Monday, March 7, 2011

Would I have found my daughter if I had married her father?

Jane and Lorraine in 1983
Just an add to yesterday's blog about a confidential intermediary's comment about married birth/first parents who reject contact and reunion when sought by the individual who had been relinquished: I hope it is a reflection of adoptions back several decades, and not recent ones, as a great many adoptions today are open (though we know many close), and the first mother is NOT promised anonymity and so there is no thought of her disappearing into the woodwork forever.

But what of closed adoptions today?
I read the other day on a blog that some women who relinquish are continuing to be told to talk about it to no one, tell no one, including their future spouses. I was stunned because I thought that attitude--the one I am so familiar with--was was old as crinolines under poodle skirts. I'm grateful that it was not anything I ever heard from my social worker, whom I came to like a great deal, at a non-religious affiliated agency in Rochester, New York.

But it if is still being urged in the last couple of decades somewhere, and we know that agencies do handle closed adoptions...(given the recent fire fight here I'm hesitating to tell you which ones but you can look them at the website of the National Council for Adoption) I'm betting that it is still prevalent today.

Houston, we have a problem.

If that is what some women are still being told, the people who tell them that are going to go to their graves fighting open records and giving all adult people the right to their original birth certificates and all the information contained therein.

21The comments to yesterday's post have got me to thinking: Would I have turned into an advocate for open records had I married Patrick, my daughter Jane's father, after we relinquished her? Would I have searched? I was madly in love with Patrick, and if he had been free within the next two years, we probably would have married. However, by the time he was free a few years later, and asked me to live with him/get married...I was married to someone else. I was one of those women who was so down and out after Jane was born and surrendered that I needed a marriage as quickly as possible to validate that I was not scum.

Our story weaves in an out for years, but Patrick and I were never free to be with each other at the same time. He was a hard-drinking Irish newspapermen with a great gift for language, a sharp dresser, a consummate gentleman...who shied away from emotional turmoil. And so, he never met Jane. The last time I talked to him before he died, he wanted to have lunch with me to talk about maybe meeting Jane. I felt he was probably stringing me along, as I had asked him over the years several times to just meet Jane--he always had an excuse for that particular time--and by then, I was quite angry that he did not have the courage to meet her. Our daughter. She had been living with Tony (my husband) and me for the summer. I really did not want to have lunch with Patrick, without Jane. I wanted to shake him and tell him to be a man.

BirthmarkOddly enough, he did not object when I wrote Birthmark, and wrote quite openly about him, but changed all names connected to him and his family. (He's Brian in the book.) In fact, my publisher asked that Patrick sign a letter saying he gave his permission, and that he did. That sealed letter may still be in some file at whomever took over M. Evans, my publisher, years later. I think he was a kind man, only weak in this respect. His obit in Newsday is quite flattering. But the question that will never be answered is: How would we, as a couple from the dark ages of a Sixties relinquishment, have handled the issue of our lost daughter? When I searched, when my daughter was fifteen, it was with my current husband's blessing and encouragement. Would Patrick always have said: manana? Surely I would not have written Birthmark.

So while I'm dismayed that some couples avoid contact with their surrendered children, I think I would have had quite a battle with Patrick over this issue.

Would I have searched? Found Jane and felt the cool relief of knowing? Been to her as much as a mother as I could? I like to think so, but Patrick, ah, he would have been a drag on the drift of my life.--lorraine
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Note about the 90 percent figure in yesterday's post: When you find birth/first parents who have married.  It was a casual comment from a confidential intermediary and searcher (for a private company) whom I know quite well and trust implicitly. She added that she had mentioned it to other searchers and they had the same reaction. This is not a definitive number or representative of a major survey of CIs; and in thinking this over, I am inclined to think that is going to be a figure skewed dramatically by age, that is, the older the adoptee, the farther back the relinquishment, the more likely the rejection if the couple has married and is married. But this is only an educated guess; do not nail me to the cross over this figure.

Sorry the picture is of such poor quality. It's an old shot that hangs on my office wall. I'm far from a pro at taking and copying pictures but many of you had asked over the months for a shot of the grown up Jane. Here we are together. She would have been seventeen that summer; that summer we were the subject of a story in the New York Times.

12 comments :

  1. What a fantastic pic. thanks!

    It is so hard for me to imagine my mother marrying my father for any length of time. Although he is in a long-term marriage. He would have encouraged her to search though, he had already done some snooping around on his own and was very open about the experience. So much so that when I did call him at work he informed his whole office to find him no matter where he was as he believed his daughter was trying to contact him.

    Joy

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  2. Lorraine,

    Amazing picture - wow...

    But how can they tell mothers that they are guaranteed we will not get our OBC when the courts will and do open records for good cause...kind of shoots that concept in the foot doesn't it?

    Although I remember hearing recently that there is something going on in Missouri about taking that option away from judges - although I don't know if it will make it anywhere...

    But still - the judge unsealed my records so I know it does happen so how can they even fight based on that one fact alone...

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  3. Something in my gut tells me you would have searched, found, and reunited with your daughter regardless of whom you married. If you had married your daughters father, he'd have come around a lot sooner to your point-of-view.

    You had the courage to seek out your daughter, and Patrick could never have prevented that. He would have stepped up to the plate in support of you rather than wuss out as he did.

    As I'm now heading into my 4th year of searching, it does me good to know that there are moms who have not forgotten us. I hope that my mom is a lot like Lorraine.

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  4. Thanks, Jeff. I like to believe what you wrote...that he would have had the courage of my convictions. He was in so many ways a good man.

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  5. Great photo, Lorraine!! You both look like strong women who are comfortable with each other.

