Friday, July 16, 2010

Reunion Hangover Continues: Part 2

Why do I feel so bummed out a week after my granddaughter left? Because I haven't heard from her since we said a hurried goodbye at the airport curbside? Because it was clear then that she needed to pull back get away? Yes and yes. Yet, as my significant other Tony continues to point out, how many grandchildren--except those who raise them--are incredibly close to their grandchildren? Were you,? he seems to be asking. No, I have to admit. One had died two years before I was born, and when the other died when I was twelve, I hardly knew her and felt no particular sorrow over her death.

BirthmarkSome explanation is in order here for those just coming to the blog or this post fresh. My granddaughter is the daughter of the daughter I gave up for adoption in 1966; my daughter gave up a daughter herself, and I've told the story in detail over several posts a few weeks ago. If you need to catch up start here and here.  (You'll find the whole story under the June, 2010 posts, just poke around a bit.) Some of you know my life story as I have been involved in adoption reform since the mid-Seventies, first my writing magazine articles about relinquishing, and finally my memoir Birthmark, which came out in 1979.
So what's the issue now? I reconnect with the missing granddaughter, she's a writer and a performer, how cool is that? Shouldn't I be dancing on air? Why the grieving? I had told myself that meeting her would not be the same as meeting my daughter (it wasn't) as I had not personally given her up for adoption. She did not come out of my body. I felt no surge of oxytocin, the bonding and loving hormone, leading up to her birth. (Weirdly, Microsoft does not recognize this hormone and I get the squiggly red line every time I type it, but Microsoft sure as well knows the pain killer you and Rush Limbaugh can buy: Oxycontin. And it likes it capitalized.)

I surely do not know the answer but meeting her made so much of the old relinquishment grief--no matter how I tried to inure myself--no matter what I told myself, bubble up all over again. At the point of saying goodbye I felt both relief (wow that was emotional, and hard) and sorrow (not unlike whenever I said goodbye to my daughter), thinking, she needs to get away fast, she's found what she wanted to find by meeting me but she's out the door as quickly as possible.

She was lovely and gracious the entire week we had together; she was sociable with our friends, who all thought she was terrific and smart (she is). Because she was our guest, and had never been to Manhattan, I played the role of sightseeing hostess and like a grandmother picked up most of her expenses, and anyone has been to New York knows how expensive that is. I'm not complaining, not in the least, just explaining that I think that doing so ultimately felt on her end too much like me being a "mother," rather than a more neutral "friend," and that may be been one of the problems. 

You read the adoptee memoirs and you encounter this same pull back that I felt. Some adoptees have emailed me privately and said they understood her reticence--hell, one even wrote she expected it. We first/birth mothers (and in lieu of the mother, grandmother) open our hearts and are ready to assume that role, but find soon enough that our relinquished offspring do not want that--they have a mom and dad and grandparents already, thank you very much.We don't understand the dynamic of their feelings that must bring up the sense of initial abandonment, even if it's not recognized as such, along with the sense that they were raised were they were meant to be (which of course stabs us because it relegates us to the role of baby provider for someone else). And particularly if they are religious, the words "God meant me to be raised by these other people"...means that "God" is a nasty wretch who meant us to live a life of sorrow after relinquishment. From our point of view--that of the birth mother--it's a lose-lose situation.

Her putting up a wall between us was way more emotional, way more difficult for me than I thought it would be. I have no way of knowing how different it would be if my daughter, the daughter I relinquished to be adopted, were still alive. In the process, I became somewhat more sympathetic to first mothers who recoil when contacted by their children they surrendered. Perhaps the feelings are way more fervent and strong than they are able to deal with. I say, somewhat, for I continue to believe, no matter what, that all adoptees if they so choose are entitled to meet, at least once, their natural parents. They are entitled to see someone who looks like them other than their own children. We first parents are obligated; they are entitled. The only reason they don't know our names and faces when they are given up as infants is because they are infants; it is a matter of age and time. They have the right to know their birth mothers' and birth father's names. And if they birth parents are alive, they have a unequivocal right to meet them.

That said, I find that right now I want to fill my life with distractions, with things I enjoy doing, with close friends and family. I know it's not possible now, but I'd love to go away on a sailing ship to someplace I've never been. Water for me is healing and spiritual. I need healing. Adoption, as I've written before, is the pain that goes on giving.--lorraine


  1. Hi Lorraine,

    You write, "I became somewhat more sympathetic to first mothers who recoil when contacted by their children they surrendered." I would love for you (and others) to write more on this because this is what my (first) mother has done...recoiled, so that I haven't heard from her in over six months and am not sure where things are headed. I know that she had "mixed feelings" when I first got hold of her, but I haven't asked her about them...assuming that I knew.

