Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A First Mother from the 80s Asks: Does the punishment ever end?

SEE FOLLOW UP FROM ANONYMOUS WHOSE STORY IS TOLD HERE IN THE COMMENTS.

We get a lot of comments at FirstMotherForum for old posts, and we do post them. But one came in the other day to a blog from last May, Why didn't we resist the social pressures? and it is worth posting  here for everyone to read. Fellow blogger First Mom Jane and I relinquished our children in the Sixties, and we sometimes hear that Oh, well, it's different now, birth mothers today make "adoption plans," and we know from reading some blogs that some rattle on about how they made the "right" and "loving" decision.
But here is a perspective from someone who relinquished in 1980. That was the year before I found my daughter, also named Jane. (I see that is how I measure time: before I had my daughter, before I found her, after I found her, after she died. So it goes for this first birth original mother.)--lorraine

From an anonymous reader:

Wow, I'm so glad I stumbled upon this blog. As a first mom myself in 1980, I thought so much had changed compared to first moms in the baby scoop era. Yet I completely relate to the pressures and stigma described here (seems it was true then and now), the same issues I felt when I was pregnant with my son.

I didn't even allow myself to think of keeping him - in my mind it was so shameful I kept the pregnancy hidden right up to the day he was born, even trying to figure out on the bus to the hospital how I could continue to keep this hidden. Of course the hospital alerted my parents. When I told my parents they said they were willing to help me raise him as my own, or even raise him as theirs "even though the rest of the family will disown us." That did not seem like a good option: I was fifteen, and living in a dysfunctional family. I could not see how I'd get past the shame, and I couldn't see how my family could offer this baby a good home when they couldn't offer it to the two kids (including me) that already lived there.

So I told the social workers to send my son away, and I refused to see him more than once. I couldn't accept that I had given birth to him, and I couldn't face the shame that went along with being one of "those girls." So I spent my life since then trying to prove to myself that I was proper, good individual, obtaining a couple of degrees along the way and professional success. What a profound impact internalized shame has on a woman's life.

Fast forward to today. I am four years in reunion with my son who is now a 30-year-old wonderful young man, and it breaks my heart when he tells me it won't be okay for me to be present at his university graduation ceremony, hinting that his adoptive family has issues with me being there. I imagine it will be the same if he gets married, has kids of his own...those occasions have been staked out as being owned by the adoptive family, and I'm to "know my place" and not disturb their equilibrium. At 45, I'm just getting to the place where I know most of the time in my heart that I'm not a shameful person.

When I get to the place in my life when I've got a bit more patience, I'll volunteer to tell young pregnant girls what they are potentially in for if they give away their babies...in my case a lifetime of denial, followed by relief when I found out my son was doing well, then forced to stay on the sidelines so my son doesn't have to feel the stress of his adoptive parents feeling uncomfortable with my presence.

Reading over the various stories here helps me know I'm not alone. It also tells me how much intolerance adoptive families have for first moms. At least nowadays the whole triad issue is not quite as hidden as it was in 1980, but there sure is a long way to go. Sometimes I wonder...how much heartbreak does a first mother have to endure? When I signed those papers, why is it that I also seem to have signed on to being considered less of a human, less worthy of respect and acknowledgement?

61 comments :

  1. Wow. I haven't been reading the blog regularly, but this first mother's story caught my eye and grabbed my heart. In response to the question "how much heartbreak does a first mother have to endure?," I'd say it's neverending. I've referred to relinquishment as a debt that's never paid and compounds emotional "interest" to infinity. We continue to live with the shame/guilt/whatever it is that defines our loss for the rest of our lives.

    My daughter is now 34 and hasn't spoken to me in over five years.
    As for milestones--I was seated at a table with the groom's mother's friends at her wedding, the last time she spoke to me. Since then she's had two children and divorced, and she's shared none of it with me. I've learned through third parties that she's often been within minutes of my home and hasn't thought to call or, god forbid, see me. She attended my nephew/her cousin's wedding in July and wouldn't even look at me. As uncomfortable as that day was, by that point I realized it's her loss, not mine.

    Her mother and brother (also an adoptee) have chosen not to welcome me into their family; my two grandsons have no idea what a cool Grandida I am. It took me all this time, but I've worked very hard to create a "logical" rather than "biological" family (thank you for the new term, Armistead Maupin), and this past year has been rich and full despite the voids.

    We are by no means less than human. My fellow firstmother, while our adoption experiences clearly define us, we're much more than that. Please celebrate and embrace all you've achieved, all you've become, all you have, in spite of the heartache. I, for one, would be proud to call you a friend.

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  2. You should not give up your child and he shouldn't have to give you up. Adopters tend to think that only they have all the rights above us and our child. It is all about their gain with our pain.

    I have read studies where adopters admit they can't handle being reminded of their inferility issues that the real mom reminds them of. And they despise the word "real" that haunts them as they know they are not.

    You are right about it never ending - they try to wear us down so we go away. Sadly they have the goods so have all the advantages over us. And believe me, they use that to it's fullest extent.

    Some are worse then others - my son's resorted to physical intimidation. They had one of their relatives block me from getting my luggage off a conveyor belt at an airport where I had flown into to attend his wedding, which I paid for. This man butted my shoulders. And they are just fine with that - rather happy. Said I "deserved it".

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  3. ((((hugs))))

    I am a reunited Adult Adoptee, born and surrendered in 1985.

    I understand why the BSE is considered to have lasted through the 70's, but like your commenter said, a lot of the very same issues were present in the 1980's as well.

    It is hard to feel second best or pushed out of something important. Some Adult Adoptees find it extremely difficult to stand up and say "this is what I want, please respect that" to their Adoptive Family when they might want their Original Family to be included, because it's new ground for them. I spend a lot of time worrying about people's feelings in both of my families. I hope none of them take it personally and I try my best to be kind, fair, and loving to everyone.

    In my comment, I am not trying to make your situation out to be the same as my adoption because every person, situation, and adoption is unique. But my perspective is all I can offer :-)

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  4. I see shame on both sides of the equation, unfortunately, in this reunion. The mother was ashamed of her son, so she gave him up. But now the son is ashamed of his mother, and won't let her at any "public" events where he is. So, despite fighting for 30 years to not feel ashamed of herself, she now has son who is ashamed of her. This will make her struggle even harder.