    I agree with Jeff about Patrick - he would have come to understand how important it would be to search. Having worked for newspapers for years, btw - I had to smile when I read your description of him. I know the type well, and they can indeed be very, very charming.

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  6. What a precious picture. It touches me to the point that I can't say anything more than I'm so glad you found her and had some time together.

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  7. Lorraine,

    I love the photo of you and your daughter. She's so beautiful!!

    I was madly in love with my son's father, and he did ask me to marry him a year or two after I lost our son to adoption. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't bear the thought of having full-blooded siblings to our lost son. I felt it would be disloyal to him.

    I do know, though, that Michael would have supported me in search and reunion. We saw each other on and off throughout the years, and he always told me he would hire a PI if necessary to find our son. Forunately that wasn't necessary, as the agency connected us with each other when he turned 18 (long story.)

    Michael only met our son one time, due to extreme pressure from his wife. She made it clear that she would divorce him and take their three children if he forged a relationship with our son. Unfortunately, he caved in...and then he was killed the following year in an accident.

    I do have a friend who married her relinquished son's father and later reunited. Her husband won't have anything to do with the reunion for reasons unknown to my friend. Sigh...

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  8. Lorraine,
    Your photo of you and your daughter is a priceless treasure.

    How many of us here thought that something as simple as a photo could bring us such joy. I remember the first time I held a photo of my daughter in my hands, it was amazing. She was alive, she knew how to contact me, I knew how to contact her, nothing else in my life mattered at that moment.

    I have never married. I always knew that if I did I would not change my name. I had another daughter 18 years later and gave her both my name and her fathers in the case that I might not be alive when the daughter I surrendered searched. The number one purpose of that was so if she looked she would have a better chance of finding me or her half-sister. Somehow I always knew she would. I have been with the man I met 6 months after giving birth to her for over forty years. He knew of her from the beginning and many times asked what I would do if she called or came to the door. I always had to answer that I could only think of that when it finally happened.
    Her natural father did what any 17 year old would do when he found out I was pregant..he ran. My daughter has been reunited with him as well. I have not and at this point do not want to have any contact with him. That'as a reunion I do not see happening at this point. A form of revenge. I don't know. I just don't care how he feels.

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  9. I am an old birthmother who relinquished; later married the child's father; divorced the father; found my son and gave him up again for his convenience. He says he never would have searched, so that issue is moot.

    I did not realize until I was in the middle of search and later reunion, how much anguish I had both suppressed and repressed. I gave up my son because I was manipulated into it by my boyfriend, his employers (psychologists) and friends. It was all about staying in school, status, and appearances. It was also 1965, but the father was employed and a professional. Getting your girlfriend pregnant was just too tacky. There wasn't a good enough reason for this. I suspect that scenario is not uncommon for birth parents who later marry. Many were students and pressured by upwardly mobile parents and friends. I also had a close friend who was adopted and he brought his parents to meet me and talk about it.

    Such a position destroyed my marriage because I realized there really wasn't sufficient reason to give up a child and I couldn't get him back. I could not forgive and I could not really move on while living with this person. I imagine couples who stay together and have other children must put themselves through a gigantic mental twist they really can't untangle easily. I would guess the adopted child presents a profound threat to their marriage, family, and self image. Can you see the utter embarrassment of explaining?

    Do you remember the episode of the adopted in the TV program "In Treatment"? They searched and then couldn't deal with it.

    When I was heavily involved in reunion circles I tried to help an adoptee whose mother refused to see her. I talked to her many times and she just felt it was too much threat to her marriage. This was her reality. Like me she had no other children.

    I have come to believe that all parties have a right to information and a meeting but not to relationships. Relationships are more complicated.

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  10. Dear Same Old

    Your story is sad but all too true for many people I suspect. My daughter's father was in a sense adamant that she be given up for adoption; our situation was complicated by the fact that he was married, with children, and Irish Catholic, in a time when few people like that were divorcing.

    I agree that everyone has a right to information and at least a single meeting; after that, it's up to the people involved on how they handle the rest.

    Thanks for your input here.

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  11. Lorraine,
    Your photo with your daughter is a great keepsake. Thank you for sharing. Birthfathers are still concerned about appearances even today whether they married the birth mother or not given their degree of how they view their own respectibility and how that might impact their futures. I believe too that you would have searched for your daughter either way. I can not agree about the confidential intermediaries though. The CI who handled my reunion through the Lutheran Social Servicse was still so condenscending to me I was furios. Religious agencies still place all the shame on the birth mother. I can only plod on with trying to keep a relationship alive between my first son and me. It is hard due to us living so far apart. At least his adoptive mother is kind and gives me snipets of photos, etc. So cherish your keepsakes.

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  12. "I was one of those women who was so down and out after Jane was born and surrendered that I needed a marriage as quickly as possible to validate that I was not scum."

    This struck me to my very core! I too felt that I should marry although I did marry my daughter's father, I would NEVER have another child. I was a TERRIBLE person as proven by giving up a huge piece of myself, my daughter. I did look, but secrectively, when got my second computer with internet. I was so quick to conceal what I was doing!! When she found us a few years later her father emailed he had always wondered about her and what became of her. We never talked about this EVER it was just there, and of course ours lives went on as if!! I aged 35 years in one day when she got in touch with me.

    "who shied away from emotional turmoil"

    This is also like my husband. He is at a loss now as to why our daughter makes many and varied excuses as to why we can not get together. At first we had her and boyfriend to our home and we were welcomed at their home, We even helped with remodeling their new home. Now it is "too busy, need to spend more time with boyfriend, etc,etc.

    I keep in touch at least weekly via email which seems to be OK so far. This has been going on now for 4 years, wonder when it will be normal as normal can be considering?

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