Sudden Siblings

by Judith S Gediman & Linda P Brown, Birth Bond (1991)


"Finding a brother or sister you never knew can be as significant as finding a parent." 

An adoptee wrote the following poem. As the poem tells us, when it comes to siblings, adoptees have a confused but full house.


There can be brothers and sisters by birth (both full or half), and brothers and sisters by adoption (who may or may not be the biological offspring of the adoptive parents).


Word Problem


If you are 26 years old 

and had 1 mother who gave 

birth to you 

but then was taken away and 

married someone else and had 

1 daughter and 1 son

Plus you had 1 father who 

married 1 woman who was

pregnant with 1 child that 

was not his,

but then had 2 

daughters after that

who were and then 

married another 

woman and had 1 

son – 


If all that happened,

plus, additionally 

you had another 

mother and father 

who knew and who 

lived in a house that 

you lived in also who 

then had 2 sons; 

How many mothers, fathers, 

brothers, sisters half 

brothers, half sisters, 

stepmothers, stepfathers, 

aunts and uncles do you 

have including the ones 

you haven’t met yet? 


Finding a brother or sister you never knew can be as significant as finding a parent.


Especially in cases where the birthmother is deceased, reunions between adoptees and their birth siblings become paramount. Sibling reunions can also be a substitute for meetings between adoptees and birthmothers if the birthmother is alive but refuses to meet. Why should she have the right, adoptees ask, to prevent me from knowing her other children, my own brothers and sisters?


There are situations in which the desire to discover and connect with siblings is what initiates the search. One woman, thirty-two, started to search after watching her own children play together and wondering if she too had any such connections. Adoptees who know about siblings they’ve never met often have compelling desires to meet them. Many of those who lack the knowledge ponder the possibility. 


Connection with a birthparent means filling a void, but connecting with a brother or sister is a bonus. If the adoptee grew up as an only child, finding a sibling can be especially meaningful.


It sometimes happens that reunions take place between siblings who actually spent a few months or years growing up together. It is possible that the older child remembers when they were separated; or, if not that, remembers when the mother was pregnant with the baby who was subsequently adopted. 


Because relinquishments generally result from unwed mothers giving up infants, brothers and sisters in reunion are usually meeting one anther for the very first time. The absence of a shared upbringing does not preclude the strong, even instantaneous, kindred feelings. 


Shared hereditary often creates felt ties of its own, and sudden siblings can feel connected to one another from the outset … “They were immediately all pals.” Indeed, we have heard stories about birth siblings raised apart who, on meeting as young adults, felt closer to one another than they ever did to their adoptive siblings.


It can be that siblings who meet appear to have an easier time for several reasons. First, the relationship is less likely to be derailed by unresolved issues. Second, the individuals are closer in age (the same generation anyway) and grew up in an era when the prevailing attitudes about sex were more relaxed and accepting than in the birthmother’s era. Third, family size and composition can work in their favour. If the birth family is large, for example, one more brother or sister can be accommodated with relative little fanfare – “With five kids already one more was okay.”


Or if the family is small, the adoptee may encounter an only child who always wanted a brother or sister, or one who always wanted an additional sibling of which ever gender was lacking.


Call Jigsaw today on (07) 3358 6666

Call Forced Adoption Support Services on 1800 21 03 13

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