Speaking with my birth mother for the first time had a tremendous effect on me, but what sort of ripple effect did it cause for my family?
My mother has always been supportive of my search and her reaction was uniformly positive. I debated how and when to tell my parents that I had found the people identified by Catholic Charities; while it would have been easier and cleaner to tell them in person, I live 1500 miles away and the phone was the most expedient way. Mom had lots of questions about the families, what they were like, did we have anything in common, what had happened to them since I was born--generally, many of the same questions that I had originally.
My dad was silent. He didn't congratulate me or ask any questions, he just listened silently while I explained the whole story on the phone. When I had finished and my mom was done with her roster of queries, he quietly asked if I was planning on meeting these people. I told him the truth--I didn't know as I was leaving all next steps up to XXXX. After all, I was the one doing the searching so I had had plenty of time to prepare myself mentally for the unlikely eventuality that I would someday find her. She was living her life, frankly a bit in fear that I might just materialize one day when least expected and disrupt her life. It was clear that she would need time to work through all of the emotions associated with me finding her and I am sensitive enough to know that I can't control that time table. That was OK with my dad, and that was the end of the conversation.
Thom, my brother, has been incredibly supportive of my search despite the fact that searching has never been a priority in his life. I think that he, like many male adoptees, sees searching as somehow disloyal to our parents so he wouldn't undertake it while they are still living. That view doesn't color his opinion of my search, however, he has always been curious, directing thoughtful lines of inquiry towards my search when I would hit roadblocks. I'm not sure if he will ever search, perhaps when he has a family of his own? The positive evolution of my relationship with our parents as a direct result of my search might serve to provide some additional motivation for him if he ever does seriously consider searching. Sometimes I'm sure I've been too pushy because I am so curious about his background and I've tried to propel him forward when he's not ready. Luckily, he understands my motivation and also how to best contain my enthusiasm without getting angry.
In all, making first contact with my birth mother had an overwhelmingly positive effect on my relationship with my parents. Because of my heightened concern for their feelings, I think I tried harder in all of our conversations and was slower to argue with them about unrelated issues. Plus, all of the reflection on my childhood forced me to see both the positives and negatives of growing up and to finally accept my parents for who they are: regular people doing the very best they knew how to do sometimes in difficult circumstances who truly wanted and loved me no matter what.
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