How to get in touch with my birth mother?
January 28, 2011 9:59 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for advice about how to get in touch with my birth mother. I have contact information for other biological family members, whom I have never met.

I was adopted as a newborn through a closed adoption. I am currently in my late 20s. In 2003 I received a non-identifying letter from my birth mother that was sent through the adoption agency saying that she would welcome contact if I was interested. Two years later I found out her name through an adoption registry on the Internet. Using the name on the registry, I found her phone number via a Google Search. I finally got the nerve to call, and spoke to her on the phone for about an hour. I didn't give her my last name or any of my contact information, and before we hung up I told her that I would be in touch with her again sometime in the future.

When I told my mother about the phone call, she bawled her eyes out. I felt horribly guilty and never ended up contacting my birth mother again. Last year I had a baby, and I feel compelled to let my biological mother know about her biological grandson. I would be open to the idea of meeting her in person if she is interested, though I am a a little anxious about doing so.

Nearly six years have gone by since the phone call with my birth mother. I lost her phone number when my computer crashed and have not been able to find any of her contact information. The post on the adoption registry was taken down, and countless Google searches have failed to turn up her phone number. I have been able to find my biological father's e-mail address and the Facebook pages for three of my biological cousins (all adults) and a maternal uncle. Is it appropriate to contact any of these people to ask for my biological mother's contact information? If so, whom would you recommend that I try contacting and what should I say? Also, what on earth is one supposed to put as a subject header for such an e-mail?

Throwaway e-mail:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It breaks my heart that your mom cried when you told her about the phone call. I'm so sorry you felt guilty. My kids were adopted and I hope never to make them feel bad about wanting contact with their first families. Ugh!

Anyway, I'd FB-mail this to your cousins and uncle with the subject lining "Trying to contact (mother's name)":

Hi there, I'm a distant relative of (mother's name), and I've been trying to get in touch with her. Unfortunately, it's been a few years and I lost her phone number. Do you have it, by any chance? Or is there any chance you could give my number to her? She knows who I am. Sorry to trouble you with this! Thanks!

I bet you'd hear back from at least one of them.

Good luck. Congratulations on your baby, and I wish you the best in working through this.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:21 PM on January 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

While I do understand why bluedaisy might suggest that you be less than truthful about who you are (perhaps your birth mother hasn't told anyone that she had another child) I am afraid that your motives for doing so could be misinterpreted. Two things:

* if your birth mother's contact information isn't out there anymore, maybe that is intentional?
* maybe a better solution would be to send these people a Facebook message that you are trying to reach her and asking them to forward your contact information.

Good luck.
posted by brownrd at 10:28 PM on January 28, 2011

* if your birth mother's contact information isn't out there anymore, maybe that is intentional?

I suspect this is very unlikely. Why would she need to keep the information out there if she knew the child already her number?
posted by bluedaisy at 10:33 PM on January 28, 2011

Why not contact the adoption agency again asking if they would see if birth mother is interested? They may have the information even if it is not posted. 2nd choice, I am with Blue Daisy.
posted by AugustWest at 10:40 PM on January 28, 2011

We are adoptive parents and our son has adopted a son. When he wanted to find his birth parents we were supportive but a little bit taken aback. While we have worked through our initial feelings, we fully support his desire to know more about his biological parents.

As to your adoptive mother, please let her know that it is very important that you know your birth family's health background. As you get older and as your baby grows up, you will constantly run into doctors who will ask, "Is there a history of X or Y or Z in your family?" You need to know the answer to this or at least be able to immediately ask a birth relative for this information.

As to contacting your birth mother, you state that you received a letter from her through the adoption agency. Have you gone directly back to the agency to ask for her address? They should have it on file from when they last contacted you. Point out that you have already spoken to her but that you have lost her contact information. Do you know her present names? There are several search sites that you can enter a first and last name and get some information. I have found kids that I coached in soccer thirty years ago by using this method.
posted by Old Geezer at 10:41 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I would also tend towards the vagueness suggested by bluedaisy. If you decide to be honest, I'd contact either your birthfather or your maternal uncle. Not the cousins. The cousins may not know about you, and if I were you I'd want your birthmother to be the one to choose how and when (and maybe even whether) to tell them. Your birthfather presumably does know about you, and it's hard to see how your maternal uncle wouldn't. The disadvantage to contacting your birthfather is that he might be upset if you are only wanting your birthmother's details and not wanting a relationship with him. (Or he might be freaked out at the prospect of you wanting a relationship with him, and ignore you entirely, which will be hurtful and unhelpful both.) It is also possible that he has lost touch with your birthmother and doesn't know her contact details either.

So I think the maternal uncle is the best bet.

Good luck. I've been there and done that. If you want to chat, memail me.
posted by lollusc at 12:38 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

You've probably thought about this, but also can try to find her number via ZabaSearch, or if you talked with her on your cell phone you can ask your carrier for your records for that month and then see her number as a call you made.
posted by Houstonian at 3:37 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

What if you approached this as a genealogy question? What if you asked these relatives you do know who does the family genealogy. This is less emotional than adoption discussions. Find out who your ancestors were (you have a right to know that anyway, as an adult.) Then if that discussion leads to re-contact with your mother it will be a pleasant surprise.

You could use one specific person who has passed away as an ice-breaker. "I'd like to learn more about our great-grandfather Frank. Do you know if he served in WWII?" Use the subject heading "Genealogy question about the Frank Smith family from your cousin Joe."

In my genealogy circle we call each other cousin even if we don't know exactly how we are related. We have had several people over the years who were adopted come to our surname message boards for information about their ancestors.

With the information you have you may be able to look up info on or Our family has a group on Facebook. If your mother's last name is too common, see if you can go back one or two generations and I am sure you will find an odd surname with few members and you can use that as a starting point for your genealogy work. For example my grandfather's name was Wilson so it's very hard to trace but his great-grandmother was named Vail and that is easier to trace because it is not as common.

On a message board about your surname you don't have to talk about your adoption. You can just jump right in and ask questions like "Does anyone know where Susan Jones (1899-1953) was born? She was my great-grandmother." As long as that person has passed away you have every right to ask, right out in the open.

One word of caution. Don't discuss money with any of these people. If you are stable, your new found family members may hit you up for a loan. It's just human nature. But you need to have boundaries. It is not your responsibility to help new found family. Have a response practiced for if anyone asks. Something like "all our savings are tied up in an account for our daughter. We can't touch it without penalties." Then also have a back-up response for where they can go "I'm told the Salvation Army helps people with heating bills." OR "I heard that if you join so-and-so church they help members with emergencies." I just want you to be prepared.
posted by cda at 9:06 AM on January 29, 2011

I would email them.

"Trying to contact [mom]."

"I'm trying to get in touch with [mom]; I lost her phone number. Do you by any chance have her contact info? Would you mind either sharing it with me or passing along my info to her? I believe she would want to be in touch."

I wouldn't volunteer all this other information, but if they ask, I would probably explain the situation (minus irrelevant stuff like your (real, adoptive) parents being upset).

Side note: Did you explain to your adoptive mom that you love her very much, she's been a great mom, and this isn't about her? That you just want to know more about your history?
posted by J. Wilson at 9:25 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

You mention Google searches, but I wonder if you have tried sites specifically to look up phone numbers, like ReferenceUSA or -- ReferenceUSA is a subscription site, but most public libraries have it or something similar. If there's a library near you, you may want to ask a librarian to help you search before doing anything else.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:48 AM on January 29, 2011

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