' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum

Friday, April 21, 2017

h♥le, cont.: Testifying to unseal the birth records of an adoptee

Lorraine testifying a a public hearing on
unsealing records in New York City, 2014
An excerpt from Chapter 8 in hole in my heart. Previous sections can be found by scrolling down on the HOME page.

February, 1974

I’m in an airless, overheated courtroom in the Bronx, where I will soon testify—as a natural mother—that we do want to know our children. An accountant named Ann Scharp is trying to get the records that were sealed thirty-seven years earlier when she was adopted. Her identity is likely to be sealed in papers at Spence-Chapin Adoption Services. She’s there to show that she has “good cause” to get her adoption agency records. If any adoptee has taken the trouble to go to court to learn their identity, doesn’t that  prima facie demonstratethat she ought to be able to find out who she is? But never mind—we know that whether her “cause” will be deemed good enough depends solely on this one person, this man in a black robe sitting up high in the judge’s seat.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter: The day I miss my lost daughter most

My garden today
Holidays were always bittersweet without my daughter. Easter is a huge holiday in the Polish Catholic tradition, so big, in fact, that when I was a little girl I remember trying to decide whether I preferred Christmas or Easter as an occasion. Even without the presents from Santa, Easter was equal to Christmas because it brought other gifts: coloring eggs with both my parents on Thursday or Friday the previous week; making bread with my mother early Saturday morning, before anyone else was up; then moving onto the pastry, stuffed with walnuts and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, the heavenly aroma filling the house by noon; preparing a basket of special foods for breakfast on Sunday and taking it to church to be blessed in the mid afternoon on Saturday; making nests from corn flakes and chocolate to be filled with jelly beans.

Sunday meant searching for a hidden basket of goodies somewhere in the house, my father making sure it was never easy to find; followed by Mass in our new Easter outfits with a pink carnation pinned to my shoulder, followed by a breakfast of those blessed foods, and then, finally big extended family dinner with my aunts and uncles and cousins with ham and Polish sausage and borscht and the hard-boiled eggs topped with beets and horseradish ending with my mother's delicious prune layer cake with buttercream frosting. And, of course, lots of chocolate.

Then suddenly, in my early twenties, I was the mother without the daughter to pass on these traditions. I gave

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

h♥le, cont.: Upon learning that birth records would be sealed--FOREVER

About to be swallowed up by the deep                             photo by Ken Robbins
“But we’ll be able to—find each other when he’s eighteen, right—or twenty one?” I ask matter-of-factly—it’s half a statement, half a question, surely that’s the case. I am talking to the social worker at Hillside Terrace, the euphemistically named adoption agency. Her first name is Helen, but to me, she is Mrs. Mura. She is in her thirties, not that much older than me. She is my confessor, my therapist, my authoritative conduit to adoption. Other than Patrick, and an occasional visit from my lone girlfriend in town, Christy, Mrs. Mura was my only outside contact for those last months. Christy works on the afternoon paper in town; she and I were both young, ambitious and from elsewhere when we landed in Rochester, but she’s busy with her own career, and I rarely hear from her.

I am holed up in my apartment, and don’t venture much beyond a nearby
grocery store, the pharmacy across the street, and the library a few blocks away.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

h♥le in my heart: The Sixties, the inevitable, the life-changing reality

The long winding road ahead               Photo by Ken Robbins
The mores of the times kept a’changin’ with the music, but no cultural shift happens all at once. While the sexual strictures were loosening, and hip young women like myself were supposed to be sophisticated about sex—not only having sex but wildly enjoying it—the heart-breaking irony was that being caught “in a family way” without someone to marry you revealed a society still stuck in the sexual shaming of earlier decades. Good girls still didn’t do it. Smart girls didn’t get caught. A great many found ways to get an abortion. The lucky ones got married. It’s estimated that more than a quarter (27 percent) of all children born to women between the ages of 15 and 29 in the decade between 1960 and 1970 were conceived before marriage.*

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Today is my daughter's birthday

Jane and Lorraine, April 1982, about a week after her birthday
Today is my daughter's birthday.

Okay, I'm done trying to ignore it. Some years I do better than others but today, maybe because the forsythia bush outside is ready to burst into bloom, maybe because I'm packing to move and going through a lot of adoption papers, and finding letters from her from that first early part of our relationship, and letters from people who wrote me after Birthmark was published, maybe because moving upends your life and you keep making decisions about what to keep, what to pitch, maybe because the song on the radio coming back from the super market was that soulful She's Got You by Patsy Cline, maybe because I watched Long Lost Family two nights ago, maybe because...well, there it is.

