But from the other side of the coin, I just read a sad post on a blog, Real Daughter, that made me real sad. Her first mother's birthday was last week, July 22, the same day, I noticed, as an old boyfriend, and Real Daughter is constrained from getting in touch. Claire/Linda wrote:
"Right now I'm just sad. I want to call her and tell her Happy Birthday, but I can't. I am, in a sense, damned if I do, and damned if I don't. If I do, it could be perceived as harassment. She told me she would never speak to me again if I told my siblings about me. If I don't, maybe she thinks I am a cold hearted bitch."And when I wrote in an previous blog that something had led me to understand better mothers who are unable to tell their families about their (usually) first child, Mark asked me to write more. And yesterday a reporter asked me how I managed not to even tell my family when I was pregnant. (I lived in another state, I was 22, that's how.) But I tried to explain the deep and unabiding sense of shame that I felt over being pregnant back then when a "single mother" was not a phrase anyone said. People just raised their eyebrows and look askance.
When I was pregnant I thought about killing myself. I hoped I would miscarry. I jumped up and down in an effort to do so. I had tried to get an abortion. When my parents phoned, I pretended I was still at my job, rather than hiding out for months in my apartment, lest I run into the few people in Rochester I knew. I endured. She was born. I relinquished her. I surrendered my daughter to adoption. I gave her up, feeling as if I were in a drowning sea. A life shot through with the grief of a first mother began. But today I have two wonderful granddaughters, each special and different in their special and different ways.
I can not forget the shame of the time when my daughter was born in 1966. Only my desire to take an active part in reform propelled me to claim my place as a birth/first mother, and thus, my family had to be told. I was scared. I was embarrassed. It was hard. But I moved forward. I am not saying this as a matter of pride, but just as fact. I took my mother to lunch, she ordered a gin and tonic, I ordered my tonic with vodka. Before the first course arrived, I said: I have something important to tell you...and I kept on going. She was great; her greatest sorrow was that I was not able to tell her out of shame at the time, that I had been alone. I can still see her face today as I sit here, tears freely slowing down my cheeks now, for she has been dead for a decade. Over that weekend, I had to repeat this scenario twice more, telling each of my brothers, who I did not see at the same time. It was hard every time, but less hard once I got it out the first time and told my mother. My father was deceased by then; he never knew my daughter had been born.
Our sister-in-arms here, Jane had to tell her grown daughters, which she has written about before. It's never easy to be open about surrendering a child.
To all the first/birth/natural mothers who come upon this post and have not told their larger families, their other children, about their siblings who have been adopted by others, let me help you find the way. Your husband and children most likely love you, and once they get over the shock of hearing about this secret, they will still love you and accept you. They might be hurt that you felt you had to keep this secret, but most have the capacity to understand how and why you had to. Most people will offer sympathy and love and hugs. (Bring out the hankies!) And you will give your adopted son or daughter the greatest gift, the gift of acceptance, the gift of not having to be a secret anymore. Some of the saddest comments and posts I read here are from adoptees whose first/birth mothers will not meet them (see above), or meet them, but only in secret.
You could not keep your child when they were born. You can never make up for that. But you can bring them fully into the sunshine of your life today. You can give them that one gift. It's a start.--lorraine