan Lavigna, LCSW-C, Adoption-Competent Therapist & Adult Adoptee
Published on: Jul 03, 2024
Category Search and Reunion

I was born in the 1960s when virtually all conventional adoptions were closed. My parents didn’t keep my adoption a secret, but they almost never brought it up, and I grew up feeling like it wasn’t something to be talked about. I remember my mom telling me when I was young that, “a mother is the one who takes care of you every day, and takes you to the doctor when you’re sick,” effectively sending the message that my birth mother was irrelevant. This was a lot to grapple with growing up, so as a defense, at some point, I stopped consciously thinking about it. I realize now this was all about my mom’s own insecurity and lack of knowledge about adoption issues, but at the time, it caused me to feel confusion and shame.

Everything changed when I became pregnant at age 30. I remember one day after an OBGYN appointment when I had to repeat that I had no medical information, an epiphany hit me like a ton of bricks: How can I give birth to a child without knowing who gave birth to me? This is when I decided to search for and eventually find my birth mother while keeping it a complete secret from my adoptive parents.

Shortly after finding my birth mother, I went on to find a full biological sister who was also placed for adoption, and we have been reunited for 28 years. But it was really a surprise when, 6 years ago, I discovered a full biological brother on, also adopted, and have welcomed him and his family into mine.

For me, the easy part is telling the historical and pertinent details of the story. The harder part was standing back and trying to make sense of it all—all the players, all the emotions—especially after having been shut down for many years. What I do know is that if I hadn’t reunited with members of my birth family, making sense of it all would have been impossible.

Search can be a hugely beneficial journey and positive experience, but it is also complicated for all members of the constellation. There are opportunities for clarity and close relationships, but also for disappointment and rejection. The great benefit of search for adoptees with missing information is that learning one’s truth and history can promote closure, healing, and strengthen identity formation. On the other hand, unknowns can perpetuate confusion, fear and shame, and keep wounds open indefinitely.

As a clinician, I have worked to support and guide individuals and families through the search and reunion process. For anyone who is considering search for themselves or their child, I highly recommend seeking the help of an adoption-competent therapist to help them anticipate, process, and navigate their adoption search. Every adoption situation is unique, and a therapist can help you consider and prepare for all possible outcomes including learning difficult information, finding a birth parent has died, and differing views on level of ongoing contact.

I was able to eventually share my search and reunion experience with my parents, and I believe after that, they understood me better. After I could be honest about my feelings and needs, I felt even closer and safer with them.

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