Having my daughter and giving her up to be adopted is the single most traumatic event of my life. Relinquishing her was more than a life-altering event; it was an invisible barrier separating me from the rest of humanity. I would always be a woman who lost a child to adoption. I would find her, we would have a reunion, but nothing would ever be as if she had not been adopted. Our relationship would proceed, but it would always have that huge hole in it, and neither one of us would ever get over it.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

h♥le in my heart: Sore and ready for new love who comes riding in

Lorraine and daughter Jane, summer of
1982, seven months after we met 
In the last segment of hole in my heart (3/31/2017), my first love and I had parted. I was living in Saginaw, Michigan, a weeks after graduating from college, and working for a daily newspaper. Another reporter on the paper was flirting with me, finding it hard to believe I was still virginal. This picks up after first love did not show up after a night in which he asked me to marry him--now. I was uncertain, I had an apartment where no men were allowed over night, and he left shortly before three in the morning to drive back to Flint, about a 40 mile drive. He was supposed to return the next day; I waited for him all day. He did not return.
                                     *     *     *
The following morning, July 5th, my virginity, such as it still remained, seems as outdated as a lorgnette, pretty to look at but impractical to use. Dashing scion continues to pursue me with the kind of charming intensity that such men possess when their goal is a reluctant cherry. I am a modern woman, right? I am hip, right? It is 1964! Even though all I knew about birth control could fit in a thimble, I am hardly the good Catholic who once believed in mortal sin, or someone who would reveal this transgression in a confessional. If I went to Confession.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Adoptee and birth family synchronicity: Quirks run in families

Jane, Julie, Lucy
A couple of weeks ago I took a cruise with my two sisters, Lucy and Kate along the California coast. We live in different parts of the country--Lucy in Orange County, CA, Kate in Central Illinois, and me in Oregon. During a stop in San Francisco, we met up with my youngest daughter Julie for a dinner in Chinatown. While showing off our deftness at manipulating chopsticks, Julie noticed that she, Lucy, and I had identical nail polish, a sort of shell pink. We hadn't planned this, didn't discuss getting a mani before our trip; still out of the scores of colors at Vietnamese nail salons in different cities, all of us picked the same color.  (Kate's nails were natural.)

Friday, March 31, 2017

H♥le: A chapter ends: Goodbye first love...more or less

The next day, the Fourth of July, is another scorcher, blistering hot and  humid all over again. That teasing shower the night before has not broken the heat wave. I wake when the sun comes up and it comes up before six. The ceiling above my bed has no writing revealing the future. I shut my eyes, hoping for a few more
moments of oblivion to stop the constant question but I might as well have hoped to stop time. I was either going to marry him, or not, and I’d know the answer before the day was done. If you want to marry someone, you know, right? You aren’t undecided between something from Column A and something from Column B at Won Ton Charlie’s
Take Out. It’s either YES, or, no. Somewhere inside I was
listening to a language learned before I was born: This is your
fork in the road, kiddo. Don’t screw it up.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

h♥le in my heart: Two steps not taken

Lorraine in 1964, in Saginaw
July 3, 1964
I am being pursued—presumably because I was initially standoffish as much as anything—by the good-looking scion of a wealthy Michigan family who is obviously destined for greater things than the police beat of The Saginaw News. He has a law degree from the University of Michigan, a socialite mother, a publisher father on a sister newspaper, but three desks away from me is where he is for the time being. Someday he will marry someone named Pru who went to a Seven Sister or a near cousin, this I know, but being the object of his ten minutes of attention is momentarily flattering. It is a given he is lobbing pretty women like tennis balls from one of those thingamabobs that automatically shoot them into the air, one after another.

It’s Friday night, we’ve had drinks, he’s made me dinner at his insanely fabulous single-guy studio on the top floor of a once-grand house on Mansion Row. I am a virgin, I say, disentangling myself from he who is so smooth his cologne should be called Savoir-faire. He is astounded—how could this be in this day? It’s 1964! The promise I’d made to Tom bounced around in my head: I wasn’t going to give up that just yet for a quick flash in sheets, despite his insistence, despite how Victorian I suddenly feel.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

h♥le in my heart: The boy back home

Chapter One, Back Story, Continued:

Once I’d planned to marry the boy back in Michigan, but so much had come between us. We were victims of parental interference, communication complications, physical distance. Tom Kleskowski and I decided to get married after the four or five occasions when we were together, if you count: one, my cousin’s wedding our freshman year of college when we met: two, Christmas Day a month later when he formally called on me and met some of my extended family in a scene straight out of Jane Austen; three, going to the movies with his four year-old brother in tow; four, New Year’s Eve; five, two months later when he proposed by saying, I have to make something of myself because I want to marry you.

