#44 After-effects of searching

February 17, 2012 at 11:03 am | Posted in adoption issues, Identity issues | Leave a comment
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I received an email from a woman who recently found her birth family, and she was surprised that she was not eagerly accepted by her new half-siblings.  Her long time quest had a happy ending and she couldn’t understand why everyone at the end of her journey wasn’t as happy as she was.

She’d been raised as an only child and now found she had one full sibling and two half-siblings (same mother).   She was overjoyed, but that joy was not shared by her new relatives.

Whenever a baby enters a family, the family dynamics change.  The youngest child is now second to the youngest and there are more children to divide the parents’ attention.  The same holds true as adults when a “new” child enters the scene.  Often the adoptee who discovers his or her birth family turns out to be the first child of the family.  That makes the person who was the oldest his or her whole life now second in the birth order.  Even though childhood is over at that time, to find you are not the oldest (and first) child of a union can be upsetting to many.

Also, there is the attention factor.  A new person has entered the family dynamics and at least for some time gets most of the attention.  This can be disconcerting to the other brothers and sisters.  Again, jealousy can enter into the relationships.

As time goes on, there is the realization on everyone’s part that even though this new- found sibling is indeed a blood relative, that person has lived another life with another  family and doesn’t have the binding ties of shared experiences.  He may now be a legitimate member of the family, but he has a very different status.  Often the adoptee realizes this more than the others when there are natural conversations beginning with “Remember when, etc.?”  The adoptee is reminded over and over he is an outsider to these family experiences.  Sometimes sadness can set in as the adoptee is reminded every time he is with his new found family, that he is indeed quite different.  They have a bond that he is not a part of.

In one case close to me the daughter was an only child until her brother who shared the same two parents found his birth family.  At first she was delighted to have a brother, but soon realized her mother now divided her time between the two of them.  She’d had the full attention of her mother for 27 years.  The siblings began to quarrel, coming to the mother to solve their issues which the mother turned right back to the two of them.

These reactions are very normal and common and need to be understood when there are reunions.  On TV programs we often see the joy of the initial reunion and assume all will be happy ever after. Not always the case. These issues can be worked through, of course, but there needs to be a realistic attitude that human emotions are involved, justified, and need to be understood and dealt with.  Family dynamics are always changing as we age, and adoptees finding their birth families are no exception.  Indeed, they have a more complicated situation to work through.

Finding one’s birth family is often an extremely emotional situation.  Throughout it all, the adoptive family should remain tight and strong and support the searching adoptee.  The adoptee now has more relatives, but he may or may not be walking into a welcoming situation.  This is why it is so important that the adoptive family remain close, letting the adoptee know he or she is one of them – no matter what he or she finds outside the adoptive family.

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