Sunday, August 23, 2009
Two Mothers, Part 3
As Linda and Lorraine reported, the course of a reunion never does run straight when it comes up against the realities of ”that other family” which is how birth mothers cannot help but see the adoptive family.
In my own case, my surrendered daughter, Rebecca, searched for me for over ten years in order to, as she put it, “solve the mystery of my life.” She found me in 1997 when she was 31. Initially, she told me her adoptive parents, Norma and Nelson French, were “okay” (not thrilled but okay) with our reunion. When Rebecca and I continued to correspond, the “okay” turned to fear. Several months after our reunion, Rebecca traveled from her home in suburban Chicago to spend a week with her adoptive parents in California “to reassure them.”
Rebecca's adoptive parents, particularly Norma, continued to be alarmed by our reunion. According to Rebecca, Norma protested that she “was promised this would never happen.” She asked repeatedly “What’s Jane’s agenda?” The Frenches were politically conservative and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They knew through Rebecca that I was politically liberal and active in women’s rights. Norma suspected that I continued the relationship with Rebecca in order to convert her to feminism, ignoring the obvious – that love and the pull of my own child might have been a factor.
I admit that I did not want to meet the Frenches at first. Rebecca and I had a special relationship which they rightfully had no part. When she spoke of them, it felt like a knife in my heart. Jealously raged; we were competitors for her soul.
Eventually I began to think that meeting the Frenches would be beneficial for all. Over the next few years, I offered to meet them. Rebecca always shook her head and said “They have no interest in meeting you.”
I told Rebecca about adoptive parents and birthparents I met at conferences of the American Adoption Congress that were friends with or at least accepting of their counterparts. The AAC president at the time, Jane Nast, spoke affectionately about her son’s birthmother and introduced her to the audience at the main dinner at the conference. I met an adoptee whose birth and adoptive parents became such good friends that they “ganged” up on her, pushing her to go to college. Another birthmother told me that she always stayed at her daughter’s adoptive parents’ home when she visited her daughter, and despite problems that came up later, that is what fellow blogger Lorraine (see previous post) always did when she visited her daughter. Rebecca could not grasp these kinds of relationships and didn’t see the value of them. It was as though she thought of adoptive and birth parents as natural enemies.
Norma passed away five years ago so we will never meet. I regret this. While the simple act of meeting (and perhaps exchanging Christmas cards and so on) would not have bonded us, I believe it would have made life easier for Rebecca. At least we would have known who the other was and not depended on Rebecca to fill in blanks. Perhaps, knowing the other family might have helped each of us understand Rebecca better. Although it’s unlikely we would have become pals given the differences in beliefs and values, perhaps the Frenches and I would have begun to see each other as partners, working for the well-being of Rebecca and her children rather than as rivals for her affection.
I have read memoirs by adoptees and met hundreds of triad members at support groups and conferences. I am convinced that integrating adoptive and birth families results in the best outcome for all. This does not happen in most cases I am aware of because of the resentments and jealousies built into adoption, particularly closed adoption. And of course differences in personalities, life styles, education, values, and life experiences also play a part. Counseling for birth and adoptive parents, much like that available for parents getting divorced or parties in open adoptions, would be beneficial for parents brought together when adoptees and birth parents re-unite.