    It is too bad that no-one counselled her at age 15 so that she would get over that shame and take her baby home. I see a situation where the adoption workers used her shame to obtain her baby from her. They did not help her, they instead exploited her, helping themselves to her baby. A 15 yr old is too young to drink, too young to vote, too young to drive, too young to sign commercial contacts -- so how ever could she make the decision to surrender? Adults should have protected her and her baby, together.

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  5. Right after I posted this, I had lunch with an old frriend who told me about another friend of his whose 15-year-old adopted son was contacted by a sibling through Facebook. The adopters are furious! They expected a closed adoption! And now this!!! They are imgining that if the first birth mother finds them, she will demand money as they are rather well off.

    I was sick at heart, and then angry. WTF is this? I said: So...these people think that their son arrived by stork? Maybe he would like to see and know someone who looks like him. How can the real mother (yeah, you can use the word in conversation with friends, please do) demand money? What do they think she is going to do? Put out a press release? About what?

    My friend only answered that rich people always think that someone is going to try to take money away from them. Some things, it appears, never change.

    I know it is hard for some adopted individuals to let their adoptive parents in on the big secret--that they have reunited with their biological/real mother, father, siblings--but it tears us apart...as much as it tears adoptees apart when their mothers do not tell the rest of the family, or reject them outright. Ladies, let at least not be the ones who keep our children secret. We real mothers owe them that much. Let the adopters who can not accept that their child has a history and a family that does not involve them be the bad guys.

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  6. I am sorry to tell you, anon, but when you signed on the dotted line there was no guarantee that you would ever be able to have a relationship with yur son or even know who he was. Some adoptees don't even want to know their first parents at all. His loyalty is to his aparents now. They were the ones who raised him and who were there for him. He may on some level even be wary of you because you did give him away. It would be a great world if we could all add more people in our lives to love and that everyone would be happy about it. Unfortunately, it rarely works out this way. We humans have too many issues with jealousy, insecurity, possessiveness, etc to overcome.

    I am very sorry for your pain. I hope that in time things improve. There is certainly still hope that they will. However, reunion cannot erase or overcome all the trauma of being separated by adoption.

    I agree with the previous post that at 15 y.o. you should have been helped to deal with your shame rather than make the lifelong, life-altering decision of giving up your son. Very sad story but unfortunately, a common one.

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  7. Where is the post from "Anon" to which Robin responded?

    Linda, I found your comment moving and profound.
    I am glad your past year has been 'rich and full despite the voids'.
    May the voids be filled - and even if they are not, may you have many more rewarding years ahead of you, despite the sadness that is inherent in relinquishment.

    Haiga

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  8. Oops, my bad.
    I mistakenly assumed that the "anon" to whom Robin was responding was one of the commentators - whereas in fact she was replying to the "anon" quoted in the original blog post.

    Haigha

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  9. Thanks to all who provided comments after my story from 1980 was posted today. Here are a few more pieces of the puzzle:

    In this case my son came searching for me, with aid from his adoptive mom and one of the provincial post-adoption registries we have here in Canada. I met them both about a month after first contact in 2006, and they both seemed quite receptive to me. At that point I decided to reclaim this part of my history, so I told my friends and some colleagues about my reunion. Telling people was a liberating experience for me, as I happily found that most (but not all) people I spoke to had a far more tolerant attitude in 2006 than what I experienced in 1980. This helped me immensely to start reframing my experience and integrate the part of my mind that still was stuck in 1980...slowly, that piece of me is realizing things are better now than in 1980 when the nurse in the hospital snapped at me "stop crying, don't be such a baby". Slowly, my mid-life brain is understanding that the piece of me that is still a terrified teenager is safe now.

    My son and I found we have a good connection, and we've stayed in touch since that time, emailing each other about once a month. He also continues to be in touch with his a-family about once a week, so in my mind I thought a-family would understand they still have the majority of his family time and his loyalties are still with them. It didn't even occur to me that they might see any time he spends with me as less time he has to spend with them; I'm starting to understand this is the way they are viewing it. I can't help but wonder - why does it have to become to a zero sum game?

    With the great initial reception from a-mom and my son, I really didn't aniticipate being shut out of milestone events. Although I knew his a-dad does not want to meet me, I naively assumed I could attend these events and just keep a low profile at them if necessary to keep a-dad comfortable. In fact initially my son indicated I could attend the graduation. However, it seems he is finding it too difficult to navigate the mounting a-family pressures, and I certainly don't want to cause him stress on a day that is in his honor...so I will respect his subsequent request for me to not be there. He did suggest we celebrate together another time, and I will definitely do that, but of course it's not the same as actually seeing the event. Am I glad I at least get to know my son? You betcha - that's why I won't force the graduation attendance issue with him. I know he wants me there, and I know he finds it painful to have to choose in the way his a-dad is forcing him to. Do I wish my son was in a place where he could stand up to his a-dad and say he wants us both there? Absolutely...but I understand it will take time for him to get to that mindset, and it may never happen - it may need to wait until his a-parents pass away.

    Yes, my logical brain understands all of this. Yet one's heart isn't always as much of a fan of logic as one's mind; the heart still breaks when faced with a warm welcome followed by the limit to how welcome I actually am. Welcome, but only when others will be comfortable with it. So the remnants of my 15-year old brain kick in again, reviving all the past judgments and rejections for another round of processing by the 45 year old brain. It will take a good deal of work to convince the mid-life part of me to stay in the present and not regress back to a constant state of extreme fear. I know this is all a necessary part of processing disenfranchised grief. Now...if only we could stop playing that zero sum game.

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  10. I do not see the problem here as the adoptee being ashamed of his mother so much as being caught in the middle between adoptive parents and natural mother. Being the gracious one and taking off all emotional pressure from your end might pay off in the long run. His adoptive parents probably paid for his college. No doubt he feels that he owes them the graduation. He CAN'T stand up for you being there at this point. You can stand up for him by trying to understand, and not assuming he owes you anything.

    You were mistaken in thinking you would be included in family events. Many of us reunited mothers are not. You can go on resenting not getting "your" piece of the pie, or you can try to let it go and be there for your son in the ways that only you can be.

