People who grow up under the care of their biological parents take family relationships for granted. For adoptees, things are a bit more complicated. They’re rarely confused about who to call “mom” or “dad,” but many develop a mild obsession with those parts of their origin that remain shrouded in shadow.

This isn’t a rare experience, either. About 1.5 million adopted children are living in the United States right now. Around the country, 135,000 children are adopted every year. Each one of those kids will grow up to make a tough decision: Should they make contact with their biological parents or not?

The adoptees below, who were generous enough to share their stories with Reddit, reconnected with their birth parents later in life. As you’ll see, some of the reunions were heartwarming—and some were downright uncomfortable. Some were the satisfying culmination of an adoptee’s deep curiosities; others weren’t even their idea.

A meeting between an adoptee and their birth parents can be a beautiful thing.

Take this Redditor’s story, for instance.

“[My meeting with my biological family] went awesome,” wrote Newflies. “[I was] adopted at birth [and] raised by loving parents. [I] knew I was adopted growing up. [It] was never a big deal.

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“My curiosity about my biological family waxed and waned over the years. My parents supported my efforts to find my biological family. They helped me research and obtain vital records and clues. In my late twenties, I positively identified my birth family through research.”

Newflies learned a lot that would surprise anyone.

“I discovered that I was the ninth child born to a poor family and the only one given up for adoption,” the Reddit user continued. “This info was gleaned from the original case worker’s notes from the adoption file. The notes were a fascinating read for me and really painted a portrait of a struggling family in the 1960s and what a hard choice it had been for my biological mom to give me up. They weren’t even sure that they could feed me.

“My parents prepared me for the potential issues/problems (both emotional and practical) that might arise should I decide to make contact. There are risks. My parents helped me to understand them and supported me wholeheartedly—whatever I decided to do.”

“Eventually, in my early thirties, I decided to make contact.”

“With help from my mother, I decided that I would write one letter to my biological mother, and leave it up to her to decide whether or not she wanted to know me. (By this time, both my dad and biological dad were gone.) I really wanted her to know that I was doing well. I wanted her to feel good about her decision, and thank her for it.

“That was the gist of my two-page letter: I am here. Thank you for giving me a chance at a better life. I know how hard it was for you to do it (thanks to the case worker’s notes). I ended up in a fantastic loving home. If you ever want to contact me, here’s my contact info…etcetera.

“My mother made it clear to me that if I ever went to meet my biological family, she wanted to be there. She wanted to see how much I looked like my siblings. She was happy for me and almost more excited by the prospect of a reunion than I was.”

Newflies dropped the letter in the mailbox and waited.

The wait wasn’t long.  

“My biological mother called me immediately after opening the letter, sitting at the kitchen table, crying. Happy tears,” Newflies continued. “I also met my brother Terry during that first phone call. Fast forward a few months: The biological family is informed of my existence and insist on a reunion.

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“My mom and I travel to California and meet them at my oldest brother’s house. Big party. Aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, and cousins—all come out to meet us. My mom made a scrapbook of my life to that point…and presented it to my biological mom as a gift. The women cried, and the men…grinned.

“My biological family welcomed me warmly and presented me with a white t-shirt signed by everyone there. Happy ending.”

Newflies sums up the experience with a TL;DR note at the conclusion of the post.

“Amazing reunion with birth family.”

Here’s the funny thing about birth parents: They usually have whole families attached.

A Reddit user who calls himself TheTalentedMrBryant ended up getting closer to his birth sisters than his birth parents. Here’s his story:

“So, my family never hid the fact that I was adopted from me,” TheTalentedMrBryant wrote. “In fact, we would celebrate my adoption day (like a birthday) every year until I was about 15 or so.

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“I knew I was adopted, and my parents had told me that when I turned 18, if I had any questions, they would happily answer them for me.

“I had a part-time job as a cashier at a grocery store, and this lady would always come in to cash her husband’s paycheck. She was always friendly to me and had mentioned that she knew my dad. [It was a] relatively small town, [so that’s] not that weird. Every time she handed me her husband’s drivers license for me to cash the check, I would always in my head comment on how funny looking her husband was.

“Well, one day she came through with her two daughters. One [was] about a year older than me, and the other about five years younger. When I got off work that day I checked Myspace (right?) and found that I had a new message. I recognized the picture as the oldest daughter and the message said: ‘Do you know who I am?’

