When an adoptee has just discovered a way to contact their birth mom the question always is, how to make that first contact. Should you write, make a phone call, what should you do? When you finally get a name, address and phone number your emotions go into overdrive. The first thing to do is STOP and THINK. Ask yourself the following questions:
If I was a birth mother who had not told a soul about giving a child up for adoption, would I want someone calling one of my relatives or friends and asking them questions?
If I got a phone call and someone was in the room with me when I took the call, what would I do?
If I received a letter, is there anyone else in the house who might open my mail? Is there anyone who would ask me who that letter was from?
The cardinal rule is, do nothing to hurt the person you want to make contact with.
We know that almost every adoptee and birthmother who searches does it out of love not out of animosity. There is no hard fast rule for how not to bring hurt on a birth mom. You must just try to do your best.
Many recommend that you have a third party make the first call or write the first letter. Anyone who hires a state appointed Confidential Intermediary will discover that this is standard procedure with a state program.
The person who makes that first call or writes that first letter can make or break a reunion. You can ask your CI what they will say in the first phone call or letter. You can also ask them to be sure that your birth mother understands that you aren't angry with her and only want to at least be able to get medical information. Let the CI know that you would like to have personal contact with your birth mother and will understand if it takes her some time to adjust to everything. Be sure you have faith in your CI. If you don't, request a change in CI's. Some states will allow this and some will not.
The major benefit to having a State appointed CI do the search for you is that they will have access to your files and so they will be searching with full names and birth dates. They will also have the last known address for your birth mother.
If you have done your search on your own you can still consider having someone else make that call for you. It can ease the tension and help someone who is not ready for reunion take the necessary time to adjust and then accept reunion.
Many Birth mothers have never told anyone about you. It was a deep dark secret and they were made to feel ashamed of all of it. At the time, having a child out-of-wedlock was considered shameful. Then to have given a child away, well as the years went by and thinking changed it has made that aspect worse. So now here they are wanting to meet you to know that you are all right and terrified to tell anyone about you.
In writing to a birth mother or if you know for sure that your birth father knows of your birth, a good way to begin is by saying that you remember them from back in (the city of your birth) and that the last time you saw them was on (your date of birth). You might say that you have missed them and would like to renew your friendship or some such thing. You could include a bit about yourself such as "I am now married and have x number of children." The idea is to write it in such a way as to be sure that they can explain you as being an old friend to someone else who may see the letter.
Many people want to send a picture in that first letter but you can see that could possibly be a threat to the person you send it to. I would suggest that you say something like, "I will send you a picture soon so that you can see how much I now look like my mother/father." Be sure that you include your address and phone number in the letter. Most people now include their email address as that is a very convenient way to get contact going.
While I really suggest a letter is better some people just have to make the phone call.
If you decide to call you will want to write down just what you want to say before lifting that phone. Take a deep breath and dial the number. Be certain that you are speaking to the right person. If the person you are calling is not there try to find out when would be the best time to call and find her at home. If you are asked to identify yourself say that you are an old friend of hers. You can leave your name and phone number.
When you are finally speaking to your birth mother take a deep breath and try to relax. It is recommended by many that you say that you have a very important phone number for them and could they get a pen and paper to write it down. I know I would ask why I needed to write down their number. The person calling would have to tell me something about why they were calling before I would comply with that request. However, you can sure try doing that. If they do respond the way I would then you will have to go ahead and start talking.
I would tell her that my news may be something of a surprise to her and then proceed to ask if the date (of your birth) means anything to her. After giving her time to respond, this is the point in the conversation when I would ask her to write down my phone number. You should ask her to read the number back to you and be sure she has your area code included.
If she has indicated that she is able to speak with you at that time, the conversation really gets going. Try not to blurt out anything startling. Another deep breath is probably in order here.
It is time to introduce yourself, calmly if possible. Give your name and then say that you have been searching for your birth mother. Tell her the date of birth and other things you know like the city, hospital, etc.
Again remember that the person you are calling just received this call out of the blue. You have had time to think about what you where going to say and you knew it was going to happen. Also keep in mind that some of the information you have gotten may not be true. There can be odd items that do not seem to match.
Your birth mother may say something like, "Yes, that date means a lot to me," indicating that she knows who you are and why you called. She may say that the date doesn't mean anything to her. In this case, it could mean your research is faulty and you have called the wrong person. On the other hand she may be in total denial, or she may have forgotten the date. Some birth mothers are so traumatized by the whole thing that they do indeed forget the exact date. If something like that happens, and depending upon the tone of the conversation, you should go over the details of what you know about your birth mother with this woman. Ask questions that you know the answer to from either your research or non id-information. You can ask whether she has ever been to the city of your birth and was she there in the month and year of your birth. If she says yes to most of the question, but still sounds puzzled by it all, ask her if any of her friend's placed a child for adoption back then.
It is impossible for any of us to come up with every scenario that could occur. The idea is to think it all out beforehand and try to be ready for anything she says.
If your conversation does not go well, or your call has
upset her DON'T PANIC! She could be in a state of shock and really not know what she is saying.
(A very good reason to have someone else make that first call or to make it a letter instead of a call)
Now you must GIVE HER TIME! You may want to tell her that you love her and that when she is ready to talk to please call you. Be NICE. Be nice, especially if she isn't.
Even if the call goes well, this is not the time to tell her that you had a bad life. If yours was not a good adoption experience you will eventually tell her about it. Do try to keep your first contact light and positive. At the same time, please, please, be HONEST with her. Honesty is vital to reunion.
If things start out well with this first call, remember to still give your birth mother time to adjust and time to talk to any of her family members who are in the dark regarding you.
Years ago adoption agencies and all involved recommended that adoptive parents NOT tell the child that they were adopted. This practice continued into the 60's. A great many adoptive families did NOT follow this advice realizing that it was not sound advice.
When the agencies began counseling adoptive parents to tell the adoptee of the adoption there were families that did not follow this advice. In some cases they were told by family members that in the past they had been told not to tell and so the bad advice went on from generation to generation.
While it is true that there are now more adoptees who know and have always known that they were adopted there are still those who do not know the facts of their birth.
There is no way for a Birth mother or birth family to know so all they can do is approach the subject gingerly. I would suggest something like...
Were you born on such and such a date in the city of __________? With a yes response continue with an explanation of how you have been looking for someone who was born on that date and wonder if they could be the one you are searching for.
At this point if the adoptee knows that they were adopted I think they are going to realize what the call is about. They will say something to indicate that.
If they don't seem to have any clue what the call is about, you are in trouble.!! You become the "messenger" in the old "kill the messenger" saying. You are at a point now of deciding whether or not to ask them if they are adopted. You may opt to have someone else call them back at a later time so that it is someone else who drops this information on them.
return to Adoption Search and Reunion