The Reality of Meeting a Biological Relative for the First Time

Today’s post is written by a CPO adoptee who is now a thriving college student, Isaac Jacobson. While the great majority of CPO adoptions are very open adoptions, in Isaac’s case, the adoption had to be closed. We appreciate his willingness to share this emotional journey with us.

I would like to start off this article by thanking Crisis Pregnancy Outreach, leadership and volunteers, for faithfully serving the community with dedication and catering to women in need. From the bottom of my heart, as a child rescued by CPO from a dangerous situation: I would like to speak on behalf of the kids adopted through the agency and say that we are grateful and life-changed.
I was delighted to have the privilege to speak at Waiting Family Workshop this summer on what it’s like to grow up adopted. I was even more delighted to speak with some of my siblings and the Hudgeons family, life-long family-friends of ours who have built their family completely through adoption. My mother, a long-time, dedicated member of CPO, informed me after the session that CPO would like me to write an article to be featured in the newsletter. I spent some time sorting my brain to try and decide what I’d like to journal about. My heart ultimately made its decision and I chose to write about what it is genuinely like to meet a biological relative, as an adopted child, for the very first time. In my case, it was my birth uncle who I had met.
I think that, more often than not, we see the reunion of the adopted child and their family as this sort of fairy-tale, magical movie-moment that is comprised of no other emotions than just happiness and love. While this initial description of that reunion serves as a great nomination for an Emmy Award, it simply just is not the reality of most cases in real life. Before I explain the reality of my situation, I will first share with you an excerpt of my adoption story for the purpose of insight.
I was adopted at birth in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My birth mother, along with her whole family, were from the Middle East. My birth mother found herself in a very dangerous situation when she became pregnant with me. A situation so dangerous, there was no other choice but to place me for adoption. If she were to have given birth to me and raised me in the Middle East, both of our lives would have been jeopardized, as she and her family are devout, traditional Muslims and she had me outside of marriage which is one of the biggest dishonors in Sharia Law and, most of the time, results in an honor killing performed on the woman. So, for these reasons, my birth mother fled to the United States and kept her pregnancy a secret from her father, the head of household typically responsible for performing such honor killing. My birth mother’s brother (so my birth uncle) had actually moved to the USA when he was around my age (20 years old) to attend university and became a resident afterwards. Coincidentally, he had been saving up to fly my birth mother out to America for a visit when she alerted him about this situation. It was God’s timing. My birth uncle flew my birth mother out and I was adopted the same week after she had given birth to me. She flew back to the Middle East and I have never met her, or had contact with any relative, since my birth.
Flash forward 17 years: I was a senior in high school and I went to Israel with my high school on our Spring break trip. Israel is the sister-land of my birth mother’s home country, so my emotions concerning my birth family were kind of all over the place, and God had been stirring in my heart the entire stay. After years and years of longing for any means of connection with my birth family, I felt God tell me for the very first time that something was coming very soon.
It wasn’t until I returned from Israel that I stumbled upon my legal adoption paperwork and found a paper with my birth uncle’s personal information at the time of my adoption. I only knew to do one thing with it: put it all in Google’s search engine. And well, let’s just say that Google is the key to unlimited access of literally everything, because I somehow was able to narrow down all that information to my birth uncle’s CURRENT phone number and mailing address. (Protect your information, kids).
I remember being in a state of total anxiety: I was excited to call the number, but nervous to explain to him who I was. I was eager to tell my parents, but worried they would say I cannot call the number. I finally brought myself to somehow call my birth uncle’s cell phone. Every ring tortured me. It stopped ringing and went to voicemail. I almost had a heart attack and just hung up the phone. I told my parents that night that I had tracked down my birth uncle’s information. I confessed to them with an almost bitter tone because I highly expected them to say I could not try and locate him for safety purposes. But completely out of nowhere, my parents agreed that finding my birth uncle was allowed as I was turning eighteen soon. My father was able to contact my birth uncle and arranged a time for him to join my family for dinner.
