October 3rd, 2007
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As I talked about earlier in the week, there are many birth parents who haven’t told various members of their family about the existence of their placed child. The pregnancy and subsequent relinquishment were kept secret for any number of reasons. And so, how does one go about enlightening family members and what are the consequences of that revelation?

Obviously, situations and experiences will vary. Personally, I didn’t have to tell anyone in my family. Instead, after I got married, my Husband and I realize that his father (and other paternal relatives) were not aware that the adorable little girl who visits two to three times per year is actually my biological daughter. For awhile, discussing her relation didn’t seem pertinent as we don’t spend the majority of our time with his family. However, once we conceived our first son, we realized, quite quickly, something needed to be done.

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Because kids talk. And our son would be raised with the full understanding of who his sister was and why she lived in a different house with different parents.

To be completely honest? I kind of chickened out. I let (or, rather, made) my Husband tell his Dad’s side of the family. My reasoning was partially based on the fact that they have to love their son/grandson but they don’t have to love or accept the woman he married. Thankfully, the news was accepted in stride.

So, what can be done about family members who don’t know if you can’t cop out and make your significant other do the talking? You can go about it any number of ways. Here are a few.

1. Just do it. Sit down. Talk about it. Lay the cards on the table. This is the most direct manner of going about it and some may respect you for being able to be so up front about something so hard to talk about. That said, if you have family members known to fly off the handle, perhaps consider telling them from behind protective gear.

2. Have another family member do it. Confide in one family member, one who won’t fly off the handle, and ask if they would help you do it. Or, even sneakier, tell the family gossip and time how quickly it gets back to you!

3. Don’t actually tell anyone but just hang pictures in your home and invite everyone over for dinner. See how long it takes for questions to be asked. Give out door prizes.

4. Don’t actually tell anyone and either invite your young (open adoption) child (and family) or your grown (reunion) child over for dinner along with the rest of the family and see how long it takes for someone to say, “Now, who are you? Why do you look like Grandpa Charlie?” Prepare your child with some sarcastic comment. Photograph faces.

Okay, so I through some humor in there. Why? To help you take the edge off of the issue. Yes, there are consequences to discussing this with family members. Mixed reactions might occur. Some may be angry that a family member was placed outside of the family. Some may be angry that you got pregnant out of wedlock. Some may be confused. Or saddened. Or any number of emotions! But their reactions don’t have to make you feel like less of a person. (Easier said than done, right?) Understand that all people have personal opinions on adoption, from mild disinterest to severe distaste, and they’re going to share them whether you want them to or not. If the mud-slinging starts, simply end the conversation with a pat answer like, “Well, I’m sorry you feel that way but nothing can be done to change the past.”

Furthermore, if you have any specific advice on this topic, you might want to head over to You Never Get Over It, a blog by a first mother who just wrote about this very topic. It gets complicated when a young child is involved as well (as Josh and I both recognized before Nick was born). So anything you have to offer this mom would be greatly appreciated, I’m sure!

Again, if you have a story or advice on this particular topic, please feel free to share it with readers via comments (or drop me an e-mail). Advice from mothers and fathers who have been there, done that can really help motivate a parent through this process!

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For more, read:

1. Silence in the Family.

2. Adoption and Reunion Affects on Birth Families – Part Two.

3. Adoption and Reunion Affects on Birth Families – Part One.

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Photo Credit.

5 Responses to “On Telling Family”

  1. monavoir says:

    I have to say this hits close to home.

    When Nicole was born, my parents who lived in Kansas (I lived in Ohio) made the decision not to tell my two younger brothers, then 9 and 7. They felt it was something they “couldn’t nor should they have to understand”. Like most things my parents didn’t like about their lives, they choose to sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn’t exist, forcing everyone around them to do the same (like the fact that my mother by birth was not the mom who was raising me).

    I have to admit that now, 11 years later, when my brothers are 18 and 20 and our relationship is building, I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t think they know (knowing my parent’s don’t ask don’t tell policy) and it’s never something I’ve brought up. I think it would have been possible for them to find my blog and read it and see if they wanted, but they’ve never mentioned either of those things to me.

    My youngest brother and I are getting closer, I think it’s something he should know, but I don’t want to make a huge ordeal about it. Especially considering how his wife-to-be was in a similar situation as I was but made a different choice, I don’t know how he’ll react.

    I am confuzzled. Plus I still bear some “I-need-to-respect-my-parents-wishes” brainwashing which also prevents me from making that step.

    I don’t know what I’m saying… just felt like putting it down – thanks for the place and opportunity.

    Either way, you’ve induced some thought and maybe I’ll have to reevaluate how this is handled. But I certainly will be writing about it!

  2. scarlet moon 13 says:

    3 & 4 were very good, oh and the family gossip.
    very funny.

    Okay, my case. It was 1964, my mother the b*t*h made sure everyone knew that I was not to be helped, don’t offer to help, just shut up. I was 15 and so alone, and no one cared.

    10 years later, my grand mother said, “I wanted to just grab you and the baby and bring you home.” I said nothing, on my way home I cried for the second time since his birth.
    I didn’t know until then that both my mother and grandmother had seen my baby.

    When I started to search, my dad said, “we thought you didn’t care, you never talked about it.” My dad was in New Orleans with 2nd wife and kids when it happened, he didn’t know then, I told him when I was 19, after my last child was born.

    What was there to talk about? It was a closed 1964 adoption. I had been isolated, I withdrew. I saw him once, I wasn’t allowed to hold him. I was left alone my first night out of the hospital, the first time I cried after his birth.

    I had regulated my conversations about it to unemotional, short, and to the point. I realized I was pregnant, the father went away,(father was threatened by my mom) mom wouldn’t let me keep my baby. Don’t ask, there was nothing else to tell.

    I even wrote down a description of my baby, then threw it away in case my mother found it. But I never forgot.

    Before his first birthday, I was 17, I got married. I didn’t exist, I didn’t want to be in the real world without my baby. So barely 9 months later I had a daughter.

    The point I was trying to make, there was nothing to talk about except a pain I had buried so deep I didn’t even know it existed until just before I started to search. That was when the walls came tumbling down and more pain they I knew existed within any human start to bleed from every pour of my body. My father thought I was having break down, I guess he was right. I knew that I would come out ok, but not when that would happen.

    sorry, got started on this and couldn’t stop

    for all who might read, I am happily reunited.

    And the only bad thing, I could have done a better job then his aparents..
    sad to say, it is true. Now that really chafes.

  3. justgwen424 says:

    I’m from the other end of this equation – I’m an adult adoptee. I found my birthmom and sent a letter to her almost 6 months ago, and haven’t heard anything back. Of course, I suspect I am a big secret in her life – and that’s a little painful for me. I would love to get to know her and be a part of each other’s lives…

    So, I guess I just wanted to encourage each of you to tell your families. The longer you wait, the harder it’s going to get.

    The truth will set you free.

  4. roni says:

    I’m not very close to much of my family. My one sister lives in Arizona and I don’t think she really knows much of my PooWee’s story. I recently just sent her an email inviting her to my blog. I thought I’d share his story with her. She was very happy I did and wished she would have known a year ago because she said she would have been there for me.
    For me sometimes it’s hard to talk face to face. But, writing my thoughts seems to work.

  5. Roni; I think that’s a great point. I also write a lot better than I can speak at times so, for some, writing it out might be a legitimate option!!

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