Knowing you're adopted is a big burden to carry around. It leaves a lot of questions to be answered. Sometimes you get lucky and get the chance to have those questions answered by your biological parents. Unfortunately, a reunion doesn't always end up like a Hallmark special for everyone. The people in the following stories got the opportunity to reconnect with their biological parents and share how everything turned out.
(Content has been edited for clarity)
“Every Now And Then I Wonder What Could Have Been”
“Before I was born, my biological mother was in a pretty bad place. She was pretty poor, already had a very young child to take care of, and didn’t have a husband or anything to help her out. So she went to some adoption agency and gave me to my parents. It was an open adoption, meaning she can have contact with me, visits, etc. My parents would regularly send her pictures. I knew I was adopted for as long as I could remember, so there was no moment where they sat down and told me about it. Anyways I would visit her a couple times a year when I was a little kid. Sadly, I don’t really remember much about her. My parents stopped taking me to see her because they thought it was too confusing for me since I was so young, and I think something about her home made my parents feel like I wasn’t safe? They don’t really want to go into details for some reason. So it wasn’t until late high school that we got into contact with each other again. We talked a little on the phone, but I felt so awkward and didn’t really know what to say. It’s super weird talking to someone who birthed you but isn’t your mom. The convos we had (not many) were pretty much like when your mom puts you on the phone to talk to some relative. It was just like awkward small talk. One day she invited me to go with her family to six flags, but I denied because I have a massive fear of roller coasters. That was probably one of my biggest regrets because a few months later, she died of pneumonia. I just wish I would have kept calling her or even messaged her on Facebook so I could have gotten to know her, even though it was hard for me. I don’t think about it daily or anything, but every now and then I wonder what could have been.”
An Unhappy Reunion
“My best friend is adopted. All she had seen of her parents was a photo of them at the age of 18, right before they had her, which is why she was given up.
One day, right after her 18th birthday, she picks me up in the morning to drive to school, and she is clearly frazzled. There’s a letter on the dashboard. I ask about it and she has a panic attack. After calming down, she tells me that it’s a letter from her biological grandmother. The grandmother apparently did not want my friend put up for adoption but had no choice in the matter. It was a closed adoption, so she also had no way to contact her. Somehow, her biological grandma found my friend’s adoptive aunt and uncle and left a letter for them in their mailbox when my friend was 15, basically saying she wanted to meet her granddaughter. Her adoptive parents didn’t want to give my friend the letter until she turned 18, so they did. The letter also stated her address, which was in the neighborhood right next to where my friend lives. She asks if we can drive by after school. Sure.
We pull up to the house, sit for a couple minutes, then she asks me to go knock on the door. It was crazy, but I did it. This woman answers, and I ask if she was the name that was on the letter. She said yes. Not knowing what else to say, I just blurt out, ‘Do you want to meet your granddaughter?’ Like I was on the Price Is Right and the showcase was a brand new granddaughter.
She immediately starts crying and says yes, my friend hops out of the car, they hug, we go inside, the house is lovely, and she’s still screaming. She says that my friend’s biological mom lives halfway across the country, but her dad is 45 minutes away. This was her maternal grandmother, so she calls her daughter while we’re there, and starts freaking out saying, ‘YOUR DAUGHTER IS HERE. YOUR DAUGHTER IS HERE! YES, YOUR DAUGHTER! SHE IS IN MY HOUSE! YOU NEED TO COME HOME!’ She asks my friend if she wants to talk to her real quick, and she agrees. They were both just kind of stunned.
We leave. Her biological mother comes to visit and she’s a lesbian. Which is great, because I’m gay and my friend has always been super into the LGBTQ+ culture and LGBTQ+ rights. But her mother is also a weapon-toting republican, and a little bit of a conspiracy theorist. She basically tells us that the adoption agent they went through died of a heart attack, and my friend’s adoptive parents used that opportunity to close the adoption because it was originally an open adoption. My friend believes this and takes this out on her adoptive parents.
The Biological dad says he isn’t ready to meet her after 18 years, he is doing is own thing, but they have since met and are good with each other. He has his own life, so they don’t see each other often.
