By Trace A. DeMeyer (author of One Small Sacrifice and Two
Becky Drinnen and I are adoptees, writers and contributors
to the new anthology “Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age.” The editor
Laura Dennis asked us to discuss our stories in the book and ask each other questions
for our blogs. The new book will be released January 27 on Amazon and is available
as an ebook on Kindle (for e-readers). (ISBN: 978-0985616847)
TRACE: Becky and I were both named Laura before
adoption… how amazing is that synchronicity… So Becky, you and I began our
search the old way, before the internet. If you were asked advice by an adoptee
who is still searching, what would you recommend as far as how to search, and
what about using social media?
BECKY: Why am I not surprised that we were both
named Laura before we were adopted? I can't
tell you how many times I have connected with women named Laura! I think it began with my childhood
infatuation with Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder. (I
STILL love those books!) In the past few years I've connected with several
Lauras -- including Laura Dennis, the editor of "Adoption Reunion in the
Social Media Age"!
Search and reunion is a very personal experience. Every search will be unique. For those still searching, I think it is
important to know that many adoptees have been reunited with their parents
without access to their original birth certificates. Reach out to search angels in your state for
advice and assistance. Keep in mind that
at times the key to your search may be in a dusty file cabinet or sitting on a
library shelf. Just because you can't
complete your search online doesn't mean the information isn't available to
you. In my case, I didn't even have my
father's name when I started my search.
With some adoptee intuition and a lot of work, I found what I searched
for. Don't get discouraged!
The Internet has not only put search tools such as Spokeo,
Google and Facebook at the fingertips of
those searching, it has also given
adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents a public voice. The Internet gives authors the opportunity
to spread the word about their books via Social Media, blogs, and Amazon. And
there are many, many GOOD books out there that chronicle the adoption
experience and offer search tips and advice.
My advice would be for any adoptee searching would be to get
educated! Read, learn and participate in
discussions, and get involved. And reach
out to others. This will help you in
your search and will help you anticipate the variety of reactions you might
experience. And believe me, it will be
emotional! I really can't say enough
about being emotionally prepared for whatever you might find at the end of your
search. When I found my mother, I
wasn't prepared for rejection. Then,
many years later, I met my father and found I wasn't prepared to be welcomed
with open arms.
Social media is widely used by adoptees and birth parents as
a tool to communicate and gather information.
Facebook opened doors to me and helped me learn that my brother and I
both know some of the same people! So,
here's what I believe: What others post
on social media sites and make publicly available is fair game. Feel free to explore what is publicly
available. I also think social media
is a great way to keep in contact once ongoing contact has been agreed
upon. However, in most cases, I don't
think social media is a good way to make initial contact with a parent or
child. Social media is a wonderful tool,
but it needs to be used carefully.
TRACE: Adoptees have to deal with “the fog” and fantasy.
Usually we guess or dream up what our first parents are like and only know what
our adoptive parents tell us. Did your
adoptive parents tell you anything about your first family and did they support
you searching for them?
BECKY: My adoptive parents were always very open
with me about the fact that I was adopted.
However, they knew very little about my birth family. The only fact that they remembered was that
my birth mother had red hair. Of course,
once I learned that, every time I saw a woman with red hair, I looked for
resemblance. I dreamed up stories in my
head about her searching for me. As a teenager, I was obsessed with questions
about my birth family. I wonder if I
would have been more at ease with being adopted if my parents had been provided
with more information -- in writing -- about my birth family.
My Mom said that my birth mother was mentioned when they
first "met" me at the adoption agency, but they were so excited about
meeting me that they remembered very little of that conversation. My parents kept a very extensive file of
everything they received, and there was no additional information provided
about my birth family in that information.
Interestingly, they were given a booklet called "All
About Me", which contained information about what I ate, sleep habits,
etc. Apparently the adoption agency
didn't feel any background about my birth family was important for me to
I did not tell my parents prior to searching. I knew my Dad would be okay with me
searching, but I wasn't so sure about Mom.
For most of my teenage years, when I was angry with her for establishing
a curfew, or sending me to my room for hitting my brother, I would tell her that my "real"
mother wouldn't treat me that way. I
know I hurt her deeply at that point in time.
By the time I searched, I was on good terms with both of my parents, but
I felt strongly that this was something I needed to do on my own.
