The topic is the subject of Dear Prudence, advice columnist at Slate.com, this week (3/26/09). Headline: "My long-lost daughter is a terror, and I want nothing to do with her." Well, the letter doesn't exactly say that.
The writer seeking advice from the ill-advised Prudence says that she got pregnant at 17, her family was not supportive, she gave the child up, but "never forgot her." The writer adds that she reached out to her daughter through the lawyer who handled the adoption, met the daughter, who also had a child at some young age and was living at home with her adoptive parents and the child. After email and phone contact, they met--what a meeting: the birth mother, her mother, another daughter she had five years later...and the adoptee, her baby, and her adoptive mother. Talk about a recipe for disaster!
The birth mother frankly admits that she did not like her daughter: She wrote that her daughter was "rude and disrespectful to her mom, yells at her baby, dresses like a slob, and was a brat the whole weekend." Ya think the girl might have had some issues? She also criticizes her daughter for not being more grateful for the "great gift" she got her. It ends with this note: "She is in school to join my chosen profession, which I think she will suck at." Signed: --What Should I do About the Daughter I Never Wanted.
There are so many issues here one hardly knows where to begin. But before we get to the writer's disappointment with her daughter, let me deconstruct the way the issue is handled by Slate and Dear ImPrudence, who now is going to join my rapidly growing list of obnoxious people I feel cranky about. Really cranky. Though the birth/first/natural/biological/real mother says she "never forgot" the child she gave up for adoption, yet the letter's signature says...the daughter I never wanted...Give me a break, Slate and Ms. ImPrudent. That is the lovely idea of someone in the editing department, or maybe Prudence herself. Does anyone know if she is an adoptive mother? Might be. Because that's just the kind of idea--that the girl was never wanted--that many today want to believe because that makes it easy for adoptive parents to imply...Your mother never wanted you. Meaning: Be grateful you got me, you lucky bastard.
And as someone involved in the media myself, I know that many professional women waited way past their fecund years to have a child and then found a way to adopt. (Further proof is Sunday's (3/29/09) New York Times' Modern Love story, "My Clock Was Already Ticking. You know how that one ends. After an abortion at 34, the writer [creative person, natch] gets married a "couple of years later," and whadda ya know, she can't get pregnant [now she has to be 36,37, at least], even with expensive IVF treatments over a couple of years. So a birth mother provides a child--no two birth mothers provide two children. I am feeling cranky about this tonight.)
But I digress.
Back to Prudence. Dear ImPrudence, those of us who relinquished our children did not want to get pregnant when we could not keep the child--if that was anybody's goal she needs her head examined--but once we were carrying our babies, once we had them, we sure as hell bonded with them and let them go only under terrible duress and unending sorrow. To make up the "daughter I never wanted" line might be satisfying to adoptive parents, but there is nothing in that letter that would lead to that. Nada. Not liking a daughter in person is not the same as "never wanted.
Furthermore, the birth/biological/first mother/letter writer says she initiated the search! If she "never wanted her" it is not conceivable she that would have searched.
In Prudie's answer, she goes on to tell the writer that a) maybe the girl has issues, and b) notes that one of the issues might be that her biological mother kept a second child, also a daughter. Well, there she has a point, through the rest of the verbiage chides the writers for "disrupting" the girl's life. We also get the smack in the face that of course her "mother is the person who raised her." We know that, Dear Pru, it's been drummed into our heads since the beginning of time. We are just the DNA carriers. And gestational wombs. And then we are supposed to exit, Stage Left, never to return and certainly not for the curtain call.
As a last insult to us natural mothers, the link that shows up at the bottom of my screen says this: I loathe my daughter...Really, did the writer say that? This is yet another example of how the media looks upon us. We loathe our children; we "disrupt" their lives if we find them? Prudie the Ignorant shows not one whit of sympathy for birth mothers. But ain't that the way?
Well, there's more to this story. Fellow blogger Linda, as regular readers know, was found by her daughter, had a wonderful reunion and then the daughter cut her out of her life. But Linda did have some less than laudatory feelings about her daughter. Here's Linda after reading the Dear Prudence column:
I smiled as I read about how obnoxious the adoptee is. I can relate, a little. My daughter was 23 when she contacted me, and as I’ve said before, the honeymoon was short-lived…the daily phone call and the all-day-long e-mail blizzard ceased six weeks into our reunion, and I was…shocked? hurt? dumbfounded? confused? Yep.
People who’ve met my daughter have sympathetically said “It’s how she was raised” to excuse her behavior. She wasn’t bratty, but rather cool, aloof, she grew up in a privileged bubble, the polar opposite of me…if we were cast in Titanic, she would have been Kate Winslett in first class quarters and I would be Leo DeCaprio having a grand old time with the peasants in steerage. She was accustomed to getting her own way 99 percent of the time, and then she met me, who knew what she was thinking before she did, and that really freaked her out. No one was more shocked than I when, having had enough of her bad behavior (that snotty sense of entitlement that was just unacceptable to me), I told her “I love you but sometimes I don’t like you.”
Unlike this writer to Dear Prudence, my daughter was wanted, And yes, unfortunately, my daughter inherited many of my least favorite qualities. That doesn’t make me love her less.
I realize a lot of it, if not all of it, boils down to "you gave me away," even though she understands the circumstances and has told me many times she feels very fortunate to have the advantages she’s enjoyed. And it's not just the abandonment issues, it's so much more, as I've learned from the adoptees who I've met and learned from. I realize she'll be struggling with these issues for years to come, even though she swears (at least the last time we spoke, and apparently tells my sister regularly) that she's a shiny happy adoptee. I didn’t hide my feelings and heartache about relinquishment as well as I should have (too much information isn't necessarily a good thing)…but as I’ve also said, if anyone was prepared for reunion, it was me. It's virtually impossible for anyone to be prepared for the post-reunion Pandora’s box.
Oh, what a friggin’ mess this business of adoption is.
PS: We'll find out if Madonna is going to take another child out of Malawi on Friday. I know she is going build a school or some such, but why can't she leave it at that? Every time a celebrity adopts, it sets the thought in motion once again: Gee, how great to adopt. I think I'll adopt. I'll get one of those cute starving kids from India. Nepal. Siberia. And so it goes. More kids are stolen to supply the bull market in babies. No recession here.