My friend and biological mom agreed to move in together while my friend is in university. It was bad. Biological mom was a drinker and bipolar. She would wake my friend up at night to tell her that she should have never left her state to come back here for her. She also constantly belittled her, told her I was a bad influence because I called biological mom out on her stuff.
Finally, the electricity goes out in their house. Her biological mom grabs the dog, all the food, and leaves a note telling my friend, ‘good luck,’ and they never lived together again.”
Already Has Everything He Needs
“When I was 18, I suddenly had a really strong urge to know ‘who I was and where I came from,’ so I signed up on this website where you put in your date of birth and where you were born, and if somebody came along who put in the same information for when they gave a child up for adoption, it would connect the two of you (my adoption records were sealed, so there was no way for me to request the information).
I promptly forgot about it two weeks later.
Flash forward to when I was 24 and had completely forgotten about this thing. Suddenly I get an email out of the blue from someone saying that they found me through the website I had signed up for six years ago and that they’re pretty sure they’re my biological mom. We talked for a bit over email and on the phone, and then she wound up flying down to visit me where I was living at the time.
It was interesting to see what we shared both in terms of physical traits as well as mannerisms, as well as learn a little bit about how I came to be born, why I was given up for adoption and the like, but it also quickly became clear that part of what she wanted from me was for me to become a part of her life again.
She had this son shaped hole in her life that had been created when she had to give me up (and it was good that she did, she was way too young to have raised a child), but I already had a mom who had literally been there from the day I was born to feed me and change my diapers, and take me out to get embarrassing haircuts when I was a toddler, to take me to the eye doctor to get my lazy eye fixed, for me to get all angsty and angry at when I was a teenager, to tell me how proud of me she was when I graduated high school, and then college, to congratulate me when I got engaged, and then tell me the smartest decision I ever made was to break up with that girl and nobody in the family had ever liked her.
There was no room for her. And it felt like a disservice to this amazing woman who had been there for me my entire life to try to make her fit. I still hear from her occasionally, usually on my birthday. I bear no ill will or animosity towards her, but I just don’t want her in my life. There’s nothing malicious about it, I just don’t want or need her around.”
A Confusing Time
“I was adopted when I was three after my birth mother tried to drown me in a bathtub; she was high at the time and couldn’t quite do it, but because I was, you know, three, I couldn’t fight back. My uncle and his girlfriend were there in the guest bedroom staying the night and heard the commotion.
My uncle’s girlfriend interrupted the whole thing while he called the police. I spent most of the year in court with my family. I don’t remember most of this part, but I have papers that tell me about how most of my family rejected me. One of my grandparents took my sisters, but said they, ‘Really couldn’t have any more kids,’ and so, like a puppy, I got passed on.
I ended up getting adopted/fostered by my uncle and his girlfriend when I was around four. We moved around a lot and when I was five, the courts issued paperwork saying I was supposed to go live with my mom and dad again. Instead, I moved to Florida with my adoptive family.
My bio dad got into a fight with my mom and moved down there to live with my grandma (his mom), my ‘brother,’ and my cousin. He was in jail when I was younger, and I didn’t know he was my father at the time. I spent half a year with him there, but he died of an overdose/heart attack while trying to smuggle a heart monitor out of a hospital. At least, that’s what I’ve been told; because I didn’t know he was my father, maybe just because I was so young, it didn’t really register to me at the time.
When I was eight, I noticed that my ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ were listed as my aunt and uncle on most of my paperwork for school. I asked why and was told by the school that it was an error and not to worry about it.
I moved to Ohio in fourth grade, when my grandma died there during her high school reunion. We were staying with my ‘parents’ and she was sharing a bed with my ‘sister;’ sometime during the night, my sister (actually my cousin, in case it’s unclear) realized our grandma was dead and ran to tell our parents.
After that, we lived with my parents (really my aunt and uncle) until I was eighteen.
I told my parents I would be moving down south at the end of the summer and made plans to do so. On my last day there, my mom took me out to breakfast.
She handed me my birth certificate. It didn’t have her name on it.
