Q. I recently made contact with my birth mother, who gave me up for adoption 33 years ago. As we've gotten closer, I think my adoptive parents are feeling a little hurt. How do I reassure them that this reunion won't affect our relationship?
--Briana T., Silver Spring, Maryland
A. Elizabeth Barbour, a reunited adoptee and life coach who works with people going through the adoption reunion process, says it's common for adoptive parents "to experience a variety of emotions when their child reunites with a birth family member." You need to emphasize to them that finding your birth mother is about finding a part of yourself, not about seeking replacement parents. This may seem so obvious to you -- of course you still love your parents. But they may need to hear it. They don't feel the ancient pull you have to reconnect with your birth mother, understand your background, and feel more complete as a person.
Look at this period as a time of transition. In the most fundamental way, your sense of who you are is shifting because of this new relationship. It might feel like a second adolescence, or a pull between two families. "When adoptees experience reunion, many relationships are affected," Barbour points out. Consult a few books (such as "May the Circle Be Unbroken" by Lynn Franklin, "Birthright" by Jean Strauss, and "Adoption Nation" by Adam Pertman) and websites (such as adoptioninstitute.org) on this topic and share them with your parents. Let your family know that your birth-mother reunion could reinforce your ties with them. After all, there's no more wondering, "Who am I, and why was I put up for adoption?"
There's a saying in the adoption community that Barbour has personally found inspiring: "If a mother can love more than one child, why can't a child love more than one mother?" You might want to share that with your adoptive parents. By being open and gently honest, you'll help reassure them without losing yourself.
Jennifer Louden is the author of six books, including "The Life Organizer: A Woman's Guide to a Mindful Year." She leads workshops on self-care and creativity around the country. Visit her at jenniferlouden.com. If you have questions about some of the life issues you face today, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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