Monday, March 27, 2017

When fate knocks and I walk through the door

February 13, 1965
We are making small talk as we walk across the Genesee River on my first day of work cityside at the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. I don’t know it yet but I am brushing up against the man with whom I will soon fall truly deeply madly in love. Our love will thrust me into a life I never could have imagined, but at this moment I am merely walking across a bridge.

He is somewhat older, already established in the profession that I have dreamed about since the fourth grade. It’s early evening, dusk is hurtling toward dark, but it’s not cold for February, it’s foggy and damp but not quite raining. A silk scarf is tied at the back of my neck a la French movie star, and I am wearing a slick soldier-blue trench coat with a red lining—Made in France!—that cost a week’s salary. I am high on life at that moment—hell, I
am practically gliding across the bridge—for I’m the first woman to be hired
for the metro desk at The Democrat & Chronicle since World War II emptied
the newsroom of men.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

How life changes when you became pregnant and have to face adoption for your child

The mother walks in following a child who runs ahead of her. The child is two, could be three. I’m sitting at Starbucks in the morning reading The New York Times, wishing the music was turned down a tad. Sun is streaming through the window behind me. My husband Tony is doing the crossword puzzle. Both of us are writers and it’s nice to get out of the house in the morning.

But for the moment—fifteen seconds or so—my attention is diverted to the child, and then to the mother, and back to the child. Unconsciously I look to see if child resembles his mother.

I want to be able to tell myself he is not the child of someone else.

I want to reassure myself that the woman is his only mother.

I have been doing this ever since she was born.

Probably before. As soon as I knew I was pregnant.--by lorraine from hole in my heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption  [Prologue.]

Friday, March 24, 2017

Excerpt from hole in my heart: A few words about language

Daughter Jane and Lorraine, circa 1992
Regular readers know that I'm moving from a house where my husband and I have lived for 33 years ago another house in the same village.

It's only a mile away, but even moving next door means going through the collection of a life and deciding what to take, what to discard, what is worth taking, what is not, what you cannot live without, what you no longer want to live with. It's time consuming and somewhat emotional. My husband and I are both collectors of a sort--he has 5,000 books and he's getting rid of about a thousand; I've collected various sets of dishes and odd plates and platters that I like, as well as antique butterfly wing trays from Rio, and they are going to go!

We are moving from an Arts and Crafts house built in 1930 to a modern house built in 1990. And I want our new life to reflect the change. I'm going on here more than I meant but this is a way of saying that for the next couple of months (the move itself is in May), I won't have much time for writing. Jane will undoubtedly post now and then, but she too is busy with her life. While this is going on, I will publish excerpts of my memoir, hole in my heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption. The spacing will follow how it reads on the book page. This is the first section, not a forward, but "A Few Words about Language":

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sealed birth records are an abomination of individual rights; CT needs written testimony by TUESDAY eve

Lorraine testifying in New York, 2015
Imagine that you are at a family gravesite. A grandmother is being laid to rest alongside her husband, perhaps a sibling or two, and other relatives connected by birth. You are standing there, head bowed, but you can’t squelch the awareness that when you die you do not really belong in this family plot. You should be elsewhere. You have a whole other passel of relatives, but you don’t know who they are, or where they are. You are adopted.

You have no knowledge of who you really are, where you came from and how you got here, you have no family medical history. You don’t look like anyone in this family, and you wonder where you got your flat feet or why your second toe is longer than your big toe, when nobody else in the family has feet like yours.

You are an orphan in the world.

You’ve known since you were five or six that you came from another life, but you understand that you are not supposed to question, or

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Donaldson Report on 'Options Counseling': No surprises, proceed to adoption as primary 'solution'

Adoption counseling is biased towards adoption rather than providing a full consideration of all options available (parenting, adoption, abortion, foster care, family placement) so that the parents experiencing a crises pregnancy can make a sound and informed decision about their pregnancy, according to a recent report by The Donaldson Adoption Institute and the University of Texas, Arlington School of Social Work, Understanding Options Counseling in Adoption.

