Learning my daughter had given up a daughter for adoption) and relinquished her to a closed adoption (Part 2: The daughter I gave up for adoption had a daughter she gave up for adoption. As the years passed, she did not want to talk about this daughter, her first, see Part 3: A granddaugher adopted by strangers, the years tick by.
In 2007, shortly before Christmas, my daughter who was plagued by multiple problems such as severe epilepsy and acute PMDD, depression, and sometimes galloping neuroses, committed suicide. She took a gun and put a bullet through her head. Life just was too hard to continue, and in some ways, her suicide was a not unreasonable reaction to her multiple sorrows. I know that sounds hard, but please take that on faith. I've written about her issues here and will do so more in the memoir I'm working on. She left behind a good husband, and her other daughter, Kimberly, a high school sophomore, and two families--her adoptive parents and two brothers, and me and my family, husband, uncles, cousins.
When I was in her office at her home in Reedsburg, Wisconsin a few days later, her other daughter and I pulled out one of those extensions for a typewriter that are a feature of old desks. There, taped to the wood, were two baby photographs of her first daughter, whom Jane named Lisa Maria. Kimberly knew about Lisa, and so that hurdle did not have to be overcome then, but it was still surprising to find the pictures of the daughter she did not talk about. I was glad to see them there; I was glad that Kim saw them too.
Now, what to do? I knew that once Lisa turned eighteen the state of Wisconsin (where she was born and adopted) would track down her mother and father if she so chose; I decided I would write a letter to the Wisconsin state adoption search program, and hope that my granddaughter would come looking for her birth/first/natural parents, and at least find the letter along with the news of her mother's death. Then I waited.
In 2009, I read an interview on line with Jacy Boldebuck, who heads the adoption-records search program in Wisconsin. (First Mothers who reject a reunion? How many are there??) in which she stated that approximately half of the natural parents she calls refuse contact with their (birth) children. WTF?
This figure was so out of line with what I was hearing and learning from other searchers, that I was stunned, and said so here at the blog. Many other searchers wrote to me about their varying rates of success. Linda Burns, in Texas, a birth/first mother herself, reported nearly complete acceptance with the numerous searches she and her husband had done. (There are several posts about this at www.firstmotherforum.com.)
I then spoke to Ms. Boldebuck myself, to clarify and expound on her alarming rate of success, or failure, and during that conversation I mentioned that Jane committed suicide when she was having a severe bout of PMS. I said I understood it because I had been troubled by the same demon, but eventually brought it under control with simple progesterone, a treatment I could not get Jane to follow rigorously. She took medicine for her epilepsy, anti-depressants for her depression, etc., and now, she had to take more pills to control her moods? Before she reached for the progesterone that month, she had a meltdown on a Saturday; I was on the phone with her for several hours that day. By that evening, I think she understood how crazy she had been. And I believe she simply foresaw several more years of this kind of craziness overtaking her, and decided it was too much to bear. By Tuesday night she was dead.
What, said Ms. Boldebuck? If you can get me a doctor's note about your PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder ), or advanced premenstrual syndrome), I will inform your granddaughter, this is something she needs to know! My gynecologist was retired by this time, but we have stayed in touch, and he did write the necessary note about my condition. Off it went to Madison, Wisconsin. I waited. Within a few weeks, Ms. Boldebuck called me and said that she had spoken to my granddaughter, she was educated (which was some comfort), but she was not interested in further contact.
Hopes dashed! I could hear the disappointment in Ms. Boldebuck's voice, and I knew that she had hoped she would have called me with different news. I was pretty sure she had done what she could to have Lisa call me, within the constraints of the state regulations, which I assume are pretty cut and dried. No cajoling reluctant adoptees or birth/first parents! It was April of 2009. I was upset, but not that upset, or so I thought. She was not my daughter; I had not given her up; the feelings were not nearly as intense as the need to know my daughter, Jane. I called Florence and talked to her.
At around the same time--everything happens at the same time--I had a tooth that had broken off part of its root and was getting infected--and the tenth anniversary of my own dear mother's death was coming up, May 1st, but I wasn't focusing on that. One of my good friends, Tamar, was rather amazed at how well I seemed to be handling Lisa's lack of interest in her heritage--in me!
On May 1, 2009, the actual anniversary of my mother's death, I was sitting in a dentist's chair being prepared for the tooth extraction when I just lost it. Yeah, I cried. The dental assistant held my hand, I told her about my mother's anniversary, and I tried to get it together before the dentist--an old guy I really did not like--came in the room. But the tooth came out in one swift tug, thank god. I realized later that day that I was not only crying about the infection in my gum, my mother, I was also weeping for my lost granddaughter. I was weeping because I wanted to know how she was, where she was, who she was, and she was rejecting that contact.--lorraine
I thought I would finish this in this installment, but it's getting late, and I'm tired. Tomorrow is the day of testimony for the adoption bill in New Jersey. See the sidebar for more information. And tune in at 2 p.m. EST through audio streaming on your computer. One of our regular commenters, Elaine Penn, is scheduled to testify.
And if PMS is your problem, see Consumer Guide Women's Home Remedies Health Guide by Michelle Harrison, one of our readers and poster from India.
- Resources: Laws, Searching, Reunion
- Resources to Help Parents Keep Their Babies
- Favorite Adoption Quotes
- Considering Open Adoption? What You Should Know
- Response to The Adoption Option
- UPDATE: NY Adoptee Rights
- Letter to Birth Mother or Sibling
- Giving Up Your Baby?
- Writing the First Letter
- 'Positive' Adoption Language?
- What We Think About Adoption