    The fear of rejection has nothing to do with going back to being 15, but with a real terror of loss of what you have now. Many of us have that fear, even in good reunions, that it can change at any time. What has helped me deal with it is a friend telling me "it is not always about you", but about things that are going on in his life that he has to deal with. That has really helped me not to give in to panic when I do not hear back from my son.

    If he is maintaining a relationship with you, that is very good. He is still young. Don't write off the rest of your life in despair over the graduation. You may or may not get invited to future milestone events. Deal with that as it comes.In the future your son will probably do some things that will delight you, and some that will hurt. That is true of any adult child, raised or surrendered.

    Keep being interested in him and his life, including his adoptive family, even if they will not include you. If he shows you pictures of the graduation, be gracious, even if you might rather not see them. You ARE a rational adult now, and need to act as one no matter how you feel. None of this is easy for any of us, you are not alone in your feelings. But do not let the feelings destroy or damage the relationship you do have with your son. Remember he is between a rock and hard place now with his parent's attitude. You need to be the soft place, and take away the rock from your side.

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  11. MaryAnne said:
    "Keep being interested in him and his life, including his adoptive family, even if they will not include you."

    As an adopted person, I think this is excellent advice. It is unrealistic to expect that after a separation of 20 plus years that you can just glide into your son's life and be a part of everything. Just be there for him, show him your interest in his life and concerns and let him know that you won't abandon him. Relationships are constantly evolving not just between first mother and child but between everyone. Things could turn around for the better for you. I hope they do.

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  12. "...and I couldn't see how my family could offer this baby a good home when they couldn't offer it to the two kids (including me) that already lived there. "

    This speaks volumes. She had an awful childhood and wanted something better for her son. The shame was only a part of it.

    Let's be honest, you don't relinquish a baby to adoption if you come from a fantastic family where you feel valued and supported.

    I wanted my daughter to have all the things I'd never had. I'd had such an awful childhood, I was convinced I'd be a dreadful mother.

    It was so devastating to give her up and for years I was in a tailspin of grief.

    I can so relate to this post, the feeling of being punished for doing this, giving her away. You know it's like you are punished for ever for getting pregnant.

    I decided that I couldn't continue in reunion the way it was. I felt punished and kept at a distance. I wasn't allowed to make direct contact. Visiting wasn't enthusiastically welcomed either. It felt like I was some scunge that had to be kept outside.

    I love her but I don't want to feel punished anymore.

    Not going to negotiate my way into the wedding, not going to beg to be a grandmother, not going to play low status just to have some contact.

    I miss her but I'm giving myself the love and energy now. I am glad that I made the decision to step away. It's not for everyone, I respect whatever other mothers choose to do or not do. I'm not going to do this anymore, I think I'm worth more than that.

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  13. My mother was a huge adoption fan. I never lost a child to adoption but was always aware of that. My aunt was married at least a year before my parents and desperately wanted a baby. It was my Mom who had me first. It looked like if my aunt was ever going to raise a child it would be through adoption. My Mom took up the war cry, even naming me after my aunt, so concerned was she for her sisters well being. Eventually my aunt had three healthy children but Mom always crowed about the general glory of adoption. When I was about sixteen the subject of teen pregnancy came up on the news or something. I remember saying "I guess if I had a baby I would give it up for adoption" as if that was the only option. I'll never forget how Mom's face crumpled when she said "Oh no, God no". She clearly had never imagined herself or her family on the losing side of an adoption. Its good to know that if I had become pregnant young, Mom would have supported me, but troubeling to know that for anyone, not her daughter, adoption would have been the logical answer. Clare

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  14. I can't speak for all Adoptees, but I have a "special place" in my heart for my fMom. I am from a closed adoption and am still searching for her, and while my Amom knows I am searching, I am really not sure I would want them to interact, so any life events may end up with the Afamily. Not to shut my Amom out of my daily life, but because she is part of that personal side of me nobody in my Afamily could understand, and I don't know if I would really want them too.
    In most situations, aParents are infertile, they are lacking. If they could have a child on their own, they would. And if they are able to eventually have children naturally they will. Yet so many of them try to "downplay" the role of a fMom or fDad. And I am sure it comes from a good place; they wouldn't want their aChild to get hurt or feel loss. But however well intentioned, the hypocrisy of the aparent still emerges, "Forget your nature, nurture is what matters, even though I hoped for nature first." Adoptees are passively taught to ignore the importance of their nature.

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  15. Katie:

    What a great comment...you hit the nail on the head with how aparents try to ignore nature, after nature fails them. We first moms try to understand when adoptees have to "hide" us, but it still stings and is, as you say, contiuning evidence evidence of the hypocrisy of adoption today.

    My daughter once said to me (and I was fully integrated into major life events, such as her wedding): If I told the truth, both of your feelings would be hurt. Sad commentary on adoption, and a difficult role for adoptees.

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  16. Katie said "Yet so many of them try to "downplay" the role of a fMom or fDad."

    Lorraine said, "you hit the nail on the head with how aparents try to ignore nature, after nature fails them."

    Big diff.

    Haigha

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  17. Lorraine wrote
    "If I told the truth, both of your feelings would be hurt. Sad commentary on adoption, and a difficult role for adoptees."

    Yes, we adoptees are often between a rock and a hard place. It sucks.

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  18. Let me offer yet another perspective, as the first mother of identical twin girls, now 28, reunited with me since age 18. The daughter that initially searched for me is no longer in contact with me, due to her adoptive mom putting pressure on her by threatening her she would "never talk to her again" if she invited me (or any of our family members) to her wedding this fall. Her twin sister thought this was the most ridiculous ultimatum and scoffed at it, but it has, over time, also distanced our relationship because her identical twin is mad/jealous/fill in the blanks. My other twin says she would never consider getting married without her birth siblings and myself there to witness it. I sometimes wish I had not let my girls into my (and my children's) lives quite to the extent we did, having lived in the same town they were frequently there for our family celebrations for all those years. Then, my daughter moved out of state, and the pressure from her a-mom became unbearable. Is it too much to expect my daughter at age 28 to have a mind of her own? She blames it all on the a-mom. And, why do I find myself pulling away from her twin? I was happy before the reunion and now I find myself regretting the whole thing.

