My adoption story has never been a secret. As far back as I can remember, I have always known that I was adopted; whether I truly understood what that meant was a different story. I had been born to a seventeen year old girl, who wanted nothing more than to be a mother but unfortunately she was in no position to be taking care of a child. Left without a choice, she placed me for adoption. I know my story and I know that she made this decision with the utmost respect and love. Yet, I needed to know more. At fifteen years old, I started searching Facebook with the minimal clues I had in finding my birth parents. I spent hours searching through people who had the same first name as my birth mother, obviously that was unsuccessful. It was extremely discouraging, but day after day I logged back in and searched again. Eventually, I became successful in finding both my birth father and birth mother. I began to build a relationship with them through Facebook. We exchanged pictures, stories, exciting news, and I learned so many things that I had missed having not been in contact with them. We became closer, and unanimously decided we wanted to meet in person.
But this was not a single effort on my part; my adoptive parents were there by my side for the entire journey. They respected my desire to learn about and contact my birth parents, and supported me through every step of the way. They helped me to create limits for myself so I wouldn’t become overwhelmed. Without their love and support, I wouldn’t have been able to successfully fulfill my wish of being in contact with my birth parents.
A year passed and we had plans to meet my birth parents in Indiana, where I was born and where my birth mother still lived. Knowing that reunions can have unexpected outcomes, I hoped for the best but expected the worst. Fortunately, my reunion went well, and I felt a bond to my birth parents that I hadn’t felt through social networking. I felt that this allowed me to get to know them; I finally heard their voices rather than imagining what they sounded like, and I was able to experience their presence. An internet relationship doesn’t allow this, so even though it seems convenient and easy, Facebook can be a damaging “go-to.”
Social media, specifically Facebook seemed to slowly harm this relationship because it allowed constant communication. And through this relationship, my birth parents always expected more. They treated me as their daughter, but to me they felt no closer than a distant relative. They always wanted to know how and what I was doing, as if they were my parents. In their mind, they were my parents; but having grown up with such loving adoptive parents, I couldn’t feel the same way. They are very important people in my life, and hold a special place in my heart, but my adoptive parents were the ones to raise and support me during the past eighteen years.
So, I needed time to think, but I also needed time to enjoy life. I couldn’t be a sixteen year girl old glued my computer to be in this constant communication. I had growing up to do and that wouldn’t have happened had I kept my computer by my side. So I told them I needed time; I told them when the time was right and when I was comfortable contacting them, I would. At first they were disappointed, but soon learned that it would only be for the best. They gave me the space I needed to grow up. Now, having graduated high school and having finished my first semester at college, I am in contact with my birth mother again.
This time, I’ve made some changes. I’m no longer using Facebook, rather, I use a private email. I feel that through this short time emailing, I have built a better and stronger relationship with my birth mother than I could through Facebook. There is no pressure to immediately answer each email, rather we send long and meaningful messages. Our relationship means a lot more to me now that I have grown up and come to realize how thankful I truly am for the decision that my birth mother made almost nineteen years ago.
If there is anything that I can recommend and advise for those planning to contact or meet their birth parents, construct boundaries and take your time. There is no reason to force yourself into the situation if you do not feel ready to do so. Do not be afraid to stick to these limits you have set, even if it is not what your birth parents had hoped for. Make sure you are ready to embark on this unknown journey; although no one can plan for the unexpected, you must be emotionally ready for what may or may not happen. In the end, all this will allow you security and comfort in having made the decision to contact or meet your birth parents.
About the author: Social Media and Your Adoption was written by Geneva Smith, a college student studying Expressive Arts Therapy with a specialization in Mental Health Counseling, and a dual-minor in Psychology and Music. Geneva’s family consists of her adoptive mother and father, and her two adoptive brothers. She was adopted by her parents as an infant. Her family currently fosters babies prior to their adoptive placements.