Laura M.Dennis: My first mother organized a bbq so I could meet my uncles and cousins, about a week after she and I met for the first time. It was amazing, but it was sad. They sat and listened to me, they wanted to know everything about me. But it was very hard to talk about "my life in my family growing up." I had a whole other family. And here I am with my biological family, meeting me when I'm 23, and we're all pretending like it was no big deal. But it was one of the best days, ever. Meeting them was bittersweet. All these cousins who have all this shared history, and I'm not a part of it. ... My advice would be to try to keep an open mind, and to remember that when people are nervous they often say weird, emotionally insensitive things. My first mom's best advice to me: Always give people the benefit of the doubt.
Julie: My natural dad had been in first parent support groups for several years before we found each other. He was very concerned about our reunion moving too fast, too soon. There was so much emotion involved on both sides as my paternal grandparents had done everything they could to stop my adoption--obviously without success. Nobody spoke of me around my grandfather because he would get too upset. And my aunts helped my dad search for several years. Holding them all back during reunion would be hard. So we focused on the two of us for a bit. Several months into our reunion, my dad told my grandparents that we had found each other. I spoke with them on the phone and then my dad finally brought me "home" to them. From there I went on to meet my aunts, uncles and cousins. This gradual approach worked well for me. I was still overwhelmed but could manage it in steps. When my oldest son was three months old, we spent Thanksgiving with my extended paternal natural family. It was amazing. We took photos of my grandfather holding my son, his great grandchild. We all had a good laugh with this. While fighting with Catholic Charities to stop my adoption, my overly emotional and sensitive grandfather told the priest representing my maternal grandparents to f-off. The priest responded by telling my grandfather that he would never live to see his grandchild. Well, my Gramps lived to see not only his grandchild but his two great grandsons. And thanks to our many family gatherings, we have photos of four generations.