I didn’t know what to do, so I went to go talk to my friends, to see if they could help me understand. All of them already knew; all of them were told the first time they came over to my house. Some were told in other ways.
So, I moved about eight hundred miles away, where I live now. I first spoke to my birth sister about a year after I found out I was adopted, and she invited me to come up for Christmas. I made the drive to Ohio for a weekend to hang out with her, just to kinda see what it was like, and then agreed to come spend part of my holiday there.
I came up, ate breakfast for dinner with my real mother (apparently tradition), and got handed a bundle of envelopes. They were letters that my dad sent my mother during his time in prison. They were very confusing and hard to read, but the gist of it is that my real dad may not have been my real dad. He denied it in some letters. Refused to acknowledge me in a lot of letters. In others, he asked how I was doing and if I was eating okay, and if I was still sick with some flu I can’t remember.
A year later, my birth mother stopped answering my calls. She still comments on my Facebook wall sometimes, but she never talks to me and doesn’t pick up the phone when I call. I tried to keep in contact with my birth sister (one of them), and I never managed to do that because I’m pretty bad about texting people back.
Now, I’m almost twenty-three, and I don’t know how I feel about it. My only thought is that I’m proud of my sister for never making a joke about me being adopted.”
“My biological father signed away his paternal rights for a few different reasons (not wanting his third child to be around his ex-wife – the biological mother of my half-siblings, the pressure to commit to my mother, and just the kind of man my adoptive father was).
So I was raised by my biological mother and adoptive father, who I just call Dad. My mom told me about the adoption when I was in elementary school, and I think that caused my dad to have a little insecurity every once in a while (especially when I, an only child, would beg to see my half-siblings). My parents got divorced when I was in middle school. A couple of years after the divorce, my biological paternal grandmother was on her deathbed, and my mom thought this would be the last chance I would have to ever meet her, so with my permission she set up a meeting.
While I’m looking at a picture of my biological father in his mother’s trailer, he just shows up. He looked completely different than the picture (he had gotten ripped), so I was just like, ‘Uh, hey?’
The two of us step outside and we just talk for a while. Some people talk about how they see common physical traits with their biological parents, but I didn’t, and I still don’t. I have some common mannerisms, but strangely enough, I actually look more like my dad. Also, my biological father and I had the exact same phone, background, and case design. That may not seem like a big deal, but we each had to buy the background and the case didn’t come with the phone, and there were hundreds of other designs out there. I still remember it, so I think it meant something to me.
Flash forward 8 years, I’ve just graduated college, and I’m looking for an apartment. My half-brother lets me know that the apartment across the hall from him was available, so I snatched it up that day. The two of us got really close that year, he’s an awesome guy. I’m actually sad that I don’t get to see him as often as when we lived next to each other, but that’s life.
Also during that year, our biological father would come visit about once a week. We spent many of those visits just talking through what happened. He expected (and I’m pretty sure he even wanted) me to be really angry with him. I think he just wanted me to scream at him a couple of times. I tried to explain that if he hadn’t made the choices he made, then I wouldn’t be who I am, and I like who I am. He definitely feels some pretty heavy guilt about it though.
I’ve also had a lot of talks with my dad about me getting to know my biological father, and we reached an understanding very quickly. My dad is my dad, and nothing will ever change that.
I will say that the whole situation has made me very careful about my terminology. I try not to say ‘adoptive’ about my dad unless I’m explaining the story. I don’t call my biological father dad, just to show respect. It got a little weird when I got married because I didn’t know if calling my father-in-law Dad was appropriate (it was, and was not a big deal).
So, overall, I’m glad I was adopted by my dad. He was probably the best influence on me growing up, and I wouldn’t change anything about my past.”
That Escalated A Bit Too Quickly
“I was adopted at birth by my parents from a couple that was very young and not able to care for me. I’ve always known, and It’s never been anything more than a fun-fact, really.
My biological brother found me on MySpace. We spoke on the phone once and became Facebook friends. To me, he was still a stranger, but he spoke with a familiarity that kind of freaked me out (‘I love you, little sister, I’m so proud of you’) and I cut ties fairly quickly. I guess he shared my information with our biological mother because she sent me a Facebook message soon after and they invited me to a family reunion (I didn’t attend).