Researchers surveyed 20 adoption professionals who worked in different types of settings and had various levels of experience. Less than half reported specifically mentioning "parenting" as an option. Those that did framed it in terms of finding a "resource" ignoring the inherent value of maintaining the natural bond between mother and child. Only a small number discussed terminating the pregnancy.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Ken Robbins: A photographic tribute to my friend

                                                 All photos by Ken Robbins
Ken Robbins, a friend of mine, died in the night the day before yesterday. He was a great photographer, and a generous, wise, intelligent man who will be missed by his friends. His photos were collected in two books; he did the pictures for numerous book jackets, LP albums, and magazine covers, including for Time; took author photographs, and wrote more than 20 children's books he illustrated with his pictures. He was a brilliant mind, and conversation with him might range from philosophy to politics to pop culture. Whatever the subject, his observations were sharp and sometimes challenging, as he relished lively discourse.

For the last couple of years, he was on dialysis and lately had an infection that he could not shake. At the same time, he was caring for his wife, who has advanced dementia, at home with limited help. We all knew his life was difficult, but Ken kept a positive attitude about everything and never appeared to feel sorry for his lot.

This isn't a usual post for First Mother Forum, but I wanted to share some of his photos here as he let me use them for the blog whenever I asked. This is a tribute to Ken and his talent.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

This Is Us: Adoptive mom says she's sorry for hiding the truth

Triggers. They are everywhere. We can try to avoid them, but they will keep on popping up like weeds in your yard that you pullout year after year and they keep on coming. Having lived for more than half my life with triggers that remind me of my daughter lost to adoption, I've stopped trying to pretend that I can avoid them. I just go with the flow.

With that in mind I look forward to watching This Is Us, NBC's breakaway hit that has an adoption reunion in one of its subplots. For most of the season, it has been THE story line dominating the series. It centers around a biological father found by his adult son (Randall, played by Sterling K. Brown), an adoptive mother (Rebecca played by Mandy Moore) who knew who the father (William, Ron Cephas Jones) was all along but never shared that information--with anyone, even her husband.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Paula Fox: Author and first mother

The writer Paula Fox died recently and she rated a half page obituary in the New York Times. I scanned it immediately to see if the fact of the daughter she gave up for adoption was included. I knew she had written about it in one of her memoirs.

Well, there it was: 
"At the end of Borrowed Finery: A Memoir Ms. Fox tells of being reunited with the daughter she had borne at 20, the offspring of a brief liaison after her first marriage had ended. She gave the infant up for adoption, a decision, she wrote, that pained her the rest of her life. In middle age, the daughter, Ms. Carroll-Barraud, found Ms. Fox. (One of Ms. Carroll-Barraud’s children, it transpired, is the rock singer Courtney Love.)"

Friday, February 24, 2017

When an adopted teen wants to live with his birth/first mother

Two steps forward, one step back is how I'm feeling about open adoption today after reading family-expert John Rosemond's recent column about a 14-year-old who "now wants to go live with his birth-mother."

The adoptive mother writes that at the onset of the adoption, the first mother was out of the picture even though there was an open-adoption agreement. A few years ago she phoned, saying she had changed her life, and "wanted to re-establish contact with 'her' son." Phone calls led to visits, led to overnights, and apparently eventually the teenager wanted to go on vacation with her last summer. Whether or not he went is not included in the column. The teens grades have taken a nose-dive, he's become difficult to live with and now, the column question is framed:  "He’s told us he doesn’t want to live with us anymore. I think he believes there will be no rules with her and he’ll be able to eat ice cream all day long, figuratively speaking. What should we do?"

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Telling first mothers to shut up--again!

Apparently we are not supposed to say in public that adoptions in general remind us of the mother and family of loss. Yesterday's post noting that Hoda Kotb's new adoption--which generated happy congratulatory tweets and well-wishes from more than 60 thousand people--did not make us happy because we knew that somewhere out there a mother was bleeding on the battlefield of loss.

Other than noting that she is 52 without further comment, I didn't specifically attack Hoda and I said that I didn't have more details about the adoption.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why we aren't celebrating with Hoda as she adopts a baby

The Today Show star Hoda Kotb adopted a baby girl. She is thrilled. This is her picture with Haley Joy on Kolb's Twitter account. She writes: "Welcome to the family, Haley Joy! She is the love of my life."  Followed by 63K likes and still going. Her co-hosts tweet the good news.

