So Oprah has a sister! Given up for adoption! Reunited today on her talk show! From the Los Angeles Times:
Patricia, whose last name was not given, is nearly 10 years younger than Winfrey, who learned of the news just before Thanksgiving, saying it “literally shook me to my core.”
Surprises abound. I haven't seen the show yet but I believe will be able to catch it tonight according to the online listing I found. Just turned on the tube however and saw CNN doing a report on it...so it's big news. The sister was born to Oprah's mother, Vernita Lee, was Oprah was eight years old.
According to the Associated Press:
"Lee, who recently suffered a minor stroke, said she never told Winfrey about her half-sister, 'because I thought it was a terrible thing for me to do, that I had done, gave up my daughter when she was born.'
"....Patricia, who Winfrey said bounced from foster home to foster home until she was adopted at age 7, had given up after previous searches for her mother. But she decided to resume looking several years ago at the insistence of her grown children.
"The effort seemed to hit a dead end when a woman from the Wisconsin adoption agency called to respond to her inquiries. 'She was telling me that my birth mother had called her back, and she had made the decision at that particular time that she did not want to see me,' Patricia said.
"Coincidentally, on the local news that day was a story about Winfrey' mother, Vernita Lee, who revealed details about two of her children who had since died. Those details, Patricia said, matched information she had seen in papers about her own adoption. Winfrey's mother also said that one of the deceased children had been named Patricia. 'The hairs on the back of my neck stood up,' Patricia said. 'Because I knew one of my siblings and I shared the same name.'
"Later, she found more matching details, including the fact that Winfrey was born in 1954, the same year as the woman Patricia knew was her surviving sibling. Patricia found the daughter of Winfrey's dead sister in Milwaukee, and they took a DNA test that confirmed their relationship."
"Lee was able to keep the baby a secret even from her daughter because she, Oprah, was born to unwed teens and was raised at various times by her grandmother, mother and father, and stepmother in Mississippi, Wisconsin and Tennessee.That's just what we've been talking about here yesterday: how first/birth mothers give up their children because they feel they have no options. That's why I prefer the words: given up. We relinquish our children when we give up. We are like people in a shipwreck, floating around in the ocean, holding onto a life preserver for as long as we can...and then we see no hope is coming, the sharks are circling around, and we give up. We give up our babies.
"...Winfrey said documents from the girl's birth reveal that Lee gave up the baby for adoption because she did not think she could get off welfare if she kept the child. 'I made the decision to give her up because I wasn't able to take care of her,' Lee said during a recorded interview that aired Monday. 'So when I left the hospital, I told the nurse I wasn't going to keep the baby.'"
And then we suck it up and not talk about the trauma of surrendering a child, because we cannot admit what we did, or how much damage the whole experience does to us birth/first mothers psychologically. Jane and I sincerely hope that this kind of celebrity news about adoption will help other secret first mothers have the courage to reveal their stories, and siblings, to their families, and reach out to their surrendered children.
Confidential intermediaries only sound like a good thing to the people not directly involved. In my mind, they are more of a CYA option because some legislators (who were not around when the great sealing of the records occurred in their state) fear god-knows-what. Most of us birth mothers, first mothers--hell, the vast majority of us, call us whatever you like--want nothing more than to be able to meet our relinquished children who were adopted one day. In those states where adoptees can obtain their original birth certificates, approximately one for every 2,000 birth mothers file a "no contact" form. I have no understanding of these women.
Despite these pitiable women, adoptees have the undiluted, inviolable right to know who they are, and first mothers have a singular moral obligation to at least meet them once and tell them the story of their lives, not some cookie-cutter version that comes from a story book.
If there are first mothers who stumble upon this blog and want to contact me directly, who want to talk through their fears, leave your email address in the comment section. It will not be published, and either Jane or I will contact you. We both had to tell our families about our daughters. The circumstances were different but our fears were universal. --lorraine
Tomorrow: unless there is more breaking news: a poignant section from Evelyn Burns Robinson's book, Adoption and Loss: The Hidden Grief.
CYA: Cover Your A@!