    My mom is 80 and lives in Hawaii, Nisei. She is a world away from me but when I see her I love her. It is extremely hard...maddening...painful to know her and to be so far away in both senses. And, I am still a secret there.

    As always...thanks for your blogging,

  2. Mark, I don't know if I have anything brilliant to say. It's just that as a birth mother it can be soooooo emotional to confront the child you gave away...that it's hard to er, live.

    And the fact that you are still a secret means that she has been living with this secret for so many years so is not strong enough to let others know that she has kept something so huge from them. Would she be comfortable with you telling anybody in Hawaii? Like sometimes a school counselor will tell parents that their daughter is pregnant, so they can work out their first reaction not with the girl. And it's easier on everybody. Well, certainly not you.

  3. Lorraine,

    I have to think your reunion with your granddaughter probably brings sadness to you because your daughter is no longer here.

    I think if your daughter was reunited with her daughter and you being involved in that reunion could help them maybe through the difficult times.

    But again maybe not
    since reunions are so different even from mother to mother maybe the experience would bring you closer or farther from you daughter.

    I do understand feeling bummed so many of us mother's understand that after reunion.

    I am sad your daughter was duped by the nuns into thinking her daughter was "placed" immediately. Such a cock and bull story. Same lying crap just different generation being lied to for what the benefit of?

    Lies, lies and more lies thats adoption.

    Truly, the "gift" that keeps on giving. I am not thinking of a baby as a gift, as my son wasn't a gift to "anyone", it is just the pain that keeps on giving forever for generations.

  4. Adoption is always a loose/loose for everyone in the end.There are no winners and there is always pain, old, new.With reunion many do not prepare themselves and take it too fast, do too much, expect too much and do not repect the pain, grief and loss.Reunion does not fix it all, sometimes it makes it more obvious, harder and causes people to fly out the door as fast as they can.Th expectations are too big, too unrealistic and too hard to cope with.There is no blame other than to the adoption industry who cause it, promote it and profit from it.

  5. Of course there is no blame for either party. Reunion is joyous, and then hard.

  6. I hope you can work it out and have a good relationship with your granddaughter.

    She is beautiful and she is of your blood, you don't need oxytocin(sp?) to make that connection:-) She can be a great blessing especially with your daughter lost so tragically.

    I did not hear from my son for almost two years after I met him and his wife for dinner, but I kept up casual emails and the usual holiday gifts, and then he came back around again. I never asked why he left or why he came back, but he has since told me more about his childhood that made me understand his actions better.You don't really know Lisa yet or what she has lived with that could make her react in ways that have nothing to do with you.I had to learn that, and it is a constant struggle to remind myself.

    Take it slow, this is very new to Lisa and overwhelming. Be careful with what you say, it can't hurt and maybe will help.

  7. Lorraine,
    After reading your article today, I can say I know exactly what you are feeling. Each time I visit my son, I leave, and then the downward slide begins. That will happen whether or not the visit has been satisfying. To me it feels like being allowed into his life, seeing him and his family, participating with him, and then suddenly, that is all gone. Then I know how terribly much of his life I am missing and have missed. It is a grieving for all I've lost.

  8. Awww, I'm sorry you are feeling blue. It was an emotional week for all involved and there's bound to be a need for a period of "recovery" for the both of you.

    (((hugs to all the first moms and adoptees)))

  9. Lorraine, thanks for sharing with such candor about this apparantly very typical scenario after reunion. What I love about you and your writings is that you are totally without guile. It is what it is and your expressions of feelings are raw and honest.

    I sure don't have any words of wisdom for you except to say that I don't think you should be hard on yourself or start second guessing that maybe if you hadn't paid her way in Manhattan, it would be different.

    I agree with you that most grandmothers would pick up the tab - I can't imagine she could think you were trying to be too motherly.

  10. I am with Mark on this one...I want to learn why parents recoil...and what I can do to make everybody feel better

  11. Moniker:

    Why do some parents recoil?


    Fear of change. Fear of people thinking of them in a different light. Fear of having to admit they have been lying by omission for not telling about this most basic occurrence in their lives.


    They do not yet see that secrets only have the power to hurt you when they are secret. Personally I wish everybody had more courage to face up to what is, but sadly they do not.


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