After recently meeting my birth family in Colombia, South America there are a few things I wish I had considered beforehand. To anyone who is also on this journey I hope this may provide you with some insight to the beautiful scary journey ahead. No matter what happens remember you can make your own family blood or not.
1. Throw away the fantasy.
I couldn't tell you how many hours I had spent dreaming about my birth mother, creating fantasies of what she may be like and explanations as to why I am the way I am today. When I saw a picture of my mother for the first time, I was so wildly disappointed that it hurts to even admit. The image I had created over the past 25 years was nothing of the sort. In fact she kind of reminded me of my adoptive mother light skin, straight hair, and certainly no spitting image of myself. I wish I had considered that the fantasy I had created may not be what I was getting. If I had taken the time to distinguish this from reality it would have allowed myself to be open to the possibility of whatever may be. I urge anyone who is going to meet their birth family to take the time to take everything you have ever imagined and dreamed and throw it entirely out the window. Be completely okay with letting the fantasy go in order to allow your heart to be open to the reality.
2. Consider any language barriers before making contact.
My birth family lives in Bogota, Colombia and only speaks Spanish. Growing up in Massachusetts my Spanish was at the level of a six year old. I was so excited about the process unfolding, that I did not take the proper time to make perfecting my Spanish a priority. When I met my birth family it sort of felt like a tease. Here they were so close after all these years and the most I could do was say hi how are you. I couldn't show them who I was or ask the right questions. The communication was stunted. Taking this into consideration may prevent you from feeling so overwhelmed.
3. Make sure to set your boundaries before the meeting.
Setting boundaries is imperative. Know before hand what think you can or cannot handle. I did not take into account the Colombian culture I was about to be embraced by. I was greeted by endless Aunts and Uncles and learned of a family so grand. I wish that I had gotten the chance to ease into the situation.
4. Bring a support system.
It was a blessing to have the support of my whole family. The situation was overwhelming and without them by my side I don’t know what I would have done. I always fought about doing this alone, but I was very glad I did not. My biggest worry was showing my adoptive parents how it affected me, but I realized they understood. Wanting to know my biological family did not take away any of the love I have for my parents. In fact, it brought us closer and strengthened our bond.
5.Remember you are not going through this alone.
I wish that I had taken the time to consider that I was not going through this alone. I was opening a can of worms and regardless of what I wanted or didn't want from the situation other people were going to be involved. This involvement definately disrupted my own plan. It wasn't until my birth sister told me how my indifference towards meeting my biological father was selfish in her eyes that I realized this. She directly told me I should have considered how this was going to affect them before I had made efforts to find them. This was hard to hear, but I understand both sides. I just wanted to know where I came from, I wanted to fill a void. I don’t think I ever once stopped to think that maybe they would want something from me.
6. It is okay to be completely selfish in this situation and do what is best for you.
It is easy during this process to feel selfish. I felt selfish for a number of reasons. In particular I felt selfish for searching for my biological family when I was blessed by my adoptive family. I had the kind of parents any child would dream of, so I always felt deep guilt for seeking out even more. In case nobody told you it is 100% okay to be selfish in this situation. When your birth family gave you up for adoption they gave up their rights to know you. The ball is in your court in terms of how the interaction goes. Do not let anyone make you feel guilty or bad about what it is you can or cannot handle. Love and put yourself and mental health first.
7. Consider the social and class differences.
After seeing where I would have grown up it became quite apparent to me why I was adopted. I grew up in a culture and class that was very different from my biological family. It has been important for me to take the time to understand that I should not feel bad or guilty for all the privileges that I received growing up. Instead, I need to take the gifts life has bestowed upon me and use them for the greater good.
I am very grateful to have been able to answer so many questions of my past. I think it is important for each individual to do what is best for them, but I believe taking into consideration these seven things may relieve one of some shock. I cannot answer if I am glad to have completed the search, but I am excited for what could possibly come next.
Janeth Ann Gonda is currently the events and promotions manager at BUST Magazine, a singer, dancer, writer, and event planner living in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently the lead singer in the Gypsy Witch Rock Band Espejismo. After working in the Brooklyn music industry for several years she created her own event space Barranquilla Studios. Janeth has hosted hundreds of bands and fans alike and is an active member in the NYC music community.