Friday, July 31, 2009

After the adoptee/birth mother reunion: Is Secrecy Necessary?


What I've learned from all the comments on the last post, When the adoptee keeps the reunion secret, is that openness is often undesirable and best to keep the reunion a secret...because there are too many problems if the adoptee/birth mother reunion is out in the open. And that everybody--first mother and adoptee, need to find his or her own way.

Amen.

We first mothers need to learn to trust that the adopted person is doing all that he or she can to handle two mothers (yes, one is enough trouble), and maybe, two fathers, or a combination of them. But what this discussion has reminded me of is something that I read elsewhere: how we birth mothers are "thanked," but when we come back, are then often feared, denigrated, and dishonored. And really, there is nothing we can do about that. That is out of our hands.

We are feared because adoptive parents fear our children will somehow prefer us. We are feared because they find it upsetting to see how alike--physically and psychologically--we may be to the "children" in question, who are now teens, young people, or fully formed adults. We are feared because the biological link by its very nature can not be broken; and the adoptive link, because it is based on proper conduct and associations, can be.

I can hear the chorus of people disagreeing with this statement, that the bond of love and relationship between adoptive parents and their children can never be broken, but we have seen indeed that it can. I know of too many situations where the adopted person has moved away, and rarely, if ever, maintains contact with the adoptive parents. And over at Cedar's Blog, On a Little Island in the Pacific, she has just written about how she adopted her grown son back; screen writer Joe Esterhaz spoke at the last American Adoption Conference with his daughter, about how he did the same thing.

If that is the sum of the relationship with the adoptive parents, is it any wonder that such individuals do not feel the need for a close relationship and frequent contact with their natural parents? And while you may cut off contact with one's biological child, or mother, the link is still there and will always be. Disinheritance does not break the biological connection.

But back I'm rambling here, and to go the topic of how adoptive parents deal with us:
We are denigrated because they fear us. So the way to deal with that is to put us down. And we are dishonored because they fear us. Most adoptive parents are now, after reunion, after years of raising the adoptee, not going to be willing to save a chair for us at the dance recital, as adoptive father Brooks Hansen wrote in The Brotherhood of Joseph talking about why he chose to adopt from Siberia.

But now we are talking weddings, christening, graduations. After years of "thanking us" for our child (but being glad we were no where in sight), they are not going to say, Hey, here's a spot up front at the wedding!" And we need to be mindful not to put extra pressure on the adopted person to make sure it happens.

In my own case, I was amazingly fortunate, and indeed, not only did I attend my daughter's wedding, I was asked to read a psalm during the ceremony. Since Jane was my only daughter, I got to freak out over what to wear to the wedding. There is no "birth mother of the bride" protocol. I sat right next to her other mother in the front row. We even had matching corsages. When the parents of the bride danced, there were three parents on the dance floor. I danced with my husband (whom Jane saw as a kind of step-father), and nobody threw eggs at me. My brothers and their wives and some of their kids were also there, and we sat with them at our own table--fortunately we filled the table.

Yeah, I know, amazing.

But there were some hairy moments. The bridegroom's mother was cool (very); I wouldn't say most of the adoptive family relatives were friendly (curious, but not friendly) and two days--hell, at the rehearsal the night before--the wedding, the bride's other mother was not speaking to me over a side issue. I've gotten off here on a tangent, but I just wanted to say there are a million ways to have a reunion.

Let's all just try not to further hurt each other.

23 comments :

  1. I have been there and done that wih my granddaughter's events. My son always came with me sat next to me. She was didn't like me coming back into the picture.

    The adopter got there early one time and of course, she didn't bother saving us a place. I think about it now and only think of maybe two or three events that I might have to see her again. Wedding of my gdaughter, uggh, baby shower or death of one of my granddaughter's maternal grandparents.

    I do not intend to see her for awhile and would love it if I never had to see her again. I tried, I actually, extended myself and she reacted like the typical adopter I was coming into her territory.

    Funny, how she never thought she was doing that when she got my newborn. Oh, thats right I didn't want him according to her version to my son. The son she raised and loved.

    Had enough of the crap that comes with adoption and how those who adopt want to help find, yeah, until you do and until you have been in reunion, that is just hot air blowing. Its in reunion that one truly sees how adoption makes others act even adoptive relatives of the person that adopts. Its bizarre and unreal.

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  2. *Of course* biological relationship can't be broken. Biology is intrinsic.
    The bond of love, on the other hand, can be broken in any family, whether biological or adoptive.
    A sense of obligation is one thing.
    Love is quite another.

