Is Searching an Invasion of the Birth Mother's Privacy?

One concern I often hear from adoptive parents who are considering searching for a birth parent is that they don’t want to invade the birth mother's privacy, interrupt her life, bring up painful memories or cause difficulties for her with her family.  

First, if you have hired a reputable searcher, she will know how to locate the birth mother and interview her without "outing" her to her family or community.  This should be a primary concern before starting your search.  Look for future posts on how to hire the right searcher for your family.

However, the issue of bringing up painful memories is quite a bit more complicated. Adoptive family contact is certainly bittersweet for most birth mothers. However, it is important to remember that many birth mothers have been told for years by family, their community and the rumor mill that the child they placed for adoption is most likely dead.  This was the case with my own daughter’s birth mother.  

So it really isn’t surprising that the most common reaction on being found is one of extreme relief and the lifting of a burden of guilt which the mother has carried for years.  In many cases, knowing that the child who was placed for adoption is well, safe and loved gives the birth mother the confidence to share her "secret" with her family.  This doesn’t always happen right away, and sometimes doesn’t happen at all, but when it does it provides the birth mother with a support system she may have never had before as well as the freedom to now talk openly with her family about the child and his adoptive family.

 Even in cases where the birth mother’s family knows of the adoption, she is still never certain what happened to her child and often carries feelings of guilt which are greatly relieved when she learns her child is alive, healthy, happy and well-loved.

 In Spanish there is a word I heard daily while doing volunteer work with poor families in Guatemala: “desahogarse.”  The dictionary translation would be to "unburden oneself," but its meaning is so much deeper for women who have quite literally no one to talk to, let alone someone to whom they can tell their problems or secrets. While receiving news of a child can be painful for a birth mother, it's also healing and it's the very rare case when she is not happy to have news of her child.  

As always, I'd love to know your thoughts either in the comments below or via email.   And click here to Subscribe to the blog and automatically get future posts.