It was Saturday evening, April 18th, 2017 when I met someone I am biologically related to for the very first time in my life. I remember being in an entire state of “this is too good to be true” kind of mentality. I was completely emotionally overwhelmed. I was so nervous I was physically shaking and even ran upstairs when he rang the doorbell. My mom had to calm me down and make me come downstairs. Walking through the door was a tall, tan-skinned, and dark-featured middle eastern man with an extremely heavy accent. I went in for a handshake and he grabbed me and gave me a mighty hug like he was reuniting with a friend he hadn’t seen in years. He then kissed both my cheeks and said “I love you so much”. While the feeling was certainly mutual, I felt frozen and in shock. I couldn’t quite process everything that was going on. I would be lying if I said the only emotions I was feeling were happiness, joy, and love.
My birth uncle went on and on about how much he loved me and how he knew “fate” would intertwine us. This warmed my heart and partially filled the gap that had been there my whole life. He continued to tell me about my birth mother and what her life looks like nowadays. He explained to me the sad reality of the particular place in the Middle East she lives in and how hard life can be for her sometimes. But I will never forget when he told me that my birth mother has an amazing sense of humor that keeps her going, and how she just loves to laugh. I knew right then that my birth mom and I have that in common. He showed me pictures of my birth mother on her wedding night (she married a different man than my birth father later on) and showed me pictures of her kids. I was ecstatic when I found out I had birth siblings and felt so special noticing the similarities we shared. As the evening went on, I noticed that my birth uncle was reluctant to share with me full details of the story of my conception and further information about my birth father. I know that the entirety of the situation is delicate and that my birth mother’s life could still be endangered if any information about my existence leaked to her family back in the middle east. With all that taken into consideration, I understand why my uncle would be hesitant to share information, but it was still very sad when he diverted the conversation away from my birth mother if he felt like he was oversharing. At one point in the evening, my uncle stopped talking about my birth mother altogether and started talking about sports and other “man stuff” with my dad and my oldest brother. I remember feeling very unimportant and overlooked in that moment. We went the rest of the evening without my birth uncle initiating much conversation with me: his long-lost nephew who he just met for the first time after almost two decades.
He left not too long after. I hugged him and said goodbye. Right around this time was when I thought my emotions could start processing and I could reflect on the life-changing event that just occurred, but still, I just felt “normal”. I was in the living room alone with my younger brother Nate giving him a play-by-play of the evening, despite him being present for all of it. I think I was doing this as a form of processing. It was then when I literally just burst out in tears. No build up, no ascension or crescendo, just a pinnacle climax of emotion. I truly believe I have had only ​one​ legitimate emotional breakdown in my entire life, and this was it. Again, I still can’t recall the exact emotions I was feeling even during the tears. I remember feeling overwhelmed, happy, disappointed, and uneasy, but was not confident at all in my exact thoughts on the night. I was happy that I met him, but disappointed that meeting him didn’t look like all I thought it was going to be. When I ask myself what I “expected”, I can’t even answer the question because the truth is that I don’t know exactly. But I know that the reality of meeting him was far, far different than how I thought it was gonna go. It was also in this moment that I thanked God, from the bottom of my heart, that I didn’t meet him or my birth mother when I was younger like I had wished. If this was the emotional reaction meeting him at 17, I cannot even imagine how I would have handled it being in middle school. God’s timing, again, is truly perfect and intentional.

I always ponder and ask myself now, “Were my expectations too high? Was I fantasizing? Was I being unrealistic?” To be honest, I do not think I was doing any of those things. Meeting my birth uncle was important and accompanied many feelings of joy and peace, and deepened my trust in the Lord. But at the same time, it also sunk in the reality of the danger of my situation with my birth mom and just how hard it would be to arrange safely meeting her. But even that is important and is preventing me from wanting control of this situation and helps me give it to God. I am confident, however, that meeting my birth mother is in store for my future, and that this was just the preparation and foreshadowed beginning of that journey. I thank God for introducing my birth uncle to me, for keeping him safe, for keeping me safe, and for protecting my mother in one of the most dangerous places on earth. This time in my life was a signal of His promise.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even though she may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15, NIV)

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