A few years ago, from out of nowhere it seemed, two messages appeared in my Facebook inbox. One from my little brothers’ big sister and the other from their big brother. Their birth family had made contact.

I was in my mid-twenties at the time and my brothers were in their late teens. Their birth siblings had found my brothers’ Facebook pages and wrote that they suspected that I was their big sister. I have to admit, despite the shock, it warmed me immediately to hear them refer to me as our little brothers’ big sister. I suppose I had assumed they wouldn’t consider me a ‘real’ sister. I thought they would think of me as an imposter.

Thankfully, the way they had opened their message to me put me at ease. The tone of their message was respectful. They just wanted to know how their little brothers were doing and if they were happy. They missed them. I felt empathy for them.

Unfortunately, in their enthusiasm to contact my brother and with no immediate reply from him, they had sent their message, explaining who they were, to most of his friends on Facebook.

Many of his friends, especially the mere acquaintances, had not known that my brother was adopted. He is a private person and doesn’t feel the need to share his life story with many people. I really felt for him. Not because there is anything wrong with being adopted but because it is a part of his story and everyone should have the right to choose how much of their story they share, and with who.

At the time my brother was living away from home for work but still developmentally younger than he appeared to everyone else. He faked confidence and autonomy very well. I really wished we could have been closer to him to support him through it. He doesn’t really open up to anyone, especially if not in person, so I actually have no idea how he dealt with it. Did he go out drinking? Did he cry? Was he angry? Was he happy? As far as I could tell though, he appeared to handle it well.

A few days later, I received a message from my little brothers’ birth mum. It was a little more on the hostile side. In the end, after a few messages back and forth, I had to block her. I explained my reasons and hoped there were no hard feelings. I reassured her that I had made my brothers aware that she loved and missed them and was ready for contact with them if they wanted that.

I found the whole situation very stressful, especially as I was on holiday at the time and just going through the matching process for my own first child. I really didn’t want to get anything wrong or make relations any more difficult for my brothers and their birth family.

There is a lot of pressure involved when it comes to contact via social media. I felt that for myself. How much more pressure though, is there for adopted teenagers or adults who are unexpectedly contacted this way, and then potentially thrust into regular unexpected contact at any time of the day and night? It could be a real source of stress. I felt it was important to check in on how my little brothers were feeling.

My brothers’ permission to share information with their birth family was crucial for me. I didn’t want to cross any boundaries. My eldest little brother wanted to be left to talk and share in his own time, so that is what I told them. My youngest didn’t want contact just yet but was happy for me to share regular little updates with his siblings about how he was doing and what he was up to. So, I did that. I was happy to do it. It seemed the right thing for him and them. He wasn’t ready yet and they were dying to find out how he was doing. It also helped, I believe, establish a semi-relationship between them and me as I was choosing to keep them updated and not stopping them being in my brothers’ lives. 

No one prepares you for starting contact with your little brothers' older siblings. I stuck at it, however, and it became easier and easier until it was just part of my routine. If I had forgotten to message them for a while their big sister would send me a message, casually asking how our littlest brother was doing. It was a pretty relaxed arrangement. I just really wanted to get it right. I spoke lots with my mum as we figured it out together. It was all uncharted territory and we had always assumed that it would be our boys that would get to make the first move when it came to contact. I think that’s the way it should be. They should be able to wait until they are ready themselves and are in a good place to begin that journey, with support around them. 

When my eldest brother was home visiting, a month or so after contact had been re-established, I took him out for coffee and a chat. I really wanted him to know he was supported. I tried to convey to him that the choice was completely his own to make. He could choose if he wanted contact, how much he wanted and how often. There was no rush, but equally no reason to hold back if he wanted to begin. I even brought up the idea of him meeting his birth family in person one day. I offered to go with him if he would like. He was dismissive of this. I reassured him that it was completely up to him and we would be there for him either way. Most of all I wanted him to know that it wasn’t one or the other. Us or them. He had both. And clearly both families love him a lot. He began chewing his coat collar, like he did constantly as a kid. He was getting anxious. I stopped. I slipped back into light-hearted chat, and he relaxed again. I hoped I had got through and helped him understand that, above everything, we are always his family and we are always here. 

Author: Hope Green