Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Daughter's Change of Heart

My surrendered daughter Megan, a Mormon, searched for me for over 10 years, finally locating me in late 1997. Shortly after we reunited, she asked me what her original name had been. It was Rebecca. She said that her adoptive mother told her that I had not given her a name. Soon after that, Megan wrote to the State of California requesting her original birth certificate (OBC). Given that California still seals records and steals the name, she did not receive her OBC.

After our reunion, I tried to learn more about adoption. I attended conferences sponsored by the American Adoption Congress and Bastard Nation, advocates for allowing adoptees to receive their original birth certificates. While I had kept Megan’s existence a secret from most of my family, I became an activist for open records and encouraged Megan to become one as well. In August, 2000 she wrote the following letter to the Chicago Tribune:

“I've long been an advocate of open records. I am an adoptee. The birth certificate that I must rely on to get a driver's license, passport, etc., is a lie. It lists my place, date and time of birth and has a signature of the attending physician. And then it has the names of adoptive parents who were not there on that day. It places them at a place and time they were not. It is a cover-up.

I have long wanted to own a Certificate of Adoption that I could use for identification. It would list the place, date and time I was adopted. Really, my identify began at that moment.

I have a pretty good relationship with my adoptive parents, and I know they would never understand this.

Before I found my birth parents, I spent a lot of time scrutinizing my birth certificate, trying to make sense of it, trying to find my birth parents names listed somewhere between the lines. The certificate contained other facts about my birth, yet it left off the most important fact. I could not make sense of it. I want my original birth certificate because I want the complete truth, in writing, of who I am. I will still use the ammended [sic] one for legal purposes, but getting the original one would give me great satisfaction.”

Over the past eight years, however, Megan’s connection to the Mormon Church has hardened and our relationship has deteriorated. When we are together, we get along, agreeing for the most part on subjects like movies, raising children, protecting the environment. We enjoy the same activities, walking, theater, family dinners. We both wear simple clothes -- jeans and T-shirts -- and use little make-up. We make the same spelling errors -- we both routinely spell “amended” incorrectly. However, Megan cannot tolerate any discussion that she considers to be a criticism of the LDS Church or adoption. She believes that her adoption was God’s plan for her; that her adoptive family, the family to which she is joined for eternity, is her only family. I and my other children and her father and his daughter are inconvenient appendages. She recently emailed me and asked me not to send birthday gifts to her children, my grandchildren.

Early this year I forwarded Megan emails from an Illinois member of Bastard Nation with information about an open records bill in the Illinois legislature, HB4623. In a complete turnabout of how she initially felt, Megan wrote the following letter to the Bloomington (Illinois) Pantagraph.

“I am an adult adoptee. About 10 years ago, I made the choice to search for my birth mother and I found her!

I knew nothing about the "adoption rights'' movement. It was just something I wanted to do for myself.

The reunion with my birth mother was satisfying for me, and we still correspond and visit each other. After we met, I even attempted to obtain my original birth certificate, but was denied.

Since that time, I have been exposed to many, many communications from various groups pushing for legislation that would allow all adoptees the right to obtain their original birth certificates, regardless of the wishes of birth mothers.

At first, the political arguments made a lot of sense to me. However, after much careful study, pondering and prayer, I have decided for myself that I cannot embrace these groups' basic philosophy regarding family.

God has a plan for families. Children should be nurtured in loving homes by a father and a mother who are also husband and wife. "Redefining kinship,'' as advocated by the some of these groups, is a dangerous thing.

Furthermore, to obtain one's original birth certificate is not a civil or human right.
Because I don't believe in the basic goals of “adoption rights'' organizations, I cannot and will not support their political agendas, including open records for all adoptees.”

The letter created a ripple in the adoption rights community. A blogger in Australia ripped her for writing the letter pointing out that she had what she wanted but now would not let others have the same.

“That she has said all this AFTER She has *reunited* and REMAINS *reunited* with her Mother who gave birth to her and they still correspond and visit each other and not only that but the whole reunion was 'satisfying' for her...( I should be so lucky)

“BUT What Megan about all those other poor sods out there who NEED Their Original OBC To even 'begin' their search ? did you think about that ? What about them ?

“No sorry but your views are antiquated and self serving and certainly NOTHING To do with GOD.”

I don’t know why Megan wrote the letter – to get back at me for something? To reassure herself that her adoption was the right thing? I can only think that Megan struggled with the need to be true to her feelings and the need to be true to her church. In the end, the Church won out.

How did I feel when I read her letter? Disappointed, wistful, sad. Five years earlier I would have been distraught. I’m disappointed that Megan isn’t like Marley Greiner and the many other adoptees that fight for open records. I wish Megan and I could share our feelings about adoption. I’m sad Megan is so controlled by the LDS Church that she suppresses her feelings in order to support the Church’s fanciful views on the family. I’m sad that Megan can’t accept that she has two families.