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  3. "The bond of love, on the other hand, can be broken in any family, whether biological or adoptive."

    Isn't love caused by a biological instinct in the mother?

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  4. Mei Ling - yes and no - biological love is a genetic predisposition to which each and every creature submits to. It is built into the children as well as the mothers. It is the reason many species have survived. Only in the most fierce of predators or the egg layers is that bond not there. It is how species are carried through to grow.

    Beyond that, it is where our first lessons are learned, both for mom and baby, and where we learn things such as trust, and of course love.

    No, it is not only the mom - but the child too. It is something that is all but intangible. You can find more reading on the subject in studies done by universities all over the country.

    Yes, adoption bonds can be and often are broken. You can't buy love.

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  5. "Isn't love caused by a biological instinct in the mother"?

    I would hope there was a lot more to human love than biological instinct. Of course there is a biological connection between mother and child, but it is not the only connection that human beings are capable of making. And sometimes it goes wrong. Some mothers kill their babies, others abandon them in unsafe places.Some biological parents, like some adoptive parents, horribly abuse their kids. The biological bond between natural mother and infant is just a start, not the only cause of love nor reason for love to continue.

    Human beings make bonds of love with their spouses and partners; unrelated persons, There can also be life-long love between friends. Depending on circumstances, adoptive parents and adopted children can form bonds of love as strong as any biological bond, although this can be harder without the added biological tie.

    And as Kippa says, emotional bonds to biological relatives can be broken just as much as emotional bonds to adoptive parents. We are not just animals,operating solely on blind instinct,although we did evolve from them. Biology is important, but it is not the sum total of human behavior or the sole determinant of adult affection and connection.

    DNA connections, biological inheritance, cannot be broken, but the bonds of love, in any relationship, can be broken by many things big and small.

    It would be helpful if the adoption reform movement could get away from biological determinism and look at the bigger, more complicated picture of human emotional ties.

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  6. Mei-Ling, Maryanne and Lori between them have said it all and better than I could ever have done

    If you haven't already read it, you might be interested in checking out Sarah Blaffer Hrdys wonderful book "Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species."
    I love recommending books that I have enjoyed, and this one is terrific.

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  7. I want my children to love me and respect for who I am, not because I've elbowed the competition out of the race. Any AP who feels threatened by their child's origins should look deeply inside. If you really think your child will dump you for their birth mother, your mother-child relationship must be terribly shallow and need-based.

    I feel sorry for APs like those you write so well about. I don't know why they would choose to make their adoptive experience anemic; mine is delightfully lush and florid and abundant!

    I'm glad I found your blog. You're a balanced writer and a generous spirit, and I'm learning a lot from you.

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  8. Sally, after 14 years into reunion with my siblings, father and realtives (brief time with my mother), I can honestly say that had I been reunited with my family years ago, I would have easily forgotten the adoptive family. Not because they were shallow or abusive, but because they aren't my people. However, I didn't find my mother and family till age 34. It wasn't possible to regard my found family as "family" - too many years of separation. My brain had been hardwired to think of the adoptive folk as my family.

    I understand why many adopters don't want the parents and other family member present. I find there is a very strong pull to my biological connections.

    Just as many adopters tried for years to conceive a biological child, I had the same need to want and be with my biologial parents and tribe.

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  9. I was never a secret to my daughter's adopters. They knew about me from our first phone call. I searched and found her when she was 26. I have met them 4 times in the 11 years we have been in reunion.
    That being said, I know she doesn't share with them much about our reunion. I know this because one of my other daughters received an Emmy award, and Corry never told her adopters about her sister's award. It shocked me to hear this, because I thought she and I were so open with each other. I was shocked that she kept her two mothers so separate. I knew she didn't speak to me much about them. I admired that quality in her. Now I wonder if it is just her way of keeping things separate, kind of like a secret.
    Like I said, I have met her adopters 4 times. Each time I didn't know what to expect, because each time they were like Jeckyl & Hyde. One time the amom was nice, the next time, a bit catty. Same with the adad. I never knew who I would be meeting. I met them at weddings and births. So I guess those are stressful times for any parent. But I still FEEL like I'm a secret. Even though it all seems to be out in the open, I know very little about them, and I suspect they know very little about me.
    Because they are very different from me, I really don't care to know them much. I am happy just to know my precious baby girl, who is now a grown-up woman.

