Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Birth Mothers Happy to Reconnect

Hey Everybody, thanks for your kind posts--and the different takes on who is selfish. I had completely forgotten about adoptees being told that search and contact with their first moms was "selfish." What a crock! According to a small but rigorous study of birth/first mothers (93, some who were seekers, some were sought) in Great Britain, 94 percent of them were pleased that their son or daughter had made contact with them. Ninety percent said that the contact and reunion had been a happy and satisfying experience. After eight years, 70 percent were still in face-to-face contact, and 86 percent were still in indirect contact.

John Triseliotis, who headed the study, did an earlier work called In Search of Origins (1973) that was the first serious study to talk about the ramifications of being adopted and searching, as it was five years before The Adoption Triangle, our bible for opening records by Sorosky, Baran and Pannor.

What was fascinating in the current study was the differences Triseliotis found between the seeker birth mothers (32) and the sought birth mothers (61). Seeker mothers were found to have poorer physical and mental health, lower self-esteem; and were affected more severely by the loss of their child. Nothing surprising there. I certainly fall into that group, and to judge from what we read online, so do mothers who blog. I remember a good friend (a birth mother, but we were friends before we discovered this)always yapping at me about my low self-esteem, and how I let guys walk over me when I was dating after my first marriage (shortly after I gave Jane up) ended. Shortly after I found Jane, she paid for the same searcher and found her daughter; they remain in frequent contact and see each other regularly. Now back to the new research:

Triseliotis found that sought mothers were healthier: "on the whole and in spite of their sadness, [they] were not found to be significantly different from the general population, before contact took place." However, "79 percent of both groups reported guilt as one of a number of lasting impacts arising from the parting decision.... The guilt arose mainly from the belief that, irrespective of the circumstances, they had 'rejected' the child."

The numbers in Britain were identical to what the New Jersey Department of Human Services reported back in 2004. In a letter to a NJ senator, Dolores Helb, Adoption Registry Coordinator, wrote: "Despite the fact that the majority of parents we search for are not registered with us, 95 percent do agree to some form of contact with the adoptee. Though this percentage has not changed since 1996, newer technology has brought us greater success in the number of people we have been able to locate." (Thanks to Pam Hasegawa and Judy Foster for providing the above data.) Let me add that The Adoption Triangle and a companion book by Annette Baran are well worth reading for anyone in the triad.

And a personal note...Hi Mairaine, Aston was apologizing but I said I wanted to see him in person...and that didn't happen. Now I just wish I had had a ten-minute conversation with him on the phone and let it go. Yes, I've known him for a long time but he's not one of my closest friends. So it was time to not make a great deal out of it, talk over the phone, accept his apologies, explain a bit, and I did not do that. I kept asking for a face-to-face. He and his wife knew I was upset as soon as I sent her the email saying so. But I'm reading into my response that indeed, I was one of the seeker mothers who has deep reservoirs of grief and sorrow and am acutely sensitive about this issue.

Tomorrow I'll post about the cover story in this week's New York Times Magazine: Her Body, My Baby. Grit your teeth and read it.
Take care, y'all--lorraine

6 comments :

  1. Ack - that NYTimes article. It rankled me so much I couldn't even submit it to digg. I'm looking forward to your take on it though. There's no way I could ever get a coherent word out about it.

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  2. Oh my....this is the first I have read that those of us who searched are less healthy than those found. That certainly fits me for the depression/low self-esteem category, and for the overall negative effect of surrender on my life.

    Those of us who searched when our kids were young were really hurting right from the start, not a lot of denial or blocking out, much as we would have liked to. I think mothers in the closet for many years are dealing with a different dynamic that makes it hard to understand each other sometimes.

    On the other hand my physical health has always been good, still is for my age, and the health problems I do have are ones my parents had and still lived long lives. So I do not see real negative effects there.

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  5. I made inquiries to a social worker when visiting the UK in '72, and was assured that there was absolutely no possibility of finding.
    I'm curious how women who'd surrendered to a formal closed adoption in the UK would have even gone about the business of searching in those days.

    I'm also a bit confused. How come 70% were in face-to-face contact and 86% in indirect contact? It doesn't add up. Surely it must mean something else, like the 86% somehow including the 70%?

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  6. Hi Kippa,

    I'd say it meant that 86% were in contact of some kind, phone, letter,email if it existed when the study was done or face to face. 70% were face to face contact meaning they got together in person sometimes, the remaining 16% were just in touch by phone, letter, email.

    That is my interpretation, but I am no numbers person!

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