*The 5 Stages of Reunion*
From the book "BIRTHRIGHT," by Jean A.S. Strauss
This begins at a very young age for the adoptee. Fantasies are hard to avoid when there's so little info to go on; some are positive, some negative. Fantasies are not limited to the adoptee; bmoms have them. Conscious awareness of fantasies are limited and may not surface until long after reunion is underway.
Key: Fantasies are forever changed and altered by the realities of stage #2....First Encounters.
2.) FIRST ENCOUNTERS:
Every encounter is different; most are civil; it's a highly charged time of massive amounts of shared information; questions are finally answered; people ride on a euphoric high for days or weeks or months; but after all the questions are answered, then what? Who are we to each other? Where do we go from here? How do I incorporate you into my life? The third phase of the reunion begins with these questions.
3.) THE MORNING AFTER:
First encounters can be super intimate, but when everything settles down, bfamily members can find themselves feeling as if they've just slept with a total stranger. In the roller coaster ride analogy, this is the *big drop down* and is unexpected. Bfamily members are blood relations, but socially and experientially strangers to each other. Differences are discovered and magnified (backgrounds, memories, values, religions, beliefs, etc.). This stage can have varying lengths depending on the individuals involved. It's a time of examining expectations and struggling with defining the new relationships being formed. Feelings are confusing, complicated and surprising. These emotions can escalate and become overwhelming and paralyzing. When this happens, people often put up walls and back away. This begins stage four: Limbo.
It's one side who pulls away, leaving the other side to "tread on eggs" wondering what's happening; adoptee or bmom can step back, but it's rare for both to want distance; many, many issues are at the forefront. Key: When a person chooses limbo, what is really going on? Processing. Person needs time to sort out new emotions, work through the past, decide what he/she wants to have happen, set boundaries and define the relationship. Making demands on the person choosing limbo for a greater, closer relationship may only serve to widen the gap between adoptee and bmom.
Final stage without a definitive starting point; can start years after the first encounter; this is a solitary experience. Bmom and adoptee confront issues, deal with losses, and move on. Decisions are made about how the new person will be assimilated; choice may be made to have an ongoing relationship or continue on alone. Problems arise when the two sides choose different paths. This phase is continual and includes setting goals.
>From the 1994 NY Triad Conference
Possible Adoptee Fears
1. That they will find their birth mother deceased.
2. That they will be rejected.
3. That their adoptive parents will be devastated and not understand why they are searching and that he/she will not be able to share with them or will be rejected by them.
4. That they are a secret and their birth mother will not acknowledge their existence to herself or her family.
5. That they will not meet the expectations of their birth mother.
6. That the birth family will be needy (it doesn't expound on whether they mean emotionally needy or monetarily needy)
7. That the birth mother will not be truthful.
8. That the birth mother will not understand his/her life problems.
9. That the timing or method of contact will not be right.
10. That they will hurt their adoptive or birth family by saying the wrong thing.
11. That they will find out negative things about their birth and surrender.
12. That they will have to give up their fantasies.
Possible Birth Parent Fears
1. That their child has not been told he/she is adopted.
2. That the child is not alive.
3. That they will be rejected by their child, lack of understanding.
4. That they will be rejected by the adoptive parents.
6. That the birth father will be given more credit than due him or recieves more attention than the birth mother.
7. That they will find a sickly child.
8. That they will find an unfavorable situation.
9. That the separation pain and anxiety will never go away.
10. That the adoptive parents' needs will come before the birth parents' needs.
11. That an "older" placement child's reaction to being surrendered will be negative memories of time together and then separation.
12. That they will be hurt their child by coming back into his/her life.
13. That something "bad" will happen to her present children.
14. That there will be punishment.
15. That they will hurt the adoptee or adoptive parents by saying the wrong thing.
16. That they will not live up to their child's expectations.
17. That their child will not understand the reasons for their surrender.
18. That the search will be unsuccessful.
Possible Adoptive Parents Fears
1. That they will lose their child to the birth parents.
2. That the birth family will be younger and more attractive to their child.
3. That they or their children will be rejected.
4. That the birth parent is deceased.
5. That the birth parent has a problematic lifestyle.
6. That the birth parent will have trouble accepting the adoptees problems.
7. That the adoptee will "act out" towards the birth parent.
8. That the reunion will be harmful for everyone.
9. That they will be blamed for the adoptees problems.
10. That they won't live up to the birth parents expectations.
11. That the birth parents will have health problems or be "needy".
12. That there will be a lack of honesty.
13. That they will hurt the birth parents by saying the wrong thing.
14. That there will be no commitment to ongoing relationships.
15. That the timing of the reunion will not be good.
16. That the search will be negative.
17. That the adoptee will feel guilty and/or responsible for the birth parents problems.
18. That the adoptee will not share the reunion with them.
19. That the birth parent will take a minor child.