Share this story

 | By Dr. Cathleen McGreal

How Can I Find My Birth Mother Without Hurting My Real Mom?


Q. I was adopted when I was just a baby and raised in a wonderful family. Although I consider my adoptive parents to be my ‘real’ parents, I would like to meet the woman who gave birth to me. I have so many questions! However, my adoptive mother seems apprehensive about the idea of me meeting my birth mother. Is it wrong for me to do this? If not, how can I minimize the hurt to my adoptive mother?

A. When I was little, I would ask my Grandma Esta to tell me her “whole name.” Orphaned early in life, she was adopted by her mother’s best friend, who changed her first and last names. Her story was heart-tugging, but she ended up in just the right family, with just the right name. Your desire to know about your own story is natural; you and your mom may be able to provide emotional support for one another since you don’t know where the answers to the questions will lead.

Reasons behind apprehension. As children reach the end of the teen years and enter young adulthood, parents need to do a lot of letting go. They say goodbyes at college or help children adjust to “real” jobs. A significant person enters your life and they watch you fall in love. Parents feel a sense of satisfaction “launching” children into the world, but also a sense of loss that they are not needed in the same way. Your desire to seek the woman who gave birth to you adds another layer of change during this time of transition.

Mom will always be Mom. There are some things in life that go without saying – but why not say them anyway! Your mom carried you in her heart through all the minor events in your life (“No, you can’t see that movie or you’ll have bad dreams all night!) and the major traumas (“Mom will be right there when you wake up after Dr. Jones fixes that broken bone.”) One way to minimize the chance for hurt is to focus on what the two of you share.

Don’t become too preoccupied. Remember to devote time to your parents while you are searching for your birth mother. Continue your family rituals and favorite activities. Keeping your mom in the loop will be of mutual benefit; she may be able to provide useful information regarding specific details of your birth and will feel less apprehensive about the process.

Whatever the outcome of your quest to find your birth mother, you have your mom, who will be there for you with the memories of your childhood stored in her heart, following the example of Our Blessed Mother: “She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Lk 2:19)