I did tell them about my search about a year after I found
my birth mother. She declined contact,
but I had some limited contact with her sister, my aunt. My aunt provided me with pictures of my
mother, my grandparents, and my brother and sisters. I started this conversation with my adoptive
parents by showing them pictures! They
were supportive and curious. I've always
had quite the independent streak, and they knew I've always had questions, so I
don't think my search shocked them. I
do wonder if my Mom would have reacted differently if I had established ongoing
contact with my mother.
Twenty-plus years passed between the time I told my parents
about finding my mother to the time I met my father. By that time my Dad had passed away. Once again, I conducted this search without
my Mom's knowledge. Once again, I opened
up my conversation about meeting my father with pictures! After I told Mom the story about how I
learned his identity, then walked up to him at a public event and introduced
myself to him, her first comment was:
"I wonder what he thought about how you were raised"? She is comfortable with my ongoing contact
with my father.
TRACE: I grew up in northern Wisconsin and some of
my first family lived there also. But I didn’t know this. I’m sure I’m not the
first person to wonder if I dated someone who could have been a cousin, sibling
or blood relative. You also grew up near relatives. Is it possible you met
someone in your family and didn’t even know? Did that ever concern you when you
BECKY: Growing up, no, it never crossed my mind that
I might date or be in contact with a blood relative. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and grew up in
a small town across the state, 200 miles away.
I always felt very far away from my biological family; I just assumed
that they were from the Cleveland area, so why would they ever end up in a tiny
little town across the state.
When I found my birth mother in the early '80's, she was
living not in Cleveland, but in Columbus, less than 100 miles from where I
live. That still felt far away to me -- I
never thought it was in the realm of possibility that I would become acquainted
with a family member. Imagine my
surprise when, thanks to that mutual friend feature on Facebook, I discovered
that my brother works with a friend of mine, eight miles from my house. In a moment, I learned that what I never
imagined possible was, in fact, real.
And it doesn't stop there. As I
have become more and more vocal about my experience as an adoptee, I have
learned that several other friends and acquaintances know my brother through
their work. I do believe that, at some point, I will meet my brother.
I recently saw or read a story about a birth mother/daughter
reunion where mother and daughter realized they had been connected during the
daughter's growing up years. Mother had been a school bus driver, and after
some discussion, they realized that she had been the driver for her daughter's
school bus route! I always felt like I
would "know" it if I met a birth family member. This story illustrates to me that what I
believed may not always be true.
TRACE: Some of us deal with rejection by our first
families. My mother Helen chose not to meet me but did send my birthfather’s
name after I wrote her a second letter. You have not met your mother (not as yet)
but did speak to her… Do you think this new book could change your mother’s
mind about having contact with you and suggest a reunion?
BECKY: Trace, I hurt for you as you ask this
question. And I hurt for me. I was still firmly entrenched in the
"adoption fog" when my birth mother refused contact with me. In fact, I knew very little about adoption
issues at that point in my life. I SO
wish resources such as Laura's anthology had been available to me to help me
through the search and reunion process and to help me understand many of the
issues faced by all of those affected by adoption.
I learned how my mother's sister perceived the circumstances
of my conception and placement for adoption almost 30 years ago. However, it wasn't until I reached out to my
mother again in 2011 and had a conversation with her that I really understood
how deeply affected she had been by getting pregnant and being shamed by her
parents. I came away from our
conversation with the realization that she has never healed from placing her
first child for adoption. She did what
her parents and social workers told her to do... she walked away from the
hospital and never spoke of me again. Not even to the man she married three
years after my birth. Yet she still
remembered the name she gave me. And she
told me she thinks of me every day. She
I can't pretend to know all of the thoughts that run through
her mind. What I do believe is that she
has a lot of healing to do before she will be in a place to be ready to meet
me. And I believe that studying the
issues faced by adoptees and birth parents is an important step in
healing. The adoptee and birth parent
community has been a tremendous source of information, support and healing for
me. And I believe that, if my mother
would read books like “Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age”, she would
begin to have the tools to heal. And the courage to reach out to others who
share her experience. She would realize
the impact of adoption for adoptees. And
she would be able to identify with the stories of other mothers who lost
children to adoption. If this were to
happen, I believe she might have a change of heart about meeting me.
***I want to thank Becky for sharing her thoughts and story
with this blog, American Indian Adoptees. Do you have a question you’d like to
This is cross-posted at
www.splitfeather.blogspot.com and at www.tracedemeyer.com.