Search on “adoptee reunion disappointments” and you will come up with a lot of links. Many adoptees, while they are children, fantasize about what their original parents were like and how they would have treated them differently than the adoptive parents raising them. The reality cannot live up to the fantasy.
First there is the joy in discovery and finally, finally, knowing the truth of where one came from and perhaps how they came to be conceived (which may or may not actually be a very happy story). Then there is the old “nature vs nurture” story. How much of who we become is due to genetics and how much is due to the culture we are raised within.
Finally, there is the issue of gratitude. Adoptees often feel like they need to be grateful to the parents that raised them for saving them from ? That is the problem. There is no way of knowing what would have been better. Reality is whatever it was. There are always issues of abandonment and rejection and fears of causing more of those wounds if the adoptee betrays the affections of those who raised them.
Here is one adoptee’s story –
Paul had spent his whole life dreaming about his mother. He imagined what it would be like to meet someone who looked like him, who offered unconditional love and who took away the empty feeling he had always carried in the pit of his stomach.
“I thought meeting her would make me whole. I had had a happy childhood but somewhere deep in my gut, I have always been hollow,” said Paul, now 42 years old and living in Kent.
But Paul’s meeting with his mother was a disaster. “I now believe you can never recreate that mother-child relationship,” he said. “Away from the dreams, the initial rejection an adopted child has suffered makes unconditional love impossible to recreate in the cold light of reality.”
“I understand why my mother gave me up but I still find it impossible to forgive,” he said. “Now I have to come to terms with the fact that I have spent my life looking for something that was never there.”
One study revealed that, eight years after first making contact, almost 60 per cent of adopted children have ceased contact with, been rejected by or rejected further contact with their birth parent. It is rare that a birth relative rejects the adoptee. Even so, the birth parent may have higher expectations of a renewed relationship than the adopted child, who may only want to answer questions about their own identity.
According to one survey, over 70 per cent of searchers and 89 per cent of non-searchers fail to feel an instant bond with their birth parent. One in six new relationships break down within one year after initial contact and almost 43 per cent of relationships are abandoned within eight years.
From my own experience of discovering my genetic relations (I am not an adoptee but both of my parents were), one cannot recover lost time nor opportunities to forge closer relations. One can only begin where they find themselves to slowly, over time, develop whatever relationship is possible.