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  19. Anon wrote:"
    Is it too much to expect my daughter at age 28 to have a mind of her own? She blames it all on the a-mom. And, why do I find myself pulling away from her twin? I was happy before the reunion and now I find myself regretting the whole thing."

    This post is disturbing. It sounds as if just because you hit a snag in the relationship and are not getting your own way that you are ready to bail and regret the whole thing. Just what your daughters need, I'm sure.

    It would be great if your daughter could speak up for herself but on an emotional level I can understand why she doesn't. Her aparents were the only ones that were there for her. She cannot risk another rejection/abandonment by them in order to preserve the tenuous relationship she has with you. You also mention that she found you so she doesn't even have the security of knowing that you would have looked for her. Also, based on the twins' age, they were born at a time when illegitimacy was no longer such a stigma. They may even wonder why they were relinquished at all.

    The Amom is not a monster. She is simply insecure and threatened after she raised the children.

    The book the Sound of Hope by Anne Bauer brilliantly describes an adoptee standing up for her needs/wants and even deals with the wedding issue. It may be helpful to both you and the twins.

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  20. To the mother of the twins, I totally relate to what you write.

    I find Robin's comment condescending and rude as well as patronisingly parental. Interesting to see such a comment on a post about a mother feeling punished for relinquishing and wondering if the punishment never ends.

    I also think an adoptive mother telling her daughter that she will disown her if she has contact with her first mother is a little more serious than just being insecure. Strange how Robin's comment seems to blame the first mother for this too citing that it's her fear of abandonment that makes the threat nasty.

    We can't assume the mother of the twins voluntarily abandoned her daughters, we can't assume that because of their age it was easy for her to keep them which insinuates she had a choice which insinuates she didn't want to or couldn't be bothered being a parent.

    I found Robin's comment disturbing.

    I can totally relate to what the mother writes about wishing she hadn't even started with the reunion in the first place. This is more than a "snag", this is being treated like a leper.

    If other mothers want to be treated like lepers that's ok, it's up to each and every mother to make that decision.

    If a mother says no she's not going to be told that she can't be seen or heard, is not allowed to have direct contact, may not be acknowledged I respect her choice to say thanks but no thanks.

    I'm one of the mothers that has decided thanks but no thanks and I am glad I had the courage to do that.

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  21. Robin wrote:
    "You also mention that she found you so she doesn't even have the security of knowing that you would have looked for her."

    I appreciate that perspective, Robin. From my reading it seems so often the child needs to find the fparent. It is one brave kid who can do that. Even if there is no subsequent contact, knowing the fparent made first contact can really help their esteem.

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  22. " Strange how Robin's comment seems to blame the first mother for this too citing that it's her fear of abandonment that makes the threat nasty."

    @ Unvisible mother,
    Unfortunately, many adoptees do have issues with abandonment due to having been relinquished by their natural parents.

    @Katie, I agree that it does take a lot of courage to look for one's first parents especially when the adoptee has no idea what s/he will find or whether s/he will be accepted or rejected. It would help the adoptees' self esteem to know that the fmother and/or father cared enough to look for them.

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  23. I do not feel "treated like a leper" because my son did not invite me to his wedding. In fact, I was thrilled that he let me know he was getting married....we were not communicating much at the time in 2002, and he did not have to tell me, nor did he have to send the webpage and photos that were beutiful. His wife made me a booklet of wedding photos as well, the one time I met them. I treasure it.

    At this point we have an email only relationship, although I would love to see them in person. But I feel this is his choice, his way of dealing with what he can handle. I do not feel at all like a leper, but like a friend/relative he is not sure what to do with, but wants to stay in touch. I do not feel "punished forever." I feel blessed to be in his life at all. He owes me nothing, but what he gives, words and many pictures, he gives freely.

    Sometimes a change of outlook on the part of the mother makes all the difference in how one views and lives with her situation.

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  24. @Robin, that was already in your first comment. I don't need to repeat my opinion of you, it's reinforced by your response.

    @maryanne that's awesome that you don't feel like a leper. You are only gettting emails from your son and are happy with that. This is how it should be, if a mother feels content with only getting emails and occasional photos I have no complaints with that.

    I do think that for other mothers this is painful and feels like a punishment. Being kept at a distance, not allowed to have direct contact, not welcome to have normal interaction like they would be any other friend or acquaintance.

    Although you do write that you would love to see him in person, you would love to have a closer relationship wouldn't you? You say you don't feel punished and that's your truth I don't dispute that. But you have to tell yourself you are not even worth him telling you that he got married. That doesn't sound like a close relationship at all.

    I can't have a relationship like that with someone I love with my entire being, it hurts and it feels like a punishment. It hurt to let her go and it hurt to have a reunion where I couldn't get close.

    It doesn't matter whose fault it is. Even if one chooses to attribute ALL the blame on the mother for the ENTIRE situation, that won't change anything. My child is grown up with strangers and now as an adult almost in her 30's I cannot get close.

    I rather have nothing than a superficial relationship.

    Not being allowed to have direct contact with someone is what they do to lepers which is why I make that comparison.

    I respect your choice maryanne and do not mock it, I absolutely respect that this is something you want to do. I respect a mother who recognizes that a situation feels painful and punitive and steps away from that.

    Every mother has to decide for herself what she can and will deal with. I have no time for mothers who want to bully others when they say that a situation is not acceptable to them. I have seen you do that on another site maryanne and I was not impressed.

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  25. My plan was to no longer comment here since being censored but this is worth swallowing my pride for and trying again.

    Maryanne did not bully.

    She's simply providing an alternative perspective and approach, one that appears to be preferable to more people than just myself.

    "Robin said...

    MaryAnne said: "Keep being interested in him and his life, including his adoptive family, even if they will not include you."

    As an adopted person, I think this is excellent advice."


    This kind of information is very helpful to some mothers and adopted adults.

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  26. Campbell, I agree with you. Anyone who has an email relationship with her child is way ahead of those who have nothing.

    Everybody has a different perspective on what is acceptable, what they can handle, and how to make peace with that.

