When I began my search for my birth parents, I heard about a woman who had just found her birth mother and was quite devastated at what she uncovered. Her mother had been a prostitute and over the years she had given up her rights for six other children! Of course, she was unable to give her daughter any information about her father since she had no idea who he was or where her siblings were now. Don't despair! It's not always bad news but thinking that it had all been a horrible "Sophie's Choice" situation for your birth parents is not preparing you for any or all potential bad news. Here are a few things to think about beforehand to make sure that whatever the story turns out to be, you are mentally ready for it.
Make sure you are clear on your reasons for searching.
If you are setting out to discover your past be clear about why you are choosing this time in your life to do so. Loneliness or feeling lost are not good reasons. If you don't find your birth family or they turn out to not be good people to have in your life, depression and some dark days ahead will sure to arrive. If you feel that your life is well balanced and you are just looking for some answers or you need valuable medical histories, no matter what the outcome will be, you will not mentally melt down and will be able to preserve your sanity.
Let go of any preconceived versions of your birth story
All adoptees wonder about their origins and along with that comes hours and hours over the years of speculation and the creation of their back story. As a child, fairy tales and Disney movies gave us all ideas of being lost princesses or taken tragically from too poor people who just wanted to give us a better chance at life. As we grow up and become wiser, the stories in our heads change. However, a small snippet of each of the dozens of stories through the years comes along with us as we begin to search. If you go into the search with no preconceptions of what really happened, you avoid disappointment.
Make sure that the relationships you currently have are stable
When an adoptee decides to make the big step of actively searching, the adopted family, spouses, significant others, children and even friends are brought along for the ride whether they like it or not. Not all relationships will be able to handle the emotional rollercoaster you are about to jump onto. Make sure that you have approached the important people in your life who are your emotional touchstones to prepare them for what may come. Do not just assume that they understand why you are doing this. (see blog: How to Prepare Your Adoptive Family Before you Begin Your Birth Story Search)
Remember to keep it very clear in your head you had NO responsibility for your being given up
I know this seems like a no-brainer but you will soon possibly be swept up in all the details of how you came to be put up for adoption. When I was almost 2, my own mother picked up my dog, went to her mother's and never came back. Adoptees internalize other people's actions like this to feel that they were unlovable or their birth caused people to break up or just leave. Keep in mind that we all make decisions every day and not all of them are good ones. But just like I had no way of stopping my mother from doing what she did, you have no culpability in your parents' actions as well.
Be very clear on who you are now
If you unfortunately discover some tragic or torrid detail such as being a product of rape, you must go into the search knowing exactly who you are right now. Yes, when you get to hear the story and find out who and where you came from it will change you. You will now have "history" that you didn't have before. Remember, it is your past and whom you have chosen to be in the present shouldn't be marred or diminished by discovering other people's bad or hard choices.
As a human being, it is impossible to find out things about yourself and not have a reaction. However, if you protect your heart by mentally preparing for what may come, this journey can be a very empowering one.
Good luck and I wish you well!