When is the 'Right Time' to Tell Me About My Birth Family, and Who Ultimately Should Decide That?

I was thinking about my book, and I was wrestling with where to start. I began asking myself if I should start with the day I first got the courage to ask my mom about my birth mother when I was eight and was given (what I thought) was a breadcrumb towards my identity, in the form of a name. Her name is my birth mother's name. Or if I should start with the moment my adoption questions couldn't be avoided by my parents any longer, and as luck would have it, I was graduating high school in a week, and I was already eighteen.

The reason they couldn't avoid it was that, at the time, I had been dating a guy for four years, and he was adopted. That summer, he was preparing to meet his birth family, and his adoptive parents were so supportive it made me resent my mom a little; I felt like, “Why aren't you acting like they are ?” I would have these random feelings like this pop up a lot, like, “What are you so afraid of, and how is that my problem.” I felt so guilty for even thinking like this, even though in the back of my head, I'd always known I had a right to be angry; I just wasn't confident enough yet to stand by my anger.

Anyways, when I thought about at what age I received the information about my birth family, it seemed so cliched. I was also annoyed that adoption history or adoption stories, whatever your preferred name, are beholden to the unspoken (and antiquated) list of 'I'll tell you when you're ready' speeches that occur when parents are too lazy to answer a complex question, explain a complicated (and often nuanced) situation or explore an uncomfortable topic to avoid a potentially awkward conversation. It makes me angry that my questions haven't been answered but ignored. Then to add insult to injury, it's somehow gotten into the public consciousness that any potentially life-altering event or family secret needs to be hidden from those deemed too fragile to hear it. Still, at the same time, those same people have cautioned you since the age of eight that “you're going to be very fertile because your mom was very fertile,” as if an eight-year-old can't figure out what's being implied with the utterance of that statement. Yet, I can't know or talk to my birth family until I'm 'old enough to make that decision for myself,' my adoptive parents would say. (I do feel the hints of a larger conversation about at what age, logistically, children are aware of what they're doing and the potential consequences in such circumstances where 'right' and 'wrong' are applicable, but that's a discussion for another day, in another article, for an entirely different blog.)

Look, I'll be honest; I don't really have any answers for you or any concrete strategy for how to cope with it. I'm unsure if adoptees read my blog or relate to my typed words. I just know I started this blog because I was frustrated by the paywalls and lack of free support from people who know how to deal with this kind of thing. All of the significant adoption resources, sure, some offer message boards kind of but even then, you're barred from sharing any personal information or even the non-identifying information that we, as adoptees, are legally entitled to receive through the county in which we were born, are locked behind a subscription. And to me, I'm being exploited by companies who claim to help 'reunite families' or whatever for monetary gain. Our vulnerabilities and insecurities are openly being preyed upon. It's similar to being slapped in the face and punched in the gut. They're saying,

“Oh, I'm so sorry your mother abandoned you, you don't deserve that kind of treatment, and I promise you are not alone. I can help you.....if you pay me an upfront fee of $1,000, regardless of whether I locate your biological family members or not...” As her voice fades into the background, the longer this cell phone pitch continues, you're most likely paying a dollar a minute because it's fucking 2008. It's patronizing, and haven't we been patronized enough? Between the 'be grateful' suggestions, the looks of pity that are received, and the number of times you have felt obligated to launch into an explanation of your origins just to justify your existence at whatever event, ceremony, or family gathering you go to, having to pay or jump through hoops to get access to essential information and god forbid a forum or chat board that isn't Reddit, 4Chan, Facebook, or any half-assed government website that looks like it was done by the same people who created AIM (AOL Instant Messenger, in case you aren't 4 million years old) in 2004.

Whether we are 'ready' for the information or not, we all look for it. I cannot be the only one searching for these resources or support groups. There needs to be a place for us to go where we don't feel like our adoptive parents are going to be able to find what we've said and what we've written and, by default, deepen the guilt and shame we feel when given the freedom to explore who we are, where we come from, and what conclusions we make based on the information available to us.

You aren't alone. I can't wait to see what the Anonymous Adoptee will turn into, and I hope my experiment will be fruitful in helping other adoptees. Hopefully, your path will be shorter, less painful, and lead to more healing than mine.