Friday, February 17, 2017

First Mothers: What not to do at the start of a reunion

In an earlier post we urged first mothers to react with their hearts when a child--now adult--lost to adoption first makes contact, even if the words you hear put you off. What about the next step, once the first flurry of words and excitement is over, and the conversation continues?

From listening to adopted people for the last several decades, I've learned that a great many of them have spent their lives past the age of reason reassuring their adoptive parents in ways large and small that they love them, fully, deeply, completely. Because of what parents have said about them and to them--You were the answers to our prayers; I couldn't love you more if I had given birth to you, when we found you we knew our family was complete, I thank God every day for bringing you to us...they have fully absorbed the message that they are responsible for their parent's well-being and happiness. This message will be inculcated further if the individual was adopted after having children via nature failed, or a biological child's death. The burden the adopted person carries is heavy indeed, no matter how great the parents' affection.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Here's how to write good adoption law

Although adoption experts—the Donaldson Adoption Institute,* the Child Welfare League of America,** and others--agree that children should be raised in their biological families if possible, state laws are tilted to increasing the supply of infants for adoption resulting in the unnecessary separation of mothers and children.

These laws allow mothers to consent to adoption before or immediately after birth with little or no opportunity to revoke their consent and with little or no counseling. Open adoptions agreements which may encourage mothers to relinquish are often unenforceable.*** Unmarried fathers have few rights.

Those of us interested in reforming adoption so that it coincides with its original purpose—to find families for children who need them—are faced with well-funded and well-organized opposition from the adoption industry. While adoption is governed mostly by state laws, adoption reform must occur nation-wide. Otherwise, those who put profit before child welfare will simply move their operations to “adoption-friendly” states. Adoption reform organizations throughout the country must come to a consensus about adoption laws so that they speak in one voice to state legislators and the media.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

To First Mothers: When your adopted 'child' calls out of the blue

This is for the mothers (first, birth, natural, biological) who search on the web for how to react to a phone call they are either waiting for or fearful of--that from their child lost to adoption. Years ago I would have assumed that every mother on earth who gave up a child would be overwhelmed with joy and say something like: Oh my god, you found me! I have been waiting for you to find me! 

Today I know that is not true. Not only have I heard of so many birth mothers rejecting reunion that it makes my head spin in sorrow, but I also had a long-time neighbor and friend who did not admit that she had a child that her other children did not know about--until she was on her deathbed. For years we managed to maintain a friendship while we argued about what I fought for, mystifying me and her children. One of them figured out the truth before she came clean, only weeks before she slipped away. If such a mother was that close to me in real life, there are many others out here.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

When first parents adopt their surrendered 'children'

A father wrote to advice columnist Amy Dickinson recently about his wife's adult daughter whom she placed for adoption as an infant. His wife was reunited with the daughter, Betsy, now 30, ten years ago. Now she wants "to divorce her current adoptive parents" because of "irreconcilable differences", and for legal reasons involving her own 8-year-old daughter. Betsy wants her natural mother, and her biological father (who has been out of the picture for 30 years) to adopt her. The man who wrote to Amy says he and his wife (the natural mother) have children together, as well as children from prior marriages.

Apparently the letter-writer will be asked to go before a judge and make a public statement that his wife and Betsy's biological father are now the adoptive parents. He identifies himself as "No Prior Precedent" (NPP) feels uncomfortable about doing so. He asks if he is being "an oversensitive territorial man"?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Making the first contact with a first mother: What not to say

"One reason I had searched for [my birth mother] was that I wanted to tell her that she'd done the right thing. I always felt she deserved to know that" wrote Jean Strauss in Birthright. "I proudly said it now on the phone, sure this one sentence would make her feel good about her decision thirty-three years earlier to relinquish me for adoption. 'You know, you did the right thing when you gave me up.'

Her answer burst my hallucination. 'I'll never believe that. I should have never let you go. I wish I had taken you and run.'"

Strauss is not alone in her lack of understanding of the dynamics of surrender. We mothers who have ached for reunion are roiling under the long buried grief of loss, and yes, guilt, even if we don't recognize it as such. We someone thanks us for something, the usual response is something along these lines: Oh, you deserved it; I'm so glad you liked it; or, It was nothing. Anyone can see how none of the typical responses to "thank you" fit the situation. We suspect that mothers who hear the "thank you" that seems to be popular today feel a tad weird but ignore thinking about how to react because they are so glad to be found.