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  10. Agree entirely that the fear that propels most a-parents who protest or sabotage search-and-reunion is fear of losing their child to someone the child belongs with. You cannot watch your child every day without being aware that she is connected to someone else. This is particularly true of parents with transracial adoptions.

    Most adoptions start with the APS feeling like they're top dog. It may even be part of the attachment process--I dunno. But it's not unusual to feel selfish, even possessive, about your baby.

    If your adoption started off as closed, it's impossible to dismantle the need to be the child's *only* parent in a few months, so if you haven't talked yourself down from the ledge in 20 years you'll probably freak at search-and-reunion when the adoptee brings the subject up, which may be why many adoptees don't go there. Over a period of years, however, it's possible for the a-parent to give up the top dog position and recognize that what you love about your child is inevitably linked with his or her first parents, and so loving your child starts to include YOUR CHILD KNOWING AND LOVING THEM, which usually includes you too.

    So what will I do if one day, at say. . .14. . .Simone says, "Siya nara, you're not my people." Well, I would probably cry forever. Another post altogether.

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  11. Osolomomma,

    It baffles me to no end (and I'm not directing this at you) how people that adopt don't already understand that a child's family is missing. If you went missing, would people place Simone with a new family and say, well, she's got people that love her, no need to find her mother - or would they search the four corners of the earth to find you?

    I don't know why adoption seems to completely dismiss the fact that a child's parents and family are missing and how that child would want to know what happened to them and see who her parents are and where they're living. A child is told that their mother is not their "Birth" or whatever we call it mother, then the first thing they want to know is who and where their mother is. This isn't wanting to know if Santa Clause is real - it's their mother, father, family, ethnicity, culture and entire network of relatives and ancestry.

    If a non-adopted child's parents went missing, it would a crisis - the police would be involved, yet, with adioption it just doesn't seem to matter - we hear, oh, I'll help you find your birth parents when you're older or when you're ready to know. Older? Ready?

    I get the adoption-build-a-forever family myth, but wow, an adopted child is still a human being who feels the same the same things everyone else feels.

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  12. "But it's not unusual to feel selfish, even possessive, about your baby."

    What about those who claim God has a plan for another woman to carry the adoptive parent's baby?

    Is it okay to still possess that level of "natural" selfishness?

    After all, that baby wasn't born in your tummy.

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  13. Mei-Ling: If these people believe that God planned to have their baby born to another woman, they are SADLY MISTAKEN and completely disillusioned unless their god is SATAN.

    People who believe such nonsense would NOT be able to pass psychological exams. This is WHY no one tests a PAP'S sanity before they are able to be given an innocent child. The industry DOES NOT CARE if the child is placed with sane people, all it boils down to is the profit margin. Nothing more. "Home studies" are jokes. Rainbow-farters pass these "tests" with flying colors. (LMAO.)

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  14. Michelle, perhaps for the a-parent who has no mind to pay the original parents any attention, they are not so much missing as a *non-reality*. It would be, I think, very difficult to wake up from that dream by the child's natural questions or searching. Those who have gone that route are probably out of their minds when the subject comes up. Hence the extreme stories of police being called, first mothers accused of stomping on the happy home life of the adoptee and a-parents, etc.

    As to Mei-Ling's question: "What about those who claim God has a plan for another woman to carry the adoptive parent's baby? Is it okay to still possess that level of "natural" selfishness?"

    I don't believe in God's plan. That's about all I can say on that one. Simone and I are well-suited to each other but I don't believe anyone planned for her to be separated from her parents so she could be raised by me. But that is how it turned out.

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  15. I don't actually think people who believe the child-born-of-another woman thing are insane. People can hold all sorts of wild, untenable views and be sane. People think there's a special someone out there for them too, made *just* for them, but because North American ideas about love are sentimental to begin with, nobody thinks much of it.

    However, if the adoption process were geared to dismantling myths instead of generating them, it would be better.

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  16. Osolomama you said, "You cannot watch your child every day without being aware that she is connected to someone else."

    I agree, and for us, that's one of the blessings of adoption. People have come into our life who may not have otherwise.

    Every time my daughter sings, I think of her first mother. My son is a spitting image of his first mother, and I think of her whenever he fixes his big blue eyes on me.

    I cherish these moments as a mom and separately as a woman connected to other woman through a child.

    I wish other APs understood the adoption exponent. By keeping your heart open to the women who enabled you to become a mother, your life is enriched by the first mothers as well as by the children. And from what their first mothers tell me, their lives are enriched by me and my husband. I can't find the words to express what an honor that is to me. It's unlike anything else.