    And please understand we try to do the best we can with the comments, finding a balance between letting anyone speak their mind and keeping the comments from hurting anyone. And sometimes, the wrong icon is hit and there is no going back. We are human. I hope you will continue to comment.

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  27. How is me stating my opinion about my life "bullying" and your stating yours, about mine and others and the quality of our relationships and how close we are to our kids not "bullying"?

    Any of us are free to handle our relationships with our found children any way we want. You seem to be content with having ended your relationship. I don't see anyone telling you to go back and try to save it. If that works for you, fine.

    People reading here can judge your way, my way, decide for themselves what works for them, which might be something entirely different. As Lorraine said, this is a forum for different opinions and lifestyles. Nobody is bullying you by seeing things differently.

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  28. @Campbell, I wrote "on another site" where maryanne did in my opinion bully a mother whose views were different to her own. The mother stopped blogging as a result and it was indeed a pity.

    @Lorraine, yes emails are more than some mothers get. I respect 100% any mother's choice to see emails as wonderful and support that. I don't think being denied direct contact is wonderful.

    I do think we have the right to know if our son or daughter is getting married. Do we also have the right to know if they are dead or alive? Do we have the right to know if we become grandparents?

    Listen to your heart, if your heart is happy with what you are receiving then celebrate that and by all means continue. If your heart is pained and you feel punished and kept at distance then respond in whatever way feels that you are being true to yourself. Honour your self esteem, we all have different boundaries. Mine is what it is and I am happy with my choice.

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  29. It's me again, the 1980s gal. Just trying to exorcise some demons today...it's my birthday, and unfortunately it's also the day I signed the papers that sent my son away from me 30 years ago. If I weren't in such a rough place back then I would have had the presence of mind to request that the papers be signed on a different day...now my birthday just reminds me of losing my son.

    Today I am quite aware of not being welcome in the world of "proper" people then, and not being welcome at my son's major events now. Then and now my presence evokes feelings of hurt or anxiety or insecurity. This in turn affects me deeply...nobody likes to be ostracized. Perhaps one day I'll have a thick enough skin that this won't bother me, but I'm not there yet. I function, I work and contribute to society, I take care of my daughter that I am blessed to have been able to keep...I keep going. I'm appreciative of the email contact I have with my son. But every once in a while I need to indulge in what others probably think of as a pity party. To me it's processing of the grief I never started to deal with until my son came to find me. This grief is especially present for me on my birthday, which coincidentally is 1 week after his.

    I understand all the posts from adoptees who say they would feel better if their fparents searched for them rather than the adoptees having to initiate contact. For those adoptees who have not experienced being sought out by their fparents, it's important that you know there are some moms like me who did not have enough self esteem to think the adoptee would want to meet us. This view is perpetuated by society, even today, even for moms like me who are fully functional in the rest of their lives. The message I lived with was that I would be interfering and likely do damage to my son if I looked for him. I believed this because I also internalized the view that teen moms were bad thus I wasn't a good enough mom to keep my son and he would be better off with someone else...it took me 18 years after my son was adopted before I decided I was healthy enough and a respectable enough person to have another baby. Even though my daughter is thriving now, there is still a part in the core of me that is always monitoring whether I'm doing a good enough job with her. The internalized message of not being the right person to raise my son stays in my subconscious, making me hypervigilant about making sure I'm doing all the right things for my daughter...a part of me always remembers that years ago society did not consider me to be a fit parent, and I'll always be somewhat insecure in this regard. So you see, if your fparents don't search, it may have nothing to do with whether they want to find you...it may be a case of them not feeling worthy to seek you out. Before my son found me, I hadn't read all the blogs from adoptees who yearned to be found...if I would have seen them I certainly would have initiated the search myself. I'm sure there are many other fmoms out there who would do the same.

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  30. @Campbell, I read maryanne's comments on the other site and you are right she's not the one being a bully.

    @maryanne I owe you an apology for that, you were not being a bully.

    You were being dismissive of her feelings and telling her that she was seeing it wrong but that's different to being a bully. It's called having another opinion.

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  31. Oh lord, Dear Anonymous...you signed the papers on your birthday? Ironic and cruel twist of fate. Be as funked out today as you want...tomorrow is another day.

    I hear from many first mothers that they feel they don't have the "right" to search, and that breaks my heart all over again. But that is the message that society in general imposes. If you do a search, as I did, you have to be prepared for acquaintances to talk about how you are "wrecking" some perfectly happy family. But there is no "perfectly happy" family, whether there are adopted people in it or not. There are just families. And to my mind, birth mothers not only have a "right" to search--whatever that is--but an obligation to do so to at least let their sons and daughters know they were never forgotten.

    Hey, Anon, how about picking a moniker and using it so that we can more easily tell when you are back on the site. You only have to click on the "name/url" choice, and no one needs to put in a url. I am not quite sure what the "Open ID" choice means.

    I don't know who you are, or where, but I hope the understanding vibes many of us are feeling towards you have found their way to you today.

    much love from this first mother--lo

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  32. 80s gal and Lorraine,

    Thank you for the insights regarding the fmothers feelings vis-a-vis being the one to initiate a search. It helps a lot. It sounds like society telling first moms they have no "right" to search is just another way of damaging their self-worth in the same way they were told they weren't good enough to raise their own babies.

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  33. Invisible wrote:"I do think we have the right to know if our son or daughter is getting married. Do we also have the right to know if they are dead or alive? Do we have the right to know if we become grandparents?"

    No, we have no rights at all around our surrendered kids. We gave up all rights when we signed the surrender. "Rights" are about law. Most of the interpersonal stuff in reunion is not about rights, but about two human beings trying to work out a relationship.

    Many aspects of life are not a matter of rights but of relationship, kindness, empathy, connection, compromise. Human relationships that are more than grudging "letter of the law" like some divorce custody arrangements depend on people giving and taking and trying to work things out between themselves, not asserting "rights" to which the other person has to acquiesce.

    We have no legal rights to anything about the children we gave up. Does that mean we can do nothing? No. Does that mean we cannot search, contact and reunite? No. Does it mean we cannot get to know them, be a friend, be a part of their life? No, not at all. It just means we cannot force nor are we entitled to anything. But we can seek and find it, if we are lucky.