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“So I at first assume that maybe she was some girl I had pissed off at some point, so I almost didn’t reply. However, I did, and eventually, she just came out with it.”

“I’m your sister.”

“Turns out the grocery store I was working at was within walking distance to their house. Apparently, after cashing the check that day and leaving the store, one of the daughters kept an interest in our similar appearance and kept commenting to her mom about it.

“That’s when she revealed that the reason we looked so similar is because I am their brother. I go to my parents with the information, and while surprised, they handled it well and confirmed. I was born to a poor family who had recently had a child and they simply couldn’t take care of me. Years later, after gaining some stability, they had a second child. Two girls.”

That’s where TheTalentedMrBryant left the story for some time. Later, though, he realized he left out the most interesting part, and rushed back to edit the original post.

“I can’t believe I left this part out, but my adoptive mother was a nurse at the hospital that my biological mother delivered me in,” the Reddit user added. “My adoptive mother and her husband had been unable to have kids. Sometimes I tell my friends that I was such a good looking baby that a nurse ended up taking me home!

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“My whole life I grew up an only child and many days were spent wishing I had a sibling to pass the time with. I absolutely love being a brother now, especially a big one, even if I am getting a bit of a late start.

“My little sister and I look eerily similar. We’ve compared baby pictures, and it’s astounding. We still see each other pretty regularly, but I don’t interact with the bio-parents much. I’ve gone over to their place briefly for a few Christmases, but mostly I just see my sisters.

“The whole thing sounds so fairy tale, thanks for reading!”

Many adoptees encourage others in their situation to seek out their birth parents.

A Reddit user called toppyheader is one of them.

“I was adopted when I was only a few days old … into the same family as my biological sister. Same mom, different dad.” wrote toppyheader. “We recently established contact with all three biological parents. [Our] biological mom’s family is very different from us, being as they are conservative, but we get along with them and see them around holidays.

“My sister’s biological dad had no idea she was kept and so learned suddenly on a Friday in October that he had a 29-year-old biological child with two kids of her own. They get along really well and have visited each other multiple times.

“My biological dad is a nice guy, but he’s sort of aloof, and so I don’t have a lot of contact with him. He has two young daughters who, as far as I know, still don’t know about me, so that’s an issue.

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“It has been a very strange and rewarding experience. If any adoptees out there are considering a search, I recommend it, and not just because my experience was good. I’m just happy even to know their names.”

There’s bound to be some awkwardness when you’re meeting a parent who put you up for adoption many years ago.

Reddit-user Phog91 was ambivalent about the meeting. It does sound awfully awkward. Here’s this adoptee’s story:  

“I guess I was (technically?) adopted before I was born,” wrote Phog91. “I always knew I was adopted, and I knew that my birth mother had another child (my half-sister) a couple years after me and kept her.

“I met both of them about five years ago, when I was 19. I went with my mom. It was really awkward at first. They both looked nothing like me. They were really excited to meet me, but I was just kind of indifferent. It was like meeting two complete strangers.”

What do you do in a situation like this? Phog91 tried to make conversation, at least a bit.

“I didn’t really ask too many questions,” the adoptee continued. “Just a few of the basics: ‘Do you know who my biological father is?’ She did not. ‘Are there any medical issues I need to be concerned with?’ ‘How was your day?’

“I didn’t want to get into any questions like ‘why did you give me up for adoption?’ because, given that she and her daughter were living in a trailer park and I was living in a huge house in Southern California, the answer was pretty obvious.

“Most of the hard questions I had actually already talked about with my mom many years prior, so I didn’t really feel the need to bring them up.”

The adoptee’s biological mother tried to keep the conversation going.

“She asked me some [questions], too,” Phog91 wrote. “Like what I was good at in school, my hobbies, how I liked college. She tried to tell me that her being my mother was one of her biggest accomplishments, but I politely told her that she was not my mother, and I took my own mother’s hand and held it on the table.

“I don’t know if that was a [jerk] move, but to me, personally, it was like having a complete stranger (which in all fairness, she technically was) telling you that they were your mother. It just simply wasn’t true.

“We ended the lunch with the four of us taking pictures. Overall, it was okay.