What does a "thank you" really imply when said to a first mother by her child? Thank you for giving me up because I've had a better life than I would have had with you. I got this great education you never would have been able to afford, I have a life that is of a higher social class than yours...I made out just fine so thank you! 

Now we suspect that adoptees who want to say "thank you" don't understand the meaning that creeps into our mind, or we hope they don't--but that attitude has spilled out some adoptee memoirs. Sarah Saffian's Ithaka: A Daughter's Memoir of Being Found comes to mind. (As we recollect, Saffian didn't say "thank you" because she was uncertain about being found in the first place, here we are talking about the general attitude her memoir conveys.

Here are some more clueless comments that we have heard from adoptees which make us cringe:

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lion: An adoptee returns home

If you haven't already seen Lion, grab a hankie and catch it before it is gone. Besides being a compelling story and a well acted film, it reinforces what we who live adoption know to be true: the need to know one's original family is universal. It could be the story of a young girl from Kansas or a weary warrior in Greece. No matter how difficult the journey, it must be attempted.

Lion is based on the Saroo Bierley's memoir "A Long Way Home." Five-year- old Saroo lives in abysmal poverty with his mother, sister and older brother, Guddu, in a small village in India. One evening he goes with Guddu, whom he adores, to the train station. Guddu tells him to wait there while he seeks work. When, after many hours, Guddu does not return, Saroo crawls into a train and falls asleep. The train leaves the station. He is unable to get off the train until it arrives in Calcutta several days later. Saroo has to survive on the mean streets, which is particularly difficult because he speaks Hindi, not Bengali, the language of Calcutta.  Eventually he is taken to an orphanage which arranges his adoption by a kind and loving Australian couple, Sue and John Bierley. The contrast between the hovel where he lived for his first five years and the Bierley's beautiful home and opulent surroundings in Tasmania could not be more stark.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Mr. President: Pardon Sandy Musser

Sandy Musser
Dear President Obama:

In 1993 Sandy Musser was sentenced to federal prison for four months. Her crime? Finding a way to reconnect individuals separated by adoption--mothers and grown children who had no legal recourse that led to reunion. At the time all but two states--Alaska and Kansas--had legislation that forever denied an adopted individual a way to reunite to his family of birth, and vice versa.

What Sandy Musser helped effect is becoming increasingly commonplace as state legislation slowly but surely is ending secrecy and anonymity in adoption. In 20 years, what Ms. Musser did will be seen in a whole different light, and her "crime" will be seen as a courageous act of compassion.

Some background: From the Seventies onward, a movement comprised of adoptees and mothers who relinquished children to adoption began demanding an end to the anonymity and secrecy that had ruled adoption for the previous half century. The forced anonymity of closed adoption was a practice that began in the mid-teens of the last century, as state after state sealed the original birth certificates of individuals when they were adopted. Neither adoptees nor their mothers--the two groups most affected--had any input into this legislation. For both sides, there was no recourse, for the anonymity was designed to be for all time. Health histories were not possible. Even descendants of the adopted could not learn the true family of origin.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

When an adoptive mother says...My daughter isn't interested in searching

What do you say to someone you meet at a luncheon who says that she has an adopted daughter who "isn't interested in searching" as soon as she hears the subject of your recent book. Daughter is in her late twenties.

I said that many adoptees don't search until their parents are much older or dead, because then they feel that are free to do so. I said that adoptees don't search because unconsciously you [adoptive mother] have made it clear that doing so would hurt you very much. She understood. And she added that she always thought her daughter would search one day. I realized that my new acquaintance instinctively understood that the desire to know one's history and reconnect with kin on some level was instinctual, and not unusual. She wasn't being aggressive; I think she was simply surprised to meet a birth mother in real life, at a New Year's luncheon in an artist's studio.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Life lessons from Downton Abbey

It's New Year's Day and I've been hearing from first mothers and adoptees who had a difficult time this holiday season, but then...all major holidays can be difficult for us because we are either missing people, or a whole family, in our lives; or we are alienated from someone we don't wish to be at odds with.

You know the drill--should I make that phone call? Will I be rebuffed again? Can I talk to my mother without the daughter she lives with (my half sister who sent me a wretched email) listening in? If I send a card/gift to my son/daughter will they acknowledge it? If I call my 15-year-old daughter will I be able to talk to her, or will this upset her adoptive parents and make life more difficult for her? Will she be cold if I call? What if she doesn't answer the phone? Should I contact a cousin, the only one in my biological family who is willing to be in contact with me?