I feel that my family are the people who supported me and loved me all throughout my childhood, angsty teen years, and now, into adulthood. I never sought out my biological family because I’ve been incredibly lucky to have never felt a void.”
From Cousins To Something Else
“I knew my biological mom my whole life without knowing she was my biological mom. I found out when I was 15. Her uncle adopted me as his own child, so I grew up thinking she was my cousin. She was 16 for all of 10 days when she birthed me. She’s grown up to have a bit of a drinking problem, and I know she regrets giving me up a lot. She has a huge amount of baggage, though, so I don’t hold it against her. She watched her father kill her mother when she was like 5 years old. He beat her to death with the butt of a weapon while their house was on fire.
I met my biological dad just before my wedding. He had moved away, but his parents lived in the neighborhood that I grew up in. So somehow my parents got in touch, and he showed up. We both had the same posture and awkward shyness towards each other. I look back on it fondly. Unfortunately, he passed away a couple years ago from Diabetes, as well as some other complications. He was also 16 when I was born.
Despite the above, I now have three half-sisters, and that is amazing. It’s hard to keep in touch because we’re all adults living in very different places, but it’s nice catching up with them every so often.”
Sometimes Nothing Can Prepare You For The Real Thing
“I was curious about my birth parents my whole life. In my teen years, I was very angsty and had a lot of hurt and anger about being ‘given up.’ When I was 18, I decided I wanted to start my search. My adoptive parents had always told me I was adopted and were supportive of me searching, they thought it would be nice for me to have some answers and history as well.
I went to the agency where I was adopted from one day with my mom and we started filling out the paperwork. I ended up sitting on the paperwork until I was 25. In the time between, I went to college and then ended up getting my master’s degree in social work and interned at an adoption agency as my first-year internship. I started attending post-adoption support groups as part of my internship, but if I’m being honest they were really more beneficial to me personally. Adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents who are thinking about starting or involved in the reunion process are invited to attend. Makes for some pretty cool conversations, and sometimes some heated ones as well.
I also had the really unique opportunity to attend a birth mother’s only meeting around birth Mother’s Day and it was that meeting that really made me want to search. You could see how deeply affected the women were by their decision to place their children and it really moved me. It was healing in a lot of ways and helped me to see past my own hurt and anger and into what my birth mothers experience likely was. I think I had an idea that she ‘took the easy way out’ for a long time and didn’t understand the complexity of these types of situations.
Unfortunately, it turns out my birth mother wasn’t really as warm and welcoming as these other women were. With the help of the agency, I reached out and she said she was open to contact, which was so amazing, that in itself felt so validating. I wrote her a letter and didn’t hear back for five months. During that time my birthday passed and I was feeling pretty hurt and vulnerable, but I was really looking for some closure and answers as well as medical history. To be fair I’m sure it was incredibly difficult for her, so I was willing to wait. The agency reached out again and she said she didn’t feel comfortable writing so we had a few awkward phone calls. It was kind of like she was trying to be my friend or act like we didn’t have a birth mother/child relationship at all. It’s hard to explain, but it wasn’t warm and fuzzy in the least, so much small talk, lots of avoiding. I didn’t feel like I could really ask the things I wanted to know because we didn’t have a relationship at all but it didn’t feel like the conversations we were having were really helping get us to that point either.
I did end up getting some answers to some questions. We met twice and it was super, super awkward and didn’t go at all how I would have hoped. That was about 2.5 years ago and I haven’t heard from her since, despite having reached out. Overall I don’t regret it, but it wasn’t what I had hoped for. I found out I was a secret from everyone in her life (including her parents and siblings), and while that’s understandable, it stings a little. I think she did the best she could with what she had and I imagine it must be incredibly difficult. I found her kids on Facebook and I wish I could get to know them, they seem pretty cool and like people I would be friends with, but I know it’s not my place to reach out and ruin her life either.