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“I had them as [social media] friends for a while, but I ended up deleting them when the birth mother started commenting about how much I looked like her, and when the sister had two kids before she turned 21 and refused to vaccinate them.

“[I] haven’t spoken to them in over a year, [and I] don’t really care to.”

Adoptees sometimes seek out biological parents, but the opposite is also true—and that’s not always a welcome development.

“I was adopted when I was 2 weeks old,” wrote Honest_Iguana. “My birth parents set up an open adoption, and I was in semi-regular contact with my birth mother from when I was a baby to several years ago. [I] never had a chance to meet my biological father.

“Recently, my biological mother has been trying to make her way back into my life. She’s found me on social media and continually messages me. I’m actually due to meet up with her this week for lunch. And to be honest, I really don’t want to keep up a relationship with her. I have no feelings for her; my adopted parents are my real parents. All in all, it’s been a very weird and awkward experience, and I wish that my biological parents had set up a closed adoption.

Another Reddit user, emzzo, was a bit freaked out by a biological relative making contact from out of the blue. You can thank social media for this story.

“I was adopted at birth by my parents from a couple that was very young and not able to care for me,” wrote emzzo. “I’ve always known, and it’s never been anything more than a fun fact, really.

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“My biological brother found me on MySpace, and we spoke on the phone once and became [social media] friends. To me, he was still a stranger, but he spoke with a familiarity that kind of freaked me out (‘I love you, little sister—I’m so proud of you,’) and I cut ties fairly quickly. I guess he shared my information with our bio-Mom because she sent me a … note soon after, and they invited me to a family reunion. I didn’t attend.

“I feel that my family is the people who supported me and loved me all throughout my childhood and angsty teen years and now, into adulthood. I never sought out my biological family because I’ve been incredibly lucky to have never felt a void.”

On the other hand, a Reddit user called btruff had an okay experience when his birth mother sought him out.

“[My] birth mother found me on the internet and sent me a card on my fiftieth birthday,” wrote btruff. “We exchange emails, but I will never meet her. Her family has no idea I exist, and I respect her wishes.”

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“[The] worst picture of my life was my high school senior yearbook picture. I am a guy, but I had long hair in the ’70s. She found it and sent me her senior picture. It, too, is terrible. But we look like twins. Ugly twins, but twins.”

Blood relation is a strange thing. Here’s an adoptee who never doubted the connection with his biological family for a second.

“I was adopted at birth,” wrote shmoe21. “I can’t remember a specific time that I asked if I was adopted or when my parents told me. I’ve just always known.

“My birth parents were both 18-wheeler truck drivers with not much of a permanent address, so they decided to put me up for adoption. Growing up, they would send birthday or Christmas cards every few years, and then I stopped hearing from them completely for about five years.

“One day, I got a random phone call from my birth father stating that my birth mom had lung cancer, and she didn’t have long to live, and if I was ever going to come meet them, now would be the time. I was devastated that my birth mom was so sick and that these were the terms in which I was going to meet them.

“They moved into their parents’ house in Ohio when [the parents] passed. My adopted parents have always been supportive of me having a relationship with my biological parents and understood that I wanted to go meet my family.

“They went with me, and we flew to Ohio a few days after the phone call. We stayed in a hotel that night, and the next day I went to meet my biological parents. I will never forget that day, pulling up to their small, one-story house with a fenced in front yard. I got out of the car, and they were there waiting for me on the front porch.

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“It was weird, like I know these people, but have never met them. I immediately felt a deep connection with them. It’s weird finally seeing the genetics you come from for the first time. My birth mom looked very sick, but she still never stopped smiling, and cooked one of the best roast beefs I have ever had.

“I ended up meeting my whole extended family that day/ I found out I have five half-brothers and sisters, and that I’m an uncle! I never expected that, and my young nieces and nephews were so excited to meet me.

“I was overwhelmed with emotion and love for these people I hardly knew. I am so glad I got that opportunity to meet them, especially my birth mom. My birth mom passed away November 27, 2011.

“I, unfortunately, was unable to make it to the funeral, and I haven’t been able to bring myself to go see her grave or contact my birth father or family. I have been to a therapist about this, and I plan on finally going up there this November, on the anniversary of her passing.

“It is something I need to do for closure. Thank you for reading my long rant. I’ve never really told this story before. I am really hoping to reconnect with my birth family. I would really enjoy having them in my life again.”

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