Cracking the lid of Pandora's box

I hope you read the discussion at Dawn’s about adoptive parent involvement in their children’s searches. It's such a complicated issue. It was pretty clear from the comments that we adoptive parents approach this from many different points of view. And since the circumstances of each adoption are unique, it makes sense.

And makes knowing what to do very hard. There is no roadmap here, folks, no handy-dandy user guide with pat answers and clear directions. This is parental instrument flying – all we can do is trust the meager body of knowledge on this subject, and feel our way through the mist.

That mist will present us with obstacle after obstacle, and at each one we must make a decision that could bring serious consequences, not only for our children, but for their first families.

Should we even consider finding more information about our children’s families?
If we do, what if we’re successful? Do we make contact?
And if we make contact, are we ready to accept the consequences, no matter how serious they are for our children and their first families?

I can look at each of these and answer yes and no, honest double-talk, because each adoption’s circumstances may offer an honest reason to go in one direction or the other. What may be right in one situation could be frighteningly wrong in another – and the same decision may be wrong at one time, but oh so right at another. The dynamics are complicated and fluid, and decisions made today must be revisited again and again, for they’re valid only for the moment in which they’re made.

There’s no straight path to follow, but there are constants: For one, that it’s dangerously easy for us adoptive parents to project our hopes and desires onto our children. That our actions can harm as much as they can hurt. And above all, that our children own it all – the information, the search, the reunion.

I think what I’ve allowed myself to think is that if open adoption is a good thing (which I definitely believe it is) then opening a closed adoption must be a good thing, too. But what's missing in the latter is consent. Openness when everyone wants it is one thing, another thing entirely when it comes out of the blue to someone who didn’t expect or want it. And although I'll always believe that my children's mothers want to know them, and to know that they are healthy and well, making that happen is no longer in my hands, if it ever was.

I told the story here of making contact with one of our children’s mothers. There's no way to know if a reunion will ever happen for that mother and child. If it does, I'm sure I'll think that making contact when we did emboldened her to reach out. But if it doesn’t, I’ll also wonder if we frightened her away - and I would never forgive myself.

In a comment to Dawn's post, AmFam likened embarking on search to opening Pandora's box. I agree with the analogy. Yes, I'm glad we looked for more information and found it. But I'm a little ambivalent about having made contact, because I realize that by doing so, we may have put something in motion that we might not be able to control in the future.

So we've put the lid back on the box, and will go no further. It's up to The Boy and The Girl and their first parents now. And I'm good with that, with letting my hopes and dreams for my children stay just that. After all, sometimes hopes and dreams come true.


Celera said…
As an adoptee, and a mom of two grown sons, I think, Margie that you are a little hard on yourself sometimes. You are admirably conscientous about being sensitive to the issue of your kids' first families. I'm sure you've been equally conscientous about all the other aspects of parenting, and you likely have kids who understand how much you love them, how much you want the best for them. They will also be adults who are able to deal with ambiguity, unanswered questions, and disappointments. These are things all adults experience and we have to learn to cope.

In the event that you did "frighten off" your child's first mom, it was at worst a tactical error -- you tried to do the best thing. We can do everything right and things still work out badly. People respond badly to the best intended gestures. There would be no reason for you to feel you "can't forgive yourself" for that result, should things turn out that way.

I'm not at all trying to minimize yours or anyone else's feelings or issues. I've had my own struggles around being adopted. But you work very hard to handle things in the best way possible, and I believe your kids will appreciate that, the adoption community has learned and been inspired by your story, and the universe will reward you for your kindness and dedication.
Christina said…
You put so much of what I am thinking into words (and much more eloquently than I could!) ... and then inspired me to blog about this myself. As you say, every story is unique and there is no one "right" answer on this very difficult issue. And for your family, I think you did the right thing. (which is easier for me to say, because I am on the outside looking in!)

As you know, I've thought about this topic a great deal.

I don't have time for a long response now (I'll try to at some later time), but did want to add that the Yahoo group Birthparent Contact which is expressly for this purpose -- international adoptive parents who are contemplating or have already searched for their children's first parents -- has 1,031 members in it. So there's more interest than I think is known, but it's maybe a quiet interest that's not talked about much outside of the group. It's a private group, after all, and "what's discussed in the group stays in the group."

But there are people in it who are passionate about adoptive parents finding their kids' first parents. I'm still in it even though we probably won't search at this point. I'd like to stay in it for the time that Nate is old enough to decide for himself.

OK, that was longer than I thought it would be. Oh, and the URL for that group, if anyone who comes here is truly interested in searching, is:
And as a P.S., Margie, I absolutely agree with Celera. Not to minimize your feelings in any way also, but I don't think there's anything to forgive yourself for. We all do our very best in situations that we find ourselves in. You didn't do anything out of malice. In fact, you did what you did out of love, care, and respect for your children and their first families. I fail to see how ANYONE could fault you for that!

So stop it!!
erin said…
I can't believe I only just found you! Been enjoying reading, you've provided me with lots to think about in only a few posts, and enlightened me to the fact that kim-kim has posted again. thanks.
Margie said…
I know I am sometimes way to introspective, and I will stop. This has just been a really tough one to wrap my head and heart around. And you know what? I think I have done my best. I really honestly do.

Judy, thanks for that link - I think I belong to that group, LOL, but I just never have time to visit forums anymore. Dang, where's retirement when you need it?

Hey Ms. Broccoli - thank you. You, too, Erin and Celera!

And of course Suz who will be here in less than a month woo hoo!!!
Nooooo, it's not the introspection, Margie; it's the self-flagellation, Silly!

mischief said…
I just wanted to say thanks for leaving those comments on my blog. Thanks for reading and taking the time to respond. I look forward to reading your blog - it helps to get perspectives from other angles.
Margie said…
Mischief, I'm glad you commented, I'm looking forward to reading more of your story.

And Judy, I really don't mean to beat myself up, but there's such a thin line between accountability and guilt for our mistakes. I know I walk that line and often fall to the "guilt side," but I honestly don't feel that way IRL. I think maybe I just need to get it all out here to really be able to understand my role. But I promise it doesn't haunt me, and I will try to control it.
Well, I've been told I do the same thing on my blog and I don't IRL too, so I think I totally get what you're saying.

And it does help to Blog It Out.

So, Blog It Out, Sister!
mischief said…
Third Mom - if you want, you can read the whole story. No pressure - you don't have to see it. But it's out there in blog-land if you ever desire to look.

Go to my blog, scroll down in the archives, find March, and read "The Story of M". It's LONG - be warned. But it may give you some insight.
Michelle said…
I think to find the answer to "Should I help my adopted adults/kids reunite" is to ask yourself why you think you shouldn't. What are the issues that may arise with your involvement?

Had my adoptive parents found my mother for me and asked me if I wanted to meet her, I'm not sure what I would have said or done. I may have been angry and felt they had no business doing it, but would I have stayed angry - would it have changed them and me fovever? Maybe, maybe not. There's no way to determine the outcome. But, thinking about it now, after 11 years since my reunion, I think I would have appreciated the help.

Is finding one's parents not more important that worrying about what may or may not happen? The years are passing, the people are getting older - and the longer one waits to search the more difficult is becomes.

A human being's parents are missing - they need to be found. How they are found or by whom is really not the issue.

I donno, I think trying is better than worrying and presuming the worst.

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