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  34. A moniker hmm? Pandora's Paradox, that seems fitting to me. I'll use that to replace 80s gal.

    Robin, that's exactly right, society sends many messages that seem intended to crush fmoms' self worth. For me it has contributed to life long struggles with self esteem and shame. Both are improving with the wisdom that mid-life brings, but both are still present on the harder days. I truly admire those moms that have blazed a trail for us by standing up and refusing to be silenced about the losses and grief that all parties experience in adoption. I'm not there yet, but I know I'll eventually get there.

    Re: legal rights, signing on the dotted line, etc....yes technically in common law we relinquished all legal rights when we gave our babies away for adoption; the aparents took on all of those rights in law. This is a good example of where natural law can be instructive. I believe when it comes to the adoption triad, natural law is more in synch with the situation, requiring equality and respect for all involved...this fits with the ideas mentioned of relationship, kindness, empathy, connection, compromise. These are things that all humans deserve. Common law is set up to deal with property, assessment of damages, and punishment. Natural law is more about what is fair. In my mind nobody owns a child; parents have responsibilities towards their children, which is far different than the ownership issues common law is meant to deal with. To me, what is most fair is if all parties in the adoption triad accept each other with at least as much respect as they provide to other people in their lives, in the same way that we expect basic respect be shown to colleagues, friends, acquaintances and family, however that family might look. Often fmoms are shunned by the afamily, for valid reasons of their own - they are understandably ambivalent about fmom's role and what it means to them. But shunning is the opposite of respect, and it reinforces shame. I'm not so naive as to say everyone should just get over themselves a la "why can't we just all get along"...the emotions run too deep for all involved for the solution to be that simplistic. But I do believe that's the vision we should strive for over time - conditions where society expects all triad members to give each other basic respect.

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  35. @maryanne that's really sad that you feel like that.

    If you had willingly given your son away and truly didn't want him and deliberately abandoned him then I'd be inclined to agree with you.

    If you want to be totally literal about the document you signed then you are not his mother at all and don't have the right to call him your son.

    How far and how literally do we take this? Should we all call them our birthsons and birthdaughters? Should we just not say the words sons and daughters? Ought we find an alternative word to mother since we have no rights according to some?

    You don't sound happy maryanne, at least I am not convinced. You sound resigned.

    I never said I was happy that I don't have contact. I said I was proud that I had the self esteem to say no to a situation that felt hurtful. I am not happy that I don't have contact and I am not happy that my child was adopted. I wanted my child and surrended her because at the time it felt like it was something I had to do.

    The surrended was not an informed decision, it was made under coercion and a lot of emotional blackmail was applied. That said without holding a grudge or blame or shirking my own part which was that of a weak and scared young girl.

    It was lack of self esteem that caused me to lose my child in the first place. It was the feeling that I had no rights that caused me to be an exiled mother. I no longer accept low status, I refuse to see myself as someone unworthy.

    The time has come to stop being the shamed pregnant girl. Stop bowing my head and looking at the ground. Stop thinking that I don't deserve love and respect.

    The very act of relinqishing your child does damage that cannot be repaired. If you wish to have a damaged relationship where you are not worth speaking to directly nor worth being treated in the same way as you would your friends please do so. But don't try to promote that as something wonderful or normal. It's not normal and it's not wonderful. It's painful and you know that it's painful.

    and it's Unvisible, not Invisible, since you want to be literal about wording. thank you. I wish you well.

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  36. This is harsh imagery, but I have to say it: It's as if there is a fine print in the adoption agreement that reads,
    "from this point on.... consider yourself dead".
    Adoption is an abortion of the mother. It's the birthmother who goes away, no muss no fuss....

    sorry, I hope I wasn't offensive.

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  37. Ah..the word or words "birth daughter" have been on my mind because shortly after my daughter committed suicide, and we had returned from the funeral in Wisconsin, my husband, not my daughter's father, went to a holiday party...and was talking about Jane's suicide and her unhappy life with a friend. Genie, who had known Jane for about twenty years, referred to "Lorraine's daughter." A second woman walked into the conversation and the second time Genie said "Lorraine's daughter," the woman corrected her...and said: "birth daughter."

    Yes, she was an adoptive mother. I can't think of anything else when I see that woman. I avoid her when I can, but she comes to me at parties like a cat who knows I have a cat allergy. I wasn't hurt by her comment so much as friggen' angry.

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  38. Oh, so you are the example of what is "wonderful and normal, Invisible? Your comments are quite insulting. You are not sticking to your own story, but demeaning me and others directly. Do whatever you want, but do not tell me I am not "normal" by your standards. Please stop it.

    It is not about words. Michael is my son, he carries my genes and his father's, he has many of my family's genetic traits. No words can change that. He is also the son of his adoptive mother, sad to say because she was not a very good mother, but she raised him and is whom he thinks of as "mother", which is not a very nice word to him.

    I am not ashamed of him, on the contrary I am very proud of the fine man he has become. I am not lacking in self-esteem any more than the average person. Your personal choices and problems are yours, not mine, not everybody's. I am not telling you to be like me. Don't tell me to be like you.

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  39. @maryanne, you don't need to get angry, I was quite respectful to you. It might help if you read what I write rather than just skim the surface. You choose to listen selectively and are therefore responding to a fraction of what I say. I know you don't listen because you never responded to my apology and you spelt my name wrong not once but twice.

    I am not saying I am better than you. I am not convinced your situation is pain free and for that again I say, I wish you well.

    This whole post is about how long must mothers be punished for. I say we shouldn't be punished anymore.

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  40. @ Unvisible Mother
    I do not think that an email relationship is necessarily "superficial" at all. It could be all the the more profound for being cautious. Intense personal contact is not always a good measure of deep affection or respect. It can be emotionally violent.
    JMO, of course.


    @Pandora's Paradox (Nice moniker!)
    ". . . shunning is the opposite of respect, and it reinforces shame."
    "I do believe that's the vision we should strive for over time - conditions where society expects all triad members to give each other basic respect."
    ITA. Well said on both counts.


    Haigha

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  41. @Haigha, I couldn't agree with you more. However if the relationship via email is superficial and has become that, just that because direct contact is not welcome and if that degree of contact is done in a way to keep distance then it's not always nice.