Overall, I’m glad I did it. I’m thinking about reaching out to my birth father for the same reasons but I’m also hesitant because of my less than stellar experience with my birth mother. At the same time, I really didn’t feel like I was similar to my birth mother at all and I’m just so dang curious to know if I’m like my birth father at all, or maybe totally? I feel like I fit in my adoptive family perfectly so I think I just want to finish the whole nature/ nurture puzzle for myself.
Interestingly I have two adopted brothers as well (not blood-related to me) and one has zero interest in looking or even talking about the subject and the other found out he is one of two children placed (the other to another family somewhere else) and his birth mother and father got married and have 4 other kids together, so he has 5 full siblings! He found them and although it’s complicated, they welcomed him in like he was just always there and he’s had a pretty good experience overall.”
A Scarring Trip To The Beach
“I have three brothers, all of us share the same mother but only one shares the same father as me. We were adopted by my mom’s husband at the time, they then together had two more kids. Before that, she left my father in Florida because he was abusive, racist, and all this other stuff.
Anyways, I never planned on meeting my biological father because my life was fine without him and from the sounds of it, he wouldn’t be adding any joy to my life; only pain and sorrow. Well a few years ago, my family was on vacation in my hometown and I guess some family members posted stuff on Facebook about it and it ended up on some extended family’s Facebook or something and my father ended up seeing the pictures. Being familiar with the area, he recognized the landscapes and buildings and pinpointed our location but didn’t know which room we were in so he stayed on the beach until he saw my brother and I walk out with our cousins that weren’t any older than us – no adult supervision. I should point out we are on the beach sidewalk and it’s kinda busy, there are people of mixed races all around.
A bald man wearing a wife beater emerged from sitting on a bench and came toward my cousins, brother, and I. He didn’t seem to notice my cousins but started talking to my brother and me directly. Not really talking, threatening more like it. He was threatening to kill us if he ever saw us with someone outside our race, all while yelling at any non-white person that walked past, being very vulgar and explicit in the process. This went on for a little until the guy randomly disappeared into the crowd. The last image I saw was him walking away, bearing a large Nazi flag on the back of his neck. I tried to laugh it off with my aunts and family later and noticed my mom getting uncomfortable. She heard rumors my father was in the area and she believed I’d just run into him. She showed me pictures of my father on Facebook for the first time since I never had an interest in him and I confirmed it was, in fact, my biological father that just came up to me and didn’t introduce himself in any other manner than threatening to kill his two sons if we were ever with someone outside our race. I cried for a while after that. I tried to tell myself he doesn’t matter to me but after realizing it was him and he didn’t even introduce himself to me, it really broke me for a while. How can a man that I’ve never met have such a control on how I feel?”
Gaining Something From The Experience
“I was adopted by my maternal grandparents. I didn’t find out until I was 15. Basically, the person I’d grown up knowing as my oldest sister was actually my mother. She was on illegal substances really bad when she was pregnant with me and proved that she couldn’t take care of me when I was born so my grandparents adopted me when I was an infant. My relationship with my biological mother hasn’t really changed much. My parents were the people who raised me and they did an amazing job.
I also met my biological father. Most of his side of the family… well, let’s just say we don’t mesh well. I’ve tried to fit in, but I’m 29 and finally came to the conclusion that just because we’re related by blood, that doesn’t mean I have to have a relationship with them. I’ve stopped talking to my biological father as well. He never really put any effort into seeing me after the newness wore off. He’s the type that thinks he can buy your love. I was just always left feeling worse after I spent time with that side of the family, so I’ve finally accepted the fact that it’s okay if I don’t want to be around them.
The only people that I still stay in contact with are my brothers. I was really close with the older of the two (he’s 6 years younger than me and the other is 6 years younger than him), but as he’s gotten older, I’ve started to see a lot of my father in him so that concerns me. I’m always the one to reach out if I want to talk to him or see him. I actually stopped talking to him for awhile for similar reasons as my father, but I recently discovered that he is having another daughter so that got to me… the fact that we weren’t on speaking terms. We kind of reconnected and though the relationship is rocky, it’s better than nothing. My youngest brother…. the older he gets, the more I realize he’s a lot like me. We have a lot more in common than anyone else in the family so I’m hoping we can continue to have a good relationship.”