Friday, April 15, 2011

Student Guest Post:Adoption Etiquette

by carriedorothea
[Our class has really benefited from having an adoptee in the class; she is 28, was adopted when 3 days old, biracial, one of 15 children adopted by white parents]

We are taught as kids that certain things are rude to ask: a woman's age or weight, how much money one makes, etc. Too bad we aren't taught what to expect or how to act when meeting your bio family. I am a very curious person and I would love to learn more about my ancestry, but I don't necessarily want a relationship with my bio family. I won't know if they are someone I would want continued contact with until I meet them, but what happens if I meet them and they want a continued relationship and then I don't. Is it selfish of me to have reached out?

I met my bio mom and half siblings 9 years ago. When I asked about my dad it was clear she didnt want to talk aout him. After meeting my bio family, I had never been more grateful for being adopted. It was very clear that I would not be the person I am today if my bio mom tried to raise me. I will always be glad that she chose to give me a better life than she could have provided for me.

Shortly after I met my bio family, they moved and i changed my email adress (not on purpose) and we didnt keep in touch. After almost an entire semester of Adoption law, I looked once again on facebook for any of them. Just last night I messaged my biological half sister after she confirmed my friend request on facebook. At first I was relieved that i found her. She was very excited that I reached out. We have tentative plans to meet in person at the end of May when she will be in town for her sons graduation. However, after a couple of exchanges, I find myself very anxious. I have all these questions but can't just ask them because I don't know if it is polite to just come out and ask her things like who was my father. I referred to my bio mom by her name instead of mom, is that weird? Would my half-sister prefer me to refer to her as mom?
I know there is not a right or wrong answer to these questions, and that it is really up to what I am comfortable with. However, I am a very empathetic person and now I find myself with more questions and anxiety after only one night of exchanging 3 messages.The last thing I want to do is hurt somebody's feelings.
I always wanted to meet my half sister, because I was told that she was 15 and wanted to raise me as her own instead of my mom putting me up for adoption. She was very excited when i contacted her on facebook and I was excited about finding her. But after viewing her profile on facebook, I worried that I wouldn't act black enough for her (she is bi racial as well, but clearly identifies with black people, probably only 2% of her friends on facebook were white). Suddenly, all these feelings of anxiety and questions of racial identity that I thought I had come to terms with, have risen to the surface.


Julie said...

This was a terrific post, carriedorothea! Thank you so much for your honesty.

I got a special little thrill reading it--in two days I am meeting one of my bio brothers for the first time.

Your rich, textured, interesting, and I am sure (if our experiences as adoptees are at all similar) sometimes difficult life experiences has brought to this amazing point in your life. You are who you are. If I have any words of advice for you, it is to not forget to turn your love, compassion, and empathy to yourself.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to thank you for writing this; often in the adoptive community there is a backlash against adult adoptees who don't wish to move forward in reunion or who feel confused ambivliance.

Like you ( or what I inferred) having met my bio. family, I could only find msyelf left grateful to have been raised with my amazing(adoptive) parents & family. I felt a tremendous sense of guilt for a long time because unlike what some feel, I didn't feel a "connection" or like I was finding part of myself.

Only closure. Though I know some Adult Adoptees can't even have that, lacking any information about their birth family.

Thank you for sharing this!

Anon. C.C.

Truly Blessed said...

Never having walked in your shoes, I can't share anything specific, but I would think that your bio family would be prepared to have you ask seems to me that that would be an expectation (just as it will be expected that you share about your life).

The closest I've ever been to this situation is meeting my half sisters when I was close to 35 years old (we shared a father). I'd always known they had existed, but didn't meet them until we were adults. Our meeting was awkward and it seemed that each of us was interested in finding out if the other had had a good relationship with our shared father while we were young children (it turns out that he was absent for all 6 of his childrens' childhoods). Sadly, I think all of us felt relieved that none of us had the Daddy/Princess relationship that most little girls dream of.

Best wishes to you as you negotiate these tricky waters. Go in with low expectations so you won't be disappointed!

Lisa Marie said...

Hey Carrie,

your post really spoke to me. Im a multiracial adoptee myself and am currently in multiple stages of search and reunion for different family members. Its a lot to balance.

I've talked to a lot of mixed race adopted folks and many of us have similar stories around our birth mothers, for whatever reasons, not wanting to talk about our birth fathers. I think it has much to do with shame and fear. I have learned that I need to find other avenues to get that information.

I was blessed to meet my half sister about 2 years ago and we are slowly developing a relationship. She is also multiracial and is pretty awesome. We communicate mostly on text msg and FB, but Im enjoying being connected, and there is so much less pressure around my connection w her than w my birth mother.

I feel developing relationships with BFs are complicated and I think I feel differently every year, and every year our relationship changes and I change. So i want to encourage you to be open to the ways relationships with strangers develop. yes, we have a deep connection to our BF's but we still dont have a shared history or shared memories. It takes time to build that. but overall, I want them in my life, even if it is peripherally, so I challenge myself to stay open.

I make sure I pay attention to my emotions, I take time off when I need it, I create boundaries around what I will and wont do, just as with any relationship.

I'm sendin love to you as you continue on the reunion path. Let me know if I can support in any way.

Lisa Marie said...

oh! and I forgot to say, I basically straight up asked my sister some of the questions you are asking. I asked her what she was comfortable with me calling her. (sister? half sister? birth sister?) I asked her how she felt about me calling her mom, 'mother'. all that. and in every instance she surprised me. She said she calls me her sister, and that she wants me to call her mom whatever Im comfortable with. I still call her 'your mom' most of the time, because I have a mom. :)

Anonymous said...

this is carriedorothea...
thank you to everybody for your feedback. Just being reassured that my feelings/ anxieties are normal helps. it's nice to hear from those of you who have gone through something similar. I talked to my other half sister today on the phone after she mentioned in a text that she sometimes thought about how she would have turned out if she was adopted. knowing that she knows what a great blessing it was for me to be adopted is so reassuring. She told me that she tells people about her younger sister who was adopted and still has the pictures I sent her 10 years ago, and although I may never know who my dad is, the anxiety and doubt is gone.

Kate E. said...

Wow, Carrie, your post was really interesting. Your comment about how you didn't think you would be the person you are today if you hadn't been adopted, and how you are grateful, really struck me. I appreciate you sharing your perspective on this.

Birthmom said...

Hey Carrie I was just wondering how your visit went? I would love to hear about it!