    Not being allowed to speak directly to someone and not being allowed to see them in person and I am talking about a relationship that has been ongoing for almost ten years is painful and was obviously regressive.

    It felt as if it was obligatory on her part and that didn't feel good. It also felt as though she didn't quite know how to step away and I had no intention of intruding or being burdensome.

    In my hert it didn't feel good, I felt sad and pushed away and tried for many years to make it work.

    Having made the decision to step away was not easy but I am happy that I did that. It felt healthy to do that. I am not happy to not have contact but I am glad. I also did it in a way that allowed her to move on and away from she and she chose to do that.

    I have not severed contact entirely and never would do that. I love my daughter with my entire being.

    I want to continue to send gifts at appropriate times of the year and do not think there will be a response but I will do that.


    I don't say that email contact alone is bad for all mothers. I said if you listen to your heart you will know what is healthy and what is not healthy for you. If the relationship is painful and feels like you are having to swallow your pride then that's not healthy.

    I don't want to be punished for the rest of my life for something that I did as a teenage girl.


    Every situation is different.

    I don't think we mothers have no rights so can't agree with that. I think that we mothers must do what feels is healthy for our self esteem.

    My choice may not make me popular here but I feel so much better since we are not having contact anymore. It's more honest and less painful.

    Thanks for spelling my name properly too.

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  42. @Lorraine that kind of disrespect is really vile. To be corrected like that by someone on such an occassion, I'm so sorry.

    It never ceases to amaze me at how disrespectful people will be to first mothers.

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  43. Invisible wrote to me:"If you wish to have a damaged relationship where you are not worth speaking to directly nor worth being treated in the same way as you would your friends please do so. But don't try to promote that as something wonderful or normal. It's not normal and it's not wonderful. It's painful and you know that it's painful."

    This is "respectful"? No, it is insulting, and throwing in a few "I wish you wells" does not alleviate that. Telling someone themselves or their relationships are "not normal" is insulting. That is not so hard to comprehend.

    I did read all your whole posts. I never said it was not painful to have given up my son, or to have less of a relationship than I would wish. But the relationship is not just about what I want. There are two of us involved, and I prefer to have the relationship I have to none at all. In some ways it is quite profound and beautiful. I do not feel punished or lacking in self-esteem because of this.

    I am not "promoting" anything. I am not telling you what to do, or asking why you did it. This discussion is not going anywhere and I hope we both can drop it. Other people have some good things to say here.

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  44. @Maryanne,

    I like your comments and I agree with your approach. You sound like you are very sensitive to your son's needs. And who knows, people change, people soften, relationships change. I think you will make your son feel so comfortable and secure that he may very well want a more involved relationship with you in the future. I wouldn't be surprised in the least.

    @Katie,
    Are you both an adoptee and a fmother?

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  45. @mareeanne, I'm glad you are happy with your situation and that it works for you.
    I do wish you well and have no anger or hostility towards you. We are all saying good things here, the beauty of this blog is that different opinions can be shared.

    I'm sorry what I said made you angry it was not my intention.

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  46. Robin, I try:-) He is a very nice guy who was raised by a very not nice mother, so there are "mother issues" but he does seem to truly like me. And I like him, which is not always the case in reunion.

    You sound like a kind and reasonable person as well. I hope you have a good reunion.

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  47. Unvisible Mother said in her response to me "I don't think we mothers have no rights so can't agree with that."

    I just want to make it clear - just in case anyone thinks otherwise - that I didn't say that and don't think it.
    I quite agree that every situation is different and that everyone must do what their believe to be right for their particular situation, and not be criticized for it.

    Haigha

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  48. I re-united with my 1stmom when I was 19. I never stopped missing her after being adopted at age 7. (late 70's) I wasn't allowed to talk about her or communicate my feelings for her to my A-family.

    When my A-parents didn't allow me to discuss the loss of my 1stFamily, it caused me pain and guilt. After finding my 1stmom, I told my A-mom. She promptly "dis-owned" me. With support and guidance from my A-mom, I may have navigated the 10-year relationship with my 1stMom better.

    When my 1stmom committed suicide, 10 years after our reunion, my A-mom said "good, well at least that's over with". She was sick - regardless of her "good deed" in adopting me. Her sickness is no reflection of me.

    I cut ties with my A-family over 7 years ago. I had to end that "relationship" before it ended me.

    I have a husband and my own kids now... that's all the family I need.

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  49. @Haigha, again couldn't agree more. It's comments like this from marryanne on another site that made me feel very protective towards a mother who was feeling abused in her reunion:

    "...You are wrecking your own good reunion, Liz. You want to win the p***ing contest, get the title you want of Queen Mom, and be right at any cost, rather than enjoy the relationship you were never supposed to have...."


    First of all it really wasn't a good reunion, the mother in question, Liz was feeling devastated and it really isn't helpful to tell someone they are in a pissing contest when they write about their pain. I also find it abusive to trivialize her situation and belittle her. The woman Liz had a beautiful blog which she took away after these types of comments were flung at her.

    Reunion can be very painful, it can be humiliating, it can be very damaging to your self esteem. I agree with you Haigha, mothers do have rights, I never said you specifically said that, sorry if it seemed that way.

    You didn't respond to anything else I wrote so I am guessing it was of no interest to you or had no effect on you at all? Perhaps I am wrong. Not to worry.

    I cannot help feeling the way I do. I've been in reunion for almost ten years. I used to subscribe to the theory that we ought to take whatever comes our way and be grateful. After doing some work that woke me up to how I really felt emotionally I realized that accepting being outside and kept at a distance made me feel abused and worthless. After that realization I couldn't continue in the reunion the way it was going.

    I don't have a problem with mothers who want to take whatever they get and be grateful, I support that and think if that works for them and they are happy then great. If they feel like they are blessed and it's not hurting them then of course it's wonderful.

    When it's not pain free and when it's not what they would truly want then I don't agree with them promoting it or pushing it as the only way to do reunion. I see that in the same light as pushing pregnant mothers to relinuqish. It's not honest because they are encouraging others to do something that is painful and not always healthy for the self esteem.

