With all the attention focused on Vernita Lee, Oprah's mother--a reluctant-to-acknowledge birth/first mother, who denied being Patricia Lloyd's mother for years--this is the what a lot of adoptees want to know: Do their mothers want to be found? This is what someone goggled yesterday and found her way to First Mother Forum. Answer:
Overwhelmingly, yes. YES, FIRST MOTHERS WANT TO BE FOUND.
Research has piled up showing that vast majority of mothers do want to be reunited with the children they gave up for adoption. Taken together, surveys from various countries where access to original birth certificates is granted, including those states in the United States, show that 95 percent of birth mothers welcome contact and wanted reunion. Yet From my own unscientific survey of confidential intermediaries (CIs) in those states that do not release original birth certificates to the adoptee but use a system of intermediaries to make contact, the number is not so high as that. Many more are like Oprah's mother.
Just as Vernita was able to say no to the state intermediary, no when Patricia wrote her herself, no to Patricia's pastor who also wrote her (which kind of blows my mind and doesn't speak well for Vernita as a person), many more women chose anonymity because the fear of being embarrassed by having to tell the truth of this lost child to husbands and other children. I don't like this, but it happens. And as one intermediary has pointed out to me, no one is checking on how well or poorly an intermediary does her work, or if she even fulfills the agreement to do a search, and succeeds in good faith, so some adoptees get bad news because of sloppy and unethical intermediaries.
Yet in those places where there are open records, only a very small number of birth mothers actually file what they are allowed to: "No contact," if they do not wish to meet their children. In Oregon, which has had open records for adoptees since September of 2000, more than 10,000 people have requested their original birth records. Eighty-five birth parents have filed "no contact" provisions. That is less than a quarter of one percent.
The vast majority of them were filed (79) as soon as the Measure 58 became law in 2000. The Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) tied up the repeal of an old law in court for two years, and most of those requesting no contact are thought to be members of the LDS church, which has opposed open records for adoptees through lawsuits (always losing) and their well-funded adoption agencies, a large percentage of the membership of an anti-open records lobby organization, the National Council for Adoption (NCFA).
As for the old saw that we birth mothers don't want old wounds opened, well, that may be the case for the few, but that is not true for most of us. We do not forget. We do not forget your birthdays. We do not forget when we are shopping at a large mall or simply walking down the street and see someone of the right sex and age--could that be my daughter/son? We carry the knowledge of you deep in our hearts, most of us praying for the moment we open a letter, get an email, see a message from an unknown person on Facebook, answer the phone, and find that the person there is the one we have been waiting for: you, our child who had to be adopted because we did not have the wherewithal and support to raise you when you were born. Many of us have spent our lives grieving over the decision to give you up. Some of us were forced to do so by our parents.
Do birth/first mothers want to be found? Oh yes, desperately. Many of us are afraid to search ourselves because we have been conditioned to think that way. Find us, please, find us before it is too late. We are waiting, we are waiting by the hundreds, thousands, millions. We are getting older everyday.
And we hope tomorrow will be the day you call. --lorraine
To those just coming to First Mother Forum for the first time, let me add that I found my daughter when she was fifteen, and we had a relationship for more than a quarter of a century. She died in 2007. I have two granddaughters (one of whom was adopted), both of whom I cherish and have relationships with.
For more research on first mothers, please see one of our permanent pages: Our answer to The Adoption Option, listed in the sidebar. See also research at the American Adoption Congress.
See also: Birthmothers Right to Privacy -- An invention of the ACLU?
Explaining Adoption Reform Issues to the Hip, Educated Masses
In Adoptee's Search, Loss and Grief Collide