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  17. "People can hold all sorts of wild, untenable views and be sane."

    So people can believe - and still be reasonably sane about believing - that Mother A is carrying a child solely for the purpose of giving it to Mother B.

    Let's say something bad happened to Mother A. Let's take one of the more worst-case scenarios - she is rather abusive and tends to neglect feeding her child. I think we'll all agree that no child deserves abuse or neglect. So, let's say, after a few years, social services stepped in to remove the child.

    Does this mean families are interchangeable - that Mother A was "meant" to abuse her child solely so that her child could have been adopted?

    (Note: I realize abuse/neglect is FAR more complicated than this - I've read "A Child Called IT" - but the point of this isn't actually about the abuse/neglect.)

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  18. Thanks Sally. I like your words.

    I knew my Bmom couldn't keep me, but unfortunately I was placed in an double alcoholic home. (Alcoholism wasn't the only problem but usually serves to fast-track the expanation for why the placement wasn't the best experience). Anyway,...One day I was thinking...this isn't how my life was supposed to be, and I thought-there is another adoptive family out there that would have been great for me. I couldn't imagine myself as anything but adopted. Since then, believe me, any issues I have are with the way my Aparents didn't live up to their end of the bargain. I have never blamed my Bmom for this hardship, because she did all she could to make sure I went to a "good family". Who can foresee anything, anyway?. Still, I believe there are good Aparent candidates and with a slight twist of fate, that 3rd option would have been mine. Your level of responsibility and awareness is heartening to me.

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  19. Beliefs and sanity are not the same thing. Beliefs can be illogical and appear insane to those who do not hold them but they don't have anything to do with legal sanity or insanity.

    I'm not sure I get your Mother A/Mother B scenario. If Mother A was abusive, then her ability to parent would be in question independent of other circumstances. Can any of these things can be described as "meant to be"? I don't personally think so.

    Families are not interchangeable, as Jane's most recent post illustrates! However, that does not mean that children cannot be reaised successfully outside natural family. Again, just my view.

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  20. Surrender and adoption are under the category of "shit happens", not "it was meant to be." I find it repulsive that some adoptive parents believe that a certain child was "born for" them to another mother.

    Adoption is a random crapshoot. Some kids end up in good homes, some in terrible homes. I can understand wanting to adopt, and being grateful for the chance to raise a child. But it seems arrogant and short-sighted to say that God or the Universe or whatever meant a certain child for a certain adoptive family, and used the misfortune of that child's natural mother to accomplish that end.

    Adoption and surrender are human actions subject to human error, not divine will. Sometimes adoption is the lesser evil and works out well, but it was never "meant to be"

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  21. Mei-Ling, I saw your comment on another thread:

    "I still disagree that abuse/neglect is "meant" to indicate that nature is sometimes wrong."

    Maybe that is what you were getting at. No, absolutely, the presence of abuse does not indicate that the parent was never *meant* to parent, just that he or she cannot at that time.

    People who claim such events are divinely ordained are just indulging themselves.

