Back to Jac — Juan Antonio Contreras — revisiting the conversation about searching for his birth mother.

A few weeks ago, just before I headed to China, I was in a bit of an existential crisis over my son, Jac, feeling the need to find his birth mother.

If you remember, he’s had a really tough year – a couple of major bullying incidents and his beloved grandmother passing away all within the first 3 months of the school year. Jac also has severe Misophonia.  If you don’t know what it is, you can read more here

Basically, he has an extreme aversion to certain sounds (for him it is chewing, tapping, and some sounds – like a hyper-pronounced S or Sh sound, like Shhhhhhhhh). When Jac cannot escape these noises he goes into a rage, typically yelling, screaming and/or crying. This disorder in and of itself has made socializing difficult for Jac. He is often ostracized because kids don’t understand his disorder and frankly, it’s tough to be around someone who yells at you every time you chew.

Regardless of all that, Jac is such an amazing kid. He’s got a heart of gold and a few really good friends that have stood by him for years. He’s also been blessed with an amazing school – teachers, administrators, and counselors, to whom we owe so much. They acted quickly and justly on the bullying incidents. They surrounded him with love and gave him a soft place to land and plenty of time to recover when his grandmother died. And they have acted with kindness and acceptance in the face of his misophonia diagnosis. Even though Jac has been beautifully supported this year he’s had a very difficult time keeping up in school.

He has a 504 plan in place that has given him many accommodations – a quiet space for testing, the ability to leave class whenever he needs to, he can pick his work groups and choose where he sits, etc. – which has been wonderful. But this year has made Jac search for himself like no other time in his life. Even with his close friendships, he feels like he doesn’t always fit in. He has a burning desire to understand his roots, unlike any child I have ever known.

I have two adopted children, my daughter is from China and Jac is from Guatemala. They are exact opposites in everything they do. So even at home, he feels like he’s different — and he’s still struggling. I think that’s where we left off.

Jac has been seeing a counselor outside of school since the beginning of the school year, just after the first bullying incident. They have established a nice rapport and Ryan has become Jac’s sounding board. We all met with Ryan as a family a couple of weeks ago and Ryan advised us to give it a little more time before we begin the search for Jac’s birth mother. He’d like to see Jac in a healthier place emotionally before embarking down a path that could cause him even more stress. Ryan suggested that Jac does some research about Guatemala and learn as much as he could about his heritage in a general way. He also encouraged us to reach out to Jac’s foster family – which was a wonderful situation and Jac was loved and adored by them.

Jac’s foster family ended up adopting a boy with autism after Jac left their care and they named him Antonio, after Jac! I have met them and they are lovely people. The counselor feels like all the positive connections are important and essential to Jac right now. I think this is a fair assessment, Jac, of course, does not. He just wants to search for his birth mother.

Putting Ryan’s advice into perspective, Jac’s dad, Brad, and I decided to contact a search company to find out if Jac’s birth mother is alive. Brad has been in contact with the search company and will make the decision to take it to the next step if she is alive but I have asked not to know anything about it until he is ready to talk to Jac. That way, I don’t have to try to keep a secret from him.

It pains me to know that my son is desperate to find his birth mother and understand his roots but realistically, she may not want to be found – which could be crushing to a child whose been through a lot this year. I am not good at keeping things from Jac – I do NOT have a good poker face. So I will remain in the dark until further notice. Jac and I are going to go to Guatemala this summer but not to meet his birth mother. We will take Spanish classes, explore some areas he has not been to and hopefully meet his foster family! Jac is resigned to this right now but the saga continues.

And on a more positive note … last week Jac’s school gave out awards to 31 students (out of a school of 650 children). Jac received 2 awards, both for resiliency – which means two of his teachers nominated him! They wrote the most wonderful, heartfelt letters. I cried like a baby at the ceremony and Jac was beaming with pride! The school counselors spoke about how meaningful and well deserved the awards were and the principal told the children that it is why he does what he does. I am such a proud mommy!

The notes that he received said,

“I’m so impressed with the kind, strong, young man you are becoming. Despite the many obstacles you’ve faced this year (and previously), you keep showing up and trying your best. I know great things await you in life”.


“Jac, I have so much respect for you and your ability to come back. The beginning of the year was rough and when your grandma passed away, I really thought maybe you would, with good reason, fall apart. But you did her great honor and hung in there. Jac, I think you are kind and helpful and also very resilient. Kudos”.

It’s been a very topsy-turvy few months but I feel like we have all been very supported, especially Jac. His teachers adore him and have made a huge difference in his ability to keep standing tall in the face of adversity.

So many of you have reached out to share stories and thoughts and send love our way as well! I can’t thank you enough. It has meant the world to know that many of you have these same questions and concerns and are willing to share them with me.

Please continue to share your stories! Ours is NOT over and I’d love to hear from more of you. You can reach out to me privately via email or phone, or share your stories in the comments section of this blog post. It is meaningful to more than just my family when we get to learn about your experiences!

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you. And once again, I promise to continue this discussion.

All my love,


Bambi Wineland is the mother of two internationally adopted children, a traveler, the Founder and CEO of Motherland Travel. Motherland Travel designs Heritage Journeys for families with internationally adopted children. The emphasis of these Heritage Journeys is on family bonding, building self-esteem and cultivating pride in a family’s multi-cultural heritage. Read more about her here >>

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