    If you feel like you are being punished, if you feel like you are being kept "in your place", if you feel like your true identity is being denied then those issues need to be addressed.

    We can't just respond to fear, fear that we will lose them again. There are NO GUARANTEES in reunion. You might be the easiest person in the world and accept every situation and cause no fuss and they can still go. I never blame the mother if the reunion is halted. That's not realistic.

    This comment is not about you Haigha, just the beginning part is a response to what you said. :-)

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  50. "You didn't respond to anything else I wrote so I am guessing it was of no interest to you or had no effect on you at all? Perhaps I am wrong. Not to worry."

    If you had read my response to Linda (November 30, 2010 7:31 PM) you would know what I think.

    "Perhaps I am wrong."
    You are.

    "Not to worry."
    I'm not.

    Hiagha.

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  51. What your a-mother said after your mother's death is terrible, Terry. She sounds very sick.
    I quite understand why you had to cut your a-family out of your life, for your own survival.

    I'm sure this can be the case in reunions too, but there sometimes complicated by expectations and demands and the difficulties inherent in recognizing that fine line between separateness and connectedness (not very well expressed, but I'm reaching for it)

    Haigha

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  52. Unvisible:

    There was a lot more to the post and story that you quoted me out of context on from another blog, nor was I the only person disagreeing with the woman who posted there. There were a variety of opinions, not all of them sympathetic.

    I never saw her own blog, which she said she took down. There was no need to do that. She was posting on what I think is a blog by invitation,"Grown in My Heart" and asking for comments. When you do that on the internet you take what you get, positive and negative.

    There are as many ways to do reunion as there are people reuniting. For those who want to keep a relationship going through rough spots, some compromise and empathy is a good idea. For those who would rather be right than have a relationship, or who are in truly abusive situations, ending it works, It depends on so many variables, there is nothing wrong with people seeing what has worked and not for others, and making their own choices.

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  53. Terry...Your comment about your fmom committing suicide...which is what my daughter did. She was both an adoptee and a fmom, and it will be two years on Sunday since...she left us. Let's send each other good vibes. I, for one, need them.
    lo

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  54. Is suicide higher among adoptees and first mothers than it is in the general population?

    Terry and Lorraine,
    I am very sorry for your losses.

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  55. Terry,

    I was so sorry to read your post but happy for you that you now have a good family.

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  56. Sorry for your losses, Terry and Lorraine. Suicide is devastating. My husband's two sisters were suicides, it is a horrible thing for the survivors to live with. My thoughts are with you.

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  57. Adopted or not, there are just no guarantees in relationships with children. Mother Nature seems to want us to have some discord with our mums and dads, otherwise we wouldn't strive for autonomy and independence. I do wonder if the fMom becomes a "bucket" for all of the adopted child's problems, which makes re-unions difficult. If the fMom enters re-union already wearing the shameful scarlet letter "A" there is no end to the abuse that can happen. The child is conditioned to respond the way the adoptive family does, so whatever issues the aFamily has, the fMom gets it, on top of her own feelings. Its hard to remember your worth when everyone is behaving as if you don't have any.

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  58. Thanks to all for your thoughts and support. I finally had a chance to talk to my son today - the phone is much better for sorting things out than email.

    He explained a bit more about the situation, and it turns out he has had a few arguments with his aparents about my ongoing presence in his life. While he has taken a stand and told them I will be in his life going forward, he also feels that he needs to smooth things over with them a bit because they have not seen each other since they argued (he has been studying overseas for the last 4 yrs). He indicated that he does plan to have me and my daughter attend future big events, but he needs to give his aparents this one, partially because there are only a few tickets available for the graduation, and partly because he wants to mend things with them and give them some time to get used to the idea that they will see me at future milestone events.

    I thanked him for persevering in our reunion even though he must be torn trying to deal with everyone's requests, and acknowledged that for some adoptees this kind of tension becomes so difficult that they understandably walk away. He reassured me he's in this for the long run, and I told him I am too.

    It was quite helpful for me to hear all of your perspectives about this situation - especially the adoptees who described the pressures my son must be feeling; it must have taken incredible courage for him to take a stand like he did with his aparents, and with me as well.

    Although I would still like to see him graduate, I do understand where he's coming from in needing to smooth things over and give his aparents some time to get used to the changes that reunion brings. It was very gratifying to hear him say his plan is to have me attend milestone events in the future - that makes being excluded from the graduation a bump in the road rather than a sign of things to come...I won't be excluded forever, just for now.

    This graduation is the first milestone event my son has had since our reunion, so I suppose it makes sense that this is when we have to sort out how these things will work in the future. If it tuns out that me not being at this event will pave the way for a more respectful relationship between me and his aparents in the future, it will have been worth it.

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  59. @Pandora's Paradox,
    I am glad your situation is moving forward in a positive direction. The fact that there are only a few tickets available to the graduation may be a more significant factor in this than you realize.

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  60. Dear Pandora:
    I've been meaning to write to tell you that it's not just in adoptive situations that big events like graduation leave people out. When my stepson was graduating from college, my husband's ex-wife was so bitter (I was not the cause of the breakup, having come into my husband's life four years later)that though we drove five hours to be there, and spent the night there...we got tickets to the graduation, but were asked not to spend any time with him afterward because...Mom was there too.

    Later, when his sister got married, Mom was able to raise such a fuss that we were NOT INVITED TO THE RECEPTION. Actually, we were told we could not attend. Now I was plenty upset in the beginning, but as the sister was always the less favored of the two, I knew she was cow-towing to her mother's demands in order to curry favor. So I made my peace with it. We went took the couple out to dinner the night before, went to the actual ceremony in the Conservancy Garden of Central Park...and then spent a nice afternoon at a Hopper show at the Whitney with brunch on our own somewhere in between. By that time, I had made my peace with the situation and was able to have a nice time that day.

    I had some "shut out" moments at my daughter's life/funeral--one minute I was "family" the next moment I wasn't. Your son is being torn and it sounds as if he is doing his best to include you. Let him be free for this, as you will not be sorry. But it seems that the phone conversation you had cleared the air. Sometimes there is nothing like talking rather than email.

    Take care of yourself and your heart, we are so glad you came here to find the help and understanding of his situation. Stay around and write more for us. ♥--lo

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