I foolishly asserted in the June 19 column, “Firstmother Husbands: How They Handle the News of an Earlier Child,” that “the outraged husband who rejects his wife when he finds out about her sin … is a myth.” In her June 21 column, Abigail Van Buren responded to a woman with an outraged husband. Here’s the letter and Abby’s response.
"DEAR ABBY: I became an unwed mother many years ago, when there was a stigma attached to having an illegitimate child. Unable to care for my son, I placed him for adoption. He has now found me.
I have a family, and my husband does not want me to tell our adult children or contact the young man and his family.
Do I go against the wishes of my husband, whom I love very much, or should I tell our children and perhaps risk my husband leaving me? — CONFLICTED IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR CONFLICTED: From the tone of your letter your husband is the dominant partner in your marriage. If that’s the case, and you really think he would leave you after all these years because you leveled with your children about the fact that they have a half-brother, then keep the secret.
However, if your relationship with your husband is anything approaching a partnership, then stand up for yourself and make it clear that you are the sum total of all your experiences — both the joyful and the painful — and you need to see your son, thank his family for the love and care they have given him, and let your adult children make up their own minds about whether they want to be contacted.
This is the 21st century, and we are far beyond the attitudes of the 1950s in which a human being who is born out of wedlock is a shameful secret forever to be buried. In addition, secrets have a way of always coming out eventually."
JANE: The letter is right on except for the “thank his family” part. I can’t agree that raising a child is so much of a burden that birthmothers should thank the adoptive parents.I’d also add the following paragraph:
Consider the situation from your son’s viewpoint. He found you because he needs to know his origins and connect with people who share his genes. You gave him up because you had no choice but now you do. Think how painful it will be to him if you refuse to contact him, in effect telling him once again that he cannot be a part of your life. Learn more about why adoptees search and encourage your husband to do so as well. A good place to start is Tim Green’s “A Man and His Mother: An Adopted Son’s Search.” You and your husband might also consider joining a support group for adoptees and birthparents. The American Adoption Congress has a list of resources on its website.