--Jane

7 comments :

  1. Since I am also dealing with an adoptee who has done a reversal after many, many years of reunion, I can only assume that one way or another they believe they have to make a choice. In my case, he seems to find it necessary to villafy me in an attempt to feel comfortable with this choice.

    Maybe it's religion, maybe it's adoptive parents guilting him. Maybe it's a partner who sees me as a threat. Who knows.

    I am like you, frustrated and sad for him but calm. And ever hopeful.

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  2. There is also a heck of a lot of anguish that rears up in reunion. These relationships are not a piece of cake. At least mine isn't. Reconciling the pain, the abandonment, is an ongoing process that complicates and compounds all the other reasons for adoptees distancing from their original families.

    Abandonment and a desire to be in control are the root of everyone's greatest fears and at the heart of reuniting. Working these things out in our hearts is a lifelong process.

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  3. After over 22 years of reunion my daughter has rekindled anger towards me. Her adoptive mother died and I think she resents me for still being here when her other mother is not. We've made peace, but while she apologized, she said she still felt that way.

    I don't always understand the ups and downs of our relationship, but you know?... I have ups and downs with the children I raised and we get over it as well. It's a natural thing in families, no matter the dynamics.

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  4. I think that when the son or daughter we reunite with feels differently about politics, religion, adoption, anything else, we have to agree to disagree and drop the subject. Just as with kids we raise.

    We cannot push our opinions on them any more than they should push theirs on us. Often it is a delicate balance. I can see where it can be confusing when the adoptee is the one who searched as in Jane's case, and then reverses opinions. My son did not search or want to be found, so there was a different dynamic there. He has told me a lot about his life, but our relationship, which at this time is email only, has evolved to the point that neither of us mentions adoption.

    He knows what I do, but I do not push it or make a point of it, and would never urge him to attend anything to do with adoption. He loved his father, does not like his mother, but considers them his parents for good or ill. I am not sure what he considers me, but I do seem to have some role in his life like a distant mother, although I do not think he would ever use that word for me. After years of silence I am very grateful for the thin thread of connection and communication that now runs between us.

    He is an agnostic raised Catholic, I am a lukewarm cultural Catholic struggling not to be agnostic. That is fine with both of us. My kids I raised are all agnostics as well. I have to admit it would have been very hard for me to deal with a kid who was Mormon or any kind of fundamenalist, or any kind of bigot. Luckily he is none of those.

    Jane, I hope it works out with your daughter, I hope she comes around again. Do you think you could get her to focus on the things you do have in common, and leave adoption and religion out of your relationship? It might mean a lot of biting your tongue, but could be worth it to keep a relationship going.

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  5. Jane,
    I am sorry. I don't know, my daughter has chosen not to really know me. Her chose driven not by a church but I believe by a sense of loyalty to her aparents. I read the Pantagraph, I live probably 15 mins from Bloomington. The whole Illinois bill issue has been an eye opener for me. I really hope Megan opens her eyes to what she has in you.
    Kristy

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  6. Jane, I just don't know either, why some adoptees feel the need to block everything out like this. I think Unsigned Masterpiece has it right. Maybe some adoptees feel like this is the only way to control a situation that has been uncontrollable. I'm sure it has a lot to do with the "rejection" we feel (not that our mothers rejected us, but the way we are made to feel that they did by the society around us). Some adoptees feel like the only way to protect themselves from being rejected is to reject first.

    As for why doesn't she fight for open records... fighting is hard. This Illinois bill HB 4623 is a slap in the face designed as "help" for adoptees, and puts us in the position of battling each other over whether rights for some is good enough, or if we should fight for rights for all. I'm in the latter camp, but as I've mentioned on my own blog, my mom's denial makes me a have-not.

    I can understand why some adoptees don't fight. Being adopted can be enough of a fight, as I can only imagine being a first mom is. The sad thing is, some don't know there IS a fight. I sure didn't for most of my life. It wasn't until I had to get my birth certificate for my marriage license that I realized I was legally not treated the same as other people.

    I wish I had a first mom like you, Jane, and Lorraine and Linda and the other moms I've met, who are as outraged as we adoptees are about what has happened to all of us in the name of adoption. I can't understand not fighting against that. There are days that I wish I still had my head in the sand, that I didn't have to deal with it, but I know I'd never forgive myself for not trying.

    Maybe your daughter will eventually reach that point in her journey too.

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  7. Wow, Jane. I've never witnessed such a full reversal of opinion -- on ANY topic. Especially unreasonable since she got her history, to deny that to other adoptees. I think lots of people are turning (or returning) to religion during these wacky and scary times -- as Triona said, to somehow control what is out of our control. The Mormon church is one of the most powerful and indoctrinating I think.

    I wish things were different, that she could love and be loved by two families.

    Best to you, Denise

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