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The adoption was supposed to be open, but my mother ruined that for me. She wrote the adoptive parents too often, and they wrote me and the father asking us to cut off all communication with them. Now the baby I gave up is an adult and, after looking for her father and me on social media, she has found us. Her father and I are married with two kids, and she has been messaging my husband. I have been stand-offish as I really don’t think I want to meet her. The thought of meeting is causing me great anxiety. She has told my husband that her adoptive parents didn’t want her to look for us. My husband is really excited to meet her, but I am very reluctant. She has said that she is not angry with us for giving her up, but I had to bottle my emotions about the adoption to move on and I don’t think I want to re-live that part of my life. What should I do? — Birth Mother Found
I can understand, and I sympathize, with the mixed emotions you must be feeling right now. To have so little control over such an enormous part of your life — your first pregnancy, your first baby, your labor, the adoption, and the way the communication was handled with the adoptive parents — must have been traumatizing. I can understand why you’d be reluctant to re-live those experiences.
But the thing is, you have control now that you didn’t have before and you can choose to make new memories to replace the unpleasant ones you don’t want to re-live. At the very least, your husband and your sons deserve to meet their daughter/sister, and I hope you won’t take after your parents and rob them of the love and joy they could share with her.
As for making peace with her yourself, I wonder if writing a letter might be helpful for you. I suspect that even though your birth daughter says she’s not angry with you, you might fear that she is. Or that she doesn’t understand why you gave her up or the pain doing so caused you. If you’ve ever wondered what you would say to her if you could, this is your chance. Put it in a letter. Give it to your husband to give to her when they meet. Let her know that you love her and that, to survive the pain of giving her up 23 years ago, you had to bottle emotions, emotions you are afraid of confronting now.
The introduction of your birth daughter to your family now after all these years is a big deal, whether you meet her face-to-face or not. These bottled emotions, the lingering anger you might feel at your mother and stepfather, any guilt you might have, any resentment you fear your husband and sons have toward you for feeling how you feel — it’s all a lot. Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with your family. There’s no right way to feel. You are all entitled to your emotions — the excitement and the trepidation, included. If you haven’t yet, you might want to see a therapist, either individually or as a family, to help you navigate these emotions — the new ones, and the ones that have been bottled up for 23 years.
In the end, I hope you will see this new development in your life as a gift. If you choose, you can have a relationship with your birth daughter. She obviously wants that, and if you decide you want it too, it’s yours to build. And at 23 and 39/40, respectively, you two potentially have decades to build it.
I have two children, and I know from experience — as you do too, I’m sure — that the heart expands in love with each child you’re lucky enough to have in your life. I hope you will allow yourself to have that love in your life and to build new memories with the daughter who has been searching for you. The choice is yours, and, unlike before, you are in full control.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.