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  22. I’m amazed at how negative some of the posts are about adoptive parents. Some of the blogs read as if the birth parents have a lot of guilt. It doesn’t seem like there is much respect for the people that raised their children when they for whatever reason chose not to do so. There also seems to more a perspective from the birth mothers rather than fathers. I’m not sure if I understand the term first. So many children grow up being raised by grandparents or whose parents are deceased or don’t want to know them that it doesn’t make sense to generalize about adoptive parents. The term adopters seems to lessen the reality that indeed these people are parents. It is possible to not demean one group to elevate the other? Not all birth parents are “giver uppers” . Further not all birth parents want to know their birth children who are often grown adults. Each party should respect the other. Adoption for some isn’t about getting someone else’s baby but about influencing a life and giving love. In the same way one would hope that giving a child up isn’t about some temporary convenience. To the person who said, they didn’t act that way when they were taking my child – give me a break. I’m sure you weren’t either. Did you thank them? Did you offer to repay them (which you couldn’t) for raising your child? How selfish!
    It is always easier to say what life would have been like but I do think that in the case of my mother her life was better not being raised by her biological mother. She has tried to have a bond with her but her mom doesn’t know (or want to know) how to be a mom. After all, you can’t bond with a 40-year old woman the way you would with an infant who you rock, cuddle, and nurse when sick. The relationship is clearly different regardless of the “biological’ bond.
    In terms of reunion, I believe human nature is territorial and most people would have experience jealously regarding sharing someone they love be it a child, husband, or friend for that matter. It seems that some paint adoptive parents as arrogant or good will doers. Certainly whatever the reasons children were given up for adoption, the birth parents (or first parents) didn’t raise them. The time, love, sleepless nights, resources, caring for children when sick, well and trying to raise them to make good decisions isn’t something that just happens. I
    Any bond can be broken. Both of my parents were raised by their grandparents. They had to get over it and be glad that someone raised them. I was about 10 when I learned that my step father wasn’t my biological father. It wasn’t traumatic, I didn’t care. I loved my step father though he wasn’t perfect. My father didn’t raise me or do what he should have. I eventually grew to love him but my bond with him wasn’t the same as with my step-father. The memories that I have growing up are with my step father and those cannot be broken. My biological father didn’t show up at my wedding (I thought it would be insane to have him “give me away so he was upset). Do you know when I remembered that he didn’t come? When I was on the plane on my way to my honeymoon. Talk about natural bonds….. You get out what you put in. Some of the comments from birth mothers remind me of absent fathers who show up at graduation and want to be acknowledged. I do think that birth mothers AND fathers deserve respect but biology cannot replace a connections or vice versa. I have several friends who are adults who were adopted at birth and have never sought to find their birth parents. Most people don’t have a perfect world with alcoholic parents, poor parents, rich crazy parents so most people I know give love back when it is given and don’t whine about creating some pseudo utopia. Birth parents and adoptive parents have a place. They should each be adults and respect the other.

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  23. I’m amazed at how negative some of the posts are about adoptive parents. Some of the blogs read as if the birth parents have a lot of guilt. It doesn’t seem like there is much respect for the people that raised their children when they for whatever reason chose not to do so. There also seems to more a perspective from the birth mothers rather than fathers. I’m not sure if I understand the term first. So many children grow up being raised by grandparents or whose parents are deceased or don’t want to know them that it doesn’t make sense to generalize about adoptive parents. The term adopters seems to lessen the reality that indeed these people are parents. It is possible to not demean one group to elevate the other? Not all birth parents are “giver uppers” . Further not all birth parents want to know their birth children who are often grown adults. Each party should respect the other. Adoption for some isn’t about getting someone else’s baby but about influencing a life and giving love. In the same way one would hope that giving a child up isn’t about some temporary convenience. To the person who said, they didn’t act that way when they were taking my child – give me a break. I’m sure you weren’t either. Did you thank them? Did you offer to repay them (which you couldn’t) for raising your child? How selfish!
    It is always easier to say what life would have been like but I do think that in the case of my mother her life was better not being raised by her biological mother. She has tried to have a bond with her but her mom doesn’t know (or want to know) how to be a mom. After all, you can’t bond with a 40-year old woman the way you would with an infant who you rock, cuddle, and nurse when sick. The relationship is clearly different regardless of the “biological’ bond.
    In terms of reunion, I believe human nature is territorial and most people would have experience jealously regarding sharing someone they love be it a child, husband, or friend for that matter. It seems that some paint adoptive parents as arrogant or good will doers. Certainly whatever the reasons children were given up for adoption, the birth parents (or first parents) didn’t raise them. The time, love, sleepless nights, resources, caring for children when sick, well and trying to raise them to make good decisions isn’t something that just happens. I
    Any bond can be broken. Both of my parents were raised by their grandparents. They had to get over it and be glad that someone raised them. I was about 10 when I learned that my step father wasn’t my biological father. It wasn’t traumatic, I didn’t care. I loved my step father though he wasn’t perfect. My father didn’t raise me or do what he should have. I eventually grew to love him but my bond with him wasn’t the same as with my step-father. The memories that I have growing up are with my step father and those cannot be broken. My biological father didn’t show up at my wedding (I thought it would be insane to have him “give me away so he was upset). Do you know when I remembered that he didn’t come? When I was on the plane on my way to my honeymoon. Talk about natural bonds….. You get out what you put in. Some of the comments from birth mothers remind me of absent fathers who show up at graduation and want to be acknowledged. I do think that birth mothers AND fathers deserve respect but biology cannot replace a connections or vice versa. I have several friends who are adults who were adopted at birth and have never sought to find their birth parents. Most people don’t have a perfect world with alcoholic parents, poor parents, rich crazy parents so most people I know give love back when it is given and don’t whine about creating some pseudo utopia. Birth parents and adoptive parents have a place. They should each be adults and respect the other.

    ReplyDelete

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