I hope her words offer some insight for those who are either in reunion, or soon will be:
"We hear from a lot of people in the 'honeymoon' phase of reunion, or just afterward, and one of the most common issues is the speed of the reunion. We hear a lot about how individuals who are found feel rushed into a relationship and overwhelmed by the chaos it is causing in their lives. The complaint does not come from adoptees only, but from whatever person was found, and can often cause the reunion to flounder and even fail.As for my own relationship with my daughter Jane, I admit back in the dark ages of 1981 when reunions were new and I was green, it took a while before I was fully aware that control over the relationship, or control period, was an issue. However, the first inkling of that came pretty fast when I introduced her as "my daughter," to someone I did not know well at the corner market. As we walked out, Jane pointedly asked me "not" to refer to her as "my daughter," and this led to quite a discussion as to what I was allowed to call her. After our negotiation, she did agree to be a "daughter," when she was visiting us here, and she was free to explain to any and all who I was: birth mother. As was I. This issue resolved itself over time, as she and I knew more people mutually, they knew our story, and no further explanation was needed.
"Searchers have time to prepare for reunion, and spend time envisioning it. Searchers are also the ones who invest the time and effort to locate their family member, and are likely to work very hard to try to create a relationship once the search is over. The found person does not have time to prepare, contact comes virtually out of the blue, and reunion represents a life-changing event that some people do not want, are not ready for, or are not comfortable with.
"Most people don't like change... and aversion to change is not just an adoption issue; it's a human issue. Change removes people from their routine and, oftentimes, takes them out of their comfort zone, which results in fear, especially when it's being initiated by someone they don't know and aren't sure they can trust.
"We have a natural, innate resistance to change--unless it's change we initiate or change that we see a value in that outweighs the risks involved. There are literally thousands upon thousands of books about overcoming resistance to change, particularly in a business model. The problem in reunion is that the searcher usually doesn't know enough about the found person to know what motivates them, scares them, intrigues them, etc.; and the found person doesn't have the chance to gain trust in the searcher before change starts happening. And so they pull back...don't return phone calls or emails, make excuses for postponing a face-to-face meeting or, if pushed, lash out at the searcher and accuse them of being too pushy...and the reunion ultimately fails."
Back in Wisconsin, I was her "birth mother," which made sense as everyone there knew her other mother. But then sometimes she would not want me to say anything about who I happened to be--while she herself had no compunction telling anybody and everybody who I was. It was when I said I was her birth mother--rather than just some woman, any woman, who was there--that she might be upset for what seemed to me for no good reason. Go figure. It was her way of exerting control.
I remember one Sunday afternoon watching a football game at her local hangout, eating steaks sandwiches and having a beer. It was both weird and fun; I could sense everybody looking us over to see how much we were alike. She got a kick out of it and kept telling me it was going on. What took her by surprise was the moment when someone asked us a question and we answered in unison with the exact same words. She kept talking about that; I know she liked it.
As we knew each other for more than a quarter of a century, many things about our relationship got easier, but some never did. The fissure in our relationship, after all, could never to totally bridged, even though at the end we were very close, and she wrote of her feelings toward me and my family, in a way that I will prize forever.
But I seem to have gotten off track here...back to the adoptee's need for control. Where does this come from? Nancy Verrier, psychologist, adoption specialist and an adoptive mother herself, posits it stems from the absolute lack of control the adoptee had over the surrender and adoption in the first place. Most were infants and not able to answer the question: Do you want to stay with your natural mother, the one whose body nourished you for all those months, whose traits you will inherit, and to whom you will bear some resemblance...or do you want to be adopted by strangers? Even if they have more money, a settled life, a pony in the backyard, and promise to love and nourish you? The point is, adoptees never had a choice. For more see Verrier's seminal book: The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child.
So as we proceed with a new relationship, no matter if you are the birth/first mother, or the adoptee, be on guard and let the "found" (the findee?) person control the flow of the new connection. First mothers may unconsciously feel that it is normal to assume the role of mother, but many adoptees are very uncomfortable with that and be put off: they have a mother already, thank you very much. But remember, if they purposely hurt you--and do be understanding in what constitutes an offense--you do not have to take it. You do not have to be hurt repeatedly. You can speak out and ultimately, if the abuse does not end, walk out.
And adoptees, go easy on us first mothers; most of us have been waiting and praying for a reunion, while others are shocked and frightened when the initial call comes, given that some will have been keeping this terrible secret locked inside up for decades. We may have to rearrange our lives, people to tell, and some of us older mothers may be unable to do so.* We understand you are now an adult, but our physical and psychic memory of you is locked in that time we had to leave you. To us, you will always be: our child.
Life is a negotiation. --lorraine
* I hate writing about this secrecy because I believe this is a secret no mother should keep, and that we owe our children at the very least one face-to-face meeting. Some birth mothers have been brainwashed by the custom of the era they relinquished to unjustifiably feel they are owed continued anonymity. They are not; rather, they owe their child an identity. And as it has been stated elsewhere, the information of birth is knowledge that inherently belongs to both parties: the mother and the child. Embarrassment alone is not worth denying the other party that information and knowledge.
For more on this topic see:Why Reunions Go Awry: What Memoirs of Adopted Daughters Tell Birthmothers and After the Birthmother/Adoptee Reunion: Navigating the Turbulent Waters; and A Birthmother's Fears of Reunion. And the book shown above is also a good read for those in reunion: Reunion: A Year in Letters Between a Birthmother and the Daughter She Couldn't Keep